Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Fullness of God shared with Us

“From his fullness, you have received grace in place of grace” (Jn 1:16).  This reality of receiving from God’s fullness is repeated in other parts of today’s liturgy. In 1 Jn 2: 19,  we are told that we “ have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and have all received the knowledge.”   John in this first letter is talking about the end times, a time when antichrists surface in many parts of the world.  “Children,” John says, “it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.”     We know what is and is not of God—that knowledge is given us by the Holy Spirit, the “Holy Anointing” we received when we were born again through the sacrament of baptism and when we also received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.  In today’s Gospel,  John 1: 1-18, the blessings announced in 1 Jn 2: 19 and Jn 1:16 are spoken of in the following ways:   “…[T]o those who did accept him [Jesus] he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”  

How conscious am I of having received  of God’s fullness or that the people I live and pray  with at every liturgy, those I  encounter throughout the day, have also received “grace in place of grace”?  Would I treat people differently if I were aware that they, like myself,  have been given “power to become children of God”?

Reflecting on John 1:16, 1 John 2:19, and John 1: 1-18, I am not surprised that the angels present at the birth of Jesus, and joining us at every Catholic Mass, shout God’s praises both in the Gloria and in the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  What a privilege during Mass to join the angels and saints praising God for sharing His fullness with us.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Challenges of Living our Faith

Today we have the story of the prophetess Anna who was in the right place at the right time and recognized Jesus, the Messiah, being brought to the Temple for circumcision and His mother presenting her self to fulfill the purification rites prescribed by the Law of Moses.  Yesterday, I had asked Jesus for the grace to be in the right place at the right time to recognize Jesus as He presented Himself to me through the events of the day.  A situation arose in which a needy person needed help. I was asked if I would help out, as each member of the staff was too busy to respond to this unscheduled need.  I erupted—where  were the persons assigned to this ministry of hospitality, I asked.  Grudgingly, I responded and later when more demands were placed upon me that I did not expect, I erupted in anger.

In prayer later, I said to the Lord: I asked to recognize you in the situations and encounters of this day and when a needy person needed help and my routine, my agenda, my day were interrupted, I erupted!  Lord, you revealed your will that I reach out to help a person in need and I rejected it.  Give me feedback, Lord.

Dorothy Ann, you are right. It was an opportunity  to help a person in need. You failed, though you did it. You did it grudgingly without joy or gratitude.  There is sin in you—a streak of selfishness and pride. You were “generous”  on your terms.  

Jesus, help me. What do I need to learn from this so I am predisposed  in the future to be helpful to those who are helpless?

Pause and call upon me before reacting so that you can respond with patience, wisdom, generosity and joy. I will always arm you with these gifts of the Holy Spirit when you call upon me. As with Mary, in difficult situations, the Holy Spirit  will overshadow you.  Remember, Dorothy Ann, faith in action always involves sacrifice. Trust that when you are being asked to do something on behalf of others that it  will include sacrifice—I gave my life for you—and sacrificial love always leads to an unforeseen good. Remember, too, that living your faith always includes surrender, sacrifice, trust, letting go of your right to yourself. 

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Infant as Jerusalem's Deliverance

In today’s Gospel, Luke 2: 22-35, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple to be circumcised. Mary herself goes through the ritual of purification.  As she and Joseph enter the Temple, Simeon and Anna are led by the Spirit into the Temple as well.  It has been revealed to Simeon that he will not see death until he sees the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who is the deliverance of Jerusalem.  Both Anna and Simeon recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world, the One who will be a Light to pagans and believers alike

How is sit that Simeon and Anna are given this privilege of recognizing the Lord?  Both are faith-filled persons.  Simeon we are told is an upright, devout man, one who was looking forward to Israel’s comforting and who readily followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Anna is also a devout woman, has never left the Temple day or night. She, too, prepared herself for this great day. Once we recognized Jesus, she made Him known to others.

In what ways do I prepare myself to recognize Jesus among us? And when I do recognize Him, how do I proclaim Him to others? Am I looking forward to encountering Jesus each day in the encounters I will have, in the requests  to help out the needy in  my midst?  And like Anna, do I give witness to Him by my attitudes and behaviors?

Help me, Lord, to  live an upright and a devout life as did both Anna and Simeon and be prepared today to encounter you in the events of the day. Forgive me for the many times I do not recognize you in the needs that are brought to my attention  each day: the need to be recognized, the need to be received with joy, gratitude and openness.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Closeness to Jesus, our Redeemer, Sancitifier, Brother

In the first reading of today’s liturgy, 1 John 1: 1-4, St. John the Apostle says to each one of us:  What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life—for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life.”  John is excited and wants to share with us the intimacy, the closeness, he was privileged to share with Jesus during his lifetime. John, the brother of James, sons of Zebedee, was in his father’s boat mending nets when Jesus called him with his brother James to be one of His followers. He was privileged to listen to Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom, to witness not only Jesus’ healing of the sick and the lame, the blind and the dead, the demoniacs and lepers, but also to participate in Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves.  John was present on Mount Tabor when Jesus was transfigured and the Father said to Peter, James and John: Listen to Jesus; He is my only begotten Son. John also was present at the Last Supper, at the first Eucharistic celebration, when Jesus transformed the bread and the wine at the Last Supper into His body and blood: take and eat this is my body given up for you; take and drink, this is the blood of the New Covenant poured out for you.  It was John who rested his head on Jesus’ breast when the betrayer was announced to be one of them.  It was also John who stood beneath the cross of the crucified Jesus. Jesus said to him: John, take care of my mother and he took her into his home. It was at that moment, also, that Jesus asked Mary to take care of her son John and all her sons and daughters, you and me.

We might envy John for being privileged to be so close to Jesus. But you and I are as privileged. As Christians, and especially as Catholics, we rest our heads on the breast of Jesus and Jesus on our breast when we receive Holy Communion, heeding Jesus’ words  to take and eat; this is my body given up for you. Take and drink, this is my blood poured out for you. In the holy sacrifice of the Catholic Mass, we join all of the angels and saints in heaven, singing: “Hosanna in the highest; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Heaven and earth join together praising and thanking our God for the gift of eternal life which every person who eats of the consecrated bread and drinks of the consecrated wine, the body and blood of Jesus, inherits.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Looking Intently to heaven

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who held fast to his faith in Christ Jesus in the face of the outrage “of the members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrains, and the people from Cilicia and Asia.”  They were unable to debate with Stephen, as his wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke was too much for them. Hearing him, “they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. In the midst of their attack upon him, Stephen, “filled with the Holy “Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,” saying to his attackers:  “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59). 

Many times when our loved ones are face to face with death, they, too, I believe, see the “glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  The “heavens [open]” and they see “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,” as they, too, look “intently to heaven.” God, we know, is always with us in our best of times and our “worst” of times, worst humanly speaking.  God never abandons us. That is why He became one of us in the flesh.  He is always close at hands, even when we are unaware of His presence.