December 21, 2018

Dec. 21

December 21, 2018:  Friday, 3rd week, Advent

See 19 connections with today?Legend below

Pope Francis to Roman Curia

Christmas fills us with joy and makes us certain that no sin will be greater than God’s mercy.  “The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  Don't act like an élite group who think they have God in their pocket.  Walk the path of penance and renewal.

The Church has been buffeted by winds and tempests.  Some, disheartened by news, have left, others have attacked her or expressed glee at seeing her hit, but others remain faithful.  Immigrants face poverty, violence, and brutality in their home countries and fear and prejudice in their host countries.  Many Christians face persecution but embrace death rather than deny Christ.

The Church has been committed to eliminating abuse.  Abusers are more afraid of being found out than of God or his judgment.  The sins and crimes of consecrated persons are further tainted by infidelity and shame; they disfigure the Church and undermine her credibility.  The Church will do all that's necessary to bring to justice whoever has committed such crimes.  In our February meeting we'll restate our resolve to pursue the path of purification and turn past mistakes into opportunities for eliminating the scourge of abuse.  Help the Church recognize real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation.  If you're an abuser, convert, hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.

The unfaithful, who betray their vocation, hide behind good intentions and stab others, or sow weeds, division, and bewilderment, resemble Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and are on a path to perdition.  We all must fight spiritual corruption.

There have been many joys this year:  the Bishops' Synod on young people, progress towards Curia reform, efforts towards clarity and transparency in Vatican finances, and a new decree on labor in the Vatican.  Remember the 19 recently beatified martyrs of Algeria, the many added to the Church in Baptism, those who dedicate their lives to service in consecrated life and priesthood, and the many who daily live their calling in fidelity, silence, holiness, and self-denial, that keep darkness from reigning.

Open your heart to Jesus Christ, the light of goodness that conquers evil.  Christmas gives us the certainty that God’s light will keep shining and the Church will emerge from tribulations more beautiful, purified, and radiant.

"No one has seen God":  Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent sermon

In Christmas we can bridge the gulf between our dwelling in time and God's dwelling in eternity.  Three walls stood between us and God:  nature (God is spirit, we flesh), sin, and death (Nicholas Cabasilas).  The Incarnation tore down the 1st, the Crucifixion the 2nd, the Resurrection the 3rd.  Christ, God-with-us, is the definitive place of encounter between the God and human person.

In The Mind’s Road to God, Bonaventure identified seven steps of the soul's ascent to know God:  Contemplation of God (1) in his traces in the universe, (2) in his traces in the visible world, (3) through his image impressed on the soul, (4) in the soul renewed by grace, (5) contemplation of the divine unity under its basic name:  Being, (6) contemplation of God in the Trinity under its name:  Goodness, and (7) the ecstasy in which rest is given to the mind and transports the affections to God.  He concludes that the definitive, infallible, and most satisfactory way is the person of Christ.  Christ is the Way, Gate, Ladder, vehicle, to go beyond the senses and self.   God “can be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel” (Pascal, Memorial).  Reason:  Christ is “Son of the living God.”  

"In many ways God spoke by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken by a Son...."  God now speaks in person; the Son “reflects God's glory and bears the of his nature.”  No longer are people in search of God; God descended to seek and dwell in us.  In Christ we can encounter and worship.  "If you love me, you'll keep my word, and my Father will love you, and we'll make our home with you.”

John the Evangelist established the truth that Christ is the supreme revealer of God and “place” where we may contact him; he he helps our pursuit of God be an experience of him, so we have both knowledge and “feeling” of him.

Let's review how Jesus presents himself as the definitive revealer of God:

“No one has seen God; the Son made him known.”  Recall the biblical tradition that no one can see God and live.  There's such a gulf between God's holiness and our unworthiness that we'd die seeing or hearing God, so Moses and the Seraphim veil their faces. Those who stay alive after seeing God are amazed.  God grants the favor to Moses and Elijah, the same two allowed at the Transfiguration.

“I and the Father are one.”  Jesus is not only the revealer of God but also God himself, revealer and revealed.  From this the Church will arrive at faith in the Trinity.  'Hen' ('one') is a neuter noun.  If Jesus had used 'eis' (masculine), one might think the Father and Son are one person, but since he said 'one' [thing], Church Fathers deduced that the Father and Son (and, later, Spirit) have one nature but are not one person.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”  Are all who don't know Christ excluded from salvation?  Christ has given his life for love of all human beings because all are his brothers and sisters, creatures of his Father.  His offer of salvation is universal.  “I will draw all men to myself.”  “There is no other name... by which we must be saved.”  Some can't accept that a historical event, like Christ's death and resurrection, could have changed the situation for the whole human race before God, so they substitute an impersonal universal principle, the idea of “Good.”   They should whether they believe in the mystery by which Christianity stands or falls:  the Incarnation of the Word and divinity of Christ.  If you admit this, it's no longer unreasonable that a particular act could have universal significance.  The greatest injustice in removing so many from this act is against humanity itself.  You can't affirm Christ is Savior of the world without recognizing the right for all people to benefit.

But is it realistic to believe in Christ's presence and influence in religions that existed before he came in which people still don't feel the need to accept his gospel?”  God's humility and hiddenness helps us answer.  God is humble in creating.  He does not put his label on everything; people have to discover God made them.

How long did it take, will it take, for people to recognize to whom they owed their existence and who created heaven and earth?   God is humble in creating and saving people.  Christ is more concerned that all be saved than that they know who their Savior is, though we must do our best to help them discover it.

We need also to be concerned about the salvation of those who have known Christ but live as though he never existed, forgetting their baptism, estranged from the Church and religious practices.  Scripture assures us “Anyone who fears God and does right is acceptable to him.”  

Speaking of the role of Christ toward people living outside the Church, Vatican II affirms that “The Holy Spirit... offers everyone the possibility of being associated with his paschal mystery” (GS 22).  Jesus said, "When the Spirit comes, he will guide you into all truth;... he will declare to you the things to come.  He will glorify me...."  Jesus reveals the Father in the Spirit because the Spirit is the Spirit of the Risen One, who continues and carries out Jesus' work.  Jesus added, “I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father.”   When will Jesus be able to speak plainly to his disciples about the Father if these are among his last words when here and would soon die?  Through the Spirit!  Gregory of Nyssa wrote that if we remove the Spirit from the Godhead, what remains is no longer the living God but a lifeless god.  Jesus explains why:  “It is the spirit that gives life.”   The Spirit gives life to the idea of God and our pursuit of him; sin-marked human reason isn't enough by itself.  The  believer who speaks about God needs to remember, “No one comprehends God's thoughts except God's Spirit.”  The Spirit is the “environment”  in which every authentic Christian theology is born and develops, the invisible space in which it's possible to perceive God's movement and in which God appears.  The living God "breathes," and the Spirit is his breath.  “In the Spirit” refers to the sphere in which, since Christ’s resurrection, one can contact and experience Christ.  Christ lives “in the Spirit.”

The arc between God and people can only be completed in the “magnetic field” the Spirit constitutes.  He creates in us the state of grace through which we discover God is real, to the point of having "our breath taken away."

We need to repeat to any person who looks for God elsewhere—just in the pages of books or through human reasoning—what the angel told the women: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”   A close relationship with God depends on the Spirit (Basil), on whether God is close to us or a stranger, whether we are sensitive or allergic to him.
So we must find a contact filled with reality, with the Spirit.  Let us not just renewed our theology of the spirit but also have a personal experience of him.  Millions have had this experience called “Baptism of the Spirit.”  Here's what one of the first Catholics who had that experience told a friend:  "Our faith came alive, our believing became a kind of knowing.  The supernatural world became more real.  Christ is a real person to us, Our Lord, active in our lives.  We read the New Testament as though it were literally true now.  Prayer and the sacraments have become our daily bread....  Love of Scripture and the Church I never thought possible, transformation of relationships, power of witness, have become part of our lives.  Life has become suffused with calm, confidence, joy, and peace."

Let us recite the Prologue of John to the glory of the Trinity, Jn 1:1-18, with hearts full of amazement and gratitude....

  • 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.”
  • Fr. Chidi Ekpendu homily video:   Mary knows Elizabeth needed help, shares what she has w/ her.  Share yourself, your presence, with those in need.
  • Creighton:  Today I hear God saying, “Trust me, take my hand, arise, and live”.  I rise, live, and feel happiness.  Joy already resides in us; it's our inheritance as God's children.  Why do we look for it elsewhere?  True joy often lays dormant and can be stolen if we're not vigilant.  When have we allowed our joy to be snatched from us?  The readings lead me to hope, leaving no room for me to hide in pain or darkness.  They call me to rise and journey in joy because I'm beloved.  Radiant light will cancel the darkness; joy, sadness.  The readings invite us to experience a new season; a new beginning, to come out of hiding into life.  All that sends us into hiding (pain, loss, loneliness, daily struggles) is temporary.  Joy is with us as long as we don’t let things steal it away.  Rejoice! God rejoices over you.  Wait for the birth of good news in your life.  Make room in the cradle of your heart for God's love, and live in joy.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "God jumping and singing":  The purpose of Christmas is for us to make God happy; it's not what we "get for Christmas," but what God "gets for Christmas."  We give God what he wants by giving him ourselves, our lives, our love, and by inviting others to do the same.  Give your life and love to him totally and receive the true Christmas Spirit: the Holy Spirit. Rejoice in and with the Spirit.
  • Passionist:  Today's readings are totally and exclusively assigned to women.  It's not surprising, since we're preparing to celebrate a birth, and men's roles, significant as they are, don't compare to women's. In the Song of Songs reading a woman is waiting for the love of her life as he approaches.  Knowing he's close, she's excited with expectation, as a woman on the verge of childbirth is.  The gospel focuses on Jesus' birth by narrating the moment when cousins Mary and Elizabeth, both pregnant in remarkable ways, meet and share their experience of being on the verge of childbirth.  For Jews, childbirth was especially momentous because it tied into the Jewish expectation of the Messiah.  Pray for that all pregnant women deliver and this winter not be harsh on the poor, and thank God for all families welcoming 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
  • 'Deer' tie:  My lover is like a... young stag (1st reading)
  • 'Roses' pin:  The flowers appear on the earth... (1st reading)
  • '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)
  • 'Musical notes with "joy"' pin:  The song of the dove is heard (1st reading); sing joyfully, Israel!  the Lord will sing joyfully because of you (alt. 1st reading); sing to the Lord (psalm); When your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy (gospel)
  • 'Alps' tie pin:  My lover comes springing across the mountains (1st reading); Mary traveled to the hill country (gospel)
  • 'Dove' pin:  "Arise, my beloved, my dove,... and come!" (1st reading); Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (gospel)
  • 'Heart' pin:  Exult with all your heart (alt. 1st reading); the design of the Lord's heart stands forever; our hearts rejoice (psalm)
  • 'Clocks' suspenders:  Our soul waits for the Lord (psalm), countdown to Christmas
  • 'Annunciation/Magnificat' pin:  Mary visits Elizabeth (gospel)
  • Purple shirt:  Advent season
  • 'No-"L"' button:  Christmas novena AKA Advent II/'High Advent' (subseason)

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