Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent: A Season of Preparation

Christ has come. Christ is coming now. Christ will come again. During Advent we meditate in a special way on these three statements. We prepare our hearts to remember Christ's first coming when we celebrate His birth on Christmas Day. We prepare our hearts to receive Christ right now when He comes to us in the Eucharist and in the thousands of other ways He comes to us every day. We prepare our hearts for Christ's coming at the end of our lives when we will meet Him face to face and for His coming in glory at the end of time when He will judge the whole world and usher in a new Heaven and a new earth.

Our Advent preparations help our hearts and minds grasp the beauty, the reality, and the mystery of Christ's coming, so we should plan them and perform them with care and reverence. Below are a few suggestions to make this Advent spiritually meaningful.

1. Read the Bible every single day. The daily Mass readings are available online at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, and they are ideal for Advent reflection. If possible, also choose one of the Gospels and read it slowly over the next few weeks.

2. Pray the Bible. Don't just read the Bible; interact with God through His Word. Read slowly, several times as necessary, to really understand each passage. Meditate on the words. Listen to them with your heart, and think about what they reveal about God, His actions in the world, and His love for His people. Pray back to God with blessing and adoration, praise, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition. Then be still and listen to God's voice as He speaks from the depths of your soul. 

3. Find and use a good set of Advent meditations. Many churches provide Advent booklets for parishioners to take home, but you may prefer one of the many online resources available. Try those at EWTN or the email reflections provided by Fr. Robert Barron.

4. Go to Mass every Sunday and more often if possible. Don't just be present in body; be present in mind, heart, and soul. Pay attention to this most Holy Sacrifice. Greet Jesus warmly when He becomes present on the altar and especially when He enters into you in Holy Communion. Really pray the Mass. 

5. Increase your devotion to the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us right now in the Eucharist. Focus on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Read about, study, and meditate on this great mystery. Visit the Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association website for theological meditations, personal testimonies, and information about Eucharistic miracles.

6. Examine your prayer life and make changes as necessary. Pray at least ten minutes a day if you aren't already. Discipline your mind to limit wandering and lack of attention. Add something new to freshen up your prayer routine (begin praying the Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet every day, start a prayer journal, or try the Liturgy of the Hours).

7. Receive the sacrament of Confession. Even if you haven't committed any mortal sins, the sacrament immerses you in God's forgiveness and grace and gives you a fresh start.

8. Quiet your heart as much as possible and remain in the presence of God. Try not to get too distracted by the busyness and materialism of the world, especially when you are constantly bombarded by advertisements and advice about creating the perfect Christmas. Give your Advent and your Christmas to God. Prepare with Him, in Him, and for Him. Only then will you discover the true meaning of the season: Christ has come. Christ is coming now. Christ will come again.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Everyday Prayers – Act of Faith

The Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love help us express our commitment to and acceptance of these three theological virtues that are gifts from God and lights for our hearts, minds, and wills.

In this post, we will take a close look at the Act of Faith:

O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that Your Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths the Holy Catholic Church teaches because You have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

1. O my God – With these three little words, we are claiming God as our own. We are saying that we have a personal relationship with Him. We are not, of course, asserting that we can control God or that we somehow possess Him. Quite the opposite is true. When we claim God, we submit to His will and His loving control of our lives, and we allow Him to possess us.

2. I firmly believe – The Catechism says that faith “is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals Himself” (#166). Faith is both “a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him” (#153) and “an authentically human act” (#154). When we say that we believe, we are not merely assenting to a set of intellectual truths, although that is certainly part of the equation. We are also accepting the Person Who has revealed those truths. The Catechism sums this up nicely in #176: “Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals Himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through His deeds and words.”

3. You are one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – God is both Unity and Trinity. He has one divine nature but three distinct Persons. As Father William Most explains, “The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet we do not speak of three Gods, but only one God. They have the same nature, substance, and being.” The Blessed Trinity is profound mystery that humans could never have discovered on their own. God Himself has revealed it, and we accept it in faith and seek to understand it as much as we can with our limited human minds.

4. Your Divine Son became man – The second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Divine Son, became man. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. He took on human flesh, but He did not leave behind His divinity. He is truly both God and man.

5. and died for our sins – Jesus died on the cross to save us. With the greatest love, He sacrificed Himself for us. The Catechism explains, “This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the Father Himself, for the Father handed His Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with Himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered His life to His Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience” (#614). Sin separated us from God. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered the penalty for sin, which is death, so that we may be reunited with God both on earth (for He dwells within our souls) and in Heaven (where we will see Him face to face for all eternity).

6. He will come to judge the living and the dead – Jesus promised that He will return at the end of time and proclaim a final judgment on the whole world. Everything that is hidden will be revealed. The current Heaven and earth will pass away and be replaced by a new Heaven and a new earth. We will receive resurrected bodies that will be like Jesus' resurrected body. This is a great mystery, but we believe that it will happen, for Jesus Himself has said so.

7. I believe these and all the truths the Holy Catholic Church teaches – The Catholic Church possesses and teaches the fullness of truth. The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and her soul is the Holy Spirit. She is also the Bride of Christ, and she faithfully listens to, guards, and explains the fullness of His Divine Revelation in both Scripture and Tradition.

8. You have revealed them – Divine Revelation comes from God. That's why it can never be changed. No human being has the right to add anything to or take anything away from God's Word. Truth is objective and absolute.

9. Who can neither deceive nor be deceived – God is omniscient. He knows all. What's more, He is truth itself. He cannot lie. Therefore His Divine Revelation is true. We may not always grasp the depths of its meaning. It may confront us with mysteries beyond our ability to understand. But it is truth because God is truth.

10. Amen – With this little word, we give our firm assent to everything we have just prayed. We once again affirm our faith in God and in everything He reveals.

O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I believe that Your Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths the Holy Catholic Church teaches because You have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Points to Ponder from the Readings for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

First Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12

1. The prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of a new Temple. The previous one had been destroyed in 587 when the Jews were carried off into exile in Babylon. This new Temple will be a source of living, flowing, life-giving water to the world.

2. This water flowing from the Temple will be so fresh and wonderful that it would actually freshen the saltwater of the sea. In other words, it is miraculous water.

3. The water flows in a river that is teaming with life both within and on its shores. The natural world will flourish with the touch of this water, and trees will grow up beside the river's banks and provide the best of food and medicine.

4. What is the miraculous water that flows from the new Temple? Ezekiel doesn't say. Perhaps he doesn't fully know. The answer would only be revealed when the Messiah hung on the cross and a stream of blood and water flowed from His side. 

Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9

1. The psalmist assures us that “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” God is with us. We need not fear even the strongest earthquake. We are in His care.

2. The psalm also mentions a running stream that gladdens God's city.

3. God dwells in this city, and He will not forsake it. In fact, He will protect and aid His dwelling place that it may not be disturbed.

4. Where does God dwell today? What is the city gladdened by the running stream and protected by God? The psalmist could not have said, but we recognize the Church.

1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17

1. The foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ. Its building blocks are its members.

2. Paul laid the foundation of the Church at Corinth. He was the one who preached Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Others, he says, will build upon that foundation, continuing to preach the Gospel and bring new members to the Church, but they must be careful how they build, for there is only one foundation and therefore one building. There must be no schism.

3. Paul also informs each of his readers that he or she is a temple of God. When we are in a state of grace, God dwells within our souls. His Holy Spirit is active in us, and as temples of God, we are holy and set aside for God's use and service.

John 2:13-22

1. Jesus is surprisingly violent in this reading. He is tired of the abuses occurring in His Father's house, the Jerusalem Temple, and He is going to put a stop to them. He turns over tables, spills coins, and even drives humans, sheep, and oxen out of the Temple with a whip of cords. This might seem out of character for Jesus, but His zeal comes from the fact that the holy courts of the Temple are being profaned by these actions. The sellers and money-changers are not in the Temple to pray and worship but to make a profit. This is unacceptable to Jesus.

2. The Jews are shocked by Jesus' behavior, and they ask for a sign that He has the authority to act this way. His response shocks them even more: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” They question Him, not understanding or believing His words.

3. Jesus, of course, is not speaking about the physical Temple in which He is standing. He is talking about His own body, which the Jews will indeed destroy and which will be raised up in the Resurrection.

4. The disciples do not understand Jesus cryptic response any more than the Jews do. Only after the Resurrection will they realize what He means. He is the new Temple from Whom living water will flow out to the whole world. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lord Jesus, Make Me a Saint

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; fill me with Your indwelling presence that I may always be in a state of grace.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; make me holy and set me aside for Your service.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; may I belong wholly to You.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; pour Your love into me that I may pour it out upon You and upon every person I meet.

Lord Jesus, make me saint; increase my faith that I may never doubt You and the truths that You have revealed.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; fill me with hope so that I may look ahead to an eternity with You.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; help me practice every virtue and spurn every vice.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; open my mind that I may understand Your teaching and strengthen my will that I may follow it.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; make me always obedient to Your commands.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; may I always put You first, others second, and myself last in a spirit of true service.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; fill me with Your joy and light that I may radiate that joy and light to all people.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; give me a prayerful heart that I may live in an intimate relationship with You and intercede for my fellow human beings.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; use me as Your little instrument to spread Your grace and love throughout the world.

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; may people see You when they look at me. 

Lord Jesus, make me a saint; when my last day on earth is done, take me to Heaven to live with You forever.