I was away last week making my annual retreat and was praying for you and your families. Please enjoy the following reflection on today’s Gospel (Luke 1) from Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, at saltandlighttv.org.
May you know the peace of Christ,
There are two aspects of today’s Visitation scene to consider. The first is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is put aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives.
Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two great biblical women consoled each other, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced: Elizabeth after her long years of barrenness and now sudden pregnancy, and Mary, after her meeting with the heavenly messenger, and her “irregular” marriage situation and pregnancy.
The second point to consider is Mary’s quick response and movement. Luke tells us that she undertook “in haste” the long and perilous trek from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, St. Ambrose of Milan describes this haste with a difficult Latin phrase, “nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia,” which could mean: “the grace of the Holy Spirit does not know delayed efforts,” or “delayed efforts are foreign to the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Mary’s free choice to move forward and outward reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.
How many things exist in our lives that we dreamed of doing, should have done, and never did — letters that should have been written, dreams that should have been realized, gratitude that was not expressed, affection never shown, words that should have been spoken, etc.? Postponements and delays weigh heavily upon us, wear us down and discourage us. They gnaw away at us. How true St. Ambrose described Mary’s haste: The Spirit completely possessed the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth and compelled her to act.
The story of the Visitation teaches us an important lesson: When Christ is growing inside of us, we will be led to people, places and situations that we never dreamed of. We will bear words of consolation and hope that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will be consoled. We will be at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life and issues seem to be, from them Christ is forming himself.
The women of today’s Gospel show us that it is possible to move beyond our own little, personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry and service in the Church. Ministry and service are not simply doing things for others. Authentic Christian ministers and servants allow themselves to serve and be served, taught, cared for, consoled and loved. Such moments liberate us and enable us to sing Magnificat along the journey, and celebrate the great things that God does for us and His people.
Consider these words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997):
“In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life — gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique.
“Thus, the first Eucharist was such: Mary’s offering of her Son in her, in whom he had set up the first altar. Mary, the only one who could affirm with absolute confidence, ‘this is my body,’ from that first moment offered her own body, her strength, all her being, to form the Body of Christ.”
“Bellezza” (“Beauty”) by an Italian religious sister
…God looked upon a woman and loved her,
And he who loves even before looking at the face
Seeks the beauty that lies in the heart.
God looked upon a woman who was from the race
Of the little ones without name,
Those that live far away from palaces.
Those who work in kitchens,
Those who come from the numbers of the humble and the forgotten,
Those that never open their mouths and who are accustomed to poverty.
God looked upon her and found her to be beautiful,
And this woman was joined to him as if she were his beloved — For life and for death.
From now on all generations will call her blessed.
God looked upon a woman. Her name was Mary.
…and if you looked upon her Lord, it is because on Our earth filled with women and men, you found such beauty.
This Gaudete Sunday calls us to rejoice because the Lord is near. Does your heart rejoice and sing, or are the pressures and burdens of life weighing you down? We can easily become overwhelmed. The weaknesses and sins of life, indeed our own weakness and sin, eat away at the joy and hope God wants us to know. Those who are grounded in their faith and possess deep spiritual lives know that God is near. Realizing this puts life into perspective. We really want to be free from our burdens but do not always know how to achieve this. We keep stumbling and falling. Advent is a time when we can learn to “do life differently,” just like John the Baptist instructed the crowds. Joy and hope are the gifts God offers, not anxiety and despair.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Every third Sunday of Advent, the Church rejoices. This is known as “Gaudete Sunday”, which uses the Latin word for “rejoicing”. But, we’re still in the season of Advent, a penitential season. We are still in preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this way, the Lord is not here. Why are we rejoicing? Because “the Lord is near”.
My brother and his family are rejoicing because my nephew Ryan, their oldest child, is returning home for Christmas break soon after spending almost the entire semester at college. They are so happy that his return home is near. So many people will have the exciting experience of picking someone up from the airport for the holidays that they haven’t seen for so long. One of the best examples, though, of rejoicing at the nearness of someone’s arrival is a new baby. Of course, that is what we do at Christmas: welcome the baby Jesus. Waiting for a new baby might be the preeminent experience of being excited for someone’s near arrival. To use a phrase from today’s Gospel (Luke 3), we are “filled with expectation” throughout the Advent season for the arrival of our Lord.
This is what the Church is doing for us today by giving us “Rejoicing Sunday”. She reminds us the reason for the season which is the coming of the Lord. “The Lord is near!” While we will still endure the remaining days of Advent, we are uplifted by the announcement that the Lord is close. As we pass the halfway point and head for the home stretch, the Church gives us encouragement. “The Lord is near!”
For some, hearing that Advent is halfway over may be more of an alarm than a sound for rejoicing. They might be asking what the crowds asked John the Baptist, “what should we do?” If you feel that you haven’t been tuned into Advent yet and want to finish strongly, the first thing I would say is what St. Paul wrote, “have no anxiety at all”. This in general is easier said than done, I know. But, be at peace. The Lord has given us much practical advice through the sacred authors in today’s readings for the remaining part of our Advent journey:
1. PRAY EVERY DAY: “make your requests known to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving”
2. DONATE TO THE OUTREACH CENTER: “whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise”
3. GO TO CONFESSION: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.
Regarding the third suggestion, it seems to me that more people here are going which is awesome. We had a beautiful and inspiring turnout on Wednesday night for the Penance Service. Overall, more parishioners here are responding to the words of St. John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord through repentance and forgiveness of sins. And, as I’ve been saying to you for three years now, an increase in frequency in the Sacrament of Confession is an increase in freedom. This means that Confession helps us to be free from sin and more fully enjoy a clean house in preparation of the Lord’s Coming, but also it means to be free to be the people we truly want to be.
Gaudete Sunday is special for me here every year because I rejoice in being your pastor. I echo the Lord’s sentiments of you through the prophet Zephaniah: “The Lord, your God …will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals”. I sing joyfully because of you throughout the year but especially upon Advent reflection and universal rejoicing today. “I shall say it again: rejoice!”
May you know the peace of Christ,
“Filled with expectation”
2nd Sunday of Advent
1. 500 BC
2. 30 AD
St John the Baptist
Messenger has arrived!
Forgiveness of sins
3. Advent 2018 AD
Confession before Christmas
See the salvation of God!
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see”
Fr. Ivany / vigilant with healthy foods
Be vigilant at all times with one particular practice
Keep watch with Christ and for Christ
“There is one … coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Untying sandal straps was no prestigious job. In the days of John the Baptist, those straps would have been especially unpleasant to deal with. Besides the usual odors that accompany sockless leather footwear, there would have been the grime and dirt from the sandy roads and paths that swirled around the people who went everywhere on foot. Taking off someone’s shoes upon their arrival was the task of the lowly servants. So when John says he’s unworthy of doing this task for the “one who is coming after me,” he is putting himself in a very humble position.
And rightly so. John realizes that the Christ–the Anointed One, the Messiah–is so far above him, so far above any of us, that we are truly unworthy of him. Indeed, the Son of God is not just the greatest of men; he is God-made-man and in his presence, we most appropriately should bow in humble homage. Yet this God chose to stoop down to our human level and walk among us. He chose to get his sandals dirty. And still today he chooses to allow us to encounter him as a friend and companion.
But as John reminds us by his example, this encounter with the Lord is not the result of our own merits or accomplishments. We are sinners who stand in need of Christ’s help. But thanks be to God, he is always willing to extend this help to us. As St. Paul says in today’s epistle, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy.” Indeed, it is God who does the perfecting, not us by our own power. So let us approach the Lord this Advent season with a spirit of hopeful humility, trusting that God alone can make us worthy of welcoming his Son.
“Saints believe they are sinners…sinners believe they are saints”
Examination of Conscience for seniors
Get straight with God
Don’t block the Holy Spirit
Prepare for the coming of the Lord in the Eucharist
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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