CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, religion, scripture by Mike on December 31, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

John 1:1-18

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.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Prologue from the Gospel of John seems to be a hymn of the Johannine community that members of that community sang as part of their worship. There is strong evidence that John’s gospel enjoyed the benefit of one or more editors, and that an editor took the hymn and added it to the start of the gospel. In any event, what can we make of this hymn and, indeed, the testimony of the other gospels except that people who were very near Jesus in history, who enjoyed the testimony of people who had walked with Jesus, had a very high opinion of him?

We are used to conciliar statements about Jesus’ nature, statements removed by centuries from the Lord’s life in Palestine and made dubious in the minds of skeptics because of their remoteness in time from the flesh and blood Jesus, but here at the start of John’s gospel, there are some extraordinary claims made about who Jesus is. These claims relate closely to an experience of him by people who saw him, heard him, touched him, knew him. Added to this testimony the willingness of many of those who saw, heard, touched, and knew him to go to their deaths for what they had seen and what they had heard, claims such as those which we have in the Prologue seem to me to be very powerful indeed.

We close another year fully conscious that God has blessed us but also aware that human nature always admits of failure. We trust God to wipe away every tear and make all things new again. Joy to each of you in the new year 2011.

Saint of the day: Saint John Francis Regis, S.J. was born January 31, 1597. He was born in Fontcouverte, Aude, Languedoc, France. His father, Jean Regis, had recently been ennobled as a result of service rendered during the Wars of the League. His mother, Marguerite de Cugunhan, was of a noble family. He was educated at the Jesuit College of Beziers. At the age of eighteen, Regis considered a conversion to Buddhism. In his nineteenth year, however, he reassessed his situation and entered the Jesuit novitiate at Toulouse on December 8, 1616; he took his vows two years later.

After finishing his course in rhetoric at Cahors, John Francis was sent to teach grammar at several colleges: Billom (1619-1622), Puy-en-Velay (1625-1627), and Auch (1627-1628). While he was teaching, he also pursued his studies in philosophy at the scholasticate at Tournon. Owing to an intense love of preaching and teaching the Faith, as well as the desire to save souls, Regis began his study of theology at Toulouse in 1628. Less than two years later, in 1630, he was ordained a priest at the age of thirty-one. The following year, having completed his studies, Regis made his Third Probation.

Regis was now fully prepared for his lifework and entered upon his apostolic career in the summer of 1631. As a newly ordained priest, he worked with bubonic plague victims in Toulouse. From May, 1632, until September, 1634, his headquarters was at the Jesuit College of Montpellier. Here he labored for the conversion of the Huguenots, visited hospitals, assisted the needy, withdrew from vice wayward women and girls, and preached Catholic doctrine with tireless zeal to children and the poor.

Regis established the Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament, which organized charitable collections of money and food from the wealthy. He also established several hostels for prostitutes, and set up girls as lacemakers to give them an income.

In 1633, Regis went to the Diocese of Viviers at the invitation of the local bishop, Monsignor Louis II de la Baume de Suze, giving missions throughout the diocese. From 1633 to 1640 he evangelized more than fifty districts in le Vivarais, le Forez, and le Velay.

Regis labored diligently on behalf of both priests and laymen. His preaching style was said to have been simple and direct. He appealed to the uneducated peasantry and numerous conversions resulted.

Regis longed to devote himself to ministry to the indigenous people of Canada, but he remained in France all his life. His hardships were so incredible as he endured all for his apostolic journeys over rugged mountains in the depths of winter. He would not allow anything to stand in his way in the salvation of souls. John Francis had succumbed to illness during the winter of 1640, while he was contemplating the conversion of the Cévennes. He died of pneumonia on December 30, 1640, at Lalouvesc (now in the Department of Ardèche), Dauphine, France.

Spiritual reading: Every part of the journey is of importance to the whole. (The Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 30, 2010

Gospel of the day:

Luke 2:36-40

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 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.

Reflection on the gospel: Anna’s presence in the story about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ encounter with Simeon doesn’t add any specific themes to the narrative. After all, Anna does what Simeon does, that is, prophesies about the child. Luke, however, in his gospel makes a point of the role of women in the unfolding of Jesus’ story, and whenever he introduces a man, he introduces a woman as a counterpoint. Anna serves this role in the gospel: to make sure we understand that God works through women just as God works through men.

There also is an interesting conclusion to this narrative: Jesus commences his first hidden life. We see it punctuated when the young Jesus speaks with the elders at the Temple in Jerusalem before he begins his longer hidden life. All we know about his first 12 years is that he grows, becomes strong, is filled with wisdom, and God favors him. It might seem there is no moral in this account for us, but we too live lives that are hidden, and God calls us, like God called Jesus, to grow, become strong, be filled with wisdom, and be favored. The project, when we consider the expanse of our lives, may sound daunting, but surely we can do it just for today.

Saint of the day: Born of royal blood in the 7th century, Egwin entered a Benedictine monastery and was enthusiastically received by royalty, clergy and the people as the bishop of Worcester, England. As a bishop he was known as a protector of orphans and the widowed and a fair judge. Who could argue with that?

His popularity didn’t hold up among members of the clergy, however. They saw him as overly strict, while he felt he was simply trying to correct abuses and impose appropriate disciplines. Bitter resentments arose, and Egwin made his way to Rome to present his case to Pope Constantine. The case against Egwin was examined and annulled.

Upon his return to England, he founded Evesham Abbey, which became one of the great Benedictine houses of medieval England. It was dedicated to Mary, who had reportedly made it known to Egwin just where a church should be built in her honor.

He died at the abbey on December 30, in the year 717. Following his burial many miracles were attributed to him: The blind could see, the deaf could hear, the sick were healed.

Spiritual reading: What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. (St. Augustine)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 29, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:22-35

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus 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:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of 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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Mary and Joseph come to the Temple to fulfill the Mosaic Laws that applied both to Mary and the baby. During the course of their ritual duties, an old man Simeon sees the baby and utters amazing prophecies concerning the child. He foretells that the child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel. One lesson in the gospel is that we cannot always judge by appearances. Simeon looks into an apparently ordinary baby from a poor family and recognizes the Christ for whom he has waited his entire life. The gospel then at one level challenges us to look beyond the mere appearances of the poor and struggling and see the face of God, as it lies waiting for us in rough circumstances if only we put on eyes to see.

Saint of the day: Thomas à Becket was born in London, England in 1118. The son of Gilbert à Becket, an English merchant and the onetime sheriff of London, Thomas was of Norman ancestry. Educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre, Thomas was a civil and canon lawyer. He served as both a soldier and an officer. He became the Archdeacon of Canterbury because of his skills in administration. A friend of King Henry II, he became the Chancellor of England. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the King eventually chose his friend to succeed him; Thomas was ordained a priest one day, bishop the next, and later the afternoon of his episcopal ordination, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. To the King’s surprise and consternation, Thomas opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters. As a result, he went into exile several times. On December 29, 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England, he was murdered by the King’s knights, who believed they were acting at the King’s behest. Thomas was canonized three short years later in 1173. Henry came to the Cathedral in July of the next year to do public penance for Thomas’s death.

Spiritual reading: Let Jesus be nourished among us, among us let him advance in years and wisdom that at the fitting moment he may be ready for his Passion. Meanwhile he is little, he does not think of the Passion, instead he must be busy with the breast . . . . Let us live with him at Nazareth that we may be able to give forth sweet fragrance from the blossoms of a life in its springtime. (Letters by Adam of Perseigne)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 28, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 2:13-18

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Church calls the Holy Innocents “martyrs.” “Martyr” in the Greek means witness. We Christians typically use the term “martyr” to refer to someone who prefers death to denying Christ; in other words, martyrdom involves an act of self-conscious integrity that embraces death rather than violate one’s relationship with Jesus. The Holy Innocents weren’t baptized, and they didn’t even know who Jesus is. They were hapless victims of circumstances that made them the wrong kind of people at the wrong place at the wrong time. What kind of martyrs then are the Holy Innocents? They are like so many other children born into war, famine, abuse, and disease. They witness to us like a mirror. They do nothing worthy of punishment, yet they show us by their violation despite their perfect innocence exactly what malevolence we are capable of. In this, they are martyrs, if not by their conscious being then by their very existence. All of these children, Herod’s innocents, children victimized by war, hunger, HIV, and other diseases, call on the consciences of humanity to stop our madness and give ourselves to the Lord of Light.

Saint of the day: Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah,/sobbing and loud lamentation;/Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

Spiritual reading: What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to the son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the son of God is begotten in us. (Meister Eckhart)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, religion, scripture by Mike on December 27, 2010

Gospel of the day:

John 20:1a, 2-8

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 do not 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.

Reflection on the gospel: Early liturgical commentaries associate the Feast of John as closest among the feasts of the apostles to Christmas because of the belief that John, as the Beloved Disciple, enjoyed a special friendship with the Lord. In fact, John’s gospel claims the Beloved Disciple stood at the foot of the cross, the only male disciple to not abandon the Lord in his darkest hour. The gospel of the day is taken from John’s gospel and testifies to Peter and John’s excited run to tomb of Jesus after Mary of Magdala announces to the disciples that the Lord’s body is not in the tomb. The small details in this account truly do seem to suggest a firsthand account: Peter and the Beloved Disciple running, the younger man arriving first but waiting, perhaps deferentially, for the older man to go on in first, a commentary on the positions of the burial cloths, but perhaps most importantly, the reaction of the Beloved Disciple to what he saw: “He saw and believed.” John’s reaction to what he perceives is belief in what he has yet to perceive: the living resurrected Lord.

In three days, we have remembered the birth of the Lord, recalled he experienced suffering from the start of his life, and recollected his resurrection in the witness of the Beloved Disciple to what he saw. We cannot celebrate Christmas without remembering the reason the little Babe came to us, that is, to suffer, die, and rise.

Saint of the day: John the Apostle was the son of Zebedee and Salome. A fisherman, he was the brother of the Apostle James and called one of the Sons of Thunder. A disciple of John the Baptist and a friend of Peter the Apostle, John was called by Jesus during the first year of his ministry, and traveled everywhere with him, becoming so close as to be thought by many to be the mysterious beloved disciple of the Gospel of John. He took part in the Last Supper.

The Beloved Disciple was the only one of Jesus’ followers not to forsake the Savior in the hour of his Passion. He stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus made him the guardian of Our Lady. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, the Beloved Disciple was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him. In keeping that the Beloved Disciple and the Apostle John were the same person, the Church has placed John’s feast near the birth of the Lord to emphasize the ties between the birth of the Lord and his ultimate passion, death, and resurrection.

Spiritual reading of the day: When Christ saw Our Lady standing by his cross and her the boy apostle, John, he said to he, “Woman, behold your son.” There can be no doubt about his meaning. A few hours earlier, this boy had sat at table with Christ. He had leaned his head upon Christ’s breast and heard his heart beating. And that heartbeat was the music accompanying his prayer, the prayer offered on what was very nearly his last breath. He prayed that all those who loved him should be made one with him, that they should live in him, so that they would have only one life: his . . . . When he looked down from the cross, with eyes already full of death, Christ saw a huge crowd of people around him . . . . and he loved each one as if that one alone existed. It was not for a crowd that he was dying, but for each person in the crowd; not for the whole human race, but for each member of the human race. (The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 26, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The Feast of the Holy Family honors the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a family. The Feast is not an old celebration; Leo XIII first instituted it in 1893 as a celebration that occurred within the octave of the Epiphany. Since 1969, we have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday that follows Christmas, except in years when Christmas itself falls on Sunday, in which case, we celebrate the Holy Family on Friday, December 30.

Of course, we know very little about the life of the Holy Family. We can speculate based on the hints in the passages of scripture and on what we know about the life of a typical family in Palestine in the early first century. Mark and Matthew both suggest that Joseph was a carpenter, indeed, from the Greek, a very specialized kind of carpenter who built door sills; it was not a lucrative profession. This fact would accord with our knowledge that most people in first century Palestine lived lives of barest subsistence, just getting by, if that at all. Even so, the duties of faith required that boys be literate, and Israel enjoyed one of the highest rates of literacy in the ancient world. We know our Lord could read, because the gospels refer to his reading in the synagogue. So schooling for Jesus was a part of the Holy Family’s life. This was an age when little was known about medicine and hygiene, so ill health almost certainly afflicted members of the Holy Family, attended by the typical anxiety that occurs when a member of the family grows ill. The scriptures make no reference to Joseph during Jesus’ ministry, so it would seem that Joseph must have died by the time Jesus began to preach throughout Judea, and doubtless, he was grieved and missed by Mary and Jesus.

We know that family life for many of us sometimes can be quite a difficult experience. It is easy for us to believe that because Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were such exceptionally good people, family life for them was not as difficult. But the passage from the gospel which we read today makes clear that the Holy Family suffered painful challenges just as we all do from time to time in the midst of our family life. The trip to Egypt must have been very difficult for the Holy Family as they made their long trip with a new born in the midst of the fear of pursuit and uncertainty about what would sustain them in Egypt. In other words, when God entered human history, God occupied the ordinariness of human lives. The routines and sorrows and joys that attend the life of the world were blessed and sanctified and exalted by God’s embrace of them. Sometimes, the sameness and the difficulties of day-to-day life may overwhelm us, and we may grow numb at the ceaseless chores and dream of some world outside the one we occupy, but surely it can be a comfort to us to know that even if we don’t feel it, God has made all of it great and meaningful by God’s willingness to take part in it.

Spiritual reading: I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families-indeed, all the families in the world-to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard. (Karol Wojtyła)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 25, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:1:14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

Reflection on the gospel reading: I did an MA in American Literature, and my thesis was on James Agee’s novel A Death in the Family, a book that narrates the events of several days in May 1915 in the life a closely-connected family that loses in a car accident the man who is husband and father in the family. In Part II of the novel, the new widow’s brother Andrew and their elderly parents gather at her house to share their helpless grief. At the end of the night, Andrew accompanies his parents back home, and the Christmas hymn Silent Night winds through his mind as he walks along with his parents:

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. The words had always touched him; every year they still brought back Christmas to him, for some reason, as nothing else could. Now they seemed to him as beautiful as any poetry he had ever known. He said them over to himself very slowly and calmly: just a statement. . . . The silent stars go by, he said aloud, not whispering, but so quietly he was sure they could not hear. His eyes sprang full of tears; his throat, his chest knotted into a deep sob which he subdued, and the tears itched on his cheeks. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, he sang loudly, almost in fury, within himself: the everlasting light! and upon these words a sob leapt up through him which he could not subdue but could only hope to conceal. . . . The hopes and fears, a calm and implacable voice continued within him; he spoke quietly: Of all the years. Are met in thee tonight, he whispered: and in the middle of a wide plain, the middle of the dark and silent city, slabbed beneath shadowless light, he saw the dead man, and struck his thigh with his fists with all his strength.

The scene in the novel, like the gospel narrative of the Christmas events, joins together the imminent and transcendent aspects of living. The celebration of the birth of Jesus anticipates the end of his life on the cross, and the Church’s commemoration of his birth recalls to the minds of believers the aim of Jesus’ life lies in his death and resurrection. As Andrew, his heart full of pain for the loss of his brother-in-law, accompanies his parents home, he remembers a hymn that places singers at the scene of the Savior’s birth in their imaginations. A still night, the solicitude of members of a family for one another, the gnawing raw presence of death, and the Christmas narrative knit together in Andrew the solitary, sinful, broken, and fragile lives that the birth of the Christ child encapsulates in all its anticipated grief. A Death in the Family, in this passage, points to the element in the Christmas story that includes the fragility of human existence.

As we enter into the mystery of the Word made flesh, let us not forget this day of days that the Baby who comes, comes with a purpose.

Spiritual reading:

Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.
(“The Nativity of Christ,” Stanza 3, St. Robert Southwell, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 24, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:67-79

“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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage that we read today is Zechariah’s canticle. Luke reports that John the Baptist’s father regained his speech after he consented to the angel’s request that the baby would be called “John.” When he regained his speech, he broke into a song of praise for birth not just of his own son, the one to go before the Lord to prepare his way but also for the long-awaited messiah, a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.

May joy and peace be to each of you and all of us.

Saint of the day: Saint Charbel Makhluf was born on May 8, 1828, in Lebanon, he was the son of a mule driver. He was raised by an uncle who opposed the boy’s youthful piety. The boy’s favorite book was Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. At age 23, he snuck away to join the Maronite monastery where he took the name Charbel in memory of a second century martyr. He professed his solemn vows in 1853 and became a priest in 1859.

He lived as a model monk but dreamed of living like the ancient desert fathers. A hermit from 1875 until his death 23 years later, he existed on the barest essentials of everything. He gained a reputation for holiness and was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He celebrated Mass at noon so he could spend the morning in preparation and the rest of the day in thanksgiving.

Spiritual reading:

O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despair:
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
(“The Nativity of Christ,” Stanza 2, St. Robert Southwell, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 23, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:57-66

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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: God constantly is drawing us to God’s self, calling us out to become the people that God wants us to be. God pulls and God tugs, sending us a thousand messages about where we might go to become most fully who it is that we are. The question that the people ask about John, “What will this child be?” is the question we always can ask about ourselves. No matter our age or condition, we always are being drawn toward something. It is incumbent on us to seek that still small voice within to discover who and what that is.

Saint of the day: Born June 23, 1390, John of Kanty was a Pole. A brilliant student at the University of Cracow, he became a priest and a professor of theology at University of Cracow. Falsely accused and ousted by university rivals, at age 41 he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously; terrified of the responsibility, he did his best. For a long time that wasn’t enough for his parishioners, but in the end, he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Cracow and taught Scripture the rest of his life.

John was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, eating no meat and little of anything else. He took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and hoped to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God.

At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years, his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the University of Cracow. He died December 24, 1473 at Cracow, Poland, of natural causes.

Spiritual reading:

Behold the father is his daughter’s son
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin.
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.
(“The Nativity of Christ,” Stanza 1, St. Robert Southwell, S.J.)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 22, 2010

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:46-56

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.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Mary comes to her cousin Elizabeth as a young pregnant woman. Her yes to God well may have caused her a loss of face among some members of her community: for instance, Matthew’s gospel tells us that Joseph doubted her. That someone believed her and credited her story, as Elizabeth did in yesterday’s gospel, must have been an immense relief to a very young woman in a difficult situation. The Magnificat reflects her joy that she was understood. It is an experience that all of us have had, that is, relief when someone has understood our situation when other people have not. The Magnificat is an expression of joy at being understood.

There are many lessons we can draw from this gospel passage. When we recognize that someone truly understands us, our joy is best experienced as a sign of God’s presence and expressed as thanksgiving to God. Even more, we always can strive, as Elizabeth did, to understand the circumstances that cause people to do the things they do and give them the benefit of any doubt we have. It is a kind of gift-giving all of us can afford to do.

Saint of the day: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna.

His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.

He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates. The name became dear to him.

After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor) (First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.” During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.

Spiritual reading: Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it – because he is out of place in it, and yet must be in it – his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected because they are regarded as weak; and with those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, and are tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. (The Time of No Room by Thomas Merton)