Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sunday 25 December 2011, The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Pope's Three Christmas Wishes

    On December 7, 2011 Pope Benedict XVI turned
on the lights for the Vatican's Christmas tree.  Referencing the
tree and its lights, he expressed his Christmas wishes.

    "My first wish... is that our gaze, that of our minds and our
hearts, not rest only on the horizon of this world, on its material
things, but that in some way, like this tree that tends upward, be
directed toward God.  God never forgets us but He also asks that
we don't forget Him.

    The Gospel recounts that, on the holy night of Christ's birth,
a light enveloped the shepherds, announcing a great joy to them:
the birth of Jesus, the one who brings us light, or better, the One
who is the true light that illuminates all....

    My second wish is that we recall that we also need a light to
illumine the path of our lives and to give us hope, especially in this
time in which we feel so greatly the weight of difficulties, of 
problems, of suffering, and it seems that we are enshrouded
in a veil of darkness.

But what light can truly illuminate our hearts and give us a firm and
sure hope?  It is the Child whom we contemplate on Christmas, in a
poor and humble manger, because He is the Lord who draws near
to each of us and asks that we receive Him anew in our lives, asks us
to want Him, to trust in Him, to feel His presence, that He is 
accompanying us, sustaining us, and helping us.

    But this great tree is formed of many lights.  My final wish is that
each of us contribute something of that light to the spheres in which we
live:  our families, our jobs, our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 
That each of us be a light for those who are at our sides; that we leave 
aside the selfishness that, so often, closes our hearts and leads us to think
only of ourselves; that we may pay greater attention to others, that we
may love them more.  Any small gesture of goodness is  like one of the
lights of this great tree:  together with other lights it illuminates 
the darkness of the night, even of the darkest night."

                    -- Vatican Information Service
                        9 December 2011

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
                                                          -- Isaiah 9: 1

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sunday 18 December 2011

Fourth Century Advent Hymn

    Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
    Come testify thy virgin birth:
    All lands admire, all times applaud:
    Such is the birth that fits our God.

    Forth from his chamber goeth he,
    That royal home of purity,
    A giant in twofold substance one,
    Rejoicing now his course to run.

    The Virgin's womb that glory gained,
    Its virgin honor is still unstained.
    The banners there of virtue glow;
    God in his temple dwells below.

    From God the Father he proceeds,
    To God the Father back he speeds;
    Runs out his course to death and hell,
    Returns on God's high throne to dwell.

    O Equal to thy Father, thou!
    Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
    The weakness of our mortal state
    With deathless might invigorate.

    Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
    And darkness breathe a newer light,
    Where endless faith shall shine serene,
    And twilight never intervene.

    All laud, eternal Son, to thee
    Whose advent sets thy people free,
    Whom with the Father we adore,
    And Holy Ghost, for evermore.

            -- Saint Ambrose (334-397 A.D.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sunday 11 December 2011

Prayer to Mary Immaculate

To Mary Immaculate, Mother of Our Advent
        Blessed are you, O full of grace.
        Today with the greatest veneration, the Church recalls
the fulness of this Grace, with which God filled You from the
first moment of Your conception.
        The Apostle's words fill us with joy, "Despite the increase
of sin, grace has far surpassed it" (Rom 5:20).  We are glad at
this particular abundance of divine grace in You, who bear the
name of "Immaculate Conception," Mother.
        Accept us, just as we are, here by You.
        Accept us!  Look into our hearts!
        Accept our cares and our hopes!
        Help us, You, full of grace, to live in grace, to persevere
in grace and, if it should be necessary, to return to the grace
of the living God, which is the greatest and supernatural good
of man.
        Prepare us for the advent of Your Son!
        Accept us with our daily problems, our weaknesses and
deficiencies, our crises, and our personal, family and social
        Do not let us lose good will!  Do not let us lose sincerity
of conscience and honest of conduct!
        Obtain justice for us through Your prayer.
        Save the peace of the whole world!
        Be with us, You the Immaculate.
        Be with us.  Be with Rome.  Be  with the Church, and with
the world.  Amen.

                                -- Blessed John Paul II
                                   8 December 1979

        My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
                my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
                                        (Luke: 1:46-47)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sunday 4 December 2011

Everyone Shall See the Salvation of God
        "All mankind shall see the salvation of God" (Lk 3:6).

    God's salvation is the work of a love greater than man's sin.  Love alone can wipe out sin and liberate from sin.  Love alone can consolidate man in the good; in the unalterable and eternal good.

    It is exactly this God of our Advent:  the Creator and Redeemer, who makes this profession of such love for man, for man the sinner:  "Though the mountains leave their place, and the hills be shaken, my love will never leave you" (Is 54: 10).

    Let us make straight the paths of the Lord.  And let us get ready for the meeting with this love which will reveal itself, during the night of the birth of the Lord, in the shape of a shelterless Child.  Let us remember once again that this saving love, coming to man during the night of Bethlehem, and revealing itself in the Cross and the Resurrection, remains incessantly written in the Church's life as the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood as nourishment of souls.

    Each time we receive this Sacrament, whenever we accept this food, we prepare the way of the Lord, we make straight his paths.  May we always have hunger and thirst for this nourishment, above all in the period of Advent!

    May we, through the Sacrament of the Body and the Blood, build the way along which God will come to us in the mystery of his majesty.

                            -- Blessed John Paul II
                                16 December 1982

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
            -- From the Liturgy of St. James (4th century)