Saturday, December 8, 2007

Aperite Portas

Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith. ~ Isaiah 26:2
We are told in this passage from Isaiah to "trust in the Lord forever" because He "is an eternal Rock" (Isaiah 26:4). There is no doubt that God is there to heal even the most serious of illnesses and that He is our eternal Rock.

In the Gospel we are told of two types of houses—one built on rock and another on shifting sand. When the rains and the winds came and buffeted the houses the one built on sand "collapsed and was completely ruined" (Matthew 7:27) while the one built on the firm rock, on the eternal Rock, stood firm amid the storm. Let us heed the words of Jesus and also act upon them. It is there and then when we do so that we see true healing before our eyes. It is then when we stand firm and do not collapse before the storm in front of us.

Thursday's readings:
First: Is 26:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a
Gospel: Mt 7:21, 24-27

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ascendens in Montem

Wednesday's readings focus on the powerful message of "God's mountain." There is no doubt why these readings are so often used for funerals because of the peace it brings.

In the reading from Isaiah there is one of a great feast of "rich foods and choice wines" (Isaiah 25:6). It is here that God saves:
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. ~ Isaiah 25:7-10

The veil that veils all people, greater than any particular person or group, is that of sin and death. We all have it, a grievous mark, but Jesus did come to remove the reproach of His people and wipe away tears from all faces. He does save and it is through Him that we have the promise of eternal life.

Paralleling the passage from Isaiah is the feeding of the multitudes, those lame, blind, mute, and deformed who had followed Jesus to the mountain:
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel. ~ Matthew 15:30-31
We are those lame and deformed. We may not be the physically deformed, but we are those people, in a spiritual sense, having within ourselves a broken sense and a need for a savior. Let us not lose sight of Him and reject His call to come to Him.

Each time we go to Mass and partake in the Eucharist we echo that same situation of Jesus going to the top of the mountain and with the crowds coming to him in need of healing. He gave them healing and fed them with bread (the seven here is important) and fish. From the account:
The disciples said to him, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" ~ Matthew 15:33
How is this earth now not also a deserted place spiritually? It is through God that we are satisfied and are given the daily bread we need.

We are those same people in need of substance of food and given through Jesus, and we—like them—are all satisfied. For as it was written: "They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over--seven baskets full" (Matthew 15:37). May we be blessed with that bountiful blessing of fragments left over. That we find God's grace overflowing within each of our days until we reach our heavenly home, when we join God on His holy mountain for the eternal feast. Amen.

Wednesday's readings:
First: Is 25:6-10a
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Gospel: Mt 15:29-37

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Et Flos de Radice Eius Ascendet

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. ~ Isaiah 11:1

Too often we forget to have "prayer breaks" from our daily lives and struggles—like that of exams and studying for them. Why do we need these, why do we crave them? We crave the peace found in Christ, in the shoot that had sprout from the stump of Jesse.

It is in prayer that we strip away the worldly things around us and refocus in heavenly of things. It also through prayer that God does indeed transform us since it is in honest and forthright prayer that we do become the most quiet in our own broken selves and turn to God as his sons and daughters in such a beautiful childlike way. It is through the Son that we know the Father, and it was through His cross and resurrection that God's love was truly revealed.

At that very moment he 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. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

Turning to the disciples in private he said, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it." ~ Luke 10:21-24

Today's readings:
First: Is 11:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Gospel: Lk 10:21-24

Monday, December 3, 2007

Germen Domini

On that day, the branch of the LORD will be luster and glory... ~ Isaiah 4:2
Through Jesus Christ's coming, salvation, and redemption of the world, God does indeed wash "away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purges Jerusalem's blood from her midst with a blast of searing judgment" (Isaiah 4:4). All of this vivid imagery from Isaiah, which is quite indicative of most of the book itself, is at most evident here and is an especially useful reminder at this time of the year of what the Lord will create at that specific time: "a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night" (Isaiah 4:5). How powerful is this message! His glory is meant to be "shelter and protection" from "the parching heat of day" and "refuge and cover" from "storm and rain" (Isaiah 4:6). He (Christ) is there to supplant the Old with the New, as we are reminded in Isaiah 4:5:
Then will the LORD create, over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. ~ Isaiah 4:5

But how does God do that? This is where we are given the narrative of the healing of the centurion's servant from Matthew 8, which is where we as the Church draw the Centurion's Prayer, the prayer that we recite each time before Holy Eucharist. In Matthew's account, we are told of the centurion's complete faith in Jesus to bring the needed curing of his servant's suffering.

And it is here, at Matthew 8:10-12, we are shown the connection between the first and Gospel readings, where Christ's saving power is not only for the Jewish people but that of the whole world (in this case, the centurion), that His salvific mission is a universal one:
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." ~ Matthew 8:10-12

It should be noted here that this is one of the only cases where Jesus is said to have healed not by touch but at a distance. This is a key point that should not be missed or ignored. For it was in the centurion's faith in Christ and His power to heal, to reconcile, and to save that his servant was healed:
And Jesus said to the centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour (his) servant was healed. ~ Matthew 8:13

This is why we repeat the words of the centurion before receiving Holy Communion since it is our firmest belief that it is He in the Eucharist that is entering under our roof. It is He who is entering into our bodies, "a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19), to save us, to heal us. He is then where at that where we are in communion with God most, as we allow Him to work within us, to do His will.

And that brings us to St. Francis Xavier who is remembered this day. He is the co-founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and is a great Catholic missionary from the 14th century. He was born into an affluent family but ended up spending much of his time in missionary work, and through God's many graces (apostolic zeal among them), ended up bringing tens of thousands of people to Christ in a matter of only ten years (second in tradition only to St. Paul). It is in this way that St. Francis Xavier imitated Christ so well that even to his last breath he continued to pursue Christ and bring Christ to others. It is here most that he lived up to the Jesuit motto Ad maiorem Dei gloriam ("For the greater glory of God").

How are we to bring Christ to others? The odds may seem insurmountable and the chances of a conversion (or reconversion) of the heart distant, but it is through that firm and complete belief in Him that we will hear Christ's words, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you" (Matthew 8:13), and see our works through Him be fulfilled. We can do nothing, but in Christ we are strengthened to be capable of anything, even works of the likes of St. Francis Xavier.

Today's readings:
Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
First: Is 4:2-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9
Gospel: Mt 8:5-11

Sunday, December 2, 2007


It is the start of Advent, and today's readings point to a preparation for the coming of Christ. In today's readings we have a most ominous outlook of the coming of the Son of Man. One where some will be taken and others left. Where do we find our assurance for the future? We cannot find assurance unless we look to Christ. If we don't live each day as it could be our last and prepare each day to be our last here, then we are not ready for the "thief in the night."
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into. ~ Matthew 24:43

So what if we could know when the thief was coming? When we would be tempted away from the assurance of Christ? We already do. It's our conscience, which the 1965 pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes explains as the following:
In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. ~ Gaudium et Spes, par. 16
Let us prepare for the coming of Christ in our hearts and for when the end of ages comes.

Today's readings:
First Sunday of Advent
First: Is 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second: Rom 13:11-14
Gospel: Mt 24:37-44

Piscatores Hominum

And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring (the) good news!" ~ Romans 10:15

St. Andrew, the first apostle is the one who brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Christ. How are we to emulate St. Andrew in running towards Christ with all our heart? How are we called daily to be that witness in others' lives to bring others to Christ? Who is doing the same for us each day?

For as Jesus said:
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." ~ Matthew 4:19
We are called to be fishers of men if we are to follow in His person call to each of us in our called vocations, whether it be ordained, religious, or married life. We are all to be fishers of men, bringing others to Christ.

St. Andrew is a prime example of his loyalty to Christ, so much so as to be crucified himself in persecution for his love of Christ. The only physical difference was that he had his hands tied and not nailed. In his two days on the cross he continued to preach to the onlookers. Let this be a testament to God's power and love for the whole world. May we follow Christ with such compassion and fervency, too.

Friday's readings:
Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
First: Romans 10:9-18
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
Gospel: Mt 4:18-22