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HOW TO BRING ABOUT “AN ENORMOUS TRANSFORMATION IN OUR DAY, EVEN TO THE POINT OF INCREASING OUR EFFICIENCY”

THE RATHER TOUCHING STORY OF CORNELIUS
“If you have read the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, you will recall the rather touching story of Cornelius, commander of the Roman garrison at Caesaria. Although he was a Gentile, Cornelius believed in the true God and gave much time to prayer and to acts of charity. An angel appeared to Cornelius to say that God was pleased with his piety and that he should invite Simon Peter to come from Joppa to instruct him. Cornelius did so, and gathered all his family and friends together to listen to the Apostle. Peter came, and the essence of his sermon was that Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil; for God was with Him.”

BLUEPRINT FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING

In that one sentence is contained, for all of us, a summary of the Christian life. Jesus’ interior life was devoted to adoration of the Father Who was ever present in Him. His exterior life was devoted to ministering to the ills of others.

This is the blueprint for our own lives also: an exterior life characterised by a sustained kindness towards others, stemming from an interior life in which the presence of God is never for long forgotten.

HABITUAL KINDNESS

It may sound like a simple formula to say that habitual kindness is the chief mark of a true Christian. It is simple, in the sense that such kindness gathers together all the threads of religious obligations and releases us from the complicated network of do’s and don’ts, musts and must nots. This is because, while almost anyone can be kind on occasion, it requires a high degree of unselfishness, generosity and self-control to be uniformly kind to all persons at all times.

SELF-FORGETFULNESS

Anyone who has the self-forgetfulness to be always alert to the burdens, the worries and the handicaps of others, plus the strength to be patient with the ignorant and stupid, gentle with the aggressive and hostile, cheerful and helpful on bad days as well as good – that person never will fall an easy victim to temptation of any kind.

A SIMPLE FORMULA

Yes, habitual kindness is a simple recipe for a fully Christian life, but it does not mean it is an easy one. Indeed, it will be impossible to maintain an attitude of unvarying kindness unless we imitate Jesus, however weakly, in His spirit of adoration; unless we learn to live, as we commonly express it, in the presence of God. It is only then that His will becomes our unfailing norm and guide.

We cannot keep our eyes directly upon God all of the time. In one way or another, we have to be about our business (and His) through the day. But we never must let ourselves be wholly oblivious to the fact that we stand in His presence.

To achieve this ‘fix’ on God (as a navigator makes his ‘fix’ on a star) is within the capacity of anyone, but it does require effort. The effort consists principally in the formation of the habit of THINKING about God. It is a matter of throwing God a quick glance from time to time, with a brief but fervent movement of the heart.

‘MY GOD, I LOVE YOU’

At one time it may be, ‘My God, I love you.’ At another time, ‘My God, I adore you,’ or, ‘Dear God, help me to love you as I should,’ or, ‘Take me, God, and use me. I’m all yours,’ or, ‘Forgive me, God, for not doing better,’ or, ‘Thank you, God, for all your graces of this day.’

A dozen (and, with practice two or three dozen) swift but ardent advertences to God’s presence need not interfere with the flow of our work. On the contrary, this periodic flicking of the eyes Godward can work an enormous transformation in our day, even to the point of increasing our efficiency. One such instant of recollection every hour (or even half hour) would not consume a total of more than two or three minutes in the entire day. Yet these minutes could be more spiritually profitable than quadruple the time given to routine prayer only at the day’s beginning and end.

Constant kindness on the outside, springing from a spirit of adoration within; this is Christ’s own blueprint for living, traced by His personal example.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 
 

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WHAT STAR IS THIS WITH BEAMS SO BRIGHT (HYMN)

What star is this with beams so bright,
More lovely than the noonday light?
‘Tis sent t’announce a newborn king,
Glad tidings of our God to bring.

‘Tis now fulfilled what God decreed
“From Jacob shall a star proceed”;
And lo! The eastern sage’s stand,
To reading in heaven the Lord’s command.

O Jesus, while the star of grace
Impels us on to seek your face,
Let not our slothful hearts refuse
The guidance of your light to use.
– Quem stella sole pulchrior
Charles Coffin, tr. John Chandler

 
 

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WHY, WICKED HEROD, DO YOU FEAR YOUR GOD AND KING (HYMN)

Why, wicked Herod, do you fear
Your God and King, who comes below?
He does not seek an earthly throne
Who comes all heaven to bestow.

Behold, the wise men see the star
And follow as it goes before;
The true Light by its light they seek
And as true God with gifts adore.

All glory, Lord, to you this day,
Who have revealed yourself to men,
With Father and with Holy Ghost,
Now and for ages without end.

 
 

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THE BRIGHTNESS OF A NEW STAR LED THE THREE WISE MEN TO A SIGHT OF HUMILITY

PROGRESS IN HOLINESS: WORKS AND FAITH

“Recalling the deeds performed by the Saviour of the human race brings us great profit, dearly beloved – if what we venerate as something believed we also take on to be imitated. In the arrangement of Christ’s mysteries, there are both effects of grace and influences from doctrine, for we follow in the example of his works the one whom we acknowledge in the spirit of faith. Those very first things which the Son of God experienced in being born of his Virgin Mother set us on the road to progress in holiness.

HUMAN LOWLINESS AND DIVINE MAJESTY

There appear to those of an upright heart in one and the same Person both human lowliness and divine majesty. Whom the cradle shows to be an Infant, heaven and heavenly things call their Maker. That Boy with a small body is Lord and Ruler of the world. He who is encompassed by no limits is held in the arms of his Mother. But it is in these things that the healing of our wounds and the raising up of our abasement rest, for, unless such diversity had come together as one, human nature could not be reconciled to God.

A PATTERN FOR OUR CONDUCT

Our remedies, then, have established for us a rule of living, and a pattern has been given for our conduct, a pattern from which medicine can be applied to the dead. Not inappropriately, when the brightness of a new star had led three wise men to worship Jesus, they did not see him ruling over demons, not raising the dead, not restoring sight to the blind or mobility to the lame or speech to the dumb, nor in any action of divine power. They saw him, rather, as a Child – silent, at rest, placed in the care of his Mother – in a situation where there appeared no indication of power.

HUMILITY

From this lowliness, however, a great miracle was presented. Consequently, the mere sight of that Sacred Infancy to which God the Son of God had adapted himself was bringing to their eyes a preaching that would be imparted to their ears. What the sound of his voice was not yet presenting, the activity of sight was teaching them. For the entire victory of the Saviour, the one that overcame the devil and the world, began in humility and ended in humility.”
– Pope St Leo the Great, 5th century

 
 

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EPIPHANY PRAYER

When the wise men saw the star, they said to one another: “This is the sign of a great king; let us go and seek him; we shall offer him gifts of glod, frankincense and myrrh, alleluia.”

Let us pray.

O God, on this day you made your only-begotten Son known to the nations by the light of a star. Grant that we, who already know you by faith, may see your glory face to face. Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 
 

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“YOUR CHURCH TOO LORD, IS THE LIGHT THAT LEADS US TO BOW DOWN IN WORSHIP OF YOU”

• “‘They bowed down and worshipped him’ (Matthew 2:11)

• ‘The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world’ (CCC 528).

• Today we celebrate the rich feast of the Epiphany. Rich, because so many important themes and truths about Christ emerge: Christ proclaimed to the whole world; the light of Christ shining in the darkness; the revelation that Jesus is the promised Messaiah, the Son of God. The power of the Holy Spirit moves hearts and minds to seek these truths. This is what Pope John Paul II affirmed in Fides et Ratio: ‘…men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable – a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves’ (Fides et Ratio 33). The Magi found both of these realities in the Child of Bethlehem. They knelt and worshipped him.

• Lord, you are the star which guides us to you today. Your Church too Lord, is the light that leads us to bow down in worship of you.

• Our Father…, Ten Hail Mary…, Glory be…

• Today my prayer is for… ”
– From the Resource for the Year of Faith 2012 by Alive Publishing. For information about their booklets please visit http://www.alivepublishing.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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FAIRER THAN THE SUN AT MORNING WAS THE STAR THAT TOLD CHRIST’S BIRTH (HYMN)

Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told Christ’s birth;
To the lands their God announcing,
Hid beneath a form of earth.

By its lambent beauty guided,
See, the eastern kings appear;
See them bend, their gifts to offer,
Gifts of incense, gold and myrrh.

Holy Jesus, in your brightness
To the Gentile world displayed,
With the Father and the Spirit,
Endless praise to you be paid.

 
 

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SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 2:1-12)

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. “Where is the infant king of the Jews?” they asked. “We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

“At Bethlehem in Judaea,” they told him, “for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. “Go and find out all about the child,” he said, “and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.” Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out.

And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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MANKIND’S SALVATION HISTORY THROUGH THE HOLY ROSARY: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES “PRESENTATION” AND “FINDING THE LOST CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE”

THE BOYHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST

“In accordance with Jewish law the Child born of Mary was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth. In this way He became legally a member of the Chosen People of God. Though He was, as the prophet Zacharias says, ‘the angel of the covenant,’ nevertheless He submits to the Law of Moses. By undergoing the rite of circumcision He binds Himself to God and to a communion with the Chosen People of God.

THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE

It was also in obedience to the Law of Moses that Mary herself went to the Temple to offer two turtle doves or two young pigeons for her own legal purification. On the same occasion Mary and Joseph consecrated the Boy Jesus to god as the Mosaic Law prescribed.

SIMEON IN THE TEMPLE

As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple precincts with the Child Jesus they were met by an aged man called Simeon. It had been revealed to him that he should not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord. When he saw the Child Jesus in Mary’s arms he was filled with the Spirit of God and he took the Child into his own arms and said:

THE ‘NUNC DIMITTIS’

‘Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and a glory for thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:29-32).

‘THY SOUL A SWORD SHALL PIERCE’

The aged Simeon is filled with the spirit of prophecy and he sees that the Child will bring God’s blessings not only to the Chosen People of Israel but also to the other nations of the world. But he foresees not only glorious things. He foresees also pain and tragedy. Turning to Mary he says: ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’ (Luke 2:34-35).

ANNA IN THE TEMPLE

At the same time a holy widow named Anna approached the Child. Moved also by the Spirit of God, she recognised Him as the Saviour of the world. To all who were interested in redemption she cried out that this Child was the long-awaited Deliverer.

MYSTERIOUS

From the very beginning then the Child Jesus appears as a mysterious figure. He will be a glory to His own race, to Israel. He will bring the light of divine truth to the Gentiles. He will bring redemption and deliverance to the world. But He will also be contradicted by many, and so He will cause many to rise in redemption while others, contradicting Him, fall.

THE THREE MAGI

Some time after the dedication in the Temple occurs the incident of the Magi. We do not know for certain who the Magi were. The early Christians believed them to be priests of the Persian religion. Some have thought that they came from Arabia. Others hold that they were kings from the East. It seems probable that they were at least men who were aware of the Messianic expectations of the Jews. They knew that the Jews were expecting the advent of some great king.

KING HEROD BECOMES VERY SUSPICIOS

Having observed in the sky a new star (perhaps a comet), they associated this new star with the coming of the expected king to Israel. Following the star, they arrived in Jerusalem and inquired the whereabouts of the new-born king. The news of their quest reached the ears of Herod the Great. Herod was always suspicious of plots to seize his throne and, no doubt, saw in these inquiries the result of some plot to dethrone him. He sent for the Magi. On learning the nature of their mission he sent for the chief priests and the Scribes and asked them where the expected Messias was to be born.

BETHLEHEM, ROYAL DAVID’S CITY

The priests and the Scribes, who were well versed in the Sacred Books of Israel, remembered the prophecy of Micheas [Micah] and told the king: ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written through the prophet, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Juda, art by no means least among the princes of Juda; for from thee shall come forth a leader who shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, cf. Micah 5:2).

Herod told the Magi where the Child might be found. He also asked them to bring word to him when they had found the Child so that he also might go to worship Him.

WARNINGS

GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH

The Magi went to Bethlehem and found the star standing over the place where the Child was. They worshipped the Child, giving Him presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. While they slept later, they were warned by God not to return to Herod.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT

After their departure Joseph was also warned in a dream to take the Child and to flee into Egypt because Herod intended to kill the Child. Heeding the warning, Joseph, Mary and the Child fled into Egypt.

THE HOLY INNOCENTS

Herod, when the Magi did not return, was very angry. He sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with order to kill all male children two years old or younger they might find there. In this way he hoped to destroy any possible threat to his own rule.

THE HOLY FAMILY RETURNS FROM EXILE

After Herod’s death in 4 B.C. an angel told Joseph in a dream that there was no longer any danger to the Child and they might return in safety to their own land. Joseph, thus counselled by the angel, returned with Mary and Jesus to their homeland and to Nazareth. In this way God Himself created a parallel between the history of Jesus the Saviour and the history of the Chosen People. As God had called them out of the land of Egypt, so He also calls His Son out of Egypt. St Matthew noticed this resemblance long ago and wrote that in this way there was ‘fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ‘ (Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1).

THE HIDDEN LIFE

It was at Nazareth that Jesus spent the most of His life. Very few details of the early life of Jesus are known to us. St Luke tells us that at Nazareth the Child grew and became strong. He was full of wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.

JESUS AGED TWELVE GOES MISSING

It is also St Luke who tells of one significant incident in the early years of Jesus. When Jesus was twelve years of age He went up to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the feast of Passover. When Joseph and Mary were returning to Nazareth they discovered that Jesus was not with the caravan. They went back to Jerusalem to seek Him.

THE FINDING OF THE CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

On the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers of the Law. As St Luke tells us, Jesus was listening to the doctors of the Law and asking them questions, and in His turn answering the questions put to Him. The bystanders were astounded at His answers.

It is permissible to see here a manifestation of the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus. It is not necessary, and it might even be degrading to Jesus, to imagine that He was deliberately displaying His knowledge to the discomfiture of the learned doctors of the Law gathered in the Temple. It is enough to note that at the age of twelve Jesus appears sufficiently versed in the Law of Moses to speak intelligently and impressively to those who were expert in their interpretation of the Law.

‘MY FATHER’S BUSINESS’

What is more important is the fact that on this occasion Jesus shows that He is aware of the fact that He is to perform a great work for God, His Father. When Mary says to Him, ‘Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have been seeking thee and sorrowing,’ Jesus answers: ‘How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ (Luke 2:48-49).

A PUZZLING ANSWER

This answer must have seemed strange to the rabbis with whom Jesus had been conversing. It was not understood, as St Luke tells us, by Mary and Joseph. If it were only the answer of a very clever boy who enjoyed the experience of conversing on equal terms with the venerated exponents of the Law of Moses, then it would bear an air of unfilial smartness. But St Luke – even Jesus Himself – seems to be saying something more than this. He speaks of the affairs of God as ‘my Father’s business.’ This seems to intimate that Jesus is aware of the fact that He is, in a special way, the Son of God.

HOMELY AND SIMPLE IMAGES

Yet, despite His consciousness of His special relation to God the Father, St Luke tells us that after this incident Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was subject to them. At Nazareth Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

It is proper to suppose that at Nazareth Jesus showed the same interest in learning the Law of Moses as He had shown in the Temple at Jerusalem. Moreover it is most probable that He learned the craft of carpentering, which was the trade followed by Joseph, His foster father. Like the other people of the locality He probably spoke Aramaic, the language of the region, and possibly Greek and Hebrew. Nazareth was situated in a region of farm labourers and vine dressers. Later on we find Him associated with fishermen in Galilee. From all these sources He later drew the homely and simple images which He used with such telling effect in His parables.

Thus, for some thirty years Jesus lived in a small village waiting for the moment appointed by God His Father for the beginning of the work of redemption.”
– Martin J. Healy, 1959

 

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I WONDER AS I WANDER OUT UNDER THE SKY (CHRISTMAS CAROL)

1. I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
how Jesus the Saviour did come to die
for poor ord’n’ry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

2. When Mary birthed Jesus, ’twas in a cow’s stall
with wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
and the promise of ages it did then recall.

3. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
Hhe surely could have it, ’cause he was the king.

 
 

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