Monthly Archives: December 2011

Saturday, 3rd week of Advent

December 17th the Advent season begins to focus on the infancy narratives, New Testament readings taken from the gospels of Matthew and Luke that deal with events immediately leading to the birth of Jesus. For the next week, they’ll prepare us for the celebration of the Christmas feasts.

Matthew and Luke do more than trace his Jewish ancestry back as far as they can go. The evangelists want to show to their gentile and Jewish readers that Jesus has worldwide roots; he’s not just a Jewish Messiah, though David the King is there.  His ancestors were exiles in Babylon as well as part of successive Jewish dynasties in Palestine. He had foreign blood from women like Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba, all of whom have something questionable about them. Tamar became a prostitute to win Judah’s favor; Ruth honored many gods, Bathsheba was sexually involved with King David.

In his humanity, Jesus did not come only from Jewish royalty; he’s rooted in all humanity;  he has the blood of saints and sinners. He shares our DNA. He has “taken to himself our humanity, may he be pleased to share with us his divinity.” (Collect)

“Behold, the Desired of all nations will come, and the house of the Lord will be filled with his glory.” (Communion antiphon)

Readings here.  Homily here.

Friday, 3rd Week of Advent

Prophets like Isaiah promised that all nations would come to Jerusalem, to the house of the Lord. And so the temple in Jerusalem provided a Court of the Gentiles, and extensive place surrounding the Holy of Holies for foreigners whom God would call when the time had come.

“Them I will bring to my holy mountain

and make joyful in my house of prayer;

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

will be acceptable on my altar,

For my house shall be called

a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56)

Jesus’ symbolic act of cleansing the temple was a sign that that time had come. The Gentiles were called, and they were called to him. In the gospel today, Jesus speaks from the temple, most likely from the Court of the Gentiles. He’s the One whom John the Baptist has pointed out and his mission will be confirmed by his Father who will glorify him in his Kingdom.

One of Pope Benedict’s recent hopes is that all of our Catholic holy places have a “Court of the Gentiles” where we can speak to  the world around us in dialogue and respect.

Readings here.

Thursday, 3rd week of Advent

Tonight is the last evening of our mission at Holy Family in the Bahamas. During the week, I spoke about the three great witnesses of the Advent season: Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary of Nazareth. They prepare us to receive Jesus Christ.

Let’s remember the Prophet Isaiah again, and those who followed him. He tells us to remember God’s promises. They seem far beyond what we think possible and greater than we can imagine, but God promises to fulfill them in the world and in us.

The prophet speaks to those most likely to distrust, yet God wants them most to hear:  the poor, the sick, the blind, the lame, those wearied from the journey. He speaks tender words of comfort. His words to the barren woman in today’s reading are among his most beautiful.

John the Baptist is the voice in the wilderness. We’re to be that voice too. It’s far easier to speak God’s word in a church or in a temple than there. That’s why Jesus praised John, and why he praises all who are his voice in the wilderness. You may not be able to say much, but if you speak what you can and remain faithful to God in the wilderness that’s yours, God will bless you as God blessed John.

Finally, we reflected last night on Mary, the mother of Jesus.  You have a wonderful custom here in this parish at the end of daily Mass, I notice, of praying the Angelus, which recalls the coming of the angel to Mary and her response. That’s a mystery we share with her, and so we recall it each day to make it our own. “Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Each day is important because the promises of Christ come to us day by day. They are not always obvious, so we must become aware of them. Like Mary, we question what they mean. For that reason, we enter that mystery that happened once in small, unnoticed Nazareth. The angel still comes and goes., and with Mary, we say each day “Be it done to me, according to your word.”

Emmaus Centre

Crucifix, St.Anselm Church

Yesterday I gave a presentation on preaching to the priests, deacons and lay ministers from the Bahamas at Emmaus Retreat Center in Nassau. Like John the Baptist, by our “voice’ in preaching and catechesis we point out the Word.

Preaching and catechesis should be an expression of our “personal search for the face of the Lord,” to use Pope Benedict’s words. We should let the scripture readings, the liturgy, the seasons, as well as the life of the people give us the material for our preaching and catechesis.

Those participating were from the Bahamas, Haiti, India and North America, reflecting the Catholic population here.

Afterwards, Fr. Tom and I visited St. Anselm’s church with its pastor, Msgr. Preston Moss. Only two years old, the church is in one of the earliest villages on the island and reflects its traditions and art.

Archbishop Patrick Pinder and Passionists

St. Anselm Church

Wednesday, 3rd Week of Advent

My community, the Passionists, have a custom of beginning our prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours with a short prayer derived from the first reading today from Isaiah, which is later appropriated to Jesus Christ by St. Paul:

“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord.”

We offer him praise from all creation, from everything that is. I like Isaiah’s description of  the creative power of God, which applies to Jesus, the Son:

“He is God,

the designer and maker of the earth

who established it,

not creating it to be a waste,

but designing it be lived in:

I am the LORD, and there is no other.”

Not only is the world made, but a design is there too.

Monday Night at the Mission

 

I spoke this evening at our mission at Holy Family Church. How can we know Jesus Christ? Through the Scriptures.

What version would I recommend? I like the New American Bible because it’s the version closest to what we use in our liturgy and it’s got great notes. It’s also been recently revised to benefit from new bible manuscripts come to light, new archeological discoveries, and new historical and biblical scholarship.

A drawback of a version like the King James is that it stands still and doesn’t benefit from these advances. Fundamentalists would say it’s the Word of God and doesn’t need updating. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, welcomes the advance in understanding  and new biblical knowledge as advancing our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Biblical fundamentalism, by its nature, neglects the gifts of reason. It’s a step backward.

One thing I noticed in the hymns we sang tonight in Holy Family is their rich scriptural base. They’re words from the bible, which are a step towards a biblical spirituality.

I reflected on two sections of Isaiah, the great prophet of Advent. His promise of the kingdom coming on God’s holy mountain seems so unrealistic, given the circumstances Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain, faced in his day. But Isaiah spoke of  a promise that comes from God who is with us, who teaches us to pray and live in hope for what’s beyond human power to bring about.

I also spoke of the spirituality of childhood, which calls us to be free from crippling anxieties, forgetful of injuries, sociable, and wonder at all things. At the pinnacle of God’s holy mountain Isaiah, and Jesus after him, places a Child.

The Catholic Church in the Bahamas

One nice thing about preaching missions in different parts of the country and beyond is that you see the church beyond where you live. Here in the Bahamas there are about 50.000 Catholics in a population of about 314,000. There are 25 priests, 14 deacons and 12 religious sisters.

Significantly, the archdiocese has 4 high schools and 8 elementary schools.  Because of its investment in education, the church through it members and those it has educated, has an important role in the Bahamas.

The New York Sisters of Charity and the Benedictines from Collegeville, MN contributed much to this church and they’re recognized in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier and Sacred Heart Church where many tourists off the ships visit.

Fr. Tom Brislin renovated Sacred Heart a few years ago and he made sure the “living stones” of that church were remembered.