[W]e live in a time of deep worldly skepticism about any “bigger plan” or higher meaning to human experience. For many people, the human person is little more than an accident of evolution; carbon atoms with an attitude. In other words, for many people we have no higher purpose than whatever meaning we create for ourselves.
In an era of sophisticated technology and material wealth, that kind of reasoning without God can sound plausible. But in the end it’s too small a vision of who we are as women and men. It undermines human dignity. It leaves starving souls hungry. It is not true.
In fact, we yearn for meaning.
With so many conflicting answers, our age is a confusing time. Many people today honestly seek meaning, but don’t know whom to trust or where to commit their lives.
Amid this uncertainty, Christians are people who trust in Jesus Christ. Despite the ambiguities of human history, the Catholic way of hope and joy, love and service grounds itself in an encounter with Jesus. As Saint John Paul II proclaimed in his first encyclical: “in man’s history, [the] revelation of love and mercy has taken the form and name: that of Jesus Christ. Everything follows from that. Jesus Christ is the basis of Christian faith.” – Love is Our Mission, Catechesis for the World Meeting of Families, 2015
“God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us.” – Pope Francis
1. Read Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2015. (The quote above comes from it.)
2. Sign up for Fr Robert Barron’s daily Lenten Reflections.
3. Book Review by Barb Szyszkiewicz: 40 Days, 40 Ways, A New Look at Lent by Marcellino D’Ambrosio –one of my favorite writers!
5. Enter Lent, Insert Apps: three Lenten apps to consider by Sarah Reinhard. We technology users need all the help we can get!
6. Read Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son (one of my all time favorite books) and join an online book club here.
8. The Restore Workshop — This “at home” retreat is led in part by Elizabeth Foss. This promises to be rewarding, especially for Moms suffering from burnout. But even if you are not, sign up and make a retreat at home and nurture joy in your life.
9. Browse the USCCB website’s Lenten offerings, including the daily printable calendar. The theme this year is “Raise up, sacrifice, and offer.” From the website: “This Lent, you are encouraged to raise up the needs of the world in prayer, to sacrifice, by giving up food and material wants, and to offer your time, talent and treasure as good stewards of the gifts God has given you.” Lots more here.
10. Finally, if you live in the Archdiocese of Boston, The Light is On For You means that EVERY church is open every Wednesday night during Lent from 6:30-8pm for Confession. Find out more here. If you’ve been away from the sacraments, please read and listen to the advice on this page. (Other dioceses are participating, so check out confession times in your area.)
Photo credit: Your truly shot this at the Mission in Carmel, CA. Junipero Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis soon. I think this quote is appropriate for Lent.
Happy New Year and Happy Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
When I give retreats to women, based on my book, I love to talk about Mary as our Wonder Woman. She really is!
To hear a recent talk, go here.
For more posts about Mary, go here.
My favorite Christmas hymn is “What Child is This?” Yet it was only recently that I learned all the words. Some hymnals sell it short.
Here’s the fullest rendition I could find. It’s so powerful as a song-prayer.
What Child is This?
(text by William Chatterton Dix 1837-1898)
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.
A few of my close friends know that I am immersed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and much of my recent meditation and reflection has been around the my own need for God, and my need for a savior. The word that keeps coming up for me is what God said to Adam and Eve after they were banished from Eden:
“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
As a wife and mother… dustiness is daily life. I’ve been chasing down dust and dirt and grime all my life. It comes with the territory. The goal is to eliminate dust, right? But no matter how we try, we simply can’t shake it. Dust we are. Dust we have. Dust we remain!
This Advent, I’ve really come to know and understand that God loves me so much that He enters into our dust. (Last year, it was all about Jesus entering into my chaos.)
That dustiness represents our sin and death, our frailty, our being lost and confused and broken. It is a grace to know one’s sins so we can turn from them.
It is a grace to know we are dust.
But the greater grace is know that God became man… and entered our humanity — on purpose!
The Lord of Glory took on the dustiness of our life. He was born of Mary into a dusty stable, and visited by dusty animals and shepherds who brought their own brand of dust to his bedside. Jesus is well acquainted with dust. He knows and sees and love the dust of me. And you.
St Paul knew this well. He contrasts the dusty man of Genesis, Adam, with the God-man of the Gospel, Jesus Christ who, though born into this dust, was destined to redeem it…
“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15: 47-49
I love that this dusty Jesus cared to entered into my dust and will raise it.
As the Church prayed the O Antiphons this week, I was deeply consoled by this prayer…
O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creatures you fashioned from the dust.
This is Christmas… it is the coming of the savior who is our redemption, God made man. One of the greatest sermons on this truth comes from the mighty pen of St Augustine. I’ll leave you with his wisdom
Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.
For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.
Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head.For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?
Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.
From the Office of Readings, Sermon from St Augustine, (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999)
This Christmas, I pray you and I will know this sheer grace…
From our house to yours…. Merry Christmas!
Baking? Wrapping? Cleaning the house for your celebrations? Bookmark this page and prepare your heart for Christmas with this amazing choir’s hymns.
Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (CCC, 463)
As Catholics, we profess our belief in the Incarnation in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ “came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
The Incarnation is a unique and singular event. Its truth informs the way we view God and ourselves.
When Jesus arrived on the earth, he changed the way humanity viewed God. In Jesus, God came down from heaven to earth, without compromising his divinity.
The Incarnation of Christ crowned centuries of divine revelation, God’s slow revealing of himself, making himself known to humanity over time. God’s divine communication was now to be known through the Person of his Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Incarnation as “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (CCC, 461).
This is the deepest meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.
[T]he Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (CCC, 464)
This holy condescension of God means that we can never accuse God of being absent or lofty or unreachable or inaccessible. The Incarnation—the taking on of flesh in the Virgin’s womb—is the moment whereby the inexhaustible, inexpressible, invisible, omnipotent, and almighty Holy One takes on human visage. The divinity of God shines through a human person now.
At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (CCC, 479)
Jesus, coming as a human person, changed the way we view ourselves. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Incarnation raises our own human dignity.
He who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) is himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as he assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Gaudium et Spes, 22)
Humanity now counts the face of God among its own.
Never again may I look at another person, or myself, with disdain or disrespect, for there is an inherent dignity in all.
I’m pleased to be a regular columnist there writing about the beauty and inspiration that comes from the Catechism of the Church. Click here to subscribe to Catholic Digest.
To the uninitiated, that pink candle at church makes no sense from a decorating point of view. It throws off the symmetry of the other three purple candles in the Advent wreath. Yet, it immediately draws attention.
A common sight in Advent, the pink or rose candle lit on the Third Sunday is a harbinger, a signpost, a little light that stirs the imagination. Something is a little bit different this week . . .
And what are we paying attention to? A respite from purple candles? Um, in a way, yes. But there is a much bigger picture, a broader context than ambience and church décor. Like so many visuals in the Mass, color is just one of the things that corresponds to the liturgical season, always pointing to a deeper truth.
If the purple candles are to remind us of the penitential and preparatory season of Advent, then the pink or rose candle is there to remind us of the soon coming joy of Christmas and the future joy of Christ’s coming again. Therefore, the object of our love and devotion should animate our penance, prayer, and service.
In years gone by, most Catholics learned that the Third Sunday was commonly called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete was translated from the Latin as “rejoice”! Gaudete Sunday gets it name from the opening antiphon and prayers of the Mass that declare: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (“Gaudete in Domino semper”) (Phil 4:4).
This Third Sunday, the Church is harkening to its good news: the Word is made flesh in Jesus, and the Kingdom of Heaven is born in our midst.
The imagery in Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah, recorded centuries before the first coming Christ, hints at this coming joy.
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God . . .
Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you . . .
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee (Is 35:1-2, 4, 10).
As always, there is much to meditate on, but the simple phrase that captures my attention as we come to this Sunday with joy is that once-and-future hope that the prophet gives about one day coming back to our true homeland, “crowned with everlasting glory.”
And I wonder if we could envision ourselves on that special Day, would we live any differently than we do now?
After all, rejoicing, as a verb, means it is something that we do.
Why? Because it is something that we Christians are: Joyful.
Or, are we still works in progress in the joy department?
It is here that the Church is giving hints to what our witness ought to be even within a penitential season. While the ransoming of our lives through Christ takes place long before the crowning occurs, such knowledge is a deep well for joy, hope, and the kind of repentance that leads back to joy.
Joy can be our watchword in this season for it reveals the deepest truth about the deepest reality of Christ’s Coming. But even more profoundly, that he has come and will come for me. And you. This joy is personal as well as corporate.
(Read the rest over at Patheos…)