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God likes to act in big ways from small places

Size of USA / other countries
     “Little town of Bethlehem”:  about size of SE DC
     From it one will be born
        “his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth”
God likes to act in big ways from small unlikely places
     Silent retreat
     Bethlehem
     Womb
          Both wombs of Elizabeth and Mary
     Manger
     Saints
     Eucharist
Power of God in us

Do not delay

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,

Fr Greg

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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.

Procrastination

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.

Grace of Christmas

Christmas Day
Family giving
Grace of Christmas
    Who we are
    Love, joy, peace
    Power to become children of God
Word became flesh
    Grace-filled event
    Child / children
    Identity
    Manger + Eucharist

Message of an Angel

4th Sunday of Advent
“Demonic” stuff / families
Spiritual warfare
     Heaven
     Earth
     Us
Discernment of spirits
Mary and her yes
    Son of God born to us!

You Can Help Make Jacob’s Wish Come True This Christmas

Nine-year-old Jacob Thompson may not live until Christmas. So, strangers are sending him an early holiday. “Jacob loves Christmas,” his father, Roger Guay, told the news station, encouraging people to continue sending him cards. “Any way to brighten his day would be a great benefit to him.” So the boy’s family, friends and complete strangers are bringing an early Christmas to the terminally ill boy — decorating his hospital room with a tree, requesting a special visit from Santa Claus and showing him support with homemade holiday cards. So we are asking the Assumption family to send cards. You may send the card yourself or bring the cards to church by Wednesday and Ms.
Mildred Brown will mail them altogether.

The address is:
Jacob Thompson
C/O Maine Medical Center
22 Bramhall St
Portland, ME 04102

A New Year’s Epiphany

Here are excerpts from an excellent, Biblical reflection on the event of the Epiphany from catholicmom.com. Enjoy!

Up until now, all has been quite humble.  A donkey-ride to a dusty town south of Jerusalem.  Hotel rooms all booked up.  Giving birth in a stable and laying the baby in an animal’s feed trough instead of a cozy cradle.

Into this scene of obscure poverty suddenly bursts an exotic entourage from a far-off land.  Dignitaries in dress uniform lavish the newborn with expensive gifts that seem out of place in the humble surroundings.

This event is so significant that it is accorded its own feast in the Roman liturgy, celebrated traditionally on Jan 6, immediately after the twelve days of Christmas.  This solemn feast is called Epiphany, a word that means “manifestation” or “appearance.”

For a fleeting moment, what seems to be no more than another crying baby of an indigent family “appears” for who He really is–the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The gifts he is given, prophesied in Isaiah 60:6, tell the story: gold fit for a king, incense for the worship of God, and myrrh, bitter yet precious, for the hero who will lay down his life for his people.

There are several important things to note about these prestigious visitors.  They are Gentiles, not Jews.  From the very beginning of his human existence, then, Jesus is clearly not just the Jewish messiah who has come to deliver the people of Israel from foreign oppression.  No, he is the universal king, the ruler of all, who has come to tear down the hostile wall dividing Jew from Gentile, nation from nation.

If you’ve ever wondered what the word “Catholic” means, here we have it.  Derived from Greek words meaning “according to the whole,” it means that Christ did not come to establish some local religious sect for a select few, one “cult” among many.  No, the Church he founded is “catholic” or universal, spread over the whole world, welcoming the whole human race into one nation, one family, under one King.

Something else is to be noted about these illustrious visitors.  As Gentiles, they are pagans.  In fact the term “Magi” is clearly linked to the word “magic.”  It was not in the Bible that they normally looked for wisdom (otherwise they would have known to go straight to Bethlehem).  But in reward for their ardent though perhaps misguided search for truth, God led them to Christ anyhow, in His great mercy…

St. Justin said that there are “seeds of the Word” scattered throughout the world.  But seeds are meant to sprout, grow, and bear fruit.  Hearing the full gospel and partaking in all the means of grace are ordinarily needed to make that happen.  All peoples of the world have a right to this “Catholic” fullness.  And it is our obligation to share it.  Paul VI said it well: “others may be able to be saved without hearing the gospel, but can we be saved if we neglect to preach it?”

This column is offered as a reflection on the scripture readings for the Feast of the Epiphany, cycles ABC (Is 60:1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3:2-3; 5-6; Mt 2:1-12), and appears here by permission of the author.

Copyright 2015 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.

 

Christ is born!

Fr Greg

Christ is Born!

The following is taken from the Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours) for the Feast of the Holy Family:

From an address by Blessed Paul VI, pope
(Nazareth, January 5, 1964)

Nazareth, a model

“Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief, everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage.

Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing; some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value—demanding yet redeeming—and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well-being.”

Christ is born!

Fr Greg

Feast of the Holy Family

Feast of the Holy family – “The love of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”

Former life

Love of holy family
God
Each other
Righteousness

Love in our families
God
Each other
Righteousness

Christ – center of family life / love