December 31, 2012

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A New Self

In the Gospel for today, we hear the great prologue of St. John’s Gospel, full of so much richness. One sentence reads: “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”

There is a way in which, as Christians, we are born again. The phrase tends to have a very non-Catholic ring to it, but of course the image is Christ’s very own. This image of a new birth corresponds to a new life, a new beginning with a new self. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that Jesus:

“who, born so, comes to be
new self and nobler me
in each one and each one
more makes, when all is done,
both God’s and Mary’s Son.”

The Christian is a new self, a new creature, now a son of God, with Mary as his mother. Perhaps if you have experienced a more vigorous or forceful conversion this truth is more obvious to you, yet it is also true for all who have been baptized and live in God’s grace. And perhaps it helps to think of this image more literally. It is not just a metaphor, but a literal truth that the Christian has been so totally transformed as to merit being called “born not by natural generation . . . but of God.” Thus the Christian life in grace lacks the dullness and aimlessness of a life of sin—to be born of God is to have that perennial freshness that we all desire. It is within our grasp, thanks to the grace of God available to us in the sacraments, especially reconciliation and Holy Communion. We often think of resolutions for the new year, so let one of them be to frequent these sacraments more often and let God make us into His children once again. Happy New Year!

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life.  Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us
without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you. Our only desire and
our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.

—Based on the words St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. 
from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises


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December 30, 2012

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Luke 2: 41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey.

Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Threshold of the New Year

Luke’s gospel this feast of the Holy Family depicts a rather frightening situation. Any parent panics in the experience of a lost or missing child. This gospel incident, of course, points ahead to Jesus’ public ministry, as the first step on the road which will eventually lead to the cross and beyond. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus says. The question must have hurt Mary and Joseph, even as it underlines the profound implications of his birth which we celebrate this holy season.

Concern, forgiveness, acceptance, compromise: these very human qualities exemplified by this family we call holy can also shape our attitudes towards one another, especially in those moments of misunderstanding which inevitably mark our own human relationships. Whether we are parents or children, strangers or good friends, we need to hold one another with open hands, allowing space for awkward questions and differing viewpoints, openings for healing and growth.

As we celebrate God’s new life this feast of the Holy Family we might ask just how it is that the Lord will support and strengthen us as we stand on the threshold of the new year. How is it that this God whose Advent continues to overwhelm and strengthen us through the coming of Jesus our Savior—just how is it that you and I will respond?  In today’s second reading we hear the words: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children, the family of God?” May our loving God strengthen all those relationships which hold us together in faith. And may the peace of Christ we share this holy weekend come alive in all our relationships throughout the New Year!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we can see in you the same tension that we sometimes feel — to follow your call as well as to please the important people in our lives. We also identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, seeking their lost boy and both relieved and angry when you are found in the Temple.

Discovering our purpose and parenting children have similarities. We need to lean on your grace to guide our efforts; we can’t do this alone. We will expect disappointments along the way. It is inevitable. But out of the uncertainties and the consistency of the search, we will be transformed and arrive at a life-giving acceptance and triumph as we place our lives before you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 29, 2012

1 Jn 2: 3-11

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

To Know Jesus

Today the Church offers for us the words of St. John: “The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments.” These words are for us an ever-important lesson, always worthy of a new encounter. To know Jesus, we must imitate Him.

The secular world wants to know Jesus mostly to find out what all the fuss is about. Perhaps also to discourage and wound His followers today, who can be difficult or troublesome with their plans and desires. But the secular world uses secular means to find out who this Jesus is, or was, or wasn’t after all. Think about what a modern news reporter might say about the events at Bethlehem, Nazareth, or Golgotha? If we had a digital camera trained on Christ for some sort of “reality” show about the Messiah, what sort of footage would we watch?

Interesting questions, and not without some value for you and me. Unless we learn to live like Christ, we shall never know him, really. This knowledge that develops in a Christ-like soul is not necessarily book-learning –facts and figures, definitions or diagrams. It is, rather, a living truth that pierces the veil of the Godhead. It transfigures us and leads us to a joy that cannot be described or predicted.

Now there may be a tendency for us to think that we’ve “been there, done that”—that we know Jesus already—what’s next? But if we think this way, we’ve forgotten St. John’s rule: “The way we may be sure we know Jesus is to keep his commandments.” If we so examine ourselves, we’ll find that we have many flaws. It is, of course, the task of a lifetime—so let us, every day, make a little progress toward keeping the commandments of Christ more faithfully, so that we may be sure of our truthful knowledge of Jesus.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it is fairly easy to be encouraging and celebratory of our family and friends who are not doing as well as us. But can we rejoice with others when their lives appear more abundant than ours? Maybe their jobs are more fulfilling than ours; maybe their children are more successful or more popular than our children. Maybe life just seems so easy for them but quite a bit challenging for us. Let us have the generosity of spirit to be happy for family and friends and to encourage them onward.  And, Lord, protect us from comparing ourselves to others. For such practices will cause us to become vain or bitter.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Matthew 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Mystery

(Note: Lord, as we recall Herod’s brutal onslaught of the innocent two year olds, we mourn the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  As the families begin to reconstruct their lives, may each person affected by this tragedy, move through the darkness of loss.  And in time may life move forward in honor and gratitude for those so desperately missed.)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents—those children murdered by Herod in his attempt to kill Jesus. Just why should we recall the senseless slaughter of innocent children? What is holy about them? One way to understand this feast day is to remember that it is similar to the way we celebrate fallen soldiers or the victims of some horrible genocide. We recognize that there is something important that needs to be remembered, a reality that deserves recognition, memorial, and honor towards the lost ones.

But today’s feast goes beyond this. It doesn’t —or shouldn’t—have the quality of a war memorial. It is a feast—a feast!—a celebration. A celebration of the slaughter of innocents? This might seem perverse, and to some contemporaries of the early Christians, perhaps it did. But to understand why the Church spontaneously began celebrating these innocents, we must think of the Cross of Christ and His Resurrection. For the followers of Christ, the cross—as fine an image of senseless violence as any—became a meaningful source of joy.

Thus it becomes possible to see these infants as martyrs as well. They died because of Christ’s coming; although they could not speak, they gave witness with their very lives. It seems to be a tragedy, to say the least, that these children were killed. And in any reasonable worldly perspective, it would be. But in a mysterious way, their deaths were also martyrdoms, and their lives in heaven are eternally glorified by their Lord.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose. Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work. Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called. May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory.

—Magis Institute


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December 27, 2012

St. John, apostle & evangelist

John 20: 2-8

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Two Views

How is it that St. John’s feast comes so close to Christmas? There are surely interesting historical reasons. But here let us consider the opening of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.” John teaches us so marvelously about the Incarnation, about the identity of this Christ child, about the divine love that shines forth in Him. Liturgically, it is interesting to note that the Gospel for this Mass, coming only two days after Christmas, is actually a story of the Resurrection. This may seem very incongruous, an abrupt change. But it reminds us of two things:

First, that the life of Jesus is a mysterious unity. The life of Christ was not accidental, heaven forbid. The end is present in the beginning, and the beginning at the end. The Incarnation of God is the salvation, and so is the Cross and Resurrection. Thus there is a mysterious unity here. Second, the Gospel tells us an important truth about St. John. As John and Peter run to the empty tomb, it seems that St. John was the better runner, since he arrived first. (This also shows us how eager he was to get there, running as fast as he could and not just traipsing along.) But John waited to go into the tomb, thinking that Peter ought to be the one to go in first.

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar saw in these figures a certain key to some perennial aspects of Christian life. John represents the mystics, the visionaries, but also, in a way, our own more mundane yet deeply personal sensibilities—our own spiritual lives, our own way of responding to Christ, perhaps even our own opinions. Peter represents the hierarchical ministry, the authority of the Church, given by God to govern and shape, to guide and protect, to nourish and heal the flock.

John, although he was “the beloved disciple,” so clearly possessing such great spiritual insight, knew that Christ desired him to be obedient to Peter. This is also the spirituality of St. Ignatius: a great mystic with great experiences of his own, but obedient in his very core. It is also a spirituality for all Christians, since we are often tempted to leave Peter behind and run along with only our own personal opinions. St John shows us a better way.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, to the unbeliever, the empty tomb symbolizes a world orphaned, drifting aimlessly, ruled by greed, power, and an ever-present evil. If indeed the unbeliever is right, nothing matters. Nothing! Lord, we stand before the tomb. With John we move inside. And we see “the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” And we see and believe.

Now that which seems pointless has purpose; that which seems impossible has potential; and no suffering, no disappointment, no struggle is meaningless. Life with all its warts and worries will one day be transcended because of the empty tomb, because of your Resurrection!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 26, 2012

St. Stephen, First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-20, 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council.

They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.“ Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Triumph of Eternal Promise

But [Stephen], filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. [Acts 7: 55-56]

The stones that battered Stephen’s body broke upon the doorways of his soul to reveal to him the eternal promise of God, transcending the very worst that human cruelty can inflict.

—Margaret Silf, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2010 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, the men needed but a few minutes to grab their stones. No one person would be responsible for the gruesome killing of Stephen. Since all would contribute, no one would know whose stone ultimately murdered him. Power in the crowd; cowardice in the anonymity of the act. Lord, two things we ask of you. Strengthen our resolve to be true to you. And keep us faithful so we never sell out another because of fear or ambition.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 25, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being with him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity.  Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

A Christmas Prayer

For a moment we are there, too.
The baby, so precious, so vulnerable
Stares at us with a knowing look.
And stares beyond us
Past the foreboding cross.
Obscurity, the silence of night
Peace and good will
The background lullaby.
Mary and Joseph lean upon each other.
A doting shepherd, a humbled king
Touch the infant’s face.
Now it’s our turn.
We touch the face of God.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 24, 2012

2 Sam 7: 1-5, 8-11

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

A Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, whatever it is that we “build” today, let our motivation be Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam — for the greater glory of God.  Even if our work would be viewed by others as inconsequential, if it is performed to give glory to God, that effort is meaningful. Lord, we surrender our every action to you and we approach the babe in the manager with a reverence, hope, and dedication to the underserved and the broken hearted.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2012

Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

What to Leave Behind?

In today’s final Advent readings, the prophet Micah invites us to consider how God offers us the gifts of deep down peace and steadfast love through the life and purpose, the forgiveness and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. We also travel with Mary as she rushes off to share the news of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth—Mary on the road, her life changed forever.

Later Mary and Joseph will also hit the road . . . this time that familiar road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Long before airplane baggage limits, Mary and Joseph had to decide what to take with them and what to leave behind.

Now in 2012 all of us make our own way towards Bethlehem . . . with a pertinent question to consider: what might you and I need to risk leaving behind as we make our personal “journey to Bethlehem”?  Perhaps I can finally leave behind some festering dislike for a neighbor or co-worker or family member. Perhaps we can leave all the financial worry and personal frustration we put upon ourselves. Perhaps there is some personal sinfulness that saps my energy and darkens our love. Whatever it might be, can we leave behind this personal “junk” as we prepare to approach the crib in just 2 days

For all of us, the time is here; the miracle is now. With the strength we receive in relationship with one another and with our God, may we go forward to meet Jesus Christ this Christmas —steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, untiring in love!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, let us simply rest in the miracle of your ever abiding presence in our life. Increase our faith that we can more fully grasp the reality of your birth to a young girl whose “yes” opened everlasting purpose and life to all of us. If we begin to feel overwhelmed by Christmas responsibilities, halt our hectic pace. And for a few focused minutes let us join the gathering in the stable and regain our sense of your awesome gift to us and to all we love so very much.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2012

Luke 1: 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Cast Down and Lifted Up

Today’s “O Antiphon” addresses Christ as the “King of all nations” and the “cornerstone of the Church.” Here we see an exalted image of Jesus’ identity, which was revealed in the resurrection. But let us also remember that “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” Jesus’ exaltation did not take place before his humiliation.

The Father, before exalting Jesus, led him in obedience to the depths of the cross. In this, the Father fulfilled a pattern seen throughout salvation history, a pattern which Mary lauds in today’s Magnificat.

God has cast down the mighty, but lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things. He has remembered Israel, the smallest of nations, out of His eternal faithfulness. Therefore, let us also persevere in faith, regardless of the difficulties we are experiencing. It is precisely faithfulness in the face of difficulty that wins God’s favor and brings about salvation.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, your Mother proclaims the hope of all: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Mary experienced the greatest of joy and the most agonizing suffering. She watched many pay homage to you, looked on as you bled from the cross, and stared into your resurrected eyes. Lord, we will be people of hope; people who trust that darkness will be defeated and goodness will have the final word.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 31, 2012

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

A New Self

In the Gospel for today, we hear the great prologue of St. John’s Gospel, full of so much richness. One sentence reads: “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”

There is a way in which, as Christians, we are born again. The phrase tends to have a very non-Catholic ring to it, but of course the image is Christ’s very own. This image of a new birth corresponds to a new life, a new beginning with a new self. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote that Jesus:

“who, born so, comes to be
new self and nobler me
in each one and each one
more makes, when all is done,
both God’s and Mary’s Son.”

The Christian is a new self, a new creature, now a son of God, with Mary as his mother. Perhaps if you have experienced a more vigorous or forceful conversion this truth is more obvious to you, yet it is also true for all who have been baptized and live in God’s grace. And perhaps it helps to think of this image more literally. It is not just a metaphor, but a literal truth that the Christian has been so totally transformed as to merit being called “born not by natural generation . . . but of God.” Thus the Christian life in grace lacks the dullness and aimlessness of a life of sin—to be born of God is to have that perennial freshness that we all desire. It is within our grasp, thanks to the grace of God available to us in the sacraments, especially reconciliation and Holy Communion. We often think of resolutions for the new year, so let one of them be to frequent these sacraments more often and let God make us into His children once again. Happy New Year!

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life.  Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us
without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you. Our only desire and
our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.

—Based on the words St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. 
from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises


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December 30, 2012

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Luke 2: 41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey.

Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Threshold of the New Year

Luke’s gospel this feast of the Holy Family depicts a rather frightening situation. Any parent panics in the experience of a lost or missing child. This gospel incident, of course, points ahead to Jesus’ public ministry, as the first step on the road which will eventually lead to the cross and beyond. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus says. The question must have hurt Mary and Joseph, even as it underlines the profound implications of his birth which we celebrate this holy season.

Concern, forgiveness, acceptance, compromise: these very human qualities exemplified by this family we call holy can also shape our attitudes towards one another, especially in those moments of misunderstanding which inevitably mark our own human relationships. Whether we are parents or children, strangers or good friends, we need to hold one another with open hands, allowing space for awkward questions and differing viewpoints, openings for healing and growth.

As we celebrate God’s new life this feast of the Holy Family we might ask just how it is that the Lord will support and strengthen us as we stand on the threshold of the new year. How is it that this God whose Advent continues to overwhelm and strengthen us through the coming of Jesus our Savior—just how is it that you and I will respond?  In today’s second reading we hear the words: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children, the family of God?” May our loving God strengthen all those relationships which hold us together in faith. And may the peace of Christ we share this holy weekend come alive in all our relationships throughout the New Year!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, we can see in you the same tension that we sometimes feel — to follow your call as well as to please the important people in our lives. We also identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, seeking their lost boy and both relieved and angry when you are found in the Temple.

Discovering our purpose and parenting children have similarities. We need to lean on your grace to guide our efforts; we can’t do this alone. We will expect disappointments along the way. It is inevitable. But out of the uncertainties and the consistency of the search, we will be transformed and arrive at a life-giving acceptance and triumph as we place our lives before you.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 29, 2012

1 Jn 2: 3-11

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

To Know Jesus

Today the Church offers for us the words of St. John: “The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments.” These words are for us an ever-important lesson, always worthy of a new encounter. To know Jesus, we must imitate Him.

The secular world wants to know Jesus mostly to find out what all the fuss is about. Perhaps also to discourage and wound His followers today, who can be difficult or troublesome with their plans and desires. But the secular world uses secular means to find out who this Jesus is, or was, or wasn’t after all. Think about what a modern news reporter might say about the events at Bethlehem, Nazareth, or Golgotha? If we had a digital camera trained on Christ for some sort of “reality” show about the Messiah, what sort of footage would we watch?

Interesting questions, and not without some value for you and me. Unless we learn to live like Christ, we shall never know him, really. This knowledge that develops in a Christ-like soul is not necessarily book-learning –facts and figures, definitions or diagrams. It is, rather, a living truth that pierces the veil of the Godhead. It transfigures us and leads us to a joy that cannot be described or predicted.

Now there may be a tendency for us to think that we’ve “been there, done that”—that we know Jesus already—what’s next? But if we think this way, we’ve forgotten St. John’s rule: “The way we may be sure we know Jesus is to keep his commandments.” If we so examine ourselves, we’ll find that we have many flaws. It is, of course, the task of a lifetime—so let us, every day, make a little progress toward keeping the commandments of Christ more faithfully, so that we may be sure of our truthful knowledge of Jesus.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, it is fairly easy to be encouraging and celebratory of our family and friends who are not doing as well as us. But can we rejoice with others when their lives appear more abundant than ours? Maybe their jobs are more fulfilling than ours; maybe their children are more successful or more popular than our children. Maybe life just seems so easy for them but quite a bit challenging for us. Let us have the generosity of spirit to be happy for family and friends and to encourage them onward.  And, Lord, protect us from comparing ourselves to others. For such practices will cause us to become vain or bitter.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Matthew 2: 13-18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

The Mystery

(Note: Lord, as we recall Herod’s brutal onslaught of the innocent two year olds, we mourn the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  As the families begin to reconstruct their lives, may each person affected by this tragedy, move through the darkness of loss.  And in time may life move forward in honor and gratitude for those so desperately missed.)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents—those children murdered by Herod in his attempt to kill Jesus. Just why should we recall the senseless slaughter of innocent children? What is holy about them? One way to understand this feast day is to remember that it is similar to the way we celebrate fallen soldiers or the victims of some horrible genocide. We recognize that there is something important that needs to be remembered, a reality that deserves recognition, memorial, and honor towards the lost ones.

But today’s feast goes beyond this. It doesn’t —or shouldn’t—have the quality of a war memorial. It is a feast—a feast!—a celebration. A celebration of the slaughter of innocents? This might seem perverse, and to some contemporaries of the early Christians, perhaps it did. But to understand why the Church spontaneously began celebrating these innocents, we must think of the Cross of Christ and His Resurrection. For the followers of Christ, the cross—as fine an image of senseless violence as any—became a meaningful source of joy.

Thus it becomes possible to see these infants as martyrs as well. They died because of Christ’s coming; although they could not speak, they gave witness with their very lives. It seems to be a tragedy, to say the least, that these children were killed. And in any reasonable worldly perspective, it would be. But in a mysterious way, their deaths were also martyrdoms, and their lives in heaven are eternally glorified by their Lord.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Father, you created me and put me on earth for a purpose. Jesus, you died for me and call me to complete your work. Holy Spirit, you help me to carry out the work for which I was created and called. May all my thoughts and inspirations have their origin in you and be directed to your glory.

—Magis Institute


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December 27, 2012

St. John, apostle & evangelist

John 20: 2-8

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Two Views

How is it that St. John’s feast comes so close to Christmas? There are surely interesting historical reasons. But here let us consider the opening of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was made flesh.” John teaches us so marvelously about the Incarnation, about the identity of this Christ child, about the divine love that shines forth in Him. Liturgically, it is interesting to note that the Gospel for this Mass, coming only two days after Christmas, is actually a story of the Resurrection. This may seem very incongruous, an abrupt change. But it reminds us of two things:

First, that the life of Jesus is a mysterious unity. The life of Christ was not accidental, heaven forbid. The end is present in the beginning, and the beginning at the end. The Incarnation of God is the salvation, and so is the Cross and Resurrection. Thus there is a mysterious unity here. Second, the Gospel tells us an important truth about St. John. As John and Peter run to the empty tomb, it seems that St. John was the better runner, since he arrived first. (This also shows us how eager he was to get there, running as fast as he could and not just traipsing along.) But John waited to go into the tomb, thinking that Peter ought to be the one to go in first.

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar saw in these figures a certain key to some perennial aspects of Christian life. John represents the mystics, the visionaries, but also, in a way, our own more mundane yet deeply personal sensibilities—our own spiritual lives, our own way of responding to Christ, perhaps even our own opinions. Peter represents the hierarchical ministry, the authority of the Church, given by God to govern and shape, to guide and protect, to nourish and heal the flock.

John, although he was “the beloved disciple,” so clearly possessing such great spiritual insight, knew that Christ desired him to be obedient to Peter. This is also the spirituality of St. Ignatius: a great mystic with great experiences of his own, but obedient in his very core. It is also a spirituality for all Christians, since we are often tempted to leave Peter behind and run along with only our own personal opinions. St John shows us a better way.

—Timothy Kieras, S.J.

Prayer

Lord, to the unbeliever, the empty tomb symbolizes a world orphaned, drifting aimlessly, ruled by greed, power, and an ever-present evil. If indeed the unbeliever is right, nothing matters. Nothing! Lord, we stand before the tomb. With John we move inside. And we see “the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” And we see and believe.

Now that which seems pointless has purpose; that which seems impossible has potential; and no suffering, no disappointment, no struggle is meaningless. Life with all its warts and worries will one day be transcended because of the empty tomb, because of your Resurrection!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 26, 2012

St. Stephen, First Martyr

Acts 6: 8-20, 7: 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council.

They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.“ Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)

Triumph of Eternal Promise

But [Stephen], filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. [Acts 7: 55-56]

The stones that battered Stephen’s body broke upon the doorways of his soul to reveal to him the eternal promise of God, transcending the very worst that human cruelty can inflict.

—Margaret Silf, 2010: A Book of Grace-Filled Days © 2010 Loyola Press, Chicago IL. For more Ignatian spiritual resources from Loyola Press, please visit www.loyolapress.com

Prayer

Lord, the men needed but a few minutes to grab their stones. No one person would be responsible for the gruesome killing of Stephen. Since all would contribute, no one would know whose stone ultimately murdered him. Power in the crowd; cowardice in the anonymity of the act. Lord, two things we ask of you. Strengthen our resolve to be true to you. And keep us faithful so we never sell out another because of fear or ambition.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 25, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being with him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Significance and Obscurity

One of the greatest wonders of the feast we celebrate today is the fact that an event of such great significance took place in almost total obscurity.  Just think: the most momentous event in our history—the incarnation of God as a human person—took place in an insignificant country, completely unobserved by the powers of the world at that time. While nations and economic leaders went about their business of directing the world, the world’s true governor was born in their midst.

The most momentous events often go unnoticed when they take place. But they produce world-altering consequences in their wakes. So it is with the daily conversions which take place in our souls. The internal struggle that takes place within us often goes unnoticed by those around us. God’s attempt to speak to our souls and draw them toward Himself is like a “Little Bethlehem.”

There, in the quiet of our souls, the most momentous events transpire. While others may not be aware of these moments of conversion within our hearts, they definitely experience the effects as the Gospel takes root and transforms the ways we live. May the Spirit of Christ dwell richly within our hearts this Christmas!

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.

A Christmas Prayer

For a moment we are there, too.
The baby, so precious, so vulnerable
Stares at us with a knowing look.
And stares beyond us
Past the foreboding cross.
Obscurity, the silence of night
Peace and good will
The background lullaby.
Mary and Joseph lean upon each other.
A doting shepherd, a humbled king
Touch the infant’s face.
Now it’s our turn.
We touch the face of God.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 24, 2012

2 Sam 7: 1-5, 8-11

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

A Building Like No Other

Who isn’t able to identify with King David? His weaknesses and his strengths are ours. He defeated Goliath; yet he is also the one who killed Uriah. His moments of special blessing by the Lord seem equally matched by his ability to forget the Lord’s favor and act on his own, woefully mistaken initiative. In today’s reading, he impulsively offers to build a house of dwelling for the Lord—a worthy and noble initiative. But it is not the initiative which God wants. God will build his own dwelling place and God doesn’t need David to do it.

In this season of Christmas, we see the culmination of God’s plans to build Himself a dwelling. He doesn’t use timber or stone, but human flesh. He dwells in a human person, Jesus the Christ. In so doing, God has saved the world and given all of us wandering, stumbling fools—sons of David—the hope that one day we might all dwell in the fullness of God’s presence. Come Lord Jesus!

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, whatever it is that we “build” today, let our motivation be Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam — for the greater glory of God.  Even if our work would be viewed by others as inconsequential, if it is performed to give glory to God, that effort is meaningful. Lord, we surrender our every action to you and we approach the babe in the manager with a reverence, hope, and dedication to the underserved and the broken hearted.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 23, 2012

Luke 1: 39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

What to Leave Behind?

In today’s final Advent readings, the prophet Micah invites us to consider how God offers us the gifts of deep down peace and steadfast love through the life and purpose, the forgiveness and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. We also travel with Mary as she rushes off to share the news of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth—Mary on the road, her life changed forever.

Later Mary and Joseph will also hit the road . . . this time that familiar road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Long before airplane baggage limits, Mary and Joseph had to decide what to take with them and what to leave behind.

Now in 2012 all of us make our own way towards Bethlehem . . . with a pertinent question to consider: what might you and I need to risk leaving behind as we make our personal “journey to Bethlehem”?  Perhaps I can finally leave behind some festering dislike for a neighbor or co-worker or family member. Perhaps we can leave all the financial worry and personal frustration we put upon ourselves. Perhaps there is some personal sinfulness that saps my energy and darkens our love. Whatever it might be, can we leave behind this personal “junk” as we prepare to approach the crib in just 2 days

For all of us, the time is here; the miracle is now. With the strength we receive in relationship with one another and with our God, may we go forward to meet Jesus Christ this Christmas —steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, untiring in love!

—The Jesuit Prayer Team

Prayer

Lord, let us simply rest in the miracle of your ever abiding presence in our life. Increase our faith that we can more fully grasp the reality of your birth to a young girl whose “yes” opened everlasting purpose and life to all of us. If we begin to feel overwhelmed by Christmas responsibilities, halt our hectic pace. And for a few focused minutes let us join the gathering in the stable and regain our sense of your awesome gift to us and to all we love so very much.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


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December 22, 2012

Luke 1: 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations

Cast Down and Lifted Up

Today’s “O Antiphon” addresses Christ as the “King of all nations” and the “cornerstone of the Church.” Here we see an exalted image of Jesus’ identity, which was revealed in the resurrection. But let us also remember that “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” Jesus’ exaltation did not take place before his humiliation.

The Father, before exalting Jesus, led him in obedience to the depths of the cross. In this, the Father fulfilled a pattern seen throughout salvation history, a pattern which Mary lauds in today’s Magnificat.

God has cast down the mighty, but lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things. He has remembered Israel, the smallest of nations, out of His eternal faithfulness. Therefore, let us also persevere in faith, regardless of the difficulties we are experiencing. It is precisely faithfulness in the face of difficulty that wins God’s favor and brings about salvation.

—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J. 

Prayer

Lord, your Mother proclaims the hope of all: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Mary experienced the greatest of joy and the most agonizing suffering. She watched many pay homage to you, looked on as you bled from the cross, and stared into your resurrected eyes. Lord, we will be people of hope; people who trust that darkness will be defeated and goodness will have the final word.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team


Please share the Good Word with your friends!