Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

OPENING PRAYER

Jesus Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World, For the many that have followed you today through the darkness of temptation, doubt, or pain, you are the promise of an eternal dawn. We give thanks for all that has been given to us through you, and we ask for the grace to be your faithful disciples. May we praise you all the days of our lives. Amen

COLLECT

Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,

that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,

they may be defended always by your protection.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:

Share your bread with the hungry,

shelter the oppressed and the homeless;

clothe the naked when you see them,

and do not turn your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your wound shall quickly be healed;

your vindication shall go before you,

and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,

you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

If you remove from your midst

oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;

if you bestow your bread on the hungry

and satisfy the afflicted;

then light shall rise for you in the darkness,

and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.1 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.2 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:3

.4 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.5 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?6

1 Cf. Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3.

2 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

3 Cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4.

4 Lk 3:11.

5 Lk 11:41.

6 Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17.

APPLICATION

Charity, true love of neighbor which produces good deeds of kindness, is equated with love of God, by Christ himself (Mt. 22:39), and is the proof of one’s true love for God, according to St. John (1 Jn. 4: 20). All our protestations that we love God, and all our devotions and prayers are not only useless, but are lies to God, if we hate one of our neighbors or refuse to help a needy one, when we are able to do so. This is a truth that should make us all stop and think. We may wonder sometimes, if God has forgotten us when all the prayers something we need so badly, are left unanswered. Perhaps it’s for because we have been liars to God’s face, or have professed that we loved him and trusted in his goodness while we hated one his children–our neighbor.

It is true, there are so many calls on our charity today. So many are in dire need at home an abroad, that we can grow tired of sharing our bread or our clothes. But God does not expect, or demand of us, to help everybody, but only as many as we can. However, the obligation of forgiving a neighbor who has offended us, or of ridding ourselves of any racial, color or religious bias, which we hold , costs us only a wee bit of personal pride. Are we so important that nobody should dare ever offend us, or rather do we act as if an offense were meant? Nearly always a friendly word from the one who was offended, or who thought that he was offended, will put the record straight and mutual charity will be restored. Are we so superior because of our color, or our creed, that we can behave insultingly, that is uncharitably, towards a neighbor who hasn’t got these same gifts that we have the good fortune to possess?

Charity begins at home, but it must not end there. Be peaceful, forgiving, cheerful, helpful in the home and you will find how quickly the other members of the family will react and begin to imitate you. Outside of the home our nearest neighbors must be the first to feel the warmth of our charity. Without prying into their private affairs, which is the opposite of charity, we can easily learn, from casual conversation, if any of them are in need of some of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy.

Remember this: he who loves his neighbor with a Christian love, which means that he is always ready to help any neighbor in need, is thereby proving his true love for God. Should the time come when he himself should be in need of help, he is assured of God’s help, and his neighbors will not be found wanting either.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious and merciful and just.

Well for the man who is gracious and lends,

who conducts his affairs with justice.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

He shall never be moved;

the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.

An evil report he shall not fear;

his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear.

Lavishly he gives to the poor;

His justice shall endure forever;

his horn shall be exalted in glory.

The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

READING II

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1 Cor 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,

proclaiming the mystery of God,

I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you

except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,

and my message and my proclamation

were not with persuasive words of wisdom,

but with a demonstration of Spirit and power,

so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom

but on the power of God.

APPLICATION

The movie, “The Song of Bernadette,” which gives the story of Lourdes and its miracles, begins with the following, words which are displayed across the screen: “For him who does not believe in God no explanation is possible; for him who believes in God no explanation is necessary.” These words very aptly describe the lesson to be drawn from today’s reading from St. Paul’s first letter to his Corinthian converts. These had not become Christians, they had not changed their mode of life and their outlook on life, because of any human or earthly influence.

Their conversion was due, exclusively, to the divine power which convinced them that there was a God–a God of power and majesty, but especially a God of love, who so loved mankind that he sent his divine Son on earth to bring all men to heaven. The facts of the Incamation, of Christ’s life, death and resurrection were told to them by Paul, but the gift of faith which enabled them to accept these facts as objective reality and truth was given them by God. Worldly wisdom had no part in getting the Corinthians to give up their pagan life of easy morality and loose living, to take on themselves the restrictions and obligations of the Christian faith. Today, more perhaps than in any previous age in the Church’s history, there are Christians who are looking for human reasons, that they think will justify them in giving up the restrictions and obligations of the faith of Christ, to return to the freedom and self-indulgence of neo-paganism.

Human reasoning alone cannot give one an adequate and sufficient knowledge of God, but it does give us a basis on which God’s gift of faith can solidly rest. But there no human logic, no human reasoning. Which can disprove the existence of God, or the fact that he has revealed to us sufficient knowledge of himself, to enable us to reach the end he has planned for us.

It was “the power of God,” and the merciful kindness of God, that brought the gift of faith to the Corinthians. Paul was but the weak, fragile vessel in which in which that gift came to them. It was the same power, and the same merciful goodness of God, which also brought the gift of faith to each one of us through fragile and weak, human vessels. We freely and gladly accepted it, when we came to the age when we were able to appreciate its value, not only for the after-life, but also for our years on earth. Our faith has been called, by the irreverent, the “opium of the people.” If peace of mind, consolation in sorrow, a knowledge of whither we are going, an understanding of the meaning of suffering, as well as the explanation of true joy, can be called an “opium,” then the more of that opium which this world gets the more human, as well as the more divine, it will become.

May God make his gift of faith grow stronger in each one of us, so that we may learn daily more and more about the infinite love God has for us; about the humiliations the Son of God suffered in his Incarnation for our sakes, and about the great eternal future the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have prepared for us.

GOSPEL

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MT 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:

“You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything

but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;

it is set on a lampstand,

where it gives light to all in the house.

Just so, your light must shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds

and glorify your heavenly Father.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020517.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 326 The Scriptural expression “heaven and earth” means all that exists, creation in its entirety. It also indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other: “the earth” is the world of men, while “heaven” or “the heavens” can designate both the firmament and God’s own “place” – “our Father in heaven” and consequently the “heaven” too which is eschatological glory. Finally, “heaven” refers to the saints and the “place” of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround God.1

CCC 782 The People of God is marked by characteristics that clearly distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history:

– It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”2

– One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,”3 that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

– This People has for its Head Jesus the Christ (the anointed, the Messiah). Because the same anointing, the Holy Spirit, flows from the head into the body, this is “the messianic people.”

– “The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple.”

– “Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.”4 This is the “new” law of the Holy Spirit.5

– Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world.6 This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”

-Its destiny, finally, “is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.”7

CCC 1243 The white garment symbolizes that the person baptized has “put on Christ,”8 has risen with Christ. The candle, lit from the Easter candle, signifies that Christ has enlightened the neophyte. In him the baptized are “the light of the world.”9

The newly baptized is now, in the only Son, a child of God entitled to say the prayer of the children of God: “Our Father.”

CCC 2821 This petition is taken up and granted in the prayer of Jesus which is present and effective in the Eucharist; it bears its fruit in new life in keeping with the Beatitudes.10

1 Pss 115:16; 19:2; Mt 5:16.

2 1 Pet 2:9.

3 Jn 3:3-5.

4 Cf. Jn 13 34

5 Rom 8:2; Gal 5:25.

6 Cf. Mt 5:13-16.

7 LG 9 # 2.

8 Gal 3:27.

9 Mt 5:14; cf. Phil 2:15.

10 Cf. Jn 17:17-20; Mt 5:13-16; 6:24; 7:12-13.

APPLICATION

No less an authority than Christ himself calls his true followers the “salt of the earth.” and the “light of the world.” These are titles of honor, surely, and of the greatest distinction. Christ is putting his true follower on almost a level with himself. He was the light of the world; he was the salt of the earth. He it was who gave men the knowledge of the true nature of God, as shown by the Incarnation. He it was who gave this life its flavor, who gave this life its meaning, its preservation. By his death and resurrection he took away the sting of death, and removed its eternal corruption, by the guarantee and promise of a resurrection to an eternal life.

This very Christian knows, and this knowledge every Christian helps to bring to those who are ignorant of it, if he lives his life daily and sincerely. The Christian who does this, is really another Christ; he is continuing his work of salvation during his years on earth. He is the salt, of the earth and the light of the world. How many of us, can truly say that these honorable titles, which Christ gives to his followers, are given to us?

In true humility, we can all say that we are far from worthy of any such honorable titles. Yet in all sincerity too, many if not the majority among us, are doing their little bit of Christ’s work, in cultivating their own small comer of his vineyard. The parents who teach the Christian way of life to their children by word, and especially by example, are spreading the Christian faith. The workmen, whether in office or factory, who show that they are Christians by their honesty, charity for their fellowmen, their respect for God, and the things of God, in their speech, are spreading their Christian faith. All those who show moderation in their personal expenditures, and donate some of their savings to help their brothers, their fellow men who are in need, these are true disciples of Christ and are cooperating with him in bringing God’s children back to their Father who is in heaven.

Unlike the salt that has lost its flavor, and the light that is kept under the bushel, the Christian who has thus behaved can change his attitude, provided he is aided by God’s grace which is never refused. He can become once more what he ought to be–a life-preserver for his neighbor.

Life on earth is short. The demands of our Christian life may not always be easy, but we know that if we live up to them, we are other Christs. We are continuing his great work by our own good example to our neighbor, and we are giving glory to God, and are earning for ourselves the eternal light of heaven.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Humans are Dependent

Humans are dependent. They cannot live except from others and by trust. But there is nothing degrading about dependence when it takes the form of love, for then it is no longer dependence, the diminishing of self through competition with others. Dependence in the form of love precisely constitutes the self as self and sets it free, because love essentially takes the form of saying, “I want you to be.” It is creativity, the only creative power, which can bring forth the other as other without envy or loss of self. Humans are dependent – that is the primary truth about them. And because it is, only love can redeem them, for only love transforms dependence into freedom. Thus human beings will only succeed in destroying their own redemption, destroying themselves, if they eliminate love “to be on the safe side.” For humans, the crucified God is the visible certainty that creation is already an expression of love: we exist on the foundation of love. It is therefore a constitutive part of Christian faith to accept mystery as the center of reality, that is to say, to accept love, creation as love, and to make that love the foundation of one’s life.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Act of Love

O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Posted in Catholic

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – A

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      “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord’

OPENING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, on this Feast of Candlemas, I recall the gift Mary and Joseph gave to the world by offering baby Jesus to You in the temple. I offer up to You all the children in my family. I place them into Your perfect will and I turn their futures over to You. Help me to let go of my ideas of what they should do with their lives, and show me how to guide them into the purposes for which You created them. Help me to learn from the example of the Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced by the sword of her Son’s pain, how to always trust in Your plans. Holy Family, pray for us.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

we humbly implore your majesty

that, just as your Only Begotten Son

was presented on this day in the Temple

in the substance of our flesh,

so, by your grace,

we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Mal 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:

Lo, I am sending my messenger

to prepare the way before me;

And suddenly there will come to the temple

the LORD whom you seek,

And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.

Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming?

And who can stand when he appears?

For he is like the refiner’s fire,

or like the fuller’s lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver,

and he will purify the sons of Levi,

Refining them like gold or like silver

that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.

Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem

will please the LORD,

as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

 APPLICATION

Malachi’s anticipation of the moment God’s “messenger” comes to the Temple is stark. The arrival will come “suddenly” and his mission will be frightening. He will come with “refiner’s fire” and “fuller’s lye” to refine and purify. Why this fearsome appearance? Because, while the people had returned from exile and were rebuilding their devastated land and Temple, their interior reconstruction had lagged. Their worship life was poor and their priests were woefully negligent (1: 12-13; 2:8). The chosen people were in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. No wonder Malachi (his name means “my messenger”) announced such a stark message about the coming of God’s messenger – who would bring about spiritual purification and renewal. “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.”

Malachi came speaking a harsh message and he was not well received (3: 12-14). Nevertheless, he persisted in announcing God’s Word, as did the prophets before him. This rough-sounding message was necessary, if the people were to wake up from their indifference to God’s ways. In the middle of the night it is not a gentle summer breeze that wakes us from a deep sleep, but thunder and lighting – enter the prophet Malachi, who sees the people in a spiritual daze and tries to awaken them with verbal fireworks and thunder.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It doesn’t seem like a very gracious way to end the often eloquent message to the Jewish people. When I was a teenager and would oversleep, my mother would come into my room, shake my feet and call my name, in a voice louder than usual, to wake me for school. I would wake startled – a rough way to begin the day – but I wasn’t late for school! Malachi’s voice was a shout and a warning to wake Israel from its spiritual torpor. The bottom line – his harsh language was a grace, reflecting God’s persistent attempts to call us back into God’s loving embrace.

Malachi prepares the people for the messenger’s abrupt arrival in the Temple to begin the work of “refining and purifying.” His message does get us on the tip-toe of expectation, doesn’t it? It might also get us nervous for what will happen when the messenger arrives. We ask with Malachi, “Who will endure the day of his coming…?”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

READING II

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HEB 2: 14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,

Jesus likewise shared in them,

that through death he might destroy the one

who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,

and free those who through fear of death

had been subject to slavery all their life.

Surely he did not help angels

but rather the descendants of Abraham;

therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters

in every way,

that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God

to expiate the sins of the people.

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,

he is able to help those who are being tested.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.1 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action2 and morals.

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”3 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.4 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”5 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.6

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”7 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”8 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”9

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”10

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”11 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.12 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.13 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.14

CCC 1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.15 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.16 Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”17

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.18 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.19 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14.

2 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25.

3 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

4 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

5 Jn 10:18.

6 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

7 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.

8 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.

9 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.

10 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

11 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

12 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

13 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

14 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

15 Cf. Heb 2:15.

16 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.

17 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.

18 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.

19 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

APPLICATION

One of the prime teachings in the letter to the Hebrews is of Christ’s high priesthood. This teaching is coupled with the message about Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice on our behalf. We can see why this selection from Hebrews was chosen for the feast we are celebrating – Jesus’ presentation in the Temple by his parents. Jesus was not born into the priestly tribe of Levi, but he is still called a priest. Hebrews teaches that he is both the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the priest who offered himself as that sacrifice. Christ, our priest has saved us by his death, resurrections and exaltation. Christ has made forgiveness possible and given us both access to God and hope for eternal life.

On this feast Hebrews speaks to why Christ became human. From the perspective of this letter, the devil has power over death. To free us from that power and our fear of death, Christ became one of us. As a human he became our “merciful and faithful high priest,” as well as the sacrifice “to expiate the sins of the people.” Today, our high priest has entered the Temple and the two elderly prophets, who recognize him, announce his arrival and the promise he holds out for us.

GOSPEL

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LK2: 22-32

When the days were completed for their purification

according to the law of Moses,

Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem

to present him to the Lord,

just as it is written in the law of the Lord,

Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,

and to offer the sacrifice of

a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,

in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.

This man was righteous and devout,

awaiting the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

that he should not see death

before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple;

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus

to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,

he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020214.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal1 when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God’s word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.

CCC 529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.2 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior-the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the “light to the nations” and the “glory of Israel”, but also “a sign that is spoken against”. The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples”.

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,3 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,4 than for the ordinary People of God.5 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;6 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.7 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,8 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),9 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.10

CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.11 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.12 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.13 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.14

CCC 587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel’s religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.15

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.16 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.17 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,18 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”19 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.20 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.21

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.22

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,23 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.24 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”25 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.26 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.27 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.28 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:29 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”30 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”31

We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”32 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”33 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Lk 2:35.

2 Cf. Lk 2:22-39; EX 13:2, 12-13.

3 Lk 2:34.

4 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

5 Jn 7:48-49.

6 Cf Lk 13:31.

7 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

8 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

9 Cf. Mt 6:18.

10 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

11 Lk 2:22-39.

12 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

13 Cf. Lk 2 41.

14 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.

15 Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22.

16 1 Tim 2:5.

17 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

18 Mt 16:24.

19 I Pt 2:21.

20 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

21 Cf. Lk 2:35.

22 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

23 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

24 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

25 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

26 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

27 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

28 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

29 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

30 Isa 43:19.

31 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Lk 2:25, 38.

32 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

33 Phil 2:7.

APPLICATION

Luke describes the arrival to the Temple of the one sent by God. Surprise! God’s messenger is a baby! Just when we expect God to come smashing and overturning, scattering and frightening, for justifiable reasons, God surprises us. Which summarizes the whole Bible, doesn’t it? We expect what we deserve and God comes to our rescue with surprising forgiveness and help.

Who will recognize this long-anticipated arrival? Especially since the one who comes doesn’t fit the previous descriptions and expectations? Not the priests, nor those on the seats of power – but two long-praying and alert seniors. Since our society worships at the altar of youth and looks over the heads of our seniors – here’s a chance, in the spirit of Anna and Simeon, to praise the faithful, courageous and wise citizens in our congregations.

How many years have they come to church? How often have they taught our young; volunteered for parish celebrations; prepared food for those grieving after a funeral; counted the collection on Monday mornings and generously donated to building campaigns and charitable events? I could go on for pages. Anna and Simeon’s prophetic spirits are still with us, opening our ears and eyes to God’s surprising epiphanies among us.

Who were Simeon and Anna? Where did they come from and what theological training did they have for their important roles? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t belong to the ranks of the Temple officials. They were faithful children of Israel who kept their eyes fixed on God and did not lost sight of God’s gracious action on Israel’s behalf. Their training came from God. Luke tells us that Simeon was led by the Spirit; Anna “never left the Temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Both represent the best of Israel, both had “advanced degrees” in prayer and vigilance and hope. They suggest to us that recognizing God’s ways comes through fidelity and prayerful vigilance. Their devotion to God made them available and open to God’s revelation.

Simeon correctly predicts that some will follow Christ and others will turn against him. This is the story of the rest of Luke’s gospel. The choice to follow or reject Jesus’ way is ours to make. The rejection of Mary’s son would be a sword to pierce her heart.

Anna is another example of God’s care for the least. She is a widow and so dependent on family and others for her well being; she is a woman in a male-oriented society and she is aged. Her vulnerabilities are succinctly spelled out in Luke’s description of her. But so is her greatness noted. She persists in her trust of God and is the first to proclaim God’s redemption. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

In a year when our church is reminding each of us of our role as evangelists, Anna might be called “the patron saint of evangelists.” What is our role as evangelists? Anna shows us: we are to be persistent in prayer, despite the difficulties, trusting in God’s goodness and, when the opportunity arises, speak a word of enlightenment, just as Anna did.

Applications written by Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P. and used with permission from first impressions.com.

BENEDICTUS

God Loved Us First

“God loved you first!” … One should take this sentence as literally as can be, and I try to do that. For it is truly the great power in our lives and the consolation that we need. And it’s not seldom that we need it. He loved me first, before I myself could love at all. It was only because he knew me and loved me that I was made. So I was not thrown into the world by some operation of chance, as Heidegger says, and now have to do my best to swim around in this ocean of life, but I am preceded by a perception of me, an idea and a love of me. They are present in the ground of my being. What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows Someone is waiting for me, Someone wants me, and needs me. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 24

A Psalm of David.

The earth and all its fullness belong to the Lord: the whole world and all that dwells in it.

For he has founded it upon the seas, and he has prepared it upon the rivers.

Who will ascend to the mountain of the Lord? And who will stand in his holy place?

The innocent of hands and the clean of heart, who has not received his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor.

He will receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Savior.

This is the generation that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord who is strong and powerful; the Lord powerful in battle.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of virtue. He himself is the King of Glory.

 

Posted in Catholic

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

Father,

I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me

and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:

I offer it to you

with all the love of my heart,

for I love you, Lord,

and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands

without reserve,

and with boundless confidence,

for you are my Father.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

direct our actions according to your good pleasure,

that in the name of your beloved Son

we may abound in good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 8:23-9:3

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun

and the land of Naphtali;

but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,

the land west of the Jordan,

the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:

for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom

a light has shone.

You have brought them abundant joy

and great rejoicing,

as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,

as people make merry when dividing spoils.

For the yoke that burdened them,

the pole on their shoulder,

and the rod of their taskmaster

you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”1 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.2

1 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.

2 Isa 11:1-2.

APPLICATION

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Before the coming of Christ 98 per cent of the human race lived in the darkness and hopelessness of paganism. They knew nothing of the good God who made them; they knew nothing of their real purpose in this life, and did not know that there was a future life to look forward to. The two percent, or less, of Jews had a knowledge of the true God. But it was a limited knowledge and their service of him was motivated by fear rather than by love. Their belief in a future, endless life was weak in the best of them, and was not accepted at all by many.

The Incarnation has changed all that. The darkness of paganism, and ignorance of the true nature of the God who created us, has been banished forever by the coming of the Son of God among us as man. From it we have learned not only that God loves us, and that he is interested in every one of us, but that he loves us with an infinite, unlimited love, and wants each one of us to share in his own eternal kingdom of happiness forever. For this reason he has raised us up to adopted sonship, through the Incarnation in which his real Son took on himself our lowly created nature and became our brother.

This was God’s plan for mankind for all eternity. Sin had entered the world of men in the meantime. Man became so proud of the gifts he possessed, that he forgot the giver of those gifts, and not only refused to thank his benefactor, but turned against him and made for himself false gods. This, however, did not change God’s plan nor his infinite love for man. Christ, the son of God in our human nature, was the representative of all men. He gave perfect obedience to his heavenly Father in the name of us all. Because he was God, as well as man, he made a perfect atonement for the sins of all men, of all time. No mere human being could ever have done this.

We, Christians today, are walking in the full light of the knowledge of God’s infinite love for us, of God’s eternal plan for our unending happiness, of the almost incredible mystery of that divine love for us sinners, which was shown in the Incarnation. If an earthly king should leave his palace, and go among his peasants, and dress and live like one of them, in order to educate them and clothe them in royal robes, and then bring them to his palace to live with him as his adopted children, what an amazing act of benevolence and love this would be. Yet, the Creator of all things, the King of the universe, did this and more for us.

Does anyone among us really appreciate what God has done for him? Does he realize what the privilege of being a Christian means? Does he ever thank God sufficiently for the benefits he has conferred on him? We have all seen the great light which expelled all darkness. We are living under its heavenly illumination. But are we all benefiting from that light as we should? Will it lead us to the eternal, everlasting light–the purpose for which it was given to us?

This is a question each one of us must ask himself today, and the future fate of every one of us will depend on the answer we can honestly give to this question.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD

and contemplate his temple.

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD with courage;

be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

The Lord is my light and my salvation.

READING II

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1 COR 1:10-13, 17

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

that all of you agree in what you say,

and that there be no divisions among you,

but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,

by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.

I mean that each of you is saying,

“I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,”

or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Is Christ divided?

Was Paul crucified for you?

Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,

and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,

so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 489 Throughout the Old Covenant the mission of many holy women prepared for that of Mary. At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one, as well as the promise that she will be the mother of all the living.1 By virtue of this promise, Sarah conceives a son in spite of her old age.2 Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women.3 Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him. After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established.”4

1 Cf. Gen 3:15, 20.

2 Cf. Gen 18:10-14; 21:1-2.

3 Cf. I Cor 1:17; I Sam 1.

4 LG 55.

APPLICATION

Human nature has changed little through all the centuries. When it has, it has often been a change for the worse not for the better. In today’s lesson, we are a bit shocked to hear that the first generation of Christians were beginning to form factions and divisions in the church of Corinth. Three years had barely passed since they had dedicated their lives to Christ, their one ambition and desire being to follow Christ on the road to heaven. Now, already, personal pride was entering in. Some were looking down on others, because it was the great Paul who instructed and converted them. The others resisted this, and claimed a greater superiority, because they had a more eloquent teacher, Apollos of Alexandria, while others, again, began to despise both of these parties, because they were instructed by the head of the Apostles, the Rock, Peter.

How silly it may seem to us! What does it matter who taught them, if they have learned the truth about Christ and God’s great love, for them? To St. Paul it did not seem silly, but very dangerous, because it showed that human pride, the basic sin, and the first sin of human nature, was beginning to revive once more among them.

This letter of St. Paul, recalling to their minds who their true master and teacher was, very likely put an end to this trouble in Corinth, but it did not banish foolish pride from among men, nor worse still from among Christians who profess to be followers of the humble Christ.

Do we need examples to show the dreadful damage that pride has inflicted on the Church of Christ? The long-standing divisions and separated sects in the Church–a scandal to the followers of Christ and an impediment to the conversion of unbelievers–are the direct result of the actions of proud men. It is not necessary here to apportion blame–Paul did not when reproving the divisions in Corinth–but what is necessary is that all Christians should take to heart Paul’s reminder that it was Christ who died for us all and that Christ is not and must not be divided.

Thank God, and thanks to the saintly Pope John, Christians are today taking active steps to reunite the Church of Christ once more, to bring together once again the separated members of Christ’s mystical body. The Roman soldiers nailed his human body to the cross. We, his professed lovers and followers, have torn his mystical body apart. We have been more cruel to him than the ignorant pagan soldiers.

In this essential and urgent work of reunion each one of us, even the humblest and least educated, can play an important part. First, by fervent prayer that God will give all Christians, ourselves included, the grace to come together in true love of God, and true love of our Christian neighbor, no matter what his interpretation or even misrepresentation of Christ’s teaching may have hitherto been. Secondly, by showing in our daily actions that we recognize all men, not alone Christians, as our brothers. We have all been raised to sonship with God, we have all been redeemed by Christ. We must, if we love God and appreciate what God has done for the human race, want all men to avail themselves of this marvelous supernatural gift that he has intended for them.

The most effective and convincing way, in which we can prove our true concern for the eternal welfare of all our fellowman, is by living a true Christian life ourselves. If we have burning within us the fire of God’s love, its heat will spread and warm the hearts and minds of all those with whom we come in contact.

The leaders and theologians of all the Christian bodies will have their very important part to play in this sincere attempt at reunifying the Church of Christ. But unless we, ordinary Christians, bring down the fire of God’s love on earth, by our prayers and good works, their task will be ever so difficult, if not nearly impossible. We’ll begin to put our own Christian faith into daily and hourly practice and start to storm heaven for the success of this most necessary endeavor. God will not be deaf to the requests in word and deed that come from his humble servants.

GOSPEL

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MT 4:12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,

he withdrew to Galilee.

He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,

in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,

that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet

might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles,

the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,

on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death

light has arisen.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,

casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

He said to them,

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

At once they left their nets and followed him.

He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,

James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.

He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father

and followed him.

He went around all of Galilee,

teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,

and curing every disease and illness among the people.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 878 Finally, it belongs to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry that it have a personal character. Although Christ’s ministers act in communion with one another, they also always act in a personal way. Each one is called personally: “You, follow me”1 in order to be a personal witness within the common mission, to bear personal responsibility before him who gives the mission, acting “in his person” and for other persons: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ..”; “I absolve you. ..”

CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

– the coming of the Kingdom of God;2 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”3

– entering into the joy of the Lord;4

– entering into God’s rest:5

There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?6

CCC 1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”7 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”8

1 Jn 21:22; Cf. Mt 4:19. 21; Jn 1:4.

2 Cf. Mt 4:17.

3 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.

4 Mt 25:21-23.

5 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.

6 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.

7 Mt 4:17.

8 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

APPLICATION

The true freedom, and the true light which Christ brought to Galilee nearly 2,000 years ago, were brought on earth for us too. The Christian faith, and the Christian knowledge of God’s love for us and his infinite interest in our real welfare, are his gift to us and to all men of goodwill, who will accept it. Thanks be to God for this marvelous gift of faith, which frees us from the slavery of paganism and sin, and lights the road to heaven for us, amidst the darkness and drudgery of this life.

The lot of the insensitive tree in the forest, and of the dumb beast of the field, would be far and away a better one than the lot of rational man, who knew neither God nor any plan that God had for him. Man with his superior gifts, which raise him above all the other earthly creatures, can experience and enjoy happiness and well-being. The joy of living, the gift of life, is the greatest source and the basis of all his other earthly joys. His short life on earth may be frequently interspersed with troubles and trials, aches and pains, yet to stay alive is so innate a desire, and so strong a determination, that the common opinion of men is that it is only a mentally deranged person who can commit suicide.

But there is a shadow, the shadow of death, over the very greatest of our earthly pleasures. Through our gift of intellect, and the experience of our race, we all know that life on this earth has to end, and no matter how many more years we may think we still have left to us, death will be too soon, far too soon, when it comes. The neo-pagan (the real pagans, who have not heard of the true God, have some god or gods in whom they hope and trust) will do all in his power to forget this dreadful thought of death, but he is reminded of it everyday of his earthly life. To live with this thought that all he shall be in eighty years’ time is a bucket of lifeless and useless dust, must be an anticipation of the hell he may also have to face after his death.

We love life, we too want to live on, we too know that this cannot be on this earth, but thanks to the merciful revelation given us in our faith, we know that the infinite love of God has prepared a future life for us. We know that Christ, by his life and death as man among us, has made us adopted sons of God. We know we have an eternal life awaiting us, when we depart from this life, and that for the Christian who did his best to be a true follower and disciple of Christ, death is not the end but the beginning of our real life. The grave is not our goal forever, but the key which opens the door to eternal life and eternal happiness for us.

With this divine knowledge revealed to us by and through Christ, everything falls into place in our earthly sojourn. We have our joys and our sorrows, our births and our burials, but we know, with the certainty of God’s word, that these are but sign-posts that mark our stages toward, and direct our steps to, our eternal home. We are superior to the tree of the forest therefore, and to the beast of the field, not only because of our earthly gifts of intelligence and will, but because we know that our end on earth will not be like theirs. It will be, instead, the great awakening to a joy and happiness of which, at present, we can only form a very limited and vague idea. We Christians have indeed seen a great, a heaven-sent light.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Conversion and Obedience

Faith requires conversion and that conversion is an act of obedience toward a reality which precedes me and which does not originate from me. Moreover, this obedience continues, inasmuch as knowledge never transforms this reality into a constituent element of my own thought, but rather the converse is true; it is I who make myself over to it, while it always remains above me. For Christians, this prior reality is not an “it” but a “he” or, even better, a “you.” It is Christ, the Word made flesh. He is the new beginning of our thought. He is the new “I” which bursts open the limits of subjectivity and the boundaries dividing subject from object, this enabling me to say: “It is no longer I who live.” Conversion does not lead into a private relationship with Jesus, which in reality would be another form of mere monologue. It is delivery into the pattern of doctrine, as Paul says, or, as we discovered in John, entrance into the “we” of the Church. This is the sole guarantee that the obedience which we owe to the truth is concrete… Only the concrete God can be something other than a new projection of one’s own self. Following in Christ’s footsteps is the only way of losing oneself which attains the desired goal… The one who became flesh has remained flesh. He is concrete… Obedience to the Church is the concreteness of our obedience. The Church is that new and greater subject in which past and present, subject and object come into contact. The Church is our contemporaneity with Christ: there is no other.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Gracious God,

You have called me to life

and gifted me in many ways.

Through Baptism You have sent me

to continue the mission of Jesus

by sharing my love with others.

Strengthen me to respond to

Your call each day.

Help me to become all You desire of me.

Inspire me to make a difference in others’ lives.

Lead me to choose the way of life

You have planned for me.

Open the hearts of all to listen to Your call.

Fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may have listening hearts and the courage to respond to You.

Enkindle in my heart and the hearts of others the desire to make the world a better place, all for your glory.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayers-for-vocations.cfm
Posted in Catholic

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.”

OPENING PRAYER

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall. Psalm 16:7,8

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who govern all things,

both in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the pleading of your people

and bestow your peace on our times.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 49:3, 5-6

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,

Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Now the LORD has spoken

who formed me as his servant from the womb,

that Jacob may be brought back to him

and Israel gathered to him;

and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,

and my God is now my strength!

It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,

and restore the survivors of Israel;

I will make you a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.1 The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations.2 Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary.3

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”4 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”5 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Isa 2:2-4; Jer 31:31-34; Heb 10:16.

2 Cf. Ezek 36; Isa 49:5-6; 53:11.

3 Cf. Ezek 2:3; Lk 1:38.

4 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

5 Phil 2:7.

APPLICATION

That these prophecies were remembered and studied by devout Jews is evident from the words of Simeon, who because of his saintly life, had been promised that he would live to see the promised Messiah. The promise was fulfilled. He was inspired to come to the temple on the very day the Blessed Mother brought the Infant Jesus for his presentation, as the Mosaic law prescribed. Simeon recognized in the Infant Jesus the promised Messiah. He took him in his arms, and sang his “Nune dimittis . . . My eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared for all the nations, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk. 2: 27-32).

We too today, twenty centuries later, can sing that “Nune dimittis” with heartfelt joy and gratitude, for we can see, and have seen with the eyes of faith, that our Savior, the Son of God, has come among us, and has enlightened us with the true knowledge of our real purpose in life.

Because of our Christian faith, life has an entirely different meaning for us from what it had for our pagan ancestors. The real pagans today–those who never heard of Christ, or of his all-loving divine Father–and especially the self-made pagans, who have heard of God and of his divine Son who became man, but do not believe in his divinity or his message, must and should, look at human life on earth as a torture invented by some cruel sadistic joker. If they happen to have many of this world’s goods they may he able to avoid some of life’s hardships. But wealth cannot guarantee them good health and peace of mind; in fact, its possession adds to the torture that the thought of having to die very soon must constantly cause them. They must leave it all and end in a hole in the ground, like their pet dog or any other dumb beast of the field.

If, instead, the neo-pagan has little of this world’s possessions, his few years on earth are but a purgatory in preparation for NOTHING.

Let us thank and bless God, with the saintly Simeon and with the millions of devout Christians down through the centuries, for having given us the light of faith, and the source of that light, his beloved Son who came among us. Because of Christ’s coming on earth, and because of the gospel of peace and hope that he has left to us, we know the purpose of life. We know why we are here, we know why we must expect and accept trials and troubles, because we know where we are going, and understand that life’s tribulations, as well as its joys and consolations, are the road which leads us to the true life.

Thank you, God of love, for sending your divine Son to make heaven available to us! Thank you for having given us the Christian faith, which shows us what path to follow in our journey to that real heaven. Please forgive our past forgetfulness of your goodness, and give us the grace to follow our loving Savior more closely in future, so that when death calls us we may be worthy of the eternal life he earned for us. Amen.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,

and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.

And he put a new song into my mouth,

a hymn to our God.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,

but ears open to obedience you gave me.

Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;

then said I, “Behold I come.”

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,

to do your will, O my God, is my delight,

and your law is within my heart!”

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;

I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

R/ Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

READING II

Sosthenes,_Apollo,_Cephas,_Tychicus,_Epaphroditus,_Cæsar_and_Onesiphorus_of_70_disciples_(Menologion_of_Basil_II).jpg

1 Cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

and Sosthenes our brother,

to the church of God that is in Corinth,

to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,

with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

their Lord and ours.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 752 In Christian usage, the word “church” designates the liturgical assembly,1 but also the local community2 or the whole universal community of believers.3 These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.

CCC 1695 “Justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God,”4 “sanctified. .. [and] called to be saints,”5 Christians have become the temple of the Holy Spirit.6 This “Spirit of the Son” teaches them to pray to the Father7 and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”8 by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation.9 He enlightens and strengthens us to live as “children of light” through “all that is good and right and true.”10

1 Cf. 1 Cor 11:18; 14:19,28,34,35.

2 Cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 16:1.

3 Cf. 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6.

4 2 Cor 6:11.

5 1 Cor 1:2.

6 Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.

7 Cf. Gal 4:6.

8 Gal 5:22, 25.

9 Cf. Eph 4:23.

10 Eph 5:8, 9.

APPLICATION

The conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus–the changing of the arch-enemy of Christianity into an apostle of Christ Jesus–was, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day, the greatest benefit God conferred on the infant Church. From the moment he began his apostolate, he devoted himself wholeheartedly and exclusively to the spreading of Christianity among the Gentiles. Every thought of his mind, every bodily energy, and every gift of grace and nature which he possessed, were given to that one end : to make Christ and his message of salvation known to all men. He did not forget his fellow- Jews, but when they rejected him and his master Christ, he turned to the Gentiles.

During the 34 years of his missionary activity, he founded flourishing Christian churches in the principal towns of Asia Minor and Greece. In Rome itself he played a big part in the spread of the faith, from his prison cell. After his release in 62 from his first imprisonment, he spent another four or five years preaching in Spain and Italy, and re-visiting his earlier converts. Finally, in the year 67 or thereabouts, he laid down his life in Rome for the faith for which he had lived.

His apostolate did not end with his death. He has left to the Church a collection of letters, which are a source of encouragement and instruction for all who would live a true Christian life.

Today, he reminds each one of us that being Christians means we are called to be saints in heaven, when our years on earth come to an end. In heaven we shall certainly be, if we appreciate properly our Christian vocation, and live as true Christians, each day of our earthly lives. This does not mean that we must not take any interest in the affairs of this world, nor does it mean that we should neglect the earthly duties, which our own particular walk in life imposes on us. On the contrary living a truly Christian life means that we carry out faithfully and honestly our daily tasks. Our week-days are as important as our Sundays. In fact, if our week-days are dishonestly, that is sinfully, spent, our Sunday display of “Christian devotion” is not only a sham, it is an attempt at deceiving God. In reality, we are deceiving only ourselves.

Paul is still praying and wishing for us that grace and peace which he wished for the Corinthians. We need God’s grace, and his divine help, to live in peace and union with him, and with our fellowman. Paul’s prayer for us will be heard. Christ our Lord will not refuse his most devoted apostle if, but only if, we heed Paul’s words, and try every day to follow the path of faith which he preached to the Corinthians, and is still preaching to us today.

GOSPEL

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Jn 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

He is the one of whom I said,

‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me

because he existed before me.’

I did not know him,

but the reason why I came baptizing with water

was that he might be made known to Israel.”

John testified further, saying,

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven

and remain upon him.

I did not know him,

but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,

‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,

he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011517.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 408 The consequences of original sin and of all men’s personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John’s expression, “the sin of the world”.1 This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men’s sins.2

CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”3 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”4 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.5

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.6 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”7

CCC 523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.8 “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.9 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.10 Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.11

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.12 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.13 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.14 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.15 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.16 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”17 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

CCC 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.18 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.19 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”20

CCC 613 Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”,21 and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”.22

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”23 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”24 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”25 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.26 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.27 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”28 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.29 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. .. Behold, the Lamb of God.”30

CCC 1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”31 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”32 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life. .. flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.33

CCC 1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.34 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.35 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”36

CCC 1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”.37 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,”.38 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

1 Jn 1:29.

2 Cf. John Paul II, RP 16.

3 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

4 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

5 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

6 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.

7 Acts 10:38.

8 Cf. Acts 13:24; Mt 3:3.

9 Lk 1:76; cf. 7:26; Mt 11:13.

10 Jn 1 29; cf. Acts 1:22; Lk 1:41; 16:16; Jn 3:29.

11 Lk 1:17; cf. Mk 6:17-29.

12 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.

13 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

14 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

15 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.

16 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.

17 Mt 3:16.

18 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.

19 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.

20 Mk 10:45.

21 Jn 1:29; cf. 8:34-36; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pt 1:19.

22 Mt 26:28; cf. Ex 24:8; Lev 16:15-16; Cor 11:25.

23 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

24 Phil 2:7.

25 Lk 7:26.

26 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

27 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.

28 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.

29 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

30 Jn 1:33-36.

31 Rev 4:2, 8; Isa 6:1; cf. Ezek 1:26-28.

32 Rev 5:6; Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora; cf. Jn 1:29; Heb 4:14-15; 10:19-2.

33 Rev 22:1; cf. 21:6; Jn 4:10-14.

34 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.

35 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.

36 Jn 3:34.

37 Mt 8:17; cf. Isa 53:4.

38 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:4-6.

APPLICATION

At last the promise, made to Abraham when God commanded him to leave his home, his country, and his kin (Gen. 12:1-3), was fulfilled. The Messiah who would bring blessings to Jew and Gentile (to all mankind) had arrived. Eighteen hundred years of expectation had at last come to an end. During these long years of waiting, God had, through his prophets and through his prophetic actions, renewed the hope in the hearts of his Chosen People. These prophecies and prophetic actions had given indications that the expected one would be someone very close to God, someone who was more than a mere man. Yet, who among the Chosen People could ever have thought that the “Promised One” would be the very Son of God in human nature?

His contemporaries, when he came, refused to believe this truth even though Christ had, during his public ministry, made claims to equality with God the Father, and had proved these claims by miracles (see, for example, the story of the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven you . . . who can forgive sins but God alone? . . . to prove to you . . . he said to the sick man ‘get up . . . and go home,'” Lk. 5: 17-25).

But we must try to understand how difficult for a strict monotheistic Jew were the thought of three persons in God (the Trinity), and the idea that the infinite God could be in a limited, finite, human nature (the Incarnation). Our Lord himself showed that he understood their lack of faith, when he said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23: 24).

We, however, have no reason for any such doubts or scruples. The full story of Christ’s conception, birth, life, preaching and miracles, crowned by his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection, is in itself sufficient guarantee and proof that he was indeed the Son of God-made-man for our sakes. The spread of his Church among the Jews and Gentiles is another convincing proof. What sane man would accept self-mortification, undergo trials and hardships, even martyrdom, or give up all the attractions and pleasures of the body, if he were not convinced that the story of Christ, and therefore his gospel-message, were true?

The sad part is that, while we have every reason, in this world and the next, to believe in Christ and follow his teaching, so many nominal Christians live as if Christ himself had never lived and died for them. Their hearts are centered in the pleasures, the power and the wealth of this earth. These are passing things, which they will have to bid goodbye very soon. They devote their energies to getting all this world can give them. Its final gift to them will be a six-feet-by-three hole in the earth.

If we neglect our vocation as Christians, if we forget God’s infinite love for us, as shown in the Incarnation, and if we fail to learn the lesson he taught us : that our purpose in this short life is to earn the eternal life after death, we, too, could become renegades to Christianity, traitors to Christ and our own greatest enemy.

Christ came to make us his brothers and children of the heavenly Father. He came to die for us so that we could live forever. We can deny our heaven-sent brother, we can leave our father’s home, we can lose the eternal happiness that Christ has won for us. God forbid that we should ever be so foolish, so ungrateful to God and Christ, and so harmful to our own real self-interest.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Process of Spiritual Growth

It is important for the process of spiritual growth that you don’t just pray and study your faith at times when it happens to cross your mind, when it suits you, but that you observe some discipline… I should say, never begin with thinking alone. For if you try to pull God toward you in the laboratory of rational thought, and to attach him to you in what is to some extent a purely theoretical fashion, you find you can’t do it. You always have to combine the questions with action. Pascal once said to an unbelieving friend: Start by doing what believers do, even if it still makes no sense to you… You can never look for faith in isolation; it is only found in an encounter with people who believe, who can understand you, who have perhaps come by way of a similar situation themselves, who can in some way lead you and help you. It is always among us that faith grows. Anyone who wants to go it alone has thus got it wrong from the very start.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

The Divine Praises

Blessed be God.
Blessed be His Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in His angels and in His Saints. Amen.

Posted in Catholic

The Baptism of the Lord – A

BaptismOfLord

‘And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

OPENING PRAYER

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan

The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,

For the voice of the Father bore witness to You

And called You His beloved Son.

And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,

Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.

O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself

And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan

and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,

solemnly declared him your beloved Son,

grant that your children by adoption,

reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,

may always be well pleasing to you.

Thorough our Lord Jesus Christ; your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Image result for icon Isaiah
Is 42: 1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

APPLICATION

This prophecy of second-Isaiah was chosen for today, the feast which commemorates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, because on that occasion the Father’s voice from heaven proclaimed that Christ was “his beloved servant in which he was well pleased.” Following the interpretation of the inspired Evangelists and of the ancient and constant tradition of the Church, we can have no hesitation in seeing in these words of second-Isaiah, written five centuries or so before Christ, a description of the Savior who came on earth to teach Jew and Gentile the new law of God, the law of love and mercy.

He who was the Son of God took our human nature in order to represent us, and as one of us to give our heavenly Father the perfect obedience and service which no mere man had done ever since the creation, and which no mere man could ever do. This perfect obedience or service of God which Christ, the perfect servant, gave the Father, went as far as the acceptance of the shameful and excruciating death on a cross. But all this he accepted gladly for us–it was in our name he did it–and because he did it, we are all raised to a new relationship with God. He has made us all, Jew and Gentile, the whole human race, adopted sons of his heavenly Father.

As members of his mystical body we can now, because he is our Head, give a service to God worthy of our new status, a service which God accepts from us because it is given to him and through “Christ our Lord.”

Today, as we offer the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ renewed before our eyes, let us try to realize the privilege that is ours. We are able, through Christ, to offer a sacrifice which gives infinite honor to God. We are able in spite of all our weaknesses and all our faults to give a service that is pleasing to God and to make some return for all he has done for us. We have become “good and faithful servants” because Christ the Son of God became the perfect servant of God for our sake.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10.

The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.                                                     The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.

READING II

Image result for icon Peter in the house of Cornelius"

Acts 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

APPLICATION

That day, nearly two thousand years ago, when Christ by his baptism in the Jordan, began his public preaching of salvation for all men, is a day–a feastday–no true Christian can ever forget. The baptism of John was for sinners–a sign of change of heart and a turning to God. Christ had no sin, he had never turned away from God, he was God–but he was the representative of sinful humanity. He represented us sinners that day and opened the door of salvation for us. In that ceremony Christ was proclaimed by the heavenly Father to be his son and faithful servant, and the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

But this was all for us; as God he already had all things in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But in his human nature–our weak human nature which he took on himself in order to be one of us, and our representative–he was on that day proclaimed God’s true and faithful servant. At the same moment we human beings were accepted in him and through him (i.e. through his perfect obedience even unto the death on the cross) as God’s adopted children. The mission of Christ was for us. The Incarnation took place because God’s infinite love wanted man, the masterpiece of his whole creation, to have a share in the divine gifts of the Blessed Trinity. God united the divine with the human nature in Christ. We mortal men were raised above our human nature; we would become immortal, not that we would never die on this earth–Christ himself died in his human nature-but “he would raise us up on the last day” to share forever with the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Incarnate Son the eternal bliss of heaven.

How could a Christian, one who knows all this, ever refuse to do the little part he is called on to do–“to fear God, that is, to reverence and respect him and to do what is right”? Reverence and respect for God should come easily from anyone who realizes what God has done for him. But true respect for God is not proved by a few distracted prayers and a grudging attendance at Sunday Mass. It is proved by striving to keep the laws Christ gave us, i.e. doing what is right, every day of our lives. This is difficult at times but if we keep our eternity–the unending life–before our eyes, the few short years of hardship and training on earth, will seem very short indeed. There is no comparison between what God has prepared for us, and promises us, and the trifling conditions he asks us to fulfill in order to earn his promised reward.

GOSPEL

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Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/011016.cfm

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.1 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.2 Already he is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.3 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.4 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.5 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”6 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

CCC 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.7 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.8 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”9

CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.10 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”11 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”12 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself13 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.14 “Do not quench the Spirit.”15

CCC 2600 The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ’s ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father’s witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father’s plan of love by his Passion.16 He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter’s confession of him as “the Christ of God,” and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted.17 Jesus’ prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father.

1 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.

2 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

3 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

4 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.

5 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.

6 Mt 3:16.

7 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.

8 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.

9 Mk 10:45.

10 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.

11 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

12 Lk 12:49.

13 Acts 2:3-4.

14 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

15 1 Thess 5:1.

16 Cf. Lk 3:21; 9:28; 22:41-44.

17 Cf. Lk 6:12; 9:18-20; 22:32.

APPLICATION

Of the hundreds of Jews who had flocked to hear the Baptist’s message, and who were present when Christ insisted on going through John’s baptismal rite and who had probably heard the words from heaven proclaiming him to be the expected Messiah, only two left the Baptist and followed him. One of these was Andrew and the other was most probably John the Evangelist. Later in that day Andrew told Peter, his brother, that he had found the Messiah and Peter joined him too.

What was wrong with the hundreds of others? We are told they were all agog about the Messiah and were wondering in their hearts if John was not he. Yet when the real Messiah was pointed out to them they did nothing about it. John had told them the Messiah would baptize them, not with water as he did, but with the Holy Spirit of God, and with fire. As Jews they must have understood that this meant he would make of them a holy people, a spiritual people, a people close to God and cleansed from all earthly attachments.

Was it this that held them back? Were their hearts so centered on the things of earth, the things of this life, that they had no time for things spiritual? Were they so anxious for a king, a messiah, who would set them free from the hated pagan Romans and give them once more a powerful earthly kingdom, that talk of the kingdom of God and of a spiritual life made no impression on them? Their dealings with Christ during his public mission amongst them, their disbelief, their opposition, their persecution, which led eventually to the death on the cross answer these questions for us. The vast majority of the Jews of that day did not want a spiritual Messiah or kingdom. They were not interested in a heaven of the future, they wanted their heaven, their happiness, and prosperity here on earth.

Before we pass any judgement on such folly let us have a look into our own hearts today. We are Christians, we are followers of Christ, we know he was God, we believe his word. We are convinced that getting to heaven is more important than getting all the treasures and pleasures this earth has to offer. But do we always live up to these convictions, are we true Christians the seven days of the week? In our work, in our speech, in our dealings with others, in our family life are we truly following Christ and his teaching?

Is my way of life, my daily conduct, such that it would cause a non-Christian to say: “That man has something noble and sensible about him, that man is concerned with the things that really matter; that man has an inward peace and sense of security which I have not got, a sense of peace and security which comes not from the things of this world. I must find out what it is and get it for myself?”

In all sincerity I cannot see any non-Christian speaking thus of me today, but helped by God’s grace, it could and may be truly said of me in the days to come. God grant that this may be so.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan and used with permission of Franciscan Press

BENEDICTUS

The Baptism of the Lord

In the gospel account of the baptism of Jesus, the mystery of death and Resurrection, sin and redemption, sin and forgiveness is prefigured: Jesus descends into the depths of the Jordan. Being submerged in the river is a symbolic representation of the process of death. An old life is buried, so that a new one can arise. Because Jesus himself is without sin and has no old life to bury, his acceptance of baptism is an anticipation of the cross, whereby he begins to share in our lot and to take upon himself our sins and our death. At the moment when he comes up out of the river, the heavens part, and from them is heard the voice in which the Father acknowledges him as his Son. The opening of heaven is a sign that this descent into our night is the dawning of a new day, that the barrier between God and man is being broken down by this identification of the Son with us: God and man is being broken down by this identification of the Son with us: God is no longer inaccessible; in the depths of our sins, and even of death, he searches for us and brings us into the light again. To this extent the baptism of Jesus anticipates the entire drama of his life and death and at the same time explains them to us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Almighty, eternal God, when the Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, you revealed him as your own beloved Son. Keep us, your children born of water and the Spirit, faithful to our calling. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pray0328.htm

Posted in Catholic

The Epiphany of the Lord

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“They were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother”

OPENING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer

Moonless darkness stands between.

Past, the Past, no more be seen!

But the Bethlehem star may lead me

To the sight of Him

Who freed me

From the self that I have been.

Make me pure, Lord: Thou art Holy;

Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;

Now beginning, and always,

Now begin, on Christmas day.

COLLECT

O God, who on this day

revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations

by the guidance of a star,

grant in your mercy

that we, who know you already by faith,

may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 60:1-6

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,

the glory of the Lord shines upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth,

and thick clouds cover the peoples;

but upon you the LORD shines,

and over you appears his glory.

Nations shall walk by your light,

and kings by your shining radiance.

Raise your eyes and look about;

they all gather and come to you:

your sons come from afar,

and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,

your heart shall throb and overflow,

for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,

the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.

Caravans of camels shall fill you,

dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;

all from Sheba shall come

bearing gold and frankincense,

and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

APPLICATION

The feast of the Epiphany is the feast which commemorates the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. This manifestation began when the Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem to pay their respects and offer their gifts to the newly-born king of the Jews (see Mt. 2 in today’s gospel). Though the words of second-Isaiah were not understood by his hearers as referring to this event, it was only in the coming of the Magi, to welcome Christ, that they were really fulfilled. Jerusalem was in no sense an attraction for the nations in the intervening centuries. But the Magi at Bethlehem were the first-fruits of the thousands and millions of Gentiles who have since then seen the glory of God in the Babe of Bethlehem and who have figuratively come to Jerusalem from the West and from the East to form the new Chosen People, the new Kingdom of God.

Let us thank God today for having called us, Gentiles, to his kingdom, his Church, and for giving us the means to reach heaven. Let us never imitate the Chosen People of the Old Testament who so often forgot how good God was to them, and who often so provoked him, that he allowed them to be taken into exile as slaves of a pagan nation. We too could bring exile on ourselves, an exile much more fatal than the Babylonian one. Whatever else may be my lot, whatever hardship I may have to suffer during the few years I am on earth, God forbid that I should ever, through my unfaithfulness, cause myself to be excluded from my true home, heaven, where “the glory of the Lord will shine” forever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,

and with your justice, the king’s son;

He shall govern your people with justice

and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Justice shall flower in his days,

and profound peace, till the moon be no more.

May he rule from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;

the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.

All kings shall pay him homage,

all nations shall serve him.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,

and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;

the lives of the poor he shall save.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

READING II

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Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Brothers and sisters:

You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace

that was given to me for your benefit,

namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.

It was not made known to people in other generations

as it has now been revealed

to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,

and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

APPLICATION

St. Paul’s thoughts in his prison in Rome are not for himself nor for the fate that awaits him. He is thinking instead of the mission Christ gave him, to evangelize the Gentile nations. He has done much already, and even in prison he does all he can to continue the good work. He writes to his Gentile converts from Rome, to remind them of their great privilege in being called to the Christian faith. They are now God’s new Chosen People, they are now members of Christ’s mystical body, they are now guaranteed heaven if they appreciate and live up to their vocation.

Today, on the feast of the Epiphany, we are celebrating the coming of the first Gentiles to the feet of Christ. They were the first of the long stream of Gentile peoples and nations that flowed steadily toward Christ’s mystical body, the Church, down through the years. We have the privilege of being part of that stream, and St. Paul, who today in heaven is as interested in us as he was in his Ephesian converts, is exhorting us, through these words of his, to appreciate the privilege which is ours. Through the grace of God and not through any merits of our own, we are Christians and are on the road to heaven. “Rejoice and persevere” is St. Paul’s advice to us today. If we truly rejoice it means we truly appreciate what the gift of the true faith means. We know where we came from, we know where we are going, and we are certain there is a place, a wonderful, eternal place, to go to. We know too how to get there. This is no mean knowledge in the world of today, where so many seem content to make this world their heaven, and let the future look after itself–if there be a future (and logically to ease their consciences they must hope there isn’t one).

Thank God, our faith and our ordinary intelligence tell us there has to be a future life—God would be a cruel joker if he gave us the nature we possess with its spiritual gifts and desires only to have them end in a grave after a few short years. We can rejoice then because we appreciate the great privilege given us, and if we appreciate it we shall hold on to it and follow the path it indicates. We may have to climb some hills and they may look as steep as Calvary, but after Calvary comes the Mount of Olives, the mount of the Ascension.

GOSPEL

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Mt 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod,

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

We saw his star at its rising

and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this,

he was greatly troubled,

and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,

He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,

for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly

and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.

He sent them to Bethlehem and said,

“Go and search diligently for the child.

When you have found him, bring me word,

that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,

until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.

They were overjoyed at seeing the star,

and on entering the house

they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Then they opened their treasures

and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,

they departed for their country by another way.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010316.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.1 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.2 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.3 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.4

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.5 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”6

CCC 528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.7 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.8 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.9 The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas10 (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

CCC 724 In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.11

1 Cf. Lk 1:31.

2 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.

3 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.

4 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.

5 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.

6 Acts 10:38.

7 Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.

8 Cf Mt 2:2; Num 24:17-19; Rev 22:16.

9 Cf Jn 4 22; Mt 2:4-6.

10 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.

11 Cf. Lk 1:15-19; Mt 2:11.

APPLICATION

The Magi are the central personages in today’s feast of Epiphany. They were pagans who did not know the true God of the Jews. Yet that true God revealed to them that the King he had promised to the Jews had come. The expected Prince was born. They came to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, expecting, of course, to find the city and the whole country rejoicing. Instead they found suspicion and hatred in the reigning king–a hatred which in a few days turned to murder. Among the religious leaders they found knowledge of their past history, but utter indifference as regards the present and the future. These leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; they must have realized that the Magi were very sure of the truth revealed to them–they would not have come such a long journey on a “fool’s errand.” In spite of that, the thought of going to Bethlehem with the Magi never entered their minds. These were the leaders who some years later refused to listen to Christ and in spite of his miracles refused to admit his claim that he was not only the promised Messiah, but the true Son of God. These were the men who rejected him because he had mercy on sinners, and spoke of a future life. What they wanted from their Messiah was political power and earthly freedom and prosperity. Like Herod they ended with murder–the crucifixion of the “King of the Jews.” The pagan king was not much worse than the indifferent leaders of God’s Chosen People.

We too know the true facts concerning Christ, his mission, and his present and future kingdom. Like the leaders of the Jews of his day, we also could become absorbed in the affairs of this life and the quest for wealth, pleasure and power. We could become so totally absorbed in such things as to have neither the interest nor the time to pay our respects to Christ or to welcome him into our homes and our hearts, as our true Lord. God forbid it should ever be thus with us. Rather let us resolve this morning to make the Magi our models, to follow them to Bethlehem and offer him all that we have and are. He will accept our offering and we will return by another way, wiser and better men.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press

BENEDICTUS

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The Deep Desire of the Magi

Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews,” that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (Mt 2: 2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them toward the King of the Jews, toward the kingship of God himself. The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. This is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian… When the Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2: 11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment – their encounter with Jesus. “Going into the house”: this house in some sense represents the Church… “They fell down and worshiped him… and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man… The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A PRAYER FOR THE VIRTUE OF OBEDIENCE

Jesus, Almighty King of kings,

You Who obeyed Your Father to the end,

Teach me the meaning of obedience.

My soul burns to comply to Your Will,

Striving to charm Your Divinity.

While my worldly nature seeks one way,

My spiritual nature seeks another.

Bless me with the strength to obey,

That my soul may subdue both natures,

Blending them as a fair aromatic bloom.

I always seek favor in Your eyes,

To always obey You until my last breath!

 

Posted in Catholic

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord – Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God

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“When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who through the fruitful virginity

of Blessed Mary

bestowed on the human race

the grace of eternal salvation,

grant, we pray

that we may experience the intercession of her,

through whom we were found worthy

to receive the author of life,

our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Nm 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.

APPLICATION

All God’s dealings with the Chosen People of the Old Testament, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the liturgy, this special blessing were part of God’s plan of preparation for his greatest act of infinite blessing which was to come in the Incarnation. God’s Son was to take our human nature in order to unite us with God. All God’s promises, all God’s fatherly care for the Chosen People, down through the centuries, all his blessings had their perfect fulfillment and culmination in the coming of Christ on earth.

And the one human being who received the fullness of these promises and blessings was the Virgin Mary when she said. ” Be it done unto me according to thy word,” for at that very moment she conceived the Christ, the Son of God in her womb. As proof of this we have the Angel Gabriel’s words on the occasion of the Annunciation. He salutes her as “full of grace,” that is, she has the full friendship of God. He is truly gracious to her, his “face shines on her,” he is actually with her as the closest of friends: “the Lord is with thee.” He adds: “blessed art thou among women” to show that no woman (or man either) ever received the fullness of God’s blessing until now.

The title the Church has always given her, a title confirmed by the Council of Ephesus (431): “Mother of God,” aptly expresses all this. She became the Mother of Christ who was the Messiah and the Son of God, an honor and a dignity which no human imagination could have thought possible. But nothing is impossible to God. As she says herself in her Magnificat : “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” And let us not forget it: in honoring Mary, one of us, he has honored us all. Through that act of divine love and condescension which brought about the Incarnation, we, the whole human race, with Mary as the most perfect example, have been raised up to a new status, a supernatural condition—we have been made children of God, brothers of Christ and heirs of heaven.

Let us thank God today for all the graces conferred upon Mary, graces through which we all profit. Being the Mother of Christ, she is our Mother too. She will not forget us – she has a greater interest in our true welfare than any earthly mother could have – she will help us on the road to heaven if we place ourselves under her motherly care.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.

May God bless us in his mercy.

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.

May God bless us in his mercy.

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.

May God bless us in his mercy.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!

May God bless us in his mercy.

READING II

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Gal 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law,
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.

APPLICATION

The Galatians – pagans recently converted to Christianity by Paul – were being disturbed in their faith by Judaizers, that is, by Jews who pretended to be Christians but were not. These were telling the new converts that Christianity was not something really new, but only a new form of Judaism, and therefore the converts must accept circumcision and other practices of the old law. Paul in his letter reacts strongly to this falsehood. Christianity is not a reform of Judaism, he states, but is its replacement. Judaism was only a preparation, Christianity is the fulfillment; the old law was but a shadow of things to come, Christianity is the reality.

The “fullness of time has come,” the period of preparation and promise has ended. Men are no longer slaves of the law or slaves of their past pagan polytheism and its practices. They are now free men and new men, sons of God. They can now truly call God “Abba Father,” “for God sent his Son born of a woman.” The Incarnation has taken place, men are no longer mere human beings, they have a new life given them in Baptism. They now share in the divine life because Christ has shared their human life with them.

Do we Christians of today really appreciate the privileges the Incarnation has brought to us? Do we really realize what our Christianity means to us? When we say the “Our Father who art in heaven” do we understand even vaguely what we are saying? If we were allowed to salute God as our Creator it would be a reminder of all we owe him, and our duty, but to have the right to call him our Father, the Father who loves us so much, that he has made us his sons, and is gladly ready to share his eternal happiness with us, is so great a privilege that we almost find it hard to believe it.

Yet this is the result and consequence of that great mystery of God’s love – the Incarnation, the basic tenet of our Christianity. Today’s feast-day – the feast of Mary, Mother of God – recalls to our minds this fundamental truth of our faith. “God sent his son born of a woman ” – the woman was Mary “our tainted nature’s solitary boast” as Wordsworth describes her. She, among all the daughters and sons of men, was the most closely connected with God’s gift of the Incarnation to us. She conceived Christ in his human nature, in her womb. She bore him within her for nine months, she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, she fed him at her breast in his infancy – she provided and cared for him in his boyhood and youth. She finally offered him for us on Calvary And this son of hers was the Son of God from all eternity.

We Christians are privileged to have been made sons of God by the Incarnation. But how much greater was and is the privilege of the one who was made the Mother of God, and his nearest and dearest human assistant in this mystery of his love for us! God loves us, of that we can have no doubt; Mary too loves us, for we are brothers of the Son of God whom she loves so dearly. She wants us to reap the reward of the Incarnation, in which she played such a privileged part, which reward is to share in the happiness of God for all eternity. This reward she will obtain for us when our moment of judgement comes, if we have tried to love and respect her in life. If we say devoutly, thoughtfully and frequently that simple prayer the Church has taught us’: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now” we can face “the hour of our death” with confidence. Amen.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 422 ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.’1 This is ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’:’2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own ‘beloved Son’.3

CCC 484 The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time”,4 the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations. Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily”.5 The divine response to her question, “How can this be, since I know not man?”, was given by the power of the Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”6

CCC 488 “God sent forth his Son”, but to prepare a body for him,7 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary”:8
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.9

CCC 527 Jesus’ circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,10 is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law11 and his deputation to Israel’s worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that “circumcision of Christ” which is Baptism.12

CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,13 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”14

CCC 580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son.15 In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people”, because he will “faithfully bring forth justice”.16 Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them”, for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant”.17

CCC 683 “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”18 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”’19 This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.
Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God’s Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them. And it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God’s Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.20

CCC 689 The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God.21 Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.

1 Gal 4:4-5.
2 Mk 1:1.
3 Mk 1:11; cf. Lk 1:5, 68.
4 Gal 4:4.
5 Col 2:9.
6 Lk 1:34-35 (Greek).
7 Gal 4:4; Heb 10:5.
8 Lk 1:26-27.
9 LG 56; cf. LG 61.
10 Cf. Lk 2:21.
11 Cf. Gal 4:4.
12 Cf. Col 2:11-13.
13 Cf. Gal 4:4.
14 Lk 2:51-52.
15 Cf. Gal 4:4.
16 Jer 31:33; Is 42:3, 6.
17 Gal 3:13; 3:10; Heb 9:15.
18 1 Cor 12:3.
19 Gal 4:6.
20 St. Irenaeus, Dem. ap. 7: SCh 62, 41-42.
21 Cf. Gal 4:6.

GOSPEL

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Lk 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010117.cfm

APPLICATION

This story of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem coming to find Jesus “in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes” already read at the Dawn Mass on Christmas Day, is repeated today because of the feast we are celebrating, the Divine Motherhood of Mary. It is the feast of Christmas again, the feast of the Incarnation and birth of our Savior, but it is Mary’s part in this wonderful mystery of God’s love for men that the Church is stressing today.

There have been Christians who could see no importance in the part played by Mary in our redemption, yet it was God himself who chose her from all eternity for this role and it was God’s messenger at the Annunciation who proclaimed she was “full of grace” and that she was God’s special friend—“The Lord was with her.” The humble shepherds searching for the Savior whose birth “God had made known to them” found Mary first, then Joseph (the one after Mary who had a very important part in God’s plan) and then “the babe lying in the manger.”

In following the inspired words of the gospels of Matthew and Luke who stress the importance of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, and the constant teaching of the Catholic Church ever since, we need have no fear of taking anything from the honor, glory and gratitude we owe to God, when we honor, as our Mother, the Virgin he first honored by making her the Mother of his Son. Furthermore the last act of our Savior, before dying on the cross, was to make his Mother our Mother, through our representative St. John, to whom he said: “behold thy Mother” (Jn. 1: 27). It would be disloyalty to Christ not to accept her as our Mother, and it would be disloyalty to the revealed word of God if we denied her divine maternity. God made her Mother of the Messiah, the Savior, who was his divine Son.

Mary was, and is, a human creature, a mere human creature but a human creature selected by God to be the mother of the Savior’s human nature, the human nature his divine sonship assumed in order to redeem man and raise him up. It was through no merit of her own that Mary earned this dignity – this honor given her was a sheer gift of God. She was the first to realize and declare this when she said God had “regarded the lowliness of his handmaid” (Lk. 1 : 48). When we honor her therefore we are in fact and in intention honoring and thanking God for the marvelous gifts and privileges he conferred on one of us.

God could have sent his Son on earth without the help of a human mother. He could have created directly for him a human nature in the prime of manhood. He chose instead to make the Son “like unto us in all things except sin” and as man he was born of a human mother, “born of a woman,” as St. Paul puts it. That woman was Mary ever-Virgin, she was God’s privileged handmaid. And when we honor that privilege of hers we are honoring the loving condescension of God who not only deigned to send us his Son to be our Savior, but deigned that he should be born of one of our own weak human nature to whom he had given and continued to give the necessary graces.

Thank you God, for the Incarnation, thank you God, for the honorable part you gave to “one of us” to play in that drama of divine love. May we ever be worthy of your gifts of infinite love to us!

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission from Franciscan Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2
– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3
– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5

CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.6 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”7 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.

1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.
2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.
3 DV 8 § 2.
4 DV 8 § 2.
5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.
6 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.
7 Lk 2:49.

BENEDICTUS

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The Magnificat

The Magnificat reveals the spirituality of those faithful who not only recognize themselves as “poor” in the detachment from all idolatry of riches and power, but also in the profound humility of a heart emptied of the temptation to pride and open to the bursting in of the divine saving grace. The soul of the prayer is the celebration of the divine grace which has burst into the heart and life of Mary, making her Mother of the Lord. We hear the Virgin’s own voice speaking of her Savior who has done great things in her soul and body. The intimate structure of her prayerful canticle, therefore, is praise, thanksgiving, and grateful joy. But this personal witness is neither solitary nor purely individualistic, because the Virgin Mother is aware that she has a mission to fulfill for humanity and her experience fits into the history of salvation. The Lord takes the part of the lowly. His plan is one that is often hidden beneath the opaque context of human events that see “the proud, the mighty and the rich” triumph. Let us accept the invitation of Saint Ambrose: “May Mary’s soul be in each one to magnify the Lord, may Mary’s spirit be in each one to rejoice in God; if, according to the flesh, the Mother of Christ; each welcomes the Word of God within… Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God because she adores with devout affection one God, from whom come all things… If, according to the flesh, the Mother of Christ is one alone, according to the faith all souls bring forth Christ: each one intimately welcomes the Word of God.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CANTICLE OF MARY

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Lk 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior

For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

The Almighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him

In every generation.

He has shown the strength of His arm,

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

And has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel

For He has remembered His promise of mercy,

The promise He made to our fathers,

To Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning.

is now, and will be forever. Amen

A PRAYER TO OUR BELOVED MOTHER

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Beloved Mother, I come to you with prayers for healing of mind, body and spirit. I ask you to hear my special concern and to place my needs before your Son who you nurtured and cared for with all your heart. Help me to release all fears and doubts that cause me anxiety and bring me peace and comfort through your blessed intercession.

Let me be receptive of God’s will and help me to learn compassion through my suffering. Teach me to love others as brothers and sisters in Christ. Give me the strength and understanding to forgive and to receive others’ forgiveness. Blessed Mother, help me to grow closer to your Son in everything I do. Renew my spirit and restore my soul through your intercession.

I seek your guidance and protection, remembering these words: “Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me”.
All this I pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

http://www.marypages.com/PrayerstoMary.htm

 

 

Posted in Catholic

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – A

 

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“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

A Prayer for a Family

O dear Jesus,

I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our family.

May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith.

I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and present,

living and dead.

O Mary,

loving Mother of Jesus, and our Mother,

pray to Jesus for our family,

for all the families of the world,

to guard the womb of the unborn,

the cradle of the newborn,

the schools of the young and their vocations.

Blessed Saint Joseph,

holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,

assist us by your prayers

in all the necessities of life.

Ask of Jesus that special grace

which He granted to you,

to watch over our home

at the pillow of the sick and the dying,

so that with Mary and with you,

heaven may find our family unbroken

in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who were pleased to give us

the shining example of the Holy Family,

graciously grant that we may imitate them

in practicing the virtues of family life and in

the bonds of charity,

and so, in the joy of your house,

delight one day in eternal rewards.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;

a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.

Whoever honors his father atones for sins,

and preserves himself from them.

When he prays, he is heard;

he stores up riches who reveres his mother.

Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,

and, when he prays, is heard.

Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;

he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;

grieve him not as long as he lives.

Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;

revile him not all the days of his life;

kindness to a father will not be forgotten,

firmly planted against the debt of your sins

–a house raised in justice to you.

APPLICATION

Although all the emphasis, in these verses of holy Scripture just read to us, seems to be on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. “Like father like son” is an old and a true saying very often. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God, and their country–the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman. There have been and there will be exceptions, of course, to this rule but they are exceptions; the vast majority follow the pattern laid down for them by their parents.

As you heard during your marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you,” a gift for this life to be the joy of your young years and a help and comfort in your old age; but above and beyond that, they are a gift which you must do all in your power to return to God when their hour comes. You must not only strive to make them good citizens of this world but you must never forget that God gave them to you primarily so that you would make them citizens of heaven. You may fail, in spite of your best intentions and endeavors, but God will reward you nonetheless–the failure will not be laid to your door.

Today, on the feast-day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, I would ask all parents to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling this grave responsibility–which God has placed on them. Are they preparing their children by word and example, especially by example, to be worthy citizens of heaven where they will be their parents’ crown and glory?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

.

Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,

who walks in his ways!

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;

blessed shall you be, and favored.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine

in the recesses of your home;

your children like olive plants

around your table.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Behold, thus is the man blessed

who fears the LORD.

The LORD bless you from Zion:

may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

all the days of your life.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

READING II

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Col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,

bearing with one another and forgiving one another,

if one has a grievance against another;

as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.

And over all these put on love,

that is, the bond of perfection.

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,

the peace into which you were also called in one body.

And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,

as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,

singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs

with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed,

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,

as is proper in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives,

and avoid any bitterness toward them.

Children, obey your parents in everything,

for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Fathers, do not provoke your children,

so they may not become discouraged.

APPLICATION

Ninety per cent of the first readers of St. Paul’s letter–the first Christian converts of the town of Colossae–were pagans before their conversion. To practice the new Christian virtues was no easy task for people reared in the laxity and license of the paganism of their day. Yet they did practice these virtues and produced many saints and martyrs. After twenty centuries of Christianity one would expect that to live a full Christian life today should be less difficult but unfortunately it is not so. For the fact is our world is rapidly sinking back again into paganism–a paganism more inimical to truth and morality than the paganism of St. Paul’s day. The pagans of the Roman Empire were tired of vice and worldliness–they were looking for the truth and the real purpose of life. They found it in Christianity and cherished it. Today’s neo-pagans are tired of Christianity–they have found it wanting, because they are found wanting in its observance.

GOSPEL

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Lk 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast

of Passover,

and when he was twelve years old,

they went up according to festival custom.

After they had completed its days, as they were returning,

the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,

but his parents did not know it.

Thinking that he was in the caravan,

they journeyed for a day

and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

but not finding him,

they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple,

sitting in the midst of the teachers,

listening to them and asking them questions,

and all who heard him were astounded

at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him,

they were astonished,

and his mother said to him,

“Son, why have you done this to us?

Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

And he said to them,

“Why were you looking for me?

But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

and was obedient to them;

and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor

before God and man.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122715.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 94 Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:

– “through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts”;1 it is in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth”.2

– “from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience”,3 the sacred Scriptures “grow with the one who reads them.”3

– “from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth”.5

CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,6 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.7 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.8

CCC 503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed… He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”9

CCC 517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,10 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;11

– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;12

– in his word which purifies its hearers;13

– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;14

– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.15

CCC 531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,16 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was “obedient” to his parents and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”17

CCC 534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus.18 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?”19 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary “kept all these things in her heart” during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.20 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.21 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.22 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.23

CCC 2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.

CCC 2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the “great things” done by the Almighty.24 He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: “I must be in my Father’s house.”25 Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men.

1 DV 8 § 2; cf. Lk 2:19,51.

2 GS 62 § 7; cf. GS 44 § 2; DV 23; 24; UR 4.

3 DV 8 § 2.

4 DV 8 § 2.

5 St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1,7,8:PL 76,843D.

6 Lk 2:52.

7 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.

8 Phil 2:7.

9 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.

10 Cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:13-14; 1 Pt 1:18-19.

11 Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.

12 Cf. Lk 2:51.

13 Cf. Jn 15:3.

14 Mt 8:17; cf. Is 53:4.

15 Cf. Rom 4:25.

16 Cf. Gal 4:4.

17 Lk 2:51-52.

18 Cf. Lk 2:41-52.

19 Lk 2:49 alt.

20 Lk 2:22-39.

21 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

22 Cf. Lk 2 41.

23 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.

24 Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51.

25 Lk 2:49.

APPLICATION

The Church has appointed this Friday within the octave of Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. She wants all Christian families to try to model their lives on this, the holiest of families that ever lived on earth. No family can ever hope to be as perfect as this one was, but every family must strive to imitate it if only from afar.

In Joseph, the father of the family has his model. Patiently and humbly he worked at his carpenter’s bench to provide the necessities of life for his wife and for the child Jesus. He could not always give them all he would wish for them but he did what he could gladly and humbly. To his neighbors he was just another carpenter, unknown to the world, of no importance in their eyes, yet his name will be known and revered until the end of time. Fathers, many (if not most) of you too, are living a life of obscurity–a life of monotonous toil–a daily struggle to provide bread for your family. You will never make the headlines in the newspapers because of what you are doing, but you are playing an important, an essential part, in God’s plan for providing citizens for heaven.

If you carry out faithfully the task God has given you, if you provide for and protect the wife and family God has committed to your care you will make the headlines in the world to come, your names will be written in the Book of Life.

Mothers of families, in Mary you have the perfect example you should strive to follow. She was a dutiful, faithful wife and an ideal and loving mother. How often she must have regretted that her beloved spouse had to struggle so hard to earn their meager, daily bread. How great must have been her grief that she could not give her beloved Child more comforts in his infancy and youth. She had days of sorrow and anxiety, sorrow which culminated at the foot of the cross on Calvary, but she accepted it all as God’s will for the salvation of the world. You too have your days of anxiety and your years perhaps of worry–worries which will not end till you draw your last breath. But think of your Model, turn to Mary for courage and for help. She can and will get you the strength to keep going on the hard road of motherhood.

Like her, you too have a great task to perform for God. You have the eternal salvation of your family in your hands. Their future in this world and in the more important world–the next–will depend largely on how you behave as mother of the family. Your greatest joy in heaven, after the beatific vision, will be, please God, that you will be surrounded by your family which, aided by God’s grace, you did so much to bring there.

Children : your duty in the family is to love, honor and obey your parents. And your model is none other than Jesus of Nazareth who, though he was God, made himself subject to Joseph and Mary. He who was God, has set you an example which you must follow. Your obedience will never be as perfect as his but it can and should be as perfect as you can make it. Be a comfort and a consolation to your parents. Remember always what they have done for you in your infancy when you could not help yourself. Remember what they have done and are still doing for you in order to fit you to take your place in this life and in the next.

Show your thankfulness and appreciation by doing what they tell you. You may not see the reason for all their restrictions and all their commands but it is because they have your welfare at heart and because they truly love you that such commands and restrictions are placed on you. It is only later on in life that you will fully understand the true love they had for you and the great sacrifices they made for you so that you would be worthy of them and worthy of your heavenly father who gave you to them. Show your appreciation now while you have them.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Passover and Family

In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin… We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and to be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement, and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within; we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this… Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the living home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, and which must be protected as such… The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security. So this night needs to be the night in which we set out once again on our twin paths: we set out on the path to the new city, the new family, the Church, and dedicate ourselves irrevocably to her, to our heart’s true home; and then, on the basis of this family of Jesus Christ, we can proceed to grasp what it meant by the human family and by the humanity which sustains and protects us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-713x1024.jpeg

Act of Consecration of a Christian Family to the Holy Family 

O Jesus,

our most loving Redeemer,

who having come to enlighten the world

with Thy teaching and example,

didst will to pass the greater part of Thy life

in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph

in the poor home of Nazareth,

thus sanctifying the Family

that was to be an example for all Christian families,

graciously receive our family as it dedicates

and consecrates itself to Thee this day.

Do Thou protect us,

guard us and establish amongst us Thy holy fear,

true peace and concord in Christian love:

in order that by living according to the divine pattern

of Thy family we may be able,

all of us without exception,

to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us,

by the kindly intercession make this our humble offering

acceptable in the sight of Jesus,

and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

O Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary,

help us by thy prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs;

that so we may be enabled to praise our divine Savior Jesus,

together with Mary and thee, for all eternity.

Amen.

http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=861

Posted in Catholic

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – Mass During the Night

Nativity3-1.jpg

“And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

OPENING PRAYER

Christmas Prayer of St. Pope John XXIII

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

St. Pope John XXIII

COLLECT

O God, who have made this most sacred night

radiant with the splendor of the true light,

grand, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries

of his light on earth

may also delight in his gladness in heaven.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

isaiah-icon.gif

Is 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

APPLICATION

What Isaiah foresaw some 700 years before it happened we are commemorating tonight nearly 2,000 years after it happened, and it will still be commemorated 2,000 years from today if this world will still be in existence. God came on our earth, became one of us so that we could become one with God. This is incomparably greater than any other historical event that ever happened or ever could happen on our planet.

Yet unfortunately there are millions of people who have not yet heard this good news, but its good effects will reach them if their ignorance is not their fault. There are millions of others who have heard this good news but refuse to believe it. The basic reason for their disbelief is not that it couldn’t be true, but that it is too good to be true. It is indeed hard to believe that the infinite, all-perfect God should bother with such imperfect, such mean creatures, as we are. But it is because he is infinite and his love is infinite that he can and did go to such lengths for us his unworthy creatures.

While we thank God tonight with true sincerity and heartfelt gratitude, for all he has done for us, and while we promise faithfully to try to make ourselves less unworthy of the infinite love he has shown us in the Incarnation, let us remember all those millions of our brothers who do not really know him yet. Let us beg God to send them the goods news and the grace to accept this great gift of infinite love, so that all his children on earth may know and thank him too. And let us strive by the example of a truly Christian life to make God’s love for us known not only to our fellow-Christians but to all men.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”1 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.2

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”3 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”4 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”5 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”6

1 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.
2 Isa 11:1-2.
3 Isa 9:5.
4 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.
5 Eph 2:14.
6 Mt 5:9.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.

READING II

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Ti 2:11-14

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 66 “The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

CCC 1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”2 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”3 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”4
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).5

1 DV 4; cf. 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 2:13.
2 Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
3 Sir 18:30.
4 Titus 2:12.
5 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331.

APPLICATION

Christmas is an occasion for rejoicing, a season of goodwill, a time of joy even for those who unfortunately do not know or realize its true meaning. For us Christians it is the second of our greatest annual feasts (next after Easter) in which we call to mind God’s infinite love for us and his infinite mercy towards us mortals.

We surely have reason to rejoice and be glad. Christ, the true Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took to himself our lowly human nature and became one with us in order to raise us up to the dignity of adopted sons of his heavenly Father. If some earthly king or nobleman took the son of one of his servants into his palace, clothed him in costly robes and made him his heir, the world would gasp in amazement. God has taken us, his lowly creatures; has clothed us in the divine garments of grace; has made us one of his family by making his Son one of us, and has made us heirs of an eternal kingdom.

And yet mankind can ignore or forget such an act of benevolence, such a proof of divine love! Of course, we Christians do not ignore or forget this divine benevolence but we just do not remember it as much as we should; we do not thank God often enough for all he has done for us; too often we are ungrateful children.

Tonight, as we call to mind the infinite love of God which sent his Son on earth to be born of the virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem so that we could spend our eternity in the mansions of heaven, let us show our gratitude, our appreciation, by resolving to live as adopted sons of God are expected to live.

St. Paul’s letter to Titus tells us how. We must reject ungodliness and worldly lusts by living temperately, justly and piously, using the things of this world as stepping-stones to heaven. God has made us his Chosen People; nay more! he has made us his adopted sons. Let us show our true gratitude by striving to live a life worthy of such a sublime vocation.

GOSPEL

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Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122517-midnight.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”6 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.7 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.8

CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.9 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.10 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”11

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.12 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”13

CCC 515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith14 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus’ life was a sign of his mystery.15 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”16 His humanity appeared as “sacrament”, that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

CCC 525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.17 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest.18 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:
The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!19

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.20 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.21 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.22 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.23 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,24 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,25 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.26 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”27 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.28 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.29 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.30 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:31 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 725 Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love,32 into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples.

1 Heb 1:6.
2 Lk 2:14.
3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.
4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.
5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church
6 Lk 2:11.
7 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.
8 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.
9 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.
10 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11.
11 Jn 20:28,21:7.
12 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.
13 Acts 10:38.
14 Cf. Mk 1:1; Jn 21:24.
15 Cf Lk 2:7; Mt 27: 48; Jn 20:7.
16 Col 2:9.
17 Cf. Lk 2:61.
18 Cf. Lk 2:8-20.
19 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.
20 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.
21 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.
22 Cf. Jn 18:37.
23 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.
24 Cf. Ps 118:26.
25Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.
26 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.
27 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.
28 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.
29 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.
30 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.
31 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.
32 Cf. Lk 2:14.

APPLICATION

Tonight as we kneel before the Baby in the Manger in praise and thanksgiving to the Son of infinite love and mercy let not our amazement at the humility and poverty of the stable and manger, touching though they be, prevent us from seeing the greater, the almost incredible, humiliation of the Incarnation itself. Had our Savior been born in Herod’s marble palace in Jerusalem and laid on a gilded cot with covers of the finest silk, his becoming man would yet have been a humbling, a lowering of himself, which would stagger the human mind. There are those who puzzle over and try to explain the mystery of the Incarnation—how Christ, namely, could be God and man at the same time, how one Person could have two natures. But mystery though this is, and fully intelligible to God only, the mystery of the love of God who did this for us is a greater mystery still and more of a puzzle to our finite human minds. “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” What have we ever done or what could we ever do to merit such love, such mercy, such condescension? No, we did not merit such love but the infinitely unselfish generosity of God, which no human mind is capable of grasping, has done this. We are his creatures who are capable of sharing his own happiness with him for all eternity and he has arranged it that we shall do so.

All we can do is to say from our heart a humble, thank you God, and to resolve to have the sense to avail ourselves of this almost incredible offer. We are “God’s friends.” He has called us so, then let us do our best to retain this friendship than which there is nothing greater for us on earth or in heaven. If we do, and if we do the little he asks of us, he will do his part; he will give us our share in the eternal happiness the Incarnation has won for us.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

Why do we really celebrate Christmas despite the wretchedness, turmoil, and isolation that are still man’s lot and are if anything intensifying rather than lessening? What is the real point of Christmas?… Is it not consoling to see how, despite all the misunderstandings, the message of Jesus of Nazareth is heard? It is not only conflict that the message has produced but also and even more the miracle of understanding, so that across ages and cultures, and even across the boundaries between religions, human beings find one another in his name. Distance vanishes and people are drawn together amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists. Not as an infinitely distant power that can at best terrify us; not as being’s ultimate ground that is not conscious of itself. Rather he exists as One who can be concerned about us; he is such that everything we are and do lies open to his gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of Love. For anyone who accepts this in faith and knows it by faith, there is no longer any ultimate isolation. He is here. The light that one man becomes in history and for history is not an accident or something powerless, but Light from Light. The hope and encouragement that emanate from this light thus acquire a wholly new depth. But precisely because it is an entirely divine hope, we can and should accept it as also an entirely human hope and pass it on to others.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Christmas

A Root shall come forth from the stock of Jesse
And a Flower shall rise out of his root!
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him
the spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge and of godliness.
The people that walked in darkness
shall see a great light,
For a Child is born to us
and a Son is given to us.
To Him all power shall be given.
His Name shall be: Wonderful One,
Strong God, Eternal One, Prince of Peace.
He shall sit on the throne of David,
And He will found a new Covenant
which will last for ever and ever.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

SUGGESTED PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

The shepherds rejoiced to hear the choir of angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” United in their joy, we glorify the Father by offering him our Christmas petitions:

For the Holy Father and the bishops who assist him: that their life, teaching, preaching, and pastoral care will proclaim the saving Event of the Incarnation to everyone throughout the world.

For our President and all who assist him in governing our country: that they will receive many blessings at Christmas and be strengthened to lead our nation in the ways of enduring righteousness and freedom.

For lasting peace throughout the world: that the coming of the Prince of Peace will put an end to all enmity and division, and unify the peoples of the world.

For families: that the powerful graces of this Christmas will draw family members together in fresh expressions of love and belonging that will last for a lifetime.

For the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, and for refugees: that Jesus Christ, who came into the world as one who was destitute and marginalized, will love and rescue the needy with special preference and grace.

That all Christians will be serious in responding to the universal call to holiness by living their faith with great fervor.

Loving Father, darkness is for ever changed because of the birth of the Light: Jesus Christ your Son. Take all the darkness of our lives and replace it with the radiance of our newborn Savior. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE BEFORE THE MEAL

Loving Father,

you bless us in every way,

especially with the love of the Mother of your Son.

United in a special way with the Blessed Virgin Mary,

our souls magnify you.

We thank you for all good things,

especially this meal,

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

GRACE AFTER THE MEAL

Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,

for he has filled the hungry with good things.

Bless those who have provided for us in any way,

and fill all those who live in want.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Catholic

Fourth Sunday in Advent – A

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

OPENING PRAYER

Behold, all things are fulfilled which were spoken by the Angel of the Virgin Mary.

Let us pray.

O, Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Savior: come and save us, O Lord our God.

COLLECT

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,

your grace into our hearts,

that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son

was made known by the message of an Angel,

may by his Passion and Cross

be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;

let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!

But Ahaz answered,

“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”

Then Isaiah said:

Listen, O house of David!

Is it not enough for you to weary people,

must you also weary my God?

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:

the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,

and shall name him Emmanuel.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:1 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.2 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”3

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”4 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.5

1 Mt 1 18-25; Lk 1:26-38.

2 Mt 1:20.

3 Is 7:14 (LXX), quoted in Mt 1:23 (Greek).

4 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.

5 Isa 11:1-2.

APPLICATION

In today’s prophecy, Isaiah gives us the most important detail concerning the Messiah, Christ. He was to be God as well as man. This is what Christ was, as he claimed and as he proved by his miracles and by his resurrection. What a stunning, and at the same time, what an inspiring fact this knowledge is for us! We call the Incarnation, the coming of the Son of God among us in human nature, a mystery. It is one of the basic mysteries of our Christian religion, but the mystery lies not so much in how it was done (“with God all things are possible”), but rather in the infinite, mysterious love of God for us, who are so much below him and so unworthy of his love.

It would be waste of time for us mortals, with our small, limited capacity for real love, even to try to fathom this depth of God’s love. All we can do is to be grateful for it, while we wonder at its immensity. God loved man from all eternity and decided to give him gifts of intellect and will, far beyond the gifts given to all other earthly creatures. Because of these gifts, he made man capable of enjoying an eternity of happiness, and decreed to give this eternal enjoyment to him.

The Incarnation was the means chosen by God to attain this purpose of his. He would send his divine Son to live among us, for a short time, on earth. Because his Son became real man, he became our brother, and thereby we were raised to the dignity of sons of his heavenly Father.

Man had sinned in the meantime, and had refused the obedience and reverence his intellect told him he owed to his Creator and Benefactor. This, God had foreseen, of course, but the perfect obedience and reverence rendered to the Father by his incarnate Son, “an obedience even unto the death on the cross,” made atonement and satisfaction for all the sins of all men that ever had lived or would live, and, therefore, removed the obstacle that could prevent man reaching the end God had planned for him.

Redemption from sin, in order to make man fit for heaven, was a necessary effect of the Incarnation, but the prime and principal purpose of this act of God’s love was, precisely, to show love for us, and to give effect to his intention to make us his adopted sons, and thus heirs of heaven. Now can man ever forget this love which God has shown him? How can I forget that I am no longer a mere man but an adopted son of God, that every day that passes brings me a day nearer to my entry into the inheritance God has planned for me? I have difficulties and troubles during my years on this earth, but these are the very means God is putting at my disposal to enable me to prepare myself for the life of eternal happiness that awaits me.

Christmas, especially, should remind me that he who came on earth, to make me fit for heaven, had trials and troubles far greater and bigger than mine. He in no way deserved these trials; he bore them and accepted them gladly, so that I could, one day, enter into the life where troubles and trials will be no more, “because the Lamb of God who is at the throne … will lead me to springs of living water and God will wipe away all tears” (Rev. 7: 17).

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

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Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?

or who may stand in his holy place?

One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,

who desires not what is vain.

Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,

a reward from God his savior.

Such is the race that seeks for him,

that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

READING II

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Rom 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,

which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,

the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,

but established as Son of God in power

according to the Spirit of holiness

through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,

to bring about the obedience of faith,

for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,

among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;

to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.1 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, “the obedience of faith”.2

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”3 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.4 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.5

CCC 445 After his Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity. He was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”.6 The apostles can confess: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”7

CCC 494 At the announcement that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that “with God nothing will be impossible”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word.”8 Thus, giving her consent to God’s word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God’s grace:9

As St. Irenaeus says, “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”10 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. ..: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”10 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary “the Mother of the living” and frequently claim: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.”12

CCC 648 Christ’s Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics. The Father’s power “raised up” Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as “Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”.13 St. Paul insists on the manifestation of God’s power14 through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus’ dead humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship.

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,15 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.16 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”17 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.18 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.19 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.20 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:21 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”22 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.23 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.24

CCC 2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith”25 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.26 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

1 Cf. DV 5.

2 Cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26.

3 Lk 2:11.

4 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.

5 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.

6 Rom 1:3; cf. Acts 13:33.

7 Jn 1:14.

8 Lk 1:28-38; cf. Rom 1:5.

9 Cf. LG 56.

10 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.

11 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.

12 LC 56; St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.

13 Rom I 3-4; cf. Acts 2:24.

14 Cf. Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 13:4; Phil 3:10; Eph 1:19-22; Heb 7:16.

15 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

16 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

17 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

18 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

19 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

20 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

21 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

22 Cf. Rom 1:1.

23 Phil 2:7.

24 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.

25 Rom 1:5; 16:26.

26 Cf. Rom 1:18-32.

APPLICATION

Paul opens his letter to the Jewish and Gentile converts of Rome, the first generation of Christians in the capital city of the empire, by stating that he is an Apostle chosen by Christ to spread the good news of the Incarnation. He calls this news the “Gospel of God,” for it is an account of that almost incredible act of God’s love for us. God sent his divine Son, as man, among us in this world, in order that we might be with the three divine Persons for all eternity in the next world.

God does not need us : the Blessed Trinity is all-perfect and all-glorious in itself He did not have to create the universe or its inhabitants: they add nothing to his internal perfection. But, as the nature of a burning coal is to spread its heat, so the nature of the God, who is love, is to distribute his love among others outside of him. Hence creation.

Having created the universe, God brought one species of its inhabitants, human beings, to the height of created perfection. He gave man the spiritual faculties of intelligence and free-will, faculties which he himself possesses in an infinite degree. Even though these powers are limited in man, because of his limited, created nature, yet because of them, man is somewhat “like unto God.”

This was not the limit of God’s goodness. As a result of the spiritual gifts he has received, man is capable of knowing and loving God. The benevolent God decided to give him the possibility of doing this, not only for his short spell on earth, but for all eternity. Hence the Incarnation. That God could have found other ways of doing this we can hardly doubt, but the way he did it cannot be surpassed as a demonstration of his infinite love for us.

The Son of God became man. The Creator became as one of his creatures. The master took on the form of his slave. Only supreme love and benevolence could invent such a humiliation for himself. Add to this, the sufferings, the insults, the hatreds, which culminated in the humiliating and most painful of deaths on the cross, which the sins and the ingratitude of those he had come to raise up brought on him during his earthly life among us, and we have some idea of the debt we owe the God of love.

We can never repay it, but God will accept the little gratitude we can render him. From the bottom of our hearts, let us all thank our Father in heaven, this Christmas, for sending us his Son, so that we could have God himself as our Father. And let our heartfelt thanks to God overflow into acts of love for our neighbor, for it’s only thus that we can really prove to God that we love him. This is “the obedience of faith,” the putting of the “Gospel of God” into practice, which St. Paul demands.

GOSPEL

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Mt 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,

but before they lived together,

she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,

yet unwilling to expose her to shame,

decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold,

the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

“Joseph, son of David,

do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit

that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,

because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke,

he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him

and took his wife into his home.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121816.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5

CCC 430 Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission.6 Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”.7 in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.

CCC 437 To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiah promised to Israel: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”8 From the beginning he was “the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world”, conceived as “holy” in Mary’s virginal womb.9 God called Joseph to “take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, so that Jesus, “who is called Christ”, should be born of Joseph’s spouse into the messianic lineage of David.10

CCC 486 The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.11 Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”12

CCC 497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:13 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.14 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”15

CCC 1507 The risen Lord renews this mission (“In my name. .. they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”16) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name.17 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly “God who saves.”18

CCC 1846 The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy to sinners.19 The angel announced to Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”20 The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”21

CCC 2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”22 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.23

CCC 2812 Finally, in Jesus the name of the Holy God is revealed and given to us, in the flesh, as Savior, revealed by what he is, by his word, and by his sacrifice.24 This is the heart of his priestly prayer: “Holy Father. .. for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”25 Because he “sanctifies” his own name, Jesus reveals to us the name of the Father.26 At the end of Christ’s Passover, the Father gives him the name that is above all names: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”27

1 Heb 1:6.

2 Lk 2:14.

3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.

4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.

5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church

6 Cf. Lk 1:31.

7 Mt 1:21; cf. 2:7.

8 Lk 2:11.

9 Jn 10:36; cf. Lk 1:35.

10 Mt 1:20; cf. 1:16; Rom 1:1; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16.

11 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:1-12; Lk 1:35; 2:8-20; Jn 1:3 1-34; 2:11.

12 Acts 10:38.

13 Mt 1 18-25; Lk 1:26-38.

14 Mt 1:20.

15 Is 7:14 (LXX), quoted in Mt 1:23 (Greek).

16 Mk 16:17-18.

17 Cf. Acts 9:34; 14:3.

18 Cf. Mt 1:21; Acts 4:12.

19 Cf. Lk 15.

20 Mt 1:21.

21 Mt 26:28.

22 Cf. Ex 3:14; 33: 19-23; Mt 1:21.

23 Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21; 3:15-16; Gal 2:20.

24 Cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31, Jn 8:28; 17:8; 17:17-19.

25 Jn 17:11, 19.

26 Cf. Ezek 20:39; 36:20-21; Jn 17:6.

27 Phil 2:9-11.

APPLICATION

“How unsearchable are the judgments of God and how inscrutable his ways!” as St. Paul says to the Romans (11: 33). If God had preserved the kingdom of Judah (which he could so easily have done), and if the Messiah, the son of David, were to be born in the royal palace in Jerusalem, it would be natural and we would almost say, more fitting the dignity of the Messiah. Instead. God allowed the kingly line, and the throne of Judah, to disappear, and he chose a humble carpenter of Nazareth, a true descendant of David but a lowly one, to be the foster-father of his divine Son, when he took human nature and came on earth to “dwell among us.” But God’s ways are not our ways. It is not by their social standing, nor by their bank-accounts, that God values men. Virtue is the scale he uses when weighing men. In God’s eyes, no king sat on the throne of Judah, not even David himself, who was more acceptable to God as foster-father for his Son, than the carpenter of Nazareth.

This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Like Joseph, we can all feel unworthy of the honor of welcoming him into our hearts and our homes. We are indeed unworthy, not because we have little of this world’s goods, but because we have so little humility, so little charity, so little faith and trust in God’s goodness. Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy. We can never hope to equal them, but we can follow them humbly, from afar.

The feast of Christmas should draw the hearts of every child of God towards the furnace of divine love. In the manger, the infinite love of God for us miserable sinners is dramatically and forcefully portrayed before our eyes. In that helpless Baby, represented by a statue, we know that the person, and the power, of the omnipotent Creator and sustainer of the universe lie hidden “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” for us. He became a creature, like ourselves, so that he would make us sharers in his divine nature. He came on earth to bring us to heaven. He hid his divine nature so that he could cover us with it.

“Unsearchable indeed are the judgments of God, and inscrutable his ways.” But though we are unworthy of his infinite love, it nevertheless stands out as clear as the noonday sun in the Incarnation. We realize that we can never make ourselves worthy of this infinite love, but let us imitate Joseph and accept the honor which God is giving us, as we trust that he will continue to make us daily less unworthy.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Method of the Incarnation

The Incarnation of the Word means that God does not merely want to come to the spirit of man, through the Spirit, but that he is seeking him through and in the material world, that he also in fact wants to encounter him as a social and historical being. God wants to come to men through men. God has approached men in such a way that through him, and on account of him, they can find their way to one another. Thus the Incarnation includes the communal and historical aspects of faith. Taking the way of the body means that the time, as a reality, and the social nature of man become features of man’s relationship with God, features that are in turn based upon God’s existing relationship with man. God’s action brings into being “the People of God,” and “the People of God,” on the basis of Christ, become “the body of Christ”… The ultimate goal for us all is that of becoming happy. Yet happiness exists only in company with each other, and we can keep company only in the infinity of love. There is happiness only in the removal of barriers of the self moving into divinity, in becoming divine.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

TE DEUM

You are God: we praise you;

You are the Lord: we acclaim you;

You are the eternal Father:

All creation worships you.

To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,

Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

The glorious company of apostles praise you.

The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.

The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you:

Father, of majesty unbounded,

your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,

and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,

the eternal Son of the Father.

When you became man to set us free

you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.

You overcame the sting of death,

and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.

We believe that you will come, and be our judge.

Come then, Lord, and help your people,

bought with the price of your own blood,

and bring us with your saints

to glory everlasting.

Let us pray.

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

– Amen.

A special Advent gift for you.  Arvo Part – Te Deum

 

 

Posted in Catholic

Third Sunday in Advent – A

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Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.

OPENING PRAYER

Prayer to St. John the Baptist

God, You raised up St. John the Baptist to prepare a perfect people for Christ. Fill Your people with the joy of possessing His grace, and direct the minds of all the faithful in the way of peace and salvation. Grant that, as St. John was martyred for truth and justice, so we may energetically profess our Faith in You, and lead others to the Way, the Truth, and Eternal Life. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 35:1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;

the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers,

and rejoice with joyful song.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,

the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;

they will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,

make firm the knees that are weak,

say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

with divine recompense

he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared;

then will the lame leap like a stag,

then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return

and enter Zion singing,

crowned with everlasting joy;

they will meet with joy and gladness,

sorrow and mourning will flee.

APPLICATION

Even if we took this prophecy of Isaiah as relating to the return from Babylon only, it would still be a source of consolation to us, and a reason for thanking our good God who, in this return of the Jews from Babylon, was preparing the way for the coming of his divine Son among us. The Exodus from Egypt in the 13th century, and the liberation from Babylon in the 6th, were big steps taken by God on the road to our eternal liberation. But as we know from our Lord’s own interpretation (Mt. 11:5), these words of the prophet referred also to God’s greatest act of love and mercy—the Incarnation of his divine Son, which was to liberate all mankind from the slavery of sin and worldliness, and make men citizens of an everlasting homeland, heaven.

How can we ever thank God for this, act of infinite love for us? The answer is that we cannot. All eternity itself will not be long enough for us to praise and thank God. Just as our creation was an act of sheer generosity, so this greater gift, our elevation to adopted sonship, is an act of infinite generosity, for which all that he expects in return, is our true appreciation of the gift and honor conferred on us.

Christmas, each year, brings vividly before our minds this proof of God’s infinite love. Every time a sincere Jew saw the rebuilt Temple and city of Jerusalem, he must surely have thanked God for having released his people from the slavery of Babylon, and for having given them, once more, a homeland of their own, and a temple where they could worship him freely. How much greater should be our gratitude when the Christmas crib reminds us of all that God has done for us? The statue of the small Baby, lying on a wad of straw in a stable, is but a feeble representation of the self-humiliation willingly accepted by the Son of God, when he assumed our human nature, in order to raise us up to the dizzy heights of divine sonship. All we can say is, “thank you, God, you have surely shown your love for us, would that we could show you some real love in return.”

Jerusalem with its temple, God’s earthly abode, and the land of Canaan, were God’s gifts to the Chosen People of old. They were but symbols of the reality he has promised to us. God grant we may all inherit that reality.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

Lord, come and save us.

The LORD God keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

Lord, come and save us.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;

the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.

The LORD loves the just;

the LORD protects strangers.

Lord, come and save us.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

your God, O Zion, through all generations.

Lord, come and save us.

READING II

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Jas 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,

until the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,

being patient with it

until it receives the early and the late rains.

You too must be patient.

Make your hearts firm,

because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,

that you may not be judged.

Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,

the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

APPLICATION

“The coming of the Lord is at hand.” These words of St. James are true for all of us, in two senses. His first coming, which we shall be commemorating in ten days or so, is very near. I am sure you are all busy already, making preparations for this great family feast-buying presents and greeting cards, putting your homes in order, getting ready to welcome and entertain relatives, friends and neighbors—all of which is becoming and right. The sincere Christian is, or should also be, busy putting his spiritual home in order, so that he may be able to welcome and entertain the greatest friend man could ever have. Christmas is the anniversary feast of his friend’s coming among us, to become one of the family, and enable us to become, for evermore, members of his.

The sincere Christian, who prepares thus, need have no fear of the second coming of Christ as his judge–the coming of which St. James speaks today. One of the hardest things, even for a devout Christian, is to convince himself that death–the moment when eternal destiny is decided–is not yet years and years away. Not one among us will deny the existence of such escapism. Death, therefore, for all of us will be unexpected when it comes. Even for the vast majority of those who die after a long illness the end is not in fact expected.

But death need not be unexpected, that is, unprepared for. This is really what matters. The man, or woman, who heeds the words of our Lord : “stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk. 12:40) will strive to be always ready, by attempting to live always at peace with God.

Ours is a God of mercy. He will never try to catch, in one of their moments of weakness, those who are striving to live in his love and grace. Nor does he fail to send forearming, even to those who not only forget him but continually offend him. Those warnings can, of course, fall on deaf ears. St. James’ words today are such a warning. If anyone among you has hitherto neglected his duties to God, let him listen now to that warning and put his conscience right with God. The sinner who will do so, will have a holy and happy Christmas. He will welcome Christ becomingly at his first coming, and Christ’s second coming will have no terrors for him.

GOSPEL

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Mt 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,

he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,

“Are you the one who is to come,

or should we look for another?”

Jesus said to them in reply,

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:

the blind regain their sight,

the lame walk,

lepers are cleansed,

the deaf hear,

the dead are raised,

and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,

“What did you go out to the desert to see?

A reed swayed by the wind?

Then what did you go out to see?

Someone dressed in fine clothing?

Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.

Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

This is the one about whom it is written:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,

among those born of women

there has been none greater than John the Baptist;

yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121116.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him.1 To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask.2 So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God.3 But his miracles can also be occasions for “offense”;4 they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.5

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,6 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,7 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.8

CCC 2444 “The Church’s love for the poor. .. is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.9 Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.”10 It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.11

1 cf. Jn 5:36; 10:25, 38.

2 Cf. Mk 5:25-34; 10:52; etc.

3 Cf. Jn 10:31-38.

4 Mt 11:6.

5 Cf. Jn 11:47-48; Mk 3:22.

6 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

7 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.

8 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

9 CA 57; cf. Lk 6:20-22, Mt 8:20; Mk 12:41-44.

10 Eph 4:28.

11 Cf. CA 57.

APPLICATION

The Church brings John the Baptist, the man who prepared the people for Christ’s public mission, before our minds today, as an example that we should follow, even if only from afar. John prepared himself for the task of welcoming and introducing Christ to others, by a life of self-mortification and penance. He told the people that the first essential for meeting Christ, and profiting by his coming, was that they should turn away from sin and give up any evil ways, which hitherto they had followed. He himself practiced what he preached and his preaching, therefore, bore fruit among many of his hearers. Four of the twelve Apostles became followers of Christ because of the Baptist’s example and preaching.

John is calling on us too today, to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming this Christmas, by turning away from sin, and by the mortification of ourselves in many ways. We are not expected to wear the rough camel-hair dress he wore, and eat nothing but locusts and wild honey. But each one of us can restrain the excessive luxuries of the palate, in which we often indulge, and use the money, thus saved, to help those who are short of the necessities of life, in far too many parts of today’s world. Many of us, too, could look through our wardrobes and find garments we can well do without. These could help to keep the wintry blasts from our poor, shivering fellowman or women this Christmas.

Most of us feel touched, when we see the Baby Christ lying, half-naked, on the rough straw in the stable. But to do something for him, we need not wish we were there on that first Christmas. We can do it for his suffering brothers this Christmas, and he himself tells us if we do that we are doing it for him.

In repenting of our sins, the first necessary step if we want to welcome Christ into a pure heart and into our Christian homes, let our conversion and resolutions be firm, as was the resolute stand of John the Baptist. He was not a reed that was shaken by every wind, and we too must stand firm against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, if we are to remain worthy of the name of Christian. John the Baptist suffered martyrdom for his faith and convictions. Few, if any, of us will be called on to lay down our lives for our faith, but we are all called on to live for it, and with it, every day of our lives.

This may demand sacrifice nowadays, when our permissive society derides and looks down on those still trying to live according to the old-fashioned ten commandments. But we must not only be ready to accept this derision; we must do all in our power, by word, prayer and example, to get our erring neighbor to see that virtue does pay in the end.

We have much in this story of John the Baptist which should help us to welcome Christ properly this Christmas. Think of the Baptist today, and listen to the message he has for you. If you do your best to put it into practice, the good, merciful Lord himself will do the rest for you. He came to save sinners. He came to save you. If you cooperate and do your part, you will hear, on your judgment day, the joyful words of Christ : “You are more than a prophet, you are a citizen of heaven–a saint.”

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Genuine Joy

It is in fact true, is it not, that all joy which arises independently of Christ or contrary to his will proves insufficient and only thrusts the person back down into a confusion in which, when all is said and done, he can find no lasting joy? Only with Christ has authentic joy made its appearance and the only thing of ultimate importance in our lives is to learn to see and know Christ, the God of grace, the light and joy of the world. Our joy will be genuine only when it no longer depends on things that can be stripped from us and destroyed and when it has its basis rather in those innermost depths of our existence which no worldly power can take from us. Every external loss should turn us back to these innermost depths and better dispose us for our true life… To celebrate Advent means to bring to life within ourselves the hidden Presence of God. It takes place to the extent that we travel the path of conversion and change our cast of mind by turning from the visible to the invisible. As we travel this path, we learn to see the miracle of grace; we learn that there can be no more luminous source of joy for human beings and the world than the grace that has appeared in Christ. The world is not a futile confusion of drudgery and pain, for all the distress the world contains is supported in the arms of merciful love; it is caught up in the forgiving and saving graciousness of our God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Praise to God (Psalm 67)

O God, be gracious and bless us and let Your face shed its light upon us.

So will Your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn Your saving help.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

Let the nations be glad and exult for You rule the world with justice.

With fairness You rule the peoples, You guide the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us.

May God still give us His blessing till the ends of the earth revere Him.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;

let all the peoples praise You.

Posted in Catholic

Second Sunday in Advent – A

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“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

OPENING PRAYER

O Jesus, in an empty desert your prophet John proclaimed: God is here, at your side. God has come to bring about a kingdom where injustice and suffering will be no more, where tears will be wiped away, and where those who turn to God will feast at a banquet.

Give me faith like John’s, O Lord, strong enough to believe even in a desert that you and your kingdom are no farther from me than my hand. Make my heart strong like his, not swayed by trials or snared by false pleasures. Give me courage to be faithful until your promises are fulfilled.

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,

only joy of every heart,

come and save your people.

COLLECT

Almighty and merciful God,

may no earthly undertaking hinder those

who set out in haste to meet your Son,

but may our learning of heavenly wisdom

gain us admittance to his company.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 11:1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:

a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

a spirit of counsel and of strength,

a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,

and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Not by appearance shall he judge,

nor by hearsay shall he decide,

but he shall judge the poor with justice,

and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.

Justice shall be the band around his waist,

and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

the calf and the young lion shall browse together,

with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,

together their young shall rest;

the lion shall eat hay like the ox.

The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,

and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,

as water covers the sea.

On that day, the root of Jesse,

set up as a signal for the nations,

the Gentiles shall seek out,

for his dwelling shall be glorious.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 436 The word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means “anointed”. It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that “Christ” signifies. In effect, in Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that he gave were anointed in his name. This was the case for kings, for priests and, in rare instances, for prophets.1 This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah whom God would send to inaugurate his kingdom definitively.2 It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet.3 Jesus fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in his threefold office of priest, prophet and king.

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.4 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.5 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.6 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.7 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.8 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”9 – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel10 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.11 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church12 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.13

CCC 712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”14 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.15

CCC 1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.16 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.17 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”18

CCC 1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.19 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.20

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. .. If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.21

1 Cf. Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 16:1, 12-13; I Kings 1:39; 19:16.

2 Cf. Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26-27.

3 Cf. Is 11:2; 61:1; Zech 4:14; 6:13; Lk 4:16-21.

4 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.

5 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.

6 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.

7 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.

8 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.

9 Mt 3:16.

10 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.

11 Cf. Is 11:1-9.

12 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.

13 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.

14 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.

15 Isa 11:1-2.

16 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.

17 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.

18 Jn 3:34.

19 Cf. Isa 11:1-2.

20 PS 143:10.

21 Rom 8:14, 17.

APPLICATION

In the eighth century B.C., when Isaiah spoke these prophetic words, many of his contemporaries were in the depths of despair. Because of the sad state of the true religion and the return to idolatry and paganism then so prevalent among them, many of Yahweh’s loyal followers were afraid that Yahweh had forgotten his promises to the Patriarchs, their ancestors. Isaiah dispels their fears and their despair, by his definite promise that a new Davidic King would come who would establish peace and a glorious kingdom of justice on earth. His kingdom would be a return to the peace of Paradise, before sin entered the world.

Today, twenty-seven centuries later, we too need to listen to this prophet of hope. We are living in a world where disloyalty to God among those who believe in him, and the denial of his very existence by many more, are prevalent. The natural and logical result of these two positions is that justice and peace among men do not and cannot exist. If men deny that God has any rights or claims over them or act as if he has not, then they cannot admit that their fellowman has any claims on them, or any right to demand justice from them. There can be no true love of neighbor, and no true respect for his rights, where there is no love for God and respect for his rights.

This explains the chaotic state of out world today. But an explanation is not a solution. Diagnosis of a disease is not its cure. We must strive to give God his rightful place in our daily lives, and follow the only path that leads to justice and peace on earth. This is the path laid down by Christ, the true son of God, who came on earth, as man, to teach us that we should love God, and love our neighbor because God loves us. Through the coming of Christ he has made us all his own adopted children.

Many will shrug their shoulders and say : what can I do about this, what effect can any action of mine have in bringing sanity (i.e. true religion), back to this mad world of ours? Yet, you can do a lot, and far more than you could expect. If you put your own conscience straight with God and with your neighbor, God has one more loyal son on earth, one more channel through which he can send his grace to men, one more ray of light, which will help dispel the darkness of despair which surrounds us.

To prepare yourself to welcome Christ at Christmas take an honest look at yourself. How do you stand in relation to God and your neighbor? Are you doing your part to keep peace and love in the home and in your neighborhood? In your place of work are you an example of justice, of peace, of respect for the things of God? Are your language and your conduct truly Christian? Can your fellow-workers say of you: “that man’s religion really means something to him, I wish I were like him”? If you can say “yes,” to these soul-questions, then thank God for it and strive to do even more. If your honest answer is “No,” then begin today to change your life. Your true happiness on earth, and the guarantee of your eternal happiness after death, will depend on this change. Not only that, but the true happiness of many others on earth, and the chance of their eternal happiness hereafter, will depend on it too. Is this too much to ask of any sensible man, who knows where he came from and knows where he is going?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,

and with your justice, the king’s son;

he shall govern your people with justice

and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Justice shall flower in his days,

and profound peace, till the moon be no more.

May he rule from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,

and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;

the lives of the poor he shall save.

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

May his name be blessed forever;

as long as the sun his name shall remain.

In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;

all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

READING II

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Rom 15:4-9

Brothers and sisters:

Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,

that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures

we might have hope.

May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,

for the glory of God.

For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised

to show God’s truthfulness,

to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,

but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

As it is written:

Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles

and sing praises to your name.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man”,1 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.2

CCC 2627 Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father – we bless him for having blessed us;3 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.4

1 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; Phil 2:5.

2 Cf. Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11-12.

3 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3 7; 1 Pet 1:3-9.

4 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24.

APPLICATION

“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.” St. Paul is referring to the inspired books of the Old Testament in this sentence, and how true this statement is. From these books we learn of the existence of the true God, from whom all things came to be. And not only do we learn of the existence of God, who is our Creator, but we learn that he is our Father, that be has a paternal interest in us, that he has put us on earth in order to share his heaven with us later. It was for this purpose that he revealed himself to Abraham, and made him the father of the Chosen People: from him he had planned that his Son would take his human nature and become one of us, in order to make us brothers and sons of the eternal Father.

All God’s dealings with Abraham and his descendants–the Jews–as described in the books of the Old Testament, were part of and preparation for this great central act of God’s love for men–the Incarnation.

In these dealings, we learn of another most consoling fact about God–his infinite mercy and his unbounded gift of forgiveness for sinful, unworthy men. His Chosen People, the Jews, were sinful and stubborn, yet he put up with them for centuries, came to their aid again and again, when their own sins had brought misfortunes and catastrophes upon them. Like a recurring decimal, we have, in their whole history of eighteen hundred years, the following theme: sin and disloyalty to their good God, punishment generally from pagan neighbors, their return to God, when in extreme and dire straits, God’s forgiveness and a new start.

For most of us Christians, who should know better and should love God more sincerely, for we are witnesses of his supreme act of love in the Incarnation, the knowledge that we are dealing with a God of infinite mercy and patience is a source of strength and encouragement. For we too, unfortunately, are too apt to imitate the Jews in our dealings with God. There are few of us who cannot see in our past lives something similar to the recurring decimal of the Jewish history. However, God is still the God of infinite mercy. He does not, and cannot, change. He is ever ready to forgive and pardon; the prodigal will still get the fatted calf, and the newest garment, if he really returns to his Father.

Yes, whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. Add to this what has been written concerning Christ’s coming among us, with his teaching and promises, and we Christians surely have an inexhaustible source of encouragement and hope. To help us prepare ourselves to welcome Christ at Christmas, the Church brings before our minds sections of the Old and New Testaments, which should inspire us with new faith, hope and charity. Faith in God, who always fulfills his promises, hope for our eventual salvation, and charity, or love for God, who has done, and is still doing, such wonderful things for us unworthy men. This charity and love of God must spill over on our neighbor, if it is sincere, for as St. John tells us, the man who says he loves God and yet hates his neighbor is a liar (2 Jn. 4: 20).

GOSPEL

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Mt 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea

and saying,

It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:

A voice of one crying out in the desert,

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair

and had a leather belt around his waist.

His food was locusts and wild honey.

At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,

and the whole region around the Jordan

were going out to him

and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River

as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees

coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!

Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

And do not presume to say to yourselves,

‘We have Abraham as our father.’

For I tell you,

God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.

Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit

will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,

but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.

I am not worthy to carry his sandals.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fan is in his hand.

He will clear his threshing floor

and gather his wheat into his barn,

but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120416.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man”,1 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.2

CCC 2627 Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father – we bless him for having blessed us;3 it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.4

1 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; Phil 2:5.

2 Cf. Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11-12.

3 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3 7; 1 Pet 1:3-9.

4 Cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24.

APPLICATION

In this holy season of Advent, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John the Baptist has words of advice and warnings for each one of us. He advises us to “prepare the way of the Lord,” by true repentance of our past sins and a firm resolution to straighten “the ways of the Lord,” that is, not to deviate from the true Christian way of life in the future. Please God, none of us deserves the reproaches he addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees, but most of us perhaps can find traces of some predominant vices in our innermost selves. The pride and self-righteousness of the Pharisees ruined their otherwise good lives. The worldliness of the Sadducees made them lose interest in the future life, until they went so far as to deny any future existence after death.

Of these two vices, that of the Sadducees is the more prevalent today, and it is to be found in the best of us, in a greater or lesser degree. While all true Christians repudiate atheistic Communism, with its denial of the existence of God and of a future life, many be come so immersed in the things of this world that they have no time or thought for the world that is to come. While, theoretically, they reject Communism, they themselves, like the “brood of vipers” of whom the Baptist spoke, are full of the poison of materialism, and are injecting this poison into those whom they influence.

A sincere examination of our outlook on life and death, and of our way of life up to today, will tell us how we stand in relation to Christ. Let each one of us ask himself : if Christ, for whose coming as the Divine Babe of Bethlehem we are preparing, were to come to him before Christmas as his just judge, how would he fare? Would he be gathered with the wheat into the granary, or be bundled with the chaff into the unquenchable fire? Each one of us has the decision in his own hands. We can, by true repentance, change ourselves from chaff into wheat, but once we draw our last breath, not even the infinitely merciful God can do that for us.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Let us gaze on John the Baptist. Challenging and active he stands before us, a “type” of the manly vocation. In harsh terms he demands metanoia, a radical transformation of attitudes. Those who would be Christians must be “transformed’ ever again. Our natural disposition, indeed, finds us always ready to assert ourselves to pay like with like, to put ourselves at the center. Those who want to find God need, again and again, that inner conversion, that new direction. And this applies also to the total outlook on life. Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this. Yet the truth is that what is invisible is greater and much more valuable than anything visible. One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, is worth more than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world. John himself was not spared this painful process of change, of turning around.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Jn 1: 1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made: in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men; and the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to testify concerning the Light, taht all might believe through Him. He was not the Light, be he was to testify concerning the Light. That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world.

He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him to them He gave power to become sons of God, to them that believe in His Name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Deo Gratias.

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