I Come to Do Your Will

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 15, 2023

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011523.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we see Jesus fully enrobed in the power of his mission and ready to embark on its accomplishment.


When I prayed with today’s readings, I pictured Jesus standing proudly before the Father saying, “I’m fully ready now to answer the call and become all that I am meant to be for the world.”

The image reminded me of a day long ago when I finally received the last little piece of the outfit I would wear as Mercy postulant. It was late August 1963, just a month before entrance, and very hot. Nevertheless, in a bit of girlish giddiness, I decided to don the entire regalia for the first time and see what my future would look like. After struggling into a few of the unfamiliar pieces, I ran down the stairs to my mother waiting in our living room.

I’ll never forget her face. It was an immense mix of pride, loss, hope, love and astonishment. Neither one of us said, nor had to say, a word. Everything that had been only a dream in my heart went forward – for real – from that moment. Mom knew I meant to do this thing. And, maybe for the first time, I knew it too.

I can picture God the Father looking on Jesus in somewhat the same way as Jesus now stands at the edge of a future he cannot yet imagine.


In our first reading, we see Jesus clothed in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy:

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!

Isaiah 49:3,5

In our Responsorial Psalm, we can hear Jesus exuding Messianic commitment:

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist stands as a witness to Christ’s messianic authority to execute the Redemptive Act promised in Isaiah:

It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 9:6

John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:32-34

With today’s readings, Jesus begins the great journey to redeem us. We begin with him, praying that throughout this liturgical year, we may be ever more deepened in the grace of that Redemption.


Poetry: The Lamb – William Blake

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Music: Here I Am, Lord – written by Dan Schutte, sung here by John Michael Talbot (lyrics below)

I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I, who made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of snow and rain
I have borne my people’s pain
I have wept for love of them
They turn away

I will break their hearts of stone
Give them hearts for love alone
I will speak my words to them
Whom shall I send?

God is Outside the Box!

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 13, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011323.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel tells of a memorable event – so memorable that it is described in detail.

Jesus preaches from a neighborhood living room. Every access point to the house is blocked with excited listeners and miracle-seekers. Jesus has been corralled by the enthusiastic faithful.

roof

Then some latecomers arrive carrying their paralyzed friend. It is easy to imagine that these are young guys, because Jesus later calls the paralytic “Child”. Perhaps their friend was injured in a soccer game or diving accident in which they all had participated. Perhaps, as well as carrying him, they are carrying the burden of “survivor guilt”.

Whatever the situation, these friends are determined that the young man shall see Jesus. Confronted with the barricading crowd, they climb up on the roof, opening the turf plates to make an entry point. Jesus had to laugh as he saw to rooftop disappearing above him!


Would that we had such a wild desire to be in God’s Presence
– to know God face to face, and heart to heart!

Can we peel away the many barricades to such relationship? We have only our limited human images of God. While these can help us pray, they can also box God.

Faulty theology and exaggerated ritual can, believe or not, put a lid on God’s power!

It is important to read, listen, and grow within good theology. One measure of that value is the degree of limitation any “theology” puts on God. A theology that limits God to male, white, Catholic, Evangelical, Republican or Democrat (or whatever religion) – that kind of false theology limits us as well. 

A theology that is used as validation for political, economic, or moral domination distorts God, making God an idol of our own greed and selfishness. Such ”theologies” have, for centuries, made excuses for slavery, apartheid, pogroms, wars and holocausts. 

Let’s try to “take the roof off” our theology today. Let’s be sure our tightly held perceptions and beliefs are really leading us to the absolute freedom of a God Who cherishes all Beings, all Creation.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Music: God Beyond All Names ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Cherish Your Baptism

Christmas Weekday
January 6, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010623.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we may be used to celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany. But those who generate the Church calendar have reserved that celebration for this coming Sunday.

We are blessed instead with dynamic readings, triumphant in tone, calling us to celebrate our life in Christ:

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
….
I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

1 John 5: 5;13

In a way, John calls us to a personal epiphany — the realization of the indescribable gift of grace we have received through Baptism. He enjoins us to live audaciously within the power of that realization.


In our short but powerful Gospel, we see Jesus burst into that audacious living:

The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie
For purchase, see:
https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Matthew 1:9-11

In the power of Jesus
rising through the Baptismal waters,
may we too live each new day
in cascade of faith, hope and love.


Poetry: Variation on a Theme by Rilke from Breathing the Water by Denise Levertov


A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me--a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task, The day's blow
rang out, metallic--or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

Music: Cherish by Aeoliah

Fig Trees and Ladders

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop
January 5, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010523.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we celebrate the Memorial of Saint John Neumann. 

John Neumann was born in Bohemia on March 20, 1811. Since he had a great desire to dedicate himself to the American missions, he came to the United States as a cleric and was ordained in New York in 1836 by Bishop Dubois.

In 1840, John Neumann entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He labored in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1852, he was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia. There he worked hard for the establishment of parish schools and for the erection of many parishes for the numerous immigrants. Bishop Neumann died on January 5, 1860; he was beatified in 1963.
(catholicculture.org)


jn1_50 figjpg

In our first reading today, John tells us bluntly:

Whoever does not love remains in death.

1 John 3:14

This kind of statement is what one might both love and hate about John. We love it because it’s clear, unequivocal – tells us exactly what we need to do.

And we hate it because it’s clear and unequivocal – there’s no evading it, no back door. We must love – everybody- or we are as good as dead. Wow!


Was this the kind of either-or that Nathaniel struggled with under the fig tree? He sat there pondering some deep challenge or decision and Jesus saw him – and understood – from afar.

The miracle of that moment caused Nathaniel to believe. But Jesus says something like this to Nathaniel:

Hold up, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Your little wrestling under the fig tree was all about your own small world and vision. I invite you now to see the world with God’s eyes.


We all spend worrying time under the shadow our own little fig trees – most of the time worrying about ourselves – who hurt us, doesn’t like us, gets in our way, misunderstands or annoys us.

Today’s Gospel invites us to stop licking our wounds. It beckons us out of the shadows of our self-absorption to see what God might see today – the beauty, the needs, the challenges and possibilities of the world around us. We are invited to become lovers and healers like Jesus.

As John has said, we are invited to leave any shadow of death and to live in love:

The way we came to know love
was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion,
how can the love of God remain in him? 
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Poem: In the following poem, Malcolm Guite compares the spiritual transformations of Jacob and Nathaniel.

Jesus called Nathaniel “a true Israelite” and tells him: “… you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This is a clear reference to the story of Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis, where in a dream God transforms Jacob’s life to become the Patriarch of Israel.

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

Genesis 28:10-15

Nathaniel’s Awakening – Malcolm Guite

A fugitive and exile, Jacob slept,
A man of clay, his head upon a stone
And even in his sleep his spirit wept
He lay down lonely and would wake alone.
But in the night he dreamt the Heavens parted
And glimpsed, in glory, as from Heaven’s core,
A ladder set for all the broken-hearted
And earth herself becoming Heaven’s door.
And when the nameless Angel named him Israel
He kept this gift, whose depth he never knew;
The promise of an end to all our exile,
For now a child of Israel finds it true,
And sees the One who heals the deep heart’s aching
As Jacob’s dream becomes Nathanael’s waking.

Music: Maybe Nathaniel sang a song like this in his heart as he came out from under his fig tree.

Love Like Jesus – Rhett Walker

The Invitation

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
January 4, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010423.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, the first American born saint.

Elizabeth Seton was born on August 28, 1774, of a wealthy and distinguished Episcopalian family. She was baptized in the Episcopal faith and was a faithful adherent of the Episcopal Church until her conversion to Catholicism.

She established her first Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808; in 1809, she established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After seeing the expansion of her small community of teaching sisters to New York and as far as St. Loius, she died on January 4, 1821, and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975. She is the first native born American to be canonized a saint.

(from CatholicCulture.org)


Jn 1_39

In our Gospel, we find the first disciples encountering Jesus. They are curious about him because the Baptist has just described him as “the Lamb of God”.

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

John 1: 37-40

We can picture Andrew and his unnamed buddy trailing behind Jesus, watching him, listening to him. Finally they hazard a question, “Rabbi, where do you live?”

It’s kind of a loaded question. What it might really mean are things like these:

  • Where did you come from all of sudden?
  • How could you possibly be the Messiah if you’re walking around looking just like us?
  • Do you go back to heaven at night or are you really one of us?
  • Can we just hang out and find out more about you?

Their faith is tentative, hopeful and maybe just a little bit suspicious. Does your faith ever feel like that? 


When we pray, are we convinced that God hears us? When we suffer, do we believe God abides with us? When we choose, act or respond, do we trust that God cares about our actions? Do we believe, in these and all circumstances, that the power of God is present in our lives?

To have that kind of faith, we have to “learn” Christ, to become as close and comfortable with him as with an intimate friend. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to do that: “Come and see.” 

In other words:

Spend time with me.
Talk with me about ordinary things.
Watch sunsets and sunrises with me.
Tell me your secrets.
Let me tell you mine.
Laugh with me.
Be silent with me.
Trust that you are never separate from me.

If we do these things, even slowly and steadily as the first disciples, we will eventually say with Andrew, “l have found the Messiah” – and he is living right within my life!


Poetry: the calling of the disciples – Lucille Clifton

some Jesus
has come on me

i throw down my nets
into the water he walks

i loose the fish
he feeds to cities

and everyone calls me
an old name

as i follow out
laughing like God’s fool
behind this Jesus

Music: Come and See – Bob Bennett

The Image of God

Christmas Weekday
January 3, 2023

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010323.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with John’s soul-stirring words:

1 jn 3_ 2

Beloved, we are God’s children …

When I pray these words I think of my mother. As a little child, I already bore a clear physical likeness to her. But as I grew into a young woman, and later an older woman, people remarked that we looked like twins. There were even occasions when we were confused with each other.

This visible resemblance gave me great pride. My mother was strong, courageous, funny, wise, and fiercely loving. I loved to hear the phrase, “Oh my, you are the image of your mother!” I wanted to be like her – made of the same stuff as she was.


In our reading today, John tells us that we are made of the very stuff of God – the essence of the Sacred. He suggests that when people look at us they should see God’s features written all over us.

See what love the Creator has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.

1 John 2:30

John says that we should see this Divine familial likeness in one another – that we are each imprinted with our Creator’s image.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

1 John 2:31

If we believe John’s words, what tenderness we would bear toward ourselves and others! How could we ever belittle, hate or kill one another? How could we ever do these things to ourselves?


In our Gospel, the great prophet John the Baptist sees the imminent transformation of the world coming toward him in the person of Jesus Christ. May we see this too as, by our sincere prayer and study of the scriptures, the Light of Christmas waxes in our hearts throughout 2023. In that Loving Light, we recognize one another clearly as beloved children of God.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
…..
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

Poetry: I Am the Light – Malcolm Guite

I see your world in light that shines behind me,
Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,
The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me
Or find the child who’s hiding deep inside me.
I see your light reflected in the water,
Or kindled suddenly in someone’s eyes,
It shimmers through the living leaves of summer,
Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,
It gathers in the candles at our vespers
It concentrates in tiny drops of dew
At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,
But all the time it calls me back to you.
I follow you upstream through this dark night
My savior, source, and spring, my life and light.

Music: How Can Anyone Ever Tell You – Shaina Knoll

Often, when I think of Christ on the Cross, I can hear God the Mother singing this song to Jesus, reaching from heaven to console Him in His pain.

This morning, we might ask God to sing this song over our wounded world which has so obscured God’s likeness – perhaps to sing it over us if we are in particular pain.

In our heart’s deep forgiveness, we might sing this song over anyone who has hurt us – the meanness coming from their failure to recognize their own beauty – the fact that they and we are the very image of our loving God.

Dear Mary, Teach Us …

The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010123.cfm

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

IMG_2003
Theotokos, a mosaic mural from the Gelati Monastery, Georgia, (1125-1130 AD)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus.

We might begin prayer today by asking a question posed by distinguished theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ:

What would be a theologically sound, spiritually empowering and ethically challenging theology of Mary, mother of Jesus the Christ, for the 21st century? This question has no simple answer, for the first-century Jewish woman Miriam of Nazareth, also held in faith to be Theotokos, the God-bearer, is arguably the most celebrated woman in the Christian tradition. One could almost drown surveying the ways different eras have honored her in painting, sculpture, icons, architecture, music and poetry; venerated her with titles, liturgies, prayers and feasts; and taught about her in spiritual writings, theology and official doctrine.

To see Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s excellent article, click here.


In my own prayer today, though, I am not reaching for a deeper theological understanding of Mary. I simply want to talk with her as a faithful woman, my Mother, my older Sister, my Friend. I want to seek her guidance and her inspiration. I want to thank her for her continual willingness to bear Christ into the world, and into my life.


How significant it is that the Church begins the year inviting us all to Mary’s Light! Our first reading blesses us in a way that Mary might bless us, especially as we begin this New Year of grace:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Numbers 6: 24-26

Mary was all about giving us the LORD, not giving us herself. We see Mary best when we see her holding Christ toward us – the “God-bearer” or “Theotokos”.

IMG_2004
Theotokos Vladimirskaya icon, Vologda, Vladimirskaya Church,
mid-end 16 century

“Theotokos”, a title used especially in Eastern Christianity, originated in the 3rd century Syriac tradition. It affirms Mary as the Mother of Jesus, Who was both human and divine in nature.

Our reading from Galatians assures us that we too, by our Baptism, are the daughters and sons of God – thus becoming Mary’s own. She is our Mother too by the power of this sacrament.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,  
born of a woman, born under the law,  
to ransom those under the law,  
so that we might receive adoption as sons

Galatians 4:4

Our Gospel reveals the spirituality of Mary who, after all the heavenly wonders faded, “pondered” all the mysterious workings of God deep in her heart. This Mary is my revered sister, guiding me as I meet the unfolding of God in my own life.

And Mary kept all these things,  
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,  
glorifying and praising God  
for all they had heard and seen,  
just as it had been told to them.  

Luke 2: 19-20

Today, let us pray with Mary, our Mother, our Sister, Bearer of God. Let us learn to be “ponderers” and “bearers” of God in her pattern. Let us pray for the whole Church, the whole world – all of whom dear Mary tenderly loves.


Music: Two selections today.

A Peaceful Hymn to the Theotokos – Nuns of the Carmazani Monastery in Romania

Prayer of Pure Love – Leddy Hammock and Sue Riley

First and Lasting Faith

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist
December 27, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122722.cfm

1Jun1_3 seenJPG

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and for the next two weeks, our first readings take us into the beautiful mind and heart of John the Apostle, whose feast we celebrate today.

John, as I have met him in his Gospel and Letters, is a lover and a poet. He is, at the same time, a precise and exquisite engineer of thought and insight.

Often, a single word or phrase of John’s writing captures more than our minds can hold. Thus, praying with his writings should be a slow savoring, morsel by morsel, of Eternal Light captured for us in an elegant word.

Let these phrases rest with you in prayer today:
“What was from the beginning
Jesus, Uncreated, pre-existent Word of God

what we have heard, …
Whose voice John heard

what we have seen with our eyes, …
Whose acts of love John witnessed

what we looked upon …
Whose crucified body John held

and touched with our hands …
Whose wounds he wept over

concerns the Word of life
…this Jesus is John’s whole life.

And John proclaims this treasure to us today so that our joy may be complete — so that we, too, might find our whole and eternal life in this Beloved Word of God.


In our Gospel, John remembers the moment when he “saw and believed”. It was at the first Easter morning when he was very young. As he writes today’s epistle, John is very old. Thousands of acts of faith have spread across his long life like so many sunrises. But he still remembers that first amazed belief at an empty tomb.

Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

John 20:3-8

Do you remember your first faith?
Do you cherish its many dawns over your life?
It might be good to pray with John about these things today.


Poetry: ” …That Passeth All Understanding” by Denise Levertov

An awe so quiet
I don’t know when it began.
A gratitude
has begun
to sing in me.
Was there
some moment
dividing
song from no song?
When does dewfall begin?
When does night
fold its arms over our hearts
to cherish them?
When is daybreak?

Music: When I First Believed ~ Mitch Langley

O Earliest Witness!

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr
December 26, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122622.cfm

The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen
Representation of St. Stephen from The Demidoff Altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli, an Italian Renaissance painter of the late fifteenth century. This many-panelled altarpiece or polyptic painted by Crivelli in 1476, sat on the high altar of the church of San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, east central Italy. It is now in the National Gallery in London, England.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr for the Christian faith. He must have been a beautiful soul.

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

Acts of the Apostles 6: 8-10

The commemoration and readings are a drastic turn from singing angels and worshiping shepherds.The Liturgy moves quickly from welcoming a cooing baby to weeping at the death of innocence.

They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Acts 7: 54-59

Why does the Church make such a drastic turn in the tone of worship? One thought might be to keep us practical and focused on what life in Christ truly means, even as we’re all still wrapped in angels and alleluias.

Stephen, like Jesus, “was filled with grace and power, … working great wonders and signs among the people.” He, as Jesus would, met vicious resistance to his message of love and reconciliation. He, as Jesus would, died a martyr’s death while forgiving his enemies.


The Church turns us to the stark truth for anyone who lets Christ truly be born in their hearts. WE will suffer as Jesus did – as Stephen did. The grace and power of Christ in our life will be met with resistance, or at least indifference.

We may not shed blood but, in Christ, we will die to self. When we act for justice for the poor and mercy for the suffering, we will be politically frustrated and persecuted. When we forgive rather than hate, we will be mocked. Powerful people, like the yet unconverted Saul in today’s second reading, may catalyze our suffering by their determined hard-heartedness.

Our Gospel confirms the painful truth as Jesus says:

You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22

Tomorrow, the liturgy picks up the poetic readings from John’s letters. These are delights to the soul. 

But for today, it is a hard look, with Stephen, at what Christmas ultimately invites us to.


Poetry: O Captain of the Martyr Host – This is an English adaptation of a medieval hymn O qui tuo, dux martyrum, written by Jean Baptiste de Santeüil. It appeared in the Cluniac Breviary, 1686.

O Captain of the Martyr Host!
O peerless in renown! 

Not from the fading flowers of earth 
Weave we for thee a crown.
The stones that smote thee, in thy blood 
Made beauteous and divine, 
All in a halo heavenly bright 
About thy temples shine. 
The scars upon thy sacred brow 
Throw beams of glory round; 
The splendours of thy bruised face 
The very sun confound. 
Oh, earliest Victim sacrificed 
To thy dear Victim Lord! 
Oh, earliest witness to the Faith 
Of thy Incarnate God! 
Thou to the heavenly Canaan first 
Through the Red Sea didst go, 
And to the Martyrs' countless host, 
Their path of glory show. 
Erewhile a servant of the poor, 
Now at the Lamb's high Feast, 
In blood-empurpled robe array'd, 
A welcome nuptial guest! 
To Jesus, born of Virgin bright, 
Praise with the Father be; 
Praise to the Spirit Paraclete, 
Through all eternity.

Music: Gabriel’s Oboe from the movie “The Mission”, played by Henrik Chaim Goldschmidt,  principal oboist of The Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Gaudete, Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah gives us the best news anyone could ever want to hear:

Here is your God…
Who comes to save you!

The news inspires great joy in the waiting heart. Our first reading is full of exultant words pulling us from the shadows of waiting into the hope-filled Light.

What Isaiah proclaims for all generations is that we never need remain in darkness and confusion; that the Lord of Light wills a sunrise for us; that something wondrous and holy is not only possible but inevitable if we but have faith.

This is a powerful revelation and call. If we receive and accept it with open hearts, we are bound to live in joy.


In our second reading, James tells us the secret to living with this kind of joy – PATIENCE.

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, 
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5: 7-8

We too must welcome into our lives both “the early and the late rain”. We must not only believe; we must ponder our faith within the circumstances of our life and the world around us. This pondering deepens us and allows the power of God to visit the world through our lives.


In our Gospel, Jesus explains what the world looks like when we let the Mercy of God shine through us:

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: 
the blind regain their sight, 
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, 
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Matthew 11: 4-6

On this beautiful Gaudete Sunday,
as we come closer to the Gift of Christmas,
let us choose to be agents of God’s joy,
love and mercy in our world.

Poetry: Gaudete – Brad Reynolds, SJ

Because Christmas is almost here
Because dancing fits so well with music
Because inside baby clothes are miracles.
Gaudete
Because some people love you
Because of chocolate
Because pain does not last forever
Because Santa Claus is coming.
Gaudete
Because of laughter
Because there really are angels
Because your fingers fit your hands
Because forgiveness is yours for the asking
Because of children
Because of parents.
Gaudete
Because the blind see.
And the lame walk.
Gaudete
Because lepers are clean
And the deaf hear.
Gaudete
Because the dead will live again
And there is good news for the poor.
Gaudete
Because of Christmas
Because of Jesus
You rejoice.

Music: The Medieval Carol “Gaudete” sung by the Choir of Clare College with the London Cello Orchestra (lyrics and translation below)

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

It is time to thank you for what we have hoped for. 
Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus, 

We devoutly sing songs of joy. 
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice.
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.

God became man, being nature, 
Deus homo factus est naturam erante, 

The world has been renewed by the reigning Christ. 
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Ezekiel’s gate was closed by the passerby 
Ezecheelis porta clausa per transitor 

Whence the light arose, the finder of pebbles. 
Unde lux est orta sallus invenitor. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice.
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Therefore, our congregation sings already in the twilight, 
Ergo nostra contio psallat jam in lustro, 

Bless the lord of the saddles for our king. 
Benedicat domino sallas regi nostro. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice. 
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete. 

Rejoice, rejoice Christ is born 
Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus 

From the virgin Mary, rejoice.
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.