December 22, 2016

Dec. 22

December 22, 2016:  Thursday, 4th week, Advent

See a dozen connections with today?
Legend below
Listen

Song of Hannah (canticle)
Magnificat (gospel)
Pope Francis
Christmas greetings to Roman curia:  The face of Baby Jesus is “immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave” (Augustine).  “The infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished [made small, reduced to minimum] his glory” (Macarius).  Christmas is the feast of the loving humility of God, who upsets our expectations and the established order.  God's rich thinking overturns our limited thinking.  We're called to say yes not to the Master of the universe but to God the humble lover.  “God could have come wrapped in glory... to instill fear and amazement but instead came as the smallest, frailest, weakest beings, so no one would be ashamed or afraid to approach him, so all would draw near him, so there would be no distance between us and him.  God plunged so each of us could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near,  realize he loves you.  If you understand this, you understand Christianity” (Bl. Paul VI).  God chose to be born a baby because he wanted to be loved.  Christmas overturns worldly logic, the mentality of power and might, the thinking of those who see only causality or determinism.
For the Curia, 'reform' is to be understood in two ways:  con-form to the Good News which must be proclaimed to all, con-forming to our time and its human achievements, better to meet the demands of those we're called to serve.  It also means con-forming more fully to our purpose, cooperating in the ministry of the Successor of Peter.  Reform is a sign of life, of a Church always advancing.  It's growth and conversion, not an end in itself.  It's not trying to look better.  It'll only be effective if renewed people carry it out.  We must encourage spiritual, human, and professional renewal.  We need conversion of persons, purification, change of mentality.  Continuing reform must become a permanent personal and structural conversion.  Diagnosis and analysis must precede successful surgery and a treatment plan follow.
It's normal and healthy to run into difficulty or resistance.   There can be open resistance, born of goodwill and dialogue, and hidden resistance, born of fear, hardened hearts, or complacency.  Malicious resistance can spring up in misguided minds; it hides behind words of self-justification and accusation, takes refuge in traditions, formalities, the familiar, or not distinguishing between act, actor, and action.  Absence of reaction is a sign of death, so resistance is necessary and should be heard and welcomed and its expression encouraged.  Curia reform must be faithful to essentials and occur with discernment, courage, wisdom, listening, persevering action, silence, and firm decisions.  It takes prayer, humility, farsightedness, concrete steps, determination, vitality, responsible exercise of power, obedience, and abandonment to and trust in the Spirit.
Guiding principles of the reform:  individual responsibility (personal conversion), pastoral concern (pastoral conversion), missionary spirit (Christocentrism), clear organization, improved functioning, modernization (updating, attending to the signs of the times), sobriety (simplification/streamlining), subsidiarity (reorder/transfer), synodality (vs. fragmentation, lack of coordination), catholicity (diversity re geography, culture, state of life, gender), professionalism (continuing formation), gradualism (discernment)
Steps taken:  Creation of the Council of Cardinals, to counsel the Pope on Church governance and related topics, and to revise Pastor Bonus; establishment of Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion to study the IORharmonize it with the Holy See's mission, ensure gospel principles drive its activities, and achieve transparency; definition of the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities of Vatican City State in criminal matters; institution of the COSEA to research, analyze, and gather information to study the Holy See's organizational and economic problems; establishment of the Holy See’s Financial Security Committee to prevent and counter money laundering, terrorism financing, and WMD proliferation, to bring the Vatican economic system to financial transparency; established the Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF) to prevent and counter illegal monetary/financial dealings; established the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy to harmonize Holy See and Vatican City economic management policies; established the Office of General Auditor (URG) to audit Curia Dicasteries, related institutions, and administer Vatican City; established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to protect the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults; transferred the Ordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See to the Secretariat for the Economy; established the Secretariat for Communication to respond to the current context of communication, evolution of digital media, convergence, and interactivity, and to restructure the realities that have dealt with communications better to respond to the Church's needs and mission (new statutes took effect in October); made new provisions for the reform of the annulment process; made new effort to prevent bishops' negligence; established the Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life so Christ's richness may be poured forth appropriately and profusely; established the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to attend to the goods of justice, peace, and care of creation.   The Councils of Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and Healthcare Workers are merging into this; approved the Statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life
Christmas overturns human criteria and emphasizes Christ as the heart and center of reform.  Christmas is the feast of God’s loving humility.  If for us the experience of Your infancy is so difficult, it isn't for You.  If we stumble along the way to communion with You because of Your smallness, You can remove all obstacles.  You won't be at peace till You find us like You with the same smallness.  Allow us to draw near to Your heart.  May we not consider ourselves great.  Grant us to become small like You, so we may receive abundant humility.  Give us Your revelation, Your infancy, so we may heal our pride and arrogance.  Reveal Your simplicity by drawing us, the Church, and the world, to Yourself.  Our world is weary, exhausted, and wounded as governments, churches, peoples, families, parishes compete:  who's the greatest?  But we find in You our medicine.  We, and the world, won't find salvation or peace unless we encounter You anew in the manger  (Matta El Meskeen).
Christmas greetings to Vatican office employees and families:  Thank God for the gift of work.  Employers must respect your rights and dignity.  Work is important for workers and their families.  Pray for the unemployed, those with jobs that are unworthy, poor paying, or harmful to their health, and their families.
Commit to guaranteeing that work be worthy, dignified, respectful of worker and family, and just.  No paying under the table, no sneaky tricks....  Since the Vatican is a small operation, you can perceive it as a whole, with the important tasks that it comprises.  The areas are close and connected, and everyone knows everyone else.  You feel the satisfaction of seeing things work (despite the limitations) to the advantage of all.
Read
  • 1 Sm 1:24-28  Hannah presented Samuel at the temple:  “I prayed for this child, and you granted my request.  Now I give him to you; he'll be dedicated to the Lord all his life.”  She left Samuel there.
    Samuel dedicated by Hannah at the Temple/ Topham
  • 1 Sm 2:1, 4-8abcd  "My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior."  “The bows of the mighty are broken, while the weak gain strength.  The well-fed go hungry, while the hungry are satisfied.  The barren wife bears sons, while the mother of many languishes.  The Lord puts to death and gives life, casts down and raises up, makes poor and rich, humbles and exalts, raises the needy and poor.”
  • Lk 1:46-56  Mary:  “I proclaim the Lord's greatness, for he looked upon his lowly servant.  All will call me blessed:  the Almighty has done great things for me.  He has mercy on those who fear him, showed strength, scattered the proud, cast down the mighty, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry, sent away the rich.  He helped Israel, remembering his promise of mercy.”  She stayed with Elizabeth then returned home.
Reflect
    • Today's O Antiphon:  O Rex Gentium, O King of All Nations and Keystone of the Church;  come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!  Reflection (thanks, Sr. Kathleen!)
      • Creighton:  Today's readings tell of the faith of Hannah and Mary.  Barren Hannah was living in shame for being unworthy of motherhood, taunted by her husband’s other wife, but her faith was unshakable.  She prayed for a child, and Eli said her prayer would be answered.  She promised that if her prayers were answered, she'd give the child back to God.  Today we read that she and her husband went to the temple to sacrifice Samuel ('God hears') to Eli to be dedicated to the Lord and trained as a priest.  She left with a heavy heart but holds her head high, worthy of God’s blessing and keeping her promise, but having no idea she'd ever bear another child.  Hannah is the model of devotion and faith.   (whose names means God hears), she had no idea if she would ever bear another child.
      Mary, practically a child, heeds God's call, rejoices in her faith and God; she doesn't doubt or let concern about what to say to Joseph and her parents get in the way.  She shows gratitude to God for the great things he's done for her.  She was the shining example of a Child of God.  I think of Lowry's song, "Mary, did you know?" [But read about the parody Becky, did you know and consider changing some of the words....]
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Join the revolution":  Hannah lived when God's people were weak in faith, when revelations were uncommon, vision infrequent.  She prophesied a revolution in which the bows of the mighty are broken while the tottering gird on strength; the well-fed hire themselves out, while the hungry batten on spoil.  The prophecy was fulfilled when the Israelite population turned to the Lord.  Mary lived when the Roman government was oppressing God's people. She prophesied a revolution in which the Lord has deposed the mighty and raised the lowly.  The hungry he has given every good thing, while the rich he has sent empty away.  Her prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus.  Pope St. John Paul II lived when many were weak in faith and oppressed by a culture of death.  He prophesied the Lord would give us a Jubilee that would mark a revolution.  His prophecy will be fulfilled if we're docile to the Holy Spirit....
      • Passionist:  Today's readings invite us to witness three mothers responding to God.  Barren Hannah, who believed God could accomplish anything, prayed for a child and was blessed with Samuel; she expressed her need for God, sought him, listened to him, responded with loving affirmation, and dedicated her son to him.  In her we see a mother of faith who lived in the hope of God’s providence.  Her son would become pivotal in the history of Israel.  In the gospel we see two mothers express their awareness of God’s goodness and love.  Elizabeth had all but given up hope of becoming a mother when God intervened; she'd bear a son and know he was special.  With faith and strength of character, she dedicated him to the Lord; he'd also be a decisive force in history, announcing the Messianic Age, preparing the Lord's way.  The final mother is Mary; we recall her faith, hope in the face of questions, attentive listening to God’s voice, profound humility, and gratitude for God’s presence, activity, and Providence.  She is so open to the Word of God that the Word becomes flesh in her.  When he did, history took a decisive turn, from darkness to light, sin to freedom, brokenness to wholeness, death to life.  The readings invite us to pay attention to the mothers in our lives....
      • DailyScripture.net:  "Joyful expectation of the Messiah":  If you hunger for the Lord, the Lord will fill you with peace, joy, and justice.  As events lead to the birth of our Savior, prophecies, promises and prayers of the Old Testament become fulfilled.  Luke reveals the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in Mary's life.  Elizabeth and Mary were filled with the Spirit and joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God's promise of a Savior. John the Baptist pointed to his coming and leapt for joy in the womb as the Spirit revealed his presence to him. The Spirit enables us to know and experience God's presence and power; through the Spirit, God reigns in each of us.  Mary accepted her mission with faith and obedience, believing God would fulfill his word.  Her Magnificat echoes Hannah's song and proclaims the Lord's favor.  Hannah like Mary had been childless and God gave her a son, Samuel, whom she dedicated to the Lord's service.  Mary, too, would lose her son to service that would lead to the cross. This is a time to renew our faith and hope in God and his promises and to deepen our love for God and each other....
      Dress legend
      • 'Wheat' pin:  "The well-fed hire themselves out for bread" (canticle); an ephah of flour... (1st reading)
      • Purple suspenders:  ...and a skin of wine (1st reading); Advent season
      • 'Heart' pin:  "My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior" (canticle); "He has mercy on every generation" (gospel)
      • 'Crowns' tie:  O King of Nations (O Antiphon)
      • 'Angel with horn' tie pin:  "My horn is exalted in my God" (canticle)
      • 'Magnificat' pin:  Mary's Magnificat canticle (gospel)
      • 'Eyeball' pin:  The Lord has looked on his servant (gospel)
      • 'Blessed Mother blue' shirt
      • 'Bull' pin:  Hannah brought Samuel and a 3-year-old bull with her... (1st reading)