December 21, 2015

Dec. 21

December 21, 2015:  Monday, 4th week of Advent

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Pope Francis
Angelus:  Three loci of wonder in our lives: the other; history; and the Church.
    • The other:  Since Jesus was born, everyone carries the features of the Son of God, especially the poor, since God entered the world as a poor person and allowed himself to be approached first by the poor.
    • History:  Often we think we see it right but risk reading it backwards, such as when we think the market, finance, business, and powers-that-be determine it.  But God shuffles the deck!  As Mary sings, the Lord casts down the mighty and lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty.
    • The Church:  To look on her with the wonder of faith means feeling her as a mother who, despite her warts and wrinkles, lets the bride's contours shine through.
God gives us himself by giving his Son, his joy; only with Mary's heart can we be glad for his gift and surprise:  may she help us to perceive these wonders:  the other, history, and the Church.  May we feel the wonder in meeting Jesus, but we can't meet him if we don't meet him in the other, in history, and in the Church.

Audience with his employees:  I thank you and ask your forgiveness for the scandals.  Pray for the people involved in them, that those who did wrong might repent and find the right path.  Take care of your marriage and children.  Marriage is like a plant; care for it every day.  It's a living reality:  never take your married life for granted.  Children's most precious gift is their parents' love, not only parents' love for their children but for each other.  Don't leave grandparents aside; they're important, with their memory and wisdom.  Live the Jubilee at home.  God loves those who practice mercy in ordinary circumstances.  Experience the joy of mercy, beginning in your family.  Thanks for your work and forgiveness.  Go forward....

To Roman Curia:  When we met in 2013, I stressed professionalism and service and offered Joseph as a model.  Last year we spoke of temptations or "maladies" that could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish, or movement, calling for prevention, vigilance, care, and sometimes painful interventions.   Some became evident this year, causing everyone pain and harming many.  The reform will move forward with determination, clarity, and resolve.
Diseases and scandals don't obscure the services you render me and the Church with such effort, responsibility, and commitment.  Cases of resistance, difficulty, and failure are lessons and opportunities for growth, not discouragement; they're opportunities for returning to essentials, being more conscious of ourselves, God, and neighbor, sensus Ecclesiae, and sensus fidei.
The Holy Year of Mercy is a summons to gratitude, conversion, renewal, penance, and reconciliation.  Christmas is the feast of God’s mercy:  "Could greater mercy have been shown to us than what led the Creator to come down among us and take on our mortal body?  That same mercy led the Lord to assume the nature of a servant, so that, being bread, he'd suffer hunger; being satiety, he'd thirst; being power, he'd know weakness; being salvation, he'd experience our woundedness, and being life, he'd die.  He did this to assuage our hunger, alleviate our longing, strengthen our weakness, wipe out our sins, and enkindle our charity" (Augustine).
Here's a practical aid (not exhaustive) for experiencing this season, an acrostic of MISERICORDIA:

    • Missionary and pastoral spirit:  missionary spirit makes the Curia fruitful and proves our effectiveness.  Faith is a gift, yet its measure is seen by how we communicate it.  All the baptized are missionaries, by their lives, work, and witness.  Pastoral spirit is indispensable:  daily following the Good Shepherd who gives his life to save others.  Without these two wings we could never take flight or enjoy the happiness of the faithful servant.
    • Idoneity and sagacity:  idoneity (suitability) entails effort to acquire the requisites to exercise our duties with intelligence and insight; sagacity is readiness to confront situations shrewdly.  They represent our response to grace, when we “do everything as if God didn't exist and put it in God’s hands as if you didn't exist.”  It's the approach of one who prays the Universal Prayer:  “conduct me by your wisdom, restrain me by your justice, and comfort me by your mercy, to defend me by your power.  To thee I consecrate my thoughts, words, actions, and sufferings; that I may think and speak only of you, refer my actions to your glory, and suffer willingly whatever you appoint.” 
    • Spirituality and humanity:  spirituality is the backbone of all service in the Church and Christian life; it nourishes our activity and protects it from human frailty and temptation.  Humanity embodies our faith; those who renounce their humanity renounce everything.  It distinguishes us from machines that feel nothing.  Once we find it hard to weep or laugh, we've begun our decline.  Humanity is knowing how to show tenderness, fidelity, and courtesy.  While innate, they need to be activated, attained, and demonstrated.
    • Example and fidelity:  The Curia is called to set an example (Bl. Paul VI).   Fidelity to our vocation, always mindful that “Whoever is faithful in a small matter is faithful in great...” and “If you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones, it would be better if a millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned....”
    • Rationality and gentleness:  rationality helps avoid emotional excesses, while gentleness helps avoid excess bureaucracy; both are necessary for balance:  “The enemy pays careful heed to whether a soul is coarse or delicate; if delicate, he finds a way to make it overly so, to cause it greater distress and confusion.”  Every excess is a symptom of imbalance. 
    • Innocuousness and determination:  innocuousness makes us cautious, careful, attentive, and capable of refraining from hasty actions; it brings out the best in ourselves and others.  It consists of doing unto others what we'd have them do to us.  Determination is acting with resolute will, clear vision, obedience to God, and for salus animarum (Code of Canon Law 1752). 
    • Charity and truth:  two inseparable virtues, “speaking the truth in charity and practising charity in truth.”   Charity without truth becomes complaisance; truth without charity, legalism.
    • honesty (Onestà) and maturity:  honesty is rectitude, consistency, and sincerity regarding ourselves and to God.  Honest persons never betray others' trust, are never domineering regarding the persons or matters entrusted to them.  Honesty is the foundation of all other qualities.  Maturity, the quest for balance and harmony in our gifts, is the goal and outcome of an ongoing process of development that has nothing to do with age.
    • Respectfulness and humility:  respectfulness is an endowment of those who always try to respect for others, for their work, for confidentiality, who can listen carefully and speak politely.  Humility is the virtue of those who become more important as they come to realize they're nothing, and can do nothing, apart from God’s grace.
    • Diligence and attentiveness:  the more we trust God, the more we grow in diligence and readiness to give of ourselves.  What good would it do to open all the Holy Doors if the doors of our heart are closed to love, if our hands closed to giving, if our homes to hospitality, and our churches to acceptance?  Attentiveness is concern for little things, for doing our best and never yielding to our vices.  “Lord, help me to be always aware of those around me, those who are worried or dismayed, those suffering in silence, and those who feel alone and abandoned” (Vincent de Paul).
    • Intrepidness and alertness:  intrepidness is fearlessness, acting with boldness and determination “as a good soldier,” ready to take the first step, like Abraham or Mary.   Alertness is the ability to act freely and easily, without being attached to material things.  “If riches increase, don't set your heart on them.”  To be alert means to be on the go, never burdened by accumulation of needless things, caught up in our concerns, or driven by ambition.
    • trustworthiness (Affidabilitàand sobriety:  trustworthy persons honor their commitments whether observed or alone; they radiate tranquility because they never betray trust.  Sobriety is the ability to renounce the superfluous and resist consumerism; it's prudence, simplicity, straightforwardness, balance, and temperance, seeing the world through God’s eyes and from the side of the poor.  Sobriety is a style of life that points to the primacy of others and is shown in a life of concern and service. Sober people are consistent and straightforward, because they can reduce, recover, recycle, repair, and live moderation.

Mercy is the synthesis of the Good News, a choice of all who desire to put on the Heart of Jesus and follow the Lord who asks us to “be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”  “Mercy is a scandal for justice, a folly for intelligence, a consolation for us who are debtors.  The debt for being alive, the debt for being loved is only repayable by mercy” (Fr. Ermes Ronchi).  May mercy guide, inspire, and enlighten us, and be the basis of our efforts; may it enable us to understand the littleness of all we do in God’s great plan of salvation.  To help us grasp this, savor the prayer attributed to Bl. Oscar Romero but pronounced first by Cardinal John Dearden....
Looking for the next installment of Fr. Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent sermon?  Come back tomorrow!


Read
  • Zep 3:14-18a  Shout for joy!  God has removed the judgment against you and turned your enemies away.  Fear not; the Lord is in your midst, a mighty savior; he'll rejoice over you and renew you in his love.
  • Ps 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21  "Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song."  Give thanks on the harp and lyre.  Blessed those he chose for his inheritance.  We await and trust the Lord, our help.
  • Lk 1:39-45  Mary traveled to the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth, who cried, “Blessed are you and the fruit of your womb!  When I heard your greeting, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.”
    Reflect
    • Today's O Antiphon:  O Oriens, O Radiant Dawn (Morning Star, Rising Sun), splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
      • Creighton:  When Mary might be self-conscious about her pregnancy, she thinks of her cousin's needs and travels to assist her.  The meeting has been portrayed as a time of joy and amazement.  Their woman-to-woman meeting turns out also to be unborn child-to-unborn child.  Elizabeth prophetically calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.”  The Visitation captures the Church’s mission of evangelization.  Contemplate this outreach of joyful service of Mary to Elizabeth....
      • One Bread, One Body:  "How to get God to sing":  Christmas is Jesus' birthday; let's give him presents that will get him to sing joyfully:  our repentance and conversion, and leading others to him.
      • Passionist:  As we near a friend's birthday, there's a festive mood.  Today's gospel is devoted to Elizabeth's joy at Mary's visit.  Elizabeth is thrilled at Mary's effort to be near.  Both were experiencing their childbirth event in remarkable ways.  Today’s gospel is devoted to Elizabeth’s joy, based on her experience of becoming pregnant late and on what her now mute husband conveyed, doubtless enhanced by contrast with the sorrow of not having been able to conceive earlier.  The Zephaniah reading is also joyful, following a painful ordeal.  Though its circumstances and joy differ.   it also occurs after a drought of good news.  As Elizabeth and Zechariah went through sad times, so too Jerusalem experienced sorrow over the calamities inflicted on it by its enemies, permitted by the Lord as a result of their sin.  But Zephaniah indicates Jerusalem is to enjoy peace and prosperity.  So in both readings is sorrow, then joy.  Isn't it often like that for us?  Mary and Elizabeth were coming off stressful moments, making their joy when Mary visited understandable, as was Zephaniah’s at Jerusalem's upcoming relief.
      • DailyScripture.net:  "God will give him David's throne, and a kingdom without end":  God's love is everlasting because he keeps his promises.  He showed favor to David when anointing him king, reassuring him he'd build him a house to last forever, no ordinary dynasty because God promised to raise up an heir, a Savior and King to bring healing, pardon, and peace.  We begin to see the unfolding of God's plan in the events leading up to the Incarnation. The new era begins with the miraculous conception of Jesus by the Spirit's gracious action on Mary, who became mother of a new humanity.  Her child is the fulfillment of God's promises:  great, Son of the Most High, King, Jesus ("the Lord saves"), savior.  She responds to God's word delivered by the angel with wonder, faith, and trust; she believed God's promises even when they seemed impossible.  She trusted that what God said would be fulfilled.  She was willing and eager to do God's will.  God gives us grace and expects us to respond with the same willingness, obedience, and trust as she did.  When God commands, he also gives the help, strength, and means to respond....
      Dress legend
      • 'Deer' pin:  My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag (1st reading)
      • 'Roses' pin:  The flowers appear on the earth... (1st reading)
      • 'Musical note' tie pin:  The song of the dove is heard (1st reading); sing the Lord a new song (psalm)
      • 'Tree' pin:  The fig tree puts forth its figs (1st reading)
      • 'Rock' tie pin:  “O my dove in the clefts of the rock,... you are lovely.” (1st reading)
      • 'Girl with heart' pin:  Exult with all your heart (alt. 1st reading); our hearts rejoice (psalm)
      • 'Jubilee year' pin:  Our hearts rejoice in the Lord (psalm)
      • 'Magnificat' pin:  Mary visits Elizabeth (gospel)
      • 'Holy Spirit' chain:  Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit (gospel)
      • Purple tie and suspenders:  Advent season