Posts Tagged ‘Lk 1:39-45’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 — “If the Lord is to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.”

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

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Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.
The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

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As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

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The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

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Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

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It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

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Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

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In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

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Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

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There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

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All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.

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Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/A1221r/

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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.

 

Consider

“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]

 

Examine

What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?

http://russ-ramsey.com/day-19-the-ordinary-overshadowed-reflection-questions-and-art-during-advent/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER, 2016, Wednesday, Weekday of Advent
JOY IS BORN OF THE PROMISE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a; Ps 32:2-3,11-12,20-21; Luke 1:39-45   ]

Christmas is often associated with joy.  One of the carols that we like to sing is “Joy to the world!”   What is the basis of this joy?  Namely, that the savior has come and that Christ has come to reign with His love and truth.  With Christ’s coming, there will be peace in our land and there will be love among men.  The thought of Christ’s coming therefore fills those without love and without peace with expectant joy.  This joy is born out of this promise.  This is the message of today’s scripture readings as we enter the 5th day of the “O” Antiphons that prepare us for the coming of Christ.

Indeed in the first reading from the Book of Songs, the mystical love and union between God and His bride, the Church is portrayed in terms of human love between two lovers.  The Book of the Song of Songs is really a compendium of love songs for a wedding.  Love is full of joy and admiration at the beauty of our loved ones.  “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  She says, “My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  Love is attentive, always paying attention and observing the details of our beloved.   “See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”   Where there is love, there is newness of life and we see things in a new perspective.  “For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”

Indeed, anyone who is in love with God is filled with joy.  When the love of God fills the person’s hearts, the things of this world pale in comparison with His love.  “If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Songs 8:7b) Love gives us meaning and purpose in life.  To fall in love with God is the greatest thing on this earth.  When God’s love is in our hearts, we find deeper inner peace, joy and security.  St Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (1 Cor 13:19b-20)

Secondly, the joy of Christmas comes from liberation.  In the optional reading from Zephaniah, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.”   Indeed, the Lord has come to take away our shame.  He has come to take away all that harm and destroy us.  He will help us to overcome our inner enemies, that is our sins and selfishness; and He will liberate us from our external enemies, pain, suffering and injustices.  The prophet assures us that God is our warrior.  He will fight the battle for us.  We only need to rely on His strength and might.  “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”   Both in today’s acclamation before the gospel and at the Magnificat at vespers, we pray, “O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.”

Truly, when the Lord is in us, we feel liberated from all fears, worries and anxieties.  All our sins come from fear and the desire to protect our self-interests.  We fear death, hunger and pain.  But the Lord shows us that love is stronger than death and selfishness.  So like the lover, we say to the Lord, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Songs 8:6-7a)

The Good News is that the Lord is coming and He has come.  “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  The Lord is saying to us, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  In a real way, the Lord comes to us in the Incarnation.  In the gospel reading, we read of how the Lord came to visit Elizabeth in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   The coming of the Lord filled Elizabeth with joy and John the Baptist also leapt for joy.

The Lord comes to us again and again.  He comes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist, just as our Blessed Mother carried the Lord in the tabernacle of her womb.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist with a pure heart, a clear conscience and a devout spirit, the Lord enters into our lives and renews the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism.   If our disposition is right, the Lord comes, but most of the time we do not recognize His real presence in the Eucharist.  This explains why although many Catholics receive communion every Sunday, nothing is happening in their lives. They receive without reverence, without a conscious recognition of Christ’s presence in the bread and most of all, in the seriousness of their sins.

Still, the Lord can come to us anew if we receive Him in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Lord wants to set us free from our prison of sin and misery.  Our pride, self-righteousness, egotism and anger often blind us to the reality of the truth.   If we want to be set free to find love and peace, then we need to seek His forgiveness; and then extend this forgiveness to our fellowmen and all those who have hurt us.  So if we have not yet frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be losing a great opportunity of grace.  How can there be peace and joy at Christmas when one is not reconciled with God and with our loved ones and our fellowmen?  If we want peace, let us make peace with ourselves, with God and others.

The Lord comes especially also in the compassion and mercy that others show to us, or vice versa.  Mary, hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age immediately responded to her help.  She travelled a great distance to help her cousin.  We too like Mary are called to be channels of grace and love.  She not only literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist but she herself became the presence of Jesus to them.  Through her kindness and graciousness, Elizabeth immediately sensed the divine presence in her heart and womb.  We too must do the same.  As we reach out to the lonely, the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the poor, we come to encounter Christ in them and they encounter Christ in us.

If the Lord were to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.  “Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.”  This last week of Advent is an intense period of expectancy which is aroused and strengthened by prayer, meditation and contemplation.  We must seek and desire that our Lord comes into our lives.  Like the love who said, “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” (Songs 3:1-2)  Let us wait for the Lord in prayer and good works.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”  Let us not delay any longer but have faith.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Related:

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Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

Karl Rahner also believed in the gift of the Holy Spirit in every human being. Rahner says, “To get more, give more.”

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Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 21, 2015 — “I have come to serve and not to be served.” — Proclaim the message of liberation

December 20, 2015

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Lectionary: 197

Art: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth,  by Florentine Artist Domenico Ghirlandiao, in 1491.

Elizabeth realises that Mary is going to be the mother of Christ and falls to her knees – and her own babe , the future John the Baptist ,“leaped in her womb for joy” in recognition of the promised Saviour.

Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
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Meditation from Living Space
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We continue reading from Luke, picking up from yesterday’s text. In the last two days we heard about the two annunciations – to Zechariah and to Mary – about the birth of two special children, John the Baptist and Jesus. Obviously, both mothers, cousins to each other, must have been very excited about the birth of their first child. They were anxious to share together their joy and happiness. In one way, it would make sense for Mary to visit Elizabeth, because the younger should visit the older. On the other hand, Elizabeth should be the one to visit because Mary’s child was a person of such rank and dignity, God’s own Son. In a way, the story is more interested in the children than in the mothers. And Luke uses his Infancy Narrative as a vehicle to present in advance some of the characteristics of Jesus’ future life. Here it is the characteristic of service that he illustrates.
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Jesus later on will say, “I have come to serve and not to be served.” And so, still in his mother’s womb, he comes to visit his cousin, John, rather than wait at home to be visited. The power of the Spirit is also much in evidence. John leaps in his mother’s womb at the very sound of Jesus’ voice. His mother recognises this as the power of God in Jesus reaching out to her son. Elizabeth herself is also filled with the Spirit and recognises in her young cousin the Mother of her Lord. As we saw, the choice of the First Reading is interesting. It is taken from the Song of Solomon, a poem of the passionate love between two young people. It is a fitting expression of the love that should exist between Jesus and his followers and between the followers themselves. There is no such thing as a purely ‘spiritual’ love. True love literally ‘em-bodies’ the whole person – spirit, mind, emotion and body. Mary, filled with the Spirit, will soon break out into that wonderful hymn of praise that we call the Magnificat, a hymn that will proclaim the message of liberation Jesus will later deliver by word and action. We will see that tomorrow.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER 2015, Monday, 4th Week of Advent
WELCOMING THE BELOVED WITH ANTICIPATORY JOY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: SONGS 2:8-14 OR ZEP 3:14-18A; LUKE 1:39-45

What is it like to welcome someone whom you love dearly?  We all know the joy of anticipating the meeting with someone we love, especially if that person is our beloved.  Many of us would take much trouble to prepare ourselves to meet that person.  And if the person is coming to our house, we would make sure we clean up the place, decorate it with a nice ambience and prepare the best food and delicacies to serve our guest.  We only want the best for that person because we love him or her.  We want her to feel happy to be with us, to enjoy our company and share our love and joy.  Indeed, the preparation to receive our guest is already such a great joy.  The thought of meeting our beloved gives us much consolation and joy.  The waiting itself is filled with yearning and thoughts and feelings of love.

This is what the scripture readings of today invite us to do.  As Christmas is just a few days away, the Church is asking us whether we are ready to receive our guest, who is not just human but also divine.  Are we ready with our preparations to make Him feel welcome, not just physically but most of all, whether our hearts are ready to receive Him?  In other words, are we filled with joy and expectation just thinking of receiving Jesus into our lives?

In the scriptures we are told of how Israel was filled with joyful expectation of the Lord’s coming.  The first reading from the Book of Song of Songs portrays Israel as the beloved of God.   The lover is of course the Lord Himself.  Israel was delighted to know that God was coming.  The author says, “I hear my Beloved. See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  Yes, that is how God loves us.  He is excited about us and His joy is to love us.  He calls us His beloved too. “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  Truly, He is inviting us to come to Him.  This is fulfilled in the gospel when Christ, still in the womb of Mary, came to fill John the Baptist who was in the womb of Elizabeth.  Hence, “she gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?  For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”

However, God is a “shy” lover.  He does not force Himself on us.  He needs to be invited.  That was how the author describes God.  “See where he stands behind our wall.  He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”  If we want God to come into our lives, then we must invite Him and open our hearts to receive Him.  If we are still lacking this joyful expectation of the birth of Christ, is it because our hearts are too preoccupied with many non-essential things like the rest of the world than with the most important thing which is the birthday boy Himself?  I am afraid that many of us are not much different from the world in our preparations for Christmas, focusing on the material preparations, the merry making, the gifts, the decorations, etc, but not on our personal relationship with the Lord.  How could we ever celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ, without Christ Himself?  The joy of Christmas is more than dinners, parties and merrymaking but the encounter with the love of Christ.  With this experience of Christ’s peace and love in our hearts, we in turn would want to share Him with others through the sharing of gifts, love and fellowship.  Unless such celebrations are rooted in Christ, they are empty, superficial and we have missed out the true meaning of Christmas.  And thus Christmas will not bring us the joy and peace we hope it would.

But if we make room for our beloved Lord to come to our house, just as Mary and Elizabeth did by opening their hearts to the Lord, then we, too, will receive peace and joy.  For those who are reconciled with the Lord, and have made their peace with God and their fellowmen, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they too will see the fruits of Christ’s coming.  As the author says, with the coming of the Beloved, it means that “winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.”  So great is the joy that this joy is expressed in dancing. “He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.”  The Prophet invited Israel in similar terms when he wrote, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!”  Even John the Baptist leapt for joy in the womb of his mother.  If we are not leaping for joy, it is an indication that our hearts are perhaps not really disposed to receive Him yet.  We have not entered into the experience of being loved and embraced by our beloved.  God remains distant from us.  All who are in love are always full of joy.  The psalmist remarks, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own.”  Indeed, to belong to the Lord, to be His Chosen as His own truly make us feel so loved and special.

As a result, we no longer have to live in shame and in fear.  The Prophet Zephaniah said, “The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away. The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”  With God in our midst and as our warrior, we need not fear about our future or our past.  The former is certain and the latter is forgotten.  Indeed, if many of us are fearful about our past and the future, it is because we have not brought Christ into our daily life and our struggles.  So long as God is with us, as He was with Moses, the prophets, Mary and Christ, then we can be certain that we can overcome all suffering, trials and challenges in life.  He will see us through and prove us victorious.

But how does He come into our lives so that we can be filled with joy?  Alas, Christ has come and is coming all the time, but because we have not been attentive, we have missed Him.  Christ comes to us through the ordinary events in life.  He came to Elizabeth in her cousin, Mary, who bore Him in her womb.  He comes to us too in the daily events of our life, in our joys and sorrows, in good and bad times.  But faith is necessary to see Him.  It was the faith of Elizabeth that enabled her to see that Mary was truly the mother of her Lord.  She could have doubted Mary’s claim to carrying the Messiah. Of course, she herself, having a miraculously conceived of John the Baptist, knew that nothing is impossible to God.  Thus she was filled with joy for Mary.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” With faith comes hope. With hope comes joy. The hope of liberation, of being loved and forgiven, of having a new life, fills us with joy indeed.

Secondly, He fills us with joy when we share the joy we have received.  We find Elizabeth and Mary filled with joy because both of them shared with each other what the Lord had done for them.  No greater joy can we have than to share with someone whom we love the joy that is in us. When joy is shared, it is doubled.  That is why at Christmas we underscore the importance of giving gifts.  As we give ourselves to others, we find joy.  Making ourselves a gift to others is what Christmas is all about because God makes Himself a gift to us in Christ.  Of course, the greatest joy we can give to someone this Christmas is to give Him Jesus.  Have you shared with someone what Christ has done for you as Mary did with Elizabeth?  If you have not, then, although you might have given many gifts, you would have failed to give THE giver of all gifts to those whom you love so much.  The gifts we give to others will soon be forgotten but if we give them Jesus, He will see them through not just today, tomorrow or next month, but throughout the year and beyond.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Song of Songs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, the Canticle of Canticles, or simply Canticles (Hebrew: שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים Šîr HašŠîrîm ; Greek: ᾎσμα ᾈσμάτων asma asmaton, both meaning “song of songs”), is one of the megillot (scrolls) of the Ketuvim (the “Writings”, the last section of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible), and the fifth of the “wisdom” books of the Christian Old Testament.[1]

Scripturally, the Song of Songs is unique in its celebration of sexual love.[2] It gives “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy”.[3] The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy; the women (or “daughters”) of Jerusalem form a chorus to the lovers, functioning as an audience whose participation in the lovers’ erotic encounters facilitates the participation of the reader.[4]

In modern Judaism, the Song is read on the Sabbath during the Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel.[5] Christian tradition, in addition to appreciating the literal meaning of a romantic song between man and woman, has read the poem as an allegory of Christ (the bridegroom) and his Church (the bride).[6]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_Songs

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 20, 2015 — The incarnation; the Word of God becoming flesh — Are we capable of laying down our life for another?

December 19, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 12

Reading 1 MI 5:1-4A

Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading 2 HEB 10:5-10

Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Alleluia LK 1:38

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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Commentary on Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-44 From Living Space

THE BIRTH OF JESUS is now imminent. In a few days’ time we will be celebrating the memory of that great event. Today’s Mass prepares us for the Christmas celebration. Each of the three readings takes up a different aspect of this great mystery to help us in our understanding and in our personal preparation.

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Promise of things to come

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The First Reading, from the prophet Micah, sets out the promise of great things to come. The starting point will be the unexpectedly obscure town of Bethlehem and not some other greater centre of Israel. But the one who will come from there will be “the one who is to rule over Israel” and “his origin goes back to the distant past”.

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The one who is to come “will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord”. And his new people “will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land”. And, very significantly, “he himself will be peace, shalom”.

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A remote corner of Israel

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This promise is magnificent but how is it to come into existence and fulfilment? In the Gospel we come down with a bump into the real world. From the grand prophetic language of Micah we are brought to a small remote corner of Israel. Two unknown women, Mary and Elizabeth, seem to be the principal actors. There is no mention of Zachary, the husband of Elizabeth, though he must have been around. But he had doubted the word of the angel and so he cannot speak until after the birth of his son.

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And yet, the really important characters are the unseen children, Jesus and John. It is through their mothers that they are first brought together.

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Though both women are with child, it is Mary who takes the initiative to visit Elizabeth. In a sense, that is right and proper because Mary is the younger of the two. On the other hand, we know that the status of Mary is higher because she bears within her the Son of God.

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When Mary approaches, the child in Elizabeth’s womb reacts immediately. Already, before his birth, John is touched with the Spirit of Jesus. This, we might say, is his baptism. Although John will appear first on the public stage, Jesus is the real source of John’s role as prophet and of his greatness.

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At the sound of Mary’s voice, John experienced the presence of Jesus and is filled with the Spirit. “For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy,” Elizabeth tells Mary.
But Elizabeth also is affected by the presence of Jesus. She bursts into praise for Jesus and his mother and says prophetically: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” And, by implication, with a visit from the Lord himself.

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Surely it is only through faith and the inspiration of the Spirit that she recognises in her younger cousin the Mother of her Lord.

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Spirit of service

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Already we can see a major theme of Luke’s gospel being unfolded at this early stage in the coming of Jesus, even before his birth in Bethlehem. For we are presented with the humility of the mother and her Son. It is they who go to visit and not they who are visited. There is no question of status or “face” with these two people. Even before he is born, Jesus already comes to serve and not to be served. It is through service we will recognise him as Lord. Later on he will tell his disciples, “You call me Master and Lord and you are right and yet I am the one who washes your feet. You go and do the same” (John 13:13-15).

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It is the beginning of God’s great plan to bring salvation and wholeness to the world. God’s own Son is preparing to come and live among us as a human being. He will be like us in every respect except in his freedom from sinfulness and its source, our fears and insecurity. As we party our way through the Christmas season, let us not forget what it is really about: the coming of God among us to show us the greatest love that can be shown, the laying down of one’s life for one’s friends.

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We should not, then, be surprised at the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass. It reminds us to look forward to the life of Jesus, a life lived totally in love that will end in suffering and death as the way to glory and everlasting life. Christmas might seem a strange time to be thinking of the suffering of Jesus. But Jesus’ life is to be seen as a seamless robe: birth in poverty to death on a cross as the essential way to new life and glory. We celebrate his birth because of the triumphant victory of his death. He emptied himself for love of us and the Father has raised him to the highest heavens.
Total submission

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All that happened from the moment of Jesus appearing among us as a human person can only be fully understood in the light of the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews which is our Second Reading for today.
It is by the total submission of the Son to the will of his Father that the fulfilment of the promise becomes possible. The Father, says the Letter, is not really interested in sacrifices and oblations of animals and things. “You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin.” Instead, the Father “prepared a body” for his Son. And, united with that body as a true human being, the Son offered himself unconditionally to his Father.

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“Here I am! I am coming to obey your will” and the obeying of that will was effected by the total offering of his human self. This self-offering far transcends any other offering that could be made. No one can offer more than one’s own self.

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That offering of himself will be seen in the whole life of Jesus as it unfolds in the Gospel pages, leading finally to the dramatic confrontation between love and greed, hatred, pride. Not without difficulty, Jesus will make the final offering of himself with “the greatest love that a person can show”. The outcome will be the Cross as the gateway to Resurrection.

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An invitation to follow

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Jesus does not only do all this for us while we sit back and wait to be “saved”. He invites us to say with him to the Father: “Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

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Mary herself has already followed her Son, though he is not yet born. Asked as an unmarried virgin if she is willing to be the mother of Jesus and assured that, with God, all things are possible, she has already said: “Yes! Let all this happen to me as you have planned it.” At this stage, she has no idea what is in store but she has said her Yes and she will be faithful to it.

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There was an advertisement for a brand of cigarettes some years ago which used to ask: “Have you said ‘Yes’ yet?” It is a question that the readings of today’s Mass are asking each one of us. We are about to celebrate Christmas very soon. Probably all our other preparations have been made or we are up to our eyes making them. But have we made the most important preparation of all? Yes to the Father, Yes to Jesus, Yes to all that we will experience in the coming year, Yes to every call that God makes and will make of us?

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Part of the meaning of Christmas is that by contemplating the experiences of Jesus and Mary, we learn from them how to say an unqualified and unconditional Yes. Because that is where the real joy and happiness of Christmas lies. All the rest is tinsel.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/ac041-ac041g-ac041r/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 DECEMBER 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent
REJOICING IN CHRIST’S COMING THROUGH ENCOUNTERING HIM IN HEART AND MIND
SCRIPTURE READINGS: MICAH 5:1-4; HEB 10:5-10; LK 1:39-44Christmas is near.  Christ is coming!  Are you happy?  Are you excited? But why are you happy and excited?  Is it because you will be receiving Christmas presents?  Yes, it is nice to receive presents!  Or is it because you will be attending parties and meeting friends?  Yes, it is nice to meet friends and enjoy their company!  But if these are the only reasons why you are happy and excited, your excitement and happiness is not going to last very long.  We must found our joy and happiness not on something, not on just anyone, but on Christ Himself!  If our joy is to be lasting, it must rest on a spiritual joy!

Thus, Christmas joy and our material and social celebrations must come from a deeper source, which is to encounter the Lord, to encounter His presence and know that the Lord is with us.  Only when we encounter the Lord who is the Emmanuel, God who is with us, can we find lasting peace and joy!  And indeed, Jesus is the one promised since the days of old, the one, as prophet Micah prophesied, who will rule over us.  Jesus, who calls Himself the Good Shepherd, will give us that peace and joy we are looking for because He is Peace.  If we want to find peace, we must know Christ and encounter Him.  No Christ, no peace!

In the gospel, the encounter between Elizabeth and Mary, between John the Baptist and Jesus, brought about great joy.  Mary must have betrayed her joy in her voice of greeting that something extraordinary had happened.  This in turn caused Elizabeth to be moved and exclaim with wonder and humility, “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”, for she immediately perceived that she was in the presence of a great divine mystery, that Mary bore salvation in her.

But not only were Mary and Elizabeth filled with joy, so, too, did John the Baptist when he encountered Jesus.  Elizabeth remarked, “For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”  For pregnant women to feel the child’s movements in their womb and to be aware of life within is nothing exceptional.  But Luke used the word; “leapt”, not simply “stirred or moved”, implying a certain astonishing power or strength.  Truly, Elizabeth must have experienced the joy of John the Baptist in encountering Jesus that he danced for joy.

How, then, can we share the same joy as they did?  Or rather, how can we encounter Christ for ourselves so that we too can find true peace and joy?  Firstly, we need to cultivate an attitude of wonder and contemplation.  The problem with modern man is that he has lost the sense of wonder.  He is no longer fascinated by anything. But man wants to strip mystery from everything. He stripped Santa Claus of its mystery!   He has lost touch with creation.  He has lost touch with the mystery of life and death.  This is because he lacks humility.  He thinks science has all the answers to life and destiny.

On the contrary, Mary and Elizabeth in today’s gospel were filled with wonder and praise as to what was happening in their lives.  When the gospel says, “Thereupon, Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah”, it is not simply to indicate Mary’s curiosity to see what was happening to Elizabeth.  Nay, Mary’s haste speaks of her interior disposition that made her act with fervour and zeal because of the marvels that God was working in her life.

We, too, are called to contemplate on the sublimity of Christmas, especially on the incarnation; the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  The irony, as St John would tell us, is that God who created the world through His Word and this Word who has now became flesh and dwells amongst us, unfortunately is not recognized by men!  This is the tragedy – man has failed to recognize the God who created him.  Hence, still cut off from the presence of God, man remains empty and incomplete, since without God, man is nothing.   Yes, we must gaze on Jesus and contemplate on God’s wisdom and greatness in emptying Himself to become one with us and one for us. To know that God is with us as the Emmanuel should fill us with great joy and courage, especially in difficult times. 

The second attitude flowing from the sense of wonder is faith, not reason.  When we begin to wonder and sense the awesomeness of life, then one cannot but either surrender in faith or in confusion, because reason cannot understand.  If we choose faith, then the life of God and the hope of men can meet in faith.  That was why Elizabeth remarked, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Faith in His coming and in His promise is a pre-requisite to encountering the presence of Jesus in our hearts.

Faith is the source of Mary’s blessedness.  It is her faith in the Word and because of her Son that she is elevated to such joyous and wondrous blessedness.  This faith of Mary is the basis for her continued joy even in suffering.  Her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and His promises.  Indeed, the word “blessed” literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”. It describes a kind of joy which is serene and untouchable.

The joy of Mary and that of Jesus is a joy that is interior and not influenced by changing circumstances in life.  Mary was blessed by being the mother of the Son of God.  But her blessedness also entailed having a sword pierce her heart as her Son died upon the cross.   As a consequence, God’s saving grace could display all of its strength in her.  Jesus promised His disciples that “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).  The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take away.  Only the faith of Mary can help us to embrace the will of God in life. 

The third attitude is that of obedience to God’s will.   God’s will becomes ours only when we have faith and trust in God.  In God, being, desiring and acting are one and the same.  To be with God is to desire Him; and to desire Him is to act like Him.  That is to say, if we are one with God, then we desire to become like Him in mind and heart.  Conforming our own will to His and to live in obedience to Him, is the only way we can unite ourselves with God.

Mary is full of grace and truly blessed because she lives out the beatitudes as taught by Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount.  If we proclaim the sinlessness of Mary, what we mean is that she always surrendered herself in obedience to the will of God. But to be chosen by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. Indeed, if Mary is called the Mother of God, it is because Mary received the word of God in total, humble obedience.  Similarly, this was the way Jesus acted as well.  We know that Jesus is truly the Son of God because even before His incarnation, He said in union with His Father, “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”  And what is the will of the Father?  That like Mary, He offers His entire self for the love of humankind!  

Like Jesus, we are called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice for others for the love of His Father.  United with Jesus, we are invited to offer real worship, not just in rituals but in spirit and truth by living a holy life in love and selfless service.  We are called to make ourselves the presence of God for others.  Like God the Father and Jesus, we are called to give not just presents but to give ourselves to others.  Isn’t Christmas the celebration of the mystery of this God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16)?

However, more than simply giving gifts, it is equally important to ask what to give and how to give as well.  We are called to give primarily ourselves.  What was the most important thing Mary brought to Elizabeth?  Not foodstuff, but the gift of herself!  She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence.  This gift is perhaps the most difficult gift to give to anyone.  We can send flowers and we can give presents, but to give ourselves, to make time to be with someone, is not so easy.  Yet, Mary’s example tells us that besides giving presents, we must give of ourselves, our presence, our time. This is the greatest gift because its value cannot be calculated in terms of money.  Do you know one thing everybody needs today? Everybody needs encouragement and an understanding ear.  Everybody needs the interior peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. This is what Mary’s visit did for Elizabeth. Mary’s visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. When we visit people this Christmas, let us try to bring some inspiration into their lives.

For this reason, the greatest of all gifts that we can give is the person of Jesus who has come to be with us!  Isn’t that what we all need most?  Isn’t Christmas the celebration of Jesus as the Gift of God in person?  Jesus comes to give us Himself, to share in our condition and to share in our struggles.  Hence, the presents and even our presence are to let them know that Jesus is real and living in us.  But surely, we want them to find Jesus themselves.  Let us seek to bring them closer to God, and let us try to share with them the Spirit of God in us, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace and joy, just as Mary did.

So like Mary who gave Jesus to Elizabeth, we too must give Jesus to others. Following the example of Mary and Elizabeth, we need to find courage to testify to others what God has done for us in our lives.  We need to share how the gospel has changed our lives, guided us in daily life, and offered us inspiration in difficult times and when we have to make important decisions.  Yes, we need to share with each other in simplicity of heart how God is present in our lives by celebrating with thanksgiving the marvels which the Lord has worked for, in and through us. Perhaps, we need to spend some time to pray for those who have not yet encountered the Lord in their lives, those who need healing and prayers.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 21, 2013 — To find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord

December 20, 2013

File:Champaigne visitation.jpg

Elizabeth (left) visited by Mary, the Visitation, by Philippe de Champaigne

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent Lectionary: 197

Reading 1 Sg 2:8-14

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Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! “For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
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“O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, Let me see you, let me hear your voice, For your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
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.Or Zep 3:14-18a

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Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

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Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. Sing to him a new song; pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. But the plan of the LORD stands forever; the design of his heart, through all generations. Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song. Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield, For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust. R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Gospel Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
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The Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin by Jacques Daret, 1434-1435.
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The infant in my womb leaped for joy. The Lord Jesus and the good news are a treasure not only to be possessed but to be shared. Those who have truly received Jesus in faith know that he is for the life of the world, the world that needs him badly. So they go out to share to others the grace they have received.

We can see this in our Blessed Mother Mary. After she receives Jesus in her heart and in her womb, she travels in haste to a town of Judah, to visit her relative Elizabeth. She brings to Elizabeth and her son, John, not only the words of the good news but the Word made flesh in her womb. What a marvelous effect her visit produces! The Holy Spirit comes down upon Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s voice. She is enlightened regarding Mary, whom she calls “the mother of my Lord”! She rejoices and so does John who is still in her womb.

Those who bear Jesus and the good news bring grace and joy to people.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2012,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Luke stresses the readiness of Mary in serving, in being a handmaid. The Angel speaks about the pregnancy of Elizabeth and immediately, Mary rises and sets out as quickly as she could to go and help her. From Nazareth to the house of Elizabeth there were more than 100 km, the minimum, four days of travelling!, There were no buses, no trains. Mary begins to serve and fulfils her mission in behalf of the people of God..Elizabeth represents the Old Testament which was about to end. Mary represents the New Testament. The Old Testament accepts the New one with gratitude and trust, recognizing in it God’s gratuitous gift which is going to be realized and is going to complete the expectation of people. In the encounter of the two women is manifested the gift of the Spirit. The child leapt with joy in Elizabeth’s womb. This is the reading of the faith which Elizabeth makes of the things of life..The Good News of God reveals his presence in the most common things of human life: two house wives who visit each other to mutually help one another. Visit, joy, pregnancy, children, mutual help, house, family: Luke wants us and the community to perceive precisely this and that we discover in this God’s presence..

Elizabeth says to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Up until today, these words form part of the best known Psalm and most prayed in the whole world, “The Hail Mary”. • “And blessed is she who has believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled”. This is the praise of Elizabeth to Mary and the message of Luke for the community: to believe in the Word of God, because the Word of God has the force to fulfil all that which it tells us. It is a creative Word. It generates new life in the womb of the Virgin, in the womb of people who accept it with faith.

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Mary and Elizabeth already knew one another. But in this encounter, they discover, one in one another, a mystery which they had not known as yet, and which fills them with great joy. Today also, we meet persons who surprise us because of the wisdom they possess and the witness of faith that they give. Has something similar happened to you already? Have you met persons who have surprised you? What prevents us from discovering and from living the joy of God’s presence in our life?

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The attitude of Mary before the Word expresses the ideal which Luke wants to communicate to the Community: do not close yourselves in self, but get out of self, be attentive to the concrete needs of persons and try to help others as far as possible according to their need.

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Personal questions

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Placing myself in the place of Mary and Elizabeth: am I capable to perceive and experience the presence of God in the most simple and common things in the life of every day?

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The praise of Elizabeth to Mary: “You have believed!” Her husband had difficulty to believe what the angel was telling him. And I?

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Concluding Prayer

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We are waiting for Yahweh; he is our help and our shield, for in him our heart rejoices, in his holy name we trust. (Ps 33,20-21)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-139-45

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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How are you feeling today?  Are you feeling happy?  Is there joy in your heart?  Or are you feeling sad and downcast?  What is the reason for your sadness? The cause of sadness is always the lack of love and peace in our lives.  Joy and peace is lacking because God is absent in our lives.  Hence, the liturgy is assuring us that God is coming into our lives very soon.

Like the lover in today’s first reading, God is yearning to see us.  The impatience of the man waiting to see his beloved expresses God’s passionate love for us.  Indeed in the bible, the love of God for humanity is always described in terms of a nuptial love, a marriage between Yahweh and Israel.  In the New Testament, Jesus is called the bridegroom and the Church, His bride.  So intimate is God’s love for us that He longs for us to share in His love.

Thus, being in love and the thought of being with our beloved cannot but fill us with joy even during the time of waiting.  When one is in love and when one is meeting one’s beloved, one cannot but be filled with joy, simply knowing that we can hold our beloved in our arms and be embraced by his or her love.  The time of waiting is a time of yearning and pining.  It is one of excitement and joy.

This too was the experience of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  We read that Mary, after receiving the message from the angel, went in haste to share with Elizabeth the Good News of the coming of the Messiah.  Elizabeth too, when she heard Mary’s greeting, gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”  John the Baptist too “leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” just as King David danced for joy when he received the Ark of the Covenant. (cf 2 Sm 6) So all of them were all dancing for joy at the thought of the coming of the Saviour. They could not contain the joy of the prospect that at last the Messiah was coming.

What about us?  Are you looking forward to Christmas?  You might, but perhaps you are looking forward to some merry-making and receiving some Christmas gifts, but you are not looking forward to having Christ born in your heart!  How sad it would be to celebrate Christmas without the birthday boy!  Without Christ coming into our hearts, how can we experience the love of God being poured into our hearts?  And without His love, there can be no joy and no peace since love is the origin of joy and peace.

It is therefore urgent to confront the emptiness and despondency of our hearts.  We need to fill it not with things and with activities and festivities but with the love, joy and peace of Christ.  We need to be quiet and seek Him as we approach the feast of Christmas.   We must enter into the longing of the lover waiting for his beloved to come.  Unless we long for God to come into our lives, He will not come.  The beloved will not impose His love on us.

How then can we fill the vacuum in our hearts?  The scripture readings instruct us that in the first place, joy is born of hope and hope is born of a promise.   Because of a promise, we can look forward each day in hope.  Like a young couple awaiting their marriage day, or their child that is to be born, or a young man his graduation day, or a poor family of financial assistance or a terminally ill person of a cure, that person cannot but be filled with joy, provided that hope is a certain hope.  Truly, when hope is a substantiated hope, unlike a vain hope for something to happen, one is infused with joy already.  Christian hope is based on a promise made by God Himself and that is why we know that this promise would be fulfilled.  And because of a promise made to us, joy is already in us even while waiting for the hope to be fulfilled.  

Consequently, to enter into this joy, we must believe.  Mary believed that God is faithful and trustworthy.  She knew that God will always be true to His promise as she sang in the Magnificat, “He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons forever.”  Mary also believed in the Word spoken to her.  Relying on the promise of God through the angel, she consented to do His will in spite of all the uncertainties and challenges ahead of her.  She committed herself to do His will, believing that He will make all things possible, regardless of the sufferings and persecutions she would have to go through.  This faith is summed up in the response of Elizabeth, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary believed that God could do the impossible, and much more than we can imagine and understand.  With God all things are possible to those who have faith.  She remembered the exhortation of the angel Gabriel.

How do we know that we have believed?  Not by words but by the fruits of faith.  Anyone who believes in the promise of God will begin to reach out to others.  So in the case of Mary, she immediately went to assure Elizabeth of the truth of God’s message, for Elizabeth too must be strengthened in her faith that she was no longer barren.  Both gave each other support in believing the miracle that was happening to both of them.  Together they could affirm that whether one is barren or a virgin, God could accomplish the impossible in human reckoning.

If we have faith, we too, must encourage others in their faith.  Like Mary, we must bring hope to others, especially those who are facing crises in their personal life, those who have given up on God or on love because of the tragedies they are going through as a consequence of failed relationships, betrayals, infidelity or sickness and misfortunes in their life.  In solidarity with them, we must help them to cling to God’s promise by helping them to find faith in Christ again, who is their hope, joy and peace.  Are you bearing fruits of love like Mary by bringing Christ to others, or by being Christ to others so that they too can leap for joy in encountering God’s love?

In the final analysis, to find true joy and peace, we must find the Lord.  We must be reconciled with Him by allowing Him to be the Lord of our lives.  Have we gone for the Sacrament of reconciliation?  Have we sincerely confessed all our sins in humility and with contrition?  Have we made time to allow Jesus, the Word to be conceived in our hearts and take flesh in our life?  Like the psalmist then we should pray, “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield, for in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.”

If He seems to be slow in coming, then know that sometimes, like the beloved, the Lord is “hiding in the clefts of the rock” so that He could expand our desire for Him when we begin the search for Him in desperation and earnestness.  The greater our desire, the greater the capacity to receive; the greater the joy we will have.  So in fervent prayer, we beg the Lord, “Show me your face! Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  If we are sincere in wanting His love, He will come and show us His face and pour His love on us.

When that day happens, you will, like all God’s people, exult and sing for joy for He will turn your mourning into joy (Ps 30:12).  Truly, when God’s love is with us, then we can say, “winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”  How great is our God indeed!  How great is His love for us that He would deign to live in us and not just in our midst!

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

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