Gospel reading of the day:
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: At first glance, it might seem odd that we have a gospel passage concerning the healing of the paralytic in Advent, but Isaiah the Prophet heralds the coming of salvation with the prediction that God will make firm the knees that are weak and the lame will leap like a stag. The passage we read today is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s hope for the day of salvation: the messiah comes to heal our infirmities. The gospel documents the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus.
Saint of the day: Born in 1923 in Palermo, Italy, Maria Chiara Magro worked with Catholic Action her parish and diocese. She served for many years in this organization, performing all sorts of charitable deeds in its many apostolates. On the diocesan level, she became an executive of the organization, and on the national level, a promoter. She taught elementary school. She desired to become a cloistered woman religious, but her family objected, and working with her spiritual director, she chose to devote herself to the Lord by what she did in the world. She became a member of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Work of the Royalty in 1947 which encouraged her to deepen her spirituality in the Franciscan spirit of humility and simplicity.
When Maria was 36-years-old, her doctors discovered an incurable ailment, which produced a long ordeal of suffering, with the necessity of several surgical interventions. She accepted her condition in a gentle manner, prayerfully offering her sufferings for the well-being of priests. Her ordeal lasted 10 years, but during the whole time, she radiated a spiritual charm that impressed and inspired many. She died in Rome on December 9, 1969 at age 46. She was declared venerable in 1995.
Spiritual reading of the day: What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas? The cause is our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of quiet anticipation. If Christ is going to come again into our hearts, there must be repentance. Without repentance, our hearts will be so full of worldly things that there will be ‘no room in the inn’ for Christ to be born again.…We have the joy not of celebration. Which is the joy of Christmas, but the joy of anticipation. (John R. Brokhoff)
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Advent is an opportunity for metanoia, that is, conversion–a Greek word which means literally, a change in our minds. It is easy to not take responsibility for our thoughts and our feelings, to consider ourselves powerless bystanders before the things that march through our minds and hearts. Though it is true that thoughts and feelings spontaneously arise, we have the capacity, particularly through practice over time, to correct thoughts and change our moods. Both John the Baptist and Jesus called women and men to repent of their old ways of thinking and feeling and put on new minds–as St. Paul says, to put on the mind of Christ. John at the start of this second week of Advent reaches across the centuries to ask us to produce good fruit and not rely on any false thoughts or misleading emotions. If we have casual attitudes to the demands of our faith, we may consider Advent and Christmas to be mere commemorations of what happened in the past. But they are timeless encouragement to not be stuck in a rut of mediocrity but to enter deeply into way of being that transforms us into fiery beings.
Spiritual reading: You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time. (John Bell)
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013-14
[Bishop Ron’s past homilies for Year A have been collected in the the book “Teaching the Church Year”, available in ebook format on amazon.com]
Advent is a time of waiting. I thought about this as I waited at the doctor’s office this week for an appointment, and I thought about it again as I waited at the longest traffic light in the world to get on the Dulles Toll Road. I thought about it as I waited for my students to come to me for class. I thought about it as I waited for the rain to stop so I could get to more raking, and as I wait for the last tree leaves to fall from the tree over the house that refuses to give them up. Waiting is really part of our lives and we spend a lot of time doing it. Often, in our culture, which is so busy and rushed, it leads to anger, to road rage, to general anxiety. That isn’t what the waiting in Advent is about, though.
St. Paul’s antidote to waiting which he mentions a number of times in our second reading today is “patience”. He recognizes that we might have to suffer while we wait, but he says that the virtue of patience will be what gets us through it. St. Paul was speaking about the second coming of the Lord in this reading, and stressing that we have hope that Christ is coming, so we need to develop patience. Certainly this is good advice for all us whether it is patience in waiting for the Lord or waiting for a traffic light. The result is the same: we trust that what we wait for will come in time, and we must use our waiting time productively by caring for our neighbors.
St. Paul tells us to look to the Prophets for examples of those who became role models of suffering and patience. The Prophets all had hope that things would get better and it was their job, their destiny to point out the way to others by giving them hope. Consider our reading from Isaiah today. The prophet uses the most optimistic and beautiful language to describe what will happen if we have patience in the Lord. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom…rejoice with joy and singing… they shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” Oftentimes we think of prophets as predictors of gloom because they chastise the people for what they are doing wrong and point out their faults. But very often these corrective measures lead to beautiful imagery and stunning visions of a triumphant God and the people of God. And that vision particularly includes people who are most suffering in the present time – the poor, the blind, the mute, the prisoner, the lame. In today’s we reading we end with such a beautiful vision of hope:
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
And the ears of the deaf unstopped;
Then the lame shall leap like deer,
And the tongues of the mute sing for joy…
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is 35:10)
This hope is re-iterated in today’s Psalm, Psalm 146 which also deals with the outcasts – the poor, the blind, the lame, the widow, the prisoner and the orphan. Does this perhaps give us a key to how we should be conducting ourselves in Advent, the time of waiting.Should we be devoting our attention to those less fortunate than ourselves as a way of preparing for the joy of Christmas. It would seem to be the direction of the prophets, the psalmist and Paul!
Our Gospel today is a continuation of stories about John the Baptist, though it jumps eight chapters from last Sunday. And guess what it is about? John, now imprisoned, asks a question of Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” (Matt:11:3) Again it is a question of waiting and whether we need to have even more patience.
Jesus’ answer draws on the Prophets and the Psalmists we heard today. Basically, he says, you don’t have to wait any longer – the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are healed, the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised and the poor are getting good news. In other words, you don’t have to wait any longer, the time is here now. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies and all the beautiful prophetic images are happening right now.
Two thousand years later, we know that. We know that Christ was the fulfillment of the prophets and that he brought us all salvation and opened up the possibility of heaven to us, to all of us. And yet we still wait. Karl Rahner said in one of his homilies that we are an Advent people, that we live in the future. But we are able to have patience because we know, we believe, that we have been saved. We know what our end will be. We wait for the return of Christ so that the kingdom will come and be the only kingdom, and that all divisions will cease. We should have an even greater hope because we know that the initial work has been done. We are saved. But we await an even greater extension of the kingdom and the complete fulfillment of the justice issues that began with prophetic preaching and continue to this day.
We need to recognize today that although we have all been ransomed, there is still quite a lot of injustice and evil in the world, even though we can see signs of the kingdom in the action of others and hopefully ourselves. But we want the complete fulfillment. We want Christ to come again. And all this we are reminded of when we celebrate the first coming, and we prepare patiently for the remembrance of that event of the Incarnation. And again, how can we best be patient and prepare for that coming? By finding ways to get out of ourselves and give ourselves to others; to do charitable works; to find ways to help another in need; to comfort those who have little or are alone. It is only in this way that you will have a spiritual Christmas. Put as much time into this as you put in selecting Christmas gifts for others, and I promise you, you will truly feel the peace and joy of Christmas. Let the rose vestments I wear today, remind you of the virtues of patience and charity which together lead to the joy which comes at the end of the Advent season.
And this is the Good News that we need to practice and spread every day of the Advent season.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese
Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
Gospel reading of the day:
Matthew 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In advent, we anticipate the coming of the messiah and, by implication, the establishment of the Kingdom of heaven on earth. Jesus ties the inauguration of the kingdom to curing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and driving out demons. When we offer our sympathy and support to people ill in body or mind; restore to life people who are intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually dead; tend the neglected, ignored, despised, rejected, or avoided; help to liberate people from their fears, anger, hatred, violence, addiction, abusiveness, or greed–whenever we do anything like any of these, the reign of the messiah and the Kingdom of heaven are made manifest–and the promise of Advent is fulfilled.
Saint of the day: Mary Joseph Rosello was born in 1811 in Italy. One of nine children, her father was a potter. Born in poverty, she suffered from poor health all her life. Pious from early youth she tried to enter a religious order but was refused admission because of her health and the lack of a dowry. The pious, childless couple she worked for could have given her a dowry, but would not because they did not want to lose her as member of their family. Mary Joseph became a secular Franciscan at age 16. Her bishop knew of her skill in teaching the faith to girls, and in 1837 he gave her a house which she and three other young women made into two classrooms. From this humble beginning came the Institute of the Daughters of Mercy in 1837 under the protection of Our Lady of Mercy and Saint Joseph, groups devoted to teaching the young, and caring for the sick. Any deserving girl would be accepted into the community, even without a dowry. Mary Joseph served as superior of this band of teachers for over 40 years. In 1875 they opened their first house in the Americas at Buenos Aires, Argentina. Josepha’s success and personal holiness were such that her bishop, over strong objection from many, allowed her to organize a group that encouraged vocations to the priesthood. She died December 7, 1888 and was canonized in 1949.
Spiritual reading: Life and Death are two sides of the one coin. Inseparable. Here we have all these growing things around us, children dashing in and out of the house in the excitement of the holiday season which begins now with Thanksgiving and is prolonged to Epiphany, everybody thinking, when there are children around, of gifts to give and gifts to be received. And what are all these but samples of God, His comfort, His Beauty and His love. (“On Pilgrimage–December 1953″ by Dorothy Day)
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Advent is about Jesus passing by as the Lord enters human history to cast his lot with ours. In this season of expectation, we await the Lord’s presence, crying out as did the two blind men who followed after him, “Son of David, have pity on us.” And Jesus, when he at last recognizes our persistence and credits our faith, will reach out to touch our eyes, take away our blindness, and make us see him as he really is. And when we become witnesses of such kindness, how can we do other than spread word of him through all the land?
Saint of the day: The Servant of God José Andrés Merino was born in Madrid on April 23, 1905. He forged his religious and apostolic life in the family home in Madrid and Catholic Action. At 28, he entered the Dominicans. After completing his studies in theology and being ordained a priest, he was sent to La Felguera (Asturias), where he became superior of the community. He returned to Madrid, but then was assigned to Mexico to preach, one of the particular charisms of the Dominican order.
José Andrés Merino arrived at the novitiate in Palencia in 1951 and served for 16 years as the director of novices. During those years, he was responsible for overseeing the spiritual development of almost a thousand young men who sought to understand God’s will for them. After he left his office, he was sick for two very hard years. Fr. Merino died on December 6, 1968. His cause for canonization was introduced in 2001.
Spiritual reading: Who knows what is beyond the known? And if you think that any day the secret of life might come would you not keep the house ready? Would you not cleanse your study of all that is cheap and trivial? (Mary Oliver)
Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage comes from the last paragraphs of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches here that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom. So since the answer is so important, just what exactly is the will of the Father? I think that Jesus answered that question earlier in the Sermon on the Mount when he taught that God causes the sun and rain to fall on the good and the bad alike: that the perfection of God lies in our ability to love both those who love us in return and those who do not. Part of the reason this passage appears during Advent is that this is the time of year when we train our hearts to love dangerously, wantonly, and with complete abandon. The rain may fall, the floods may come, and the winds, blow and buffet the house, but if love shelters us, we shall endure.
Saint of the day: Phillip Rinaldi was born on May 28, 1856 in Piedmont, Italy. He met Don Bosco when he was just five years old, and intuitively recognized that he was a man with a great mission. Though he felt a call to a religious vocation, Philip was torn, and was seriously considering marriage when he decided to become a disciple of Don Bosco at age 22. At the age of 22, he entered the Salesian Order at the end of his tremendous vocational struggle, and even before making his vows he was made assistant novice master and was placed in charge of those with late vocations. He was ordained a priest in 1882. He soon became the Salesian provincial superior in Spain, where he opened many new houses and then served as vicar-general of the Salesians before becoming the Rector Major in 1922, Don Bosco’s third successor. He traveled extensively, preaching, encouraging vocations and the spiritual life of the laity. During his tenure the number of Salesians went from 6,000 to 10,000, there were 250 new houses and centers opened, and his teacher Don Bosco was recognized as a saint. His humble and quiet leadership of the order – he preferred to remain in the background of events, unnoticed in the crowd — combined with his tremendous saintly virtue and apostolic zeal, and a healing miracle attributed to him at the end of the Second World War, prompted his cause for canonization. He died on December 5, 1931 in Turin, and was beatified on April 29, 1990.
Spiritual reading: If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks. (Abbot Zeno)
Gospel reading of the day:
At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
Reflection on the gospel reading: We have entered a season dedicated to gift giving. There is much about the way we celebrate this season that has become perfunctory; we often give out of a sense of obligation without hearts open to the deepest meaning of the season. But when Jesus gave it was because his heart was moved by the situations of the people he encountered. To the mute, he gave speech. To the blind, he gave sight. To the lame, he gave the ability to walk. To the hungry, he gave food. In each case, he had a heart fitted to the needs that were before him, and he gave a gift fitted to the situation.
Saint of the day: John Calabria was born in Verona, Italy on October 8th, 1873, the son of Luigi Foschi and Angela Calabria; he was the youngest of seven brothers. His family lived in poverty; he was in the fourth grade when his father died he and had to interrupt his studies to find work as an apprentice: however, Don Pietro Scapini, Rector of St. Lawrence, who helped him to overcome the entrance exam in high school of the seminary. He resumed his studies after his military service, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Faculty of Theology Seminary, with the intention of becoming a priest. One night he found an abandoned baby and welcomed him into his house, sharing the facilities.
He was ordained a priest on August 11, 1901 and was appointed curate of St. Stephen and confessor of the Seminary. In 1907 he was appointed Rector of San Benedetto del Monte, where he also undertook the care and concern for the soldiers. On November 26, 1907, he founded the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The congregation spread abroad when in 1934, four brothers were sent to India to take care of untouchables. John Calabria died December 4, 1954, was 81 years. He was beatified on April 17, 1988 and canonized on April 18, 1999.
Spiritual reading: For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last. (Frederick Buechner)
Once again as advent begins, we meet up with John the Baptist. He was a stark figure dressed in camel-hair and leather, living in the desert. Obviously he was cantankerous since he was challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers and shouting their need for repentance. He was far out of anybody’s comfort zone in that desert not presenting anything but his words and his baptism. Word of mouth must have been strong because he quickly drew all kind of people to hear him and experience his words. Today, we would go to our computers or TV’s and search out the far out and unusual and never leave the comfort of food and home. Yet, I think the change to today is exactly the challenge Christians have today and have to recognize that as John called out the satisfied comfortable Jews in his day, so we are being called out to get uncomfortable for we have yet to bring about the kingdom of God to our world. Complacency can destroy all most any undertaking, and satisfaction is probably one of the greatest temptations to keep moving on and achieving new heights. Since the Catastrophe of World War II the world has moved as never before with human achievements exponentially expanding everyday.
Certainly God has kept up with this, but have we. Like in the dark ages of the church, are we making judgments based on limited human understanding of things as was done with the limited sciences of the middle ages? Christ is coming, but Christ has come and HE IS HERE in His Spirit. Everyday he challenges us to hear his voice, to see our fellow humans as kindred spirits, caring for them as He Himself did in His time. Face the fact you can never do enough, but don’t find comfort in it. Oftentimes, it is easy to accept the maxim that this is the way it is. It is the nature of human beings to institutionalize and organize and make rules and laws in the name of order and right. However, is it right to impose what we think and don’t often do. How easy is it for prejudice and other emotions to sway our thinking and concerns. These often are things we learned and not absolutes. In fact Jesus taught only one absolute and that was love.
Love is the challenge that really challenges us today. It calls for us to give and then give more. It looks at the person and and their good, how the love of God can be brought to them. That is the challenge and the constant call: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Are we ready for this Advent challenge? It is not new, but it needs to be refreshed for all of us need to be reminded that we get distracted, get into schedules, concerns, work and all kind of things that take up our daily life. Now is the time to get aside and reflect and in a sense disconnect from the daily to our virtual desert and hear the words of John to make ready and renew and prepare and have a really loving unfrazzled Christmas.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 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.”
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: There is an odd thing that happens to us. The less we pay attention to the story of Jesus, the more familiar the story becomes to us; the more familiar the story becomes, the more we grow bored, and the less inclined we become to keep it in our minds. Generations of prophets and kings waited for what we too easily take for granted, but Advent reminds us of the special blessing we who are baptized have received. As easy as it can be to let attention to Jesus slip from our minds, the truth is that the Father has chosen to open our eyes–yours and mine–to see the very Son whom the Father knows. Advent is medicine against the apathy that breeds familiarity. It comes as a gift to remind us to keep Jesus in mind, because the Father has not given this gift of the revelation of the Son to everyone–but to you and me, and because the Father makes no mistakes, it is important that you and I keep Jesus in our attention. The Father gifts us to know what the Father knows, and this season of Advent is the prism through which we can look at Jesus and the hollow space through which we can hear him call to us. For it is in thinking about Jesus and in meditating on the mystery of who Jesus is that we become renewed and excited to know more.
Saint of the day: Francis Xavier was born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on Apr. 7, 1506. He was sent to the University of Paris in 1525, secured his licentiate in 1528, met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre, founded the Society of Jesus. In 1536 he left Paris to join Ignatius in Venice, from where they all intended to go as missionaries to Palestine (a trip which never materialized). He was ordained there in 1537, went to Rome in 1538, and in 1540, when the pope formally recognized the Society, was ordered, with Fr. Simon Rodriguez, to the Far East as the first Jesuit missionaries.
King John III kept Fr. Simon in Lisbon, but Francis, after a year’s voyage, six months of which were spent at Mozambique where he preached and gave aid to the sick, eventually arrived in Goa, India in 1542 with Fr. Paul of Camerino an Italian, and Francis Mansihas, a Portuguese. There he began preaching to the Indians and attempted to reform his fellow Europeans. He lived among the people to whom he carried the gospel and adopted their customs on his travels. During the next decade he converted tens of thousands to Christianity. He visited the Paravas at the tip of India. near Cape Comorin, Tuticorin (1542), Malacca (1545), the Moluccas near New Guinea and Morotai near the Philippines (1546-47), and Japan (1549- 51). In 1551, India and the East were set up as a separate province and Ignatius made Francis its first provincial. In 1552 he set out for China, landed on the island of Sancian within sight of his goal, but died on December 3 before he reached the mainland. Working against great difficulties; language problems; inadequate funds; and lack of cooperation, often actual resistance, from European officials, Francis Xavier still left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which have now clung to Christianity for centuries. He was canonized in 1622.
Spiritual reading: A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The centurion in today’s gospel has no reasonable claim on Jesus to heal his servant. He is asking for something that violates the laws of nature, and as if this were not already enough to be judged unreasonable, he makes this request as a leader of an occupying army to a carpenter’s son in a backwater of not just the Roman empire but also of Galilee. Advent, however, is the season of unreasonable hopes and expectations. Why should the infinite God of innumerable galaxies, uncountable stars, and unknowable planets choose to become part of creation on our backwater planet, circling an insignificant sun, at the edge of an average galaxy? Why dare we hope that God will do this? How unreasonable is the expectation that God would do such a thing? But the whole Christian story, from a poor son of a virgin and a carpenter, to his ministry in a backwater of the Jewish world, to his healing the servant of his people’s enemy, to the shame of the cross, to the resurrection on the third day is about God’s delight in doing what human beings think absurd. The narrative of the centurion, just like the Advent narrative of God entering human history, is about God’s delight in doing the totally unreasonable and the spectacularly generous.
Saint of the day: Elisa Angela Meneguzzi, who was to become Sister Liduina later in her life, was born on September 12, 1901 in Giarre, near Abano Terme, Padova district. Born into a family of farmers, she developed a life of prayer and study about God. When she was 14, she took jobs to serve wealthy families and work in hotels to support her family.
When she was close to her 25th birthday, she entered religious life in the mother house in Pandova of the Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales. She worked as a laundress, a sacristan, a nurse, and a good friend in a board school for girls. In 1937 she realized her ambition to serve in the missions when her superiors sent her to Dire-Dawa in Ethiopia as a missionary. Dire Dawa was cosmpolitan, with people of different origins, religions, and customs. Deeply prayerful, she serves as a nurse in the Parini Civil Hospital which, after the outbreak of the Second World War, became a military hospital. Liduina served injured soldiers, nursing their physical aches, and training herself to see in each suffering soldier the image of Christ.
She became well known, and people began to seek out her company and blessing. Local people called her “Sister Gudda” (which means, Great). When the bombings raged on the city and hospital, people commonly implored, “Help, Sister Liduina!” Unconcerned by the risks, she carried the wounded to the shelters and then turned around to run to help others. She bent over the dying to suggest an act of contrition and baptized dying children. She served all, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, and religion, living a life of true ecumenism that testified to her belief in the universality of God’s love and embrace.
An incurable disease undermined her health, but she accepted her illness peacefully. She suffered and she lost strength but courageously performed her acts of love among the injured till her last days. At the end she underwent a difficult surgical operation that seemed to go well but resulted in complication that led to death on December 2, 1941. She died at age 40. A doctor who was there said “I’ve never seen someone dying with such joy and bliss.” She was beatified in 2002.
Spiritual reading: All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others. (Danny Thomas)