Monday, December 9, 2019

⛪ . . According to your Word .. .⛪

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Gifts of Immeasurable Value

We are constantly surrounded by advertising in a growing variety of forms. Ads creep into nearly everything we do. And this ramps up even more during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent invites us to take a break from the deluge of ads and seek something deeper and more lasting than the latest electronics or the best deal on that kitchen appliance that everyone needs this year. Advent invites us to seek a sense of peace and wholeness in our hearts and in our daily lives. If we do that even in small ways this year, we will have an immeasurable gift to share with our loved ones and possibly even with our world.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent by Diane M. Houdek


† Saint Quote
"May the Holy Spirit enkindle you with the fire of His Love so that you may persevere, unfailingly, in the love of His service. Thus you may merit to become, at last, a living stone in the celestial Jerusalem."
— St. Hildegard von Bingen

"The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience, and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words . . . it is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions. But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! ... We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit give us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. "
— St. Anthony of Padua, p. 492
Witness of the Saints

"The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God."
Psalm 92:12-14

St. Juan Diego (1474–1548) was a poor and humble peasant of the lowest class of Aztec Indians living in what is today Mexico. His native name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, meaning, "eagle that talks." He was baptized at the age of fifty by a Franciscan missionary priest and received the Christian name of Juan Diego. It was he to whom Our Lady appeared as a pregnant Aztec princess on December 9, 1531—at that time the feast of the Immaculate Conception—on the hill of Tepeyac, in present-day Mexico City, as he was on his way to Mass. To help Juan Diego prove to the bishop that she had truly appeared, the Virgin Mary miraculously left her image on his tilma. This image is now famously known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Juan Diego's tilma still bears the image of Our Lady (miraculously, as the plant fibers normally disintegrate in 15-20 years) and it hangs in one of the most famous Catholic pilgrimage sites of the world, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Juan Diego was canonized in 2002 by Pope St. John Paul II as the first indigenous saint from the Americas. His feast day is December 9th.


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Saint Juan Diego

(1474 – May 30, 1548)
Thousands of people gathered in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe July 31, 2002, for the canonization of Juan Diego, to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in the 16th century. Pope John Paul II celebrated the ceremony at which the poor Indian peasant became the Church's first saint indigenous to the Americas.

The Holy Father called the new saint "a simple, humble Indian" who accepted Christianity without giving up his identity as an Indian. "In praising the Indian Juan Diego, I want to express to all of you the closeness of the Church and the pope, embracing you with love and encouraging you to overcome with hope the difficult times you are going through," John Paul said. Among the thousands present for the event were members of Mexico's 64 indigenous groups.

First called Cuauhtlatohuac ("The eagle who speaks"), Juan Diego's name is forever linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe because it was to him that she first appeared at Tepeyac hill on December 9, 1531. The most famous part of his story is told in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. After the roses gathered in his tilma were transformed into the miraculous image of Our Lady, however, little more is said about Juan Diego.

In time he lived near the shrine constructed at Tepeyac, revered as a holy, unselfish, and compassionate catechist, who taught by word and especially by example.

During his 1990 pastoral visit to Mexico, Pope John Paul II confirmed the long-standing liturgical cult in honor of Juan Diego, beatifying him. Twelve years later the same pope proclaimed him a saint.

God counted on Juan Diego to play a humble, yet huge role in bringing the Good News to the peoples of Mexico. Overcoming his own fear and the doubts of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, Juan Diego cooperated with God's grace in showing his people that the Good News of Jesus is for everyone. Pope John Paul II used the occasion of Juan Diego's beatification to urge Mexican lay people to assume their responsibilities for passing on the Good News and witnessing to it.


Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 689
Reading 1

Gn 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?"
He answered, "I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself."
Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!"
The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me—
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it."
The LORD God then asked the woman,
"Why did you do such a thing?"
The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
"Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel."

The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

R.(1) Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Reading 2

Eph 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

See Lk 1:28
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.


Meditation: Luke 1:26-38

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patronal Feastday of the USA (Solemnity)

Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:28)

If you have any experience of motherhood, you know that it takes a lot of faith. In many ways, it's something beyond your control. Suddenly, you have a new life inside of you. You do your best to nurture that life, but you don't know how everything is going to turn out. You do everything you can to assure that your child will be loved and supported. Still, you have to trust God for the big picture.

As we honor Mary today, let's remember the deep faith she had, not just to be a mother, but to be the Mother of God! She didn't comprehend how she could give birth to the Son of God, but she still said yes to the angel's invitation. She was told she would suffer greatly because of her child, but she still obeyed. Mary was clearly no shrinking violet! She took care of Jesus for thirty years, endured his crucifixion and death, and stayed true to him until the end.

Mary has many things to teach us. Like her, we are called to bring Jesus into this world, and like her, we too will suffer. When we face the challenges and temptations of life in this world, we can forget about the Lord and follow the path of least resistance. Or we can do as Mary did and hold fast to our faith in God's greatness. We can trust that he will look after us if we remain humble and open to his word.

Mary is more than just an idealistic example of perfect faith. She is a mother, and she loves us as her very own children. St. John Vianney tells us, "Mary's heart is so loving toward us that the hearts of all other mothers taken together are but a piece of ice in comparison."

So go to Mary—and not just for your needs. Ask her to help you grow closer to Jesus. And go with great confidence. Remember the angel's words, "The Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). She is a privileged insider in the heavenly court, and she is already praying for you!

"Jesus, thank you for your Blessed Mother! By your Spirit, help me to imitate her virtues and call upon her in times of need."

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12



I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! Out of my love for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly experience, I hope that this Marian year will help all the men and women religious of Carmel and the devout faithful who venerate her with filial affection to grow in her love and to radiate to the world the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Grace.
—St. Pope John Paul II
from Message to the Carmelite Order


"...the LORD God called ... "Where are you?"
The book of Genesis is a phenomenal book of Revelation to the world. It is the introduction of life. And life is the one speaking. Life is the narrator. God is speaking. Throughout the entire bible the autobiography this very day.
The LORD GOD called my child, where are you?

Once Eve was bit, and Adam was bit, they went into hiding...from the Lord, as if you could hide from Him. Yet, they hid like the snakes, taking on characteristics of the serpent.

Sin makes us shy away from Him. Just how squeemish are you about Holy Confession? How much do we hide from facing...the truth? My ccd kids asked me how the world would've been today, had Eve not been bitten? And how did she get bit? They say curiosity killed the cat. She must've been playing with temptation, interested in what the snake had to say. And the fall from Heaven ensued. I told my kids/students that things would not be the same, no suffering, no pain. But, our beginnings began. And God has the final word. He is very interested in you. Books are being written, and you are one of them. It is a love story of a billion souls. It is how an amazing God can love each one intensely. An adult student wondered what his conversion would be worth. I said "we may never know", but big books are written small.


Let us pray: "The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds."


"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Ever wonder why we call Mother Mary a virgin and immaculate conception? Well, you just read it! An Archangel of God, one of those that changes the course of history with an announcement, told Mary she was favored and full of grace. Nobody else in the course of all humanity has ever been titled like this, nor shall there ever be, it just takes one. Just like it took one Eve, now it took one Mary. This is why Mary had "trouble" at what was said. So she asks "How can this be?". How can it be that not only she is full of grace, now she is to bear a child? Commanded to break her virgin promise? Her chastity? Her holiness? Nope. God can work flawlessly through grace.

Last night, I stepped outside my house in the dark cloudy night to pray the rosary, with glimmers of the moon behind the thick clouds. I pondered the mystery of the immaculate conception and the revelations of her mystery of working in God's redemptive plan began to emerge. She was uniquely created to play a special and important role in our existence. Everything we do and say about Mary affects all of our lives, because it is through her that Christ came to us...and now grace. If we were born in the flesh, now we are born in the Spirit. This is why we have fathers, priests. I digress. It is a revelation that points back to Genesis, the formation of man and woman, and God in humankind, the woman. What if God chose to speak through symbolism? Think Sacraments. Now the realities begin to emerge. Everything is real. And so why readings of the Annunciation at the Immaculate Conception? Believe you me, it has had me going because I'm trying to pick music for tonight's Mass on the issue. So, sing about which topic? One of the song choices given as a suggestion was "Sing A New Song". The title suggests singing a new tune right? Hmm. We celebrate a solemnity. In a vision that an atheist had about our Blessed Mother, Roy Schoeman said he was never Catholic, never wanted to be a Christian, and now he was witnessing "the most beautiful woman ever created", and he said: "When I found myself in her presence, all I wanted to do was honor her overtly. In fact, the first thought that crossed my mind was 'Oh my gosh. I wish I at least knew the Hail Mary.' But I didn't."
Schoeman said Mary then offered to answer his questions.
He said, "My first thought was to ask her to teach me the Hail Mary…but I was too proud to admit that I didn't know it. So as a kind of indirect way of teaching me the Hail Mary, I asked her her favorite prayer. She was a bit coy, but her first response was, 'I love all prayers.'
"But I was a bit pushy and said, 'There must be prayers you love more than others.'"
Schoeman said Mary told him her favorite prayer is 'O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.' (Our Lady originally presented this prayer to St. Catherine Labouré.)

Amazing. There are eternal ramifications for this title. Roy is now Catholic after years of conversion and seeking the full answers to the mysteries he lived and was conceiving. The immaculate one spoke. What's funny though, is that typically, Mary appears to the child-like. Something about Roy we may not know is at work. I digress. One conceived without sin prays for us full time. She is a full time mother of billions. How? By God's grace. So what songs am I choosing for tonight? The most beautiful ones, and one I'm attempting to learn some more. It takes work. But it is worth the works. The beauty of Mother Mary is untouchable. There is no match for what comes forth from her. Roy said about Mother Mary's voice something I can't forget and wished so much I was a part of at that moment: ""Although she was perfectly beautiful to look at–indescribably beautiful–even more perfecting was the beauty of her voice. It was composed of that which makes music music."
And so my attempt will be to sing, but with grace from Heaven...the grace of God, the mother of God....


hear it read

Random Bible Verse 1

Acts 20:32
32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Thank You Lord

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