Posts Tagged ‘SFO’

The Three Men of the Cross

July 22, 2017

Three Men of Calvary… We Are All Three

The crucifixion as an event was filled with some points of interest. To get a good understanding of what occurred we need a sense of what was going on in the area at the time.

Roman rule was fairly new to them, and during that time robbery, theft, and murder were somewhat commonplace and a pretty big issue that the Romans were trying to get under control. The Roman way of dealing with that, was execution by crucifixion. It was cruel, it was not quick, and it allowed, for an extended period of time, the opportunity for others to watch them die and consider that possibly they would not like to meet the same end, and amend any ideas they might have had of breaking the laws.

Another curiosity, is that, generally speaking, the Roman method of execution was, at least in practice, to execute people two at a time, unless….. they happened upon a group of people they caught in the act of the crimes, in which case all the people who were responsible were crucified at the same time. If this were to happen, AND the person who was the leader of the group, or band , or rebellion could be identified, that person was executed in the middle of the grouping of people so that they would not be missed and would be identified as such.

From this, then, we can know that the crucifixion of Christ was an oddity. Consider what happened in the Garden when Jesus was taken into custody. ” And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? ” ( Luke 22:52) . So here Jesus is treated as such.

In addition, it is noteworthy that He is crucified in the middle of the three.. This would tend to signify that He was the leader of the group.. He was in charge… Then, there is the other two men. So, history records that the other two actually were robbers Since they were crucified with Jesus it appears that Jesus’ crucifixion was an addition… or an after thought of the day. In perspective, it was the other two men had been in jail for a while awaiting their execution, and Jesus’ trial, and judgment occurred on the same day as the others, after all the delays and passing Him back and forth etc. Finally , with Roman efficiency, they decided that since they already had an execution scheduled, why not just get this over with, and crucify Jesus at the same time. It would make efficient work of the issue and put it to a final resolution and make the locals happy all at the same time.

I went all through this explanation because it helps to gain an objective non-theological view of the occurrence in order to understand, as one friar used to quip.. ” The story behind the story ” .

Now on to the other two men. The two other men who were crucified with Christ were , Dismas and Gustus. Dismas was the robber who was crucified on Jesus right side, and Gustus on his left side.

In the coming few weeks, I would like to beg your indulgence , as we will examine these men, and their circumstances. Stay with me.. I hope you enjoy our journey together !

May God give you the gift of His peace… .

See What Love The Father Has For Us !

July 15, 2017

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us, in letting us be called children of God !
Tet that is what we are. The reason the world does not recognize us, is that it never recognized the Son.
Dearly Beloved, we are God’s Children now; what we shall be after, has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope based on Him keeps himself pure, as He is pure. ” ( 1 John 3:1-3 )

It is easy for us in our worldly presence, trying to live a spiritual life, to get bogged down, with not only the imperfections of others, but even our own. We are frustrated by the way we get treated by others, or how others are treated , even by people we know and love.

Our employers, our boss, our friends, our family, other brothers and sisters, heck, we don’t even really treat ourselves the way we should. Possibly, it is we who find ourselves in the situation that we have failed to treat others the we should, either by circumstance, or emotion, our own personal failings.

It would be very easy for us to fall into the pit of despair or depression because of the way the world can treat us. We do, however, have reason for our joy !

Look at John… all those years ago… talking to brothers and sisters who are fearful, disheartened, maybe a bit disillusioned. He is reminding them of the great gift they have received. Just as the 12 were also fearful, disheartened, and in some cases disillusioned at the setbacks in their own walks.

John reminds us that the world will not recognize us as its brothers and sisters, as children of God, because it did not recognize God in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. It is no wonder we are still fighting today, to try to get people to recognize God in our brothers and sisters. Children who were born with the imprint of the Most High !

How can we expect for the broken world, who did not recognize God, who was before them, to see God in the poor, the suffering, the aged, and those who are marginalized, even in our own brothers and sisters.

Possibly, it is because the world is not unlike Herod , who feared the Son of God when He came to earth, because the world has tried to claim for itself, something that does not belong to it, and in fear of losing the things that is has tried to take from God, or from the children of God, that it puts in place the machinery of sin to try to keep glory for itself.

At the same time, Brothers and Sisters, take heart ! For even if the world does not recognize us for who and what we are, we are in good company. It is up to us to continue to carry on the fight for good and right, for faith and hope, and mostly for peace, and love. It is important for us never to give in to despair, and sin. These are tools that Satan uses to try to separate us from God.

John reminds us that at the end of this earthly battle, we have something even greater that awaits us.
We have all had moments when the Spirit inflames us, and our hearts are afire with the love of God and everything in the world seems right, peaceful, and loving. So much more, then, will it be for us when we get to see God.

This is when we will get to see God face to face, Our loving Father. We will be the prodigal children, returning home, to the Father, who will rejoice with us.

The last part of the reading, John sticks in a final reminder..

” Everyone who has this hope, based on Him, keeps himself pure… as He is pure.”

This reminder is reminiscent of Jesus’ reminder to the disciples to “Be Holy even as your Father is Holy” (Matthew 5:48 , 1 Peter 1:16 )

This is to say that even in this daily world of suffering and strife, we are to carry on in doing what the Lord showed us while He was here on earth, and that is , to Love.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Pass the Salt …. Please!

July 8, 2017

In the United States, Independence Day, which is a national holiday, fell on a Tuesday. As it turns out, I also received a Jury Summons for Monday. Now, for those who are not from the United States, or who might not be familiar, I will explain at least on a surface level, the Jury Summons.

In the United States, if you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial by a group of citizens who are called to sit through the trial proceedings, and are given some instructions on the law that has been supposedly broken, and then that group of people decide the guilt or innocence of the person or group that is on trial.

It is part of our duty as citizens, when called upon to serve. We receive a letter from the court (Summons) to show up on a day and time, to see if we will be selected to serve as a person ( juror) in the group that determines the guilt or innocence during the trial.

Needless to say, it is something you are required to do as a citizen, unless there is some compelling reason why you can not serve. Among some, there are jokes about how to get out of doing this type of service. In some cases it is blatantly obvious who is trying to get out of the service, but did not want to get in trouble for not showing up. I see this service as part of a moral obligation to not only
help provide morally correct justice for the parties involved, but also, because this is part of our duty,” to render unto Caesar, that which belongs to Caesar”.

I have received five such calls to service. In that time, I have never been selected to sit in on a trial. By and large, the day ends up with me being sent home after spending a rather long day sitting in a room with approximately 100 other citizens from all walks of life.

The courthouse where I reported for duty is, interestingly not far from a church that is there to serve the downtown area. Since I was let go a bit early, I thought to myself, this is a perfect opportunity to go to Mass that would be starting shortly..

I have worked near the downtown area previously and enjoyed the opportunity to attend a noontime Holy Mass. So I hastened to the church where I arrived shortly before the 2nd Reading. I have to confess that I honestly do not remember what the second reading or the Gospel was (hanging my head).

I can tell you something that stuck with me about the Homily. First, I have to tell you though, the Holy Mass was being con-celebrated by two Franciscan friars, and admittedly it did my heart good to see friars since I do not get that opportunity often as of late.

Anyway, the thing that stuck in my head was a story that the homilist was telling about his days as a novice, and how it was that one of the Novice Masters was a former Trappist Monk. One day while they were sitting there at a meal, the Novice Master explained that in his former life, they were not to speak even at meals, and so they had to sign for the salt if that was what they wanted.. As time went on , and they got to know the individual monk, they just knew that is was needed and it would be passed to them.

This calls to mind 2 different passages. The first, being Genesis 4: 9 and the second is Luke 11:5 .
In Genesis 4:9 is the telling of the story and Cain and Able, ”
Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Here we are reminded , in fact, that we are held to account for what happens to our brothers and sisters in this life. Much like the Trappist monk, we as Franciscans who live and work in the world , and even for those who are not Franciscans, we are called to strive to learn and understand the needs of our brothers and sisters, who are not in the same place as we are, but who have the same basic needs that we do, and to work to provide the basic needs of our brothers and sisters. Even so, that they do not have to ask us. We as we progress in faith, will, like the monks, begin to understand and through insight, be able to know what those are, and to work towards being the conduit of the graces that we have received.

The second reading is from Luke 11:5-8 ”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him, and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. ”

The story behind this story is that Christ is teaching the disciples about prayer and the importance in persistence in prayer. There is another facet here, however, as it relates to this story.

The man who is in need is going to his friend, his brother, and asking for not only food, to provide to his guest, but is seeking mercy from his brother. Jesus never says if the man got up to provide the requested bread or not. What is clear however, is that just as the monk who is asking for the salt for his meal, the man in the parable who is asking for bread, has a need. We as brothers and sisters, have the capacity to share our graces, our blessings, our very selves with our brothers and sisters.

At the end of days, when we stand before the Throne of the Almighty, and He asks that same question to us “Where is your brother ?” We will have nothing there to answer, except … ” see I have brought him with me…”

May God give you the gift His peace !

Lather….Rinse… Repeat !

July 1, 2017

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God !
Yet that it what we are. The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized the Son. Dearly beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall later be has not yet come to light. We know that when it comes to light, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope based on Him keeps himself pure, as He is pure.” ( 1 John 3: 1-3 )

Some of you who might not be aware, 1st John, ( also second, and third ), come near the end of the New Testament and is not part and parcel of the 4th Gospel. This letter, written by John, was written during a time when the church was going through a period of heresy. Particularly Gnosticism, which denied the humanity of Jesus. or Docetism. In the docetistic heresy, the followers believe that Jesus was purely divine, his body made almost ghostly and so his passion death and resurrection would have been purely appearance sake.

Today, we have a vast number of heresies and different versions of apostasy. In Johns time it was no different. there were people roaming about preaching all kinds of whacky stuff. In Johns letters, and particularly in this letter there was a certain thematic progress to them. These were meant to drive home the principles of Christian faith and life.

Sometimes we need a little reminding of the things that are important in our faith lives.
It is important that we study. It is important that we memorize our faith, our beliefs and it is vitally important that we not only BELIEVE , but that we know WHY we believe the things we do, and where those things come from.

Priests, and Deacons when they go through formation , they take classes in the practice of exegesis.
Exegesis is simply the process of reading, studying, asking questions, and then finding the answers to those questions in preparation for sharing that information with others.

This practice is not just for priests and deacons. It is something that everyone should be doing. Now, i am not saying everyone should go out and get their own interpretation of what the Bible says or anything of that sort. What I am however saying, is take a good long hard look at your faith life. Consider all the things that you believe, and then start asking the questions. Not the easy ones.. not the ones you might have learned in the Baltimore Catechism, or in some of your nursery school rhymes. Lets tackle something with a little meat on it. Let’s ask some of the hard questions that you don’t have answers for. READ and STUDY and figure things out. What you will find is that you will inevitably have MORE QUESTIONS…. When you find you do not have answers, then go and ask your pastor, or a clergy or lay person you trust.

You need to keep asking questions. My father used to say to people.. “What ever it is that you are ( meaning your faith ), then be the very best ( that faith person ) that you can be. Ask the hard questions, and keep asking them until you are satisfied with the answers.

John, is telling us in this passage, we need to realize the awesome gift that we have been given, as children of God. The reason we suffer persecution in the world is because they who are not Christian, do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God.

Further on in these letters John reminds his audience, to break from sin, to keep the commandments, to become detatched from the world ( be IN the world, but not OF the world.). and finally to be on guard against the enemies of Christ. By this he means to be weary of those who would try to lead you away from your faith.

Today, the world is in great need of saints. It is every single Christians vocation to be a great saint. It is up to us to choose to fulfill the plan that God has intended for us.

My prayer for each of you is that the Holy Spirit that dwells within your bosom be enflamed in your heart, and become a raging inferno in seeking Gods holy will and fulfilling it.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Love Is The Answer…..

June 24, 2017

” You know the times in which we are living. It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. let us cast off the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in daylight; not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy, Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. ” Romans 13:11-14

We are hard-headed. hardhearted, and a slow to learn ( if ever we learn) bunch of degenerate children. You have to sit back and wonder why God bothers with us at all. We fight, we complain, we rebel, we are champion sinners, and who knows how many times we keep doing the same silly, backward, things over and over again.

Paul. who is the author of this passage, is trying to get the believers to understand where they are on the journey. There are issues of faith running around.. If you remember the passage in Matthew 22:20 , where they are asking Jesus about paying taxes to the Roman Empire. Just to prove the point, here again the citizens are still struggling the same questions that Jesus already answered ! They still had not understood, and still fighting with the same questions.

Paul is trying to tell them … Yes, you still have to do what Caesar tells you.. and YES, you still have to pay taxes.. because you live here, this is the authority in place at this time..

There is a special note I would like to inject here for our Franciscan brothers and sisters, consider for a moment your vocation. Recall the words you spoke on the day you took your profession. Our vocation, our calling, our job in the Kingdom of Heaven, ( for Franciscans, and for Christians as a whole) is to be “in the world.”.

What does that exactly mean for us ? Are we still this hard-headed ? Jesus told us … Because we live “in the world” , that means that we have to participate in the processes involved in living in the world.
We have to pay taxes. We have to obey the laws of the place where we live. We have to “pay the dues” of living in the place where we are.

We are “in the world” but we are not “of the world”. We belong to Christ. We have responsibilities, that go along with belonging to the Kingdom of God. There are things that are expected of us.

The passage before this reading explains the rule of the Kingdom of God is LOVE. If we do no evil to our neighbor, ( or wish them evil ) then the law if fulfilled. He reviews with them the 10 Commandments. and then comes the reading above.

This is meant to spur them on in their faith, to get them to try to excel in doing good works. To keep them from falling into sin.

Now consider, that every day, you start out your day, saying your morning prayers, and you ask God for the strength, and wisdom and perseverance to keep from some particular area of sin, or the occasion of it.

Then at night in the cool of the evening, you have the time to reflect on the day. You have the time to pray, and you feel bad, because you fell into some trap of sin. and it happened AGAIN .. and you find yourself the next morning having the same conversation with the Lord. You feel terrible… you think maybe you are the worst disciple ever… EVER ! Well, maybe not ever.. but still pretty bad.

Take heart ! You see, the saints, all of those people who were the super heros of humanity, they became saints NOT because they did not sin. They became saints by putting forth super human effort in attempting to live the gospel virtues. In short, these folks became saints because of the fact that they tried above all else, to live the law of LOVE !

I want to encourage each of you, to strive as best you are able, to live the law of love. Jesus made it as simple to remember as He could. Just two things you have to remember !

Love the Lord your God, with all your mind, heart, and soul.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

He did not say it would be easy. I can tell you from personal experience that everyone fails… Particularly on the second rule. Do not lose faith in this journey because you fail, OR because someone else failed to love you. Your neighbor might fail in loving you… but God never will !

Again it is not that we FALL, but how we RISE ! Rise with FAITH ! Rise with HOPE and rise with LOVE !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Mind Your Business….

June 9, 2017

“Anyone who would not work, should not eat. We hear that some of you are unruly, not keeping busy but acting like busy-bodies. We enjoin all such, and we urge them strongly in the Lord Jesus Christ, to earn the food they eat by working quietly. You must never grow weary of doing what is right, brothers”. ( 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 ).

In this letter Paul is writing to the community because there are people who are not really doing their part and are taking the time from the work they should be doing, and instead making themselves busy dealing with affairs of others.

In the world today, much is said of those who are not gainfully employed, or under employed. The world looks at these souls and judge them. They are judge to be lazy, guilty of sloth. They just don’t want to work. Indeed, there are those who were brought up not to value work at all, or were taught not to value certain types of work, because they were considered somehow “less” or not really something to be desired.

Society has been equally disowning of people who have been challenged in their educational processes.

In fact, we still struggle in this area. We understand, for instance, that different people learn by differing methods. We have not gotten to a point where we can effectively transform that knowledge into the individual student. How they learn, and then transform that into an educational process that works for that student.

There are budget concerns.. ” We can’t possibly create individual plans for each and every students!.. We simply can’t afford either the staff, or the budget concerns.” This is a common issue in education. Then those who do not learn in the traditional ways, are by and large, relegated to “lesser” jobs. They are told, ” You don’t have what it takes to go to college… you should find a trade , or go to work in retail or fast food. You might not think this goes on today. You would be wrong.

But I digress…

The problem we have, is that work is today, not something of value for most people. The employers, do not value the work of the people who work for them. They value instead the spreadsheet. The statistics that look nice and green. As long as those numbers look right, and positive, then everything is fine. Otherwise, there are only numbers and that the shoulders are broad enough to receive the pat on the back approvals of those closest. The company ( or owners ) no longer feel any obligation towards those people who toil in their firms.. after all they are numbers… replaceable, something that is replaceable in very little time with another body eager to fill it. Who spend their time “dumbing down” the process so it is easier to replace the last body that fell under the wheel of their taskmasters whip. For them their world is “gray”…. no black or white… just the gray of how the story is spun.

There are employees who, no longer have a work ethic. Who do not care about the job they do. Who’s sole concern is how little it is possible to do, in order to keep a paycheck. They do not care about the tools they are given, or the people for whom this work is done. As long as their numbers are passable, that go up to the “ivory tower” of management, then its good enough. There is no loyalty to the company that they work for, because they already know the company has no loyalty or care for them as people.

So why should we care about work ?

Work, is a gift from God. We work in order to gain a just wage. It is through that work, that we gain a just wage through which , we tithe. Tithing is not just money. Tithing is time, talent and treasure. That thing which we offer to God, through our family, through our brothers and sisters, and as a way to sanctify our day.

Paul is also quick to instruct the Thessalonians to conduct themselves in an upright and honorable way.

We too, should spend our efforts in public and in private, working on our own sanctification. It is through this type of work. Working honorably, and justly; working on our own sanctification, will be the greatest tool we have at our disposal to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Will we falter ? Sure we will. Will we slip ? Of course we will. It is not how we FALL,… but how we RISE !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

God’s Mercy…

May 20, 2017

Gods Mercy….

‘Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may [now] receive mercy.

For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.’ ( Romans 11:30-32 )

This passage is Paul talking is talking to his fellow Isrealites.. the Jews, of which he was one. and he is attempting to get them out of their “superiority complex” and get them to understand that they too sinned. Not only did they sin, but they sinned greatly, and God in his infinite love showed them mercy. They fell into sin which allowed them to be put into exile.. to learn of the great mercy and love of God. Now, it is the Gentiles who have fallen into sin, and they too will learn the lesson that the Jews should have learned that God indeed is loving and has infinite mercy.

Pain can be a mercy. Now before you all run off and think I have lost my mind and get any odd notions.. Consider this… How many souls have come to God in pain. How many souls reach the near end of their ropes, stripped of their preconceptions, feeling alone, and beaten, having suffered at the hands of the world. Who suffered through illness, pain, calamity, and then….. THEN.. it is that they come to realize that there is nothing…. they are nothing without God.

How many on their death beds… how many in fear and trembling ? For themselves, or those they love.
When you are at the mercy of another soul, who deigns to serve God, in the service of their brothers and sisters.

Think of the love and mercy Christ gave us on the cross. Think of the pains and challenges you have faced in your lifetime. You are given graces beyond recognition. You are given mercies you do not know, or even understand. The developement of your travels towards sanctification are held in the river of mercy poured out on all the world.

Consider the breadth of pain a teenager goes through as they attempt to figure out their world. Emotions that run the gambit, relationships and all the turbulence that goes with it. The terrible 2’s when infants are trying to figure out their world. Or when seniors get away from their jobs and again have to figure our their world.

Come to think of it, we pretty much spend a vast amount of our lifetimes trying to “figure it out”. All the while God has already given us the blueprint. We are however, like the Israelites of the Biblical era , hard headed, and hard of heart… and we do not listen.

God’s Love and Mercy endures forever…

May God give you the gift of His peace (and mercy) !

The Coronation – Franciscan Crown – Part VII

May 6, 2017

Coronation of Mary, Queen of the Universe.

“And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

(1 Peter 5:4)

In this mystery, we contemplate on Mary, who was assumed into Heaven and is crowned Queen of the Universe, with her never fading crown of the 12 stars spoken of in the book of Revelations.

The mystery calls to mind the extension of the Assumption and completion of , or the fulfillment of the vocation Mary was called to. As Mary was given to us on the cross as our own mother, we have the greatest advocate and intercessor who pleads for us with Jesus.

This mystery is all about the subject of perseverance. Perseverance, is that long, steady and abiding faith.. It is not that we do not fail, it is not that we do not fall, or falter from time to time. perseverance is about the efforts, it is about the work involved towards something. It is about truth, without and within. It is about truth from without, because God is the source. The Eucharist, often called the “Source and Summit ” is Jesus. God incarnate. It is faith at its deepest quaking in our hearts and souls.

It is our abiding with God. It says everything about how we are as a disciple. It has everything to do with how we live out our day to day lives in our work, in our rest, in our service, both to God and to our brothers and sisters.

It is from within, when we spend time in prayer. Not just the prayer of self…. Not the *I* prayer. You know the one I am speaking of. *I* need…. *I* want… What *I* am coming to you for …. These prayers that are centered in the desires of the world. This does not mean that we should not ask God for what we need. Or that it makes us bad Christians. It is changing the orientation of our prayer life.

from the child like process of give me “this” because I want it, into a more mature version of asking for Gods will. ” Lord. I have been presented with this situation, and we are seeking your will in what it is that we are to do “.

As in the “Prologue” of our Holy Rule states :

” All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind , with all their strength, and love their neighbors as themselves, and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance. Oh, how holy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and PERSEVERE (emphasis added) in doing them. ”

I once saw a poster of an injured lion. The lion had pulled itself up off the ground and stood strong and fearless. The caption at the bottom of the poster was this :

” It is not how we fall that matters…. It is how we RISE ! ”

As Christians, and as Franciscans this is primary in our necessity to examine how it is that we fallen, but more importantly, how it is that we rise in strength of perseverance and with the heart of the lion, strong in our faith, and strong in the knowledge and surety, in the perseverance of the love of our Lord !

This mystery is the Coronation of Mary, Queen of the Universe.

We meditate on Perseverance.

We ask pardon Lord, for those times when we have not lived the Holy Rule, as we should.

For when we have failed and faltered,

For when our failures have injured our brothers and sisters …

For those times when we have missed opportunities for worthy penance

For those times when we have stayed in our sin and vices.

We pray Lord for perseverance and strength and wisdom.

For the perseverance of mind, heart and soul, that we might not falter

For the strength of faith and character to live out our faith to the glory of God.

For the Wisdom, to see where we have failed to persevere, and to assist our brothers and sisters who may also need strength, assisting without judgment and with love in the examination of our own sin.

Finally, in perseverance of living our Holy Rule of Life to the fullest human extend with extraordinary heavenly graces, gifted to others through us.

Our Father who art in Heaven…..

May God give you the gift of His peace..

Advent …It’s Here !

December 2, 2016

Advent…. It’s here.

“And do this because 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,* not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” ( Romans 13:11)

This is the very beginning of the season of Advent. Advent means to come. It comes from the Latin Ad ( to ) Venire (come). It is applied to the church calendar as the season prior to Christmas. It is set aside for us as a period, not unlike Lent, as a time of preparation, a spiritual house cleaning if you will.

Not unlike Lent it has been a time of fasting and praying. In fact there was a period of time when there was a 40 day fast that was just like Lent. ( without the fish frys). If we look at the time of Lent and the time of Advent as mirrors of each other, both have certain characteristics that are very similar in tone and purpose.

Both serve the purpose of preparing our hearts as a birthplace for Christ to reign, a channel through which God may share the blessings of Heaven with and through us. Prior to His arrival however we have a little preparation to do.

As a child the time previous to the holiday season, there was a certain amount of that ” spring cleaning” that my mother would always have my brother and I to do. There was silver to polish, vacuuming, scrubbing and There was a brass table to polish and well as the candlesticks that stood on either side of the fireplace. Dusting the furniture and all of that came after taking care of the animals we had. ( which in itself was an 8 hour job).

Yes, the preparations were something that we as kids did not look forward to in the least, as we would rather have been exploring the forest that we lived in, or the just relaxing around the house. On the other hand, once all the work was done, and night had fallen, there was a cool nip in the air, and we would turn off the lights in the livingroom, and light a fire in the fireplace. The house took on that certain feeling of “Hearth and Home”. When the holidays came, and we were able to entertain guests, and share our home with friends and family there was a certain comfort, a certain joy to be able to serve them and make them feel at home.

The same thing applies to our spiritual lives. Paul is telling us to use Advent as a time to remove from our hearts the spiritual “baggage”. that we need to throw off. Those things that belong to the dark, and not to the light. Those things that we have been holding onto, that do not aid us in our spiritual journeys, those things that hold us back from serving Christ, or keep us from being the conduit of the blessings, or keep us from helping someone else from seeing Christ because of our actions.

So let us work on throwing off those works, those deeds, and put in some of the work in those areas of our lives to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Throw out those pains, and grudges, lets fix those broken relationships. Let’s be the one who extends the olive branch, and extends the hands. Let us be the Christ in the season, and really live the life of faith we profess.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Canticle of Zachariah (Preface )

August 31, 2013

For those who daily pray the Liturgy of the Hours this prayer is prayed each and every morning.  It is for most who pray the liturgy, said to the point that it is committed to memory.  One morning I was sitting there praying the Morning Prayer and after I had completed my prayers I began to contemplate on what a beautiful prayer it is.  Like Manyparts of our faith, it can be easy to go into rote memorization and not have a good grasp on the origins of the prayer, what it is, or why we say or do the things that we do !

The first question we should answer is … Who is Zachariah, and why is he important in the scheme of the history of salvation ?  Zachariah was a priest.   In that time, he was a member of a particular family, there were 24 families, or courses, or groups of priests.  Each of these groups of priests would in turn go to Jerusalem in order to care for, serve , offer prayer and sacrifices in the Temple.  Among these priests who went to serve there were various jobs necessary to functioning of the temple.. They included tending the sacred fire  ( consider this in relation to the tabernacle lamp we have now), and changing the loaves,  offering incense, or tending the 7 branched lamp .  These jobs were given to each priest by drawing lots.

It was Zachariah’s turn to go forward to offer the incense at the incense altar,  and while he was in there, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. and announced to him that he would have a son.  Zachariah was, by this time of an advanced age,  and had not been able to have children.   So Zachariah questioned the angel.  Gabriel said to him, that because he did not believe who he had been told,   Zachariah would not be able to speak until these things had come to pass.  Zachariah then returned home to his wife.   Zachariah’s wife was Elizabeth,

Now, up to this point in time, Elizabeth had indeed been barren.  This fact was a point of sorrow for both Zachariah and Elizabeth, because children were seen as a gift from God.  Blessings to be greatly desired and treasured.  SO when Elizabeth was pregnant, she went into seclusion, and stayed there until, as we all know, shortly afterward the angel Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary then went and visited Elizabeth who  was then pregnant with John and in her  sixth month when Mary came to Elizabeth and stayed to serve her cousin.

Once Elizabeth had given birth to John, then Zachariah was freely able to speak again, and he , filled with joy and love at the birth of his first born, and with the knowledge that Gabriel has told him that John would be the precursor, to the savior , he composed this Canticle.

A Canticle is a song.  This particular song is divided into 2 distinct verses.    The first half is composed in praise of God for all he has done and what he knows is yet to come !  The second half is directed directly to John and the joy Zachariah felt at the knowledge that his son would be a great prophet and would be doing great things for God..

**Note**  This will be the beginning of a 6 part series on this Canticle, I pray this series brings some deeper spiritual meaning and light to your daily prayers.. Pax et Bonum !