“A God who became so small could only be mercy and love” (St. Therese of Lisieux).
Last Monday evening I was blessed to visit Amy and Paul and their newborn baby boy, Joseph, at the hospital. It was last April when I celebrated Amy and Paul’s wedding, and it’s been a joy seeing them eagerly anticipate the arrival of Joseph. A few weeks ago they’d asked me if I’d be willing to bless them and little Joseph before they left the hospital. Of course, I was happy to do so.
When I arrived they made sure little Joseph was wrapped tightly in his blanket and then they placed him in my arms. Amazing! He was as light as a feather and his face was like that of an angel’s. His little eyes were open, and if babies could talk he probably would have said, “Who is this guy that’s holding me? Doesn’t look familiar to me in my one-day-old world.” I was mesmerized as I cradled him in my arms and looked into his eyes. I started talking to him about his parents. I told him how blessed he was to have them and that I was happy he took after his mother (a compliment to Amy and a humorous jab to Paul).
Little babies, especially newborns, have a way of taking us out of ourselves, of making us forget about our cares and problems. They captivate us and lift our spirits. Our hearts surge with love when we hold them in our arms. It is a deeply spiritual experience.
For a moment, think of the feelings you’ve had when you’ve held a newborn baby. Now, think about the fact that God became a newborn. On that holy night in a stable in Bethlehem Mary and Joseph held the Christ child in their arms. They gazed into his eyes. They felt his soft skin and heard his first cries. They were mesmerized.
God could have chosen to come to us in another way. He could have come majestically on the clouds, appearing in all his glory (and He will when He comes again). But, in His wisdom, He chose to come to us humbly, as a little baby.
But why did God come to us as a baby? Because He wants us to have confidence in His love and to be fearless in approaching Him. That’s what we do with babies, isn’t it? We want to draw close to them, to look into their eyes, to touch their soft cheeks, to hold and rock them. They elicit in us sentiments of love, tenderness, and affection. God became man in Jesus Christ so that we could draw close to Him. He took the initiative. He appeared as a little baby so that our hearts would be filled with deep love and affection for Him. He wants us to know that He is approachable, that He is lovable, that He is gentle.
As we approach the great Solemnity of Christmas we are invited to draw very close to Jesus, to contemplate Him in the manger. In your meditation, take Him out of the manger and hold Him in your arms. Touch and kiss His cheeks. Look at His face. It is the face of God. Are you afraid of a God who became so little that you could hold Him? Do you really believe that He doesn’t love you or that He wants to remain distant from you? No! As St. Therese said, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”
Let your heart be filled with love and affection for the Lord. He is not distant from us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. This Christmas, open your heart and let Him give you the greatest gift: a deeper love for Him and a deeper trust in His tender care for you.
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Isreal.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.
ROME — Pope Benedict XVI moved two of his predecessors a step closer to sainthood on Saturday, confirming the “heroic virtues” of John Paul II and, in a surprise move, of Pius XII, the pope during World War II.
Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by the members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints audience on Saturday at the Vatican.
After John Paul’s death in April 2005, Benedict bypassed a traditional waiting period to put the much beloved pope on a fast-track to sainthood. At John Paul’s funeral, crowds at Saint Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito,” or “sainthood now.”
Pius XII, however, has been a point of contention between the Vatican and some Jewish groups, who say he did not do enough to stop the Holocaust. They have called on the Vatican to open the sealed archives from Pius’s papacy, from 1939 to 1958, for examination by scholars.
On Saturday, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants called the decision on Pius “profoundly insensitive and thoughtless” and said it would cause “an inevitable blow” to interfaith relations.
“Pairing the announcement on Pius — who remained publicly silent during the Holocaust — with that on John Paul II, himself a victim of the Nazis, is a particularly disturbing and callous act,” the group added in its statement.
Benedict has said that Pius worked “secretly and silently” to help save Jews. Although a Vatican committee confirmed his “heroic virtues” in 2007, Benedict had asked for time for reflection, which many saw as a diplomatic effort aimed at calming polemics.
On Saturday, the pope confirmed the committee’s findings. Before the two popes can become saints, another Vatican committee must determine that miracles have been attributed to them.
Benedict also confirmed the “heroic virtues” of six other potential saints and miracles for 11. He declared the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity chaplain” murdered by the Polish secret service in 1984, a martyr.
Vatican insiders speculate that John Paul could be beatified as soon as next fall.
From the New York Times
The pope's call for more environmental commitments came in his message for the Roman Catholic Church's annual World Day of Peace, to be marked on Jan 1 and whose theme is "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation."
The message is traditionally sent to heads of state, government and international organizations and its importance this year is more significant because its release coincided with the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen.
"It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries," he said in the message.
While saying that developing countries "are not exempt from their own responsibilities with regard to creation," and had a duty to gradually adopt effective environmental measures, the bulk of his criticism was aimed at rich nations.
Richstatter approaches the Mass from a decidedly post Vatican II perspective. I don’t agree with all of his images conjured up in the text. At some points he waters down the subject, in my opinion. Other aspects of the book are well-worth the read. The author explains how the Mass takes place out of time, which is to say, the Mass is a unity of the Church past, present and future in one time and place. Richstatter does an excellent job explaining this and the other metaphysical dimensions of this holy sacrament.
The Mass a Guided Tour is a good introductory text for those new to or unfamiliar with the Catholic Mass. It reminded me why Catholics believe what they do and why the celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.
To purchase this book click here or visit the Catholic Company for similar items.
When the bishop asked for a sign, the woman told Juan to fill his cloak with flowers that appeared miraculously on the hill. Returning to the bishop, Juan opened his cloak to find not only the flowers but also an image of Mary, “clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet,” on his cloak.
On Tepeyac Hill, Mary identified herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she appeared at a time when human sacrifice was part of the native Aztec culture. It has been estimated that one out of every five children was sacrificed to the Aztecs’ gods. The image on Juan Diego’s cloak conveyed an important message to the Aztecs. The woman stood in front of the sun and wore stars on her mantle. Her feet not only rested on the moon but also were crushing the head of a serpent. All of these images were gods that the Aztecs worshipped. The sash that she wore indicated she was pregnant – pregnant, in fact, with the author of life, Jesus Christ. Through this miraculous image, the Aztecs were introduced to the one true God.
This appearance of Mary caused millions of native to be converted to Christ and to abandon the practice of child sacrifice. Today, millions of unborn children are slaughtered by abortion. These children, however, are not thrown down the steps of Aztec pyramids but instead are placed into garbage cans, incinerated, or used for scientific research. On a day like today, we should all turn to Mary and ask her to intervene yet again on behalf of these innocent little victims.
From the Word Among Us.
The dogma states that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed by Catholics that she lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, through sexual intercourse, may be contrasted with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus, known as the Annunciation, and followed by the Virgin Birth.
The dogma is based upon the following text from Luke;
Mary's Immaculate conception is based on two key passages from the proceeding gospel; when the angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” and, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her,“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”But Mary said to the angel,“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply,“ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
To be "full of grace" and to be in favor with the Lord are one in the same thing. Mary was in the Lord's favor and full of grace meaning she was preserved from sin, both original and otherwise, from the moment of conception onward.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception is as much about Jesus as it is about Mary since through it Mary was prepared to be the mother of Christ.
Hail Holy Queen
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V./ Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
R./ that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
ad te clamamus
exsules filii Hevae,
ad te suspiramus, gementes et
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos
misericordes oculos ad nos converte;
et Jesum, benedictum fructum
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis
In some forms, is added:
V./ Ora pro nobis sancta Dei Genetrix.
R./ Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Scholars tell us that Luke probably wrote his gospel some 55 years after the Resurrection. Therefore, it is unlikely he witnessed the ministry of Jesus. But he assures us in the early verses of his Gospel that he has examined things "from the beginning," and has gone over "everything," and made sure to do so "accurately."
The Church teaches that Luke and the other biblical authors were "inspired." This doesn't mean God dictated word for word, but rather the Holy Spirit gave special guidance to the authors so that they (each with their own style and limitations), ultimately taught what God wanted taught.
We also believe that this same Spirit is active in us when we read Scripture.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid Zechariah for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. (Luke 1:8-15)
The angel tells Zechariah that his prayer has been heard. We aren't told what Zechariah has been praying for, but now we know. He was praying for Isreal, of course, as a Jewish priest would do. But he was also praying for a son.
Sometimes we're afraid to pray for things that seem unrealistic.
Three times in the birth story of Jesus we'll hear angels say, "Do not be afraid" - to Zechariah here, to Mary at the Annunciation, and to the shepherds in the fields. Jesus in his public life will say these same words five times.
This Advent, do not be afraid!