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Archives: December 2017
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/010718.cfm
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek “epiphaneia” meaning manifestation. In the Western Rite Catholic Churches this Feast celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi from the East.
On this feast we always read the Gospel of the visit by the astrologers or magi, from the East, to the new born Christ child. If you read the Gospel text carefully, however, you will notice that the magi are never identified as “kings” and their number is never specified. (We presume there were three, because there were three gifts.) The three “kings” we sing of comes from our verbal tradition and not from the scriptures.
The message of this feast is important and it is stated well by St. Paul in our second reading today. “……….the Gentiles are now co-heirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise of Jesus Christ through the Gospel.” In essence Paul is saying that Jesus came to save all people for all time. Christ’s manifestation to the magi reminds us of this most basic fact.
Our first reading today is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah. It speaks of the restoration of Jerusalem, when the Israelites will return from their exile. The new Jerusalem will be a light to the nations for the Lord will shine upon it.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- While there have been and will continue to be dramatic and powerful epiphanies of our God, I also believe that subtler epiphanies take place all the time. Can you remember a time when you experienced God’s presence and grace (an epiphany)in your life?
- If Jesus Christ came to save all people for all time, why do you think some people want to put limits on God’s salvific will?
- Can you find the Epiphany stained glass window in the Basilica?
The Basilica of Saint Mary has a magnificent set of bronze doors. Monsignor Reardon commissioned them in the 1950s to replace the original wooden doors. They are grand and shiny and to most, they are inviting.
All kinds of people make their way through those doors. They vary in race and in age, in social status and sometimes in creed. Some people fling open the grand doors and bask in the beauty of the building. Others move slowly, bent under the weight of many burdens. They hesitantly open the heavy doors and quietly slip through them. For others yet the doors are a physical barrier that prevents them from entering. Thankfully, some of our grand doors now are accessible to all.
Having passed through the doors, some people simply pause in awe. Others walk a familiar path to a beloved shrine where they light a candle and kneel down in silent prayer. Some people slide into a pew, pull down their hood and take a nap. Some come here to hide from the cold, or even to hide from the world.
The Basilica doors not only allow access to our building, they also symbolize our entrance into the Church, the Body of Christ. Families walk through them as they bring their babies for baptism. Young people with families in tow enter to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. Excited brides and eager grooms pass through these doors separately to merge from them together after the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage.
Seminarians in cassock and surplice, deacons in dalmatic, priests wearing chasuble, and mitered bishops pass through these doors to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Ailing and burdened people pass through them seeking forgiveness and healing. And at the end of our lives, our bodies are lovingly carried through these doors for a last visit to the church before we are laid to rest. Most people however pass through these doors in search of much needed spiritual nourishment as we come to celebrate Eucharist Sunday after Sunday.
The Christmas season is a great time to meditate on the doors of our Church as we remember how Mary and Joseph found the doors closed to them when they were looking for a place to spend the night. Locked out, they were forced to retreat into a cave or a stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus, the one who became the door to salvation for all humankind.
During this season we are invited to open wide our doors. We are invited to open wide the doors of our souls to Christ. We are invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to all who need our love. And we are invited to open wide the doors of our homes to all who need shelter.
And as Pope Francis reminds us over and over again, the Church ought to do the same. Too often, the beautifully crafted doors of our cathedrals, churches, and chapels are closed to too many people, literally as well as symbolically. Christ, the one who found the doors closed to him yet opened his heart to all asks the Church to do no less than that: to open wide our doors and welcome all. No matter where someone is on their earthly journey, they are welcome in the Church as the Church is not a palace for the privileged and perfect but rather a shelter for those who are suffering and searching.
May the beautiful doors of our Basilica never exist to keep people out, but rather be a constant invitation to the entire Body of Christ with all its bruises and burns to enter and find hope and healing.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This Feast reminds us that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born into the human family of Mary and Joseph.
When I was growing up it used to be very easy to say what a family was. It was a mom and dad and any number of kids. Through the years, however, I have seen that families come in all shapes and sizes. As a result, I have had to continually expand my understanding of family. What is most important in regard to families, though, (whatever their configuration) is that they are characterized by loving relationships, that are lived out in care and service of one another and the broader community. Clearly this was the case with the Holy Family.
Our Gospel for this Sunday is the story of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. We are told that to fulfill the prescriptions of the Jewish law Mary and Joseph “took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord,” After they had “fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.”
There are different options for our first and second readings for the Feast of the Holy Family. For the first reading this weekend we are using the reading from Sirach. This book offers practical guidelines for the Jewish people of that time. In the section we read today we are reminded that “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”
In our second reading for this Feast we use a section of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. In it Paul offers practical advice for the followers of Jesus. “Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- In our Gospel we are told that Mary and Joseph fulfilled the prescriptions of the law. Are there any customs/traditions that are followed in your family?
- How do the qualities/characteristics articulated by Paul in our second reading today find expression in your relationships?
- What is your definition of “family?”
“It’s no big deal.” Those were the words a friend of mine used when I asked him to help me install a new garbage disposal. He went on to say: “It will take an hour—maybe two at the max.” Well, several hours, and a few trips to the hardware store later, the new disposal was installed and the clean up completed. As is often the case, what had initially seemed like a simple project had turned into a much bigger deal than anticipated.
I think we probably all have had experiences like this. Initially we thought something wasn’t going to be a “big deal,” but then it turned out to be a much bigger deal than we had expected or could have imagined. Sometimes too, something that we thought was no “big deal,” was in fact, a big deal for someone else.
I suspect the birth of Jesus was one of those things that, at least initially, few people thought was a big deal. Perhaps the shepherds and a few others in that locale realized its import, but for the most part I would wager that the number of people at that time who realized the importance of Jesus’ birth was fairly small. It is only in retrospect, and through the eyes of faith, that believers have come to realize the ultimate importance and significance of Jesus’ birth.
The birth of Jesus is the revelation of God’s love for us. It reminds us that God loved the world so much that God gave form and flesh to that love in the human person of Jesus Christ. In the birth of Jesus Christ, we see God’s love made visible in our world. Because of the birth of Jesus Christ, the course of our individual lives and our world has been forever changed. And through the birth of Jesus Christ, we are invited into an intimate union with God.
Certainly to some the birth of Jesus Christ is no big deal. For believers, though, it is not just a big deal, it is an event of ultimate and everlasting importance. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let us pause in wonder and awe before our God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to be our Lord and Savior. And let us rejoice in gratitude, exult in wonderment, and celebrate with praise and thanksgiving the greatness of our God’s love made real for us in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Plan to celebrate this joyous time of year at The Basilica of Saint Mary. The music, liturgy, and community create a special Christmas experience for all who pass through our doors.
Sunday, December 24
3:00pm Vigil Eucharist organ, cantor, Cathedral Choristers, Children’s Choir and Cherubs, oboe*
5:30pm Vigil Eucharist Mundus & Juventus
8:00pm Vigil Eucharist piano, cantor, flute, cello
10:30pm Prelude Music for Christmas harp
11:00pm Choral Music for Christmas Cathedral Choir, organ, harp, flute
11:30pm Vigil of Lights organ, Cathedral Choir
Midnight Solemn Eucharist organ, Cathedral Choir, brass, harp
Monday, December 25
7:30am Eucharist at Dawn organ, cantor, violin
9:30am Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings, Celebrant: Archbishop Hebda
Noon Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings
4:30pm Eucharist music from around the world
Please Note: The 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30am Masses on Sunday, December 24 are for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. These Masses do not fulfill your Holy Day of Obligation for Christmas. The Vigil Masses for Christmas do not fulfill your Sunday Obligation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
*The Archbishop has given permission to celebrate the Vigil Masses starting at 3:00pm.
- Fr. John Shea is a theologian and poet. One of his poem’s is entitled: “A Prayer of Wholehearted Commitment.” It ends with the words: So it is to You, that my most resounding “yes” is a maybe, and it is with one eye on the door that I say ‘Behold, Lord, your servant waiteth!’” Trusting in God isn’t always easy. What helps you to trust in God as Mary did?
- Our First reading reminds us that God doesn’t operate on our timetable or according to our ideas. Can you remember a time when you realized the truth of this?
- If you wrote a prayer of praise for God what would it contain?
- Bonus Question: Can you find the stained glass window depicting the Annunciation in the Basilica?
As we walk through Advent, we are invited to prayerfully consider how we prepare for and welcome Jesus into our lives. Looking back on the Christmas story, it is easy to fall into an idealized version of our actions: “If Mary and Joseph past by my door, of course I would have made room for you in my inn, Lord!” But where are those choices in our life today? Where are we closing the door to God in our life and community?
Each day, we are called to be disciples of Christ. We are called to make choices and act so that God’s love is made known in our world. How is that going?
The U.S. Catholic Bishops describe a disciple as those who “make a conscious, firm decision, carried out in action, to be followers of Jesus Christ no matter what the cost to themselves.” This definition makes the strong assumption that there will be a cost. We will each experience some disadvantage from living our life as disciples. Where is this most true in your life?
Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel says, “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it” (#183). This gives the challenge of discipleship a profound social dimension. It is impossible to live out one’s faith and not get caught in the web of politics—local or global. We are called to enter this arena, and maneuver it with grace and love. We must not avoid it—personally or collectively.
In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to discipleship today is fear. Fear drives division. Division drives exclusion and oppression. Oppression drives violence.
We can see the challenge of discipleship when we look at some of the hottest issues today. These issues call us to put our faith first—to start and end with a prayer to open our hearts and minds to the love of Christ, and close the door to fear, division, or exclusion. This sounds good, until we get specific.
Issues include: immigration reform, care for the environment, taxes and what Pope Francis calls an “idolatry of money,” health care, globalization and trade, racism, care for the most vulnerable, the seamless garment of life, and on and on.
As Catholics, at this critical moment in history, we cannot afford to proceed with business as usual. We must ground ourselves in our faith and join with people of goodwill throughout the world to transform society through the Gospel of love.
God has taken the initiative. God has come to us this Christmas.
Let us open our lives to the Spirit of love and reconciliation. Let us find a way to talk together and work together on the important issues of our day—to welcome God into our midst and experience the love of Christ transforming our life and community. And yes, we may put ourselves at some disadvantage. After all, we are disciples.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121717.cfm
This coming weekend we celebrate the third Sunday of the Season of Advent. For those old enough to remember, this Sunday was known as Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday, because our time of waiting would soon come to an end
On this Third Sunday of Advent our Gospel reading is from the Gospel of John and, like last week, we once again encounter John the Baptist. In this week’s Gospel, some priests and Levites ask John who is he. John is clear that he is not the Christ, that he is not Elijah, that he is not a prophet, but rather a “voice crying out in the dessert: Make straight the way of the Lord.”
I have a friend who likes to say that John’s response is an example of the “grace of place.” John knew who he was and what he was about. He didn’t have an inflated sense of himself, nor did he display any false humility. John knew what he was called to be and to do, and he found God’s grace in this.
Our first reading this weekend is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. It shares a similar theme with the Gospel in regard to knowing one’s mission. At the time it was written, the Jewish people were still in exile in Babylon and the prophet, Isaiah spoke to them about his mission. He had been anointed and sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor by our God.” In essence he was called to tell them that their time of captivity would eventually come to an end and that the Lord God would make “justice and peace spring up before all the nations.”
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In it Paul reminds that early Christian community --- and us --- to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing and to give thanks” so as to be “blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- Can you recall a time when you “knew” you were called to do or say something? Do you remembering experiencing God’s grace at this time?
- In what ways have you prepared the way of the Lord this Advent? Who or what has prepared the way the way of the Lord for you this Advent.
- How are you called to rejoice this Advent?
On Sunday December 3 we celebrated the first Sunday in the Incarnation Cycle thus starting a new liturgical year. As every New Year, be that liturgical or other this is a time for new resolutions and new beginnings. The Incarnation Cycle comprises Advent, Christmas and Epiphany ending with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Advent comes from Adventus Domini, Latin for the “coming of the Lord.” Thus Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of the Lord. Often, this is understood to refer to the first coming of Jesus, meaning his birth. However, Adventus Domini refers not only to the advent of the Lord in the past, but also his presence today, and especially his appearance at the end of time. The season of Advent, therefore is a season filled with anticipation, not just for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus but also anticipation of current, future and final manifestations of Christ in our midst. Admittedly, the current manifestations are the most challenging. Our new sculpture of the Homeless Jesus is a true witness to that.
Christmas of course is the heart of the celebration of the Incarnation. The Word Christmas is derived from the Old English Cristes Maesse which means the Celebration of Christ or Christ’s feast. This implies that at Christmas we celebrate the mystery of Christ in its fullness, i.e. his birth, life, death and resurrection. Some Icons place the baby Jesus in a small sarcophagus inviting the beholder to contemplate the mystery that this little child brought salvation to the world.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany marks the last Sunday of this year’s Christmas Season. The word Epiphany is the English translation of the Greek epiphaneia, meaning appearance or manifestation. Three of the great moments of said revelation are the visitation by the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord and the Wedding at Cana when Jesus performed his first miracle. On this feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate how Jesus’ was revealed as The Christ in the past and how he continues to be revealed to us in the present.
This year, the Incarnation Season ends on January 8 with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, one of the above mentioned manifestations of Jesus as the Christ.
The next day we will return our crèches to their bins and place the Advent wreaths and Christmas trees on the curb with a mix of sadness and relief. Let us encourage one another though to keep the enthusiasm and joy at the birth of Jesus and his manifestation as The Christ alive in our hearts and in our communities.
Even more importantly, let us commit ourselves to be the hearts and hands of The Christ in the world today revealing his message of love and compassion to all. This message is very much needed in our world today. Instead of being agents of anger, hatred and division let us be angels of love, hope and peace. After all that is the message of Christmas and it is our message.
Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!