Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prayers today: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near. Phil 4: 4, 5

Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ, experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,.


Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Saviour's coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr (d. 304)

Every little girl named Lucy must bite her tongue in disappointment when she first tries to find out what there is to know about her patron saint. The older books will have a lengthy paragraph detailing a small number of traditions. Newer books will have a lengthy paragraph showing that there is little basis in history for these traditions. The single fact survives that a disappointed suitor accused Lucy of being a Christian and she was executed in Syracuse (Sicily) in the year 304. But it is also true that her name is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer, geographical places are named after her, a popular song has her name as its title and down through the centuries many thousands of little girls have been proud of the name Lucy. One can easily imagine what a young Christian woman had to contend with in pagan Sicily in the year 300. If you have trouble imagining, just glance at today’s pleasure-at-all-costs world and the barriers it presents against leading a good Christian life. Her friends must have wondered aloud about this hero of Lucy’s, an obscure itinerant preacher in a far-off captive nation that had been destroyed more than 200 years before. Once a carpenter, he had been crucified by the Roman soldiers after his own people turned him over to the Roman authorities. Lucy believed with her whole soul that this man had risen from the dead. Heaven had put a stamp on all he said and did. To give witness to her faith she had made a vow of virginity. What a hubbub this caused among her pagan friends! The kindlier ones just thought her a little strange. To be pure before marriage was an ancient Roman ideal, rarely found but not to be condemned. To exclude marriage altogether, however, was too much. She must have something sinister to hide, the tongues wagged. Lucy knew of the heroism of earlier virgin martyrs. She remained faithful to their example and to the example of the carpenter, whom she knew to be the Son of God. She is the patroness of eyesight.

If you are a little girl named Lucy, you need not bite your tongue in disappointment. Your patron is a genuine, authentic heroine, first class, an abiding inspiration for you and for all Christians. The moral courage of the young Sicilian martyr shines forth as a guiding light, just as bright for today’s youth as it was in A.D. 304.

“The Gospel tells us of all that Jesus suffered, of the insults that fell upon him. But, from Bethlehem to Calvary, the brilliance that radiates from his divine purity spread more and more and won over the crowds. So great was the austerity and the enchantment of his conduct....
“So may it be with you, beloved daughters. Blessed be the discretion, the mortifications and the renouncements with which you seek to render this virtue more brilliant.... May your conduct prove to all that chastity is not only a possible virtue but a social virtue, which must be strongly defended through prayer, vigilance and the mortification of the senses” (Pope John XXIII, Letter to Women Religious).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (3.10-18)

When the people asked John, “What should we do?” he answered, The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. Tax collectors also came to be baptised. Teacher, they asked, what should we do? Don't collect any more than you are required to, he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, And what should we do? He replied, Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely— be content with your pay. The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, I baptise you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

Thy Will Be Done
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Let us reflect on that question put to John in our Gospel today: “What should we do?” There are several things which distinguish the human being, if viewed in the context of the sweep of history. Obviously, one is religion. Characteristically, man is religious. The anthropologist and archaeologist will take it for granted that religion has marked the society and culture of the people he is studying. Another characteristic is that man is rational. He attains new knowledge not just by gazing at new things, but also by going from known to unknown by the power of reason. Another is that he works, and the better the person he is, the better he tries to work. What is “work”? This is not the moment for a philosophical discussion, but obviously it cannot simply mean the expenditure of energy on some activity. A machine expends energy, but we do not normally speak of the machine as doing a work, except by analogy and extension. “Work” is something proper to human beings. We must “work” in order to live (unless we are living off the work of another), and we must also “work” in order to be happy. Moreover, the more we strive to do really good work, the happier we shall be. If a person does very little work, he gradually crumbles. If he does work that is poor when he could have done good work, he gradually crumbles. Ordinary human experience of personhood and its need to work and work well, ought suggest to us things about God the Creator. His work is before us constantly, the work that is the universe. Our Lord once said to the leaders of the Jews who criticized him for healing on the Sabbath that, inasmuch as his heavenly Father was working, he too would work. God is hard at work, and it is inconceivable that God would not do excellent work. What is to be said, then, of the miserable sights we see in man and nature, when both are the work of God’s hands? We can only say what the owner of the harvest said of the weeds, in our Lord’s parable, “An enemy has done this!” Now - and this brings us to the point of this reference to work, especially the work of God - what is it that God intends in all his work? Putting it differently, what is the will of God in all he does?

Ordinary human reflection would suggest to us that a good God wills not only to sustain things in existence, but to ensure that his creation greatly flourishes. Imagine a disease striking the fruit on an orchard farm. Who would suspect the owner of the farm to have introduced the disease into the fruit of his farm, or knowingly permitted it? The idea would be preposterous. Rather, the will of the farmer is that his fruit flourish. He discovers the disease and then works night and day to eradicate it, and at great cost he succeeds. So too, precisely as creator, God means to do good work. His will is to bring life and not death. If we take as a basic assumption that God is good, we would expect that the disease of sin and death could not be his work. We would expect, instead, that he would be working to overcome sin and death as being a terrible blight on his work. Now, all of this philosophical expectation is confirmed by Revelation. God has “made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9-11). As St John says in his Gospel (3:17), God did not send his son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. The will of our heavenly Father is that “all men be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). It was for this that Jesus came, to fulfill perfectly the saving will of his heavenly Father. This is the will of God, man’s salvation and sanctification. This is his work, and in Christ the will of the Father has been perfectly fulfilled once and for all. We pray to God our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. We ourselves are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him. Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven! We ask that his loving plan be fully realized on earth as it is already in heaven. Let us pray that we may discern what is the will of God (Romans 12:2) and have the steadfastness to do it (Hebrews 10:36).

There are many joys in life, though the world be a broken world. One of those joys is the doing of good work. The best work that we can do, is to do as well as we can the will of God. This is what John instructed those who asked him, “What should we do?” (Luke 3: 10-18). Christ did the will of his Father, and he did it perfectly even though so many rejected his work. If we do the will of God, Christ will give us a share in his joy. Even if the circumstances surrounding our work may be unfavourable and even crumble before us - as it did, in certain respects in the life of our Lord - the joy of doing good work will be ours, for we shall have done the will of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment