Friday, November 29, 2013

Season of Advent, Prepare for the Lord!

Today we begin the season of Advent, actually New Year’s Day of the Church Year. It is a season that brings back fond memories of childhood practices: lighting the Advent wreath each day at dinnertime, putting straws in a manger after performing an act of charity, making gifts for each family member, putting out shoes on St. Nicholas’ Eve to find them full of goodies in the morning, praying the Advent prayer “Hail and Blessed”...(found below)  Traditionally, Advent is a time, when like St. John the Baptist, we prepare a way for the Lord. We give ourselves the chance to see the presence of God to commune with Him, to discover His plan for us.

Each season of the Church year brings with it a special grace for us. Just as on holidays we often make time to visit with friends and relatives, God wants to visit us and give us the grace of the season? Each day of Advent spend some time in prayer before Our Lord in the Eucharist and together search for answers.

If Advent is just a time of consumerism, we have missed the boat. The greatest gift, the one and only gift of Christmas is Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is the gift that God wants to give us this Advent. He is always willing to give, but it is up to us to unwrap the Father’s gift to behold His face. We can do this by using Advent to renew and deepen our relationship with God.

Advent is the time to step back and reflect on such questions as “What is my relationship with Jesus Christ?” How does this relationship color every aspect of my life?” "Am I just a follower of Jesus, or am I really His disciple?"  There is so much persecution of Christians going on in our world today, even in subtle ways. But if we were on trial simply for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

At the same time, Advent is a time of joy and expectation. Our God is coming to save us. As a newlywed couple anticipates the birth of their first child, there are many things they must attend to. However, with the million and one details the thought of their expected child is never far from their mind. It makes me wish I was a fly on the wall in the little house where Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph lived before they made the journey to Bethlehem. The joy and anticipation must have been awesome!  May we in spirit shadow Mary and Joseph during their time together before the birth of Jesus that first Advent and learn from them how to unwrap our Gift from the Father!
___________________________

Pray this Advent prayer each day (15 times) asking for the gift of renewed faith, and to prepare your hearts to receive the gift of Christ on Christmas!
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born, of the most pure  Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.  In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my petitions, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feast of Christ the King of the Universe

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year, the Solemnity of Christ the King.  I always feel like standing up and asking the choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah on this day.  The lyrics, amid many Hallelujah's and repetitions, bespeak the feast:  "For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth..The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ...And He shall reign for ever and ever...King of kings and Lord of lords."  Of course, a mighty organ and a few trumpets with a hundred or so voices also add to the glory of this proclamation of Jesus Christ our Sovereign King.

The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.   In 1970, this Feast was moved by Pope Paul VI to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year to signify its' eschatological importance, and was raised to the rank of Solemnity.

What does the Kingship of Christ mean for us?  If Jesus Christ is our Lord and King, we must belong completely to him.  We allow Him to reign over our minds by firmly believing revealed truths.  We allow Him to reign over our wills by choosing to obey the laws and precepts of God.  We allow Him to reign over our hearts by loving Him above all things.  We allow Him to reign over our bodies by using created things as instruments for our sanctification.
And how blessed we are that we belong to Jesus Christ, who is our Sovereign King.  He is "my Father, my merciful God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my only Master, my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty, my living Bread, my eternal priest, the guide to my heavenly home, my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining Wisdom, my unfeigned Simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard, my bounteous inheritance, my everlasting salvation." (True Devotion to Mary, 66)  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of all things.  He is the Way we must go, the Truth we seek to know and the Life we strive to live.  

Pope Benedict tells us that "Christ is so intrinsically king that the title 'King" has actually become his name.  By calling ourselves Christian, we label ourselves as followers of this King."

Let us rejoice as we give thanks and praise to God for all our many blessings.  Let our grateful lives evidence our faith and love in the Almighty who so marvelously created, redeemed and sanctifies us.  May we prove worthy of so good and great a King!
Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat!


"It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of "King," because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind." (Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It is the Lord who Saves Us

Pope Francis gave a homily at the Mass offered at the entrance to the monumental cemetery of Verano in Rome.  Here are excepts from his homily provided by the Vatican Information Service.
(If you are interested in following Pope Francis and hearing what he has to say to the world, you can sign up for an email from the Vatican Information Service.  (http://www.news.va/en)

“At this time, before sunset”, said the Pope in his homily, “we are gathered in this cemetery to think about our future and about all those who are no more, those who have gone before us in life and are now in the Lord … in the Lord God, beauty, goodness, truth, tenderness, full love. All this awaits us. Those who have preceded us and are departed to the Lord are there. They proclaim that they have been saved not only for their works – they have also done good works – but that they have been saved by the Lord. … It is He Who saves us, it is He Who at the end of our life leads us by the hand like a father, to the Heaven where our ancestors await us”.

“We can enter heaven only thanks to the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ … that has justified us, that has opened the doors to Heaven to us. And if today we recall these brothers and sisters of ours who have preceded us in life and are now in Heaven, it is because they have been washed by the blood of Christ. This is our hope: the hope of the blood of Christ! A hope that does not disappoint. If we walk the path of life with the Lord, He never disappoints us”.

Francis went on to cite the passage in the Gospel of St. John: “'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him'. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. To see God is “to be similar to God: this is our hope. And today, precisely on the day of All Saints and before the day of All Souls, it is necessary to think a little about hope: this hope that accompanies us in life. The first Christians depicted hope as an anchor, as if life was the anchor thrown to the shores of Heaven and all of us set forth towards that shore, grasping the rope of the anchor. It is a beautiful image of hope: to anchor our hearts where our dearly departed await us, where the saints, Jesus and God are. It is the hope that does not disappoint us. Today and tomorrow are days of hope”.

Hope, he continued, “is like leaven, that enlarges the soul; there are difficult moments in life, but with hope the soul forges ahead and looks to what awaits us. … Hope also purifies us, and lightens us: this purification in hope in Jesus Christ allows us to go on swiftly. As the sun starts to set today, each one of us can think of the sunset of our own lives”. And if we look forward with joy to being welcomed by the Lord, “this is a Christian thought, that brings peace to us. Today is a day of joy, but it is a serene and tranquil joy, the joy of peace. Let us think of the sunsets of the many brothers and sisters who have preceded us, and let us think of our own sunset, when it arrives. And let us think of our hearts, and ask ourselves, 'Where is my heart anchored?' If it is not anchored well, let us anchor it there, on that shore, in the knowledge that hope never disappoints, because the Lord Jesus never disappoints”.

At the end of the Mass, the Pope blessed the tombs and concluded, “I would like to pray especially for our brothers and sisters who have died seeking freedom, a more worthwhile life. We have seen the photographs depicting the cruelty of the desert; we have seen the sea where many have drowned. Let us pray for them. And let us also pray for the survivors, who now languish in shelters, in the hope that the necessary legal procedures will be completed swiftly so that they might move on to other more comfortable places, in other centres”.