Friday, September 30, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Third Luminous Mystery – The Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion

Scripture References

Matthew 4:12-22; Matthew 5-7; Matthew 9:9-13; Matthew 13:1-50; Matthew 16:24-28; Matthew 18:1-5; Matthew 18:10-14; Matthew 18:23-35; Matthew 19:13-15; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 22:1-14; Mark 1:14-20; Mark 2:13-17; Mark 4:1-32; Mark 8:34-9:1; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 4:16-21; Luke 5:1-11; Luke 5:27-32; Luke 6:20-49; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 8:4-15; Luke 9:23-27; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 12:22-34; Luke 15:1-31; Luke 18:15-17; Luke 19:1-10; John 1:35-51; John 4:1-42; Acts 2:14-42; Acts 9:1-19

The Story in Brief

Unlike many other Rosary mysteries, the Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion was not a single event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Instead, it was, and is, an ongoing process that began with Jesus' announcement early in His public ministry that the kingdom of God was at hand. It extended through the call of the disciples and the conversion of people like Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman, and the sinful woman who cried on Jesus' feet. It continued in Peter's preaching after the Resurrection and in Paul's conversion. Finally, it touches all of us today as we make our own conversion journeys into the kingdom of God.

Points to Ponder

1. This is a mystery that invites us to pray the Bible. Open to one of the Scripture references listed above, read it carefully, and meditate on what it tells us about the kingdom of God and the call to conversion.

2. Reflect on Jesus' announcement that the kingdom of God is at hand (see Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:16-30). Think about how Jesus is introduced as a great light; the focus on repentance; how the kingdom has come near; Jesus Himself as the kingdom; the fullness of time; the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy as described in Luke; the characteristics of the kingdom as presented in Luke; the persecution of Jesus as described in Luke; the coming of the kingdom to the Gentiles; and how Jesus passed through the midst of the crowd and went away.

3. Ponder the call of the first disciples (see Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51). Consider how the disciples were called to fish for people; how they immediately left their nets and their families and followed Jesus; the strength of the call; the disciples' total surrender; the miraculous catch in Luke; Peter's obedience, astonishment, and fear in response to the miraculous catch; God's lavishness; Jesus' control and power; the disciples' staying with Jesus as described in John; the disciples' realizing they had found the Messiah on the testimony of John the Baptist; Jesus' calling Simon “Peter”; Nathanael's doubt and confession; and Jesus' prediction that the disciples would see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

4. Think about the conversion of Matthew (see Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32). Reflect on how Jesus converted Matthew with only two simple words, “Follow Me”; the nonverbal communication between Jesus and Matthew; what it meant that Matthew was a tax collector; Matthew's total surrender to Jesus; how Matthew left everything to become a disciple; Matthew's party and missionary efforts; Jesus' role as a physician; Jesus' desire for mercy, not sacrifice; Jesus' breaking all the rules by eating with the “unclean”; how the Pharisees directed their question at the disciples, not at Jesus; and the call to repentance.

5. Read and ponder the sermon on the mount (see Matthew 5-7). This sermon might be considered the workshop of conversion. Meditate on each of the beatitudes; on being salt and light; on anger; on loving your enemies; on the Lord's prayer; on almsgiving, fasting, and praying in secret; on the inner room (the heart); on your real treasure; on worrying; on judging; on asking, seeking, and knocking; on trust; on the golden rule; on the narrow gate; and on the house on the rock.

6. Think about the sermon on the plain (see Luke 6:20-49). Here is another workshop of conversion. Ponder the blessings and woes; loving your enemies; being merciful as the Father is merciful; not judging; generosity; knowing the tree by its fruits; and house on the rock.

7. Reflect on parables about the kingdom, which contain both lessons of the kingdom and stories of conversion. Ponder the parable of the sower; the parable of the weeds among the wheat; the parable of the hidden treasure; the parable of the net in the sea; the parable of the fine pearl; the parable of the lost sheep; the parable of the unforgiving servant; the parable of the laborers in the vineyard; the parable of the wedding banquet; the parable of the mustard seed; the parable of the growing seed; the parable of the good Samaritan; the parable of the lost coin; and the parable of the prodigal son.

8. Think carefully about how Jesus blesses the little children (see Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). Ponder what it really means to be like a little child, and meditate on the trust and innocence of little children.

9. Ponder Jesus' command to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24-28; Luke 9:23-27). This is the work of conversion. Reflect on how in losing your life for Jesus' sake you actually find true life.

10. Consider the story of the sinful woman (see Luke 7:36-50). Here is a story of conversion. Think about the woman's repentance and the physical manifestation of that repentance; Jesus' teaching about the relationship between forgiveness and love; the comparison of the woman with Simon the Pharisee; the parable of the two forgiven debtors; and how Jesus, in His divinity, forgives sins.

11. Ponder the conversion story of Zacchaeus (see Luke 19:1-10). Reflect on how Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, very rich, and therefore, probably a crook; how tax collectors were the lowest of the low among the Jews; and how Zacchaeus was so drawn to Jesus that he risked looking like a fool and climbed a tree to see Him. Think also about how Jesus invited Himself to stay at Zacchaeus' house and about Zacchaeus' response of repentance and satisfaction for his sins. Consider how Jesus' mission was fulfilled in Zacchaeus.

12. Reflect on the story of the Samaritan woman (see John 4:1-42). Meditate on the gradual conversion of the woman, who seemed to be the most unlikely person to follow Jesus; Jesus' frank but non-accusatory attitude towards the woman's sins; living water; worship in spirit and truth; Jesus' revelation of Himself as the Messiah; how the woman became an evangelist, drawing others to Jesus; and the conversion and testimony of the Samaritans.

13. Consider Peter's preaching of the kingdom (see Acts 2:14-42). Reflect on the fulfillment of prophecies; the proclamation of Jesus, the Messiah; the conversion of three thousand; and the life of the first Christian community.

14. Ponder Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-19). Think about how Paul's physical blindness manifested his former spiritual blindness; Jesus' identification with the Church (to persecute the Church was to persecute Jesus); fasting and prayer as part of conversion; Ananias' vision; how Ananias laid hands on Paul; how people assist one another along the path of conversion; Jesus' desire to use Paul as His instrument; how Paul became filled with the Spirit; how something like scales fell from Paul's eyes; and the Eucharistic overtones involved in Paul's taking food to regain his strength.

Application Questions

1. What is your conversion story?

2. How are you converting to God each and every day?

3. In which areas of your life do you still need to convert?

4. How do you experience the kingdom of God?

5. How has God called you in the past? How is He calling you now? How do you respond?

6. What do you have to leave behind in your life to follow Jesus?

7. In what ways do you need healing from Jesus?

8. Of what sins must you repent?

9. How might you apply the teachings of the sermon on the mount and the sermon on the plain to your own life?

10. How might you apply each of the parables to your own life?

11. In what ways do you need to become like a little child?

12. Do you take up your cross and follow Jesus each day? In what ways? What is your attitude toward the cross and towards trials in your life?

13. Do you trust that Jesus will forgive your sins when you repent?

14. How do you respond to Jesus' love and mercy?

15. Are you willing to look like a fool to follow Jesus?

16. How do you draw others to Jesus?

17. Are you at all spiritually blind? In what ways? Do you trust in Jesus to open your eyes?

18. How are you doing at prayer and fasting?

19. How do other people help you in your conversion? How do you help others?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – God, we bow our heads in silent adoration as we contemplate the kingdom You have established that we may enter into an intimate relationship with You. We bless You, dearest Lord, and we worship You.

Praise – Jesus, Your teaching is amazing! You speak to us in ways that we can understand, through parables, through beatitudes, and through Your actions. We praise You for bringing the kingdom to us and inviting us to enter into it to be with You forever.

Thanksgiving – Thank You, dearest Jesus, for inviting us to a life of conversion and for allowing us to experience Your kingdom. Thank You for healing us, for teaching us, for showing us the way to You, and for gently guiding us along the way. We love You, Jesus.

Intercession – Jesus, we lift up to You all people who are following the path of conversion and seeking You kingdom. We lift up those who are currently leading a sinful life and pray that they may hear Your call in their hearts and turn away from their sins to follow You.

Petition – Lord, please guide all of us along our daily journey of conversion. Please bring us all safely into Your kingdom that we may live with You now and always. Please help us to not only hear Your teachings but to really understand them and follow them. Please give us the grace to repent of our sins and turn to You for forgiveness and eternal life.

Quotes from the Saints

“Repent, therefore, and believe; that is, renounce dead works; for of what use is believing without good works? The merit of good works does not, however, bring to faith, but faith begins, that good works may follow.” - St. Bede

“He chose not kings, senators, philosophers, or orators, but he chose common, poor, and untaught fishermen. Had one learned been chose, he might have attributed the choice to the merit of his learning. But our Lord Jesus Christ, willing to bow the necks of the proud, sought not to gain fishermen by orators, but gained an Emperor by a fisherman. Great was Cyprian the pleader, but Peter the fisherman was before him.” - St. Augustine

“Peter and Andrew had seen Christ work no miracle, had heard from Him no word of the promise of eternal reward, yet at this single bidding of the Lord they forgot all that they had seemed to possess, and straightway left their nets, and followed Him. In which deed we ought rather to consider their wills than the amount of their property. He leaves much who keeps nothing for himself, he parts with much, who with his possessions renounces his lusts. Those who followed Christ gave up enough to be coveted by those who did not follow. Our outward goods, however small, are enough for the Lord; he does not weigh the sacrifice by how much is offered but out of how much it is offered. The kingdom of God is not to be valued at a certain price, but whatever a man has, much or little, is equally available.” - St. Gregory the Great

“Why is it then that nothing is said of the rest of the Apostles how or when they were called, but only of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew? Because these were in the most alien and lowly stations, for nothing can he more disreputable than the office of Publican, nothing more abject than that of fisherman.” -St. John Chrysostom

“Now our Lord while He ever raises us to look to the future reward of virtue, and teaches us how good it is to despise worldly things, so also He supports the weakness of the human mind by a present recompense. For it is a hard thing to take up the cross, and expose your life to danger and your body to death; to give up what you are, when you wish to be what you are not; and even the loftiest virtue seldom exchanges things present for future. The good Master then, lest any man should be broken down by despair or weariness, straightway promises that He will be seen by the faithful, in these words, But I say to you, There are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.” - St. Ambrose

“There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection.” - St. Gregory the Great

“First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow.” - St. Philip Neri

“Christ acts like a loving mother. To induce us to follow Him, He gives us Himself as an example and promises us a reward in His kingdom.” - St. Anthony of Padua

For more saints quotes, consult the Catena Aurea for each Gospel text mentioned.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A God of Second Chances

Today's readings offer a message of hope. Our God is a God of second chances. He welcomes even the most hardened sinner back into His arms as soon as that person repents and opens his or her heart.

In the first reading, God, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, answers Israel's complaint that His ways are not fair. The Israelites sound like a group of disgruntled children who aren't getting their way. But God reminds them that all people are responsible for their own actions. If virtuous people turn away from good and choose evil, they will suffer the consequences. They will die. On the other hand, if wicked people turn away from their sin and choose good, they will reap the benefits. They will live despite their previous sinfulness.

God is a God of second chances.

In the psalm, the psalmist humbly begs God not to remember his sins and the frailties of his youth. He trusts that God will respond favorably to his plea, for he declares that God will indeed show humble, repentant sinners the way to Him. He will remember their sins no more.

God is a God of second chances.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about two young men. Their father asks them to go and work in the family vineyard. The first says that he will not but later changes his mind and goes anyway. The second agrees to his father's command but does not follow through by actually going to work in the vineyard. Jesus asks His listeners, “Which of these two did his father's will?” The audience correctly answers, “The first.” We might add that the father would have been pleased with the first son's actions although he might have been annoyed by his initial refusal. The father would have given his repentant son a second chance. We might also add that, in the symbolism of the parable, the father represents God.

God is a God of second chances.

As the Gospel ends, Jesus informs his audience of chief priests and elders that the tax collectors and prostitutes who had believed in the message of John the Baptist and repented of their sins would enter the kingdom of heaven before Israel's religious leaders. Tax collectors and prostitutes were the lowest of the low in the Jews' eyes. They were as unclean and sinful as anyone could get. Yet they could enter the kingdom of heaven. They could be in an intimate relationship with God.

God is a God of second chances.

Do you need to ask God to give you a second chance in any areas in your life?

Do you believe that He will?

God is a God of second chances.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Second Luminous Mystery – The Wedding at Cana

Scripture References

John 2:1-12; Genesis 3:15; John 19:26

The Story in Brief

Early in Jesus' public ministry, Jesus, His mother, and His disciples were invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother found out somehow that the hosts had run out of wine, and she came to Jesus with a simple statement, “They have no wine.” At first, Jesus seemed to deny His mother's implied request that He do something to help, but apparently their conversation extended more deeply than their words, for His mother instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus told the servants to fill six stone water jars with water. Then He commanded them to draw out some of the liquid and take it to the chief steward. The servants did so, and probably much to their relief, the chief steward discovered a wine of superior quality to that previously served at the wedding. Jesus' glory was revealed, and His disciples began to believe in Him.

Points to Ponder

1. The wedding at Cana happened on “the third day.” Ponder the prophetic significance of this. Could it perhaps point toward the Resurrection?

2. Mary is always called the “mother of Jesus” in this text rather than by her given name. Why?

3. Meditate on Mary's loving care for those around her. She knew the situation of the wedding hosts even though she was only a guest. She was paying close attention, and she wanted to help.

4. Mary immediately approached Jesus on behalf of the hosts. Reflect on Mary's prompt and loving intercession.

5. Running out of wine doesn't seem like a very big deal, even though such a dilemma would have been embarrassing for the wedding hosts. Meditate on how Jesus and Mary care about our smallest problems.

6. Mary's statement, “They have no wine,” was so simple. It was just a statement, not even a request. Ponder her deep and abiding trust in Jesus.

7. Jesus called his mother “woman.” Look up Genesis 3:15 and John 19:26 and ponder the connection between all three passages. Many scholars use these texts to show how Mary is our Coremptrix who merits subordinately with Jesus the graces of our redemption and then distributes those graces as Mediatrix and prays for us as our Advocate.

8. At first, Jesus seemed like He would respond unfavorably to Mary's implied request. Why does God in His omniscience and mystery sometimes delay answering prayers?

9. Jesus' words may seem a little rude, but basically He was asking His mother why this lack of wine was their problem. Why would He ask that?

10. Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.” What did Jesus mean by this? One author says, “As of that moment, Jesus' hour had not yet come. But, once He performs the miracle, then His hour will begin. His march to the Cross will begin. A course will be set that will cause great suffering for both Him and His mother. I think Jesus simply wants to make sure that Mary truly understands what is about to happen and the full scope of her request” (see phat catholic apologetics).

11. Think about the nonverbal conversation that took place between Jesus and Mary.

12. Mary said to the servants what she always says: “Do whatever He tells you.” That is Mary's primary message, for she always directs our attention to her Son. Ponder this truth.

13. The servants filled six stone water jars that were usually used for ritual purification. Why did Jesus put them to this new use? Could He have been suggesting the fulfillment and surpassing of Jewish rites?

14. Each jar held twenty to thirty gallons, more wine than strictly necessary. Meditate on how God is extravagant in His answers to our prayers, how He is lavish with us, and how He goes above and beyond our needs.

15. Ponder Jesus' simple orders. He merely commanded the servants to fill the jars with water.

16. The servants obeyed Jesus' orders. This act was a credit to them, for they had no idea what He was doing. Even so, they did not question Him. Reflect on this unquestioning obedience.

17. Jesus' next command was harder for the servants. There was some risk in drawing liquid out and taking it to the chief steward. The servants probably thought they were going to look like fools for bringing their boss a drink of water, but they obeyed anyway without question. Why?

18. Think carefully about the miracle of water turned into wine. Jesus never touched the water. He didn't speak any words over it. He silently willed it to be wine, and it was. Meditate on Jesus' power and complete control of the world around Him.

19. Think about the steward's cluelessness. He completely missed the miracle that had just occurred.

20. St. John makes a point of telling us that the servants knew. Ponder the blessing of the lowly, the humble, and the obedient.

21. Jesus is often referred to as the Bridegroom. Look deeply into this text about a wedding and a bridegroom to discover the message beneath its surface.

22. The water became wine of superior quality. What is the significance of this?

23. Ponder the symbolism of the water turned into wine on many levels. What might this miracle symbolize in the Church, in the Bible, and in our own lives?

24. This was the first of Jesus' signs, as miracles are called in St. John's Gospel. Why did Jesus choose this as His first sign?

25. Jesus revealed His glory, and the disciples believed in Him. Ponder the purpose of signs, which point to something beyond themselves.

26. Reflect on this mystery's message about marriage. After all, Jesus' first sign was in the context of a wedding celebration.

Application Questions

1. Do you immediately go to Jesus with any need or problem, even the small things? Why or why not?

2. How is your relationship with Mary, the Mother of God? Do you believe that she loves you and intercedes for you?

3. Do you trust Jesus to respond to all your needs, explicit or implicit, spoken and unspoken? How does that trust affect your life? How might you grow in trust?

4. Has there ever been a time when God seemed to delay in answering your prayers or a time when He didn't seem to answer them at all? How did you feel? Why do you suppose God responded in the way He did? Have you learned a lesson from an unanswered prayer?

5. Do you ever share in nonverbal conversation with Jesus? Is your prayer ever beyond words? What is that experience like?

6. How do you imitate Mary in pointing to Jesus? How do you accept her message of “Do whatever He tells you” and pass that message along?

7. How has God been extravagant with you?

8. Have you ever noticed that God's commands are very simple yet are not always easy to fulfill?

9. Do you unquestioningly obey God even when you don't understand?

10. Do you understand that God is in control? How might your life and attitude be different if you kept that truth always in mind?

11. Are you humble enough to see miracles? Why or why not?

12. In which areas of your life do you need to ask Jesus to change water into wine?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Lord Jesus, You turned water into wine by silently willing it. Your power and control are greater than we can ever grasp. We bow our heads in silent adoration and worship You, our omnipotent God.

Praise – Jesus, we praise You for always answering our prayers, even when You give us an answer we don't expect. We praise You for changing water into wine, both at the wedding and in our lives. We praise You for Your power and Your glory and Your awesome signs, Lord Jesus.

Thanksgiving – Jesus, how can we ever thank You enough for Your answers to our prayers? We thank You for answering our largest prayers and our smallest prayers. We thank You for answering our prayers even when You do so in ways we don't understand. We thank You for answering our prayers even when You say “no”. And we thank You for giving us Your Mother Mary as our mother and intercessor.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You all newlyweds and those preparing for marriage. We lift up those who are lacking something they need, whether it is something major or minor. We lift up those who need to have the water of their lives changed into the wine of God's grace.

Petition – Jesus, help us, please, to be obedient to You even when we don't understand Your commands. Inspire our hearts to intercede with You for those around us who are in need. Grant us, Lord, the kind of intimate communication with You that does not always require words but is a communion of hearts.

Quotes from the Saints

“Nor is it without some mysterious allusion, that the marriage is related as taking place on the third day. The first age of the world, before the giving of the Law, was enlightened by the example of the Patriarchs; the second, under the Law, by the writings of the Prophets; the third, under grace, by the preaching of the Evangelists, as if by the light of the third day; for our Lord had now appeared in the flesh. The name of the place too where the marriage was held, Cana of Galilee, which means, desire of migrating, has a typical signification, viz. that those are most worthy of Christ, who burn with devotional desires, and have known the passage from vice to virtue, from earthly to eternal things.” - St. Bede

“But how came it into the mother's mind to expect so great a thing from her Son? for he had done no miracle as yet: as we read afterwards This beginning of miracles did Jesus. His real nature, however, was beginning now to be revealed by John, and His own conversations with His disciples; besides that His conception, and the circumstances of His birth, had from the first given rise to high expectations in her mind: as Luke tells us, His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. Why then did she never ask Him to work a miracle before? Because the time had now come that He should be made known. Before He had lived so much like an ordinary person, that she had not had the confidence to ask Him. But now that she heard that John had borne witness to Him, and that He had disciples, she asks Him confidently.” - St. John Chrysostom

“Water is poured into the waterpots; wine is drawn out into the chalices; the senses of the drawer out agree not with the knowledge of the pourer in. The pourer in thinks that water is drawn out; the drawer out thinks that wine was poured in. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servants who drew the water knew,) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom. It was not a mixture, but a creation: the simple nature of water vanished, and the flavor of wine was produced; not that a weak dilution was obtained, by means of some strong infusion, but that which was, was annihilated; and that which was not, came to be.” - St. Hilary

“Our Lord wished the power of His miracles to be seen gradually; and therefore He did not reveal what He had done Himself, nor did the ruler of the feast call upon the servants to do so; (for no credit would have been given to such testimony concerning a mere man, as our Lord was supposed to be,) but He called the bridegroom, who was best able to see what was done. Christ moreover did not only make wine, but the best wine. And (the ruler of the feast) said to him, Every man at the beginning does set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but you have kept the good wine until now. The effects of the miracles of Christ are more beautiful and better than the productions of nature. So then that the water was made wine, the servants could testify; that it was made good wine, the ruler of the feast and the bridegroom.” - St. John Chrysostom

“But see the mysteries which lie hid in that miracle of our Lord. It was necessary that all things should be fulfilled in Christ which were written of Him: those Scriptures were the water. He made the water wine when He opened to them the meaning of these things, and expounded the Scriptures; for thus that came to have a taste which before had none, and that inebriated, which did not inebriate before.” - St. Augustine

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Magnifying the Lord

In today's second reading from the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul tells us, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”

The verb “will be magnified” comes from the Greek verb megalunĊ, which means “to make great,” “to enlarge,” or, figuratively, “to praise.” The verb appears eight times in the New Testament, four of which refer to magnifying God or Christ:

Luke 1:46 - “And Mary said: 'My soul proclaim the greatness of [magnifies] the Lord.'”
Acts 10:46 - “for they could hear them [the apostles] speaking in tongues and glorifying [magnifying] God.”
Acts 19:17 - “When this became known to all the Jews and Greeks who lived in Ephesus, fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in great esteem [magnified].
Philippians 1:20 - “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”

So what does it mean to magnify God?

Some translations, like those in numbers 1 through 3 above, suggest that to magnify God means simply to praise and glorify Him or to hold Him in esteem. While this definition is certainly true, it does not capture the entire range of meaning suggested by the Greek verb megalunĊ.

Think for a minute about a magnifying glass. It has two primary characteristics. It is transparent, and it makes objects appear larger.

To truly magnify God, then, we must become transparent, and we must make Him appear larger to those who see Him through us. We must let go of ourselves, get out of the way, and allow God to work in us and through us so that the people around us will recognize Him in our words and actions. When this happens, God will seem closer and greater in our neighbors' eyes.

We will be magnifying God.

Questions for reflection:

1. How do you magnify God in your life?
2. Are you transparent enough to get out of the way and allow God to work in you and shine through you? Why or why not?
3. What is especially challenging about becoming transparent?
4. What changes might you make in your life to become more transparent?
5. Do your words and actions make God appear larger to those around you? Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The First Luminous Mystery – The Baptism of Jesus

 Scripture References

Matthew 3:12-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34

The Story in Brief

When John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing at the Jordan River, Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized. This didn't suit John at all. He had a good idea Who Jesus was (they were kinsmen after all), and he knew that Jesus should be baptizing him instead of the other way around. Jesus assured John that His baptism was part of God's plan, and John consented. When Jesus was coming up out of the water, praying, the heavens opened above Him, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus, and a voice boomed out, “This is My Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased” (see Matthew's account). After the baptism, John provided his testimony to the event, declaring that Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God and the Son of God Who would take away the sins of the world and baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Points to Ponder

1. Look up the passages about John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; and Luke 1:5-24, 1:39-45, 1:57-80, and 3:1-20. Who was John the Baptist as a person? What was he like? Why and how was he preaching? What was his message? What was his role in the divine plan of salvation history? How did people react to him?

2. John was baptizing at the Jordan River, which is mentioned about 175 in the Old Testament and about 15 times in the New Testament. The Jordan was the site of more than one miracle (the crossing of the Israelites in Joshua 3:15-17, the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5, and the floating axehead in 2 Kings 6:1-7). Why did John choose to baptize in the Jordan River?

3. John's baptism was one of repentance. It was a precursor to Christian baptism. Why was such a preparation needed?

4. Jesus came from Galilee specifically to be baptized by John. Why?

5. John humbly tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized. The Baptist understood his own role, and he knew at least a little bit about Jesus' identity. Think about John's response to Jesus' request.

6. Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Ponder this command over the next few points.

7. “Let it be” or “suffer it to be” has connotations of permitting but also of letting go. John had to let go of his thinking and accept Jesus' way of doing things.

8. “Let it be so now....” God was doing something new at that time, right then at that moment in the history of salvation. Jesus focused John's attention on the present moment, and His role just then was to share in the human condition. Baptism was a part of that sharing.

9. “It is proper” means that an act is fitting. It is the right thing to do. It suits the situation. Jesus was reassuring John that His baptism was the right way to respond to God's will.

10. “In this way to fulfill all righteousness...” The Navarre Bible commentary notes, “'Righteousness (or 'justice') has a very deep meaning in the Bible; it refers to the plan which God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, has marked out for man's salvation. Consequently, 'to fulfill all righteousness' should be understood as fulfilling God's will and designs. Thus we could translate 'fulfill all righteousness' as; 'fulfill everything laid down by God'. Jesus comes to receive John's baptism and hence recognizes it as a stage in salvation history – a stage foreseen by God as a final and immediate preparation for the messianic era....Jesus, Who has come to fulfill His Father's will, is careful to fulfill that saving plan in all its aspects.”

11. John agreed and baptized Jesus. He accepted a mystery. He couldn't see the whole situation clearly, but he let go of his ideas and followed the will of God. Meditate on John's trust and obedience.

12. Reflect on Jesus' actual baptism. Picture yourself floating down into the peaceful waters with Jesus.

13. Ponder Jesus at prayer. The baptism was a spiritual experience for Jesus, a deep, intimate point of communion with the Father.

14. The Holy Spirit descended and the Father spoke just as Jesus was coming up out of the water. Think about this immediate response from God.

15. The heavens were opened. Mark's word choice suggests that they were “torn apart.” The same Greek word is used in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 to describe the tearing of the Temple curtain when Jesus died. Ponder the significance of this.

16. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and landed on Jesus. Why did the Spirit choose the form of a dove? Meditate on the symbolism of the dove.

17. The voice from Heaven spoke: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased” (in Matthew). Mark and Luke portray the Father as speaking directly to Jesus “You are My Son, the Beloved; with You I am well pleased.” Why the difference?

18. The Greek word for “beloved,” agapetos, suggests a relationship between the Father and the Son that is pure love, more love than we can wrap our minds around. Ponder this extreme love.

19. What does the title “Beloved Son” tell us about Jesus?

20. The Father was well-pleased with Jesus, for Jesus was following the Father's will in detail. The Greek verb for “am well pleased” eudokeo can also mean “delighted.” Meditate on the truth that because of Jesus, we can be the beloved children of God with whom He is well pleased and even delighted.

21. Ponder the Baptism as an epiphany, a revelation of God, and a portrait of the Trinity.

22. Picture the baptism scene. Did others hear the voice from Heaven or see the dove? How did they react?

23. St. John does not depict the baptism, but he relates John the Baptist's later testimony about Jesus. Reflect on that testimony over the next few points.

24. John saw Jesus coming toward him and proclaimed to all who could hear that He was the Lamb of God Who would take away the sins of the world. Ponder this sacrificial language that looks ahead to the cross.

25. John said that he was baptizing because of Jesus so that He might be revealed to Israel. How did John's baptism reveal Jesus to Israel?

26. Meditate on John's humility as he proclaimed that Jesus ranked ahead of him because He was before him.

27. This about John as our role model. His eyes were always on Jesus, and he moved out of the way so that Jesus could take control.

28. John had received a prophecy from God. When he saw the Spirit descending from Heaven and remaining on Someone, he would know that this was the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Ponder this prophecy and its fulfillment. What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

29. Reflect on John's God-guided testimony that Jesus is the Son of God.

30. John interpreted the events he witnessed, bringing together history and mystery. Think deeply about his interpretation of Jesus' baptism.

31. Meditate on how God broke into the world at the baptism of Jesus. Eternity broke into time, the divine into the mundane.

32. Benedict XVI offers an interpretation of Jesus' baptism that focuses on Jesus' solidarity with men. At the baptism, Benedict says, Jesus took upon Himself all our burdens and brought them down into the Jordan. He accepted “death for the sins of humanity” in a foreshadowing the cross. Consider this interpretation of the baptism as both identification and anticipation.

33. Many saints have pointed out that at His baptism Jesus was cleansing the water for us and preparing the way for the sacrament of Christian baptism. How did Jesus do this?

Application Questions

1. How would you have responded to John the Baptist if you had lived in his time?

2. Have you ever experienced a time when you had to let go of your way of thinking and allow God to take over? What was that like? How did it change your relationship with God?

3. Do you believe that God has a plan for your life?

4. How are you at accepting mysteries?

5. How strong is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? How might that relationship grow and become stronger?

6. Do you know that you are God's beloved child?

7. Are you following God's will in your life? How do you discern His will?

8. How does God reveal Himself to you? How does He break into your world?

9. How do you testify to Jesus?

10. Can you see the mystery hidden in the history of the Scriptures?

11. What does your own baptism mean to you?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Dearest Jesus, You are the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. You died that we might live with You and the Father and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. We bow our heads in silent adoration, Lord, as we contemplate Your baptism in the Jordan and the miraculous revelation of the Holy Trinity that accompanied the event.

Praise – Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, we praise You and we love You, for You have taken our sins upon Your shoulders. You identify with us in our burdens and trials, Lord, and You raise us up with You to the glory of Heaven. You are awesome, Jesus our God!

Thanksgiving – Lord God, we thank You for revealing Yourself to us in so many ways. Jesus, we thank You for submitting to baptism to fulfill all righteousness in the plan of salvation. Father, we thank You for speaking aloud at Jesus' baptism and declaring Him to be Your Beloved Son with Whom You are well pleased. Holy Spirit, we thank You for descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove and remaining on Him as a sign that He is the One Who will baptize in Your power and love.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You all those who are preparing for baptism. We lift up parents who are getting ready to have their little ones baptized. We lift up those who are newly baptized. Please help them all to realize that baptism makes us beloved children of God.

Petition – Jesus, help us to fulfill Your will in all things, even when we cannot clearly see the path ahead of us or understand what You are doing. Help us to hear You and understand You when and where You reveal Yourself to us. Help us to truly understand that You are the One Who takes away our sins and baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. We love You, Jesus.

Quotes from the Saints

“Scripture tells of many wonders wrought at various times in this river; as that, among others, in the Psalms, Jordan was driven backwards (Psalms 114:3); before the water was driven back, now sins are turned back in its current; as Elijah divided the waters of old, so Christ the Lord wrought in the same Jordan the separation of sin.” - St. Ambrose

“The Savior willed to be baptized not that He might Himself be cleansed, but to cleanse the water for us. From the time that Himself was dipped in time water, from that time has He washed away all our sins in water. And let none wonder that water, itself corporeal substance, is said to be effectual to the purification of the soul; it is so effectual, reaching to and searching out the hidden recesses of the conscience. Subtle and penetrating in its own nature, made yet more so by Christ's blessing, it touches the hidden springs of life, the secret places of the soul, by virtue of its all-pervading dew. The course of blessing is even yet more penetrating than the flow of waters. Thus the blessing which like a spiritual river flows on from the Savior's baptism, has filled the basins of all pools, and the courses of all fountains.” - St. Augustine

“Beautifully said is that now, to show that as Christ was baptized with water by John, so John must be baptized by Christ with the Spirit. Or, suffer now that I who have taken the form of a servant should fulfill all that low estate; otherwise know that in the day of judgment you must be baptized with my baptism. Or, the Lord says, 'Suffer this now; I have also another baptism wherewithal I must be baptized; you baptize Me with water, that I may baptize you for Me with my own blood.'” - St. Jerome

“Christ after He had been once born among men, is born a second time in the sacraments, that as we adore Him then born of a pure mother, so we may now receive Him immersed in pure water. His mother brought forth her Son, and is yet virgin; the wave washed Christ, and is holy. Lastly, that Holy Spirit which was present to Him in the womb, now shone round Him in the water, He who then made Mary pure, now sanctifies the waters.” - St. Augustine

“He witnesses that He is His Son not in name merely, but in very kindred. Sons of God are we many of us; but not as He is a Son, a proper and true Son, in verity, not in estimation, by birth, not adoption.” - St. Hilary

“These words Mark and Luke give in the same way; in the words of the voice that came from Heaven, their expression varies though the sense is the same. For both the words as Matthew gives them, This is my beloved son, and as the other two, You are my beloved Son, express the same sense in the speaker; (and the heavenly voice, no doubt, uttered one of these,) but One shows an intention of addressing the testimony thus born to the Son to those who stood by; the other of addressing it to Himself, as if speaking to Christ he had said, This is my Son. Not that Christ was taught what He knew before, but they who stood by heard it, for whose sake the voice came. Again, when one says, in whom I am well-pleased; another, in you it has pleased me, if you ask which of these was actually pronounced by that voice; take which you will, only remembering that those who have not related the same words as were spoken have related the same sense. That God is well-pleased with His Son is signified in the first; that the Father is by the Son pleased with men is conveyed in the second form, in you it has well-pleased me. Or you may understand this to have been the one meaning of all the Evangelists, In you have I put My good pleasure, i.e. to fulfill all My purpose.” - St. Augustine

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Little Something Extra...Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Study in Contrasts

Today's readings offer us a study in contrasts. They show us two ways in which we might live our lives and respond to those around us. They also invite us to choose the way God lays out for us, the way of mercy, forgiveness, and love.

The first reading draws a portrait of a sinner. Such a person holds on tightly to wrath and anger. He refuses mercy to his neighbor and lives a life of hatred and vengeance. He does not have access to the forgiveness of God because his heart is not open enough to receive it. In contrast, the person who forgives his neighbor's wrongs, who freely extends mercy, who keeps the proper perspective on life and remembers that it will come to an end, who recalls God's commandments and covenant, that person will receive God's forgiveness and healing.

Which person are you?

The second reading reminds us that some people try to live only for themselves, but this is not the way of Christians. We live for the Lord, and we die for the Lord. In life and in death, we belong to Christ.

Do you live for the Lord, or do you live for yourself?

The Gospel presents Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant. The king is extremely merciful to his servant. The servant is deeply in debt to his master and under the threat of being sold, along with his family and property, to pay back the huge amount he owes. He falls before the king and begs him to have patience. The king is moved by his plea. With great compassion, he forgives the servant his entire debt. He wipes it away. It is gone forever. The servant is a free man who owes nothing. The king has given him far more than he asked for, far more than he had ever hoped to receive.

One would expect the servant to do the same. He does not. Just after leaving the king, he meets a fellow servant who owes him a small amount of money. He grabs the man and starts to choke him, demanding that he repay his debt immediately. His fellow servant begs him to have patience. He refuses and sends his fellow servant to prison.

Do you behave more like the king or the servant?

We know what happens to the servant. The king hears of his cruelty, rebukes him sharply, and hands him over to the torturers until he pays back his entire debt.

Jesus ends with a remark that should make all of us stop and think: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your heart.”

Mercy or judgment? Life or death?

A study in contrasts...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fifth Joyful Mystery – The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Scripture References

Luke 2:41-52

The Story in Brief

Every year, the Holy Family traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, the family went as usual, but this time, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem when the rest of the company started for home. His parents, thinking He was with relatives or friends, didn't realize He was missing until they had journeyed for a day. Then they hurried back to look for their Son. After three days, they found Him in the Temple conversing with the teachers. Everyone was amazed at Jesus' answers and understanding. His mother asked Him why He had treated His parents so; they had been searching for Him with great anxiety. Jesus answered, “Why were you searching for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?” But He returned to Nazareth with His parents and was obedient to them.

Points to Ponder

1. Once again, the Holy Family made a point of following the Jewish Law. They even went beyond the letter of the Law because the whole family traveled to Jerusalem to observe the feast of Passover. Only adult males were required to go. What does this tell us about the Holy Family?

2. Reflect on the symbolism of Passover and how it was transformed by Jesus, Who is the new Lamb and the new Passover sacrifice.

3. Think about how the Jerusalem Temple was the center of Jewish worship. Why was the Temple so important to the Jewish people, including the Holy Family?

4. This mystery stresses the theme of proper worship. God has ordained specific ways for people to worship Him. These are not optional, and they are meant for humankind's well-being. For the Jewish people, God required certain feasts and sacrifices as well as travel to Jerusalem at various times during the year. God requires Catholic Christians to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Ponder these truths.

5. In Jewish Law, boys reach adulthood at age twelve, so the twelve-year-old Jesus was a man able to take responsibility for His own actions. How did Jesus' age and status affect His actions?

7. Reflect on Mary and Joseph's fear. Any parent who loses a child, even for a little while, is terrified, but Mary and Joseph's anxiety was probably much greater because they knew Who their Child was – the Messiah.

8. Why did Jesus stay behind? Was He ready to begin His mission immediately? Was He acting prophetically? Was His motivation something else entirely or a combination of many things?

9. Ponder what it means to lose Jesus and search for Him.

10. Reflect on Mary and Joseph's search for Jesus. It was an orderly search. They checked with friends and relatives first. Then they went back to Jerusalem and finally to the Temple. Is there a metaphor here for people's journey to God?

11. Jesus was missing three days. Reflect on the significance of this.

12. In the Temple, Jesus was carrying on a dialogue with the teachers. He was listening and asking questions and answering their questions. Meditate on this dialogue. What was Jesus teaching? Why doesn't the Gospel include it word for word?

13. Think about how prayer and study ought to be a dialogue with God.

14. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His answers and understanding. Imagine their reactions to the teaching of this twelve-year-old Boy.

15. Why were Mary and Joseph astonished by Jesus' speech? He was their Son, so they knew Him well, and they must have remembered all that had happened at His birth. Why were they surprised?

16. Consider Mary's gentle rebuke. She was still a mother. She was a bit hurt and had been very anxious.

17. Think about Jesus' answer to Mary. How was it a gentle reminder of Who He was and what He had come to do?

18. Jesus said that He had to be in His Father's house. In an alternate translation, Jesus said that He had to be about His Father's business. What did Jesus mean? How do these two translations bring out different aspects of Jesus' words?

19. Why didn't Jesus' parents understand Him?

20. Jesus left Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph, went back to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. God-made-Man submitted with great humility to His human parents. Ponder this.

21. Reflect on how Mary treasured all these things in her heart. She pondered the events, knowing that God was active in her life and speaking to her through each and every incident. She “mined” meaning from everything that happened and searched untiringly for God's message.

22. Ponder how Jesus grew. He increased in wisdom and age. He was fully Man as well as fully God. He had a human soul and a human will as well as a human body. In His divine nature, He did not change, but in His human nature, He did. Think carefully about this great mystery of God made Man.

Application Questions

1. How do you worship the Lord? Do you understand the importance of formal, ritualized worship? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days? Are you focused or distracted at Mass? How might you pray better and be more attentive at Mass?

2. Have you ever experienced the fear of losing a child, even for a short time? How did you respond?

3. Have you ever lost Jesus? What does it feel like to lose Him?

4. How do you search for Jesus? What does it feel like to find Him?

5. How does Jesus carry on a dialogue with You? Is your prayer and study a dialogue with God?

6. How do you listen to God?

7. How does He question You?

8. What kinds of questions do you ask God? How does He answer?

9. Are you amazed by Jesus? What amazes you the most?

10. How are you going about your Father's business?

11. Do you always understand what Jesus tells you? What do you do when you don't understand?

12. Do you look for deeper meanings in the events of your life? Do you see how God is working through them? Do you treasure even small things because God is directing them and speaking to you through them? Can you think of some events in your life that turned out to be much more meaningful than you realized at first?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Dearest Jesus, we kneel before You in silent adoration, blessing You for Your wisdom and love. We pour out our hearts to You in worship, Jesus, our God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Praise – Jesus, You are amazing! And we are amazed by Your teaching, by Your wisdom, and by the answers You give us when we pray to You. Your words are simple yet sublime, and we praise You for each and every one of them. May they sink deeply into our hearts and minds, Lord Jesus.

Thanksgiving – Dearest Jesus, we thank You for all the opportunities You give us for prayer and study. We thank You for dialoguing with us. We thank You for giving us an example of humility and obedience. We thank You for showing us, Lord, that if we seek You, we will always find You, and when we do find You, we will be with You in Your Father's house and about Your Father's business.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You all children who are separated from their parents and loved ones. Please bring them home safely. We lift up to You all parents who are desperately seeking missing children. Please give them strength, courage, and perseverance, and please comfort them in their time of anxiety and sorrow.

Petition – Jesus, help us to search for You and always find You. Help us to pray and worship in the ways You ordain for us, in the ways that are pleasing to You. Help us to ponder all Your words and actions in our hearts, to treasure them and make them part of our very being. Help us to see the deep meanings in the events of our lives.

Quotes from the Saints

“Now that the Lord came up every year to Jerusalem at the Passover, betokens His humility as a man, for it is, man's duty to meet together to offer sacrifices to God, and conciliate Him with prayers. Accordingly the Lord as man, did among men what God by angels commended c men to do. Hence it is said, According to the custom of the feast day. Let us follow then the journey of His mortal life, if we delight to behold the glory of His divine nature.” - Theophyl

“He is not found as soon as sought for, for Jesus was not among His kinsfolk and relations, among those who are joined to Him in the flesh, nor in the company of the multitude can He be found. Learn where those who seek Him find Him, not every where, but in the temple. And do you then seek Jesus in the temple of God. Seek Him in the Church, and seek Him among the masters who are in the temple. For if you wilt so seek Him, you shall find Him. They found Him not among His kinsfolk, for human relations could not comprehend the Son of God; not among His acquaintance, for He passes far beyond all human knowledge and understanding. Where then do they find Him? In the temple! If at any time you seek the Son of God, seek Him first in the temple, thither go up, and verily shall you find Christ, the Word, and the Wisdom, (i.e. the Son of God.)” - Origen

“After three days He is found in the temple, that it might be for a sign, that after three days of victorious suffering, He who was believed to be dead should rise again anti manifest Himself to our faith, seated in heaven with divine glory.” - St. Ambrose

“Because moreover He was the Son of God, He is found in the midst of the doctors, enlightening and instructing them. But because He was a little child, He is found among them not teaching but asking questions, as it is said, Sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And this He did as a duty of reverence, that He might set us an example of the proper behavior of children, though they be wise and learned, rather to hear their masters than teach them, and not to vaunt themselves with empty boasting. But He asked not that He might learn, but that asking He might instruct.” - Origen

“To show that He was a man, He humbly listened to the masters; but to prove that He was God, He divinely answered those who spoke.” - Theophyl

“But from His very first years being obedient to His parents, He endured all bodily labors, humbly and reverently. For since His parents were honest and just, yet at the same time poor, and ill supplied with the necessaries of life, (as the stable which administered to the holy birth bears witness,) it is plain that they continually underwent bodily fatigue in providing for their daily wants. But Jesus being obedient to them, as the Scriptures testify, even in sustaining labors, submitted Himself to a complete subjection.” - St. Basil

“The Virgin, whether she understood or whether she could not yet understand, equally laid up all things in her heart for reflection and diligent examination. Hence it follows, And, his mother laid up all these things, etc. Mark the wisest of mothers, Mary the mother of true wisdom, becomes the scholar or disciple of the Child. For she yielded to Him not as to a boy, nor as to a man, but as unto God. Further, she pondered upon both His divine words and works, so that nothing that was said or done by Him was lost upon her, but as the Word itself was before in her womb, so now she conceived the ways and words of the same, and in a manner nursed them in her heart. And while indeed she thought upon one thing at the time, another she wanted to be more clearly revealed to her; and this was her constant rule and law through her whole life.” - Theophyl

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rosary Meditations: The Fourth Joyful Mystery – The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Scripture References

Luke 2:22-38; Leviticus 12:2-8

The Story in Brief

Jewish law required new mothers to be ritually purified by offering a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary, always obedient and humble, went up to Jerusalem forty days after the birth of her Son to perform the ritual. Mary and Joseph also made the trip to present their firstborn Son to God, for all firstborn males were designated as holy to the Lord and had to be “redeemed” or “ransomed” through a ritual sacrifice. When the Holy Family arrived at the Temple, they found a man named Simeon waiting for them. Simeon was a devout and righteousness man who was waiting and watching for the Messiah. God had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon arrived at the Temple as Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus in. Simeon reached out for Jesus, took Him into his arms, and praised God by proclaiming a prophetic word about the infant Messiah. He also warned Mary that she would experience sorrow as the Mother of the Savior. A sword would piece her soul. As Simeon finished speaking, an old woman named Anna approached the group. Anna had always remained in the Temple, fasting and praying. Now she praised God and immediately began to spread the word about the coming of the Messiah to all who were open to her message.

Points to Ponder

1. Mary and Joseph obeyed the Law when, technically, they would not have been required to do so. Mary was already pure, for Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus was already completely and totally dedicated to the Father. Why, then, did they go up to Jerusalem to perform the rituals?

2. Consider the irony of the immaculate Mary submitting to ritual purification.

3. It is significant that Luke doesn't specifically tell us that Jesus was ritually ransomed back as other firstborn sons were. Jesus was totally the Father's Son and, as such, was totally dedicated to God. Meditate on this truth.

4. Reflect on the wonder that Jesus, the Son of God, took on our humanity, entered into our condition, and identifies completely with us.

5. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in order to present Him to the Lord. God was being presented to God. Ponder this.

6. Think about the uniqueness of Simeon. The Holy Spirit rested on him and guided him even before the Redemption. He was in an intimate relationship with God.

7. Meditate on what it means to be righteous (i.e., right with God and conforming to God's will).

8. Think about what it means to be devout (i.e, correctly performing what is right in religion, behaving morally, maintaining a healthy fear of the Lord, and fulfilling the duties of piety and humanity).

9. Simeon trusted in God's promise that a Messiah would come to comfort and restore Israel. The word “consolation” also implies a calling to God's side, a summons, and an invitation. Ponder the depths of the “consolation of Israel.”

10. Simeon had received the revelation that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He was ready; he was watching; he was waiting. He trusted, and he believed. Reflect on this special grace and on Simeon's response.

11. Consider Simeon's prompt obedience.

12. Simeon held God in his arms. Think about that.

13. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah and approached the Holy Family. He was seeking, open, willing, and attentive. Imagine Simeon's response to seeing Jesus for the first time.

14. Simeon prophesied. He said things that he could only have known through the power of the Holy Spirit. Carefully consider Simeon's words.

15. Meditate on the descriptive titles for Jesus (i.e, salvation, light, glory, etc.)

16. Jesus came to His Temple. God came into His house in an entirely new way. Ponder this.

17. Simeon emphasized that God was the One Who had prepared salvation for all people, including the Gentiles. Meditate on God's wonderful work.

18. Why were Mary and Joseph amazed? They already knew Who their Child was, but perhaps hearing it from the mouth of another reminded them of God's awesome plan.

19. Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph. A very holy man blessed two very holy people. That's a whole load of blessing! Think about how we can bless the people in our lives even if we aren't nearly as holy as Simeon.

20. Simeon made a prediction to Mary. Jesus was destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. He was a sign that would be opposed. Mary's heart would be pierced by a sword. Ponder how joy is often tinged with sorrow.

21. Simeon said that the inner thoughts of many would be revealed. The truth would be known. The heart would become prominent. Interior relationship with God would go hand in hand with exterior religious practice. The external would spring from the internal. Reflect on these ideas.

22. Picture Anna. She had dedicated her life to God in a very real way by remaining always in the Temple and continuously worshiping through fasting and prayer.

23. Notice Anna's worship. It consisted of both fasting and prayer. Think carefully about the relationship between those two, self-denial and self-offering, letting go and letting God, giving up self to enter into a relationship with God.

24. Anna fasted and prayed night and day. Her focus was constantly on God. Reflect on Anna's dedication.

25. Anna praised God and then became an evangelist. Ponder how she spread the word about the Child to others who, like Simeon and Anna, were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

26. Reflect on Anna as our role model in her dedication, her praise, her evangelism, and her excitement.

Application Questions

1. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in your life?

2. How would you describe your relationship with God?

3. Are you righteous and devout in the sense described above? How might you become more so? Do you believe that God will help you as you seek Him?

4. Are you watching and waiting for the Lord?

5. How is the Spirit guiding you? How are you responding?

6. Are you seeking God? Are you open and willing and attentive to Him?

7. Are you amazed by Jesus? What especially amazes you?

8. How often and in what ways do you bless those around you?

9. How have joys been tinged with sorrow in your life? What have you learned from those experiences?

10. Is your religious experience more internal or more external? If you answered “external,” how might you grow stronger in your interior relationship with God?

11. Have you ever felt like a sword has pierced you all the way to your soul? How did that experience affect your relationship with God?

12. Do you combine fasting and prayer? How might you fast more?

13. Have you dedicated your life to God? How might you better live out that dedication?

14. How do you spread the word about God?

15. Do you get excited about God? Why or why not?

16. What lessons can you learn from Simeon and Anna?

Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer

Blessing and adoration – Lord, You have come to Your Temple in a way no one expected. You came as a tiny, helpless baby. We adore You, little Jesus, and we bless You. We bow our heads in silent prayer as we contemplate You in Simeon's arms.

Praise – Jesus, You are amazing. You are the salvation of the world. You are the light for revelation to the Gentiles. You are the glory of Israel. You are the one destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. You are the Sign that would be opposed. You are the One Who causes the inner thoughts of many to be revealed. We praise You, Lord Jesus, for Who You are.

Thanksgiving – O Jesus, how can we ever thank You enough for all You have done for us? We thank You for coming among us as a human being, one like us in all things but sin. We thank You for coming to save us. We thank You for keeping Your promises in such marvelous ways. We thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. We thank You for saints like Simeon and Anna who go before us in holiness to show us the way to You.

Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You young families. We lift up mothers who are experiencing sorrow in some way on account of their children. We lift up the elderly, Lord. We lift up those who have dedicated themselves completely to You as priests and religious men and women.

Petition – Jesus, please guide us through Your Holy Spirit, and please open our hearts to You that we may follow. Help us to increase and strengthen our prayers and fasts and our attention and devotion. Inspire us, Lord, to dedicate our entire life to You and to spread Your word to those around us.

Quotes from the Saints

“But let us see what these offerings mean. The turtle dove is the most vocal of birds, and the pigeon the gentlest. And such was the Savior made unto us; He was endowed with perfect meekness, and like the turtle dove entranced the world, filling His garden with His own melodies. There was killed then either a turtle dove or a pigeon, that by a figure He might be shown forth to us as about to suffer in the flesh for the life of the world.” - St. Cyril

“Not only did Angels and Prophets, the shepherds and his parents, bear witness to the birth of the Lord, but the old men and the righteous. As it is said, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and he was a just man, and one who feared God. For scarcely is righteousness preserved without fear, I mean not that fear which dreads the loss of worldly goods, (which perfect love casts out,) but that holy fear of the Lord which abides for ever, by which the righteous man, the more ardent his love to God, is so much the more careful not to offend Him.” - St. Ambrose

“Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.” - St. Gregory the Great

“To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God's temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.” - Theophyl

“If we marvel to hear that a woman was healed by touching the hem of a garment, what must we think of Simeon, who received an Infant in his arms, and rejoiced seeing that the little one he carried was He who had come to let loose the captive! Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of the body with the hope of future life, but He whom he held in his arms. Therefore it is said, And he blessed God, saying, Lord, now let you your servant depart.” - Origen

“Though these things are said of the Son, yet they have reference also to His mother, who takes each thing to herself, whether it be of danger or glory. He announces to her not only her prosperity, but her sorrows; for it follows, And a sword shall pierce through your own heart.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa