December 28, 2013

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - A

Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

Nazareth in Galilee

Nazareth was a town of little significance.  It is not even mentioned in the Old Testament.  The comment made by Nathanael in John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” is another indicator of how people at the time of Jesus viewed Nazareth. [1]

The region of Galilee had a long history of foreign occupation, dated back to over 700 years before the birth of Jesus.    Consequently, “pure Jews” of Judea looked down upon those who lived in Galilee. (Jerusalem is in the region of Judea). [2]

Yet, in God’s plan, the Holy Family went to live there, in the insignificant town of Galilee, in the impure region of Judea.  Moreover, God’s only Son became known as a Nazorean, and “Jesus of Nazareth.”

It is among the lowly people of the world that we continue to find the Emmanuel – God with us. 

It is in our human reality, in our families, imperfect, and messy at times, that God has chosen to live.

[1]  Daniel Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, Sacra Pagina Series, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1991; p. 45.
[2] Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland Murphy, eds.  The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1990; p. 1195

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - A (December 29, 2013)


December 23, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 7 (December 23)

O Antiphon

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver,
the Expected of the Nations and their Savior,
come to save us, O Lord our God.

December 22, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent - A


The Name “Jesus”

The Hebrew name Jesus means “God saves.”

For generations, the people of Israel waited for the promised Messiah, their savior.  However, in their expectation, it was the freedom from worldly and political oppression of foreign powers.

Consequently, it is necessary and important that we learn of the true meaning of the salvation that Jesus brings.  In the words of the angel, “he will save his people from their sins.”

What kind of freedom and salvation do I expect from Jesus?

4th Sunday of Advent - A (December 22, 2013)


Great Days of Advent - Day 6 (December 22)

O King of the nations, 
you alone can fulfil their desires; 
cornerstone, binding all together: 
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.

December 21, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 5 (December 21)

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 20, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 4 (December 20)

O Antiphon

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, 
controlling at your will the gate of heaven: 
come, break down the prison walls of death 
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; 
and lead your captive people to freedom. 

December 19, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 3 (December 19)

O Root of Jesse you stand as a sign to the peoples; 
before you kings shall keep silence,
all nations bow in worship: 
come and save us, and do not delay.

December 18, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 2 (December 18)

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free....

December 17, 2013

Great Days of Advent - Day 1 (December 17)

Today, December 17, begins the Great Days of Advent. We are now in the second part of Advent, focusing on preparing for the celebration of Christ's birth. (The first half of Advent focuses more on Christ's second coming).

Among the tradition of these Great Days of Advent is the "O Antiphons" (more familiar in the song "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel") These prayers are used at Mass as the Alleluia verse and at evening prayer.

Each of these antiphons highlights a title of Jesus, the Messiah.
May these prayers help us focus on Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.

And today, the prayer is

O Wisdom,
O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation....

December 14, 2013

3rd Sunday of Advent - A

Matthew 11: 2 – 11

We Are Not There Yet

John the Baptist did what was right.  Moreover, he carried out God’s will for him – calling people to repent in order to prepare the way of the Lord (Last week’s Gospel, Matthew 3: 1 – 12).

He fulfilled his mission as the messenger promised by the prophets.

Jesus himself acknowledges John’s greatness.

Yet, he is now in prison because he challenged King Herod to live God’s law.

No wonder John asks Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

John seems to be asking, “Why are things not the way I think they should be?”  Or, “Is my life, or what I did, a waste?”

In response, Jesus points to the age of God’s Kingdom that is beyond John’s vision.

In some ways, we live the reality John the Baptist experienced.   We are living now the Reign of God, which was begun by Christ’s first coming.  Yet, that Reign has not reached its completion.  Thus, sufferings, trials, and the cross.

Do we allow bad things in life open our eyes and our hearts to the great promise of the fulfilment of God’s Reign? 

3rd Sunday of Advent - A (December 15, 2013)


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December 8, 2013

Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 9
Theme: Mary, Star of Evangelization

Scripture Passage                                                                               John 2: 1 - 5
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Marian Reading
At the birth of Jesus, the Magi came from the East to Bethlehem and “saw the child with Mary his Mother” (Matthew 2:11). At the beginning of his public life, at the marriage of Cana, when the Son of God works the first of his signs, awakening faith in the disciples (John 2:11), it is Mary who intervenes and directs the servants towards her Son in these words: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). In this regard I once wrote that “the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son's will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested”. For this reason Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord, when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.
How can we fail to emphasize the role which belongs to the Virgin Mary in relation to the pilgrim Church in America journeying towards its encounter with the Lord? Indeed, the Most Blessed Virgin “is linked in a special way to the birth of the Church in the history ... of the peoples of America; through Mary they came to encounter the Lord”.
Throughout the continent, from the time of the first evangelization, the presence of the Mother of God has been strongly felt, thanks to the efforts of the missionaries.
The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization.  Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent.
With the passage of time, pastors and faithful alike have grown increasingly conscious of the role of the Virgin Mary in the evangelization of America.  Holy Mary of Guadalupe is invoked as “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization”.
It is my heartfelt hope that she, whose intercession was responsible for strengthening the faith of the first disciples, will by her maternal intercession guide the Church in America, obtaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as she once did for the early Church so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life.
(Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, 1999; #11)
  §  an Our Father
  §  a Hail Mary
  §  a Glory Be
  §  the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

December 7, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent - A


There Is More

“All Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan” come to John to be baptized.  That is a lot of people.  Commentators commonly suggest that this is an exaggeration. 

Regardless, these people “acknowledge” their sins and know their need for repentance.
They know that there is more to whatever going on in their lives.

And John the Baptist point out that it is not just about something more.  But it is about someone “mightier” who is coming.

Then there are those who think they have it all.  Their credentials can be their birthright, what they think they have accomplished… . John sternly warns them that they do not have it all.

The first step of realizing our need for the Mighty One who is coming is to realize that we don’t have it all.

2nd Sunday of Advent - A (December 8, 2013)


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Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 8

Theme: Mary, Our Hope

Scripture Passage                                           John 16: 25 - 26, 28, 33  
I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Marian Reading
[Holy Mary], when Jesus began his public ministry, you had to step aside, so that a new family could grow, the family which it was his mission to establish and which would be made up of those who heard his word and kept it (Luke 11:27f). 

Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus's ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the “sign of contradiction” (Luke 4:28ff).   In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Savior of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. 

Then you received the word of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your Son!” (John 19:26).  From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. 

The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Luke 1:30). 

How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: “Take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). “Do not be afraid, Mary!” 

In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: “Of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).   Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers. 

In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith.

In this way you were in the midst of the community of believers, who in the days following the Ascension prayed with one voice for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and then received that gift on the day of Pentecost.

The “Kingdom” of Jesus was not as might have been imagined. It began in that hour, and of this “Kingdom” there will be no end. Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!
(Pope Benedict XVII, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 2007, #50)

§                  - an Our Father
§            -  a Hail Mary
§                  -  a Glory Be
§    -  the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

Image source:  St. John Bosco's "Dream of the Two Pillars"  Window in Chapel of Sacred Heart Center, Salesian Sister Novitiate, Newton, NJ

December 6, 2013

Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 7

Theme: Mary, Teacher of True Love

Scripture Passage                                                         John 15: 12 - 13
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Marian Reading
The lives of the saints are not limited to their earthly biographies but also include their being and working in God after death. In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. In no one do we see this more clearly than in Mary.
The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple—to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:27)—are fulfilled anew in every generation. Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavors. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude, offered to her from every continent and culture, are recognition of that pure love which is not self- seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through which the soul is totally pervaded by him—a condition which enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which “flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
  Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
 Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world. 
(Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, #42)

§        - an Our Father
§        - a Hail Mary
§        - a Glory Be
§        - the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

(Image source:

December 5, 2013

Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 6

Theme: Mary, Model Catechist

Scripture Passage                                                      Luke 1: 46 - 50
Mary said:* “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;  my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;  behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me,  and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.”

Marian Reading
Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honor, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lk 1:46, 48, 50). Mary remembers God.
This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.
The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others.
(Pope Francis, Homily on Day for Catechists in the Year of Faith, Sunday, 29 September 2013)

- an Our Father
- a Hail Mary
- a Glory Be
- the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

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December 4, 2013

Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 5

Theme: Mary, Filled with the Holy Spirit

Scripture Passage                                                                      Acts 1: 13 – 14
When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Marian Reading
With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #284)

§          -  an Our Father
§          -  a Hail Mary
§          -   a Glory Be
§          -   the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

Image source:  Istv├ín Dorffmaister, Pentecost (1782),

December 3, 2013

Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 4

Theme:   Mary, Disciple of the Lord

Scripture Passage                                          Mark 1: 35 - 39
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”  So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Marian Reading
God calls us, by name and surname, each one of us, to proclaim the Gospel and to promote the culture of encounter with joy. The Virgin Mary is our exemplar. In her life, she was “a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Church’s apostolic mission for the regeneration of humanity should be animated” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 65). Let us ask her to teach us to encounter one another in Jesus every day. And when we pretend not to notice because we have many things to do and the tabernacle is abandoned, may she take us by the hand. Let us ask this of her! Watch over me, Mother, when I am disoriented, and lead me by the hand. May you spur us on to meet our many brothers and sisters who are on the outskirts, who are hungry for God but have no one to proclaim him. May you not force us out of our homes, but encourage us to go out so that we may be disciples of the Lord. May you grant all of us this grace. (Pope Francis, Homily, Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013)
§     - an Our Father
§     - a Hail Mary
§     - a Glory Be
§     - the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

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Immaculate Conception Novena

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 3

Theme:  Mary, the Mother of Christ

Scripture Passage       Matthew 28: 18 – 20
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Marian Reading
Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Chirst? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ.  Of whom were you born?  “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts.  You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ.  Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can.  You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.  (St. Augustine, Sermon 25)

§        -  an Our Father
§        - a Hail Mary
§        - a Glory Be
§        -  the invocation “Mary, Immaculate, Help of Christians, pray for us.”

Image source:

December 2, 2013

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Mary, Mother of the New Evangelization

Day 2


Scripture Passage       Luke 1: 26 – 38

Marian Reading
God surprises us.  This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, He bursts our categories, He wreaks havoc with our plans. And He tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!
Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what He does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him? (Pope Francis, Homily for Marian Day during the Year of Faith, October 13, 2013)

(Image:  Sandro Botticelli, The Mourning of Christ)