Monday, December 11, 2017

✞ Which is easier....


God Reaches Out to Us through Others

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is familiar to most Christians. We can imagine what it must be like to wander away from the flock, to be lost and cold and out of reach of all that's familiar. Few of us have a direct experience of God caring for us as the Good Shepherd. For most of us, that loving presence comes from the flesh-and-blood people in our lives. God reaches out to others through us just as he reached out to us through others.
—from the book The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis
by Diane M. Houdek


✞"He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him wherever he goes."
— St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Little by little, we can make our daily life more and more prayerful, as we are able, over time, to incorporate those suggestions that work with our schedule and that we are ready for spiritually. There is a particular spiritual practice that Francis [de Sales] highly recommends that is possible for all of us: even on those 'impossible' days when we are perhaps unable to undertake our normal spiritual practices, we can stay rooted in prayer by constantly addressing brief prayers to the Lord. These can be acts of love, of adoration, of faith, of hope, of petition, or simply saying the name of Jesus—throughout the course of the day. Francis places a very high value on these simple utterances, traditionally called ejaculatory prayers or aspirations."
— Ralph Martin, p. 135
Fulfillment of all Desire

"Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."
Jude 1:24-25


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Saint Damasus I

(304 – December 11, 384)

To his secretary Saint Jerome, Damasus was "an incomparable person, learned in the Scriptures, a virgin doctor of the virgin Church, who loved chastity and heard its praises with pleasure." Damasus seldom heard such unrestrained praise. Internal political struggles, doctrinal heresies, uneasy relations with his fellow bishops and those of the Eastern Church marred the peace of his pontificate.

The son of a Roman priest, possibly of Spanish extraction, Damasus started as a deacon in his father's church, and served as a priest in what later became the basilica of San Lorenzo in Rome. He served Pope Liberius (352-366) and followed him into exile.

When Liberius died, Damasus was elected bishop of Rome; but a minority elected and consecrated another deacon, Ursinus, as pope. The controversy between Damasus and the antipope resulted in violent battles in two basilicas, scandalizing the bishops of Italy. At the synod that Damasus called on the occasion of his birthday, he asked them to approve his actions. The bishops' reply was curt: "We assembled for a birthday, not to condemn a man unheard." Supporters of the antipope even managed to get Damasus accused of a grave crime—probably sexual—as late as A.D. 378. He had to clear himself before both a civil court and a Church synod.

As pope, his lifestyle was simple in contrast to other ecclesiastics of Rome, and he was fierce in his denunciation of Arianism and other heresies. A misunderstanding of the Trinitarian terminology used by Rome threatened amicable relations with the Eastern Church, and Damasus was only moderately successful in dealing with that challenge.

During his pontificate, Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman state, and Latin became the principal liturgical language as part of the pope's reforms. His encouragement of Saint Jerome's biblical studies led to the Vulgate, the Latin translation of Scripture which 12 centuries later the Council of Trent declared to be "authentic in public readings, disputations, preaching."


The history of the papacy and the Church is inextricably mixed with the personal biography of Damasus. In a troubled and pivotal period of Church history, he stands forth as a zealous defender of the faith who knew when to be progressive and when to entrench.

Damasus makes us aware of two qualities of good leadership: alertness to the promptings of the Spirit, and service. His struggles are a reminder that Jesus never promised his Rock protection from hurricane winds nor his followers immunity from difficulties. His only guarantee is final victory.


Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 35:1-10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14
R. (Isaiah 35:4f) Our God will come to save us!
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth,
and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 5:17-26

One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
"As for you, your sins are forgiven."

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
"Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?"
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
"What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise and walk'?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
"I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
"We have seen incredible things today."


Meditation: Isaiah 35:1-10

Saint Damasus I, Pope (Optional Memorial)

Here is your God . . . he comes to save you. (Isaiah 35:4)

What a festive time of the year this is! Who doesn't enjoy planning for special gatherings, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, or singing carols? All because we want to herald the birth of Jesus. We are celebrating the message Isaiah proclaims in today's first reading: "Here is your God . . . he comes to save you" (Isaiah 35:4).

This joyful message of God's saving love came at a bleak moment in the history of his people. The people of Judah had rebelled against the Lord, and they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Yet even when they were at their lowest point, God did not abandon them. Rather, he spoke tenderly to them. Listen to what he says in today's reading: "Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy" (Isaiah 35:10). God didn't say, "I told you so" or "Well, you're on your own now!" Instead, he promised to save his people.

God is unconditionally devoted to us and continues to pursue us even when we ourselves have made the mess we're in. He doesn't abandon us; he seeks us out and saves us. That doesn't always mean he will solve all our problems. Oftentimes, he will join us in the mess and help us clear it up.

If you find it hard to relate to the situation of the Jews during the Babylonian captivity, try thinking of Peter. God didn't reject him after he had denied Jesus three times; he gently called Peter to repentance on the seashore and gave him what he needed to lead the disciples. Or think of Thomas. God didn't rebuke him for doubting; he gently drew near to him and answered his doubts, drawing him into deeper faith.

This is the whole message of Christmas: God never walks away from us. Even when we sin, even when we get ourselves into trouble, we hear this joyful proclamation: "Here is your God." He comes to save us by becoming one of us. He is glad to do whatever it takes to rescue us and show us how much he loves us.

"Jesus, thank you for coming to redeem me: Lord, I rejoice in you!"

Psalm 85:9-14
Luke 5:17-26


"They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!"

Be Strong.
Fear Not.
Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Pray again: " Our God will come to save us! I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land."

We need to hear the wondrous words of God again, let's let it soak in: "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."
The paralyzed man brought in by faithful friends was forgiven of his sins for all their hard work in faith. Yet, he wasn't healed physically only spiritually. Until He noticed the hardness of hearts not realizing the beauty of a forgiven and cleansed soul. We appreciate more the physical which we can see and can't appreciate the spiritual, which we can not see. So we can see like the Prophet Isaiah proclaims today "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag..."
Why the spiritual healing? The Word says "It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk." Only after he was healed, he could walk in the spirit, that is, to follow our Lord ever closer.

I am afraid of what we don't know. We don't know all the details of what everyone said in the life and ministry of Jesus. Why am I afraid of what we don't know? Is it not of not great value that it was forgotten? I am not afraid because God has written what He sees fit, but I'm afraid because of the little things we forget that make a huge difference. I'm talking about us forgetting to pass on the Word of Christ. There is a massive amount of non-faithful Catholics, and a huge amount of current Catholics that are forgetting. Forgetting what? Thanksgiving. Eucharist. The Body of Christ. To learn of the value of being grateful, of being holy, of being one with each other.

This weekend I visited another parish church in another city (city name doesn't matter), I sat down by people, noticed their faces, got familiar with the seating and open circle concept church, weird we sat behind the priest the whole time, and I tried to sing all the new songs I never heard and Mass style music, but anyhow, as we went to receive the Holy Eucharist, I was fed a weird morsel, looked like a little brown piece of bread, I had a hard time chewing it, never had such a weird bread, it was hard to swallow, thinking so much "is this technically the Eucharist?" Can this really be the Christ since it was not the flat white looking unleavened bread I usually eat? Anyhow, I got lost on my way back, those familiar faces I sat next to, a young family, an older couple, and older people behind me...they were now GONE! Those who I was to follow had left.

Now wait, aren't we supposed to be grateful and faithful to the end?
There are many Catholics who go to church. Ungrateful. There are many who don't go. Don't go give thanks. But there are a few that are learning to be grateful. Learning to take this gratefulness out into the world and appreciate what forgiveness means and want this for every soul....salvation



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