Showing posts with label Advent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advent. Show all posts

December 15, 2019

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2019, Year A

Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem
Joseph and Mary arrive at the inn in Bethlehem, 14th century illumination

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Nazareth was one of the most insignificant villages in Judah. When Jesus was first assembling His apostles we find the following exchange between two of them as reported in St. John’s gospel:
Philip found Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” [John 1:45-45]
Christianity goes beyond doctrines, moral norms, and teachings. It goes beyond how we behave. While all of those things are important, we need to recognize that Christianity essentially involves vision… seeing things as God sees them… seeing things in God’s Light… recognizing reality and truth. Pontius Pilate during the trial of Jesus asked the central question. Truth is not something we establish, it come from outside of us; it’s something we attain, something we come to recognize. The world thinks otherwise. “Truth?” Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Then, having disposed of truth, he had Jesus crucified.

Christmas is filled with the theme of light and darkness. We recall the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, the Wise Men, those seers and seekers who came to honor the Source of Wisdom and Light.

Christmas is celebrated at that time of the year when darkness fills most of the day. Our Americanized commercial Christmas fills our modern day darkness with glitzy lights and glitter that all but blind us to the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World, the Light for the world that comes down to us from God in heaven.

Being a Christian involves viewing reality in a light that is different from all other sources of vision and knowledge. Christianity is all about seeing things and seeing people as Jesus sees them. It is in His Light that we can see reality as God sees it. God in Christ has come to us so that we might see… and so that we might see the meaning and purpose of the life He has given you and given me. God has given us the Light of the World so that we might see reality and see ourselves in His Light.

What, then, do we consider to be of significance to us in our world and in our own personal lives? What seems to be significant for us in our eyes may be insignificant in God’s way of seeing things. Conversely, what we think to be insignificant may be very significant in God’s eyes.

The most significant thing about Christmas is that our humanity has been invested by God with His divinity. Our ordinariness is what appeals to God. God wants to be loved by plain men and women, men and women who are fully alive. He wants to be loved and sought in the commonality of our human nature and experience. That was His purpose and plan. But because we are so far removed from His purposes it is only the extraordinary person who brings God into the regularity of his or her daily routines and patterns of behavior.

That is why the Virgin Mary is such and extraordinary person. She appeared to be, and was in reality, simply a little Jewish girl. She was lowly and considered herself to be a maidservant. But she was innocent and capable of wonder. In her simple humanity she was, in reality, of special appeal to God.

As a truly Christian celebration, Christmas is becoming more difficult for us to celebrate. Ask people what the significance of the Christ child is for them and you’ll get responses that are all lovely and nice… but completely miss the point.

Given the routine lives so many face in living, our culture has developed an entertainment industry that tells us things are not significant unless they are spectacular. Spectacles abound in sports, entertainment, and in television. But, we must ask, what do these spectacles show us?

Escapism is another way to flee from being what we consider to be just an ordinary human being. Consider the amount of alcohol, drugs, and pornography that fills our culture. We are continually told that it is a dreaded thing to be simply and plainly human.

Yet the message of Christmas is, in its radical form, a message that tells us God wants to be loved by us in our littleness and in our vulnerability. He even allowed His only-begotten Son to hang in that condition on His Cross. He did this in order to show us the glory of our humanity. Human eyes that see with no vision of reality view Christ on the Cross as twisted and deformed; stripped naked of all significance. Even in our day we all stand in amazement when we meet people who are sincere, speak only the truth, and have such a wholesome awareness of themselves that we view them in wonderment.

God’s Christmas gift to us is the fact that we can carry the insights of Christmas into our fields of employment, our careers, our marriages, and into our relationships with the world and all others in the world that surround us.

The Incarnation makes significant those things which appear to be insignificant. A simple Jewish maiden, a little town called Bethlehem, and ordinary humanity – all become apt conductors of the divine. It all happens in the inversion of values that Christmas brings to us. New Light comes into our world, a Light that prompts the skeptical Pontius Pilates of our own day to ask: “Truth? What is truth?”

How, then, do we see the reality of our selves and of our lives? What do we consider to be significant and meaningful? And how do we see ourselves in the eyes of God? Dare we even look? Christmas says: “Yes!” We can look. Christmas can give us faith in our selves… it can give us hope… and it can give us love. Christmas gives us the power to see our world as God sees it to see what in God’s light we can be.

Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and Jesus… they all belong to us because we can identify ourselves in them. May all of that allow us to be at peace with ourselves… and between ourselves… and with God.

“I would have plain men and women love me,” God says, “not just saints.” And so may we love Him in the everyday and seemingly insignificant things we do. And may we accept ourselves and others for what we are… for what we are both now and in eternity. For the Kingdom of Heaven is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasyland that is divorced from our lives and the reality in which we live. It is, as Jesus said, here among us.

With the right insights we are not very far from it. Come and see. And may the peace and joy of Christmas be with you.

December 8, 2019

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019, Year A (Gaudete Sunday)

John the Baptist in prison.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

“Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”

As you live out life as a Christian, trying to make the life of Jesus a reality in your own life, many are going to be observing you. In key moments, some people are going to be looking to you for help, hope maybe you’ll be their salvation, their way out. Very indirectly, perhaps very quietly, or perhaps quite directly, they might ask you: ARE YOU THE ONE WHO CAN HELP ME… WHO CAN BRING ME SALVATION IN THIS MESS… OR DO I LOOK FOR ANOTHER?

You are a Christian. You openly and publicly bear the name of Christ… and you do it for all to see. You identify yourself as a Catholic. You attend Mass… receive the Sacraments. As a result people are going to look at you… to examine your actions… to look into your life. And they will ask you questions about why you are a Catholic.

You have been baptized. You have been confirmed. As we heard John the Baptist declare in last Sunday’s Gospel, he only baptized with water, but the One who is to come would baptize in the Fire of the Holy Spirit.

Having been marked with the signs of Baptism and Confirmation, and having been joined into Christ’s Mystical Body in Holy Communion, the Church now sends you into the world around us. With Jesus, you are one who is sent. The word “Mass” is derived from “missa” , mission, being sent. You come to Mass to receive in order to be sent, in order to share what you have received.

And so as a baptized and confirmed Christian, as a representative of Christ, openly living the Christian life, you will encounter people who will be looking at you and your life and asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?” Is your Faith real, is your Faith true and right, or do we look to another? One of the reasons why Pope Francis is popular is that he is real.

John the Baptist asked that question of Jesus because he wasn’t so sure about Jesus. Oh, he had heard reports about Christ. He’s heard rumors about His miracles, miracles that we done quietly, privately, only for a few individuals and without any dazzling, public display. John had even baptized Jesus with a baptism of repentance, an ancient Jewish religious practice that was not uncommon. John the Baptist had done that at the beginning of Christ’s public life. John was quite sure about Jesus at that point, telling everyone that he, John, wasn’t even worthy to carry Jesus sandals. But now? Well…. he just wasn’t so sure anymore. You see Jesus hadn’t as yet liberated the Jews from the yoke of the Romans and their occupying army. Jesus hadn’t vindicated the Jews in front of the whole world, and so John wasn’t so sure that Jesus really was the Messiah, the Savior, after all.

Well, Jesus sent a reply back to John via John’s own messengers. Tell him, Jesus replied what you see and hear: the blind see once again, the crippled can now walk, hopeless lepers have skin that is clean once again, people that couldn’t hear can now hear and speak again, dead men are raised back into living again, and men and women who were without hope now hear good news. And happy are they who are not disappointed in me!

What, we must now ask, will be the message others receive about your life and mine? What kinds of things are happening in your life and mine that will give men and women hope? What will answer their insistent call to you: “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”

Each one of us here should be able to give the answer that Jesus gave. People that know us should be able to see, to have a vision and see what the meaning and purpose of human life is all about. They can dream the dreams that we dream. There is light in our lives, a light that shines in the darkness, a light that points to hope, the hope of eventual victory… the hope of the triumph of good over evil… the hope of peace… a light that reveals the presence of salvation in our lives. The blind, the spiritually blind, in other words, ought to be able to see God’s presence in humanity because of us.

Then there are the crippled. Others can see in us, or ought to see, a person who is actively doing something about the downtrodden in our world. We have, for instance, the Alternative Christmas Tree in the back of our church. Through it we are not giving money to some cause or some organized charity. And please don’t misunderstand me – many of those things are noble, very worthy and wonderful organizations. Here, however, we have an opportunity to directly respond to folks nearby as ones who are giving them gifts from God.

The lepers? All around us there are persons whose skins crawl with self-hatred. There are those who have been ostracized by others, cast away and left to shift for themselves. They are the lonely, the socially underdeveloped, the so-called freaks, and so on. Do we regard them as lepers and refuse to even get near them, or even breathe the air that they breathe? “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another, O Christian?”

And there are the deaf… those who can’t communicate… those who listen but do not hear. There are those who don’t understand Christianity… or Jesus… who have never really heard about Jesus Christ… who haven’t studied His personality… His character… and who would like to. Can you and I be answers to their prayers? Can we reveal Jesus to them in who we are and what we do?

And we are sent, finally, to raise the dead back to life again. I suppose for us it means going to those in our lives who are exhausted, worn out, dead tired, and giving them the energy of our love… giving them the power of our love, our enthusiasm. It means spending a lot of time and energy on them… our own time and lots of our precious energy… helping them to break out of their shell and bring them back into life again. It means giving them hope… something to live for… a life full of beauty, wonder, awe, goodness, and all of those things that make life really worth living. It means giving good news to those who are near death and have nothing but bad news because they have lost hope.

And so, Christian, as Christmas comes to you once again – Happy are those who are not disappointed in you. You are the one sent by God into their lives so that they need not look for another!

December 1, 2019

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, Year A

St. John the Baptist Preaching
Detail, St. John the Baptist Preaching, Mattia Preti (Il Cavaliere Calabrese), c. 1665.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

Here we are with Christmas just two and a half weeks away. The shops and malls are loaded with goodies. Christmas songs fill the air. Parties are being arranged and delicacies prepared. Thoughts of home, of family, and of a lovely time fill our hopes and imaginations.

With all of these lovely sentiments in our hearts and minds we come to church today and hear about a weird guy living in the desert, wearing scratchy and horribly smelling clothes made of camel’s hair, eating locusts, calling people a bunch of snakes while telling them that fire and brimstone will come down on them, all the while threatening them with axes that will cut them down. The gospel picture ends with John the Baptist threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees with hell.

Aren’t you glad you came to church today just before Christmas to hear all of that? Well, John the Baptist reminds us that it’s likely we all need to pay attention to a few things that perhaps we have neglected in our lives, things that revolve around the presence of Christ… or His absence.

Take for instance those with whom we live — our wives, our husbands, our children, our parents, our friends. How have we loved them? How have we failed to love them? Who have we downright neglected or not treated as we should have?

Too often we take those around us for granted. We give them little, if any, of our time, our attention, our affection. Maybe we haven’t cared for the very well at all. It seems strange that we sort of assume that they know we love them without our ever actually telling them or showing them that we do love them… dearly love them. Daily routines, concerns about our work, and our habits can cause us to pay attention to material things at the expense of giving our families and friends our real attention, care, concern, and love. Maybe this Christmastime we can actually give them more of our selves as we prepare to celebrate the love of God for us made real in Christ Jesus.

What about our parents and our grandparents who live some distance away from us? Have we neglected them too? And our friends? Are there some changes we need to make because of our neglect?

Then there are those with whom we work. Our attitudes toward them are expressed in the ways we treat them or otherwise relate to them. Attitudes are the sources of human behavior. If we want to reform the way we treat others we have to begin with our attitudes toward them. We need to hear John the Baptist’s message as it applies to us.

Then, too, we should pay some attention to the way we have neglected our own selves. Are we physically out of shape? Overweight? Do we over indulge ourselves? Do we drink too much… drink too often… or eat too much? Do we care for our selves?

What is at issue is the way we have failed to love, failed to love and respect others, and failed to have love and respect our selves, selves that God gave us when He brought us into life in the first place. John the Baptist’s words ought to raise questions we should face and answer.

Finally there is the matter of Christ himself. We profess our faith in Him and our love for Him. But talk is cheap and words are easily spoken. It’s what we do that gives substance to love. Today we need to take an honest look at what we are actually doing in our daily lives that reveals our faith and love in Christ. Just how real is our relationship with Jesus Christ?

Repentance means change. And change is something we dislike. If you are driving to a destination and make a wrong turn, you can’t just say “oops” and continue on driving in a wrong direction. You have to turn around and get back on the right path. You have to make a change that makes a difference. Change has its demands, demands that go beyond mere words of regret. Advent calls us to make some changes in our routines.

Advent has more to offer us, however, than that. Advent has a Savior for us. Beyond our own efforts to recognize sin and failure in our lives, beyond our confessions and admissions that lead us to repent, Advent presents us with what we truly need – a Savior. For if we’re honest with ourselves we will admit that we cannot deal with sin, repentance, and conversion all on our own. We can’t manage our lives all by ourselves.

So I’ll leave you with the first three steps of the famous Twelve Steps found in Alcoholic Anonymous. Of the twelve, the first three are the most vital and critical. They deal with what John the Baptist is talking about. So, substituting the word sin for the word alcohol the steps are:

1 – We admitted we were powerless over sin – that our lives had become unmanageable.

2 – Came to believe in a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The only thing in life that is constant is change. The only certitude is this: that there is life where there is change. Something that is changeless is dead.

Change is hard on us all – on you and on me alike. It’s very difficult for everyone because who or what guarantees that things will be better as a result of change? A life lived close to God is the only real guarantee we have.

The wonderful thing about Advent is that in the end we are given the certitude of God’s presence in our lives in Jesus Christ. Advent is all about our expectant faith in the God who loves us enough to send us His very best… His only Son. And if we receive Him in our hearts and souls, deep down within and not simply with good wishes and nice thoughts, then the change that we enter into will move from incertitude into the certainty of God’s abiding love deep within us to empower us to deal with our selves, and to love ourselves and those around us as He would have us.

Prayer for the Advent Wreath Week Two of Advent

Advent

The lighting of the Advent candles symbolizes the hope that the coming Messiah represents in a world that very often seems dark, forbidding and hopeless. We do so because we are a people living in faith that our Divine Master will come again in glory at the end of time to dispense peace and justice. The joyous anticipation of the season of Advent is captured in the teachings of the prophets from the Old Testament: "Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king is coming to you, a just savior is he…" (Zechariah 9:9)

Advent Wreath Prayer - Second Week

By Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois

Dear Heavenly Father:  in this second week of Advent, I feel a bit overwhelmed as I learn to set priorities in my life. At the base of your mountain, I realize I cannot climb it with too much baggage. I see you at the top of the mountain, ready to usher me into the holy city. Draw me up that mountain, Lord, for there I will find fulfillment and peace. As I light these two candles, help me, Lord, to cast aside that which is not of you, that baggage that holds me back from fully embracing you. Help me to make prayer the center of my life. I am preparing my heart, O Lord, for you to enter it once again, to give me life and hope, for you are the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.
________________________________________

Collect Prayer Second Sunday of Advent

Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heaven wisdom gain us due admittance to his company. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

***

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of all. May He come quickly and not delay. We ask this in His holy name. Amen.

November 24, 2019

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, Year A

The Last Judgment

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. At the end of today’s first reading when we hear Isaiah cry out, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” We need to understand that Isaiah isn’t simply talking about nature’s daylight nighttime’s darkness, he is talking about what we see with our minds and hearts. He’s calling us to rise above our daily worries, concerns and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives with all of their peaks and valleys. As Christians we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us.

The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. The problem you and I have is that we’re far too concerned about so many other things. Often these are legitimate concerns, worries that are thrust upon us by the world in which we live. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves. This spiritual blindness is spoken of in biblical language as darkness. And what do we do in darkness? Usually we sleep. We sleep because we shut down, tune out, and turn off.

When we, through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of waking up we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling. God has, however, always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that has changed. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant; He is always present. It is we who are inconstant, changeable and inattentive.

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, and in the final seasons of our lives when we mirror the time when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. We all, each one of us, feel it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it? Why should we be surprised? God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives.

Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life. All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need. He has all that we need in an inexhaustible supply.

Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we trace the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His messages? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses? Attend Communal Penance Services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what we will do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our wishes.

We live in the time after the arrival of the year 2,000 A.D. Do you remember our worries when the year 2000A.D. arrived and we were told that our computers were not programmed for those digits and might shut themselves down and everything with them? We also live in the time after September 11th. We live in an age of terrorism. We live in an economic mess. We live with a lot of emotional anxieties. We would do well to ask ourselves the question: “Where is God in all of this?” and then seriously, during this Advent, pursue answers to that question. For questions are not denials, they are quests. And God always wants to be sought. All lovers do.

As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time we come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids us to examine our lives. As your priest I have always had that purpose in mind every time I’ve stood here preaching homilies over the past forty years.

Once again we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, words you just heard in his letter to the Romans, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture not altogether different from the one in which we presently live:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

In the words of Jesus you just heard in today’s gospel account:

So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

December 19, 2018

Homily for the 4th Sunday in Advent, December 23, 2018, Year C

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

The Visitation
(Click here for today’s readings)

The Gospel account for this 4th Sunday of Advent is about two pregnant women, one of whom, Elizabeth, was already in the sixth month of her pregnancy. Mary had only recently received the news that she was pregnant. It was a life-changing announcement and she probably needed some time to herself, time to prepare, time to reflect, time to get herself together. But she didn’t think of her own needs. Instead she set out on an arduous journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant and to care for her. That’s not something most women would do. But these were two remarkable women, remarkable in the sense that under ordinary circumstances they would not be pregnant. One was a virgin; the other was beyond, way beyond, childbearing age. Both were not supposed to be pregnant. But God was at work within them. To add to the unexplainable mystery, they both bore within their wombs mysterious babies. One bore the Christ, God’s only begotten Son; the other bore John the Baptist.

What does that have to do with us? What does this entire interchange have to do with how we live our lives?

There are those who believe that life is all about having fun. Eat, drink, and have fun is their motto. They live for weekends when they don’t have to be on the job, times when they can get away from making a living and really live (they mistakenly think) in their weekends. There are others who don’t want to pay attention to what’s inside themselves, who divert their attention from anything and everything that is spiritual. Their focus is on their bodies; they don’t want to admit that they have souls. The spiritual, they ask? Who cares! John the Baptist? He was some kind of a nut! Jesus Christ? Who’s he? is their response.

At another level, all of us must eventually face the fact that we are persons and that we are destined to live in interpersonal relationships. All of us feel the call to love. Some of us are, however, afraid to love because love demands setting one’s self aside. Love demands that we be open, sensitive and vulnerable to others. Those who cannot love don’t stay married for very long. Those who cannot love don’t have any good friends, and if they do their friendships are superficial at best. Those who cannot love, or those who choose not to love, are doomed to live only for themselves, doomed to love only their own selves.

As persons do we think we are bodies that happen to have souls, or are we souls clothed with bodies? How you answer that question determines how you will live out your life. So, because the question is so crucial, I’ll ask it again: Are we bodies that maybe have souls, or are we souls clothed with bodies?

It’s what’s inside us that matters, not how we look, not how beautifully our bodies may be shaped, not how many possessions we have, not how much money we have, not what kind of jobs we have, or the professions we live in. It’s what’s inside us that matters; it’s the spiritual part of us that allows us to love, to have friendship, and to truly relate to others.

So what does the story of Mary and Elizabeth have to do with us? Well, Mary was carrying within her the Christ child. We, too, carry within us the presence of Christ. That’s why we pay such attention to Mary. She models who we are and what God is doing inside us. The Church is pregnant with the presence of Christ, something that we are about to celebrate in Holy Communion. And since the Church is not simply a building or an institution, since the Church is the Body of Christ and you and I constitute together the Mystical Body of Christ, we, like Mary, carry within us the presence of Christ. Not only that, but we carry within us the presence of Christ not just for our own sake, but in order to share Him with others. We bear Christ within us that we may bring Him to others in the world around us.

So now we see the importance of the story of Mary and Elizabeth. Now, perhaps, those two pregnant women are not so mysterious after all. If we see ourselves in them and understand ourselves to be just like them, then we see that we are to go out to others both when convenient and inconvenient… we are to carry the presence of Christ to all those who labor under heavy burdens, to all those who are frightened, who have been intimidated by life, and who need our help. They are our cousins, just as Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin. They may not be old and infirm; they may be young and lost. They are anyone and everyone who needs our loving attention, our caring for them, our love.

Our Catholic faith is not simply about saving ourselves and getting ourselves into heaven. God made us who we are for the life of the world. Saving our souls is a part of why we come to Mass, but it’s only half an answer to why God made us in the first place. The other half is equally important, namely bringing the care, love, compassion, concern, and presence of the Christ within us to those around us. God calls us to reveal His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

We may be tempted to feel we are too small and too insignificant to matter much. If you hear that voice whispering within you then you must recognize that it is the devil who is speaking, the devil who wants you to ignore the call of love, to ignore God’s love, and do nothing. Listen again to what the prophet Micah is saying to you and me in today’s first reading: Thus says the Lord: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.

How you live your life can have a tremendous influence on others around you. You have the power to bring Christ’s love, compassion, mercy, and friendship to those around you, particularly to those who are close to you. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb recognized Jesus in Mary’s womb and was filled with joy. Others around you can recognize the presence of Christ within you and also be filled with joy. You can bring to them what their hearts are searching for. Yes, it may be hidden; the bond of friendship and love may be hidden from the eyes of others, but it will be no less real.

Elizabeth blessed Mary, crying out: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” May others who know you, others who have received your loving care and friendship, likewise bless you.

And so what does the story of Mary and Elizabeth have to do with us? The answer is: Everything!

December 13, 2018

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2018, Year C

John the Baptist preaching
The Sermon of St John the Baptist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

(Click here for today’s readings)

As we prepare for the Nativity of our Lord the issues that surround us this Advent season are enormous. Once more this year we struggle to find peace – peace among the nations and among ethnic groups, peace in our own homeland, and peace between two civilizations, Muslim and Western.

The now forty year old drug problem still plagues us here in our country. On the one side there are those who grow drugs along with those who market them for vast sums of money, and on the other hand there are those who buy and use drugs. How can we put an end to the mutual addiction, this gigantic co-dependency, involving both greed for money and need for drugs?

There are other problems too – the decline of the nuclear family, lack of housing for many, abuse of children, dysfunctional families, the control of gun sales, and on, and on, and on. These problems are many and are seemingly so intractable that we’re tempted to throw up our hands and declare that there’s nothing we can do to overcome them. The issues are too big, and we feel we are too small.

Today’s Gospel presents us with John the Baptist, the last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. He was issuing a call for national repentance, proclaiming the advent of the Kingdom of God with the coming of the Messiah, and the need to repent and change our own individual ways of human living. His audience must have wondered how all of their national problems were connected with their own personal lives. If God’s Kingdom was about to be established, how could any one individual hasten or hinder its arrival? If the entire Jewish people needed to repent and convert, of what consequence was the conversion of any one individual?  “What ought we do?” was their critical question. It is likewise our own critical question. Their society was like our society. God’s answer to their question and ours was and is: Everything depends upon YOU!

The society surrounding John the Baptist had poverty problems just as ours does. What could they do about it? Well, said John the Baptist, they could share their resources. The person who had two coats could give one of them to the person who had no coat at all. Those who enjoyed surpluses could share of their abundance with those who had nothing. Would it solve their national poverty problem? Well, yes, if enough people would change their lifestyles. Each and every individual’s effort alone would not suffice, but all individuals summed together would make a huge difference in our world.

Political corruption? People abusing their privileges as holders of the public trust? Certainly there was a lot of such abuse back when John the Baptist was calling for a national house cleaning. Likewise we, too, in our times, know of political corruption, those using their offices of public service for their own private and personal gain. What could individuals do about it? Probably not much. But nothing would change unless individuals changed. Individuals could do something rather than simply do nothing. John seemed to think it would make a difference if even one governmental official cleaned up his way of conduct and started running a honest operation.

Violence? Abuse of power? Abuse of others? The people in John’s society certainly suffered those things. So do we. And to the extent that we refrain from using our positions of privilege in order to abuse, humiliate and demean others, to that extent the boundaries of violence and abuse of others will be pushed away from us as a people.

The sad state of our world can be traced back to our own arrogance – both individual and partisan. Intellectual superiority deployed upon others, military dominance, and our own economic prosperity improperly imposed on others whom we judge to be lesser persons leads to resentment, bitterness, and eventually anger and hatred. Violence is the inevitable result.

It’s too easy to superficially blame our own moral failures on the moral failures of our society as a whole. We’ve heard too much of such weak excuses, rationalizations claiming that we are dishonest because society is dishonest, we are ruthless in our business practices because “it’s a jungle out there,” we are promiscuous because so many others, especially our media stars, are promiscuous, we are selfish and acquisitive because our culture is selfish and acquisitive.

Society will become more honest when individuals become more honest, because every society is simply the sum of its individual parts. Wars and violence will subside when we refrain from our own forms of violence toward each other. Poverty will begin to disappear when we are less self-centered and acquisitive. Sexual abuse will subside when we become more pure and liberate our youngsters from the imprisoning lie that they are simply the helpless victims of their inner sexual drives..

We must see again that morality is not simply a private matter. We must challenge the nonsense that seduces us with the myth of free market morals. Morality is a public matter that involves us in sharing our common weal, a common good into which we contribute our individual and personal lives.

John the Baptist’s voice still heralds the coming of God’s Kingdom amongst us. His call for repentance and conversion remains just as valid today as it was back then. Everything depends upon what each and every individual does in his or her own personal life. Salvation will not be assured and society will not be changed, unless each individual recognizes the absolute necessity for personal conversion and change. That is why the Founding Fathers of our nation, men like Jefferson, Madison, and Adams repeatedly stated that it was absolutely necessary for the general populace to be moral, for without a moral electorate our newly founded Democratic Republic would fall. Do you need proof of their predictions? Take a look at what is happening to our nation today! Educators need to realize that morality is something far greater than mere political correctness.

The Northwest Ordinance, adopted July 13, 1787, by the Second Continental Congress, the U. S. Constitution was ratified two years later in 1789. Thomas Jefferson’s ideas about the importance of morality were of enormous influence in both documents. One of Jefferson’s greatest contributions was contained in Article III of the Northwest Ordinance which stated that “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” The point not to be missed is that morality is quite necessary for good government and our happiness in living together is a peaceful society.

Advent is a time for you and for me to clean up our acts. It’s all a matter of getting down to the task of doing it first, instead of waiting for everybody else to first change their acts. Advent is a time for you and for me – personally. For if I am obsessed by what others are doing, thus diverting the moral spotlight from shining upon my own soul, then nothing will change.

John the Baptist’s “voice crying in the wilderness” has remarkable relevance for us in our lives today. For if we lose our moral sense of what is right and what is wrong we risk losing not only our souls but our country as well.

January 6, 2018

The Epiphany of the Lord


Solemnity - January 7th 

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Father Pius Parsch writes of this feast: "The Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and [his wise] government and power." With these words the Church proclaims that today's feast brings to a perfect fulfillment all the purposes of Advent. [The] Epiphany, therefore, marks the liturgical zenith of the Advent-Christmas season.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated either on January 6 or, according to the decision of the episcopal conference, on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8. The young Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations. Yet, as the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers reminds us, three mysteries are encompassed in this solemnity: the adoration of the Christ Child by the Magi, the Baptism of Christ and the wedding feast at Cana. Extra candles and/or lamps may be placed around the sanctuary and in other parts of the church to honor Christ...as the Light of the Gentiles (Ceremonial of Bishops). It is customary to replace the gathered shepherds at the crib with the three Magi and their gifts.

The feast of the Epiphany, which was kept in the East and in certain Western Churches before being celebrated in Rome, seems to have been originally a feast of the Nativity; January 6, for those churches where it was observed, was the equivalent of Christmas (December 25) in the Roman Church. The feast was introduced in Rome during the second half of the sixth century and became the complement and, so to say, the crown of the Christmas festival or Christmastide.

The word Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth, and consequently, the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon, read at Matins, in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of the Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the heathen sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Lord and Savior.
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Sources:

Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Monsignor Peter J. Elliott.

The Church's Year of Grace, Father Pius Parsch.

"The Fifteen Day of Christmas", Catholic Culture.org

December 23, 2017

Christmas Novena 2017 | Day 9

Mary and the Christ Child

December 24, 2017

Today, we continue to pray for an end to abortion and for a greater respect for all life as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the joy of His Incarnation and His glorious Second Coming, when He shall act as our just King and Judge.

The Christmas Novena - Day 9 – Life Eternal

O Lord, infant Jesus, bring us to live eternal with You! Jesus, your nativity was not without purpose. Your purpose was to bring us to You. We pray that you will bring us to Life Eternal with you this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Journey in Egypt

O most sweet infant Jesus, who dwelled as an exile in Egypt for seven years, where spoke your first words, and, first begin to walk upon this earth. Have mercy upon us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Spirit, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

***

O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017, Year B

Archangel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing


As a young man, St. Augustine lived a hedonistic life, one in which sensuality and self-indulgence reigned supreme. Along the way, prior to his becoming a Christian he had a son by a woman to whom he was not married. Augustine was brilliant and renowned. By worldly standards he lived a spectacularly successful life. His mother Monica had prayed for his conversion for over thirty years and eventually her prayers were answered.

All the while Augustine’s heart was hungering for something. He was aware that his inner self was empty. Even though his life was filled with sensuality and pleasure, fame and popularity, he knew there was something more. He also knew that nature of the human heart was destined for a higher and greater realty than what could be found in this world. In his classic work setting forth his odyssey to Christianity, known now as The Confessions of St. Augustine, he wrote: “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they will not rest until they rest in Thee.” With that realization Augustine eventually became a Christian.

This hunger for “something more than what this life offers” is a hunger found in all of human history and in all of its many cultures. In those moments when we shut off all of the noise of this world and set aside all of its busyness all of us long to escape the prison of the now; all of us are in search for lives of meaning and purpose beyond with is merely immediate; all of us are attracted to handing our lives over in the service of some great and noble cause.

In our Christian view of things, aided by God’s revelations in Jesus Christ, we see that God made us so that He could love us, and that in giving our love to Him in return we experience more and more of His love. Love is at the core of our Christian faith; love is at the core of our being human; love is our drive and our destiny. We were made to love and be loved in return.

If all that is true (and I am convinced that it is) it is hard to imagine that a God of love would remain distant, aloof, and unattainable. Love craves union. God would, it seems to me, be compelled to come to us and be present to us. Human history is therefore replete with instances wherein we built temples, shrines to the Deity, as well as our designation of certain places and spaces as sacred. What anthropologist has not studied these sacred buildings and places? What human culture is devoid of myths and epic stories of our human attempts to place ourselves in God’s presence? But the truth is that God has come to us. We have yet to come to God.

What is unique for us as Christians is the notion that God has sought us out first. The enterprise of religion, in the Christian view, is that religion is not something we have fashioned; it is something rather that God has fashioned. God first loves us and it is then that we respond.

The fact that God first loves us and then looks for our response cuts to the core of all that causes us such pain and suffering, namely it cuts away human arrogance, human egoism, and human pride. That’s what the biblical story of the Tower of Babel teaches us. For Babel’s tower was built according to human specifications, human standards, human expectations, and our own human agenda. In its collapse we learn that the real impulse is the other way around. Religion is not something we fashion, it is rather something that God fashions.

To return to my main point, I want to assert that Christmas is the fulfillment of what is in God’s heart. Christmas is all about God’s coming to us in love so that He and we can live in each other’s presence. But that is not all. There is more – a whole lot more.

Christmas is but a starting point. It is the starting point of our human saga, both collective and personal, in which our hearts finally find rest in the Presence of God. The fantastically wonderful thing, however, is that this happiness is found in the truth that God comes to us not just to become present to us, but to live in us!

What a wonder that is! God joins himself into us so that he can live in our very own lives It is God’s intention to dwell and abide (make His home) in us. No more need now for our efforts in building temples in which we can search out and find Him. No more need now for endless and satisfying searching for God. He Himself has done the searching out; He Himself has first come to us so that we can respond, and in our response, have the wonder of God Himself dwelling not only near us but abiding within us.

Our human response to God is initiated in the fiat of a little virgin girl named Mary, living in a remote little Hebrew village named Nazareth.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, an hourglass. The top half begins with wideness and is fashioned so that the impulse of each grain of sand it directed to a tiny, central point. All of the grains of sand must pass through that one point, and when they do the glass expands out once again into the wide area that comprises the bottom half of the hourglass. The critical thing, however, is that tiny, central opening, a sort of birth canal, if you will.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is that point for us. It was because of her openness, her virginal openness, that all of our religious prehistory comes to us. And it is likewise that through her, all of God’s love is poured out and made available to us throughout history ever since.

The great wonder of it all is that in Jesus Christ, who is at once both God and Mary’s son, each one of us can be another Mary. Each one of us is now a temple not only of God’s love but God’s very life living within us. Each one of you here is a sacred space. In each one of you others can sense the presence of the Living God. Like Mary, the living presence of God the Son abides within us, not just for our own sakes, but so that we, like Mary, can give Him to the world around us.

Each one of you, and I along with you, can make an infinitely significant response to God’s offer of love. When we are told that we are loved, and we respond with a “yes”, our lives are changed. Something is placed within our hearts that never goes away.

This Christmas give God a most precious gift – some of your time. Give Him your undivided attention, a period of time in which you do nothing but open yourself up to His presence. Even if you think that nothing happens, something will happen. We are all so concerned about what we must do, particularly at a time when we’re so caught up in doing things. The best thing we can do is to do nothing – do nothing but simply be in God’s presence.

Think of three good things about you, three really good things. Then thank God individually and specifically those three good things. They are God’s gifts of love to you. Wouldn’t it be a nice gift to give Him your gratitude? Wouldn’t that be a nice gift to give Him for this Christmas? There’s a hidden benefit for you in doing that. If you have an attitude of gratitude you cannot at the same time have a sour or negative disposition.

Also you could ask God what He wants for you. Ask God to reveal what He wants to say to you, what He wants to show you or give you. That’s another wonderful, precious gift to give God. He isn’t interested in a lot of memorized prayers, or a list of things you want Him to do for you. He’s more interested in having you simply give Him your inner self, your undivided and uncluttered attention, your loving presence to Him.

When you’re with a friend, what do you want? Isn’t it simply to be with your friend? We all know that being is more important than doing; that it’s who we are that’s more important to those who care for us than what we accomplish. Well, that’s true with God, also.

God has gone to great lengths, unreasonable lengths, to be your Friend. This Christmas, why not let Him?

December 22, 2017

St. Ephraim the Syrian’s Hymn on the Nativity


Saint Ephraim the Syrian, the 4th century theologian and Doctor of the Church wrote nineteen metrical poems on the Incarnation of Our Lord. These hymns on the Nativity of Christ in the flesh contain profound insights into the love of God. Here, St. Ephraim extols how God became man for our good and our salvation:

Blessed be the Child Who today delights Bethlehem.

Blessed be the Newborn Who today made humanity young again.

Blessed be the Fruit Who bowed Himself down for our hunger.

Blessed be the Gracious One Who enriched all our poverty and
filled our need.

Blessed be He Whose mercy inclined Him to heal our sickness.

Blessed be the Holy Child of Bethlehem!

On this day when the Rich One was made poor for our sake, let the
rich man also make the poor man a sharer at his table.

On this day a gift came out to us without our asking for it; let us then
give alms to those who cry out and beg from us.

This is the day when the high gate opened to us for our prayers; let
us also open the gates to the seekers who have strayed but sought
forgiveness.

Today the Deity imprinted itself on humanity, so that humanity might also
be cut into the seal of Deity.

His swaddling clothes gave a robe of glory to human beings.

Christmas Prayer for Christ Incarnate

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and anticipation, we praise You for the great wonders You have sent us: for the brilliant light signaling our Savior’s birth and the angel's song celebrating Him. We praise You for the Word made flesh in Your Son. We behold His glory, and seek to live in imitation of Him. Guide us now as we celebrate the joys of Christmas, mindful of His coming again in glory. Amen.

Christmas Novena 2017 | Day 8

Mary and the Christ Child

December 23, 2016

Today, we pray for those who have participated in an abortion; that they may be reconciled with God and their hearts healed. We are all sinners in need of God's mercy. Let us lift up in prayer those who have been affected by abortion in any way. In solidarity, we commend them to God. May they have hope and healing. 

The Christmas Novena - Day 8 – Holiness

O Lord, infant Jesus, inspire us to be repulsed by sin! You, Lord, are holy but we are not. We pray that you will make us holy and keep us from temptation this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Flight into Egypt

O most sweet infant Jesus, whom Herod tried to slay, carried by St. Joseph with your Mother into Egypt, saved from death by flight, and glorified by the blood of the holy innocents. Have mercy on. us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Spirit, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your Incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

***

O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

December 21, 2017

Christmas Novena 2017 | Day 7

Mary and the Christ Child

December 22, 2016

Today, we pray for all who are parents and godparents. They have an essential duty to help form a child born into the world. Just as Our Lord Jesus Christ was presented in the temple, our children are presented in the Church for Baptism. There, parents and godparents take on the responsibility for bringing up a child in the Faith. We pray also for those children who have no one to present them in the Church for Baptism. We ask that God present them to His family to be loved. 

The Christmas Novena - Day 7 – Forgiveness

O Lord, infant Jesus, move us to forgive others as you forgive us! Your Divine Mercy is unending! We pray for Your Divine Mercy on us and that we may participate in Your mercy by forgiving others this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Presentation

O most sweet infant Jesus, presented in the temple by the Virgin Mary, embraced by Simeon, and revealed to the Jews by Anna the prophetess. Have mercy on us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Spirit, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

***

O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

A Christmas Primer: All About the Nativity of Christ

Adoration of the Magi

The Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the seminal event in human history; fulfilling Old Testament prophecy and paving the way for His earthly ministry and atoning Passion and Death. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: 'By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.' Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings 'the mystery of our religion': 'He [Jesus Christ] was manifested in the flesh.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 463)

True God and True Man

As we continue to celebrate the season of Advent in anticipation of Christmas, we proclaim what the Church has always professed: "that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother." (CCC 469) The following links discuss the Incarnation and Nativity of Christ. We submit them for your consideration.

Advent Celebrates Two Comings: The Incarnation and the Last Judgment

Why Isn’t Jesus Named Emmanuel?

The Virgin Mary is Prefigured by the Burning Bush

Why God Became a Baby, Fr. Michael Najim

A Primer on the Incarnation, Fr. Philip N. Powell OP, PhD

Seven Misconceptions About the Birth of Christ

The Magi's Gifts Symbolize Three Aspects of Christ's Incarnation

St. Augustine on the Birth of Jesus Christ

Pope Benedict XVI on the Mystery of the Incarnation

The Three Feasts of the Nativity, Fr. Odon de Castro

Why did God send Gabriel for the Annunciation?, Fr. Ryan Erlenbush

O Antiphons Overview [Anticipating the Incarnation], Fr. Daniel White
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Almighty God, who sees how Your faithful await the feast of Our Lord's Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with worship and glad rejoicing. Loving Father, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people. He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us. He is the Savior of all the world. May He come quickly and not delay. We ask this in Our Lord's most holy name. Amen.

December 20, 2017

Christmas Novena 2017 | Day 6

Mary and the Christ Child

December 21, 2016

Today we meditate on peace and the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. We pray for greater peace in the world, and especially for an end to abortion – which is the greatest destroyer of peace. May our leaders respect and protect the life of the unborn who are made in God's image. We pray especially for those leaders in countries where there are concerted efforts to expand abortion. May God touch the hearts of these leaders to stop forevermore the awful scourge of abortion.

The Christmas Novena - Day 6 – Peace

O Lord, infant Jesus, give us Your peace! You are the Prince of Peace and the ultimate fulfillment of your incarnation brings us to you in heaven where peace will come to perfection. We pray for peace this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Adoration of the Kings

O most sweet infant Jesus, who was made known to the three kings, who worshiped you as you lie on Mary’s breast, and offered you the mystical presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Spirit, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

***

O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017, Year B

The Annunciation

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut


About 20 years ago I was asked to speak to a group of candidates in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, on the topic of “de-creation,” i.e., the fall of Adam and Eve and its negative impact of on creation and history. I began by showing them a very beautiful, truly artistic mug that had been given to me. It reflected the love of the artist, and of the one who gave it to me, just as the world created by God reflected his love.

A little bit later, I “accidentally” knocked the mug off the podium and it shattered on the floor. As it began to fall, everyone in the group gasped.

I concluded, “That is what creation did when Adam and Eve reached for the forbidden fruit. All creation gasped, crying out: ‘No! No! No!’”

Almost 900 years ago, St. Bernard of Clairvaux delivered four homilies on today’s Gospel. Each one is easily four or five times as long as today’s average homily. In a translation published in 1909 the four homilies take up a total of 50 pages.

After various explanations of different parts of the text, St. Bernard comes to the decisive moment when Mary has to give her answer. At this point he places himself in the position not of commentator but of observer, even of participant.

He calls to her: “You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

"The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

“Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

“Why do you delay? Why are you afraid?”

Finally, Mary speaks. " Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word."  Here St. Bernard takes himself out of the story and returns to his original role of commentator.

If I may go back to the image of my shattered mug and “de-creation,” I would add that, at moment of Mary’s fiat, her “Yes,” all creation breathed an ecstatic sigh of relief and cried out jubilantly, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

In the first reading, God says “No” to David’s plan to build a temple. But that was followed immediately by God’s magnanimous “Yes” to David’s faithful heart.

St. Paul writes about the “obedience of faith.” We find it in David. We find it in Mary. This isn’t merely doing what one is told. It is founded on the acceptance of God’s word and the deep desire to live by it.

We might call Advent an “attractive” season, with all its prophecies of hope and promises of salvation. If we can take full advantage of the few days remaining, we will be able to rejoice, joining our “Yes!” to that of all creation as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let every Christmas carol, every Christmas gift, every Christmas greeting be a “Yes!” to his coming and to the meaning that his coming brings into our lives, not only at this time of year, but at all times and in all places.

December 19, 2017

Christmas Novena 2017 | Day 5

Mary and the Christ Child

December 20, 2016

The Blessed Virgin Mary accepted God's will in consenting to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, we pray for all mothers who have chosen life for their children — especially those who have adopted their children. We pray for the couples who desire to be parents, but struggle with infertility and other crosses that prevent them from becoming parents. May they be blessed with children.

The Christmas Novena - Day 5 – Love

O Lord, infant Jesus, inspire in us Your selfless love! You humbled yourself to become like us in all things but sin, and even humbled yourself to die on a cross. We pray that you will help us to love as You love this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Circumcision

O most sweet infant Jesus, circumcised when eight days old, and called by the glorious name of Jesus, and proclaimed both by your name and by your blood, to be the Savior of the world. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord.  Have mercy on us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Spirit, you took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

***

O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.