December 19, 2015

Dec. 19

December 19, 2015:  Saturday, 3rd week of Advent

  • 'Angel pin':  angel in 1st reading, Gabriel in gospel
  • 'Holy Spirit' chain:  Spirit stirred Samson (1st reading); John will be filled with the Spirit (gospel)
  • 'Rock' tie pin:  You are my rock and fortress (psalm)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  Rescue me from the hand of the wicked (psalm)
  • 'Girl with heart' pin:  John will turn the fathers' hearts toward their children (gospel)
    • 'Christmas tree' tie:  Root of Jesse's stem (O Antiphon)
    • Purple shirt, suspenders, and tie:  Advent season
    • 'No-L' Christmas pin:  Nativity Novena (subseason)

    Pope Francis homily
    Jesus was not born to a princess in a palace, but rather in humility to a simple young girl, living on the outskirts. Joseph too acted in humility, taking Mary as his wife despite the gossip and slander surrounding her pregnancy.  In the same way, we find God almost hidden away among the needy, the sick, the hungry, and those in prison.
    You can’t pay your way to heaven, I opened the door of this homeless shelter to open hearts.  The way of salvation isn't through luxury, vanity, riches, or power, but rather through God's loving embrace and forgiveness.  While so many people rejected by society are helped by coming through this door, may God give us all the grace to feel rejected and to understand we too need God’s mercy.

    The universal call to holinessPapal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent sermon, continued

    Resuming the Path toward Holiness 
    Our pursuit of holiness is like the Israelites' journey in the desert, with stops and starts.  People stopped and pitched their tents, either because they were weary, or had found food and water, or because it's tiring to be on a journey.  But the Lord commanded Moses to take down their tents and get back on the road.  We hear these invitations at the beginning of liturgical seasons and on special occasions like the Jubilee of Mercy.  For us, the time to set out again on our march toward holiness occurs when we sense the call that comes from grace.  We take a step back from our preoccupations, look at our lives as though from outside and from an eternal perspective.  Great questions emerge: “Who am I?  What do I want?  What am I doing with my life?”  Bernard, though a monk, had a busy life:  presiding over councils, reconciling bishops and abbots, preaching crusades.  He'd stop and ask himself, “Why did you come here?”  Why did you enter a monastery?  We can imitate him and ask, “Why am I a Christian?  Am I doing what I'm here to do?” 
    The New Testament describes an "awakening-conversion" from being lukewarm.  In Revelation there are seven letters written to churches in Asia Minor.  In the first, to Ephesus, Christ acknowledges they've done good things, then goes on, “You've abandoned the love you had at first!”, then cries:  repent, shake yourselves, wake up!  The last letter, to Laodicea, is more severe:  “You're neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were!”  Convert and return to being zealous and fervent! 
    Begin to rekindle a desire for holiness:  “The life of a Christian is a holy desire [=desire for holiness]” (Augustine)   “Blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Biblical righteousness is holiness.  “Do I hunger and thirst for holiness, or resign myself to mediocrity?” 
      Zechariah/ Robertson
    • Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a  Angel to Manoah's barren wife:  “You'll bear a son.  Be careful with him; he's consecrated to God. and will begin to deliver Israel.”  She bore a son and named him Samson; God's Spirit stirred him as he grew.
    • Ps 71:3-4a 5-6ab, 16-17  "My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!"  You're my rock, fortress, hope, trust, refuge, and strength; rescue me.
    • Lk 1:5-25  Zechariah and Elizabeth observed the commandments but had no child.  The angel Gabriel told him, “Your wife will bear you a son; name him John.  He'll be great in God's sight, filled with the Spirit, and will turn many to the Lord in the power of Elijah and prepare a people fit for the Lord.” / “How can I be sure?” / “God sent me to you.  Because you didn't believe me, you'll be speechless till all this happens.”  Elizabeth conceived.

    • Today's O Antiphon:  O Radix Jesse, Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people:  come to save us without delay!
      • Creighton:  Zechariah is told the good news that they'll have a child, unlikely though it is.  When he doesn't believe, he becomes mute, but when he affirms his faith in naming the child John ('God is gracious'), his tongue is loosed to praise God.  I too can become unable to proclaim the good news, or the challenging call for justice or care of each other and our common home, because I can't imagine how God will work.  I lose courage and get tongue-tied fr0m fear and doubt, and the Spirit's fire is extinguished.  When I see God is faithful and say "God is gracious," fear vanishes, courage returns, and I can proclaim the good news.  May we be free to proclaim the news of God's merciful love....
      • One Bread, One Body:  "I did it his way":  The Lord rescues his people by creating new people like Samson and John the Baptist, but our "culture of death" doesn't want new people.  The Lord rescues us by calling us to commitment; e.g. Samson and John became lifelong Nazirites; but many avoid commitment.  The Lord rescues us by giving us the gift of faith.  Those with faith conquer the world, but we've been programmed to be skeptical and doubtful.  We're more like Zechariah than Mary.  God's ways are different.
      • Passionist:  We have longings and desires that may never be realized.  When some are lacking, it seems we're unfulfilled, no matter how good everything else is.  Both families in today's readings seemed to have good lives and were faithful to God, but they longed to have children; one still hoped, and the other had resigned itself to childlessness.  Then God broke in.  Once he brought new life, their lives changed.  God’s gift came with responsibilities.  For many of us, God transforms our lives; we become more aware of our frailties and of God’s love.  When we're overwhelmed with external Christmas preparations, it's easy to lose touch with our longings and desires, but if we stop for a deep breath and quiet moment, we can allow the longings to surface, and we can encounter God, receive new life, and really experience Christmas.
      •  "Many will rejoice at his birth":  Advent is a time to renew our hope in God’s faithfulness.  We see the miracle of two barren couples conceiving and bearing sons, Samson and John the Baptist, called to bring hope and deliverance.  Zechariah was tuned to God’s voice; the people rightly perceived he had a encounter with God.  The angel put Zechariah in his place.  He became speechless till the day the infant was dedicated to God and given the name John.  When God draws to him, he wants us to be still before him to listen.  The angel explains to Zechariah how his son is will prepare the way for the Messiah.  John will be great in God's sight.  He will live as a Nazarite, filled with the Spirit, sent to the people of God, to turn fathers' and childrens' hearts to God and one another.  God fills us with his Spirit and makes our faith alive....

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