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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today is the feast of Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents (from aug.edu)What would drive a king to order the slaughter of all male toddlers two years and under across a number of districts? What would drive his soldiers to carry out the deed amidst the objections and wailing of the mothers and fathers who are unable to stop the massacre? What did the bystanders do? What was going through their minds?
   And then one would ask: was God also a bystander? How could he let this happen? This is a tough one, but the answer can be as simple as this: it is his will that Herod, those soldiers, the parents of the victims and the other witnesses should have the freedom to act as they choose. They were, after all, made in his image and likeness, and so they had the power of their intellect as well as conscience, enough to know that murder was wrong. For God to deny Herod and the soldiers free will is to obliterate them as human beings. And since all human beings are capable of wrongdoing at various points in their lives, then the implications are not so limited as one might think.
    The first reading from St. John's first letter tells us that we all sin from time to time. He also tells us that in God there is no darkness. How then do we achieve communion with him if there is darkness in us each time we sin? He will not obliterate us, but he will forgive our sins. He provided the sacrifice in his mercy and love: Jesus Christ, the lamb of God. Through him, our sins can be forgiven if we acknowledge them. Even Herod could have been forgiven. As for the holy innocents, they are not abandoned to their deaths, for there is eternal life in heaven, and these innocents cannot have committed sin at that age.
    But today, a slaughter of innocent continues, as this reflection points out. What would drive fathers and mothers to abort their own child, or allow that of their grandchild, nephew, or niece? What would drive legislators to advocate for more abortions, locally and internationally, to the tune of over 40 million annually across the world? What would drive a doctor, sworn to provide healing and to do no harm, to perform the abortion despite knowing that the child is viable, or the very simple fact that even the embryo at day one is its own distinct being? What did bystanders do? What was going through their minds at what was occurring or about to occur?
    Today is the feast of Holy Innocents. Let us pray for an end to the slaughter, not by legislation, not by obliterating our free will, but primarily the conversion of our hearts, through Jesus Christ, our sacrifice and advocate.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Naming of John the Baptist

From today's readings (Lk 1:57-66): The father asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ .. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Circumcision of John the Baptist, engraving by Otto Elliger (source: Pitts Theology Library)    At the naming of John, Zechariah regained his speech. What's in a name? Isn't a name just a label, just another word? In our faith that revolves around the Word who is the Son of God, words are meaningful. And this name was given by God: .. your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (Lk 1:13). When anointed by God, the name perhaps bears more than just a label. I think it carries with it a sending -- a mission. For John: And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Lk 1:16-17)
   I have a name given to me at baptism, when I was born again of water and Spirit: Christ. "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." .. the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. (Rom 9:7). I have a three-fold mission, too: priest, prophet and king. As prophet, I must also turn hearts to the Lord, to prepare a way for the Lord into the hearts of my family and all whom I may reach as the Lord gives opportunity.
   And you, who were baptised into Christ, that also is your name, and behind it is the Christian mission. Take it up, and like John, the hand of the Lord will be with you.
Lord, make me know your ways.
  Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
  for you are God my saviour.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Magnificat and the greatness of the Lord

Today's Gospel is almost entirely the Magnificat, that canticle of the Blessed Mother that rejoices in God's grace and mercy.
  That the Blessed Mother speaks of God routing "the proud of heart" is probably key in this canticle, as such disposition seems unlikely to elicit piety, whereas this canticle precisely shows the humility of the Blessed Mother -- immediately after the praises that St Elizabeth lavishes upon "the mother of my Lord" who is "blessed among women". After the unthinkable grace of God "inclining the heavens to come down" and save us as one of our own, nothing else but humility and rejoicing is proper! As the Blessed Mother is our perfect model on the receiving end of God's salvation, our lives should be the Magnificat sung in our every act!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mary's faith and Elizabeth's rejoicing

Mama Mary visits St Elizabeth, who rejoices at the honour of the visit from the mother of the Lord (graphic from wellsprings.com.au) Why was Elizabeth so filled with joy at Mary's greeting? Because the Holy Spirit filled her with joy. That passage (Lk 1:39-45) is filled with words like blessed, leapt for joy and similar words of rejoicing (a loud cry, honoured). And Elizabeth does not even have to hear the news from Mary about the Word made flesh in her womb, the unborn Son of God. Mary is blessed for her belief in the Lord's promise: trust, faith and hope in the faithfulness of God -- these are blessings of themselves, and they are gifts that keep on giving. Does the Holy Spirit prompt rejoicing in the Incarnation, or in the mother's faith? BOTH, I think. Just as man grieves over both the coming of death through sin and the fall of Eve (and Adam), we rejoice rightly over the coming of Emmanuel and the cooperation of Mary. For to minimize Mary's yes to God is to minimize Eve's (and Adam's) yes to the serpent, which would necessarily increase God's part in the fall -- and that is an impossible proposition!
  So let us believe in God's promises to us; it is all over his love letter to us, in Scripture (check out the first reading from the Song of Songs 2:8-14). Let us faithfully and joyfully say yes to our Father in heaven at every opportunity, and we will be blessed, brothers and sisters of our Lord, who can prompt faith and rejoicing to those whom we greet, too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent blogging around

The Anchoress repeats what we should already know: our relationship with God is based on constantly saying YES to his love -- to our advantage.
  Christmas need not be about stress, according to some mommy wisdom that also makes it more meaningful.
  Father Ryan Erlenbush explains how John the Baptist is and isn't Elijah. From my own reflections on today's readings, I must recommend considering how you who are baptized, while not being Elijah, are most certainly called to be a prophet.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Immaculate Conception and something like it in all baptized Christians

Today's Gospel reading comes from that scene with Gabriel announcing the Incarnation to Mary. Why is that the reading for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Because the Incarnation of Christ is the reason for the Immaculate Conception. In order to prepare the way for Christ, Mary must be made particularly ready to receive in her womb the Son of God. We who are baptized Christians are prepared similarly, but not in exactly the same way. My reflection on this goes thus:
  The Incarnation was a singular atomic event at the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb, and likewise, that preparation to receive the incarnated Jesus was a singular atomic event of the Immaculate Conception of Mary who was preserved from original sin at the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Anne. On the other hand, the conception of Jesus in us is a gradual, unfolding event. We are first born again at baptism as a new creation, but Jesus is not incarnated in us completely. Rather, as we cooperate with God's grace, our flesh is transformed gradually into Christ's body. The more we think, speak and act as the Holy Spirit moves us, the more completely Christ is incarnated in us, culminating in the resurrection of the dead.
  I sure hope this makes sense. Anyone?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Subsidiarity in laboring for the harvest?

This article on solidarity and subsidiarity was an eye-opener for me. It explains something that I only had a rudimentary understanding of, and a fuzzy hunch about. It got me thinking about my role as father of a household, and what mistakes I have been making. While blogging is good for evangelization (assuming you did it well), as is joining in discussion forums, I was absenting myself from evangelizing my own family. Not that all bloggers do that: I'm sure the most successful Catholic bloggers out there are wiser than me in attending to home before attending to the blogosphere.
    So here I stand corrected, in prayer and spiritual reading. It does not excuse me from preaching the Good News at every opportunity that God presents me with. And so I continue to pray and to study, first to my family, and then to others. Perhaps my parish next, and then my workplace (prudently; it's a highly secularized institution and culture now). But lest I forget St. Francis who taught "Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds." But not by deed only, I think: "and they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it." (Mk 16:15-20). What signs? There are the obviously miraculous ones, e.g., "cast out devils .. gift of tongues; pick up snakes .. be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; lay their hands on the sick who will recover." But there are also the changed lives, turned around and over to God, incredibly filled with peace and joy previously unknown.
    If only my family would notice. :-P