Monday, December 31, 2012

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:16-21)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are my friend, my Father, and my protector. I come to you on this new day confident in your presence. I renew my love for you, trusting in your guiding hand.
Petition: Lord, I want to hear the angels sing. Help me learn to listen.

1. Sometimes We Need a Little Help:  Would the shepherds have been impressed to find Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus if the angels had not explained what was happening? They would have just thought it was a poor, vagabond family—unimpressive and unassuming like their own lives as shepherds. Yet the angels opened them to a reality that they would never have imagined or perceived. In my life God has also sent me angels who help me discover him: the faith of a parent or grandparent, the sweet, innocent faith of a child, the good example of a friend, a teacher, a priest or a nun, the example of our Holy Father. Mary also teaches me to discover God in her Son. Do I thank God for these angels that he has sent me? Do I follow their advice and look for Christ in the simple, ordinary circumstances of my life?

2. Hints of a New Song: In a symphony, the first movement only hints at the central theme. Mary had first heard this theme from the angel Gabriel. Now the shepherds take up this theme—the hymn of the angels—and even though the shepherds play their part with great enthusiasm, it probably makes very little noise outside the little town of Bethlehem. Yet the song had begun, and it would grow to a crescendo as Christ lived out his mission. History unfolds God’s mysterious plan of salvation. I am part of that history, of that symphony. Do I do my best to continue Mary’s song, God’s song, by living my commitments and taking part in apostolate?

3. And His Name Shall Be “God Saves”: Mary and Joseph take up the hymn. They know the secret: this child will save Israel and will save all mankind. They begin to explain to the world, using an ancient name, Joshua (Yeshua), a name that now becomes not just a promise but a person. This is God’s new name. This is Our God: God Saves. He is not merely a God who is the source of everything. Our God is intimately committed to us, and he puts himself “in the line of fire” to save us. Man had suspected that God was Creator, and the Jews had received the surprise of his friendship, but neither Gentile nor Jew dreamed that God was also this type of love. Do I dare to dream of God’s goodness? Do I let Christ give me peace and hope in the midst of this despairing world?

Conversation with Christ:  Lord, I have heard something new today. You remind me this Christmas that it is time for a new song, a song of confidence and hope. Mary teaches me this song, this good news. I want to bring this good news more deeply into my life. I know that you are helping me to discover you more each day. Help me also discover you to others.

Resolution: In Mary’s presence, I will strive to “sing this new song” (the Christian virtue I have determined to cultivate) today by making a special effort in one aspect of living this virtue.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man´s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father´s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, ´The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.´" From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father´s side, has revealed him (John 1:1-18)

Introductory Prayer:  Jesus, I believe that you are the Word come into the world. I know you speak to me of the Father, of his truth and love. I know that I can trust you to bring me to the Father. In spite of the smallness of my heart, you come in search of me. Thank you for coming to look for me. 

Petition: Help me look for you more today, Lord.

1. He Came to His Own: Our God came looking for us. “It is not that we have loved God, but that he has first loved us” (Cf. 1 John 4:10). What is it that so attracts God to us? The Bible uses images of the love of a spouse or a parent to help us understand how deeply God desires to make us his own. He knows that this is where our true happiness lies. Often, he looks for man in mysterious ways, but in Jesus Christ he plainly shows himself and his desire to be with us. Do I appreciate the gift of the Incarnation? Do I understand a bit better each day how humbly and powerfully God looks for my love?

2. Born of God: Our transformation into Christ is a gift. God offers us this gift, and if we are open to it, he deeply changes our relationship with him. Through Christ we have confidence to come before the Father and call him our “Father,” not just our “Creator.” Through Christ we have the power to lay aside sin and put on the holiness of God. Through Christ we have the possibility of leaving a mark on the history of salvation, helping to bring his Good News to the world. This comes from God’s goodness and mercy. Do I appreciate the gift of my divine adoption? Do I try to live as a new man or woman, born of the Spirit?

3. Full of Grace and Truth: Jesus Christ shows us what it is to be truly human. The power and beauty of his life, the unselfishness of his total love, help us see the heights to which we are called. He shows us that it is possible to be holy. He leads the way; we have only to follow in his footsteps. With him we can be confident that the good we have done in our lives will last forever. Do I let myself fall in love with Christ each day? Am I fascinated with him to the level that I discover something new in him each day? Can I say that each day he wins me more and more for his cause?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for coming to look for me. Today I want to look for you, too. Help me to discover you in faith. Help me to see the signs of your presence in the Church, the sacraments, and the good you sow in those around me. Give me new ears and an open heart to listen to your Word, and to welcome you into my life.

Resolution: Today I will speak with someone about Jesus’ love for us as demonstrated through his Incarnation

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy 1st Anniversary Eucharistic Adoration at St. Mark’s


Part I:  Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

Adoration is simply appreciation that the Blessed Sacrament is really Jesus. This appreciation is expressed when a parish has a chapel that is open 7 days a week. 24 hours a day with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for adoration by the faithful.

You are blessed here at St. Mark parish to have such a chapel. And the Lord is very pleased with the many sacrifices that you make to keep your holy hours of adoration.

But to sustain a strong and lasting program of adoration here we could always use more adorers. What is needed is for each one in the parish to be willing to spend just one hour once a week with Jesus so that every hour is covered, with at least one person present in the chapel at all times, so that Jesus is never left alone. That the chapel can always be open, and together as a people of God the people of the parish express their faith and their love in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Because our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, says that our communal love for Jesus at Mass must go together with our personal love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in order for our love to be complete.

The Lord calls us to communal worship today. We come as a parish family to give glory to the Father and to express our unity in Christ.

The Jesus stays with us in the Blessed Sacrament day and night to call us back to Himself sometime during the week, that we may spend some quiet time with Him in prayer in order to deepen our unity, our friendship, and our personal relationships with Jesus our Savior who says: Come to me: It is really I.

In other words: Come to where He is - Where He is in Person - Jesus dwelling with us here on earth today in the Blessed Sacrament.

We all know that when you love someone you want to be with the one you love. And the more you love someone, the more you want to be with that special person.

This explains the very mystery of our Catholic faith: why it is that Jesus stays with us day and night in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s simply because He loves us so much that He never wants to leave us. For He says: Behold, I am with you always, for I have loved you with an everlasting love, and constant is my affection for you.

This is why the Pope tells us that the same Jesus born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, the same Jesus who died on the Cross for our sins,  and who rose again on Easter Sunday “waits for us in this Sacrament of Love.” where He appeals to each one of us: Could you not watch one hour with me?

This hour that Jesus wants you to spend with Him is spent any way you want - with your own favorite prayer book, reading the Holy Bible, praying the Holy Rosary, speaking to Jesus heart to heart, as one does with a friend; or you may be so tired, troubled, or worn out, that you may want to just sit, and relax, and enjoy the sweet peace that comes from simply being with the one who loves you the most, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Church teaches us that Jesus is so appreciative that every moment you spend with Him will deepen your unity with Him and make your soul everlastingly more beautiful and glorious in heaven.

Would you now please pray with me to Our Blessed Lady that everyone in the parish may want to participate, so that we may continue on here with a strong and lasting program of perpetual adoration.

Hail Mary…..

Part II: The Two Reasons

Each of us has his or her own personal reasons for wanting to spend and hour each week with Jesus. I would like to share just two that we all have in common: the joy that we give to Him, and the graces He gives to us.

We all know that when you love someone you experience a joy in being with the one you love. A mother can hardly wait to hold her newborn infant; a father’s joy is being with his children; grandparents delight in seeing their grandchildren; friends treasure the moments they spend together, and sweethearts find it difficult to leave each other’s company.

And the more you love someone, the greater joy you have in being with that person.

This is the point: Because Jesus loves you infinitely, unlimited is the joy that you bring to His Sacred Heart when you come to spend an hour with Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

Even if you feel like you’re the worst person in the world, the worse you feel yourself to be, the more joy you bring to Jesus when you humble yourself and come to Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus says: Do not be afraid. Come to me all of you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you.

Jesus stays with us in the Blessed Sacrament day and night to refresh us in mind and heart and spirit by lavishing on us those graces that encourage us, strengthen us, comfort us, guide us, and inspire us to place all of our trust in His Most Sacred Heart, so that the power of His love may cast out every fear, doubt, worry and anxiety that we have. For He say: Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. My peace is my gift to you. Cast all your anxiety upon the Lord Who cares for you.

For nowhere on earth are you more loved; nowhere on earth are you more welcomed; nowhere on earth is your presence more appreciated than in the Presence of Jesus in The Blessed Sacrament, where He loves you with a personal love, as if you were the only one in the whole world.

And with each visit you will grow in your conviction of His infinite love for you. And the more lovable we see ourselves to be in His eyes, the more loving we can be with one another.

Others also share in the blessings of your holy hour of prayer because one person coming before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament represents all mankind. Every man, woman and child on the face of the earth experiences a new effect of God’s goodness, grace and mercy with every holy hour of prayer that you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Part III: The Night Hours

The advantage of having a chapel open all the time is that everyone can participate because everyone can find at least one hour a week to spend with Jesus. And whatever hour you choose - morning, afternoon, evening or night - is most pleasing to the Lord. And we need adorers for all the hours. But the hour that we need people the most is one of the night hours, between midnight and 6 a. m., because those are the hours that it is most difficult to find volunteers for.

So those who can, we ask you to please help us out and take one of these difficult hours.

For those willing to make this sacrifice and take one of these hours in the middle of the night:

First: God will bless you ten times as much for doing so, because God cannot be outdone in generosity. Whenever we are generous with Him, He is ten times more generous with us.

Second: It was in the middle of the night that Jesus asked for His first holy hour of prayer, when, during His agony in the garden, He began to sweat Blood at the realization that the gift that He had just given to us on Holy Thursday night, the complete gift of Himself in the Eucharist, would be appreciated by so few and be rejected by so many.

Then Jesus saw before Him in the garden every holy hour of prayer that would be made by those who would love Him so much as to be willing to make a sacrifice and keep Him company, even in the middle of the night. This made up for the grief and agony He felt. For then He knew that His love would be returned. For He was about to make for us the greatest sacrifice of all, whereby He said: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends.

Third: Sacrifice is the language of love. Through Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the Cross, we have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Good Friday follows Holy Thursday because Good Friday is the price Jesus paid to institute the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night.

He gave up His Body on the Cross for love of you that today He may give you His Body in Holy Communion. When we receive Communion what we receive is not bread, but the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Savior, who shed Hid very last drop of Blood on the Cross that today He may fill you with the fullness of His divine life and love in this Holy Sacrament.

There is no sacrifice that compares with the sacrifice you make for love of Him - by being willing to spend an hour each week with Him in the middle of the night - consoles and comforts Hid Heart for those who do not know Him or love Him, and wins countless graces for the whole world to return to Him who said: If I be lifted up I will draw all men to myself.

Through the power of the Eucharist, Christ will draw all mankind to Himself. Your sacrifice releases His power upon the whole world. For Sacred Scripture tell us that it is the faith of man that releases the power of God. Jesus turned around and said: Who touched me because I felt power coming from me? Those who are willing to make a sacrifice and come to Jesus in the middle of the night touch His heart and release His power, His grace and His healing love upon all humanity.

This is why our Holy Father appeals to the catholic laity when he says: “The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic adoration. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him. May our adoration never cease.” Because this is what will bring about a flowering of God’s kingdom on earth and lasting peace to the world.

Part IV: The Sign-up

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: in order to strengthen the program of perpetual adoration here, invitations will now be given out. We ask the ushers at this time to please hand out the invitation forms and the pencils.

We invite all of you who are not signed up for an hour each week to do so at this time. This would include those who are new in the parish, those who may have been signed up in the past but had to drop out for some reason and are able to participate again, and those who, for any reason, have not signed up but feel ready to do so now.

Those who are already signed up and are spending a specific hour each week in adoration need not sign up again. This appeal is only for new adorers.

We ask you to fill out the invitations now. All we need is your name and your telephone number.

If you think that you know right now the time of the day that you would like to spend your hour, then you may want to check off morning, afternoon, evening or night on question two of the invitation. Once again, we need people for all hours, and whatever hour you choose is most pleasing to the Lord. But we especially need adorers for the night hours.

If you do not know the time of the day that you would like to spend your hour, then you can just leave questions two blank because somebody will be calling you anyway to find out the time that you want.

I want to ease your mind by saying that you can change your day and your hour anytime that you want. And if in any particular week there’s a conflict in your schedule and you’re unable to make your holy hour, please don’t worry about it because we have a substitute system.

This is not to put a burden on you. Rather, it’s to take all the burdens off you.

The third question on the invitation is an appeal to help coordinate perpetual adoration. The success of any endeavor in the Church today depends on lay responsibility. For perpetual adoration to be successful we need 24 co-coordinators. A coordinator is in charge of a block of seven hours, and the job involves making some phone calls.

So if you think that you might like to be a coordinator, or if you want to learn more about the responsibilities of a coordinator, please check off item three on your invitation.

After you’re finished filling out your invitation forms, please hold on to them until after Holy Communion. After Communion the ushers will come around to collect the invitations and the pencils. So please do NOT put the invitations and pencils in the regular collection at Offertory time but wait for the special collection for them after Holy Communion.

I want to thank you for your wonderful response today, and I want to leave you with one happy thought. We all hope one day to see God the Father face to face. And on that day He will welcome you with open arms, and embrace you, and spend all eternity thanking you and loving you in heaven for you loving His Son on earth by, first of all, keeping His commandments, and by being willing to spend an hour each week with Him in the Blessed Sacrament so that you may continue on here at St. Mark parish with a strong and lasting program of perpetual Eucharistic adoration. 

What are some of the spiritual benefits and graces generally attributed to the establishment of a Parish Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration program?
  1. Increased Mass attendance and Confessions.
  2. Increase in priestly and religious vocations.
  3. The return of fallen-away Catholics and conversions to the faith.
  4. Heightened spirituality. "Personal sanctification and the sanctification of all Catholic action." (Pope Pius XII)
  5. Marriages restored.
  6. Greater unity.
  7. Inner peace.

Sunday, Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father´s house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. (Luke 2:41-52)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you. I place myself before you. Thank you for the gift of faith. How can I ever repay you for it? Jesus, I hope in you. May your presence today keep my will set on glorifying you. Lord, I love you and I long for my heart to be filled with your love.

Petition: Lord Jesus Christ, help me to value and promote the sanctity of the family.

1. The Holy Family. Today we celebrate the solemn memorial of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. A family blossoms with the birth of a child. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem marks the beginning of the blossoming of the Holy Family. In today’s Gospel, with Mary and Joseph to guide him, the Son of God grew and was educated. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” It is a model for every family: love, care, education, obedience. Am I grateful to my parents for my upbringing, and do I seek to express this gratitude in concrete ways? Do I fully grasp the essential elements of family life and try to promote them the best I can?

2. Parenting Is Never Easy. Mary and Joseph were attentive to Jesus’ every step. But no parent is perfect — there are times when the child can slip away. Here we see them racing back to Jerusalem in search of Jesus, as well as their delight at finding him once again. Mary and Joseph experienced the same emotions every parent does while raising a child: moments of anxiety and joy. Do I patiently embrace the moments of anxiety in my family life? Do I strive to spread joy to all the members of my family?

3. The Obedience of Jesus. Every child needs the authority and direction of parents. Number 532 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Jesus´ obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: ‘Not my will. . .’ The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.” Do I appreciate the important role of obedience in my life, and am I seeking carefully to instill it in my children? Within the family of the Church, do I have a filial attitude towards the Holy Father? Do I know, understand and support his teachings and guidelines?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to keep my mind on the things above. How little I reflect on the Incarnation, even during the Christmas season! Help me to be ever more mindful that you dwell in my heart. Let me radiate your presence today in my own family. Let them see your goodness reflected in my words and actions.

Resolution: Today, I will pray for the sanctity of the family.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." The child´s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:22-35)

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, you were a small child in your Mother’s arms. You were a baby who needed the protection of Joseph. You felt their goodness and love. Today I want to celebrate this love of your family. I want to enter into this love and bring it also to my own family. I believe and trust that you will help me in this.

Petition: Lord, help me discover the wonders of the love of the Holy Family.

1. The Bridegroom Is with You: Our God is a God of love. A family participates in this love because God is the source of the love that draws them together. The love that is so spontaneous, as well as so sacrificial, in a family shows the presence of Christ’s love. Jesus makes this love spring forth. It is homage to his Father and homage to his love for us. Am I aware of Christ’s loving presence in my family? Do I strive to collaborate with his love?

2. Family and Covenant: A family is fruit of a covenant, and God is part of this covenant. God has always wanted to make man part of his family, beginning with Adam and Eve. The Holy Family demonstrates the definitive covenant of God’s love for each of us. They live it with wonder and, like Abraham, they put their faith totally in God, bonding themselves totally to his will and to his love. They play their parts in the working of God’s plan, and God will keep his promise to them, making them providential collaborators in his plan of salvation. We can be sure of God’s faithful love in the family. We can be sure that he is working his plan of salvation with faithfulness. Do I strive for unity in my family by living supernatural charity?

3. Spiritual Inheritance: The Holy Family is a source of blessing. My family is also a source of blessing, even though moments of sorrow are bound to happen. When I live with faith my role in the family, I help to bring these blessings on the world. Often it is the example of Christian families that attracts others to the faith. Often the most powerful apostles, whether lay or consecrated persons, are fruit of the strong faith that is lived in the family. A family should not be closed in on itself; like the Holy Family, it has a mission. It must promote God’s message in the world through example and action. Do I give example to the members of my family? Do I strive to be an apostle both inside and outside the home?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for sanctifying family life by your presence. I want to discover you more in my family and those around me. Help me to accompany my loved ones in their moments of both joy and sorrow. You are with us, Lord. Help us to be your apostles.

Resolution: I will take a moment to listen attentively to and speak with a member of my family who may not have received much attention from me recently

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child, to destroy him." Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed for Egypt, and stayed there until the death of Herod, that what he had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time that he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

Introductory Prayer: Father, I come into your holy presence this day aware that you guide my life with love. I believe that nothing happens to me unless you will it. I renew my faith in your promise of heaven, where every tear will be wiped away. Thank you for getting involved in our cruel world in order to heal it with your love.

Petition: Lord, may my presence today be a help to those in need.

1. Angels: We want to cry with these women who have had their children stolen from them in the most defenseless time of their lives. Human cruelty reaches so deep that it desires to maintain power by snuffing out the lives of others! Yet these children silently remind us of another reality. They remind us that there is a place where tyranny does not reign. There is a King who rules by love and whose kingdom cannot be defeated by cruelty. These children are messengers of that kingdom. They have been called to give a brief but powerful witness of the fight that this King will wage for love. They have gone ahead of him, and their mothers will find them and hold them forever one day in the presence of their King.

2. Prophets: Thy Kingdom Come! This is the cry of these children. One day this new King will reign, but it will happen through a terrible fight with death and cruelty. These children are powerful prophets of the struggle of this King. They are prophets of the drama of human history where everything is at stake. Their cries are powerful prayers that will be heard by the Father, and their cries begin to stir in that special Child the desire to give his life as a ransom for souls. He will reign by pouring out his life as a gift for these children and for all souls.

3. Children: The Church has declared these children martyrs. The first saints of Christ are infants. Infants speak to us at Christmas, and their witness does not go unnoticed. These children inspire the Church and pray for her. A child speaks to us of goodness and innocence. A child reminds us of the attitude we should have before God. Christ always lives with a heart of a child, a heart that trusts completely in his Father. He shows special predilection for children. He knows that often they are his most powerful apostles, inviting others to God’s house by the simplicity and intimacy of their love for him. How many parents have been converted or discovered a deeper relationship with Christ through the example of their children!

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, it saddens me so much to see how these children were taken from their mothers and killed. It tears my heart apart to see how today so many children are never given the chance to know their mother’s love because of the evil of abortion. I want to be a consolation to your heart, Lord. I want to give the very best of myself to you today in order to offer you some of the love that these children wanted to give. Let my life be a witness of unselfish love. Let me be like you.

Resolution: I will find some way of encouraging a mother of a young child.

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don´t know where they put him." So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 

Introductory Prayer: Lord, today I am reminded of the intensity of love that you stir in the hearts of your followers. I want to be your follower today. I believe that you love me. I believe that you have overcome sin and death. I believe that you walk with me.

Petition: Lord, give me the joy of discovering you as St. John discovered you.

1. Eager: St. John had been enthused by Christ from the very beginning. Early on Christ had won his heart. In his Gospel, John would record many things about Christ in a very personal way, giving us special insights into Christ. Christ allowed him into his heart, and John’s faith gave him reason to hope in the Resurrection. That is why he runs with such eagerness to the tomb. He does not yet know that Christ is risen, but he wants to know. He wants to be where Christ is. Am I eager to be with Christ? This time of Christmas is a special time in which I can naturally feel attracted to Christ. Do I take advantage of this grace and try to converse more with him?

2. Fast: No hesitation; Get there as quickly as possible. John knows where he has to go. Nothing else is as important. He does not let anything get in the way. A saint lives his life quickly, even if his years are long. He lives it quickly because he lives each day, each moment, intensely for Christ and souls. He lives his prayer life intensely—in spite of the natural fatigue and moments of dryness—because he knows the time spent in prayer is the most important moment of the day. A saint lives his service to his family and to others with the intensity of love. Rather than tiring him, love brings him closer to God. Am I afraid to love and to live with intensity?

3. Believing:John was rewarded for his faith. His Lord is alive! No amount of cruelty and evil—not even death itself—can defeat his Lord. John teaches us to believe in Christ, to discover with joy the signs of his presence. Am I using this Christmas season to reaffirm my faith in Christ’s presence in the world? Do I cultivate a supernatural outlook in the things I do, in the way I deal with those around me? Do I build up confidence in Christ’s victory in souls and discover the signs of that victory?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for St. John’s faith. He was close to your heart. Help me to place my heart in your heart. I want to run to you, Lord, throughout the ups-and-downs of my life, the good times and the bad. Today I will stay close to you in my heart. Stay close to me also.

Resolution: I will pray the Creed in front of a manger scene today and make a special effort to talk about God’s providence in my conversations with others.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:17-22)

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I open my heart to you on this new day. Because of your unfailing love for me, you deserve my deep gratitude and complete confidence in you, so I set my entire being at your disposal. Do with me what you wish. I know that you love me and that nothing that can truly harm me will happen as long as I keep striving to live in your love.

Petition: Lord, help me to experience your forgiveness and learn to forgive in return.

1. “Do Not Hold This Sin Against Them!” These words of St. Stephen (Acts 7:60) repeat Christ’s last words on earth. He has entered into Christ’s heart. He is on fire for his Lord. This fire is making him pass through the same crucible of rejection and death that Christ passed through. And he is walking in the fire without being scorched. His heart burns so much for Christ that it cannot fester with hatred and despair. Like his Lord, he wants only the salvation of his persecutors. Am I letting my heart to be ignited with the flame of love that burns in that Child in the manger? Am I showing the zeal of love that is selfless service?

2. The Case of Saul: The Acts of the Apostles records the approval of Stephen’s martyrdom by Saul. Saul was a man who thought he understood everything. He thought he knew how evil Stephen was and what a threat his teaching brought. His intentions seemed correct, but he was dead wrong. Saul will later speak of himself as someone born dead. He was dead –– dead in his soul – because he had missed the point. Yet God is merciful. Saul soon becomes St. Paul. Jesus accepts the prayer of Stephen just as the Father accepts the prayer of Jesus. We do not need to be afraid. God accepts our prayers, too. He will do marvels if we persevere in prayer and service.

3. Hard of Heart: We’re often pushed out of our comfort zone by Christ’s message. We are ready to be forgiven by Christ and by others, but it is not so easy to take the logical next step of quickly and easily forgiving others. To become a forgiving St. Stephen we need to keep in mind that we, too, are Sauls. The Christmas Season is a perfect time for a change of heart. By contemplating today the loving face of God in that child in the manger we can experience his tender, infinite love for us. Anchored in his friendship we can gain the magnanimity of heart to set aside any ill will from past injuries and desire for everyone to find the peace and joy that only comes from knowing the Word Incarnate.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the example of St. Stephen, the first martyr of your young Church. On this day after your birth, you also show me the birth of total courage in love. I believe that I am safe in your arms no matter how hard the difficulties. I believe that you entrust me with your mission. Today I renew the commitment to be faithful to my mission as a Christian and an apostle “till death on the battlefield.” Jesus, you are my Lord. I will follow you.

Resolution: Today I will look for the positive side in everyone I meet. I will look beyond their limitations. I will forgive anyone who might offend me.

If you want to know why we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen Martyr right after The Birth of Jesus, Christmass... click here

Monday, December 24, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man´s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father´s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This is he of whom I said, ´The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.´" From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father´s side, has revealed him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this Christmas day. I believe that you became a little child to redeem me and show me the Father’s love. I love you. Your birth shows the depth of your love for me. I choose to recommit myself today to be a Christian in love with you.

Petition: Lord, help me to grow in wonder at your love.

1. Flesh: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” For most families, Christmas is a day of special closeness. We take time to be with each other. We also know that God is close. He is that “someone” who unites us in love. Today, in astonished silence, we contemplate the Christ Child. Amid all the excitement and emotion of our Christmas day we cannot help but stop in amazement: My God lets me put my arms around him. Here is an amazing mystery of closeness. Here is where all human closeness finds its greatest expression. It is God’s initiative. He became flesh. He lives among us. Do I let myself draw close to Christ? Do I allow him to love me? Do I allow myself to love him?

2. Glory: “And we saw his glory.” For John, the glory of God that shines in the face of Christ is the glory of love. Jesus glories in being able to love — in being able to love us. What an amazing God we have! He defies our reason. His Christmas glory lies in making himself so humble that he becomes a tiny child dependent on our love. His glory will later consist in embracing his cross and dying out of love for us. Do I appreciate this glorious love? Am I ready to enter into its mystery? Am I ready to make my heart today shine with this glory of God’s love?

3. Grace: “…Full of grace and truth.” The grace spoken of here is the Father’s loving glance. Jesus brings the Father’s loving glance to our world, to our lives. He transforms our world into the very place where the Father finds his Son. The Father is pleased; Christ lives among us. This is the grace that is Christ: God’s initiative of love. Grace is a gift. It does not depend on me. I simply have to receive it. I simply have to appreciate it, as John did. Do I appreciate Christ? Do I try to make my life a gift like his was?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, thank you for this Christmas day. I know it may be busy, but I also know it is very beautiful. It is beautiful because you are here, Lord. Thank you for being here this Christmas day. I want to love you as Mary did. I want to bring your grace and glory to those around me.

Resolution: Today I will strive to show special joy and goodness in my relations with others, especially with my family. I will look for an extra way to make each of them happy today.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 67-79)

Introductory Prayer: I believe in your loving presence with me, Lord, and I tremble as I consider the immense love you have for me. I do not deserve your grace, and yet I cannot live without it. You have called me to rise above my sin and misery and to live in your love as one of your children. I truly want to show you my love.

Petition: Lord, help me to seek you and find you through silence.

1. Silence for Reflection: Zechariah had been in silence (a silence imposed by God) for over nine months. Perhaps at the beginning, he had felt frustrated at not being able to communicate normally with others. As time goes on, that frustration turns into resignation and reluctant acceptance. Through perseverance and prayer, suddenly he begins to love the trial God had imposed on him, embracing it wholeheartedly and willingly. When we see someone who is suffering, be it in a hospital, a nursing home or even on the street or at work, we need to bring them this message of hope. Suffering has a meaning, a redemptive value, if we unite our sufferings to those of Christ.

2. Silence for Union with Our Lord: We see that Zechariah’s 9-month “retreat” has provided him the opportunity for a closer contact with God. Through prayer he has been brought to a deeper and experiential knowledge of God, which has converted him into an apostle in his desire to share this experience with others. As his wife’s period of waiting results in her giving birth to a prophet, so Zechariah’s “incubation” period also turns him into a prophet: He foretells that salvation for his people is near at hand. We will have words of wisdom and encouragement for others when we have discovered how to be alone with God in the secret depths of our hearts. Silence is a vehicle for achieving this intimacy.

3. Silence for Praise: At some moment during his tribulation, Zechariah would recall the angel’s words, “you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place” (Luke 1:20). Hope would invade his heart. The day is coming when he would be able to speak again! He has nine months to prepare his speech. The first words he utters as his tongue is loosened are not a curse against God for having made him suffer, but a hymn of praise for his mercy on a sinful humanity. He has experienced this mercy in his own flesh. We are meant to communicate truth through speech, and the greatest truth is what God has done for each of us and wishes to do for every single person. When our speech is a result of what we have first meditated on profoundly, our words will bear fruit. Does my speech normally edify others? Do my words ordinarily come from the good I have experienced in God’s company? Am I aware of how much we can build up others through good conversations?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, your birth comes tonight. I want to have a proper place prepared for you. Please help me to make it warm and comfortable for you. Make up for what is lacking in my poor efforts to please you. O King of Glory, may my every thought, word and deed of this day be a fitting homage for your coming.

Resolution: Today, I will strive to edify others though my words.