December 21, 2019

Dec. 21

December 21, 2019:  Saturday, 3rd week, Advent

See 19 connections with today?
Legend below

Pope Francis

To Roman Curia:  The Curia doesn't change to “follow fashions”; the Church lives development and growth from God's perspective.  When Cardinal Newman spoke of change, he meant conversion.  We're living both in a time of changes and in a change of times.  It's healthy to face today's challenges with discernment and courage rather than let inertia seduce us or just put on new clothes but stay the way we were.  The reform of the Curia is intended to enhance the good that has been done in the Curia's history.  Memory is dynamic; appealing to it means recalling the life and vitality of a path in continuous development.

Many changes have already been made:  creation of the 3rd Section of the Secretariat of State, changes in relations between the Curia and particular Churches, and in the structure of some dicasteries.  My predecessors noted how the world is no longer as conscious of the Gospel, and that required restructuring departments and creating new ones.  The Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Evangelization of Peoples were established when it was easier to distinguish between a Christian world and a world yet to be evangelized, but that situation no longer exists.  People who haven't yet heard the Gospel live everywhere.  We need other paradigms to help us reposition our thinking and attitudes:  we're no longer in Christian times!

The impetus for renewed proclamation of the Gospel inspired the restructuring of departments.  The Dicastery for Communication harmonized groups to produce better service in a digitized culture that needs an adequate response from the Apostolic See.  We need to move from working in watertight compartments to working intrinsically connected, in synergy.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was created to integrate and unify the work of the Councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Health Care Workers.  The Church must remind everyone of all human beings discarded by society, and that for God no one is a ‘foreigner’ or ‘excluded.’  We're called to awaken the indifferent to consider all humanity as children of one Father.

There's always the temptation to turn back to the past because it's more reassuring and less confrontational, but we must not fear change, be rigid, and turn the common good into a minefield of incomprehension and hatred.  Rigidity and imbalance feed each other in a vicious circle.  "The Church is 2oo years behind the times.  Why doesn’t it shake itself up?...  Fear instead of courage?...  Faith, trust, courage....  Only love overcomes weariness" (Cardinal Martini). 

To Vatican employees:  I'm inspired by my recent visit to Thailand, where people are always smiling.  Smiles express love and affection.  A newborn's smile prompts us to smile back; it's powerful because it's new, pure, and awakens in us an intimate nostalgia for childhood.

Jesus is God's smile; he came to reveal our Father's love and goodness, and the first way he did was to smile at his parents, like every newborn.  We relive this when we contemplate the Christ Child in the manger.  We feel God smiling at us, at the poor, at all who await salvation, who hope for a more fraternal world with no war and violence, where all can live in dignity as God's children.

We need to let the Child Jesus' smile renew us.  May his disarming goodness purify us from the waste that encrusts our hearts, preventing us from giving our best.  The quality of work goes hand in hand with the quality of relationships.

When it's hard to smile, we need God's smile; only he can help us.  When things are going well, we may forget about those who are struggling; then we need God's smile to strip us of false security and bring us back to the taste for simplicity.  Like Mary and Joseph, let us welcome him and bring others a humble, simple smile, because a smile is like a caress.

  • 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.”
  • Creighton:  I don’t often think of God in terms of desire; I'm more comfortable with agape, the self-giving love we hear about in the Christmas readings.  But the 1st reading reminds us that God desires to be united with us.  God is closer to us than our jugular vein (Quran  50:16). And in the Incarnation, God partakes in our flesh in the human person of Jesus. This should be a cause for great joy, the kind that inspires Elizabeth and her unborn baby to leap and shout.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Salutations and visitations":  At the beginning of Mary's pregnancy, she visited Elizabeth. Both Elizabeth and John responded to her visit and Jesus' presence with praise in the Holy Spirit.  But at the end of Mary's pregnancy, when she and Joseph visited an inn to find a place to have their Baby, the innkeeper responded with rejection; his inn and heart had no room.  The Lord continues to visit us, accepted by some, rejected by others.  If we accept him like Elizabeth and John did, we can like Mary carry and give him to the world.
  • Fr. Chidi Ekpendu homily video:   Mary knows Elizabeth needed help, shares what she has w/ her.  Share yourself, your presence, with those in need.
  • Passionist:  The Song of Songs is seen as an allegory of God’s love for his people.  In today's 1st reading, the groom, representing God, invites the beloved to come and live with him in happiness.  In the alternate reading, the people are told to rejoice for the Lord is in their midst and has protected them from their enemies.  In the gospel, Elizabeth and her unborn son rejoice because Mary is carrying the Lord.  The readings remind us that God is renewing us with affirming love.  God is glad because of you!   The first two readings are about living in union with God and being restored in his life and love.  Imagine God singing joyfully because of you!  Like Jerusalem, we too have fallen short, but God, the Great Restorer, yearns to be one with us....
  •  "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)
  • 'Clock' pin:  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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