Saturday, December 09, 2017

John the Baptist is not one of the greatest but the GREATEST!

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths."  (Mark 1: 2 - 3).

Who is this messenger?  John the Baptist.  What do we know about John?  John was the son of promise of aged parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. His father was a priest from the clan of Levi. This means that John was assured by birth the privileges of the upper middle class of the Jewish community. But John had a vocation announced by two Old Testament prophets, Isaiah 40: 1 - 5 and Malachi 3: 1.  So John is a serious and important person in salvation history.

How did John handle his mission?
John made the wilderness his home and "wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." (Mark 1: 6).
You might wonder: Why this extreme austerity? This is to have the radical detachment and independence necessary for his mission.

Jesus praised John as not one of the greatest but the greatest!  (Matthew 11: 11;  Luke 7: 28).

John the Baptizer has done his work and is gone.  But the work of announcing the good news and glad tidings continue to this day. 
Jesus is Calling.

Friday, December 08, 2017

We have One Teacher: Christ the Lord!

"No longer will your Teacher  hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, and your ears shall hear a word behind you: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or the left."  (Isaiah 30: 20 - 21).

A teacher in Israel is synonymous with a prophet. "Where there is no vision, the people perish."  (Proverbs 29: 18).  Israel has known many days without teachers and prophets.  "For many days Israel was without a teaching priest" (2 Chronicles 15: 3).  The nation was able to compare the Before and the After experience.

In our key Scripture for today (Isaiah 30: 20 - 21), God is promising a permanent Teacher, who will always be there.   "He is the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."  (John 14: 17).

Today we live in a world in an existential crisis of truth.  In the Body of Christ, people ask  "Where is the truth? What is the truth?"  From the media and social media, and government media, we see  more often than in the past mutual accusations of falsehood and lies.
Who do we believe?

The Bible warns that the time will come when "They will accumulate teachers after their own lusts" (2 Timothy 4: 3).  These contending voices want to be teachers of the law, but are ignorant (1 Timothy 1:7).  The Bible warns:  "Not many of you should be teachers" (James 3: 1)

"Do not be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher, for the Christ is your only Teacher." (Matthew 23: 10). We have one Teacher, Jesus the Christ who teaches us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Amen!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - A Holyday of Obligation.

"I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels. (Isaiah 61: 10, Entrance Antiphon on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).

The Church worldwide celebrates today the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holiday of Obligation.
The Church applies Isaiah 61: 10 to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was the gracious will of God to prepare a worthy dwelling for His Son Jesus. By God's prevenient grace, Mary was untouched by any stain of sin when she was conceived by her parents. She was preserved from the curse of Original Sin. This was accomplished by virtue of the vicarious death of Jesus the Christ which was foreseen by the Eternal Father.

The Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast of the United States of America.  Today therefore:  No fasting or Advent penances .  Let us rejoice and be glad as we celebrate one of the great mysteries of our salvation.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Make Prayer a Special Gift for yourself this Advent.

"Seek the Lord while he may be found;  call him while he is near."  (Isaiah 55:  6).

The Gospel acclamation today, Thursday in the First Week of Advent is direct in its message.  Advent is a season of anticipation, expectation and waiting.  When you expect something,  as you grow in wisdom, you learn to wait for it.  When I was an inexperienced air traveler. I arrived at the airport at the stated time expecting the flight to leave exactly at the stated departure time.  Needless to say, it doesn't happen always.  I would be frustrated.  When I became more experienced, I planned to wait.  I bring along some work or books.  The Gospel intimates us that there will be delays in the Second Coming of Jesus.  It will come without warning like a thief in the night or spring open like a trap.

Lent and Advent are two Seasons  most favorable for divine favors:
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call him while he is near."  (Isaiah 55:  6).  It is like handing you a cheat sheet for an exam.  Use it, you pass.

How do we prepare for Advent?
#1.  Prayer:  If you don't do the Liturgy of the Hours already, this is a good time to start. The Liturgy of the Hours is found in LAUDATE and is also available in other apps in all platforms. Prayer is a vital necessity.  When you pray with the Church using the Liturgy of the hours (about 10 minutes), you participate in a prayer used by millions all over the world.  You are comforted to know that this Prayer goes to the very beginning of the Church.  Jesus most probably prayed the Liturgy of the Hours.  All the clergy and all religious are bound to this prayer by Church.  Today many lay men and women pray it.

"Prepare our hearts, we pray, O Lord our God, by your divine power,
so that at the coming of Christ Your Son we may be found worthy of the banquet of eternal life and merit to receive heavenly nourishment from his hands.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."  (Collect   Wednesday, 1st Week of Advent).

Monday, December 04, 2017

Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will.

"Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will."  (Luke 10: 21 RM).

I cannot read the above word of God without rejoicing in how it was fulfilled in the life of St Therèse of the Child Jesus, also called the Little Flower.  I just finished a reread of her autobiography.  St Therèse entered the Carmelite Convent at the age of 15, when most girls today have not graduated from high school. She died at the tender age of 24 when most people have not finished college. Her autobiography, THE STORY OF A SOUL was the only work she produced.  That was enough to make her one of the 35 Doctors of the Church in the 2017 years of Church History. Amazing, you might say.  But truly the most wise and powerful Divine Providence at work in human history.

"Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will."  (Luke 10: 21 RM).

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Lord Jesus, no need to come to my house. You can heal my servant right here, right now.

Lord, heal my servant, right here, right now.  The Roman Centurion pleaded with Jesus.

“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."  (Matthew 8: 10 NABRE)

Why does Jesus praise so lavishly the faith of the Centurion?  Faith is a rare commodity and one of the greatest gifts of God.  The opposite of faith is Unbelief and Doubt.

How does faith work?  Jesus said to the Centurion:  “I will come and cure him.” The Centurion heard this and believed.  The faith of the Centurion is much deeper.  He said to Jesus: No need to come to my house.  Just heal my servant with a word from here.  Right here, right now.

I had been a Christian for many years before I understood what faith means.  I remember that the first time I came to realize that faith means believing or trusting in what God says to us, I was surprised.  It sounded so simple.  My immediate reaction to this definition of faith was:  “Would anybody doubt what God says?”  In fact, this is what we do most of the time.  

What gave the Centurion such an elevated faith?  He applied  his experiences as a senior Roman officer to understand how God's power works.

Faith comes from hearing and believing the promises of God.  As you exercise your faith every day, it grows.

Happy Advent!