December 21, 2017

Dec. 21

December 21, 2017 / Thursday, 3rd week, Advent

See 16 connections with today?
Legend below


For Psalm 33
For Las Posadas:  acted out with music, lounge lizard
For Simbang GabiSimbang Gabi (lyrics)
  • 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.”

Christmas is the feast of faith in the Son of God who became man to restore us to our dignity, the feast of faith in hearts and souls that become a manger to receive him and allow God to make hope, charity, and faith sprout from their poverty.  May this Christmas open our eyes so we can abandon the superfluous, false, and malicious, and see the essential, true, and good.  I want to share reflections on the Curia's relationship with the outside world.

“Reform in Rome is like cleaning the Sphinx with a toothbrush”:  patience, tenacity, and sensitivity are needed.  A Curia closed in on itself would destroy itself.  The Church must stay linked to the Petrine ministry, the service of God’s word, and the preaching of the Gospel, the Good News that God became one of us to show his closeness, love, and desire that all be saved.  God makes his sun rise on the good and evil alike; he came not to be served but to serve; he establishes the Church to be in the world but not of it and to be an instrument of salvation and service.

The expression “diaconal primacy” recalls the image of the "servant of the servants of God."  This expresses desire to imitate Christ, who took on the form of a servant.  Gregory the Great was moved by the humility of God, who in Christ became our servant, who washed and washes our dirty feet.  A similar attitude should characterize all in the Curia who work in the name and with the authority of the pope for the good and service of the Churches.

The Didascalia Apostolorum states “the deacon must be the Bishop's ear, mouth, heart, and soul.”  The ear is the organ of hearing and balance; the mouth, taste and speech.  Another text adds deacons are called to be the Bishop's eyes.  The eye sees to transmit images to the mind, helping it give the body direction.  These images suggest a relationship of communion in obedience for the service of God’s people.  Communion with Peter should reinforce and reinvigorate communion between all Curia members.

Seen in this light, my appeal to the senses of the human body helps us have a sense of extraversion, attention to what's outside.  Our senses are our first connection to the outside world; they help us grasp reality and situate ourselves in it.  Plots and cliques are a cancer leading to self-centeredness.  When they seep into ecclesiastical bodies and workers, we lose the joy of the Gospel, the joy of sharing Christ and of fellowship with him.  Some selected to help the reform let pride or ambition corrupt them, then, when sidelined, declare themselves martyrs.  Others still work here and are given time to get back on track and find an opportunity for conversion.  But the vast majority work with commitment, fidelity, competence, dedication, and sanctity.

The “institutional senses,” to which the Curia dicasteries are analogous, must befit their nature and purpose and be like faithful, sensitive antennae, sending and receiving:  faithfully transmitting the Pope's and Superiors' will, and grasping the Church's and world's aspirations, questions, pleas, joys, and sorrows to transmitting to the Bishop of Rome so he may more effectively carry out his mission.  I use these images to make clear that, to achieve the aim of our work, we must practice discernment of the signs of the times, communion in service, charity in truth, docility to the Spirit, and obedience to superiors.

Curia and nations:  Vatican diplomacy is at the service of humanity and the human person, to build bridges, make peace, listen, understand, dialogue, help, support, intervene, narrow distances, and build trust, free of self-interest.  We cooperate with all peoples and nations of good will.  We reaffirm the importance of protecting “our common home” from selfishness, to state that wars lead only to death and destruction, to help us live better, and to build a secure future.  Diplomatic personnel serve as pastors and diplomats, in the service of particular Churches and of the nations where they work.  The Curia and...

Particular Churches:  In the Curia, Dioceses and Eparchies find help and support.  The basis of the relationship is set forth in the Decree on Bishops:  the Curia's work is “for the good of the Churches and in service of the sacred pastors.”  The Curia has as its point of reference the Bishop of Rome and the particular Churches and their Pastors.  In the Curia you learn and "breathe in" the Church's twofold aspect, the interplay of the universal and the particular.  The "ad Limina" visits are a great opportunity for encounter, dialogue, and mutual enrichment.  Dialogue between bishops and Dicasteries is important.  I call on the Curia, bishops, and the whole Church to give particular attention to young people:  not to consider them alone but to focus on a combination of relationships and issues.  By listening to young people, the Church will hear the Lord.  Young people can discern the signs of our times.  Listening to them, we glimpse the world ahead and the paths we're called to follow.

Oriental Churches:  The relationship is an example of richness in diversity for the Church.  In fidelity to their traditions and their communion, they realize Jesus' priestly prayer.  Election of Bishops and Eparchs must correspond both to Oriental Churches' autonomy and to their evangelical responsibility and desire to strengthen their unity with the Catholic Church.  The relationship between West and East is one of mutual enrichment.  The Church of Rome would not be catholic without the riches of the Eastern Churches and the testimony of our Oriental brothers and sisters who accepted martyrdom.

Ecumenical dialogue:  The Catholic Church is particularly committed to Christian unity, essential to our faith, flowing from our being believers in Christ.  It involves an irreversible journey.  When we walk together, we pray, proclaim the gospel, and serve to the least together and so surmount theological and ecclesiological differences that divide Christians.  The Curia's work fosters encounter, unties knots of misunderstanding and hostility, and counteracts prejudice and fear.

Judaism, Islam, and other religions:  “The only alternative to encounter is conflict.”  Dialogue is grounded in the duty to respect one’s and others' identity, the courage to accept differences, and sincerity of intention.  Dialogue can't be built on ambiguity or sacrificing good to please others.  Those who are different should be welcomed as fellow-travellers, in the conviction that the good of each resides in the good of all.  Dialogue is not a strategy for achieving specific goals but rather a path to truth, a path to be undertaken patiently to transform competition into cooperation.

These aspects of Curia work ad extra are linked to diaconal primacy, institutional senses, and faithful antennae.  Faith that doesn't trouble us is troubled faith.  Faith that doesn't make us grow needs to grow.  Faith that doesn't raise questions needs to be questioned.  Faith that doesn't rouse us needs to be roused.  Faith that doesn't shake us needs to be shaken.  Faith that's only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion; it can become faith once it touches our heart, soul, spirit, and being and allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart, once we let the star guide us to where the Son lies, not among Kings and riches but among the poor and humble.  “If your heart could become a manger, God would once again become a child on this earth” (Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer)

    • Creighton:  The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth seems joyful, even for John in the womb, but they've both endured and are enduring the difficult task of waiting, expecting.  Waiting is part of life, but we don't do it passively; we accompany it with preparation based on God's promise of his Son.  As we wait with Mary for her Son's coming, let us prepare to receive Jesus anew.  How can I create more room to receive Jesus, and help others to?
    • One Bread, One Body:  "O come, all ye faith-ful":  The Church calls us to walk by faith, not sight. Faith is "conviction about things we don't see."  Mary, pregnant teenager, could have been divorced and even executed.  Though she had reason to fear, she magnified the Lord, rejoiced in her Savior, and lived in faith "that the Lord's words would be fulfilled."  If we go by what we see, we'll get only darkness and cold.  May we we look inside, at God's indwelling, rejoice in sharing Christ's suffering, and live and share our faith so others may have Christmas.
    • Passionist:  Today's 1st reading is the voice of a woman waiting for the love of her life.  She knows he's close and calls on nature about to bloom.  She's is excited with expectation, as a woman on the verge of childbirth.  No man could enter into her experience.  The gospel moves beyond the general experience of pregnancy and childbirth to Jesus' birth by narrating the moment when cousins Mary and Elizabeth meet and share their joyful experience of approaching childbirth, another all-woman encounter.  Childbirth is a universal experience, but to the Jewish people it was especially momentous because it's closely tied to the expectation of the Messiah.  We pray all pregnant women deliver safely and give thanks for all families who welcome new life.
    •  "Joyful anticipation of the Messiah":  Blessed are you if you recognize the Lord with eyes of faith.  'Blessed' [μακάριος] means 'happy'; it describes a joy that's serene, untouchable, self-contained, and independent of chance and changing circumstances.  There's a paradox:  the 'blessedness' given to Mary of being the mother of God's Son became a sword that pierced her heart as he was crucified.  "Without God's Son nothing could exist; without Mary's son, nothing could be redeemed" (Anselm).  To be chosen by God is a privilege and responsibility.  Mary received a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow; the sorrow didn't diminish her joy because her faith, hope, and trust in God fueled it.  The Lord gives us joy that enables us to bear any sorrow or pain...  When Elizabeth greeted Mary and recognized the Messiah in her womb, they 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, leaping for joy even in his mother's womb as the Spirit revealed the King's presence to him.  God reigns in each of us through the Holy Spirit...."
    Dress legend
    • 'Alps' tie pin:  My lover comes springing across the mountains (1st reading); Mary travelled to the hill country (gospel)
    • 'Dove' pin:  "Arise, my beloved, my dove,... and come!" (1st reading); Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (gospel)
    • 'Deer' tie:  My lover is like a... young stag (1st reading)
    • 'Roses' pin:  The flowers appear on the earth... (1st reading)
    • 'Clef' tie pin:  The song of the dove is heard (1st reading); the Lord will sing joyfully because of you (alt. 1st reading); sing to the Lord (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're lovely.” (1st reading)
    • 'Heart' pin:  Exult with all your heart (alt. 1st reading); the design of the Lord's heart stands forever; our hearts rejoice (psalm)
    • 'Annunciation/Magnificat' pin:  Mary visits Elizabeth (gospel)
    • Purple tie and suspenders:  Advent season
    • 'No-"L"' button:  Christmas novena AKA Advent II (subseason)

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