Sunday, December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family, which honors Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is relatively recent: it was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and it commemorates the Holy Family's life at Nazareth. The holiness of their ordinary lives is held up as a model for all Christian families. In his Wednesday audience of December 29, 2011, Pope-emeritus Benedict spoke of the feast:
Nativity, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deeepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
And in 1964 on the Feast of the Holy Family, Blessed (Pope) Paul XI spoke these beautiful words at Nazareth:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel....
First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life. May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.
May the Holy Family grant peace and unity to all the families of the world! 





Monday, December 25, 2017

December 25th

We wish all who read this the peace of which the angels sang.

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to his people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God's goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?
From a sermon by St. Leo the Great, pope



Sunday, December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

The fourth Sunday of Advent leads us directly into the first moment of the Incarnation: the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38). At this glorious encounter, Mary accepts the plan of God to redeem the human race through a divine child born of her womb. Here, St. Bede the Venerable sheds light on this beautiful Gospel:
Annunciation, Fra Angelico (1437-46)
Today’s reading of the gospel calls to mind the beginning of our redemption, for the passage tells us how God sent an angel from heaven to a virgin. He was to proclaim the new birth, the incarnation of God’s Son, who would take away our age-old guilt; through him it would be possible to be made new and numbered among the children of God. And so, if we are to deserve the gifts of the promised salvation, we must listen attentively to the account of its beginning.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred. St Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my Gospel. Our Lord is truly descended from David, since his spotless mother took her ancestry from David’s line.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism. In this house Christ shall reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love he dwells in the hearts of his elect, and guides them by his unceasing care toward their heavenly reward. In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, he will exercise his kingship by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, for ever inspired by the vision of his presence, their one delight will be to praise and glorify him.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B

In this Sunday's Gospel (Jn 1:6-8; 19-28), the spotlight focuses intensely on John the Baptist. He declares that he is not the messiah, but one who testifies to his coming. John Scotus Erigena, in the homily below, describes more fully who the Baptist was, and who he is in relation to the Christ.
John the Baptist, Mathis Gothart Grunewald (1512-16)
So then, the Lord’s forerunner was a man, not a god; whereas the Lord whom he preceded was both man and God. The forerunner was a man destined to be divinized by God’s grace, whereas the one he preceded was God by nature, who, through his desire to save and redeem us, lowered himself in order to assume our human nature.
A man was sent. By whom? By the divine Word, whose forerunner he was. To go before the Lord was his mission. Lifting up his voice, this man called out: The voice of one crying in the wilderness! It was the herald preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. John was his name; John to whom was given the grace to go ahead of the King of kings, to point out to the world the Word made flesh, to baptize him with that baptism in which the Spirit would manifest his divine Sonship, to give witness through his teaching and martyrdom to the eternal light. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Gospel given for the Second Sunday of Advent (Mk 1:1-8) encourages us to make straight the paths of the Lord. Indeed, it is Christ himself who makes us "straight"; we have only to open ourselves to his presence and grace. Origen, in an ancient homily, speaks of this truth:
John the Baptist, Tiziano (1542)
Let as examine the scriptural texts foretelling the coming of Christ. One such prophecy begins with a reference to John the Baptist: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. What follows, however, applies directly to our Lord and Saviour, since it is by Jesus rather than by John that every valley has been filled in. [...]
Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out. If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to testify: It is not I who now live, but Christ who lives in me.
So then, by his coming Jesus my Lord has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, so that an even, unimpeded road may be constructed within you, clear enough for God the Father to walk along, and Christ the Lord may himself set up his dwelling in your hearts and say: My Father and I will come to them and make our home in them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

"Watch! Stay awake!," declares Christ in the Gospel for this First Sunday of Advent (Mk 13:33-37). We are called to shake off the sloth that drags us down so that we may eagerly await him and desire the things of heaven. Godfrey of Admont explains further how to spend these holy days of the Advent season:
Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock,
 stained glass detail, Geneva, Indiana
Take heed, watch, and pray, the Scripture says. By these words our Lord and Saviour admonished not only his disciples whom he was addressing in the flesh; by these same words he also made clear to us what we must do, and how we should keep watch. The three parts of this saying plainly show how all destined to be saved, who forget what lies behind them and desire to press on toward what lies ahead, can attain the summit of perfection which is their goal. [...]
Take heed, watch, and pray our text says; meaning, take heed by understanding what is right; watch by doing what is good; and pray by desiring what is eternal. And the following words show clearly why they must be so very heedful, watchful, and prayerful. You do not know, the text says, when the time will be. So since we are ignorant of the time of this great visitation, we must be always watching and praying; that is to say, for the grace of so great a visitation we must prepare the innermost recesses of our hearts by vigilant effort.