Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Holy Family, Model of Families

We celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Gospel for the Sunday relates the presentation of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph, identified as being among the poor by their offering of two doves, bring the Child to offer Him to the Lord.

In this fourth Joyful mystery of the Rosary, promises are fulfilled and prophecies are uttered. But it is in Nazareth where we contemplate the Holy Family in everyday life. Blessed Paul VI shared some thoughts about their life in Nazareth: Nazareth is the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound and mysterious meaning of that simple, humble, and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. And perhaps we learn almost imperceptibly to imitate Him. Here we learn the method by which we can come to understand Christ. Here we discover the need to observe the details of His sojourn among us—places, period of time, customs, language, religious practices, all of which Jesus used to reveal Himself to the world. Here everything speaks to us; everything has meaning.

It is here, in this school, that one comes to grasp how necessary it is to be spiritually disciplined, if one wishes to follow the teachings of the Gospel and to become a follower of Christ. Oh, how we would like to repeat, so close to Mary, our introduction to the genuine knowledge of the meaning of life, and to the higher wisdom of divine truth! The lesson of silence: may there return to us an appreciation of this stupendous and indispensable spiritual condition, deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life. O silence of Nazareth, teach us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers; teach us the need and value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of interior life, of secret prayer seen by God alone.

May Nazareth teach us the meaning of family life, its harmony of love, its simplicity and austere beauty, its sacred character; may it teach us how sweet and irreplaceable is its training, how fundamental and incomparable its role on the social plane.

O Nazareth, home of the “carpenter’s son.” We want here to understand and to praise the austere and redeeming law of human labor, here to restore the consciousness of the dignity of labor, here to recall that work cannot be an end in itself, and that it is free and ennobling in proportion to the values—beyond the economic ones-which motivate it. We would like here to salute all the workers of the world, and to point out to them their great Model, their Divine Brother, the Champion of all their rights, Christ the Lord!

May the Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Joseph intercede for your family and extended family with many blessings during this coming Year of Grace.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

St. John the Evangelist, Christmas Feast

Each month throughout the year the church celebrates each of the twelve apostles in memory of their role and mission in spreading of the Gospel. In the month of December, we celebrate St. John, the apostle and evangelist. John is credited for having written; the Gospel of John, three epistles which were written in the city of Ephesus to correct false teachings about Christ and the mysterious, and sometimes scary Book of Revelation.
We know from the Gospels that John was a fisherman with his brother James who are also called the “Sons of thunder” and John himself has always been believed by many to have been the “beloved disciple.” Of course we see John in many gospel accounts. He was with James and Peter at the Transfiguration. He was at the rising of Jairus's daughter. He was sent with Peter to prepare for the Passover. It is only in the Gospel of John that we hear about John being present at the foot of the cross. He is seen again with Peter at the tomb when they first heard from Mary Magdalene about Christ's resurrection. He would later go on to inspire others to follow Christ in the early church, especially St. Polycarp who would then teach St. Ignatius of Antioch, showing apostolic tradition.
John is believed to be the longest living apostle and the only one not to die as a martyr. Though the Romans tried to kill him, by throwing him into boiling oil, John remained unscathed by the torture. They then sent him into exile on the Island of Patmos, where he would receive fascinating visions that would be written down to become the Book of Revelation.
In art John is usually depicted looking up to heaven with his eyes focus completely on Christ, inspiring him to dive into the depths of the divinity of Christ and the mystery of the Incarnation. With an eagle to be seen next to him symbolizing how his writings soared from the heights of heaven to the earth below proclaiming the Gospel message. He is sometimes pictured with a chalice that holds a snake, for according to the Acts of John (which are not deemed canonical by the Church) he was challenged to drink poison to demonstrate the power of his faith.

Today St. John is the patron saint of love, friendship, poison-victims and even burn-victims.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lessons from St. John the Baptist for Advent

He didn’t look like them. He didn’t talk like them. He was not part of the crowd that had always held power. But the people listened, and followed.

John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and had a leather belt. He didn’t dress like the Scribes, Pharisees and the Temple priests. John the Baptist talked about change that was certainly coming. The thing is for the change to take place, it was the people who had to change.
If there is going to be no more war, then people need to stop hating others. If there is going to be charity and care for all, then people needed to look inside their hearts and pull out the justice of God that resides there. If there is going to be change, then people needed to change. “Prepare for the Lord,” John the Baptist proclaimed. “Prepare for the Lord by preparing yourselves.”

And the people from throughout the Judean countryside and the inhabitants of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River where John was preaching. And they confessed their sins. And they were baptized. And the change had begun. We all want our country and our world to be better. We all want a cure for cancer and AIDS and malnutrition, and every ailment or condition that is killing people. We all want the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to war and the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to violence. We all want peace. But what are we doing about it?

The heart of John the Baptist’s message is about it? The heart of John the Baptist’s message is that if we want change, if we really want the One who will reform the world and return mankind to God’s original plan, then we need to change. This is tough. It is just so much easier to sit back and expect the world to change, other people to change. But if we really want change we can believe in, the we need to change.
Every year we lament about how society is trying to destroy the meaning of Christmas. We are saddened that a spiritual celebration has been transformed into a series of parties. And we should be sad, but, perhaps, we should all be more concerned with how we ourselves plan to celebrate Christmas. More than that, we should be more concerned with how we are celebrating Advent.

What exactly are we doing to prepare the world for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist tells us to look within ourselves, change our own attitudes, and then trust God to allow this change to have a part in the transformation the world. Change will only take place if we are the ones who change. And Advent is a particularly Marian season. It’s hard to think of Jesus being born in Bethlehem without the image of Mary His Mother coming to mind. As we journey though this season, let us take her as our guide in preparing the way for the Lord.