Saturday, 29 December 2018

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - 2018

Some remember this feast as being celebrated during the Octave of the Epiphany – then in 60’s, when the liturgical calendar was revised, it was moved to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas as we have it today.

So, what exactly is a family? By definition:
  1. A family is most commonly understood as a group of people who are related to each other, especially parents and their children.
  2. Sometimes when people talk about a family, they mean children. They decided to start a family. 
  3. Or sometimes when people talk about their family, they mean their relatives and ancestors. 
  4. Then there is that general group meanings, when we say a family of animals or plants is a group of related species and so on.
Today we are celebrating the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At first glance this is a familiar family image – husband, wife and a son – but the reality of this family is profoundly more than what it appears to be. What then is the significant difference about this family? – We have a husband, a mother, and a son living together as a family – what is different, what makes this family Holy is who they are and the way they are brought together – they come together as a family by God’s divine intervention;
  • It is God who brings Joseph together with Mary as husband and wife when the Law would forbid their marriage after Mary is found to be pregnant. 
  • Mary conceives Jesus in her womb and becomes Jesus real mother, but not by Joseph’s seed. 
  • Jesus’ Father is God, Jesus is God’s Son, sharing the very life and divinity of God the Father. 
  • Joseph will be a father-gardian to Jesus, caring for all his needs to grow healthy and strong.
These are profound mysteries that make this the Holy Family – and herein is to be found a new plan, a new dimension to the natural family as we know it. God wants to make every family a holy family – by uniting them to His Holy Family. Not only is the family to be God’s plan for the continuation of the whole human race – but that the human race is to be formed into one single heavenly family.

Now it is here that we must bring into focus the realization that there is an enemy against God’s plans for the family; attacking the family is priority number one for this enemy. We see the beginning of war on the family already in the Christmas story with the murderous undertaking of king Herod to murder Jesus by murdering the holy Innocence children – the feast just celebrated this past Friday. The shield the family is given to employ in its defense is love – husband and wife – parents and children – first revealed in the commandments, then St. Paul lays out God's plan for the Christian family in Ephesians 5&6.

The family is the womb of love and the school of love wherein we learn that life itself is dependent on mutual caring, one for another. This priority of mutual caring carries over into the whole of society, making it healthy and strong. Our generation is experiencing a toxic atmosphere for true family life, a climate of selfish, self interest. “Me first and only as long as I like it”. This mentality is proving to be lethal to the family. That makes today’s feast all the more important for us to commemorate.

Here are three way we may do this:
  1. To gather as families of faith in worship and prayer, thanking God for the gift of his Spirit who fills our hearts with divine love and teaches us how to love one another. 
  2. Filled with that love flowing from the Holy Family, let us be instruments of compassion and healing, in our families and others, where the absence of love has wounded and divided. 
  3. To be both sign and advocate in our society for all that strengthens and advances authentic family life as modeled in the Holy Family.


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Christmas - 2018

The birth of Jesus took place during a period of history known as the Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman Peace") It was a long period of relative peace and stability experienced by the Roman Empire between the accession of Caesar Augustus, founder of the Roman principate, and the death of Marcus Aurelius, last of the "good emperors". During this period of approximately 206 years (27 BC to AD 180), the Roman empire achieved its greatest territorial extent and its population reached a maximum of up to 70 million people – a third of the world’s population.

Keeping track of population numbers was a preoccupation of the Romans at this time, as we see in today’s gospel. So, it is with Joseph and Mary, they must participate in the census the Romans are now conducting. The Son of the God, creator of this vast universe, is now confined to this obscure planet earth, and who’s life is now under the influence of a mere human dictator. The idea that the Lord and creator of all these vast worlds could now be dwelling in the human body of a baby boy is a challenge quite beyond any mind to fully grasp.

To get us started, God employs his heavenly messengers. They announce it – to Joseph, to Mary, to Zachariah & Elizabeth, to lowly hillside shepherds, and finally to the Magi, representing all the nations. But the plan to reveal this mystery of God-made-man to future generations will go beyond the messenger-voices of angels.

A voice in the desert begins to cry out, “… prepare, the Lord is coming.” Then the Lord’s own voice, “I am He, come from the Father – believe?” From here the messenger-voices began to grow in numbers, down through the ages.

And the messenger-voices continue today. They are many and diverse, telling this same mystery of God-made-man, still with us in our world today. A mystery is a reality that can be known but not fully known, able to be seen but only partially, able to be encountered yet leaving us in wonder and awe, desiring to see more. This is faith. Speaking of the people of his own time, St. Paul remarks, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” 1 Cor. 1:22

In our time it is "scientism" that makes the demand: “. . . show us the scientific proof of what your religion calms to be true if it is to be believed”. So who are the messenger-voices that God is sending into our world today. It is us, we who believe, we are the messenger-voices now who must continue to announce the Message to our world. And we do so not simply with words, but with lives lived for all to see. Our lives of holiness, manifesting spiritual and corporal works of mercy are the action-voices that will convict and convince the mind of scientism.

Are you ready to be a messenger-voice in this age? Let us go forth now, the world is waiting to hear truth which is the Good News.


Saturday, 22 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week Four

This generation takes great pride in its individuality, sometimes called the “Me” generation. It’s my life, I decide for myself what is truth what’s best for me, what morals will guide me etc.

This past week, in our gospel readings, we explored the lives of Mary & Joseph and events leading up to birth of Jesus. I doubt that they would ever think like the “Me” generation – but they were making plans for a life together. Joseph as a carpenter, Mary as wife, caring for the family home. 

Little did they know that Another was making plans for their lives, plans they could never have imagined. It’s Matthew & Luke who give us the details of these events and how they unfolded. Because of the extraordinary nature of these plans it was necessary for God to send his angel to announce them.

And so now we take these stories up once again to meditate and explore the wonder that they are. But, might we, in our meditation, entertain the question – does God have special plans for life? We do talk about vocations – vocation to the priesthood & religious life – vocations to marriage and family life. But within these vocations we’ve chosen might the Lord have further plans for our lives; to be a special caregiver to some in need, to join with others in special projects such as charities addressing contemporary needs, evangelization work, social justice action projects, working in projects directed to today’s youth, being a visitor, a shopper, a contact to the isolated.

Many of the classic Christmas stories describe people being awaken to new vocations, expanded vocations, to bring the presence of Christ to the world. And age is no obstacle to new vocation from God. Remember Zechariah, when told he was to be the father of great prophet John, “…  said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

Let us realize, that these days are not just meant to be a reason for exchanging sentimental images on Christmas cards. They are meant to be real, for us, to accept Christ and new way that our lives will be called to serve Him.


Saturday, 15 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week Three

The Third Sunday of Advent is transitionally referred to as “Gaudete Sunday”. The name comes from the first word spoken in the liturgy for this day, in the Entrance Antiphon: (Gaudete in Latin): Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

There is a similar theme that recurs in Lent, in the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called “Laetare Sunday” again taken from the first word of the entrance antiphon: (Laetare in Latin) Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

The first words of the third Sunday of Advent are the words of St. Paul found in the fourth chapter of the Letter to the Philippians, vs. 4-5.

So why Gaudete, why Rejoice? The answer begins in the First Reading, with the words of the prophet Zephaniah.

 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; The Lord, your God, will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. Zephaniah 3:14-18

Israel has been conquered and its people have been living in exile for many years. But now the prophets are telling the people that soon their exile will come to an end, and they will be returning to their homeland. They believed that God was punishing them for their sins by letting their enemies conquer and enslave them. But now, what is this they hear?

Believers of every generation, at various times, have found their hearts and hope shattered; believing they have been abandoned by God, left alone with no hope. So, the Church returns each year in Advent, to address this ancient problem, the Problem of Evil, to gather all who are wounded, to hear once again these words of truth and healing and restoration: “Rejoice, the Lord is near”!

 You will notice that all the serious Christmas stories that we read all have this same theme running through them. In the darkest night, when all seems lost, hope is restored.

Now the true spirit of Advent has a penitential character to it, where we examine our lives to root out our own causes for our downfalls and miseries. Then, the candle of the Advent Wreath, lighted on this day, the Third Sunday of Advent, rose colored, with the name “Joy”, raises up our spirits at the prospect of the new coming of mercy into our lives.

In many ways, our popular culture, with its commercializing of Christmas has interfered with the real spirit of Advent with its rich and beautiful spirituality.

So where does this Gaudete Sunday find you? Are you one who is carrying heavy burdens – be they burdens brought on by your own faults and failures, or has human frailty and the faults of others beset you? If so, the grace offered on this Sunday is meant for you. 

The Grace of Gaudete Sunday is the grace of a clear sense of Presence. I am not alone, the Lord is here, with me now. The Lord comes bearing gifts, the gift is the gift of Hope. What ever the details of my deliverance are to be, will be revealed in the days to come. But first, a broken heart must be healed and given the eyes of hopefulness with which to see - to begin to see how the Lord's plan is to unfold. For me, now, it is to turn my face eastward, to look forward in hope for His coming.

Hear again these words of the prophet:

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, . . . he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love

In the Mountains - William Kurelek
Two Barns - William Kurelek


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week Two

Today we light the second Advent Wreath candle. Tradition has named each one. 1. Hope; 2. Peace; 3. Joy; 4. Love. Our First Reading for this Second Sunday of Advent is from the prophet Baruch. He is prophesying to the Jewish exiles who are scattered off into foreign lands. But now the days of exile are numbered, freedom is about to come upon God’s people
 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
These words of consolation from the mouth of the prophet long ago still have deep meaning for us, God’s people today. We too can be exiles but our exile is not a political one but rather a spiritual one. Our enemy, the Great Deceiver, invades the citadel of our life of faith and captures us with the weapons of sin – disarming us of our shield of faith and right living. For some today, their faith is lost completely – they are now under the rule of this deception, this secular age of unbelief.
In today’s gospel the dramatic figure of John the Baptist appears with a call to come back – back to a life of right living, back to faith in God.
 He went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins …
The culture around us is already heavily into Christmas celebrating. But we should not let that overshadow these beautiful and important days of Advent. We should have a two-directional view in Advent, one inward, the other outward. First we look inward, into our own personal life. In what ways has the Deceiver gained influence in my personal life? Think of St. Paul’s beautiful prayer in today's Second Reading; let it be heard as a personal prayer, directed now to us;
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,
Our outward view should be to those around us who are now exiled from their faith. Let us desire to share in the spirit of John the Baptist – to be signs of faith and hope to our brothers and sisters, separated from this life-giving communion with God. Let us fill all the valleys of darkness with the light of faith and good works.

Let us move the mountains of doubt and confusion blocking people from seeing God and his love for them.
Let us straighten the crocked ways of the world with right and just lives lived with courage and integrity.
Let us help others get over the rough times in their lives that make believing near impossible for them.

These things should be our tasks in these Advent days so that: “. . . all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Repeat Series for Advent Based On the Lectio Divina Approach to Prayer

William Kurelek
The Welcome at the 
Country Mission

William Kurelek
The Presentation to the Children

William Kurelek
A Boathouse Man's Excuse

. .

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week One

Last Advent I posted a series of meditations based on the Lectio Divina method of prayer. I am including these again this Advent. The graphics used in these posts are of the paintings by William Kurelek found in his book, Northern Nativity. 

Repeat Series for Advent Based On the Lectio Divina Approach to Prayer

William Kurelek
The Nightwatchman's Christmas

William Kurelek
A Farm Family's Adoration

William Kurelek
The Holy Family as Indian



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