As the fullest expression of God's revelation, Jesus himself is how God communicates to us. Imagine that the creator of heaven and earth loves you so much that he wants to leave heaven behind to become human like you, to share in your joys and your trials, to walk this same earth, breathe this same air. Imagine that, even as he wants to share your humanity, he offers you a share in his divinity, a share in his exuberant ecstasy, a place in his kingdom, a view of eternity. Imagine that he would die just to convince you that this is true.
-from A Mary Christmas
†"And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck, but everything by God's wise providence . . . for matters that have been in God's foreseeing wisdom since before time began befall us suddenly, all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck, but to our Lord God it is not so." — St. Juliana of Norwich
✞MEDITATION OF THE DAY✞ "Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained 'desolation' or dryness are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper faith, hope, and love. It is particularly important, they tell us, not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful. God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him, and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices." — Ralph Martin, p.174 AN EXCERPT FROM Fulfillment of all Desire
Blessed Pope Urban V
Saint of the Day for December 19 (1310 – December 19, 1370)
Blessed Pope Urban V's Story
In 1362, the man elected pope declined the office. When the cardinals could not find another person among them for that important office, they turned to a relative stranger: the holy person we honor today.
The new Pope Urban V proved a wise choice. A Benedictine monk and canon lawyer, he was deeply spiritual and brilliant. He lived simply and modestly, which did not always earn him friends among clergymen who had become used to comfort and privilege. Still, he pressed for reform and saw to the restoration of churches and monasteries. Except for a brief period he spent most of his eight years as pope living away from Rome at Avignon, seat of the papacy from 1309 until shortly after his death.
He came close but was not able to achieve one of his biggest goals—reuniting the Eastern and Western churches.
As pope, Urban continued to follow the Benedictine Rule. Shortly before his death in 1370, he asked to be moved from the papal palace to the nearby home of his brother so he could say goodbye to the ordinary people he had so often helped. Reflection
Simplicity in the midst of power and grandeur seems to define this saint as he reluctantly accepted the papacy but remained, at heart, a Benedictine monk. Surroundings need not negatively influence a person.
There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children. An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean. As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines."
The woman went and told her husband, "A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed. I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, 'You will be with child and will bear a son. So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.'"
The woman bore a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him; the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17 R. (see 8) My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory! Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory! For you are my hope, O LORD; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory! I will treat of the mighty works of the LORD; O God, I will tell of your singular justice. O God, you have taught me from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
Alleluia R. Alleluia, alleluia. O Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people: come to save us without delay! R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 1:5-25
In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest in his division's turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because 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. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord."
Then Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel said to him in reply, "I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time." Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Zechariah and Elizabeth belonged among the Lord's own 'little ones' of the earth, among the 'God fearing' masses. Each of them, judged by the depth of their belief, could be rated as being 'one in a thousand' – while, to the external view, each was unknown and just like a thousand others. And God seemed to be even withholding the award that might have been expected in those days - they were childless.
▪ The award did finally arrive – but not without some further testing of faith, given the couple's stage in life. And Zechariah learned also that the child foretold had already been made over to the designs of the Lord - the child was being sent to prepare the way, in a role akin to that always expected of the prophet Elijah – for God's final intervention in the last days of this age. Even the name ('God has shown favour') being invoked for the child, spoke of God's intention.
▪ Certainly, God's ways are not our ways; and the very people who have always tried to remain fully loyal to the Lord, are sometimes going to find themselves called to even deeper faith – involving an ever more privileged closeness to God.
What feelings are rising in me as I pray and reflect on God's Word? I imagine Jesus himself sitting or standing near me and open my heart to him.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
wau.org Catholic Meditations Meditation: Luke 1:5-25
4th Week of Advent
. . . my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time. (Luke 1:20)
The Sahara Desert is a harsh, arid landscape with insufficient water and vegetation to sustain life. Bleak, rocky plateaus, vast sand dunes, and extreme hot and cold temperatures convey a discouraging reality: no life, no growth, no fruit. Manoah and his wife, whose story is told in today's first reading, lived that disheartening reality; so did Zechariah and Elizabeth, whom we read about in today's Gospel.
Perhaps you have a "barren" area in your life—unrealized dreams, fears, or wounds that keep you from living as fully as you might. Or maybe a prevailing discouragement that leaves you feeling inadequate in God's eyes. If so, let this prayer become your own:
"Father, I believe that you can make the desert places in my life bloom like the Garden of Eden. I believe that you can bring life wherever there is barrenness. Come, Lord, and replace my doubt with belief and my fear with faith. As I await the birth of your Son, help me to remember your promise that I will flourish like grain and blossom like a fruit vine.
"Lord, I feel like Zechariah in his season of waiting, worried about this barren area of my life. I do not see the fulfillment now, but I believe that it will come. I believe because you did it for Manoah and his wife, and you did it for Zechariah and Elizabeth. You did it for your people, the Israelites, when they were slaves in Egypt and again when they were in exile in Babylon. And so I believe that you can do it for me.
"Father, I proclaim that you are able. You are faithful and strong. You are worthy of my trust—because you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. By your Spirit, let these truths fill me with hope that you can and will bring life. You can and will take away all barrenness."
Elizabeth waited. All of Israel waited. Manoah, whose name means "rest" or "quiet," waited. So wait, in quiet and rest, before the Lord. God never makes a promise he won't fulfill. You are not a desert. You are beloved by the Father, the One who brings life.
"Father, water me with your Holy Spirit throughout this season. Bring life to my desert!"
Today's 1st Holy Scripture sounds like the Gospel, ""Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. " In the first, the angel appeared to Samson's mother, and in the Gospel, the angel appears to John the Baptist's father. The Lord does not forget the barren. Never the faithful and barren. Never the ones who the world has considered...disgraced.
We prayed today "My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!" and "For you are my hope, O LORD; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother's womb you are my strength." Who else do you think has given you the strength so far? Some think it is their family, or spouse...but it is the LORD in each soul.
In today's Holy Gospel we heard "He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord." When Pope Francis first began to make waves among the faithful, one of those waves that was rocking the boat was when he said this powerful truth; the priests (the fathers) must smell like their sheep. This means volumes. Jesus was born among the animals, the savage beasts, those that would not repent, and often in the Gospels, we hear about them, right along side Him, the would-be followers were the first to complain, and doubt, and argue with Him, those Pharisees, those Scribes, those most often that were savants of the faith, but blinded by scriptures, spiritually blind. It is only in the dark that you notice the light the best. This Christmas, the Lord aims at reaching us in a unique way. I want you to be spiritually aware of what Gift He has to offer. I want you to be ready to receive it with joyful anticipation. I notice my kids are counting gifts under the tree, talking about what they could be, and one asked me "why don't parents get gifts?". We do, the little sheep God gave us are the gifts. The priest must smell like the sheep, God's children. We've been doing this 9 day offering prayer of Posadas, a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary and shepherds and angels going from house to house caroling asking for a place to stay. The first houses reject us, and the last lets us in and we break bread...the Word of God, and then we fill our bellies with hot chocolate and warm food and it feels good to come in from the dark and cold and see the light and be fed. What I've noticed is the children are more ready to dress up for the parts and to answer the questions. The adults don't want to dress nor answer questions, the same with older students. We must be like the children. We must, if we are to be in joyful expectation of what God has in store for us. Otherwise, we will be found with crossed hands and pouty faces, following the Lord, and arguing every step of the way. What God offers is out of this world....