Spirituality Matters 2017: December 7th - December 13th
(December 7, 2017: Thursday, First Week of Advent)
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“A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
On this new day on our Advent journey, we listen to these words from Blessed Louis Brisson:
“Father Chevalier, my moral theology professor, used to say to us, ‘Do you believe that Our Lord became human merely to redeem the world? He became human that we might partake of His life, of His body, of His soul, of His divinity and of His happiness.’ And who is this Model, this life and this Happiness - The Word-Made-Flesh Himself!”
“The Savior, Jesus Christ – the One Whom we attempt to reproduce in ourselves and Who is living in us – accomplishes this divine redemption in us. He gives us the grace to do this. He is our Exemplar, our Model. He walks before us. We have only to put our feet in His footprints. Thus, we will bring about our complete redemption.” (Cor ad Cor, pp. 18, 19)
We have a “strong city” in the person of Jesus Christ! In Christ we find walls and ramparts in which we find not only protection, but also experience “His life, His body, His soul, His divinity and His happiness”.
Today, how might Jesus be inviting us to be a “strong city” in the lives of others? How might we become a source of support and protection for others and help them to experience the life and happiness rooted in a life in and with Jesus?
(December 8, 2017: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
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“She became mother of all the living...”
This reading from the Book of Genesis ends with the statement: “The man called his wife Eve because she became the mother of all the living”.
Eve is the mother of us all. We all bear traces of her maternity by virtue of the fact that we are impacted by original sin. Eve’s “yes” to the serpent’s temptation continues to affect our lives even to this day.
Good for us that another woman is likewise “the mother of all the living”. However, she is our mother in an entirely different way. Her “yes” affects us in an entirely different way. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales wrote:
“Honor, venerate and respect with special love the holy and glorious Virgin Mary who, being the Mother of Jesus Christ our Brother, is also in truth our very mother. Let us then have recourse to her, and as her little children cast ourselves into her bosom with perfect confidence, at all times and on all occasions let us invoke her maternal love whilst striving to imitate her virtues…” (Living Jesus, p. 224)
So, we have – in truth – two mothers. One mother is famous for saying “yes” to the temptation of the evil one; the other mother is famous for saying “yes” to the invitation of the Holy One - both with lasting effects!
Which of our mothers will we imitate today?
(December 9, 2017: Saturday, First Week of Advent)
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“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand…”
One of the signs that Jesus associates with the Kingdom of heaven being at hand is the driving out demons.
The season of Advent provides each of us with a great opportunity to drive out from our own minds and hearts any number of demons which might plague us. These demons – while not necessarily limited to this list – could include:
- Old Hurts
- Unresolved conflicts
- Unbridled anger
(December 10, 2017: Second Sunday of Advent)
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“John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance…”
In a sermon given on the Second Sunday of Advent, Blessed Louis Brisson observed:
“The Gospel speaks to us of St. John the Baptist. He was baptizing in the Jordan and when the multitudes came to him and surrounded him, he cried out, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only his messenger. I come to prepare the way. It is He who will give you the baptism that comes from heaven.’ Hearing of the wonders of Our Lord, John sent to Him his disciples who asked Jesus, “Are you He who is to come or shall we look for another?’ Our Lord answered, ‘Report to John what you have seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and blessed are those who are not scandalized in Me.’”
“When the disciples had departed, Jesus said to those around Him, ‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Those who dress in this manner are in the palaces of kings. A prophet? Yes, I declare to you, a prophet and more than a prophet, for it is written of him, ‘I send before you my angel who will prepare the way for you.’ Thus the people understood then that the words of John the Baptist and the words of Our Lord were in agreement.’”
“My children, we are in Advent. Jesus is going to come into our hearts. Let us cry out to Him in all truth every day, as St. John called out to Him by his desires, ‘Come Lord. Be our strength. Come not only into our hearts but also into the hearts of all whom we love and for whom we pray.” ( Cor ad Cor, p. 21)
(December 11, 2017: Monday, Second Week of Advent)
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“Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not!”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus fulfills the prophet Isaiah’s words by his prophetic actions. First, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man; second, he heals the man’s paralysis.
The Season of Advent provides us with a wonderful opportunity to consider the ways – any ways – in which we might be suffering from any form of paralysis: spiritual, emotional, social - and perhaps - even physical. In what ways might our minds be feeble or week? In what ways might our hearts be frightened?
Whether on our own or with the help of others, let us approach the Lord in our neediness. Let us ask for His forgiveness. Let us ask for His strength. May He open our eyes, ears and hearts to the wonders of His power! May our tongues – and lives – give witness to His love!
(December 12, 2017: Our Lady of Guadalupe)
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“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
In his book This Saint’s for You! Thomas Craughwell writes:
“On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego – a Nahua Indian who had recently converted to Christianity – was on his way to Mass when he heard singing on the summit of Tepeyac Hill. Curious to discover the source of the music, he followed a trail up the hill and at the summit met a young woman: dark-skinned, beautifully dressed and standing amid dazzling light. Speaking to Juan in Nahuatl (his own language), she introduced herself and instructed him to go to the bishop of Mexico City and tell him to build a church in her honor on the spot. Twice he attempted to persuade the bishop to do as Mary had asked; twice, the bishop turned him away. Juan wasn’t surprised that the bishop didn’t take him seriously: after all, he was a poor peasant. Juan urged Mary to ask someone with more status to deliver her message. Instead, Mary promised to give the bishop a sign that would prove to everyone for all time that what Juan Diego has reported was true. So, she commanded him to return to Tepeyac and gather flowers there. At the top of the hill he discovered gorgeous Castilian roses, growing six months out of season. He picked the flowers until his cloak was full. Them he carried them back to Marty, who took each rose in her hand before replacing it in Juan Diego’s cloak.”
“Tucking the edges of his cloak so that not a single rose would fall out, Juan hurried to the bishop’s palace where he was meeting with some of his chaplains and several servants. Juan entered the room and said, ‘You asked for a sign. Now look.’ He opened his cloak and the magnificent roses cascaded onto the floor. But more astonishing than the roses was the image on his cloak: a perfect portrait of the Virgin Marty as Juan had seen her, beautifully dressed and with the dark complexion of an Indian. The bishop became convinced and built a church on Tepeyac Hill and enshrined the miraculous image over the high altar.” (This Saint’s for You!, pp. 370 – 371)
We can all relate to Juan Diego. After all, haven’t each of us wondered from time to time in our lives how – or why – God has chosen us to be instruments of His will, sources of His hope and bearers of His Good News? Haven’t we ever suggested – perhaps not in so many words – that God would do better in selecting people with “more status” to give voice to God’s will for the people He loves and cherishes so much?
Juan Diego - however reluctantly – became convinced that what was spoken to him by the Lord (through His mother!) would be fulfilled. How much do we need to be convinced that what we speak on behalf of the Lord will be fulfilled?
And, yes, even through us!
(December 13, 2017: Lucy, Virgin and Martyr)
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“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings…”
God will never “grow faint or weary” when it comes – as Jesus says in today’s Gospel – to giving us rest. Put another way, our weariness is not an obstacle to God’s transforming, empowering and inspiring love. In fact, our weariness is an entrée to that transforming, empowering and inspiring love. As the Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer for Martyrs in the former Sacramentary reminded us, “God chooses the weak and makes them strong in bearing witness to him…”
Our ongoing need for divine comfort, healing and strength reminds us of Francis de Sales’ teaching on the kinds of people who should approach, celebrate and receive the Eucharist. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, he wrote:
“Two classes of people should communicate frequently: the strong lest they become weak, and the weak that they may become strong; the sick that they may be restored to health, and the healthy lest they fall sick. Tell them that for your part you are imperfect, weak and sick and need to communicate frequently with him who is your perfection and strength…” (Part II, Chapter 21)
Seen with the eyes of faith, our weariness should not be the cause for shame. In fact, seen with the eyes of God, all that may wear us down and make us weary perfectly prepares us to be sustained, renewed and invigorated by the God who is always with us!
Today, let us learn from our meek and humble Jesus and as we find comfort and rest in him, let us offer that same comfort and rest as needed to one another.