12/8/16

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 12/8

Image: Michael McGrath

This "family portrait" shows us: Anna and Joachim, parents of Mary (at the top of the image); and pictured in their embrace is Joseph with Mary and her son, Jesus; a dove nearby reminds us that Mary conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit. Mary is venerated as the Immaculate Conception, she who was conceived immaculately, preserved from original sin, in the womb of her mother, Anna. 

For today's feast, you'll find below an instrumental performance of the Schubert Ave Maria by Emmanuel Rossfelder, stunning in its artistry and interpretation.

The preface prayer from the former Sacramentary offers us a short lesson in the theology of this day:
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
   we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
You allowed no stain of Adam’s sin
   to touch the Virgin Mary.
Full of grace,
   she was to be a worthy mother of your Son,
   your sign of favor to the Church at its beginning,
   and the promise of its perfection
   as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty.
Purest of virgins, she was to bring forth your Son,
   the innocent lamb who takes away our sins.
You chose her from all women
   to be our advocate with you
   and our pattern of holiness.
In our joy we sing to your glory
   with all the choirs of angels:
      Holy, holy, holy ...




 

     
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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 12/8


A selection from Handel's Messiah
and a Pause for Prayer based upon it
 
   

Comfort ye my people, saith your God.  
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, 
and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,  
that her iniquity is pardoned. 
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,  
Prepare ye the way of the LORD, 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
Every valley shall be exalted,  
and every mountain and hill shall be made low:  
and the crooked shall be made straight,  
and the rough places plain. 

Comfort my soul, Lord:
   my heart, my mind and my imagination...

Comfort me in my dreams, 
   in my fears and worries, 
      in my memories and in my hopes...  

Speak comfortably, Lord, in my family,
   among my friends and neighbors, among my colleagues at work 
      and all the peoples of the world... 

Speak comfortably to the young and the old, 
   in the lives of the lonely and brokenhearted, 
      in the brokenness of lives undone, unhinged, unloved...

Speak a word of comfort 
   to those who are confused and confounded,
to those who struggle to accept  
   the challenges and problems that burden them...

Speak a word of comfort, Lord, 
   to those who find it hard to hope, 
      those who flirt with despair 
to those who need a sign from you and those around them
   to kindle the fire of hope within their hearts...

Speak a word of comfort to those who need work
   and who live in fear of not finding it...

Speak a word of comfort to the lonely
   to free their hearts to open 
      to the company of those around them...

Speak a word of comfort to the sick, Lord,
   to those in chronic pain in mind and limb:
be the kind Physician of their souls
      to encourage and to heal them with your Spirit...

Speak a word of comfort to the dying
   and refresh their trust and hope in you
      and in the life you promise, life for ever...

Speak a word of comfort to the grieving, Lord,
   to those whose losses darken sunny days,
      whose hearts are mourning in the midst of others' joy...

Speak a word of comfort to those who've been abandoned
   by the world, the government, by neighbors and by me...
Speak comfortably to those who feel abandoned by the church...

Let your word of comfort heal, console, challenge and strengthen
   the ones left out and cast aside:
let them find a welcome by our side and in our hearts...
  
Speak comfortably to your people, Lord:
   may your voice and words
      make low the mountains of anxiety and fear,
         make straight the paths of those who've lost their way,
            and make smooth the rough and tumble places 
               where we stumble and we fall... 

In the quiet of my prayer, Lord, 
   speak comfortably in my soul, my heart and mind...
   
Speak a word of comfort in my prayer, Lord, 
   and help me hear and trust it
      and taking it to heart,
         let me speak a word of comfort
            to all I know and all I meet...


Amen. 
   

  
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12/6/16

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 12/7








   
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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 12/6

Ikepod Hour Glass

It's Advent, a time to wait for the Lord...

But I'm wondering today 
if the Lord might be waiting for me...

Lord, are you waiting for me?

Is there something you're waiting for me to do?

Is there something you're waiting for me to say?

Is there someone you're waiting for me to forgive?

Is there someone you're waiting for me to help?

Is there someone or something you're waiting for me to let go of?

Is there a hurt within me you're waiting to heal?

Is there something you're waiting for me to accept?

Is there a path you're waiting for me to walk?

Is there a blessing you're waiting for me to receive?

Is there a gift you're waiting for me to give? 

Is there a truth you're waiting for me to tell?

Are you waiting for me to draw closer to you?

Are you waiting, Lord, to draw closer to me?

As I wait for you, Lord, in Advent,
help me know all the ways 
you're waiting for me...

Amen.





   
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Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas



Today (December 6) is the feast of St. Nicholas,
friend of the poor
and giver of gifts...
 

Lord, while shopping for gifts for family and friends,
while putting up decorations and going to parties,
keep me mindful of your humble birth
and the claim of the poor on the bounty that's mine...

(To discover the truth about Santa Claus,
here's a wonderful site on St. Nicholas)





   
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12/5/16

Monday Morning Offering 12/5


Image: George Mendoza


Good morning, good God!

Here's what you promised, Lord:
Every mountain will be made low...
age old depths and gorges will be filled to level ground...
every valley shall be filled in...
the winding roads will be made straight
and the rough ways smooth...
that your people might walk in the light of your glory
to the peace that is ours in you, O God...
So this morning I offer you
the mountains of problems and struggles
so many will face this day...

I offer you the peaks of pain
hiding hope of healing from the sick...

I offer you the heights of challenge and conflict
we try so hard to scale
yet find ourselves still climbing...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
make low, make even just a little lower
the mountains that keep us from the peace,
from the healing and comfort you promise,
from the consolation we seek and pray for...
I offer you, Lord, the age-old depths of hurts,
disappointments and memories that haunt our hearts...

I offer you the deep gorges of guilt and shame
that shadow our days and our dreams...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
fill to level ground the ravines, the crevices,
the valleys of darkness through which we walk:
shine your light on our path
and let your mercy be our guide...
I offer you the winding roads where we lose our way
and the crooked paths that lead where we don't want to go...

I offer you the rough patches through which we stumble,
the distressed roads taking their toll on our strength...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day
straighten the way that leads to your heart:
make of our rough roads a smooth highway,
and make straight all the paths we walk...
As we prepare the Advent path to Christmas,
make ready for us the route that leads to your peace
and make us ready for the journey...

Make us gentle companions and generous guides
for one another along the way:
may no one stumble on our account
and may those who have fallen find in us
a friend for the journey...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
bring us through the valleys, over the heights
and along the road to your glory,
your peace and your joy...
All this I offer you this Monday morning, Lord,
and every day and night this week...

Amen.
yearofgrace2011



   
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12/4/16

Homily for December 4

A prop I used today's homily
Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily



So, what do you think you’re getting for Christmas this year?
--  not what you’re getting for others --
but on Christmas morning,
what do you think you might find under the tree, tagged for you?
Maybe you won’t have a tree.
Perhaps you no longer exchange gifts with others
or have others with whom to exchange gifts…
Maybe you’re the kind of person who tells others,
 “Don’t get me anything for Christmas - I don’t need a thing!”
Or if you’re a young person, it could be that you have a whole list
of things  you think - or at least you hope
you’re getting for Christmas.

Well, suppose on Christmas morning you wake up
and find this gift under the tree with a tag that reads:
“For you - from Jesus.”
A Christmas gift from Jesus to you?
I know at this time of year I usually caution us to remember that
it’s HIS birthday and he should get the presents - not us.
And while I’m not changing my mind on that, I will add this:
Jesus just might have a gift for you and me, for each of us.

Do you know what was the original Christmas gift?
Don’t be too hasty in your reply:
the first Christmas gifts did NOT come from the magi from the east,
following the star to Bethlehem.

The first Christmas gift came from God and the gift was precious indeed:
God gave us his only begotten Son:
Jesus himself was the first Christmas gift
and Jesus was a great and generous gift giver.
• He gave us the gospel,
the good news of his Father’s love for us.
• And he gave us a new commandment,
that we love one another.
• And he gave us a new teaching on how to live and love,
a teaching filled with truth and wisdom.
• And in the end, Jesus gave us everything he had:
out of love for us, he gave his life for us on the Cross.
• And in his suffering and dying
he gave us hope of eternal life.
• And after he rose from the dead he gave us the gift of his Spirit
to live in our hearts and lead us and guide us in life.
Jesus is the original gift that keeps on giving.

And that’s why I’m sure he has a gift for each of us this Christmas.
Jesus knows exactly what each of us needs this Christmas.
(He also knows exactly what each of us wants for Christmas,
but what we need and what we want are sometimes different
and Jesus knows the difference better than we do.)

• So, do you need the gift of greater harmony in your family?
Jesus has that in stock!
• Do you need the gift of peace of mind?
Jesus has that in every possible model and color.
• Do you need the gift of relief from worries and fears?
He’s got that in Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large and Extra Wide!
• Do you need the gift of forgiveness?
He’s got that in One Size Fits All - and it really does!
• Do you need the gifts of faith, of hope, of love?
No other supplier offers these in the exquisite quality Jesus does.
AND…  on these gifts there’s free delivery
no shipping or handling charges!
AND… all these gifts are insured -- at no extra charge!
AND…  all these gifts are guaranteed by the Creator
the Creator of all things “visible and invisible!”

Does it all sound too good to be true?
Well, I did notice there’s a little “fine print” on the bottom of this gift box.
To begin with, it says here:
- This gift contains no magic!
• Gifts from Jesus don’t instantly, magically, solve all our problems -
nor does Jesus promise that.
• More fine print:
This gift requires some assembly…
Which means once you receive your gift you have to work with Jesus
to put it together in your own life and circumstances.
More fine print:
This gift does not come with batteries.
Gifts from Jesus require  that you supply some energy, 
some personal power, to make them function in your life.
• And more fine print:
This gift is for 2, 3 or more players.
Gifts from Jesus are meant to be shared:
they invite and require the participation of others in our lives.
• Oh - and it says here
NO RETURNS!
You see, Jesus really does know what we need
and that’s exactly what he’ll give each one of us
and we can’t send back what Jesus knows we need
to exchange it for something we want.
He asks us to trust him on this.

• And finally…
well, this is so obvious that I hesitate to mention it,
but it says here:
Gift must be unwrapped before using.
You see, Jesus’ gifts won’t matter, or work, or please or help us
if we don’t unwrap them and start to use them.
Many of us have a number of gifts Jesus gave us over the years -
but we’ve never unwrapped them,
never looked to see what they are, how we might use them
and how they might help us.
There are some gifts that sit for years, unopened,
under a little Christmas tree in our hearts.

Well, that’s the fine print. 
But in very LARGE , bold print,
both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist  tell us today
to Prepare the way of the Lord!

That’s sound advice, that’s wise counsel, that’s good news
because Jesus is coming with gifts for every one of us
and we’d be smart to clear the way
for him to get to our hearts.

And if you have a hard time finding the gift with your name on it,
pray… and ask Jesus to help you see not so much what you want,
but more - what you truly need.

You may have noticed I’ve left out one gift of Jesus
that I mention in almost every homily
but, as I usually do, I’ve saved that for the end.

Jesus gave us the gift of his life on the Cross, once, for all,
but every time we gather at this table, his altar,
he offers us the gifts of his life, his healing, his mercy and his peace.

As he does in every gift he offers us,
in the Eucharist Jesus gives us himself, with all his love -
because he truly is the Giver who keeps on giving…




 

   
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12/3/16

Pause for Prayer: Lighting another candle...



And so we light the second candle on the Advent Wreath.  If you have a wreath at home, pray for faith as you light the first and second candles each day this week. If you don't have an Advent Wreath - light any candle and pray for faith. If you don't have a candle, simply stay right here with candles above and pray for faith, each night of this second week of Advent...

As we light the second candle on the Advent wreath, 
let's pray for the gift of faith...

For the deepening of faith

   in those who have it...
for the gift of faith
   for those who seek it...
for the strengthening of faith
   in those who doubt...
for any whose faith
   is shaken or broken...
for stronger faith
   that leads us to act...
for the harmony and unity
   of people of different faiths...

God, give us:
the faith we need to help us live,
the faith we need to help us love,
the faith we need to help us believe,
the faith we need to give us hope,
the faith we need to act with justice...
the faith we need to speak your word of truth...

Give us faith that leads us
to share what we have in serving the poor;
to work for a harvest of justice and peace;
to restore the beauty of your creation...

God, give us faith in you
and in our neighbors
and in ourselves...

Amen.




 
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12/2/16

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 12/3


Image source

I wrote this prayer some 16 years ago while on my annual retreat at Eastern Point in Gloucester. My 2016 retreat in the same place ends today so I'm posting it again It's one of my favorites and it's as true for me today as when I wrote it.  I pray it might also serve you in your relationship with the Lord...

Embrace
You enfold me, entwine and embrace me.
You handle me, hold me and hide me.
You wrestle me, welcome and want me.

Your chin by my ear,
your hand in my hair,
your arm 'round my back,
my arms rounding you,
my face on your chest:
I'm held in your warmth.

Your eyes keep close watch,
mine close in deep peace.
Your fingers stroke softly
my head's numbered strands.
Your grip is a gift,
your grasp saving grace.

You whisper, "You're mine,
I call you by name:
you're found and forgiven,
brought home and beloved."

I breathe back,"Yes, I am
shaped and healed by your hand.
You call me by name:
I am yours, you are mine."




   
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