Third Sunday in Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Our reading this week come from the Prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a), the responsorial comes from Isaiah 12, Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4-7) and the Gospel of Luke (3:10-18).

If you can’t guess from the title this is a special week in Advent typically this week is associated with Rose/Pink and is a brief reminder of the joy that comes from Christ Jesus. This week we light a candle for Hope, one for Faith and the rose one for Joy. We hear repeatedly in the readings today shout for joy and rejoice and John the Baptist being asked “What should we do?”. Joy is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and this isn’t just happiness but it is happiness rooted in Charity or Love from God. It is the awareness that God is one’s strength and protector. As Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”  All of our readings may not end on the most positive note “burning of chaff” but as we are reminded in Psalm 1 “Happy are those who delight in the Lord.” We can rejoice in the Lord because we know the Lord. Let us take some time this week and this Year of Mercy to show how much we know the Lord by practicing the Works of Mercy and making them a part of our lives.

Lesser known…

Crispin and Crispinian (circa Third Century)
Most of us have heard of Saint Crispin, there’s that famous speech from Shakespeare, but who exactly is Crispin. They, Crispin and Crispinian, are twin brothers who were born to a noble Roman family. They fled to Soissons to get away from persecution. In France they preached to the Gauls and made shoes at night. From their shoes they earned enough to live comfortably and aid the poor. The governor heard of them and had them tortured and thrown into a river with millstones around their necks. They both survived but were eventually beheaded by Diocletian. Or Crispin and Crispinian could have been from Kent somewhere near Canterbury, but after their father died for displeasing the Roman Emperor their mother persuaded that they flee to London. The brothers made their way but stumbled upon a shoemaker’s workshop in Faversham and decided to stay there.  The English version of the story has no information about how they were martyred.

Pope Evaristus (died c. 107)
Evaristus was the Fifth bishop of Rome. Evaristus was originally a Hellenistic Jew on his father’s side from Bethlehem.  He divided Rome up into titles, or parishes these have grown to the Titular Church that Cardinals are given when they become Cardinals. Evaristus also appointed priest to these Churches and appointed seven deacons for the city.

Chiara Badano (29 October 1971 – 7 October 1990)
Chiara is a member of Generation X and is proof that regular people can still become saints. I felt compelled to mention Chiara Luce, her nickname given by Chiara Lubich,  even though she is only a blessed since a couple weeks ago I read about her and felt that her words are something that we need to hear in the world today. Chiara was born in a small village in Italy and her parents had waited and prayed for her to come for eleven years. Chiara got involved in the Focolare Movement in Italy at nine. The Focolare Movement was started by Chiara Lubich in 1943. In 1988 her life was changed dramatically as Chiara felt a twinge in her shoulder while playing tennis and it turned out to be osteogenic sarcoma, a rare and painful bone cancer.  When Chiara heard this she simply declared, “It’s for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too.” This is remarkable as all that Chiara wanted was to be married to Jesus, and at her funeral she got her wish. Before Chiara died she told her mother “the young people…young people…they are the future. You see, I can’t run anymore, but how I would like to pass on to them the torch, like in the Olympics! Young people have only one life and it’s worthwhile to spend it well.” I hope that many young people take up the torch of Chiara and live always with a light that radiated from within from a heart full of the love of God.

Pope in New York

Pope Francis has made it up to New York and the United Nations. While in New York he had a busy day moving from place to place it all began Thursday night with Vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on  Friday morning Francis addressed the United Nations and in the evening he celebrated Mass at Madison Square Garden. Instead of single post for all these event it would be easier and best for all involved that these were a single posting.

Vespers: Pope Francis began by offering his prayers for those involved in the tragic events in Mecca where there was a stampede in which 700 people died and thousands were injured. Then Francis goes on with his regular remarks. Vespers were with the Religious so there is a significant tilt of this speech, but we all can benefit from these remarks. Pope Francis begins by reminding us all that our vocations is to be lived in joy. This is the important part, later on Francis expressed his gratitude to the religious women of the United States, asking “What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say “thank you”, a big thank you… and to tell you that I love you very much.” This seems like a fitting end to the LCWR controversy which hung over most of the religious women in the United States for the past three years.

United Nations Address:  Francis begins by remembering the previous time the Popes have come to speak at the UN noting “the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.” Pope Francis also pull at the notion that the UN is one of the most important things in the past century and loves that it continues to evolve and adapt as  time goes by. This is the environmental speech that we were waiting for with the upcoming Paris Climate thing, but Francis reminds us that words mean nothing and there need to be actions taken to try and curtail the “culture of waste.” From the environment Francis moves into the issue of human dignity and how everyone deserves it.

Madison Square Garden Mass: Pope Francis begins reflecting on the readings from Isaiah we heard that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” and Francis relates this back to us saying that everyone from every age are called to contemplate this light.  He continues “One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see, to contemplate, even in “moments of darkness”, the light which Christ brings. God’s faithful people can see, discern and contemplate his living presence in the midst of life, in the midst of the city.” The faithful can find the joy in the darkness.  Francis then reflects on life in big cities and how it shows the remarkable riches of the world with the vastness of the cultures, traditions, languages and historical experiences. On the flip side of this greatness we still have the homeless, elderly, foreigners, individuals needing medical assistance and unschooled children are still at the fringes and these individuals become like white noise that we ignore with our eyes and in our hearts. Francis insists that this is where we can find God. The Pontiff then moves into the Gospels where Jesus constantly tells the disciples to go out and meet people where they are, not where we want them to be but as St. Teresa of Jesus tells us “God is in the pots and pans” we are never closer to our heavenly father then in the midst of our regular lives doing the mundane thing.

Pentecost

This week is the birthday of the Church, as it is the first time that people other than the apostles joined the group, so we should all have some cake and ice cream this weekend. The readings this week may be the readings used in “year A” but there are some derivations with this in the epistle and the gospel, I will be reflecting on these different readings.

The first reading is the same every year, the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit from Acts. When Pentecost came, fifty days after Passover, they were all gathered in one place together and a strong wind (a breath of God) came into the room and tongues of fire came to rest on them. They were able to speak in different languages or the crowds of people from all over the place were able to hear what the apostles were saying in their own language. The Bible doesn’t offer a good explanation as to what happened or how close the languages were to each other it’s one of the mysteries that I would like to try and figure out. This is one of the things that you can say points toward having Mass being said in the vernacular.

Turning to the second reading we open up to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is a portion of the “flesh\spirit” or “sarx/pneuma” debate that Paul has going on in the Galatians. Paul calls us to live by the spirit and we should abhor the flesh. Although the works of the flesh sound so fun; orgies, drunken bouts, sorcery and acts of selfishness to name a few. Paul gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit. Those things you memorize to be confirmed and then promptly forget. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control are the ones listed in the reading, the Catholic Church adds modesty and chastity to this list as well. Which ever list we decide to follow it would be a better world if more people were living in the fruits of the Spirit instead of the flesh. Perhaps it is time that we started glamorizing the fruits as much as we do the works of the flesh. This reading is followed by a sequence (Come Holy Spirit) this is a poem set to music. This is the second sequence in the liturgical year. We have one more on Corpus Christi.

After this musical interlude we hear from the Gospel of John. This reading comes before the Crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples that he will send an Advocate, for he has much more to tell them but they cannot hear it now. Jesus continues saying that when the spirit does comes it will guide them to all truth. This sounds nice and it would be a good reminder that this same Spirit is with us today although we hardly recognize it. I hope that this week we can all try to live in the fruits and recognize the Spirit in the world around us.

Octave of Christmas: Feast of Mary, Mother of God

It has been 8 days since Christmas and sure there are some of us who are taking decorations down but there are four more days of Christmas. As we begin the New Year we celebrate Mary our heavenly mother.

We start the year off in the Book of Numbers with a blessing. The Lord tells Moses that Aaron and his sons should bless the Israelites by saying “May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” It is a great blessing that extend upon us as well and it is a great way to start the year. For me this blessing is reminiscent of the Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler on the Roof. After we have been blessed we turn to Paul letter to the Galatians where we are reminded that we are all heirs of the Lord and we can all cry out “Abba, Father.” Finally we arrive at Luke’s Gospel once again and we hear about how shepherd came and did homage to the newborn Jesus and his parents as well. The shepherds also bring the message of the angels out into the world and the gospel says that Mary kept all these things and reflected upon them in her heart.  Then the gospel ends with it being eight days after Christmas and Jesus being circumcised and named.  Can we be more like Mary in this new year and keep the joy of Christmas alive in our heart and reflect upon it throughout the year.

Christmas Day

Last year I covered the reading for Mass at Dawn, this year it is time for Midnight Mass. This is one Mass I’ve never been to as on Christmas Eve my Dad’s side of the family gets together and celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and it just wipes you out, about two dozen people eating, drinking and chatting for hours gets you pretty tired.

On to the readings, in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light and the light have given then joy. For a child is born to us, his dominion is vast and forever peaceful. This child that is born is the one promised to David, in that covenant last week, a Messiah is to come and he will rule over the world as a the prince of peace.

We next turn to the letter of Paul to Titus. This is one of the Pastoral letters that Paul wrote. These letters are to a specific person the others are Timothy and arguably Philemon. Titus was one of Paul’s closest companions and is mentioned several times in other letters. In this letter Paul reminds Titus that we are all saved by the grace of the Lord and we should be trained to “reject godless ways” and live between the two comings the birth in Bethlehem and the second one who Christ comes in glory. This is difficult for many of us to do today as there are those amongst us living in the past, others are living in the future, and there are even more who just live in the present I think Paul is telling us that we need to live in all three places we celebrating the joy of the birth, bringing the message out into the world and hoping and waiting in anticipation for the second coming.

As we reach the Gospel we are treated with Luke’s account of the Nativity. This is the only detailed account in the Gospels, we all know the story Mary and Joseph are taking part in a census and have to do the Joseph’s ancestral city and when they arrive there is no room at the inn. So Mary and Joseph go the stable and Mary has a son. Angels then appear to shepherds and announce the birth. Now shepherds are not as adorable as we have made them out to be they were basically outcasts in society and yet they were the first to hear of the birth of Jesus. Perhaps we can bring this message of Christmas joy out into the world and share it with those on the fringes of society.

Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

We take a break from the purple for a week and we light the pink\rose candle and as we rejoice in the nearness of the Lord’s coming at Christmas, it is also known as Gaudete Sunday from the first word in the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”

As we enter into the readings we start once again in the prophet Isaiah. In this reading Isaiah is describing his mission from God, he’s been sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release prisoners. Now we should remember that Isaiah is talking to people who have just been in exile in Babylon. This mission statement is picked up by Jesus in his live and is something that we should all strive to do. The second half of this reading might be personification of the people of Israel, as the Lord has done great things for them but hasn’t done much in return but the Lord will bring forth justice and praise spring forth before all nations. We can look at this half as an individual as well; this is a bit like the Magnificat, My soul rejoice in God my Savior for God has look upon us with favor. The Canticle of Mary, The Magnificat, is one of the options for the Psalms this week as well “My soul rejoices in my God.”

Turning to the second reading we head from the first letter of Paul to the folks in Thessalonica Paul begins with our theme this week Rejoice always. It is widely believed that this is the first book of the New Testament to be written down. In this reading Paul is giving a rundown of how Christians should be living our lives. Rejoice always, pray unceasingly give thanks, test everything retaining what is good and refraining from evil. Paul was writing to these people with the idea that Jesus would be coming back sometime soon so much of this advice seems absurd to us today who has the time to unceasingly pray in the world today. It is fitting that we hear these words as we grow closer to Christmas since Paul was getting that we must have a reason to be joyful since we know that we are waiting in hope for Christ to come again at Christmas but also to come again for real.
As we reach the Gospel we once again hear about John the Baptist but it is from the beginning-ish of the Gospel of John this week. John was sent by God to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. In the reading the Pharisees and Levites came out to talk with John and they asked him many questions. Are you the Christ? Elijah? A prophet? John reply no to all of them. Then they ask “Then who are you?” to which John replies using Isaiah’s words “I am the voice calling our in the wilderness” This is a question we should all ask ourselves this week “Who are we?” Are we joy filled like Isaiah and Paul talked or like John out there evangelizing the faith? For so many of us at times we would say sure that sounds like us  but not all the time.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Before I begin a brief note, first finished brewing for the year i think a nice Doppelbock, the wort tasted of gingerbread or snaps, hopefully it turns out nice. More important is that this week we’ve got a bit of a shake up in the schedule as Remembrance/Veterans Day falls on Tuesday and we need to honor them, so today we have the third Glorious mystery.

After Jesus rose in front of the disciples, a huge event in the early church, the disciples were forced back into hiding. The authorities of the time wanted the find the followers of Jesus and get them. They hired people like Saul, who became Paul, to get and kill these Christians to stop the religion from growing. So from the moment of Joy with Jesus at the Ascension the disciples were scared for their lives, we hear of many of these first martyrs of the church were bringing help to the less fortunate or speaking out against the Pharisees.

They were gathered together once again in the Upper Room, where the Last Supper was held, and in came a gust of wind and above their heads were tongues of fire. The Disciples began talking in tongues and the crowds in Jerusalem were impressed. Now the Bible doesn’t give us any real explanation of this event whether the disciples were speaking in different languages or if it was the crowds who heard them speaking. Also I am not really sure how different the languages would be but it is my impression that it was more like accents.

On that day many people were baptized and joined the church. There was much joy on this the “birthday of the Church” and we should remember that the Holy Spirit is alive and living in the world today, it hasn’t gone anywhere we only need to ask for the Spirit’s help. I have heard people call the Holy Spirit the love between the Father and the Son. We need to be able to make room for this great and all encompassing love in our lives.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings all have the common thread of meals and sharing woven throughout. We once again start with the Prophet Isaiah. This week we are at a party at the end of time on Mount Zion. Isaiah writes “The Lord will provide for all people a feast of rich food and choice wine…and he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples and wipe away ever tear” This is the kingdom of God in which we are waiting. The important thing to take from this reading is if we take a look at the guests at the party it is not only the Jewish people but all people who have been invited. We will all break bread together, this is symbol of friendship is found later on at the Last Supper and the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is through the sharing of a meal that kinship develops and at every celebration of the Eucharist we share in a meal with all other.

As we turn to the second reading we are greeted with a letter from Paul to the Philippians, in his letter Paul thanks the people of Philippi for sending some money, as Paul was in prison as usual. So in this reading Paul says that I’ve known hunger and I’ve known feasts and we can do all things because of God and because there are people out there who can help. Paul didn’t ask from the Philippians to send him money to perhaps bail him out of jail but they did so out of concern for him. We must be concerned about other and share in their struggles as well as their joys.

In the Gospel once again we encounter some parables in Matthew. This is the wedding parable, a King is having a wedding feast for his son and the king sends out his servants to get the invited guests, they refuse to come, so he sent another servant to get those invited some ignored the message and other killed the servant. Then the king sent out his troops to destroy the city and murder those who killed the servant, so then the king sent out yet another servant to get whomever is on the streets to come and the hall was filled. This is where some will stop today but there is a little more to the story. The king now went out into the guests and he noticed a man not in wedding dress and he has the servants throw the man out “as many are invited but few are chosen.” This is a weird parable some scholars have take it to be some indication of how the Jewish people have missed the whole Messiah thing and it is now the Gentiles who are the lucky ones. I do not like that take on the reading, it seems like it is more about being prepared as we never know what is in store for us each and everyday, so wear some nice looking clothes. However the king, so the parable goes, only finds one person who isn’t wearing wedding clothes and throws them out, so it is more along the lines of sharing with all who come, like at the banquet in Isaiah.

Fifth Sunday in Easter

We are a little over halfway through Easter, boy does time fly. Soon we will be celebrating The Ascension and Pentecost. We continue hearing from Acts skipping forward a couple of chapters we have come to a little problem. The Greeks were complaining with the Jews (Christians) that the Hellenists widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. This is a big problem as they are living in community and the distribution was so that widows would have enough to eat and things like that. This collection gets mentioned in the letters as well. In order to settle the dispute the apostles asked those in the community to select seven reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom, they would then deal with the material aspect while the apostles would deal with spiritual ones.

In the second reading from Peter’s letter Peter is telling us how we are all connected through Christ. Peter writes “We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that we many announce the praises of him who called us out of darkness.” Peter also uses the Old Testament to show that Jesus is the stone the builders rejected and it is a stone which causes people to stumble. Jesus is this stumbling block for many people even today. Some Christians around the world pray to a specific Jesus, the baby or the one raised up on Easter but forget to pray to Christ suffering upon the cross. Forty days of Lent is enough of the suffering for one year. We need to pray to Jesus in all aspect of his life, as the infant, adolescence, teenager, young adult, and an adult. Most important of this all is that we must pray to Jesus during in the times of his life those of great joy and immense sorrow.

Turning to the Gospel we hear a similar message the only way to the Father is through Christ. In this reading from the Gospel of John Jesus is telling his disciple that if you have faith in God then you should also have faith in me; as there are many rooms in my Father’s house and if I go and prepare a place for you I will return to bring you to the Father. This echoes the message from last week’s Gospel reading as well the only way to God is through Jesus the gate/gatekeeper. I hope that during this upcoming week as we inch closer to the end of The Easter Season we can take some time and reflect on the where we put Christ is our lives, is he a stumbling block or a stepping stone.