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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is always a special day. One looks back over the year to both thank and ask pardon. We are at the seventh day of the Christmas octave and like Mary need to keep and ponder all in our hearts. How has Jesus come to me this week, this year? How is Jesus with me today?
The Gospel is from the Prologue to John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....He came to waht was his own but his own people did not accept him...Ant the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth...From his fullness we have all received..."
let us make this a day of prayer to thank for the graces received during the year and to plan, with Jesus and Mary, the New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...

Tomorrow's Liturgy uses Colossians 3: 12-17 as the second reading. I remember first "discovering" this reading as a young nun and was so taken with it that I thought "here is a program for life!" I can remember exactly where I was when I read this. I need to copy it here as it is so full of really good advice from Paul:
"Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
It still is a great passage to pray over and maybe take again as part of one's New Year's resolution!
Since this is a reading from the Sunday of the Holy Family, I think it would really make a family holy to practice all of the above!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Feast of the Holy Innocents

This Feast has a good and bad aspect. Jesus is saved by the warning the angel gave Joseph in a dream, but other children were cruelly torn from their mothers and slaughtered. This brings great sadness to many families; it is a tragedy to lose a child, but in such a horrible way goes beyond my imagining the sorrow inflicted on innocent families. At the same time, our faith tells us that these Holy Innocents will be with God and happy for all eternity. The second picture shows the triumph of the Holy Innocents. I have always struggled with this feast as it was always a special day of play and fun in the Society of the Sacred Heart - a day we looked forward to as novices as the rule of silence was relaxed. I guess I will always have mixed feelings about this day and think Jesus does, too. Maybe it is because so many innocent children are still being slaughtered.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Feast of St. John

St. John was the beloved disciple; he was one who followed Jesus from the moment that John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. He and his brother, James, were always with Peter and Jesus. They had left their boats and all to follow Jesus and were with him at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.
As I reflected on the first reading today from I John:1-4, I was struck by the desire John had to proclaim to us what he had seen and heard so that we, too, may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son. He states: "We are writing this so that our joy may be complete." Have I the zeal that desires to proclaim Jesus in all the ways possible to me?

I also like the last verse of today's responsorial Psalm (Ps 97:11-12):
"Light dawns for the just; and gladness for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the Lord, you just, and give thanks to his holy name."

It appeals to me as I am trying to live each day in joy and gratitude!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day after Christmas and St. Stephen

Our Christmas stockings are empty now and we are full of memories of the Christmas Liturgy, dinner, carols, and just good conversation with those we love. It seems strange to be celebrating the feast of the first martyr today.
We know about Stephen from St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the seven deacons chosen by the Apostles to help them serve the Greek-speaking Christians in Jerusalem. We know from the first reading in today's liturgy that Stephen "filled with grace and power was working great wonders and signs among the people."
Some tried to debate with him but his wisdom was too much for them; they became infuriated. Stephen, "filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." Because he told them of this vision, he was stoned to death, but called out: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." He is the first martyr and is also the patron saint of deacons.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

Last night, following the Society of the Sacred Heart's wonderful tradition of a "veilee" before leaving for Midnight Mass, we used prayers for peace from many religions. The twelfth prayer was Christian and began "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be known as the children of God."
Jesus is Prince of Peace! I reflected on this as we waited and listened to Christmas carols in the Church. Several times, even during the homily, we sang "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord." One felt the joy throughout the Liturgy; The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light...You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing!"
And so I wish all my readers a very happy, holy, and merry Christmas Day! "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. Light shines in darkness." Jesus has come - God is with us!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Today is the last day of Advent and Christmas eve; tonight we celebrate again the birth of Christ. Let us spend some time today in preparing our hearts and the gift we wish to offer Jesus tonight. He wants us to give ourselves to him; to open our hearts to receive him.
He was born in an open stable; maybe it was just a cave used as a stable. Why would God choose this poor place for the birth of his only Son? It was accessible to all. The poor and the outcasts could come and feel welcome.
Jesus came as a baby; Paul will tell us that he was like us in all things except sin.
He is helpless, vulnerable, and waits for us.
I felt happy with the Christmas card that came today from the Mother House of the Society of the Sacred Heart. It reminded us that the Society first set foot on Asian soil in January 1908. "In celebrating 100 years in Asia, we ask you to rejoice with us that God's tender mercy has been discovered and revealed in Japan, China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Fourth Sunday of Advent is here and with it our desire for the coming of Jesus increases. Having read some of the Pope's Encyclical on Hope released recently, I thought I would share parts of a reflection on The Gift of Hope by Joyce Rupp.

God of Hope, Come! Enter into my memory and remind me of the yearning of people of history. Stir up stories of how the ancestors hung on to your promises, how they stole home from tiny glimmers about you, passed on from age to age. Help me to hear the loud crying voices of the prophets who proclaimed that a new age would dawn.

God of Hope, Come! Enter into this heart of mine which often loses itself in self, missing the message of your encouragement because I am so entangled in the web of my own whirl of life. Enable me to not lose sight of the power of your presence or the truth of your consolation.

God of Hope, Come! Enter into every human heart that cries out for a glimpse of your love, for a sign of your welcoming presence, for a taste of your happiness. Be the one who calms the restless and gentles the human journey.

God of Hope, Come! Be the Morning Star in our midst, the Light that can never go out, the Beacon of Hope guiding our way to you. Come into our midst and make of our lives a home, where your everlasting goodness resonates with assuring love and vigorous hope.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Own Antiphons

Last year I created my own O antiphons and thought I would share some of them with you.

O Come, O Come Emmanual
Wake my weary heart that slumbers still
So sluggish to your daily presence.
Come this Advent to transform my will.

O Come, O come tiny Infant dear
Attract me to your crib by helplessness;
My heart and arms reach out to hold you.
Come and fill me with your tenderness.

O Come, O come ever Faithful one;
Call me back to fervor everyday
That I may truly live for You alone
Who for love left your heavenly home.

O Come, O come Shepherd of us all
Who knows each sheep deeply and by name;
We follow joyfully when you call
Come to seek us all,when strayed or lame.

The other half will be posted later. Do try writing your own!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fifth antiphon: "O Radiant Dawn"

"O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice; come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death."
Again, it is Christ, our Light, who will dispel the darkness.

That reminds me that I wanted to share with you a quote from Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light. The book was given to me by a very good friend for Christmas and I just opened it before as I know he would be happy to have me reading it. Here is the quote and she was speaking to her Sisters:
"Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please her God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

O Key of David

The fourth antiphon is: "O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom."
It is the Messiah's prerogative to open or shut the gate into the kingdom. No one else can do this. We call out to him. Come, rescue us for we dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and need to be led into freedom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

O Antiphons

This third week of Advent has us following the O Antiphons. Today's antiphon, found before the Gospel, is "O Root of Jesse's stem, sing of God's love for all his people, come to save us without delay!"
Bethlehem's Jesse was the father of David, who became Israel's greatest king. Jesus is born of the house of David and flowered as the fulfillment of the hopes of all people. We continue to pray, "Come, save us without delay!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Countdown to Christmas

Yesterday I gave an Advent retreat on the Stations of the Cross at the Renewal Center in South Miami. It was a good preparation for Christmas and I let the wonderful story of the birth of Jesus as told by Luke and Matthew speak to the audience and to me. There is a power in the Word of God. I also used the Prologue to John's Gospel. In case you are wondering what I decided to make "Stations" of the Crib, I stuck with the main figures. The first station had the Angel Gabriel announcing the birth of John to Zechariah and then, six months later, announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary. The Third Station concerned Mary, Elizabeth, and the babies in their wombs. The fourth was about Joseph and his decision to put Mary away privately when he realized that she was with child and that he was not the father and how he much have prayed and discerned what would be best, but then an angel comes to him in a dream and all is changed. The Fourth station concerns the coming together of Mary and Joseph, their adjustment to married life with Mary expecting a baby, and then the journey to Bethlehem. The Fifth station is the scene of the Nativity but mostly it is awe before the mystery of the Incarnation; the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Sixth station has the angel announcing the birth to the Shepherds who believe the good news and set out for Bethlehem; the Seventh and last Station has the wise men following the star and adoring the Infant when they find him. It includes more dreams and the flight into Egypt.This is just a very short summary, but it gives you an idea and with Christmas Carols separating the last four stations and the lovely crib in the Chapel before us, it turned out to be prayerful. But that will be my blog for today.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The "O Antiphons" - Dec. 17th - 23

The last week of Advent intensifies our desire for the coming of Jesus. We have special Gospel antiphons for each day and these are said not only at Mass but during the Evening Prayer of the Office. They help us to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. What does Christ's birth mean for us. Jesus brought salvation to the world.

The first antiphon is "O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation."

We ask for wisdom; wisdom comes with experience. Wisdom helps us to distinguish what is right and fitting at every moment of our lives. Here we ask for Wisdom, the Word of God incarnate. We ask Wisdom to come and show us the way. Jesus has told us, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." We will have Wisdom if we desire it; Jesus is coming and He is our Savior!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Third Sunday of Advent

This is the Sunday when we rejoice! Jesus is near! We light the rose candle and the priest wears rose vestments to remind us the we are to rejoice because Jesus is coming!
John the Baptist has been preparing the way of the Lord. He pointed him out to his disciples and Andrew and John had left to follow Jesus. Then, we hear little about John the Baptist; he continued in his prophetic role. Herod Antepas has put him in prison because John had rebuked Herod in public for his adulterous and incestuous marriage with Herodias.

In today's Gospel John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask: "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"
Jesus said to them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, leapers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

As John's disciples start off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. He asks them why they went to see him and then says, "to see a prophet. Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you."

Some think that John was full of doubts and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one; I think he sent his disciples so they would see for themselves that Jesus was the one. John is always preparing the way of the Lord and is a great Advent figure. We, too, are called to be prophets and to prepare the way of the Lord!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Advent Days of Retreat

Yesterday I finished all that I could at the University and I am leaving for Gainesville this morning to see my spiritual director and have a few days of retreat. I will love the silence and time for prayer. I need to drive back on Friday for the evening Liturgy at the University and be there also on Saturday for the December Graduation.
With all this, I will not be writing my blog until Sunday. May we enter more deeply into the silent waiting of Advent. Please pray for me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Books

Advent is a time of prayer and I have three new books to share with you. You may add them to your wish list for Christmas or just be aware that at some future date you want to read them. Two are the first books in a new series in Catholic Spirituality for Adults published by Orbis Books. I actually ordered both without knowing that they were part of this series. One is Reconciliation by Robert Morneau; the other is Prayer by Joyce Rupp; both were published in 2007.
The third book is Sister Wendy on Prayer by Wendy Beckett. It is a real delight to read and anyone who has read Wendy will love it. Sister Wendy is known for her popular television series and books on art history, but she is a contemplative and shares her own thoughts on prayer in this book.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Second Sunday of Advent

Today we light another candle on our Advent wreaths and let this be our prayer:
"Be still before the Lord; wait for God.
I wait with longing for the Lord, my soul waits for his Word."

The opening prayer for the Sunday liturgy is:
"God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen."

What are the things that hinder me from receiving Christ with joy? Now is the time. John the Baptist tells us, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been around for a long time. It first appeared in the 7th century. It was only in 1854 that it was defined as a dogma to be believed. It was fitting that the Mother of God should always have been free from sin. This feast of Mary became the patronal feast of the Catholic Church in the United States in 1846. It is a feast of joy and the Church uses Mary's own words in the entrance antiphon: "I exalt for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God."

The opening prayer: "Father, you prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of your Son. You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death, and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Help us by her prayers to live in your presence without sin. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen."

What a wealth of theology contained in a short prayer! The Annunciation makes a fitting Gospel for both today's feast and Advent. Let us try to enter into the mind and heart of Mary as she listens to the Angel Gabriel. Let us also remember that Mary was only a teen-ager and was "greatly troubled" but she believed the angel and gave herself to God and whatever God wanted for her. May we do the same!

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Psalm of Reconciliation

The theme of the Advent retreat last Saturday was Reconciliation. I found this Psalm this morning when looking for something else and want to share it with you. The author is unknown.
Be reconciled to a world that is different, from the way you would have the world behave.
Be reconciled to a way of life that is different from the one you know.
Be reconciled to people and places whose cultic ways may seem bizarre.
Be reconciled to the one next door whose lifestyle shocks you and challenges you to refrain from condemnation.
Be reconciled to a loss of power as it passes to the other side.
Be reconciled to changing rites and changing prayers to a God you no longer recognize.
Be reconciled above all to yourself as opposing forces continue to clash in a climate of liberation.
God can help us reach down deep into wells of reconciliation.
When we are reconciled to life, someone will rearrange it.
Be reconciled to that and be at peace, because no one but God can change it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Feast of St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas. He was a fourth century bishop who went around doing good, giving gifts to the poor, and loving children. He was so loved that many countries still honor him and there are pictures and statues of him in churches throughout Europe. Santa Claus came years after this holy bishop. Even today, some put out shoes on the eve of his feast to be filled by him.
His feast reminds us that Christmas is coming. We need to be aware and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. In the midst of preparations for Christmas let us not forget the example of St. Nicholas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Advent Thoughts

This first week of Advent makes me think of what Karl Rahner, S.J. once wrote:
"The term 'advent' connotes not only an arrival, but also that which is yet to come. The very word itself expresses a strange interpenetration of the present and the future, of what now exists and what is yet to come, of possession and expectation. So too, in the liturgy of Advent, the present and the future of Christian salvation are mysteriously interwoven. The incarnation of the Word of God took place in the past and still continues in the present. Christ's return to judge all men and women and to complete his redeeming work is an event of the future, and yet he is constantly on the point of coming. The expectation of this return and the memorial of his entrance into the world are both celebrated in the liturgy."

That excerpt needs reflection as it captures what is the heart of Advent. Jesus is here, he is present now, he first came into the world over 2000 years ago and we celebrate that coming each Christmas; we also celebrate his coming into our daily life as he is present to us in so many ways and loves to dwell in our hearts; and then there is the coming at the end of time.
Advent is a season of hope. Let us rejoice in the coming of the Lord!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

St. John Damascus & Icons

St. John was born in Damascus, Syria in the 7th century. He was educated by a captured Italian monk and by Muslim schools. He later became a monk and a priest in a monastery near Jerusalem. He successfully defended the use of icons! That is why I am using this icon of Our Lady of Advent today in my blog. John died in 740 and was made a doctor of the Church in 1890.

In today's Gospel, Luke has Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. He praises his Father. Is this the way I am to rejoice in the Holy Spirit? By thanking and praising God? The Gospel today has some deep theology: "No one knows who the Son is except the Father and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the son wishes to reveal him."

Jesus came to reveal the Father to us; he revealed a God of love, a merciful, forgiving God. He sent his only Son to save us. Jesus is made flesh and dwells among us! Let us rejoice!

Monday, December 3, 2007

How to have a fruitful Advent

Michael Traher, in the new Sunday Missal published by Living With Christ, suggests just a few things are necessary for a fruitful Advent: "quiet, attentive hearts, ready to listen to God's word within us; the desire to be open to surprise by what we may hear or experience; a profound trust that allows God to light up our hearts with a burning desire that will set us on fire for the things of God; and finally, a firm resolve to 'keep awake' and not to miss the coming of the Lord as we walk in Christ as a light to the world."

Each of these are worthy of reflection today. How am I going to cultivate a quiet, attentive heart, ready to listen to God's word within me?

Have I the desire to be open to surprise by what I might hear or experience and am I able to recognize that this is God speaking to me?

Is my trust so strong and deep that it allows God to enkindle the fire of his own love within me? How can I grow in trust during this Advent?

Am I awake? How do I stay alert to the coming of the Lord this Advent?"

Sunday, December 2, 2007

First Sunday of Advent - "Stay awake!"

Advent is a time of waiting. We wait with Mary. We need to be awake. The message of today's Gospel is "stay awake!" For you do not know on which day your Lord will come."
We are so caught up in the daily business of life, small and big concerns, the routine of work, the battle to get around in traffic, and the thousand little things that need to be done (or we think need to be done), that we are in need of an Advent call to be alert to the essentials in life. Advent is a wake-up call; it is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
The Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent also tells us: "You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

Be prepared! This is the scout's motto, but it is the motto of every Christian. Jesus calls us to be prepared; to live ready to die. We are prepared for his coming when we are living a life of love, hope and faith. We believe in his coming, we long for it, we prepare our hearts to receive him with love. This is what Advent is about and we have only four weeks to prepare for this Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Advent , A time to " walk in the light of the Lord!"

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent but for twenty years now I have gone made an Advent retreat on the first Saturday of December. I began giving the retreat for others and now we always have an invited guest speaker. It helps to stop, be silent, and prepare to "walk in the light of the Lord!"
Only one candle is lit each week, but by the end of Advent all four candles are lit on the Advent wreaths; we, too, have increased our preparation for the coming of the Lord and are lit up from within with a desire that has grown increasingly during the four weeks of Advent. Let us say often, "Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!"
The first reading for Sunday invites us to "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths...come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!"

Today is a day of preparation for this holy season of Advent. Let us discern what is needed in our lives to "walk in the light of the Lord!" Climbing the Lord's mountain is never easy unless we "walk in the light of the Lord!"