Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Prayers for today: See, the Lord is coming and with him all his saints. Then there will be endless day. (Zachariah 14: 5,7)

God of mercy and consolation, help us in our weakness and free us from sin. Hear our prayers that we may rejoice at the coming of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283)

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades. Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits — typically on foot — to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order. He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarrelling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills. Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity. Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.
The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10.21-24)

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no-one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

Faith in Jesus
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

For the convinced Christian, one of the most intriguing of phenomena is the lack of religious conviction among so many co-religionists. When I speak of conviction I refer to conviction as manifested in practice. If a person claims to be a convinced Catholic and shows virtually nothing of Catholic practice in his life, little can be said of his claim of personal conviction. He may have religious convictions but they can scarcely be described as true Catholic convictions. There are great numbers of Christians and there are great numbers of Catholics. But their religious practice is, relative to their numbers, statistically low. This is not to say they are bereft of religion, for to say this would involve a different form of measurement. For the Christian who perceives the grandeur of the person of Jesus Christ and what he brings to those who believe in him, this lack of practice is a source of wonderment. The moral beauty and the utter uniqueness of Jesus Christ! As St Paul writes, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). All that I lost I consider rubbish in order that I may gain Christ! In our Gospel today our Lord is portrayed as filled with joy in the Holy Spirit, and he praises his heavenly Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, because he has revealed to the little and ordinary ones the mysteries of the Kingdom. The wise, and those who pride themselves on being insightful and clever in matters of religion have been kept from the knowledge of this revelation. Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Thus did he pray in praise of his heavenly Father. Then he turns to his disciples and says to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Luke 10: 21-24).

What Christ was seeing was the deepening realization among his disciples of his own person and teaching. He experiences this same joy when he sees this happening in us. As we grow in our faith and realization of the mystery of Christ, so does the joy of God increase. On one occasion our Lord told a parable of the wandering soul — he is like the sheep that strays. The shepherd goes after him and when he finds him it gives him more joy than do all the sheep that did not stray at all. Our Lord concludes that there is more joy in heaven at one repentant sinner than there is over the many who did not stray. We can cause joy in heaven, then, by our repentance. Our Lord is not implying that many more do not stray from him than do — the statistics would suggest otherwise. Nor is our Lord suggesting that God takes our faith and fidelity to him for granted. On the contrary, for here in our Gospel passage today we are shown that Christ is “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” at the sight of faith in his disciples. Our faith in Jesus and in his revelation is a cause of immense joy to Christ. If we wish to please God, then the greatest thing we can do is to believe profoundly in Jesus Christ and shape our lives accordingly. It is the work par excellence in life that God wants us to do. We may have success in the world, we may do great good as the world judges it, we may live a life that we can take pride in — all of which has its praise. But if we neglect our faith and sink into the vast stream of those who do not practise the faith they have been granted, then life will have been a failure. We can never please God by such a course. The tragedy is that so many appear to be indifferent to the prospect that the course of their lives is displeasing to God, precisely because of the neglect of their faith in Christ. The case is different, of course, with those who do not know Christ because they have not had the opportunity. Not so with the wise and the clever to whom our Lord refers in our Gospel passage today. The implication is that their lack of sight is due to their own responsibility. Their pride cut them off from the gift of the Father’s revelation of Christ. Let us pray for a profound faith in Jesus Christ.

During Advent we celebrate the coming of the Redeemer to mankind. The most tragic drama being played out in the universe is the acceptance or rejection of this one and only Redeemer. Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world, the only name under heaven by which men may be saved, the only way to the Father. He is the image of the unseen God. Let us pray for an understanding of this and the grace to live according to it. Every one who has the gift of faith has the calling to live by it and to bear witness to it before the world. It is thus that we give joy to Christ.

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