December 29, 2017

Dec. 29

December 29, 2017:  Fifth day, Christmas Octave

See a dozen connections with today?
Legend below
For Psalm 96
Pope Francis to theologians
The world needs a theology capable of helping Christians to proclaim our merciful God's salvific Face.  We're immersed in the joyous contemplation of the mystery of God, who so involved and compromised himself in our humanity as to send his son and to take on our fragile flesh.  The Incarnation is the starting point for theological reflection.  Theology will never exhaust the living Fount of divine Love, which allowed himself to be touched, looked upon, and savored in the manger.
I invite you to creative fidelity in your reflections.  Be faithful to Vatican II in your theological efforts and inspired by the perennial newness of the Gospel.
Your efforts to do theology together express an essential element of Truth, at whose service theology is placed.  You can't serve the Truth of God–who is Love and eternal communion of Father, Son, and Spirit, and whose saving plan is of communion of humanity with him and among themselves–in an individualistic manner.  Theological research is personal but done by persons immersed in a theological community.
You don't need theological training to be a believer, but there's a sense of the realities of faith that pertains to the whole people of God.  These are the eyes of faith.  Every theologian must be immersed in and supported, transported, and embraced by living faith.  Challenges facing theology today include the ecological crisis, genetic modification of human DNA, social inequality, migration, and theoretical and practical relativism.  To confront these realities, a theology is needed, done by Christians at the service of churches and of the Church.
Two turtle doves
  • 1 Jn 2:3-11  If you say you know Jesus but don't keep his commandments, you're a liar, but if you keep his word, God's love is in you.  If you hate others, you're in darkness, but if you love them, you're in the light.
  • Ps 96:1-3, 5b-6  "Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!"  Sing to the Lord.  Announce his salvation, glory, and wondrous deeds.
  • Lk 2:22-35  Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord.  The Spirit revealed to Simeon he'd see the Christ.  He took Jesus in his arms:  “I've seen the salvation you prepared, a light for the nations and glory for Israel.”  Mary and Joseph were amazed.  Simeon to Mary:  “He's destined for the fall and rise of many, and to be a sign to be contradicted (and a sword will pierce you) so the thoughts of many may be revealed.”
  • Creighton:  If you say you're following Christ but you're not living his commandments, you're not in union with him.  If you say you love someone but don't help them, you're in darkness.  Today's gospel is about when Jesus was in temple for a rite:  the mother's ritual purification and son's consecration to the Lord.  Luke is pointing out that the Holy Family was Jewish and followed the rules that bound all Jews.  We can celebrate Jesus' birth but forget we need to follow rules:  love for God and love of neighbor.
Holy Simeon acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, foretells the contradictory nature Jesus' ministry, and predicts Mary will feel pain from his ministry.  Jesus won't be the leader the people had been praying for.  Mary will have difficulty understanding her son and will suffer as he is misunderstood and crucified.  We need to love as Jesus loved and discern what he calls us to.
    Presentation of Jesus in the Temple/ Bellini
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Love to obey; obey to love":  Out of love and obedience, Mary and Joseph kept God's commandments, including circumcision of the male child and purification of the mother.  They could have felt their special circumstances put them above the law, but they obeyed in spirit, freedom, gratitude, humility, and love, and were rewarded with Simeon's and Anna's prophecies.  Often people who claim to love the Lord fail to obey him with their actions, but we show our love for God by keeping his commandments, which are not burdensome.
  • Passionist:  Today's readings remind us of the gift of Jesus' birth.  The 1st reading tells us to walk in the way of Christ through the commandments; Christ commanded his apostles, and us, to love God and love others.  The message says that walking in the light requires us to love our 'brother' (others).  In the gospel Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple and offer sacrifice, and Simeon prophesies:  “Lord, let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled:  I have seen the salvation you prepared, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people.”  “A light to reveal you . . .” reminds me to be a light that reveals God to others. How am I growing in faith?  Do I pray and reflect on the readings?  Do I listen to the homily?  Am I open to God's call?  I can’t be light if I don’t have light.
  •  "God's favor was on him":  Mary fulfills the rite of purification after childbirth, offering pigeons since they couldn't afford a lamb.  This rite, with circumcision, recalls that children are God's gifts.  Jesus was born in an ordinary home, reared in the fear and wisdom of God, obeyed his parents, and grew in wisdom and grace.  How do I listen to God's word, submit to God, and help the young grow in wisdom and maturity?
Simeon believed the Lord would return and renew his people.  The Spirit also revealed to him that the Messiah would also bring salvation to the Gentiles.  When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple, Simeon, recognizing the child as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, and inspired by the Spirit, prophesied Jesus would be "a revealing light to the Gentiles."  The Spirit reveals the Lord to those eager to receive him.
Jesus is the new temple.  God led his people through the wilderness, showing himself in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.  His glory came over the ark and the tabernacle.  When the first Jerusalem temple was built, God's glory rested there.  When the temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God's glory leave, but God promised to fill it with greater glory, a promise fulfilled when the King of Glory came to his temple.  Through Jesus' incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension we're made living temples of his Spirit....
Simeon prophesied to Mary about the child's destiny and her suffering. Mary was blessed to be the Christ Child's mother, but a sword pierced her as he died on the cross; she received a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow, but the sorrow didn't diminish her joy because of her faith and hope.  The Lord gives us joy to bear any sorrow or pain, and no one will take it.
The hope God places in us is the desire for his kingdom and everlasting life and happiness.  The Spirit gives hope that enables us to persevere.   What holds me back from trusting God unreservedly?....
Today's saints, from Universalis
  • Elijah and Elisha, a reflection on St. Thomas:  Prophets Elijah and Elisha have similar names, and some of their miracles are so similar that some scholars have argued they're the same person.  Today’s feast reminds us of another historical coincidence:  King Henry of England appoints learned Thomas, his close and trusted friend, to a high office where he is expected to be loyal and take the king’s part against others, even the Church.  Conscious of his unworthiness for the office, Thomas undergoes an interior conversion and resolves to follow God’s voice within him.  His upholding of truth and the Church’s rights leads to a conflict with the king, who feels betrayed.  Thomas is killed, eventually canonized.  (This applies to both Henry II and Thomas Becket, and Henry VIII and Thomas More.)
Dress legend
  • 'Dove' pin:  Spirit was upon Simeon (gospel)
  • 'Eyeball' pin:  Darkness has blinded the eyes of those who hate their brother (1st reading); “My eyes have seen the salvation you prepared in everyone's sight.” (gospel)
  • 'Olympics' pin:  Let the earth rejoice!  Tell his glory among the nations (psalm)
  • 'Sword' pin:  Mary, a sword will pierce you (gospel)
  • 'Street lamp' tie bar:  The true light is shining; love others = remain in the light (1st reading); "I've seen your salvation, a light to reveal you..." (gospel)
  • 'Peace sign' tie bar:  "Lord, let your servant go in peace" (gospel)
  • 'Mary' pin:  Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple (gospel)
  • 'Law scroll' pin:  Keep Jesus' commandments (1st reading)

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