Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 31, 2012

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.

sun-rise-above-earthBut 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: Every year on the last day of the year, we read the Prologue from the gospel of John. The gospel for this day reminds us about two things. The first of those is that God is the source and unchanging, that all thing came to be through God but even to this day the darkness has not overcome God. The second of those things is that God is involved in human history, that God has made his dwelling among us. The end of the year whispers to us that time is marching on and that the end will come, but even if in the muddle of everything, our lives seem like a collection of disjointed fits and starts, God is faithful

421702_592557588338_1622548790_nSaint of the day: Giuseppina Nicoli was born in Italy on November 18, 1863, the fifth of ten children. Prior to her entrance of the House of San Salvario in Turin, Central House of the Daughters of Charity, Turin Province on September 24, 1883, she had received extensive education. After completing initial formation at Rue du Bac, she was sent on mission to serve the poor on the island of Sardinia, Italy, in 1884.

Sister Giuseppina worked at the Providenza Conservatory in Cagliari from 1885 to 1899. She pronounced simple vows of the Daughters of Charity for the first time on December 25, 1888. While working in Cagliari, she catechized youngsters and workers.

In June, 1899 Sister Giuseppina was named Sister Servant (local superior) of the Sassari orphanage. Sister encountered difficulties running the orphanage, difficulties caused largely by distrustful administrators. She continued her work, in time gaining recognition for her dedication, courage and good will. In Sassari she continued her work in religious education for needy people of all ages. At a time when religious education was not being included in school curricula, she arranged this for girls from wealthy families. The Associazione dei Figli di Maria (Association of the Sons of Mary) was promoted by her and she directed the Associazione delle Figlie di Maria (Association of the Daughters of Mary). She provided a model of direct service to the poor, especially orphans and the ill, and introduced other sisters to the ministry of visiting the incarcerated.

Sister was called to the motherhouse in 1910, where she worked until 1913. She first served as Province administrator and then directed education for those in formation. In January, 1913, in the belief that the Sardinian climate would be better for Sister Giuseppina’s health, the Provincial Council sent her again as Superior to Sassari. After a brief but difficult period there, she was moved to Cagliari and arrived there on August 7, 1914. She was sister servant at the Asilo della Marina (Preschool of the Marina) and remained in Cagliari until her death on December 31, 1924. She was beatified on February 3, 2008.

stars_1563134cSpiritual reading: At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. . . . It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely . . . I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 30, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Reflection on the gospel reading: 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 just got 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 Jesus 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 doubtlessly, Jesus and Mary grieved and missed him.

Several passages from the scriptures show that the Holy Family maintained the piety of their people. For instance, the story we read from Luke’s gospel today tells us that they went up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Jesus at 12 must have been a boy on the typical developmental trajectory, beginning to spread his wings to his parents’ occasional consternation and confusion. Rather than returning with his parents to Nazareth, he remains in Jerusalem to converse with the learned men who talked and disputed at the temple.

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 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, 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 29, 2012

10_preseGospel 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. Simeon believes he cannot judge by appearances. He looks into an apparently ordinary baby from a poor and marginalized family and recognizes the messiah for whom he has waited his entire life. Simeon challenges us to look beyond the mere appearances of the poor and struggling and see the face of God, as God lies waiting for us in rough circumstances if only we train our 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 Master_Francke_St_Thomasa 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 Baby-Jesus-SleepingKing’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, 2012

flight-into-egyptGospel 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: Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, a story about a powerful person who out of his self-interest commits a terrible atrocity against innocent children. It gives us an opportunity to ponder the mystery of why bad things happen to good people and, in particular, why it is that the most monstrous of things can happen to the most innocent of people. The feast comes this year not long after the nation recoiled in horror at the murder of 20 very young children in Newtown, Connecticut, so the appreciation of what happened in Bethlehem two thousand years ago has a touchstone in our own raw emotions which makes what happened to the Holy Innocents far more real this year.

article-shooting-1214We think of God as imminent, attentive, and loving, and we do so rightly, because God is all of those things: this is not just our faith but also our experience. But when we come face-to-face with something so terrible, like the Newtown massacre, that the event floods every newspaper and every news show, it challenges us to think about how it is that God is loving and imminent but still doesn’t stop so wicked a thing. All the answers to address this problem are too facile and seem to relieve us of the debt of our own suffering in the face of horror. I do not know why an imminent loving God allows such things, but we must not dismiss it out of hand with easy answers, because something which cannot be answered must be very important. The evil in Newtown and the evil in Bethlehem were crude, but the evil in both Newtown and Bethlehem was real and deep. What happened in Newtown and what happened in Bethlehem happened in the presence of a loving and imminent God, and that is scandalous.

But Christian faith is the mystery of living faithfully alongside incomprehension and suffering. When the Spirit of God led Jesus to baptism and into the desert, the path the Spirit prepared for Jesus in his baptism and the desert led to the cross. This too is a scandal: evil which is crude, real, and deep before the gaze of a loving and imminent God. But though we cannot comprehend why such things happen, we do know that in Jesus, God subjected Godself to the very thing which happened to the Holy Innocents and to the very thing which happened to the first graders in Newtown.

It is not an answer, but it is good company.

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.

holyinnocents-alexeypismenny-500Matthew 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: In the Christian story, God descends to reascend. He comes down . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature he has created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. (C.S. Lewis)

Looking for Bethlehem

Posted in Uncategorized by Rev. Larry Hansen, BCC, CT on December 27, 2012

“Without the perspective of the poor, we see nothing, not even an angel. When we approach the poor, our values and goals change. The child appears in many other children. Mary also seeks sanctuary among us. Because the angels sing, the shepherds rise, leave their fears behind, and set out for Bethlehem, wherever it is situated these days.”1

These words give the lie to much of what we consider to be a celebration of Christmas, even—or especially—those of us who reject the crass commercialism and rampant consumer mania of the secular marketplace. Because Christmas is not necessarily—or even—about warm gatherings of family and intimate friends, nor about the various liturgies of Christmas, as beautiful as they are. No, Christmas is about what Justo Gonzalez and other theologians have termed the Great Reversal; i.e., seeing that those things and events which so many of us see are important and of great consequence are not so much in the eyes of the Divine.

The question for each of us, then, is where is the place where we can find Jesus in our own world? Where is Bethlehem in our lives? While not discounting the wholesome joy to be found in healthy family relationships or in successfully balanced lives, the Christmas stories found in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels challenge us to look outside our “comfort zones,” to go to those who, like the shepherds and the Holy Family itself are living on the margins, often scorned, but just as shamefully ignored. Our Bethlehem is out there—or maybe in there as well. It only waits to be discovered through prayer, discernment and the courage required to look for it.

1-from “The Christmas Gospel,” by Dorothee Soelle, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, The Plough Publishing House, 2001, entry for December 27.

Rev. Larry Hansen
Cana House
Portland, Oregon

Homily December 30, 2012 Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on December 27, 2012

In the course of many years of witnessing the marriages of many young couples and meeting many couples in committed relationships, I must admit that like the uniqueness of each one of us, each relationship is just as unique in each other as we are in ourselves. As each of us has our failures, so do relationships even to the point of breaking sometimes. What doesn’t ever break however is the relationship we have with God. No matter how broken, how guilty, how unforgiving we are of even ourselves, God forgives and he loves. Even in failure he is there for us and in Him we can go on. As I said we are unique and our relationships are also, but at the same time some things are alike. I’m sure you parents of adolescents can identify with the disappearing Jesus and the “where were you?” “what were you doing?” I’ve heard the answer “nothing!” many times myself. So you see a short glimpse even of the “Holy Family” shows even they had some foibles and only God is perfect and He gives a lot of forgiveness and love.

Therein lies the real basis of a family and relationships. To commit to each other requires love and patience and forgiveness but all that is always in God. He has to be the foundation for family. The commitment of two people requires that they give themselves freely to the other. God is discovered in this way and a couple grows and shares and spreads that love.

We see that kind of love in the gospel today. Mary and Joseph’s relationship was certainly unique and as I said last week, they had the most unique special needs child in history. Imagine their dilemma between letting go and protectiveness. His “Father’s business” and growing up. The angel told them they would have a son but they had to figure the rest out themselves. Like any of us they did their best. I suppose that today we are celebrating their best. At the same time let us celebrate ourselves. After all, we have gathered as families and shared over Christmas. Let us be glad and rejoice over what we have. God is good to us what further needs do we have?

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 27, 2012

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 on Christmas, recalled he experienced suffering from the start of his life on the feast of Stephen the Martyr, 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, 2012

crucifixion-iconGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: On the day after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, Stephen. There is some evidence that the juxtaposition of Christmas and Stephen’s feast might have been a coincidence, since the Church seems to have celebrated Stephen’s martyrdom on December 26 before it came to celebrate the nativity of Jesus on December 25. Whether or not Stephen’s martyrdom following promptly on the celebration of the Lord’s birth is a coincidence, this joining long has reminded believers about the point of the celebration of Christmas. We do not celebrate the birth of a baby except as a meditation on the point of the baby’s birth. This baby was born with a purpose: to die and then to rise.

Saint of the day: Saint Stephen is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning “crown”. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs’ palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a 20120507-Stephen Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_150deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. History approximates Stephen’s story around A.D. 34-35, shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of Roman Freedmen, he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation: “Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers.” (7:52) While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God–perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near. He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen’s martyrdom in his writings. While Stephen is witnessing to Jesus, his hearers plugged their ears and refuse to listen to another word. They drag Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stone him to death. Stephen prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.

Spiritual reading: Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble. (G. K. Chesterton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 25, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the hands-holding-babymessage that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

Reflection on the gospel reading: God has come as a baby into this troubled, wounded, and real world. God has chosen to enter our hurting world with all its messiness, injuries, and fears. Christmas is real because God really and truly has visited us in the flesh. Christmas is no myth nor a story about fairies which lodge in the garden. The good news, the gospel God invites us to carry with us, is that God became one of us, one just like us right down to an occasional bout of the runs and the regular need of a bath. He came as an infant, both vulnerable, weak, and every bit as defenseless as the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And yet through his defenselessness, he was able to spread his message to every corner of the world.

Christmas promises us that despite every adversity and each trial, God is with us. And that all shall be well. And that everything shall be well. And that every manner of thing shall be well. We praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Spiritual reading: Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ. (Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 24, 2012

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 The%2520Virgin%2520Shepherdess[1]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: Zechariah sings of the joy which comes from a visit by God’s goodness which, in Jesus, fulfills every promise God has made through the prophets. Zechariah’s Canticle is a song about God’s faithfulness in Israel’s past and the fidelity of God into the future. Zechariah in his song is like Moses standing on Mount Nebo, where he can see the road which Israel has traveled and observe the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises which God has made. For Moses, the future was for his people to enter the Promised Land. For Zechariah, it was Jesus, who is the Morning Star, the dawning of the Sun of Justice, and the rising Prince of Peace. May joy and peace be to each of you, and yours, 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 dawnessentials 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: Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. (Hamilton Wright Mabie)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 23, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage from Luke prepares us for the commemoration of the Lord’s birth which we shall celebrate on Tuesday. The gospel teaches that Jesus comes not to be served but to serve. At the visitation, Elizabeth does not travel to serve the needs of Mary and Jesus, but Jesus, in the womb, travels with his mother to serve the needs of Elizabeth. In this passage, the Baptist stirs in his mother’s womb when he hears the voice of Mary. Babies in their mothers’ wombs, of course, are always twisting and turning. But Elizabeth, herself full of the Spirit and prophetically recognizing who comes to her, interprets the baby’s movement as something unique and joyful.

We know how much our mothers imprint themselves on us. Jesus lives a life of service, going out and looking to be available to those in need. The Baptist lives a life of prophecy, living in the desert and speaking truths at the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Where indeed do you think these men got the things that so
profoundly characterized their lives? God works in human ordinariness to bring about great things, like a God who comes to serve and not be served.

Spiritual reading: The mystery of Christmas therefore lays upon us all a debt and an obligation to the whole created universe. We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the grace that has been given us, to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth. This we will do not only by preaching the glad tidings of His coming, but above all by revealing Him in our lives. Christ is born to us today, in order that he may appear to the whole world through us. This one day is the day of His birth, but every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation, His divine Epiphany, in the world which He has created and redeemed. (Seasons of Celebration by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 22, 2012

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)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 20, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection on the gospel reading: During the last week of Advent, the Church reminds us that God enters human history not in one of the great centers of religion, political power, or cultural progressiveness, not in Jerusalem, Rome, Athens, or Alexandria. No, God chooses to enter human history in what was a complete backwater in the world, Nazareth. An angel announces to a young girl that God greatly favors her and that something of extraordinary moment, the conception of a son, has arrived in her life. The message troubles the young woman, who asks how what is being said is possible, since she has not had relations with a man. The angel tells her that with God, nothing is impossible, and Mary, full of faith, surrenders to the moment with her great, final, and resounding, “Yes,” to God and God’s plan.

Saint of the day: Dominic of Silos was born in 1000 in Navarre, Spain. Born to a peasant family, he worked as a shepherd in his youth. He became a Benedictine monk at San Millán de Cogolla monastery. Ordained a priest, he served as the Master of Novices for his community and eventually became the prior of the house. Ordered by King Garcia III of Navarre to give him the monastery’s lands, Dominic refused, and with two of his brother monks was driven from the house by force.

Dominic and the monks sought protection from King Ferdinand I of Old Castile. They found a new home in the San Sebastian monastery at Silos, diocese of Burgos where Dominic was appointed abbot. Founded in 954, the house had fallen on hard times, had only six monks, and was in terrible shape physically, financially, and spiritually. He turned around the house’s spiritual life, straightened out its finances, and rebuilt its structure. The house was soon a spiritual center noted for book design, printed art, its gold and silver work, and charity to the local poor. The rebuilt abbey cloisters survive to this day and are considered a great architectural treasure. Dominic got wealthy patrons to endow the monastery and raised funds to ransom Christians taken prisoner by the Moors. Dominic died on December 10, 1073 of natural causes.

One of the most beloved of Spanish saints, there were churches and monasteries dedicated to him as early as 1085, and the monastery he rebuilt is now known as Saint Dominic’s. Many miracles were attributed to
him through prayers after his death, especially with regard to pregnancy. Dominic’s abbatial staff was used to bless Spanish queens and was kept by their beds when they were in labor. Blessed Joan de Aza de Guzmán prayed at his shrine to conceive the child whom she called Dominic, after the abbot of Silos. This particular Dominic founded the Order of Preachers, more commonly know as the Dominicans.

Spiritual reading: Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all. (Soren Kierkegaard)

Homily December 25, 2012 Christmas The Nativity

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on December 20, 2012

There is nothing in life more touching or exciting than the birth of a baby. For young and old, new life is like a new beginning and brings joy in a family whether they be parents, children, grandparents, or extended family and friends. The newness, freshness or somehow the mystery of birth itself is a joyful experience. Somehow our inner being knows God has reached out again and brought new life into this world.

What we celebrate today is God bringing his own life into this world, by taking on human life, starting out as an infant in the humble family of Mary and Joseph. His entrance into this life was far from his parents’ home, in Bethlehem the home of his ancestors. Their shelter that first Christmas was not much more than what we see street people having today. Except today, a woman giving birth probably would be rushed to a hospital, but there were none back then. At least when the got to Bethlehem, they found shelter and some warmth from the animals and the straw. But here it was that Jesus was born into the family of Joseph and Mary in a time with troubles as there are in every age. Christ’s nearness became a real presence that day, and He is among us ever since. His revelation began with shepherds, summoned from their fields to see this child of Bethlehem.To Mary and Joseph, it was a great joy, but consider that in faith they accepted God’s word to them, but imagine their feelings of inadequacy and the mystery of what was ahead for them. What young couple starts a family with as many questions as Mary and Joseph must have had. Certainly, they had put their lives into the hands of God but life was still hard.

How many of us could do that? We hear “Let Go, Let God” but do we do that. Joseph and Mary had probably the most special needs child of all time, yet the most important need was for a loving Mother and Father. In his life, Jesus identified with everybody, but the only time he had a home was with Mary and Joseph. He had no place of his own in his ministry for where ever he was or with whom in those days, he was home. He lived in the country, the open air, with friends, with people who loved who opened their hearts to him. No palace invited him nor did he go to one til his passion. Yes he had special needs, you and all others he called to hear and believe God’s Word.

So, that baby in Bethlehem calls us today to see him and hear him in his creation and most importantly in our lives everyday in everyone we meet. Remember the least important person we meet could be Jesus in need of us.

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Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 19, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist calls us to reflect on what God calls us to do. God has called all of us, just as God called John. God calls us to be messengers who announce the coming of Jesus. We are to breathe Jesus in the essence of our beings. God calls us to smooth the way for Jesus to enter into our particular corners of the world and, most especially, the lives of people who do not yet know him.

Saint of the day: About 689, an Irish monk named Kilian was martyred at Wurzburg in Germany, where he had been commissioned a roving bishop by Pope Conon. His tomb at Wurzburg became the site of pilgrimages from Ireland and so many Irish pilgrims came over the centuries that in the year 1134 the bishop asked the Irish monks of St. James at Regensburg to establish a hospice there for these pilgrims.

The Irish monks from St. James established a monastery at Wurzburg and St. Macarius was named abbot. Like his predecessors, he was a man of deep learning and a calligrapher of great skill. He inaugurated at Wurzburg a remarkable literary activity and left behind at Wurzburg the largest collections of Irish manuscripts in existence, in the tradition of the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow. The Irish monks were superb calligraphers and illuminators and produced some of the most beautiful manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Long before the invention of printing, they had large libraries and left their mark upon the learning of medieval Europe.

Macarius attracted to Wurzburg learned and talented monks from Ireland, among them David, a historiographer and head of the cathedral school, who became chaplain to the emperor. The influence of these Irish monks was remarkable and their monasteries were staffed with monks from Ireland until the year 1497, when they were driven out by Scottish monks.

Macarius died in 1153. In 1615, his body was exhumed and transferred to the abbey church. In 1818, his relics were moved to the Mariankapelle in Wurzburg. Like all the Irish monks, Macarius joined holiness of life to holy learning and worked not only for the establishment of religion but also for the creation of a uniquely Christian culture. To learning, they also joined a love of beauty, and the books they produced are considered masterpieces of the arts of illumination.

Spiritual reading: More than ever I find myself in the hands of God. This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference; the initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound spiritual experience to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands. (The Servant of God Pedro Arrupe, S.J. reflecting on the paralyzing stroke he suffered as General of the Society of Jesus)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on December 18, 2012

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Under Jewish law, Joseph as Mary’s betrothed had a right to sexual relations with Mary. Mary is pregnant, and though the neighbors likely suspect nothing, Joseph knows he is not the baby’s father. Joseph, of course, is horrified, and within his cultural milieu, marrying a woman capable of such a thing is unthinkable to him. But Joseph is a good man, and he doesn’t want harm to come to Mary. Accordingly, he decides to quietly end the engagement with Mary and move on with his life.

God, of course, has other ideas. He sends word to Joseph in a dream that the baby has a unique origin. Joseph now must put faith in his dream. Joseph, the man of faith, does that. And out of Joseph’s faith comes the fertile ground for the world’s salvation; indeed, the name given the baby by the angel in the dream, Joshua (rendered Jesus in Greek, the language of the New Testament), means, Yahweh saves. And thus it is, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold, that God is with us.

And so it is true with us that whenever we choose to put our faith in God that God is with us.

Saint of the day: Thomas De and his companions died in 1839. There is little known of the many Vietnamese natives who died during the several persecutions of Christians. During the first 20 years of the 19th century, Christianity made steady progress that was dramatically halted by renewed persecutions under the Annamite king Minh-Mang (1820-41). From 1832, Minh excluded all foreign missionaries and ordered Vietnamese Christians to renounce Christianity by trampling on the crucifix. Meanwhile churches were destroyed and teaching Christianity was forbidden. Some of the victims seem to have been induced by drugs to make temporary retractions; others endured fearsome tortures, including cutting off the limbs, joint by joint.

Thomas De, a Dominican tertiary and a tailor by profession, suffered the fate of many: execution by strangulation for giving shelter to the missionaries. Martyred with him were the Dominican tertiaries and catechists Dominic Uy, a 26-year-old; Francis Xavier Mau; the peasant Stephen Vinh; and one other. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Christians lost their lives in the persecutions.

Spiritual reading: The reality that is present to us and in us: call it Being, call it Atman, call it Pneuma…or Silence. And the simple fact that by being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen which cannot be learned any more than breathing), we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained; the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations. (“Letter to Amiya Chakravarty” by Thomas Merton, April 13, 1967)