Saturday, February 2, 2013

Devotion for today: Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord

Today the Church celebrates the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. It is also the feast of the purification of Mary. Mary was the purest person the earth, and yet she was humble enough to follow the practices of the day. Pride is the sin that keeps us out of heaven. It tells us that what we are taught in the Church is silly or outdated, and that we can trust our own decisions on what we have to do to stay in God’s good graces. Not so, my friends, not so. Today we are given the example we need of pure and humble obedience. Let that thought touch your heart and move you to present yourself to God today in total surrender of your life to Him, so that when you present yourself to Him on your last day, He will welcome you home with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Meditation on the Presentation

"And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). Mary had conceived the Son of God as a virgin; she gave birth to the Savior of the World, and her virginity remained intact; through her piety and that of Saint Joseph, she would remain a virgin for her entire life. So what does it mean to refer to the "days of her purification"?
Under the Old Law, a woman remained impure for 40 days after the birth of a child. But Mary was not subject to the Law, because of the special circumstances of Christ's Birth. Yet she obeyed it anyway. And in doing so, she showed that a ritual concerned with the purification of the body was really a symbol for the purity of soul of the true believer.
Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice, in accordance with the Law: "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24), to redeem the Son of God, Who needed no redemption. "The Law is made for man, not man for the Law," Christ Himself would later say, yet here is the Holy Family fulfilling the Law even though it does not apply to them.
How often do we think that we don't need all the regulations and rituals of the Church! "Why do I have to go to confession? God knows I'm sorry for my sins"; fasting and abstinence are man made laws"; "If I miss Mass on Sunday, God will understand." Yet here are the Son of God and His Mother, both more pure than any of us will ever be, abiding by the Law that Christ Himself came not to abolish but fulfill. Their obedience to the Law was not lessened by their purity of soul, but made all the greater. Might we not learn from their example? ( Scott Richert)

Prayer of Trust in God's Heavenly Promise
My God, let me know and love you, so that I may find my happiness in you. Since I cannot fully achieve this on earth, help me to improve daily until I may do so to the full.  Enable me to know you ever more on earth, so that I may know you perfectly in heaven. Enable me to love you ever more on earth, so that I may love you perfectly in heaven. In that way my joy may be great on earth, and perfect with you in heaven. O God of truth, grant me the happiness of heaven so that my joy may be full in accord with your promise. In the meantime let my mind dwell on that happiness, my tongue speak of it, my heart pine for it, my mouth pronounce it, my soul hunger for it, my flesh thirst for it, and my entire being desire it until I enter through death in the joy of my Lord forever. Amen. (St. Augustine)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Devotion for today: This is My Body, take and eat.

We have now arrived at the Consecration, the source and summit of the Mass. It is here that “the curtain is torn in two” and heaven and earth are united through the transubstantiation which now occurs. Ordinary bread and wine –life in the Old Testament- are now transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – life in the New Testament. We need only listen to His words at the Last Supper to realize that Jesus would leave His followers the greatest gift He could give them: Himself. We now have the Bread of Angels, the Heavenly Manna, the Bread of Eternal Life. By eating this bread and drinking this wine, by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we shall live forever. When it is time for the Consecration to occur, we should be filled with awe and wonder. We should adopt a very reverent pose, never taking our eyes off of the Host, over which the priest says the words of Consecration, then elevates for all to see, to worship, to adore, and to love. As the Consecrated Host is lowered, we bow our heads and say, “My Lord, My God, and My All, I adore you.” When the cup is raised we do the same, saying, “My Jesus Mercy.” We have just been part of the most holy moment on earth. What is amazing is that we can do this every single day of our lives, anywhere that the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It is the Eucharist that unites us as Catholics, forms us into one family, and gives us joy. And yet, so many of us let that opportunity go by, as if anything in our lives is more important or spectacular than being present at the consecration of the Mass.  Here we have Jesus, present before our very eyes, Jesus, raised before us and given up for us, Jesus, ready to enter into us and change us forever: Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All. He says, “Come.” And what do we say?
Matthew 26:26-28:  While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 
Pope Benedict XVI tells us so beautifully: The Lord is near us in our conscience, in his word, in his personal presence in the Eucharist: this constitutes the dignity of the Christian and is the reason for his joy.  We rejoice, therefore, and this joy is expressed in praising God. Today we can see how the closeness of the Lord also brings people together and brings them close to each other: it is because we have the same Lord Jesus Christ in Munich and in Rome that we form one single people of God, across all frontiers united in the call of conscience, united by the word of God, united through communion with Jesus Christ, united in the praise of God, who is our joy and our redemption.
Prayer:  Taken from Pange Lingua by St. Thomas Aquinas
On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
first fulfils the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own Hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
by His Word to Flesh He turns;
wine into His Blood He changes;
what though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
This great Sacrament we hail,
O'er ancient forms of worship
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith will tell us Christ is present,
When our human senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son who made us free
And the Spirit, God proceeding
From them Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Devotion for today: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…

There is much debate in Christian circles as to whether or not Jesus meant that we were to literally eat His body and drink His blood. The Catholic Church, from the time of the Apostles, says, “Yes, that is what He meant.” I think the commentary below does a good job of using the original words Christ used, of explaining their meaning, and of pointing out how Jesus left no confusion as to what He meant. He said He was the Bread of Life, and He meant it.
John 6:47-58
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
John 6:51-52- then Jesus says that the bread He is referring to is His flesh. The Jews take Him literally and immediately question such a teaching. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
John 6:53 - 58 - Jesus does not correct their literal interpretation. Instead, Jesus eliminates any metaphorical interpretations by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating His flesh. In fact, Jesus says four times we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholics thus believe that Jesus makes present His body and blood in the sacrifice of the Mass.
John 6:23-53 - however, a symbolic interpretation is not plausible. Throughout these verses, the Greek text uses the word "phago" nine times. "Phago" literally means "to eat" or "physically consume." … the disciples take issue with Jesus' literal usage of "eat." So Jesus does what?
John 6:54, 56, 57, 58 - He uses an even more literal verb, translated as "trogo," which means to gnaw or chew or crunch. He increases the literalness and drives his message home. Jesus will literally give us His flesh and blood to eat. The word “trogo” is only used two other times in the New Testament (in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18) and it always means to literally gnaw or chew meat. While “phago” might also have a spiritual application, "trogo" is never used metaphorically in Greek. … Moreover, the Jews already knew Jesus was speaking literally even before Jesus used the word “trogo” when they said “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52).
John 6:55 - to clarify further, Jesus says "For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed." This phrase can only be understood as being responsive to those who do not believe that Jesus' flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Further, Jesus uses the word which is translated as "sarx." "Sarx" means flesh (not "soma" which means body). See, for example, John 1:13,14; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2; Matt. 16:17; 19:5; 24:22; 26:41; Mark 10:8; 13:20; 14:38; and Luke 3:6; 24:39 which provides other examples in Scripture where "sarx" means flesh. It is always literal.
John 6:55 - further, the phrases "real" food and "real" drink use the word "alethes." "Alethes" means "really" or "truly," and would only be used if there were doubts concerning the reality of Jesus' flesh and blood as being food and drink. Thus, Jesus is emphasizing the miracle of His body and blood being actual food and drink.

Prayer: Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ's side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesus, listen to me;
In Thy wounds I wish to hide;
Ne'er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Devotion for today: the Bread of Life foreshadowed in the Old Testament

Today we move into our study of the most solemn part of the Mass: the Consecration. Before we examine it as part of the Mass, let us take a few minutes to find just a few of the many Old Testament foreshadowings of the use of bread as food from God. It is important to remember that bread was the main diet of people in the Old Testament. A good harvest, fields of grain, meant continued life.

Genesis 14:18: And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

Exodus 12:7-8: Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

Exodus 16:4: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.

Exodus: 25:30: You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.

Numbers 4:7: Over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall also spread a cloth of blue and put on it the dishes and the pans and the sacrificial bowls and the jars for the drink offering, and the continual bread shall be on it.

1 Samuel 21:6: So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the Lord

1 Kings 19:5-8: Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”  He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

2 Kings 4: 42-44: A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

Catechism of the Catholic Church on The Old Testament
121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked. 122 Indeed, "the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately SO oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men." "Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional, The books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God's saving love: these writings "are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way."
123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. the Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).

Prayer: O LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who by the will of the Father and with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit have by Thy death given life unto the world: deliver me by this, Thy most sacred Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil. Make me always cling to Thy commandments and never permit me to be separated from Thee. Amen.








Monday, January 28, 2013

Devotion for today: Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength

It is time to resume our study of the Mass. I had wanted to do a brief review before we entered our contemplation of the Consecration, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see the passage from Nehemiah as Sunday’s first reading! I have reprinted it here in its entirety and will comment after the segments to remind you of how this ties into our Liturgy of the Word.

Scripture for reflection: Nehemiah 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.

Here we have the prototype for our Liturgy of the Word. For us, the men, women and children of the Church founded by Christ, our gathering takes place in parish churches each Sunday. Our churches are similar to the Water Gate, which was the only gate of the temple which had not been destroyed at this time. According to several commentaries I read, the Water Gate was a place of comfort to the Jews returning from the Babylonian exile, and it was to the Water Gate that they went in the worst of times to hear the Law being read. So it was associated with the Word of God. The Water Gate also brought water from the Gibeon Spring to relieve the physical thirst of the people. Our Church is our Water Gate. It is here for us to relieve our spiritual thirst for God’s words, which we receive in the readings and in the Gospel. Consider, too, that we usually find the lector and the priest standing elevated somewhat from the people in the congregation, so that the Word is proclaimed “out” to the people, as we find in Nehemiah.

He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.

Here is our prototype for the reading of the Gospel. The priest generally processes to the ambo with the Book of the Gospels held high for all the people to see. What do we do when this happens? WE STAND. Why? Because, just as the Jews recognized the awesome power which was about to be released to them through the proclamation of God’s law, so we, too, recognize the power and glory which we are about to receive from hearing the very words Christ spoke as He walked the earth.

Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”

We sing Alleluia!!!

Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.

You recall that this is exactly what happens when the priest finishes reading the Gospel. We don’t prostrate ourselves, but we sit and listen to the Word of God explained to us in the homily.

Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.

Wouldn’t it be something if we so understood the awesomeness of hearing the words of Jesus that we were moved to tears?

He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

This is the way Sundays should be spent, with family and friends, sharing good meals and fine conversation, allowing our hearts to be filled with the love we just experienced at Mass and letting that love pour out onto our loved ones. Sunday is not a day to be tired, but to rejoice, for by resting and reflecting, we are able to live the rest of the week rejoicing in the Lord, who truly is our strength.  And now you know the rest of the story…!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Devotion for today: Catch the fire

We can no longer coast in our faith. God needs disciples who are on fire for Him, who know no other purpose in life than to live for Him, who want everyone to know of His love and mercy, and who will put themselves on the line, always and everywhere, to combat secularism and relativism and bring their fellow man back to the ways of God. Set your heart on fire!! In God’s army, the lukewarm need not apply!

Psalm 104:4: he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.

Jeremiah 20:9:  If I say, “I will not mention him,  or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Luke 12:49: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

Luke 24:32: They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

"...I do know that we don’t need and can’t afford maintainers of the status quo. I do know that we need visionaries; missionaries; leaders who will burn up every atom of themselves in the furnace of God’s service, so that nothing remains but the light and warmth of Jesus Christ blazing out to touch the lives of others. We Catholics – you, me, all of us — need to be and to make a fire on the earth that consumes human hearts with God’s love. We can’t “teach” that. It doesn’t come from books or programs. We need to embody it, witness it, live it." Archbishop Chaput, Philadelphia

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
 Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
 And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen

Hymn: Gather Us In