Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas: The Birth of Our Savior

Merry Christmas!
Earth has seen your faithfulness, O God, in the birth of our Savior!
Righteousness, O God, is Your gift to us through Your Son, Jesus, born this day in Bethlehem!
Righteousness, O God, is Your gift of love, mercy, and forgiveness poured out upon us through Your Son Jesus, who set His glory aside to take on our humanity, died on the cross a torturous death to save us from sin and rose triumphant over death four our sake.
Yes, Lord, today a light truly shines upon us, for You are born to give us a rebirth into eternal life with you.

Counselor God, Wondrous God, Prince of peace, Father of future ages, King of all nations, your reign will be without end.
Heavenly angels, O God, announced your coming to the shepherds.
Really, really, may we through grace, make room for You in our hearts and homes each day.
Interiorly purified and strengthened by Your Word each day, may the radiance of Your glory shine through us by Love manifested in our deeds!
Sincerely, reverently, and humbly, may our souls be opened to Your Loving embrace and merciful concern for the well-being of our mind, body and spirit!
Time and time again, Lord, You knock at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to invite you in for a chat, for nourishment and peace the world cannot give.
May we heed your knocking and share our secrets with you: our worries, our concerns, our heartaches, our frustrations, our joys, our sorrows, our dreams;
And may we never forget to say “Thank you” for your generosity in sending us Your only Begotten Son to save us from sin and death, from selfishness and fear, from all that would deter us from coming to you for help as we face this world’s violence and emptiness of Satan’s deceptive ways.

So, Lord, we say “Thank You,” this Christmas and every day that our Savior has come and we are now called Your holy people, Your redeemed, and that we are no longer forsaken and left to battle Satan alone as he prowls the world looking for someone to dev our (Compare Isaiah 62: 11-12)!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

God's Kingdom among Us

In today’s first reading, 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16, King David wanted to build a house for the ark of God.   God says to the prophet Nathan, who had encouraged King David to do so, to let King David know that it was not the will of God that he take on such a task.  “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in? It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.   And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance….I will raise up your heir after you, spring from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm….Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”

God sent His Son into the World, born of a woman on this holy night.   Jesus came to earth to establish God’s Kingdom here and to secure our place in that Kingdom for all eternity by ransoming us from Satan’s snares. e did so H He did so by His obedience to the Father unto His death on the cross and His triumph over death in His resurrection.

My prayer:  Thank you, God, for your great love in leaving Your throne and the peace of heaven to enter a sin-infested, troubled, violent world to secure for m—for all of us--a place in heaven!  You left heaven and came to earth to redeem it and take it out of Satan’s power. You, warrior God, took on Satan and his legions of devils, who war against us!  How great God’s love for each of us—Jesus gave His life as ransom, beginning with His taking on human nature when conceived in Mary’s sacred womb and being born this holy night!

                I did so for your sake!
                I gave my life to save yours!

Your thoughts?   Your prayer?our prayer

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Coming of Our Lord to Bring about Relationship Changes

In today’s first reading, Malachi 3: 1-4, 23-24, the Lord God says to us: Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers[mothers]  to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers/[mothers].”   Is it possible that the Lord says this because the root of anger, hostility, and animosity is a father’s/a mother’s rejection and indifference towards the children, a parents’ abuse of their children and one another with harsh, loveless words?  Is that why Malachi says that the Lord sends prophets “to turn the hearts of the father/mother to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers/mothers” and, I would say, to one another?  And, in fact, is God saying that divisions, animosities, hostilities must give way to unity, respect, humility, love, mercy, understanding and forgiveness, starting with a father’s/a mother’s attitude towards children and toward one another; that parents’ authority over children is not to be abusive, oppressive, and/or frightening?

As our models, we can, I believe, take to heart the example of the holy family!

These are my thoughts as I reflect upon Malachi 3: 1-4, 23-24. What are yours? To what is God calling you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Almighty Is Doing Great Things: Do I Realize It?

Both the first reading of today’s liturgy, 1 Samuel 1: 24-28, and the Gospel, Luke 1: 46-56, hail two great women who give God that which was most precious to them, their only child!  They held nothing back from God. Hannah prayed for a child and God answered her prayer, changing her sterile womb into a fruitful one. She gave Samuel back to God.  Mary was chosen to bear in her womb the Son of God, who took on flesh within her through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary echoed her son’s “yes” to God’s will for Him in saving humankind from the destruction of sin and eternal damnation by surrendering His life to the Father on the cross and in His resurrection from death. Mary gave her Son back to God.

What am I willing to give back to God for all of His graces God give to me? What is your response to God’s goodness to you and your family?

Mary prays: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon 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.

Do I realize the greatness of the Lord at work in my life and in the life of the world? Do I realize that God, my Savior, “had looked upon his lowly servant”, upon each and every person on this earth, and that, given the gift of redemption, each and every one of us “will be called blessed: [yes, ] “the Almighty [is doing] great things for [us] and holy is His name.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

"What You See is Not What You Think"

In today's first reading, Jeremiah 23: 5-8, the prophet prophesies that The Lord will "raise up a righteous  shoot to David."   The royal dynasty has deteriorated.  Israel's king sunk into a cycle of corruption, murdering Uriah and committing adultery with his widow.  The royal dynasty also included apostates like King Ahaz (2 Kgs 15) and weaklings like King Zedekiah (Jer 38: 5, 19, 24-26).  The royal house itself had become corrupt.  God promises, however, that out of the stump of Jesse a righteous King shall be be born.  The prophets held on to their belief in God's promises in the most wretched of times, in times of upheaval and darkness.

In the Gospel of today, Mt 1: 18-35, Joseph, who is betrothed to Mary, discovers that she is pregnant and not with his child.  From human appearances it looks as though she has also become corrupt and committed adultery, as did King David.  Joseph agonizes over what he sees and decides to divorce Mary quietly when God intervenes. In a dream an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and says to him: "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"

The prophets, Mary and Joseph, are righteous people living in a world that is corrupt, that is immersed in sin. They cling to God's promises and listen to the Spirit's Voice, directing them to make right choices, even if those choices could be misinterpreted, misunderstood, and/or ridiculed or even could lead to death. Their faith and trust in God was unshakable. Their "house" was built on Rock, the Rock of the Scriptures, the Word of God!

We might ask ourselves:  Upon what is my "house" built? Whose voice do I follow? When I face dilemmas similar to or as baffling as Joseph's, how do I handle them? In what ways does God confront my ways of thinking when they are contrary to what God is asking of me?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our Humanity Infused with God's Divinity

In the opening prayer of today 's liturgy, we pray: O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature...look with favor on our prayers, that your Only Begotten Son, having taken to himself our humanity, may be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity," that is, in all that is divine: love, mercy, compassion, selfless giving, being for the other, gratitude, justice, peace, understanding, healing words and actions, purity, integrity,honesty, patience, humility and inclusiveness. Because God assumed our human nature and died on the cross for our salvation, becoming divine like Jesus is possible, as possible as God taking on human nature in Mary's virgin womb! "O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come...[and] teach us the path of [this holy] knowledge."

This is my prayer today. What is yours?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chaos, Woe and Darkness: Invitations to be Creative or to Accept Help

In today's first reading, Isaiah 45: 6b-8, 18, 21b-25, Isaiah makes the statement that God forms "the light" and creates "the darkness", that God makes "well-being" and creates "woe."  My response to the Lord was: "Lord, I have a difficult time believing that darkness and woe (the woes of illness, of war, of violence, and so on) come from You. The Lord's response may sound something like this:

Dorothy Ann (or your name), chaos, woe, and darkness are all part of life, as is order, blessing/joy, and light.  Chaos, woe and darkness are not such for Me. They are opportunities, challenges, and obstacles which, overcome, lead to life anew.  They are opportunities that call for your creativity, that invite you to collaborate with others.  Nothing is really awful or a failure but are temporary blockages to something more profound like discovering My help, My strength within you and others to make things better or to right wrongs.  Your depleted energy, for example, which indicates that your brain is healing, is a blessing that teaches you to respect an injured part of your body and to be attentive to need, your own and others.  Human need, weakness--yours or others--is a time when I, your God, rain down strength and healing from My storehouse of gifts.  It is also when I inspire you to offer help or, if  you withhold what you could do, to realize your stinginess and sinfulness.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Facing the Truth and Sharing It

In today’s first reading, Numbers 243: 2-7, 15-17a, Balaam utters a blessing upon the Israelites, prophesying, in fact, that a “star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.” He utters this blessing after being asked by the messengers of the king to curse Israel.  He is unable to do so.  In no way is he able to act against the Lord’s will. 

However, Balaam tried to avoid doing what God was asking of him.  He waited overnight—maybe tomorrow he will hear something different from the Lord so that he could do what the Moabite king wanted of him.  The donkey on which he was riding bolted and walked off the road. It even talked back to Balaam when Balaam angrily attempted to beat it into submission: “Am I not your own beast, and have you not always ridden upon me until now?”  In other words the donkey is reminding Balaam that it has always been obedient to him; why is he not willing to obey his master!

In the Gospel, the people also attempt to avoid recognizing the Truth in their midst. Jesus brings them face to face with their craziness when they want to know by whose authority Jesus teaches. He says that He will answer their question if they answer His: By what authority did John the Baptist baptize?

At some point you and I, also, must be honest with ourselves, with others and with God.  We cannot forever avoid the Truth as it reveals itself in our lives, in the lives of others and in the events of our day!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

God Rejoices Over You

In today's first reading, Zephaniah 3: 14-18a, the prophet writes: The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals."

A MIGHTY Savior walks among us in the debris of war, in our brothels where young men and women, children, adolescents and young adults are sex slaves; in our back gullies where innocent persons are raped, and in our homes where family members are abused.

"[God] will rejoice over you--each one of us--with gladness, and renew [us]in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals."  It is hard to believe that when we find ourselves in appalling situations or are ourselves creating havoc in someone's life.  God is a mighty savior. God does not grow weary of us, Isaiah tells us.  Those who hope in the Lord will soar like eagles out of the messiness of their lives in due time--God's time!

May your hope grow strong as you prepare for the second coming of the Lord. That coming is as sure as the rising and the setting of the sun each day!  If you are down, may pondering the Scriptures renew your strength and direct you to make choices that lead to freedom.  Call upon the Lord with hope and faith! He is nearer to  you than your breath!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Who Am I Trying to Please

In today’s Gospel, Matthew 11: 16-19, the people complain about John the Baptist as being possessed by a demon  because he did not drink nor eat with them as they expected.  Jesus, on the other hand,  did eat and drink with people and they called him a “glutton and a drunkard.”  Matthew concludes this passage with the statement: “…wisdom is vindicated by her words.”  We probably all know that we will never please everyone no matter what we do.  We can try but our efforts will be in vain and we will be left feeling empty and a bit crazy!  “…wisdom,” in our lives, will be “vindicated” by the works we do in accord with God’s will for us, not by whether or not we pleased everyone.   If we are true to what we are called to as unique persons with a special mission/purpose  to fulfill  as the Spirit leads us through the gift of each day, Wisdom will vindicate us. We will then be at peace. On the other hand, if our goal is to please everyone we will not rest in the peace of Christ, a peace the world cannot give. The choice is ours to make.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

God's Ways Are Not Our Ways

In today's first reading, Isaiah 41: 13-20, Isaiah continues to prophesy about the Messiah, the One who God sends "to thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff."  As we face mountains of violence in our world and sin within and around us, we may wonder where God is. What a mystery that God enters this world in the darkness of the womb, in the darkness of night, in a manger among cattle, as a helpless infant. Or is an infant helpless? The hearts of "giants," of proud, cold, heartless men and women melt in the presence of an infant. Infants change men and women into compassionate, loving, caring adults. Lives, sometimes centered on self alone, suddenly or gradually become more concerned about the well-being of another--a helpless, dependent child--than their pursuit of riches, or material things, of catching up with the Joneses of our society, of being proud owners of luxury items, and so on and on into infinitude.  Parents of helpless infants learn to live for others, to put others first, to spend their lives in love!

O the Wisdom of our God! We learn how to live according to God's will God from weak infants, needy children and adults and our own neediness. We learn to seek God in the dark moments of life and when encountering a weakness that has the power to awaken us to our need for God. We also learn to seek God above all else when we find ourselves in the deserts of life from which  we cry out in thirst. Are we seeking God when we encounter these human realities?  God's heart pines for us to know Him.  In this passage from Isaiah God says to us:  I, the Lord, will answer [you]; I, the God of Israel [put the name of your city, your village, your nation here], will not forsake [you]. I will open up rivers [of grace, of divine power] on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valley [of your life]; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water. I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle and olive; I will set in the wasteland the cypress, together with the plane tree and the pine, that [you] may see and know, observe and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel [put the name of the place where you live] has created it." 

Everything in life is meant to show us God's power to "thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff." Do we wait upon the Lord to do this or do we take things in our own hands? In our frustration, do we play God?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

God Does Not Grow Weary in Responding to Our Needs

In today’s first reading, Isaiah 40: 25-31, Isaiah reminds us that God “does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.”  How often, I wonder, do I not reduce God to my level of weariness and my limited knowledge? If I did not, consciously or unconsciously, do this, then why am I hesitant to follow God’s lead, to rest, to take my burdens to Him, or to realize that God knows me through and through, that God knows the heart and the mind of every human being?  Every detail of a human endeavor is known to God before anyone initiates or implements that plan. Why, Isaiah asks, do we say “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?  If I took the time to disclose my plans to the Lord, He would give me the enlightenment that I need to move forward with the plan or to discard it because it is against God’s will and violates the rights of others.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel, Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” But, no, I keep on frantically being involved. I do not give myself the gift of letting go and sitting with the Lord in total stillness, letting the Lord give me the peace which the world cannot give. Only then will I do what is right and experience God’s abundant blessings.

 Often during His lifetime, burdened by the demands of His life, Jesus stopped and withdrew into the mountains to be with His Father in prayer. We, too, need to do that. Our desire for peace, our hope in the Lord, needs to be expressed by stopping from time to time to visit the Lord in quiet. We will then know the truth of Isaiah’s teaching: “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mary, the Immaculate Conception

Through Jesus Christ, we are adopted into a new family, a holy family, a transformed family, a redeemed family on the road to eternal salvation.  The first member of this family is Mary, born without sin, who gives birth to Jesus, to the Son of God made man, taking on human nature.  God would come to dwell in each one of us, beginning with Mary's "yes." He entered her sinless nature, her womb, at that "yes."

God's plan from the beginning of the world was unfolding and continues to unfold in our lives. Goodness, which is rooted in our very nature, would take on evil.  Jesus also says "yes" to God's holy will, unlike Adam and Eve, who disobey God in the Garden of Eden and unlike the Chosen People, who over and over again on their journey to the Promised Land, followed their own will instead of God's.  Jesus is the new Adam and the New Israel, obedient to the Father unto death.

Through that obedience, you and I become adopted children of God. We become part of the Holy Family, " Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as [God] chose us in [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him." The only way we appear "without blemish before him," is through the blood of Christ poured out upon us from the cross. "In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ," Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12, "in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved."

Yes! our destiny is both Mary's destiny and the  destiny of Jesus, the first born of the dead.  The gates of heaven, closed to us when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, was opened to us when Mary and Jesus said "yes," a yes that took Mary to the foot of the cross and nailed Jesus on the cross for our salvation.  Our "yes" will also take us to the foot of the cross, to endure the suffering of saying "no" to sin and "yes" to God every day of our lives. May we realize that God meets us in each of those situations to help us in our weakness, to strengthen our resolve to say "yes" as Mary and Jesus (and Joseph) did.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Promises of the Lord

In today's first reading, Baruch 5: 1-9, the prophet asks Jerusalem "to take off [its] robe of mourning and misery....For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.....Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God."

What promises, not only to Jerusalem, but to every city and town, nations and peoples!  Every continent, every race, every religion is ask "to take off its robe of mourning and misery.  "...God will show all the earth" the splendor of God" hidden within it. Are we willing to yield our robes of mourning to the Lord? Are we willing to leave corruption and sin, injustices and deceit behind?  God has named us forever "the peace of justice."  "Lofty mountain[s]" of pride and lust, gluttony and avarice God has commanded to "be made low."   Isis and Al Quaeda, abortionists, human traffickers, those perpetrating slave labor, all those involved in corruption of any kind will be defeated. That within you and me that needs to be brought low will be leveled and virtue risen in its place.

O, the glory and the splendor, the power and the honor of our God in our midst. God, who is our leader and our warrior, will not be stopped in His plan of saving us. We may for a time be "led [our] enemies]...but God will bring [us]  back...borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones," Baruch prophesies!

These are some of my reflections on today's first Scripture reading, Baruch 5: 1-9. What is God saying to you in this reading?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fullness of Redemption

Isaiah, in today's first reading, Is 29:17-24, gives us a glimpse of what awaits those who accept God's gift of redemption:

"On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.  For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; all who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a [person], who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just [person] with an empty claim...."

You and I are those  redeemed by the Lord's blood poured out on the cross,  where Jesus became sin for us!  Imagine that day when you and I have passed through the doors of death into eternal life. On that day we will have left the gloom and darkness in this world. Our blindness and deafness will be removed. As lowly ones, as the poor of the Lord,  as those in need of God's infinite mercy, will see with new eyes and hear with new ears.  The tyrant and the arrogant within and outside of us will be no more.  Those bent on doing us evil or that within ourselves bent on evil will be cut off. Empty will be the claims of those whose mere words condemn us and that within us that condemns us or others, as well.

Because I believe that, I am filled with joy! What about you?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Trusting in the Lord

In today's first reading, Is 26: 1-6, Isaiah exhorts us to "trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal Rock."  This theme is reverberated in today's Gospel, Mt 7: 21, 24-27, where Jesus speaks about persons who build their houses on sand or on rock. If built upon rock, the house stands firm when the rains come and strong winds blow.  If not, "the house" collapses.  This week, when I again encountered a situation that went contrary to my hopes and seemed totally irrational and lacking justice, I lost it!  A "door"  was closed to me and a window opened. But I kept "pounding on the locked door".  I need to ask myself how profound or how deep is my trust ;and in whom do I trust? Do my reactions to the challenges and difficulties of life, to my encounters with others, when they are acting on principles that differ from mine, indicate a strong or a weak trust?  When my plans go awry, do my reactions reveal that "my house" is resting on sand?

In the responsorial psalm from today's liturgy, the psalmist says to us: "Give thanks to the Lord, for [the Lord] is good, for his mercy endures forever. It is better," the psalmist teaches, "to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in [human beings, male or female]. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes [princesses]."  I had to return to the Lord, my Rock,to the One in whose Love and Peace I move and live and have my being (cf. Acts 17:28) . As I rest in God's Love and Peace, the Lord molds my mind, cleanses my heart and recreates me into the person He designed me to be (See Jesus Calling,  November 10th meditation).