Saint Joseph

St. JosephThese words from the December 18th introduction to the Mass readings in the Magnificat: “The “righteous shoot to David” that the Lord raises up in Christ comes to fruition because of the righteousness of the son of David, Joseph, who chooses to obey the promptings of an angel instead of his own ideas. Such conviction before what would otherwise seem preposterous is possible because of the living Presence in Mary’s womb. This is the “justice” to which the “righteous man” Joseph gives all his freedom, and it flourishes in his time. He awakes from the dream with the prayer, “Come to rescue us with your mighty power!””

I had not thought of this – that the Presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb affected all those around her. And why not? Elizabeth was changed; John the Baptist was changed; Zechariah was changed. There was even a sweet story of Mary’s journey to Elizabeth, of how she was helped by others along the way.

Does this mean that in the Presence of Jesus a world of possibilities opens up? That we are more likely to choose the good? And why not? Changes happened to me from the Adoration Chapel, although they happened slowly, almost imperceptibly. But then I did not have the righteousness of Joseph or Elizabeth or Zechariah.

And what of a person who receives the Eucharist? There, too, changes occur. Notice the joy of those who receive frequently or even daily. The presence of Jesus near or within is powerful. How could it not be?

David’s Mighty Warriors

In Chapter 23 of 2 Samuel we read the Last Words of David. Then there is a section starting in verse 8 through verse 39 which describes the mighty warriors of David. It seems odd that in the life of David there would be a section devoted to the men who followed him. These mighty warriors are divided into two categories: the Three and the Thirty.

The Three: Ishbaal, son of Hachamoni was the first of the three. Eleazar, son of Dodo the Ahohite was the second. The third was Shammah, son of Agee the Hararite. There are descriptions of their deeds in the text. These were men of the greatest strength, endurance, devotion and military prowess. How did they become the Three? Constant training in body and mind, an aptitude for their vocation, unwavering devotion to David and their God.

The Thirty is another group described. I won’t name them except to say that in the text Abishai, brother of Joab, son of Zeruiah(sister of David) was the leader of the Thirty. The text says that he did not attain to the Three. So the Three must have been so high, that only someone of immense talent, strength, loyalty and dedication could attain that position.

I have been thinking that I don’t listen to God. I spend a lot of time telling Him things, but when do I listen? I re-read this passage in 2 Samuel yesterday at the Adoration Chapel. This morning I awoke thinking about these mighty warriors. In our day we might compare them to Navy Seals, that group of Special Forces who have done such amazing things. Is reflecting on these passages a way of listening?

It occurred to me that I am called, and all Christians are called, to this special class of God’s warriors. Only some attain to the Three – the great saints, the holy martyrs. But all are called to be part of the Thirty, to be mighty warriors for Christ.

What would it take to be warriors of Christ? A life of prayer – the kind that listens as well as talks, sacrifice, penance. I have a long way to go. Lord, help me to be a warrior for you, to be your faithful servant.

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10 These were the chiefs of David’s mighty warriors—they, together with all Israel, gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the Lord had promised—1 Chronicles

These words are from Patheos, Dillon Burroughs: Chronicles notes the lives of a small band of men whom David called his mighty warriors. These men both led Israel’s military as well as provided for his personal security. What did David value most about these men? It was not their muscles; it was their loyalty.

Readers often overlook this essential trait of the mighty men. Yes, their descriptions include killing hundreds of enemies, taking down most-warranted insurgents, and even killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day. But many men could fight; few could both fight and commit their lives to serving the king.

Still today, God seeks loyalty as one of his most important traits. The Lord has given us many skills, yet others can often accomplish the tasks we can perform. What cannot be copied is our loyalty to the Lord.

On a scale of one to ten, what level of loyalty do you have to the Lord? We all have room to grow; the goal is to live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.

In another post Dillon writes about completing a project he started some years ago – writing  the Bible by hand, page by page. “As I conclude this project, I ask for your prayers and encourage you to continue to invest your life in serving God and growing in his Word. When you do, he will lead you to apply it in the context that best fits how he has created you. When we all live in this way, God is honored and lives are changed. In the end, the goal is to say, “To God be the glory.” and to hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The Last Words of David

2 Samuel Chapter 23

Now these are the last words of David:

The utterance of David, the son of Jesse,

the utterance of the man God raised up,

anointed of the God of Jacob,

favorite of the Mighty One of Israel.

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me,

his word was on my tongue.

The God of Israel has spoke,

of me the Rock of Israel said:

He that rules over men in justice,

that rules in the fear of God,

is like the morning light at sunrise,

on a cloudless morning,

making the greensward sparkle after rain.

This part of 2 Samuel provided one of the questions in our study. So much of the wording of this was beautiful.  The utterance of a man that God raised up — this was not a self made man, but one whom God chose. It brings to mind all the difficulties that David faced, the experiences which led him to become a great ruler. He was anointed or made special and holy by the anointing. David took that anointing to heart and lived as a man chosen by God. Each decision which he made, according to the Bible, was done by asking God if this decision was His will. It is no wonder that David was a “favorite of the Mighty One of Israel.”

I was impressed by the wording and the description of a just ruler who fears God. A just ruler is like the morning light at sunrise –  soft, welcoming, expectant, or like the rain which makes the grass to grow. Both beautiful images. I looked up this passage in several different Bibles. I like this one the best. The images it brings to mind are so beautiful. I don’t think I have ever seen the word “greensward” before. It just means “grass covered ground”, but such a beautiful way of saying it.

What does this passage mean to me? Can I see myself in this passage? I was anointed at my Baptism and then again at Confirmation. If I let Him, the Holy Spirit will speak through me. I notice it sometimes during the Scripture Study. Questions are asked and sometimes I have the answers, answers that are put together in a way that I would not have put them together. I had the information, only the answers to the questions come in a way that surprises me. Perhaps that is the Holy Spirit prompting my words. I too am a chosen one for I have been chosen to be of the family of God, to have Jesus as my Brother. I can never be worthy of the honor, but I can live in gratitude to the Lord for having chosen me.

 

 

Canticle of Zechariah – Part 3

“In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us”

dawnThis morning while reading the Morning Prayer in the Magnificat, this line “jumped out” at me. What a beautiful image it brought to mind. As the dawn comes, so quietly, so softly, God’s Son will come to us – “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.” The birds know when the dawn is coming, for sometimes I hear the softest peep as they awake. Then all is quiet again, as they wait with expectation for the start of a new day.

How glorious and loving is our God! That He would come to live among us, to share His life with us – there is no way that my mind can understand this or begin to thank Him for His generosity and His love. And as the dawn is so beautiful and touches our hearts so gently, so I think God must be also. Beautiful to behold – so beautiful that we cannot see Him and live. Our eyes and hearts and minds could not grasp that much beauty – at least not yet.

A poem I wrote some years ago:

Darkness before dawn, the world quiet and still

All nature awaits the sign of His will.

The morning approaches with the touch of His Hand

As the cap of the night is raised from the land.

With delicate brush strokes He addresses the sky

Bringing great feasts of glory to awaken our eyes.

First, billowing clouds – soft grey-blue and white

Then a procession of hues which arouses the light.

His palette sighs heavenward with warm tints and shades,

A bouquet of colors which reflect what He’s made.

Our thanksgiving to God for his painting above,

Now intertwined with our lives is a sky full of love.

Canticle of Simeon

Luke 2:29-32
Christ is the light of the nations and the glory of Israel

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeone recognizes God's Gift

Last night, just before bedtime, I read this again. I could see the scene in my mind’s eye and feel the words in my heart. The Bible tells us that Simeon, the author of this prayer, was aged, having prayed faithfully to the Lord in the Tempe of Jerusalem for many years. The Lord had promised Simeon that he would see “the Salvation of Israel” before he died. Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph bring Him to the Temple in Jerusalem, to offer their first born son to the Lord, as was required, and to make the appropriate sacrifice for Mary’s purification.

The Voice of the Holy Spirit calls to the aged Simeon, who then recognizes Jesus as the Gift that God had promised from ages past. “Now”, Simeon says,” I am ready to be at peace, to sleep with my fathers.” There was no fear in his voice, no concern about death. Simeon had had a long life. He had praised His Creator as was his joy and his work. Now near the end of Simeon’s life, God had fulfilled His promise to His servant.  Simeon could go to his rest assured that all would be well.

Such trust in the Lord! May I grow in that trust and be as faithful as Simeon.

Praise be to God!

More thoughts on Zechariah

Imagine that you are a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. You are called to light the incense in God’s Holy Place – a task that seldom comes to you. An angel appears to you while you are in this most quiet and Holy Place, and you are frightened. The angel announces that your wife will conceive a child, even though she has long since passed the time when women conceive. You question the angel’s message, so the angel strikes you dumb for you failed to believe God’s messenger. After your time of service is completed, you return home to your wife Elizabeth. She does become pregnant, just as the angel said. You are amazed and puzzled that after all these years, there would be a child – surely you and your wife are too old.  Could you have really seen an angel? Could what you remember of an angel’s message be true?

Often during sleepless nights, you ask God’s forgiveness for your unbelief and thank Him for His wonderful gift of a child. You spend most days and sometimes late into the night at the local synagogue studying the scrolls of the Torah. The angel said that your son would be a forerunner for the Messiah. Your people have waited for the Messiah for centuries. You live as in a dream – God is preparing to visit His people. Who are you that the Most High God has chosen your son to be born to announce to the world that His Messiah has come?

Then far into your wife’s unexpected pregnancy, a visitor comes. You are told that the visitor is your wife’s young cousin Mary from Nazareth, who has come to help your wife in these last difficult months of her pregnancy. Tearing yourself away from your studies, you return home. You want to thank Mary for her kindness in coming to help Elizabeth. As you come into Mary’s presence, what do you sense? There is a look about Mary. There always has been. She is a kind and generous young woman. But she has always had about her a seriousness, a sense of purpose, a dignity beyond her years. But now, something about Mary is different. Do you feel within your soul that you are in the presence of God? Do you have the same intuition as your wife had when she heard Mary’s voice, when your soon to be born son leaped for joy in her womb? You are a man of deep thoughts and an intense love of God. Would you know that you are in His Presence? Does Mary or Elizabeth tell you the news – Mary carries within her womb the Messiah, the Son of God? What are your thoughts at her news? Do you disbelieve her as you did the angel who announced Elizabeth’s pregnancy? Or have you learned enough, thought enough, prayed enough to know that God is doing wondrous things, and He has given you a small part to play in the drama. Do you fall on your knees as you behold Mary? Do you reach out to touch the Son of God growing within her? Can you still breathe?

In Zechariah’s canticle –  the first two lines – we find these words:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Was this Luke’s reflection on what he knew had happened or were they Zechariah’s words, for he knew from Mary that the Messiah was developing as an infant in her womb? Does it matter if it is Luke’s reflection or Zechariah?

August 5, 2013

Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

Today while reading the Morning Prayer, it occurred to me that Zechariah knew what the promise was – not necessarily a return of a Davidic kingdom, but a place and a time where the chosen people could worship God freely. Yes, they would be free from the hands of enemies, but being able to worship God freely would allow them to be holy and righteous in the sight of God. Perhaps he saw that as the promise of the Covenant.

Zechariah in the Gospel of Luke

indexI have been thinking about Zechariah and Mary’s canticles in the Gospel of Luke. How difficult it must have been for Zechariah! He came home, after serving in the Temple and hearing Gabriel’s message, and was not able to speak.  The Gospel says that Elizabeth conceived a child after Zechariah returned home.  She must have had conflicting feelings – grateful to God for the gift of the child, but frightened about the future. How would she care for Zechariah and their child? She was old and not able to do as much as she had when she was younger. People would talk when they saw an old woman who was pregnant – I know I would. No wonder she hid herself for some months after she became pregnant – perhaps she spent a lot of time in prayer, giving thanks to God and asking for His assistance. And her age – how difficult it must have been to be pregnant! There are enough aches and pains associated with age but add pregnancy to it – how difficult! The answer to her prayers came in the form of her cousin Mary and what an answer it was!

Zechariah, I am sure, spent much time in prayer and study after returning from the Temple. What did the Scriptures say about the Messiah? he wondered. Though Zechariah had probably studied the Scriptures all his life, still he went back to them again and again to glean from them what he could, and in particular what role his son John would play in God’s plan. Then Mary comes to visit Elizabeth – oh what joy! Not only further confirmation about his soon to be born son John, but the Messiah is in his home! No wonder Zechariah could speak such beautiful and prophetic words when his new born son is named!

Luke 1:68 – 79
The Messiah and his forerunner

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

———————————————–

Elizabeth and Zechariah and John the BaptistReading the canticle one can’t help but notice that Zechariah, like the Jews of Jesus time, expected a Messiah who would free them from their enemies – the Romans and perhaps others. A Messiah would return Israel to those glory days of David when they were free from their enemies and recognized and respected by those nations surrounding them. They would once more be free as a people, free to live their lives as they desired, free to worship God without interference from men.

However, in the second to  last paragraph, Zechariah talks about salvation and the forgiveness of sins. A prophetic utterance – perhaps then he truly knew what the Messiah would bring. And tonight a repeat from Mother Angelica – God bless her – who said that John was sanctified in the womb and free from sin at birth. I had heard that he received the Holy Spirit, who is the Sanctifier. I never put that together myself.

St. John the Baptist

john the baptist How did St. John begin his ministry to preaching and baptizing?

We have read in the Gospel, Luke Chapter 1, 5-25, how the angel Gabriel brought the news of John’s birth to Zechariah, a priest of the temple. Zechariah didn’t believe Gabriel and was struck “dumb” until John’s birth. Further on in that chapter, verses 57-80, we see the birth of John and read Zechariah’s canticle where he blesses the Lord that the Messiah is coming – now growing in the Virgin Mary’s womb – and that his son John will help prepare the people for His coming. We don’t know how long John’s parents lived after he was born, though we are told that they are both old. At some point in John’s early life, he likely went to live with the Essenes, a Jewish sect which followed strictly the Laws of Moses, preparing themselves for the coming of Jesus.

At what point did John know that the time had come to begin his work? How old was he? We don’t know. He was born 6 months before Jesus and Jesus begin His ministry about the age of 30, so it is easy to assume that John began his baptizing shortly before that. A year perhaps or more?

How does one go about announcing good news? I am reminded of the election of our new pope, Francis. The cardinals come to the window of the Vatican, with all the news media watching and broadcasting the results, and they announce the “We have a Pope! – Habemus Papam!.” In John’s day, how was this done?john-the-baptist-preaching

How did a prophet announce himself? The people were waiting for the Messiah – perhaps it was easy to get their attention. Perhaps the prophet stood in a public place, where people were gathered for some other event, and announced himself. Anyone with words that were out of the ordinary would be noticed. Perhaps they started very small, gathering just a few individuals to them, who then went out and gathered others.

Where were the places that John baptized, how close were they to the public thoroughfares, that he might be noticed, preaching to all who would stop and listen, if only for a moment? Since people were expecting the Messiah, if someone’s words seemed “from God”, it might be easy to garner attention. The Jewish people were, for the most part, a religious people. Their lives revolved around the traditions handed on to them by their forefathers. There were no books or other reading materials for the common man, no entertainment besides the occasional marriage celebration, the birth of a new child or an event put on by the king (if there were any). Each year with great rejoicing families went “up to the Temple” to celebrate the great feasts which God had given them. Would the time of one of the feasts be an appropriate time to capture the people’s attention?

The Bible doesn’t tell us how or when John began his ministry. But he did capture a lot of people’s attention — King Herod, whom John had denounced for his illegal marriage to his brother’s wife, the Pharisees and other Temple authorities who were learned about the Scriptures and wondered if John were the promised Messiah, Andrew and John who would later follow Jesus, and many other devout Jews who were waiting for the Messiah and were conscious of their sins, their falling short of God’s commandments.