Monthly Archives: December 2015

Jesus and the Elderly

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Jesus drew all people to himself, men and women, rich and poor, old and young. The gospels show that even at his birth he gave life to all.

In our readings these days at Mass, St. Luke tells of two old people, Simeon and Anna, who recognize the Child Jesus when he’s brought by Mary and Joseph into the temple after his birth. They give thanks to God and speak about him to those “waiting for the redemption of Israel.” (Luke 2, 36-38

The artist  describes their meeting in the portrait above. The two elderly people are transformed with wonder as they meet Jesus and Mary and Joseph.

We are living in an aging society; our elderly population is increasing. The temptation is to see old age as a stage in life when all is over, but this gospel story gives us pause. The Lord comes at every moment of life. He draws us to himself our whole life long.Not only did Simeon and Anna wonder at the child they saw and held in their arms, but they spoke about him to those “waiting for the redemption of Israel.”

The old have an important role in the Christmas story.

Readings here. .

Mother Teresa

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Duk Soon Fwhang, a Korean born artist with a deep respect for Mother Teresa who will be soon be canonized by the Catholic Church, has painted the Albanian born woman a number of times. The one above I find particularly moving.

“She is a world hero as well as a Catholic saint,” Duk Soon told me recently, “We need more world heroes like her today when there are too many poor.” She showed me a prayer for the recognition of Mother Teresa as a saint. I think it says it all:

“Jesus, you made Mother Teresa an example of lively faith and burning charity, and an extraordinary witness to the way of spiritual childhood, and a great and esteemed teacher of the value and dignity of every human life. Grant that she may be venerated and imitated as one of the Church’s canonized saints…

May we follow her example by heeding your cry of thirst from the Cross and joyfully love you in the distressing guise of the poorest of the poor, especially those most unloved and unwanted.”

Friday Thoughts: Wise as Doves

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There were shepherds in that region, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flocks. The angel of the Lord appeared to them as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid.

Luke 2:8-9

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Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it.  If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their  authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord choose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us the kind of people to which God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter who the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets, even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.

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The angel said to them: ‘You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people.

They went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw, they understood what had been told them concerning this child. All who heard of it were astonished at the report given them by the shepherds.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, in accord with what had been told them.”

—Luke, Chapter 2

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Howard Hain

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Jesus, Son of David

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Don’t miss the Old Testament readings near Christmas telling us about the mystery we celebrate.

In today’s reading from the Book of Samuel King David says to the Prophet Nathan that he’s going to build God a kingly palace like his own in place of the tent where the ark of the covenant was being lodged. It’s the right thing to do. Like the grand palace in the picture above.

But God says in reply: “Should you build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel.I have been with you wherever you went.” God chooses a poor stable to dwell in, when he comes.

Hard to find the door to a palace. Easy to find our way into a stable.

Even more,

“The LORD also reveals to you

that he will establish a house for you.

And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,

I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,

and I will make his Kingdom firm.

I will be a father to him,

and he shall be a son to me.

Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me;

your throne shall stand firm forever.’” (2 Samuel 7)

In this great prophecy, called the “Dynastic Oracle,” God promises to be with David and his descendants forever. God will give him an heir whose kingdom will be firm. “I will be a father to him and he a son to me.”

How often in the gospels Jesus is called “Son of David.” He is no passing visitor, come and gone. His kingdom endures; his throne stands forever.

4th Sunday of Advent. C. Mary’s Faith

 

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Sometimes, the simplest details of a gospel story reveal its deepest meaning. In Luke’s Gospel this Sunday, Mary goes “in haste” to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She has just received the angel’s message inviting her to be the mother of God’s Son, and she says “Yes.” The angel told her that her cousin Elizabeth, though past child-bearing age, also has conceived a son. “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1,39-45)

Then, Mary goes “in haste” from Nazareth to visit Elizabeth who lives in the hill country near Jerusalem. The angel’s message, first disturbs her, then fills her with joy. She hurries to see the angel’s sign and share the promise she received. What does this tell us? Is it that faith, challenging and raising questions, spurs us on and gives joy. It’s God’s word; it’s true. Believe in it and act on it.

When Mary heard the message of the angel she did not disbelieve, St. Ambrose said, commenting on this gospel, “she was not uncertain about the message, she did not doubt the sign she was given, but happy with the promise, eager to be with her cousin, she hurried on in joy and went up into the hill country.”

“We’re blessed, who hear and believe,” the saint goes on. “ Every soul that believes, both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognizes God’s works. Let the soul of Mary be in each one of us, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of us, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us.”

We share in the mystery we hear. Believe in it, live by it, rejoice in it.

Friday Thoughts: The Light of Your Face

Gerard David, Virgin and Child, (1510)

Workshop of Gerard David, “Virgin and Child”, (ca. 1510)

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It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

—Galatians 2:20

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It is utterly amazing what happens when we pray, when we ask God the Father for something in Jesus’ name—that is, when we sincerely ask for something that Jesus Himself would ask to be given.

God answers such prayers, always. For it is then that we pray in union with the Sacred and Most Pure Heart of Jesus.

I dare to say that such a prayer may look and sound something like this:

“Father, may I enter into the light of Your face?”

I say “dare”, for how can we? How can we who are so unworthy enter such a light?

It’s a good question. For we, by ourselves, can’t enter such a light.

But Jesus can…and He did and He does and He always will.

And Jesus lives in us, in our hearts—if we invite Him in, if we open our hearts and allow Him to enter—if we call out with David: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”  (Psalm 24:7)

Jesus purifies our hearts with His presence…

…if we allow Him to overturn the money-changing tables within us…

…if we allow Him to “destroy” the “temple” within each of us, those temples built “with human hands” in order to glorify ourselves…

…if we allow Him to leave not “one stone upon another” in raising up a new temple, one not made with hands” but “in His own image”

…if we allow His “zeal” for His Father’s “house” to “consume” us, to consume us with the fire of His love—with the fire of the Holy Spirit—that divine, unifying love, shared between Eternal Father and Only-Begotten Son.

Then shall we be God’s holy dwelling place—His Tabernacle—purified and cleansed, “holy and righteous in His sight all the days of our life”.

And we shall be free, “free to worship Him without fear”.

For it will “no longer” be us “who live”, but “Christ Who lives in” us.

And Christ Jesus freely enters the light of the Father’s face.

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Let us then, each one of us, pray prayers that Jesus would agree with, and let us do so with great hope and confidence in God’s mercy and love:

Lord Jesus, enter my heart.

Lord Jesus, purify me, cleanse my heart.

Lord Jesus, overturn the money-changing tables within me, those that serve my self and not God our Father.

Lord Jesus, destroy the temple built by myself, to myself—destroy the temple of self-love—leave not one stone upon another and then rebuild it in Your own image.

Lord Jesus, let your zeal for Your Father’s house completely consume me with the fire of Your love—the fire of the Holy Spirit—that divine, unifying love, shared between Eternal Father and Only-Begotten Son.

Lord Jesus, enter the light of our Father’s face on my behalf. For I am not worthy to enter that light, but if You only say the word, my soul shall be healed.

Lord Jesus, heal me of my scrupulous fear of myself, of my secret self-worship that places my weakness above Your forgiveness, my sin above the redeeming power of Your Most Precious Blood.

Lord Jesus, Your mercy, Your Love, is infinitely greater than my unworthiness. You are The Word made flesh, and You are always present. You are The Word always being spoken. You are healing always being offered.

I say “Yes”.

I accept. I receive Your healing. You speak and I live.

I thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your Cross and for Your Resurrection. I praise You for Your glory.

I so then bow down all the powers of my soul and humbly ask our Heavenly Father in Your Most Sacred Name:

“Father, may I enter into the light of Your face? For it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Amen.

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“Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.”

—Matthew 5:8

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(Friday Thoughts is a new series to appear every Friday, written by various members of the extended Passionist community.)

The Tree of Jesse

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From December 17th until Christmas, we read on weekdays from the infancy narratives  of Matthew and Luke to prepare for the  Christmas feast.

Today the gospel is  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, tracing his ancestry as “the son of David and the son of Abraham.” Jesus descent from Abraham fulfilled the promise God made to him: “in your descendants all nations would be blessed,” As a descendant of David, Jesus is a royal Messiah.

Matthew’s genealogy offers a Messiah whom Jew and Gentile can claim for their  Savior. His roots are worldwide, his ancestors reach beyond Palestine.

He’s not just a Jewish Messiah in Matthew’s listing. His bloodline includes women like Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba– foreigners, but also women with questionable backgrounds. In his humanity,  Jesus didn’t come from perfect ancestors or untainted Jewish royalty ; he’s rooted in all humanity. His bloodline includes saints and sinners, or can we say he comes from a line of sinners and some saints? He shares our human DNA.

Matthew in his gospel obviously wants us to look at Jesus’ family tree and see it as our own. We can be at home there. The Tree of Jesse, based on Matthew’s genealogy  was a favorite subject for medieval artists working on illuminated manuscripts or creating stained glass windows for churches. A great way to see the humanity of Jesus Christ.

Luke in his genealogy goes further and sees Jesus beyond Abraham, as descended from Adam. He becomes the new Adam. We are born from his side, we share his blood; he is the first born of many like us. So we pray in today’s opening prayer:

“O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature…your Only Begotten Son, having taken to himself our humanity, may you be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity.” (Collect)