Advent 2nd Week - Dec 9-14: Weekday Reflections

Dec 9: Monday (Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary) (Transferred to Dec 9th Monday and hence not a Holy Day of obligation in the U. S. in 2019): USCCB: Introduction: Mary’s prophecy given in her Magnificat, “Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of Faith about her: 1-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus. Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Basis in Tradition and Scripture: (A) From tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved this in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. (B) From Holy Scripture: 1- God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth. (Jer 1:5 — “Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”). Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sins from the first moment of her origin. 2- The angel saluted Mary as “full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. 3- Gen. 3:15– “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers; He will strike at your head while you strike at His heel.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin. (C)-Argument from reason: 1-If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So, did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life.
Life messages: 1) Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children. 2) Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith, obedience and total commitment to her mission. (Fr. Tony)  L/19
Dec 10 Tuesday: Mt 18: 12-14: 12 What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray?  13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. USCCB reflections:
The context: Since the self-righteous Pharisees who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd’s joy on its discovery, the parable of the lost coin and the woman’s joy when she found it, and the parable of the lost and returned son and his Father’s joy on his return.  These three parables defended Jesus’ alliance with sinners and responded to the criticism that he was welcoming tax collectors and sinners. The central theme of today’s Gospel is that our God is loving, patient, merciful, and forgiving.    This parable reminds us that we have a God who welcomes sinners and forgives their sins when they return to Him with genuine contrition and resolution to amend their lives.
Shepherding in Judaea was a hard and dangerous task.  Pasture was scarce; thorny scrub jungles with wild animals, and vast desert areas were common, posing constant threats to the wandering sheep.  But the shepherds were famous for their dedicated, sacrificial service, perpetual vigilance and readiness for action.    Two or three shepherds might be personally responsible for the sheep owned by several families in a village.   If any sheep were missing, one of the shepherds would go in search of it, sending the other shepherds home with the flock of sheep. The whole village would be waiting for the return of the shepherd with the lost sheep and would receive him with shouts of joy and of thanksgiving.
Life messages: 1) We need to confess our sins to regain peace and God’s friendship.  We have to be humble enough to recognize that we need God’s forgiveness to be whole. If we have been in sin, our God is ready to receive and welcome us back, just as Jesus welcomed sinners in his time.   Let us pray today that we may allow God’s love and forgiveness into our lives.
2)   We should also ask God for the courage to extend this forgiveness to others who have offended us.  As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray also for God’s Divine Mercy on those who have fallen away from grace.  (Fr. Tony) ( L/19
Dec 11 Wednesday (St. Damasus I, Pope ): Mt 11: 28-30: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”USCCB reflections:   
The context: In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers rest to those who labor and are burdened, if they are ready to accept his easy yoke and light burden. For the Orthodox Jew, religion was a matter of burdens, namely, 613 Mosaic laws and thousands of oral interpretations, which dictated every aspect of life. Jesus invites the overburdened Israel, and us, to take his yoke upon our shoulders. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood and were carved to fit the ox comfortably. The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Jesus’ yoke is light because it is given with love. It is the commandment to love others as Jesus did. Besides, the yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. So we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power. We are yoked together with Christ to work with him using his strength. By saying that his “yoke is easy,” Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
The second part of Jesus’ claim is: “My burden is light.”  Jesus does not mean that his burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid on us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light.  By following Jesus, one will find peace, rest, and real refreshment. We are burdened with many things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age, and a thousand other things. Jesus is asking us to give him our burdens and take on his yoke. By telling us, “Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest,” Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way. When we are centered in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens.
Life messages:  1) We need to be freed from unnecessary burdens: Jesus is interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us and suck the life out of us, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke and his burden, that bring to us, and to others through us, new life, new energy, new joy.
2) We need to unload our burdens before the Lord. One of the functions of worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment, when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries and evil addictions on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19
Dec 12 Thursday USA: Our Lady of Guadalupe ( Lk 1: 26-38 or 39-47: USCCB reflections: 
Most of us know the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On December 9, 1531, an elderly Indian man named Juan Diego had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a poor Mexican Indian village outside Mexico City. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell his Bishop to build a Church in Tepeyac. The Spanish Bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. But to humor Juan Diego, the Bishop demanded that the visionary bring some sort of proof. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the Bishop. When Juan Diego opened his poncho to present the roses to the Bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. This apparition occasioned the conversion of nine million Indians to Christianity in twenty years. It is estimated that ten million pilgrims visit the Basilica every year. The original Church was built in 1533, the second in 1556 and the third in 1709. The Virgin of Guadalupe was declared the Patroness of Latin America by Pope St. Pius X (1907), Queen of Mexico and Empress of America by Pope Pius XII (1945), Mother of America by Pope St. John XXXIII (1961) and Star of Evangelization by Pope St. John Paul II (1979).
Life messages:   1) The story of the apparition tells us how Jesus, as Emmanuel, and Mary his mother, want to be among us, especially among the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized in society who have neither voice nor political or social influence. That is why Our Lady appeared to a poor Indian in a village, not as a white woman but as a brown-skinned Indian princess, speaking his native Nahuatal language, and why Mary did not appear to any of the Spanish overlords. God wanted the Basilica in honor of Jesus’ mother built in the village, not in the city.
2) The vision challenges us to listen to the ordinary people who do not look or act like important people and to treat them with reverence. While it is true that God loves each and every one of us, there is a special place in God’s heart for the poor and the powerless – God’s preferential option for the poor. So the feast challenges us to see and serve Jesus in the poor and the broken-hearted in our communities.
Anecdote: About sixteen years ago a priest (Fr. Phil Bloom) received a very unusual request:  A young woman asked him if he would help her get rid of her unborn child.  The priest was obviously surprised, but he tried not to react negatively. “Why do you want to end your pregnancy?” he asked.  She replied that when she told her boyfriend, he said he was going to leave her.  She loved him and desperately wanted him back. The priest resisted the temptation to say, “your boyfriend is a rat.”  Instead he asked her to do three things: First, to allow the priest to pray with her and bless the baby.  Second, to see a medical professional that he knew.  And, third, to watch a short video.  The video showed the development of the human embryo. After she left, the priest thought about the young woman and wondered what she would do.  In his room he had a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  He noticed the black ribbon below her folded hands and he remembered that the ribbon signified pregnancy.  The child within her, of course, is Jesus.  The priest asked Our Lady to help that young woman. A month or so passed.  The priest heard a knock on his office door.  When he opened the door, he saw a shy, smiling face.  It was the young woman. she told the priest she had decided to keep her baby. A year later he saw her again.  She was holding a lovely baby girl.  After some conversation, the priest asked her, “Would you give up your baby for anything?”   “No,” she said, “she is my treasure.”   The girl is now a teenager.  She lives with her mom and grandmother.  In their home they have a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe that the priest gave to mom.* ( (Fr. Tony) ( L/19
Dec 13 Friday (St. Lucy, Virgin, Martyr) ( ): Matt 11: 16-19: 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 17 `We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon’; 19 the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Cfr. Luke 7: 31-35). USCCB reflections: cfm 
The context: The message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus fell on deaf ears and met with stiff resistance from the self-righteous Scribes and the Pharisees because of their jealousy, prejudice and spiritual blindness. Hence, they attributed the austerities of John the Baptist to the devil and Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners as gluttony, evidence contraindicating any messianic possibility. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares these Scribes and Pharisees to irresponsible street-children.
Dog-in-the-manger attitude: Jesus compares the attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees to that of street-children who want to entertain themselves by playing wedding and funeral songs. They divide themselves into two groups. But when one group proposes to sing wedding songs and asks the other group to dance, the second group will propose funeral songs and ask the first group to carry one of them on their shoulders as they act out a funeral procession. In the end both groups will be frustrated. Jesus states that the Scribes and Pharisees act exactly like these irresponsible and immature children because of their pride and prejudice. Jesus criticizes the unbelieving Jews for not listening either to John the Baptist, who preached a message of austerity and repentance, or to Jesus, who preached the good news of love, mercy and salvation.
Life messages: 1) Jesus’ parable about disappointed playmates challenges us to examine whether we are buffet Catholics with selective hearing, so that we hear only what we want to hear. Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is Good News and it produces true joy and spiritual freedom for those who will listen, but it is also a warning for those who refuse to listen and close their minds. 2) Hearing the Gospel implies the total acceptance and assimilation of what we hear and the incorporation of it into our daily lives. Like the generation of Jesus’ time, our age is marked by indifference and contempt, especially in regard to the things of Heaven.  Indifference dulls our ears to God’s voice and to the Good News of the Gospel. Only the humble of heart can find joy and favor in God’s grace. ((Fr. Tony) ( L/19
Dec 14 Saturday (St. John of the Cross, Priest, Doctor of the Church) : Matthew 17: 9-13:  9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He replied, “Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; 12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. USCCB reflections: cfm   
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the warning and instruction given by Jesus to Peter, James and John as they were coming down the mountain after witnessing Jesus’ Transfiguration. Jesus forbade them to give any publicity to what they had seen, because people were expecting a conquering political messiah with Elijah as his forerunner, and a powerful reformer who would destroy evil and restore justice in the land for the messiah to rule.
The Expected Messiah. Then Jesus indicated that he was the expected Messiah, and that John was the Elijah they had been waiting for. John’s mission was to prepare the way for the first coming of the Messiah, as Elijah’s mission would be to prepare the world for the Messiah’s second coming at the end of the world. The scribes misunderstood and taught that Elijah would come before the first coming of Jesus, the Messiah, and    Jesus told his disciples that for those who were willing to believe it, John the Baptist had served as Elijah in announcing His own coming and preparing the people to receive Him. Jesus also reminded his disciples that he would fulfill his role as the Messiah not by gaining political power but by his suffering and death.
Life messages: 1) Let us accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, who became our Messiah through his death on the cross. 2) We do so by cooperating with our Savior in our eternal salvation, by obeying his commandment of love and by following the instructions given by the Church Jesus founded. (Fr. Tony) ( L/19