Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God "Our MotherKnows the Song of the Angels"


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.

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.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas "Looking for You"


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. 

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.



Monday, December 29, 2014

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas "A Child and Wonder"




The There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was 84. She never left the Temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come like Anna today to live the one thing necessary in my life: my relationship with you. I believe that you are faithful to your promises. I believe that you will triumph over sin and death. I love you, Lord.

Petition: Lord, help me to see how I can better witness to you.

1. She Worshipped: We all have something we worship. Wisdom teaches us whom we should truly worship: God alone. God deserves our full hearts, because he is the one who is our true Father. In worship we rediscover our greatest treasure, as did the Prodigal Son: “I will return to my Father’s house” (Luke 15:18). In worship we return to that place where we are most deeply welcomed and cared for, to that place where we discover our true friend, where we become more deeply our true selves. Worship also opens us to receive God’s graces. It helps us appreciate the gifts that God wants to give us. Do I strive to worship God with all my heart, mind and soul during the Eucharistic Celebration?

2. She Spoke about the Child to All: Prayer and worship here on earth do not end only in going to church. They allow us to discover the good news about God’s love, so that we can also share this good news with others. Prayer that does not lead us to evangelize is self-deception. Our Holy Father shows us this intimate connection between prayer and evangelization. He invites us to give to others what we have discovered in being close to Christ. He challenges us to bring others to Christ. Am I living this contemplative and active spirit?

3. The Child Grew and Became Strong, and the Favor of God Was Upon Him: Christmas is a message of hope. God is quietly preparing the future. A child and a young person are reminders that God does not give up on the world, that in each generation he can find new ways of bringing his salvation to all mankind. Am I youthful, spiritually speaking? Am I always trying to learn what God wants to teach me each day, striving to form those virtues that will make me a better instrument of God’s grace? As one who follows Christ, I should have confidence that God’s favor also rests on me; that he looks at my humble, often hidden efforts with great love; that in spite of my weakness he is helping others through me to see the good news that he is present and active in their lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I thank you for your presence and care. You have made me in your image, and in the presence of your Son I discover the depths of your love. Help me to grow in wonder at your love today, and help me to bring your good news to others.

Resolution: Today I will spend a quiet moment before the child Jesus and thank him for his presence here among us. I will also strive in a particular way to be cheerful and friendly to everyone I meet.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas "In the Spirit"

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 Messiah 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."

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I long to abide in your presence. You refresh my soul and fill me with your light, although I don’t turn to you often enough or exercise enough faith when I do remember you. But here I am now, Lord, ready to spend a few precious moments with you in the room of my heart. I want to pick up more readily on the inspirations of your Spirit. I want to be a docile instrument in your hands to serve you and your Church.

Petition: Lord, teach me to be open to your Spirit.

1. Simeon, a Man of the Spirit: Luke tells us three times in this short passage that Simeon was a man who was attentive to the Holy Spirit. The “Holy Spirit was upon him” since “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.” Simeon was in conversation with the Spirit and learned to listen to his holy inspirations. Just as in Christ’s life we see him many times moved by the Spirit—for example, to come to be baptized by John and subsequently to be “driven by the Spirit” into the desert—so in Simeon’s life, he is not only inspired, but also powerfully moved by the Spirit. We should take a moment in our meditation to admire this man who lent himself totally to the movements of the Spirit.

2. Mary, Overshadowed by the Spirit: There is no one who demonstrates docility to the Spirit more than Mary Immaculate. She didn’t  put up any obstacles to the work of the Holy Spirit; as the Spirit expresses to us through the Gospel writer, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). As John Paul II describes it, Mary “responded with faithful obedience to every request of God, to every motion of the Holy Spirit.” As she stands here at the presentation of her firstborn son, she now hears words spoken to her through the Spirit’s instrument: “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." Once more, Mary acquiesces to the Holy Spirit and accepts the foretold suffering far in advance.

3. Amazed by the Spirit: All of us have heard incredible stories of moments in which the Holy Spirit clearly intervened or directed a situation. Maybe we have experienced this in our own lives. Is there any reason why we shouldn’t? Are there any obstacles that the Holy Spirit would find in our lives? He should be the soul’s gentle guest. But how do we foster this friendship with the Holy Spirit? We have to bring silence into our hearts so as to distinguish his voice from the noise of so many worldly voices trying to drown out his word, and it also means we have to be docile and obedient once we have heard it.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, there are so many lessons to be learned from your presentation in the Temple. I have taken one of them: the presence of your Holy Spirit so evident in this Gospel passage. In the Christmas season we celebrate your being among us as a tiny child. Yet, your whole life will show us how to be docile to the Holy Spirit. You have sent him so that we might not be alone. May he always accompany me in life, and may he always remind me of the many things you did and said, as you lead me to the Father’s house.

Resolution: I will spend the day attentive to the Holy Spirit and make this a particular point for my examination of conscience.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph "Rooted in Love"

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." There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist "Eager Heart"


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.


The next largest figures are the five witnesses of the crucifixion and witnesses of Jesus as Lord. On the left side are the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist, to whom Jesus entrusted his mother. On the right side are Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James, and the centurion who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his servant, who is also depicted on the cross on the shoulder of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Both Mary and Mary Magdalene have their hands placed on their cheeks to reflect extreme grief and anguish. The first four witnesses are saints who gave their lives for the Lord and are therefore represented with halos of sanctity. The names of the five major witnesses are written beneath their pictures.

More on Mary and John. As in John’s Gospel, Mary and John are placed side by side. Mary’s mantle is white meaning victory (Rev 3:5), purification (Rev 7:14); and good deeds (Rev 19:8). The gems on the mantle refer to the graces of the Holy Spirit.

The dark red worn under the mantic indicate intense love, while the inner dress is purple – the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 26: 1-4).
Mary’s left hand is raised to her cheek – her acceptance and love of John, and her right hand points to John while her eyes proclaim acceptance of Christ’s words “Woman, behold your son… ” (John 19:26). The blood drips on to John at this moment. John’s mantle is rose color indicating eternal wisdom, while his tunic is white – purity. His position is between Jesus and Mary as is fitting for the disciple loved by both of them. He looks at Mary “Son, behold your Mother”, but points to Christ.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr "The Power of Witness"

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.”

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 Saul. 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.


Christmas Day Mass Homily


I have a proposal for each of us this Christmas morning.  I’d like to propose that we celebrate this Christmas in our hearts.  A phrase we’ve heard before, and maybe it even seems trite.  But let me explain what I mean.  

The Letter to the Hebrews we just heard has a serious, and even solemn tone.  A joyful message, but solemn.  We read, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.”  (Heb 1: 1)  God speaks to us in a multitude of ways, and He always has.  He speaks through the immensity of the Cosmos, the beauty we see in nature – a majestic mountain or a delicate bird, but most of all through the laugh of a baby, the eyes of a child filled with wonder or the gentle smile of a grandmother bent with age.  All of these things are a manifestation of the infinite love and wisdom of God.  He loves us.  He wants to speak to us.

And so He also sent His prophets into the world, to communicate His love to us in a deeper way.  They were moved by the Holy Spirit and could truly speak on behalf of God.  They were sent not just to communicate God’s love for us, but to awaken our consciences and to stir us to respond to that love.  They were sent to show us that we were capable of good and evil.  They were sent to show us that there is fruit from our actions – good fruit and bad fruit.

Through His prophets, God was educating us about good and evil.  But in His love for us, He wanted to teach us more.  He wanted to show us that we have limits.  He wanted us to experience both infinite desire for Him, and the reality of our inability to fulfill our desires.  He wanted us to experience our need – our longing for Him.

See how much God loves us!  When a soul discovers her need in the midst of her longing, she in on her way to a miracle - the miracle of Christmas, actually.  She is on her way to an encounter with Love – to an encounter with the Light that comes into the world today.  

This, my dear brothers and sisters, is the beginning of what I mean by celebrating Christmas in our hearts.  Much more than a phrase!  It begins with accepting the infinite desire and longing of our heart, recognizing that the human heart was created with a kind of nostalgia for infinite beauty and for light without limits – for what is perfect and true.  It begins with knowing that only God can satisfy us.  Only He can fill our hearts.     

Our hearts are made for the divine, but they are human hearts after all.  And they are divided.  We want beauty, but feelings of resentment or revenge creep into.  We want to overcome those feelings, but try as we might, we realize that vanity, laziness and egotism have power over us.  We are weak.  And this struggle with ourselves is itself a gift from God.  Because it teaches us that we can’t do it alone.  

Our desire for perfection and light must meet our need for our God.  That intersection takes place right there, in the manger at Bethlehem.  It’s a moment of profound Grace and incomprehensible Love.  In our need, God sends us Light!  

Don’t let this moment of Grace be limited to your intellect.  It is more than a conference – much more than a teaching.  The prophets came long ago to be our teachers.  And yes, even today, philosophers from varying cultures discuss justice and goodness as concepts living in the mind, without even referencing God or our history of salvation.

But the child Jesus brings more than catechesis this Christmas morning.  The baby born in Bethlehem was not just one more philosopher.  Today we celebrate the Good News that God is with us – Emmanuel.  The Divine has taken human flesh.  The impossible is made possible – there is an answer to our longing.  

As the prophet Isaiah says, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.”  The Christ child is a gift to us – a gift that can fill our deepest desires.  He comes to love, to serve, to heal and to forgive.  O, how we need Him!  Today, let’s resolve to get to know Him more and more – the way He prays, the way He works, the way He preaches…  Brothers and sisters of St Mark’s, we must each get to the point where we can say, “My heart has been conquered by Him – that tiny baby has stolen my heart!”  We must each get to the point where we can say, “I need Him in my weakness – I need Him like I need air – my soul needs Him!”  

This is what it means to live Christmas in our hearts.  It’s not just for today, but for every day.  Lord, I accept my infinite desire for You, I recognize my need for You, and I thank you for the gift You give me today.  In my weakness, I want to receive you Lord – to embrace You and kiss You and thank you once again for coming to me and to the world.      


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Midnight mass homily

Jesus born in the midst of the night... It was night in more than one sense... It was  at night without the light of the sun, it was night for us sinners far from the clarity of grace, night of egotists and selfishness of life that make of us prisoners of horrible prisons... Night of fear to the Roman Empire... The powers of he world that think they could or  can replace God at the price of human blood...

Jesus comes in the middle of the night. The voices of the Angels break the silence of the night and the shepherds are overwhelmed by a new joy that wasn't expected and that they couldn't understand.

The glory of heaven is visiting earth, a world darkened by evil, sin, and ignorance. It seems that made sense for God to shower with His Angelical splendor the dirt of so many injustices, lies and impurities...

The Incarnation is not a gift for the good behavior of the world or our good deeds… It is a free act of love

 Jesus wants to born in the middle of our night and wants to do it again tonight in your life and mine.

 What is night in me? What is night in my family? In my country? In my generation? How am I going to let the grace start its  work in me?  Where and how? Do I really need a Savior? 

The love of Mary, the diligence of Joseph, the splendor of the star, the edifying adoration of the shepherds, the selfless pilgrimage of the Magi: God always bring signs as gifts that give comfort during the dark and cold night... Brothers and sisters, God is more than capable to defeat any night and to transform sinners into saints. 

Let's make a resolution even before the 31st: let's stop criticizing the night... We are not fixing it, we are not bringing light, we are not helping. Look a the signs of the light in your life, in your family, in your parish... Bless God for those signs; thank God for His sign a d with Him let's all defeat the Night!

Let us welcome him as our gift of salvation and after this lets see each one of us members of this Family as gifts to others.

We are each called to become gift – to share in the salvific mission of Christ – as crazy as that sounds!  We are each called to cooperate with Christ, even today, in the great gift of salvation that He gives to the world. We live Christmas more and more perfectly as our lives become this gift.  Isn’t this what Mary teaches us?  From the moment she held the newborn baby Jesus in her arms, she shared in His mission – she became a gift.  Even before that.  Didn’t she say at the Annunciation, “I am the handmaid of the Lord” – I am gift?    

Brothers and sisters of St Mark’s, can you imagine what a beautiful place our parish would be if we each understood this mission?  Can you imagine the power of this gift that our Lord wants to give?  A power that starts in that manger in Bethlehem and radiates out through the lives of men and women accepting and living the gift in their own lives, throughout the centuries…  Can you imagine how the world would be changed if we each allowed ourselves to become a gift – to become part of this gift of salvation?  

So maybe now we can begin to see the immensity of this simple gift that we receive, and that we can give through our lives.  It is waiting for us in the simplicity and silence of the manger.  

Lord, help me to believe, and increase my trust in this gift - the promise of salvation.  Help me to see this promise as a Gift above all other gifts.  Make my heart burn with this gift, and change in me all that dampens the flame.  Lord, if I truly understood the immensity of the gift it would change the entire course of my life.  It would make the fire of your love burn brightly in my life, in my family and in my parish.  I want to be this gift to others.  I offer myself this Christmas and I ask you to perfect your gift in me.  Amen.


The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) "Flesh, Glory, Grace"

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 and 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 accept and 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.


Vigil Mass – The Nativity of the Lord Homily


Look at the word JOY. You see that it is made up of three letters: first J, then O, and lastly Y. J stands for Jesus, O for Others, and Y for You. Joy therefore is: Jesus, Others, before You. To know joy in our lives we need to place Jesus first in everything. Secondly, we need to try to please others before trying to please yourself. That is the recipe for joy. That is how we can convert the Christmas "joy to the world" into a personal "joy in my life" now and always.

As we listen to the Christmas story tonight, at midnight and tomorrow morning, we would do well to pay attention to the various people and groups of people that are mentioned and see whether they try to please Jesus and others before themselves, or whether they seek their own interests first. You will discover that those who practice J-O-Y are the ones who enjoy peace and joy, and that those who practice "self first" are always the unhappy and miserable ones. Here are a few examples.

On the negative side we have the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary out in the cold night while he enjoyed the warmth of the inn. There's also Herod who wanted above all his job security as king to the point that he was prepared to kill Jesus and others. These people never get to experience the joy of the good news. On the positive side, consider the shepherds who leave everything they own, their flock, in the bush and go to adore Jesus first. Or the magi, the wise men from the East who leave the security of their homeland and make a long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem just to worship the new-born Jesus and give him gifts. These are the one's who receive God's favor, the ones who experience in their hearts the true peace and joy of Christmas. Let us today resolve to follow their good example by always placing Jesus and others before self and then the joy of Christmas will always be ours.

But on this evening we are going to talk about Christmas gifts.  By now, we’ve each carefully chosen and wrapped the gifts we are giving to those we love.  We understand the joy of giving.  We can’t wait for our gift to be opened.  Even a small child is filled with joy at being able to give something – maybe a handmade card or ornament carefully prepared and waiting there under the tree.  So imagine the joy of our Lord this Christmas!  The joy He has in giving, once again, the great gift He wants to give us on Christmas morning. 

The readings we are given for this Vigil Mass are meant to help us to see the immensity of the gift we have received in the Incarnation – the coming of our Lord.  In the first reading we hear the Prophet say, “For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”  Isaiah has been our teacher during the Advent season, and today he helps us to appreciate the greatness of the gift we receive in Jesus.

Sometimes the simplest gift we receive is the most beautiful – the handmade gift of the child, for example.  God’s gift is like this.  And so the first thing we need to ask the Lord today is to help us see clearly, so that the presents we find under the tree don’t blind us to the Gift that is above all gifts.  The gift that should burn most brightly for us is the gift of our salvation.  It is a gift we have each received, and there can be no excuse for keeping it hidden – for dampening the flame.  And yet, as Christians, there should always be a bit of Advent in our attitude.  Because we are still working out our salvation, as St Paul says.  Christmas doesn’t happen in our lives just because the calendar says so.  Our true Christmas happens when this great gift of our salvation is accepted and burns brightly in our hearts.  
   
Christmas is the perfect time to ask ourselves this question:  Does Jesus burn brightly in my heart?  Does His salvation shine in my family?  The burning torch that Isaiah spoke of is real.  Has it entered my life, as it did in the lives of the great saints like Francis Xavier, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila or Teresa of Calcutta?  The coming of Jesus on Christmas morning doesn’t reach its fulfillment until we have welcomed Him into our hearts.  Christmas doesn’t become real for us until our hearts are burning with love and gratitude – because Jesus comes to be our salvation.  He comes to save us from our sin and from the emptiness of a life lived without God.

And with this gift comes a beautiful promise from God.  The Prophet Isaiah tells us that “nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory.”  It’s not a promise for our life in the world, but for our life in the spirit.  It’s more likely that one who puts his trust in God alone will be rejected and abandoned by the world.  The name he is given by a world without God is “Forsaken” and “Desolate.”  But the promise of Christmas – the promise of Christ with us – is that we will receive a new name.  When we accept the great gift that God wants to give us at Christmas, and when we persevere in working out our salvation, we will be called by God “My Delight”, and our land “Espoused”.  Our God delights in us.  He loves us with the love of a spouse.   

Today, let’s ask God for the faith to believe this with all our heart.  Because Christmas isn’t just about the Gift we receive, but about the gift we become for others.  We are each called to become gift – to share in the salvific mission of Christ – as crazy as that sounds!  We are each called to cooperate with Christ, even today, in the great gift of salvation that He gives to the world. We live Christmas more and more perfectly as our lives become this gift.  Isn’t this what Mary teaches us?  From the moment she held the newborn baby Jesus in her arms, she shared in His mission – she became a gift.  Even before that.  Didn’t she say at the Annunciation, “I am the handmaid of the Lord” – I am gift?    

Brothers and sisters of St Mark’s, can you imagine what a beautiful place our parish would be if we each understood this mission?  Can you imagine the power of this gift that our Lord wants to give?  A power that starts in that manger in Bethlehem and radiates out through the lives of men and women accepting and living the gift in their own lives, throughout the centuries…  Can you imagine how the world would be changed if we each allowed ourselves to become a gift – to become part of this gift of salvation?  

So maybe now we can begin to see the immensity of this simple gift that we receive, and that we can give through our lives.  It is waiting for us on Christmas morning.  Lord, help me to believe, and increase my trust in this gift - the promise of salvation.  Help me to see this promise as a Gift above all other gifts.  Make my heart burn with this gift, and change in me all that dampens the flame.  Lord, if I truly understood the immensity of the gift it would change the entire course of my life.  It would make the fire of your love burn brightly in my life, in my family and in my parish.  I want to be this gift to others.  I offer myself this Christmas and I ask you to perfect your gift in me.  Amen.




Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent "Heaven Holds the Key"

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.”

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.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent "Hark, the Herald"

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I humbly kneel before you in prayer, I recognize your power and glory. Without you, I am nothing, but with you I can do all things. With this trust, I implore you to help me make good use of this time of prayer as an expression of my deep desire to love and imitate you. I am here to please and glorify you.

Petition: Lord, help me to appreciate more deeply the role of parents and families as domestic churches.

1. Amazing Grace: Elizabeth and Zechariah received the great grace of a child in their old age. And not just any child: he was John the Baptist. To ready him for his great vocation, he would need the love and guidance that are unique to parents. Great people often trace their path from the love of a mom or dad (frequently both), who might remain hidden from the world. Am I grateful to my parents for what I received from them? Am I regularly seeking what is truly best for my spouse and children and not just what seems best in the eyes of the world?

2. God’s Call: The child would not be named after his father, but rather would receive the name God chose. The great tension in the life of a child (and sometimes an adult) is the close identity they have with a parent ― or with a parent’s plans for their life. In truth, our identity rests in our heavenly Father. God alone gives us meaning and a vocation in life. Could there be expectations of a parent or other family member that hold me back from God’s plan for me? Or, if I am a parent, do I unjustly impose my plans on my children? Do I interfere in their vocation? In their marriage?

3. Zechariah’s “Yes” - Zechariah’s voice returns only after he acquiesces to God’s plan and agrees to the child’s name. When we finally say “yes” to God in our life, that’s when we find the deepest meaning of our lives. That’s when we can express ourselves the best. Am I keeping God waiting?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, Zechariah took a long and winding road on his path over nine months. Let me see my own life as a path, and have patience with those who are still on their path.

Resolution: Today, I’ll say “yes” to one thing that God has been asking of me.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent "Favor Is the Key"


Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.

Introductory Prayer: I love you, Lord, for you have loved me first. You have allowed me to see your provident hand in so many events of my life; how can I not believe in you? These days of Advent have slipped away so quickly. You are almost at my doorstep, ready to knock. I want to be ready for your arrival on Christmas Day. Therefore, I pour out my humble plea before you.

Petition: Lord Jesus, mark my life with gratitude.

1. The Key Word: The Magnificat, and indeed the entire history of salvation, can be summarized in the word “favor”. This is the true motive of Christmas. God looks with favor (or good will) upon mankind. Many times, we see our spiritual life as the effort we make to become pleasing in God’s eyes, drawing his blessings down upon us. This would mean that in some way we bring about our own growth in holiness. This is not the case: God is never “obliged” to grant us his grace. We do not “deserve” anything from God. Our spiritual life should consist in presenting ourselves before God as we truly are: sinners. By placing our weakness before his omnipotence, we draw down his favor to lift us up from our misery and to adopt us as his children. This is what happened as he “looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant (Mary).”

2. The Gift of Himself: To demonstrate his immense love for us and to give himself to us, God becomes one of us. Love makes us seek to become more like our beloved. How could God become more like his beloved creature? He not only became man, but he shared the lot of the poorest of the poor. Very few humans, even among the paupers, have been born in a stable. How many babies are laid in the feeding trough of a cow or horse? Well, that is exactly what a manger is. Though he was rich (he was God almighty), he became poor, to enrich us with his poverty. We need to ask ourselves what we are doing to become more like our beloved. What are we doing to imitate Christ in his gift of self? Have we learned to put aside our whims and fancies in order to do the things that are pleasing to our spouse, children or parents? These are the ways to prepare ourselves for a grace-filled Christmas.

3. Abundant Blessings: The rest of the Magnificat is a glorification of God, recognizing the favors he bestows upon those who love him. All generations will call us “blessed.” God will show the might of his arm, he will lift up the lowly, and the hungry he will fill with good things…. We truly have so much for which to be thankful. The challenge of our Christian lives is to be mindful of our blessings and mark our actions with the seal of gratitude. We glorify God and we bless God when we try to respond according to all the good he has done in our lives. Then in turn, others will call us blessed, because our filial attitude opens the door for God to enter in and do still more good through us. Do I count my many blessings often? Do I truly seek to “repay” God by cooperating, and am I aware that in return he will bring about still more good and bless me more?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, as I prepare my soul for your coming this Christmas, I invite you to enter my humble dwelling. Please do not pass by without bestowing your blessings upon my poor soul. I need your grace. I will not leave your presence today without at least a crumb from your banquet. Allow me to thank and praise you for your infinite mercy as you look upon your lowly servant.

Resolution: Today, out of gratitude for the many blessings I have received, I will give something good to someone in need.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent "“God Is with You”"

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,

has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I know by faith that these are some of the most important moments of my day. I freely open my mind, heart and will for you to do as you please, because I know you can desire and do only what is good for me. I know that you will give me the grace to do whatever you ask of me and that you will always accompany me. That is enough for me.

Petition: Lord, give me the grace to do your holy will.

1. Pleasing God through the Small, Daily Tasks: The angel Gabriel finds Mary doing nothing extraordinary, but rather doing ordinary tasks like washing clothes, sweeping, getting water, doing the same daily prayer as every devout Jew. But in doing the ordinary she is doing what is pleasing to God. Her example should be our guide. Work can be an ordinary means of holiness. Man, as Pope Saint John Paul II said, “not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’” (Laborem Exercens, no. 9). We please God when we do our duties, fulfill our responsibilities, work to meet our basic needs. While we may not be doing something extraordinary at every moment, we still praise and glorify God when we undertake the ordinary with love. If an angel were to come looking for me, would he find me doing my daily tasks lovingly?

2. “Do Not Be Afraid” - Mary “was greatly troubled and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” When God presents us with his plan, we too might be afraid. We may not fully understand what he has in mind. It can seem that his plan is too great for us. But when God wants something from us, he shows us that it is not beyond our reach. As with Mary at the Incarnation, God will make it happen and will provide all the grace necessary for its completion.

3. “May It Be Done to Me According to Your Word” - When Gabriel clarifies Mary’s mission and illustrates that with God all things are possible, Mary makes an act of faith. Her act of faith is what the Second Vatican Council terms the “obedience of faith.” ‘The obedience of faith’ ‘is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him” (Dei Verbum, 5). God supplied Mary with his grace and did not abandon her; nor will he abandon us. When we do what God wants and cooperate with his plan, he will support us. He will accompany us as we carry out his will and bring his plan to fulfillment. God’s will is our holiness, and when we do his will we help God to make us saints.

Conversation with Mary: Mary, teach me how to do God’s will as you did, so that I can remain in his company. I want to do his will, even though at times I know that it may seem difficult or impossible. Ask your son for the grace of perseverance for me so that I, too, may cooperate with the Lord, whether he is asking something of me that is ordinary or extraordinary.

Resolution: In a difficult situation, I will pray a “Hail Mary,” asking Mary for help in being faithful.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent "Mary’s Fiat"

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I contemplate the example of Mary’s simplicity and generosity, my heart burns within me. If only I could be as docile as she was. In my desire to improve, I trust in your help and mercy. As I begin this prayer, I humbly place myself in your presence. I come, Lord, to do your will.

Petition: Grant me, Lord, a love for the example of Our Lady.

1. A Personal Call: We notice the very human details of the Annunciation. It happened in a specific place, to a specific person. So it is with God’s plan. He doesn’t call us en masse. He calls each one of us personally, because he loves each of us as a son or daughter. The Catholic faith is a personal relationship with Our Lord. Do I ever feel the opposite? Do I ever feel like just a number? That’s not how God intends my faith to be. My vocation is personal. Do I respond likewise in a personal way to God?

2. Beyond All Hopes: God’s people had long awaited a Messiah. Mary also would have looked forward to a Savior. Yet it likely would not have occurred to her that she would ever be the mother of the Redeemer. We too might wonder: When will God send someone to save the world in our time? In fact, he tries to do just that ― through each one of us. Each of us can be a saint; each of us can help save the world, with God’s grace. Likewise, each of us is called to a great and unique vocation, whether ordained, consecrated or lay. To what great mission is God calling me? Do I realize that my life can be great, if lived with sufficient love?

3. Let It Be: Mary’s fiat ― “Let it be done to me” ― was the response that brought joy to the angels in heaven. A 14- or 15-year-old, by her openness to God’s plan, would help to change the course of history. We, too, are called to say “yes” to God and to build little civilizations of love. Each generation can contribute to building the Kingdom. Do I see the young people in my life as potential apostles? Do I respect them as persons called to great things? Do I see my friends in the same way?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, your great plan for sending your Son into the world hinged on Mary’s “yes.” Let me learn from her openness; let me say “yes” to what you ask.

Resolution: I will pray for a young person to have the strength to follow a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life.