Abandonment to Jesus

Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso: through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus.

“Without me, you can do nothing.”

“With You, Jesus, I can do all things.”

Renew these thoughts which bind you to Him and which plunge you into the abyss of love which is His Heart. The logical and necessary consequence of the complete confidence which I have preached to you until now is total abandonment.

Since it is through Jesus that everything must be accomplished, the more I let Him do, the more the work of grace will be beautiful and perfect.

What is this work of grace? The transformation of our souls into Jesus through love. St. Thomas shows us, after St. Augustine, that the Eucharist transforms our souls into Jesus through love. It is there that I find the definition of sanctity, the final word, if I may put it that way, of our divine predestination.

Jesus transforms us into Himself. Our intelligence is no longer our intelligence, but His: we see things as He sees them. Our will is no longer our will but His: we will what He wills, and we reject what He rejects. Our heart is no lon­ger our heart, but the Heart of Jesus: we love what He loves, and we detest what He detests.

“And I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” Mihi vivere Christus est: “For me, to live is Christ.”

Perhaps you will say to me, “You claim that we are continually transformed more and more into Him, but I do not notice it; I cannot put my finger on it. And even, some days, seeing myself so miserable, I am tempted to believe the contrary.”

Yet, do you not see things more than ever as He does? Of course, you do. Do you not want what He wants, more every day? Of course, you do. I am sure that today, more than ever, you want to love Him and make Him loved, with a will even more sincere, even more profound, with a desire even more sure than ever, although perhaps not felt. You would not say, “I have less desire to love Him and make Him loved than yesterday.”

What trips us up is that we mistake sensible fervor for sanctity. But it is not. Sanctity is a disposition of soul, ani­mated by grace, which is the life of the soul, under the ac­tion of infused virtues and under the influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; a disposition to belong to Jesus more than ever, to accomplish His will, to know Him and make Him known, to love Him and make Him loved more.

He looks much more at what we are than at what we do; and we are, in His eyes, what we sincerely want to be for Him.

We understand now why so many Communions — those Communions which transform us into Him — do not bring us all the supernatural fruits they could. We open our arms to Him, yet we close the doors of our intelligence, of our will, of our heart, by not living in this abandonment. We bid Him come, but we do not permit Him to enter. But if, in receiving Him, we grant Him, by perfect abandonment, all the controls, all the keys to the house, that He may be Master in us with full liberty to act, then, oh! what marvels will His omnipotence not accomplish in our souls in the service of His love!

Rightly Understood

Abandonment, rightly understood, includes everything. It requires a great humility, since it is submission of ourselves to creatures and events, seeing Jesus Himself in them. It requires an immense faith, confidence every moment, to tear open the veil of secondary causes, to break through the screen of creatures which too often prevents us from seeing Jesus behind them, who governs everything, since nothing — nothing — happens without His having willed or permitted it.

Abandonment is nothing but obedience pushed to its extreme, since it consists of submission to everything within the limits of the possible and the reasonable, in order to obey God, who has foreseen and willed it all.

Finally, it is in abandonment that our great desires find their perfect fulfillment. I spoke to you of the splendid pas­sage from little Thérèse where she says that she would have liked to “enlighten souls as did the prophets and doctors, to encircle the earth and announce the Gospel unto the remot­est islands, to have been a missionary since the creation of the world and to be one until the consummation of the world, to have suffered all martyrdoms.”

She finds the means to realize all that by being the love in the heart of the Church, her Mother. And how was she the love in the heart of the holy Church? By living in com­plete conformity with the will of God, who is nothing but Love.

To live with abandonment is to rediscover a perfect har­mony in God; for, after all, it is God, it is Jesus, who writes all the lines, all the words, and all the letters of our lives. It is striking to see how the sanctity of all the saints is con­summated in total abandonment. All their efforts, all their prayers, all the lights which they have received from Heaven, have led them to this.

When our Lord makes some reproach to the saints, to St. Gertrude, to St. Margaret Mary, for example, it is most often their lack of abandonment which He laments.

St. Margaret Mary, shortly before her death, wrote that she had finally understood what He expected of her when He said to her, “Let me do it.” “His Sacred Heart,” she wrote, “will do everything for me if I let Him. He shall will, He shall love, He shall desire for me and make up for all my faults.”

Like St. Margaret Mary, you may hear Jesus a hundred times a day, saying to you, “Let me do it.” In your difficulties, in your problems, in all those things in your daily life which are sometimes so difficult, so distressing, when you ask your­self, “What shall I do? How shall I do it?” listen to Him say­ing to you, “Let me do it.” And then answer Him, “O Jesus, I thank You for all things.” And it will be the most beautiful dialogue of love between a soul and the all-powerful and all-loving God!

Little Thérèse came in this way to the point of no longer having any other desire than to love Jesus to the point of “foolishness”:

I desire neither suffering nor death, yet I love both; but it is love alone which attracts me. Now it is aban­donment alone which guides me. I have no other compass.

My heart is full of the will of Jesus. Ah, if my soul were not already filled with His will, if it had to be filled by the feelings of joy and sadness which follow each other so quickly, it would be a tide of very bitter sorrow. But these alternatives do nothing but brush across my soul. I always remain in a profound peace which nothing can trouble. If the Lord offered me the choice, I would not choose anything: I want nothing but what He wants. It is what He does that I love. I acknowledge that it took me a long time to bring myself to this degree of abandonment. Now I have reached it, for the Lord took me and put me there.

Yes, I ask the Lord to take you, also, and to put you there, in the depths of His Heart!

This simple abandonment is the peak of holiness, the peak of love. When St. Teresa of Avila, in the Interior Castle, speaks of the spiritual marriage, the culminating point of the mystical life, she depicts it as a union of likeness in charity. “Such is the ineffable ardor with which the souls desire that the will of God be accomplished in them that they are equally satisfied with anything which it pleases the Divine Spouse to command.”

By: FR. JEAN C. J. D’ELBÉE

Link: http://catholicexchange.com/abandonment-jesus

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Faith Like That of the Magi

“We need a strong life of faith to appreciate the wonder his providence has entrusted to us—a faith like that of the Magi, a conviction that neither the desert, nor the storms, nor the quiet of the oases will keep us from reaching our destination in the eternal Bethlehem: our definitive life with God.”– St Josemaria Escriva | Christ is Passing By, no. 32
When the Magi prostrated themselves before Christ, what sentiments must have filled their hearts? They must have thought: All of our hardship was worth it. The inconveniences of travel, the searching, everything was worthwhile. And since that moment of worship until today, this is the truth that all souls reach who seek Christ with all of their hearts. All that we embrace for Christ is worthwhile—and not only at the end of the journey, but even in the midst of it. Our privations, sacrifices, and hardships all lead us to deeper union with Him whom we are seeking.
The Magi offer us great encouragement on our own journey of faith. Their passage was fraught with hardship, both coming and going. And once they had found Christ, more suffering awaited. They had to escape in secret to “their own country by another way,” avoiding Herod’s notice. Had they been caught, there is no telling what Herod might have done. History remembers him as power-hungry, paranoid, and violent.
In fact, the next time the wise men are mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel, the evangelist reports Herod’s “furious rage” when he realized that they had departed without returning to him: “He sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.” These were some of the circumstances surrounding the approach of these Gentile kings to their Lord and Messiah.
St Augustine in a way summarizes the strange and hard circumstances of their (and our) journey to Christ: “So you wanted to live a quiet life. But God wanted otherwise. Two wills exist: your will should be corrected to become identified with God’s will: you must not bend God’s will to suit yours.”
When sinners decide to become saints, we too can expect a lot of trouble—with ourselves, with the evil one, with the world. Ours is a narrow path, as the Lord promises, and it is not for the fainthearted. Nor is it a road of our own making, as the itinerary of the Magi had many turns that they were not planning for.
They arrived in Jerusalem after a long journey and had to ask where they might find the Messiah’s birthplace. God did not provide that information for them beforehand. He relied upon their willingness to investigate, to ask questions, to be guided by secondary instruments. The star was a divine sign that guided them only so far, then they had to trust that God would also work through other means—through things as dissimilar as the scheming of a tyrant and ancient prophecies of the birthplace of a ruler who would be a shepherd to his people.
They are sages, even kings, and yet they bow humbly to the divine will and flee like criminals after their long pilgrimage. Not exactly what one would expect. As soon as the nativity story is told in the Gospel, after we have heard about the angels, shepherds, Mary’s contemplation of these things, and the Magi’s visit, then there is cruel bloodshed. The Holy Family flees to the west, the wise men secretly return to the east. The peace, the silence, the joyful brightness that radiates from Bethlehem is rudely displaced by savage brutality, hasty departures, and intense grief.
There is no good human explanation for all of this. If we could invent the story ourselves, we would have it otherwise. There would be no awkward details, no conflicts. Everyone would do what they are supposed to do. Everything would fit nicely, as in an idyllic Christmas card. But reality, the reality into which Jesus was born, the reality into which He willed to enter, our reality, is seldom as perfect as we would like it to be. If it were so perfect, then Jesus would not have come to save us in it.
Our world, our families, our lives, are in a disarray that only God’s hand can untangle and set right. We must follow His star, the star that leads us away from our ways of thinking and acting, and into the presence of Christ and His mother. Keeping our eyes trained on the guiding light of God’s will prevents us from focusing too narrowly on the secondary things that He uses to bring us where we need to be.
Imagine yourself involved in the events surrounding the first Christmas. Think of how impossible it would be to obey God’s will if you were paying attention only to the attitude of the innkeeper, the inconvenience of the stable, Herod’s deviousness and malice. The stable seems like an afterthought. The flight into Egypt and the escape of the Magi seem like emergency measures taken against unforeseen dangers. But in God’s providence nothing is an afterthought.
It is a pattern throughout Sacred history that God tests us in this way: whether we will trust Him through others or not. From the call and trials of Abraham, to those of the patriarch Joseph in Egypt, all the way to when the Apostles heard God speaking in a human voice, with human inflection, and telling them to do the unthinkable: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” They too had to learn to trust God working through a human form. When, humanly speaking, there is no good reason to obey, faith makes us untie our boat, pull up the anchor, and go.
Ecclesiastes teaches us a similar lesson in a few words: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Eccl 11:1). Cast your bread means to cast one’s livelihood, one’s means of support, one’s fortunes, one’s very self, over something as uncertain as the currents of the sea. But if you take that risk for God, you will surely find yourself after having momentarily lost yourself for Him: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The last verse of the Epiphany Gospel especially underscores this: “They departed by another way.” The Magi had been inspired to seek the Messiah; they persevered until they found Him; then they allowed God to direct their path ever after. And so, “They departed by another way.” Having undergone great hardship and inconvenience to find the newborn King of the Jews, they were prepared to do it all over again for the same Lord. And it made even better sense than before.
After we have found Christ our path changes radically. We cannot go back the same way. To go back the same way would mean infidelity on our part after having been shown a better way—a harder way, but a better one. There are plenty of easier paths in life, but only one that leads to God: Christ, who is the Way.

By Rev. John Henry Hanson, O. Praem

http://stjosemaria.org/faith-of-the-magi/

THE 5 ADVENT VIRTUES OF ST. JOSEPH

Saint Joseph can help us to live a most fruitful Advent, and for many reasons. Let us quietly meditate upon five extraordinary virtues of this greatest of all saints so that we can live a most fervent Advent season and allow Jesus to be born in the depths of our hearts this Christmas!

1. Silence. Not once in the Bible do we hear a word from the great Saint Joseph. This silence of Saint Joseph is very eloquent. It teaches us a fundamental attitude to enter into deep prayer: silence. If we are constantly bombarded by noises then it is impossible to hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit that speaks to us in the gentle breeze of silence. Also the silence of Saint Joseph teaches us the importance of example. We must prove our authenticity by words, but also by our actions. Saint Joseph taught the world by the holy way that he lived. May he be an example for us.
2. Prayer. Saint Joseph was a man of prayer. What an extraordinary role he played in the history of salvation. He was both the spouse of Mary the Mother of God as well as the foster-father of Jesus the Son of the living God. Saint Joseph actually taught Jesus to speak and to address God as “Abba”—meaning “Daddy”. In a certain sense Saint Joseph taught Jesus to use the human words to talk to the Heavenly Father—this is prayer. Therefore, if Saint Joseph taught Jesus how to pray, how much could he teach me how to pray if I simply ask for his help. Start now: Saint Joseph, teach me how to pray!
3. Courage and Manliness. In a society where too many men shirk their obligations toward their wives, children and family and turn to vices and the easy life when confronted with difficulties, Saint Joseph shines as a model of courage and fortitude. He travelled the many miles in the cold and wind, only to meet rejection. He found refuge in an animal shelter for the birth of Jesus. He arose early to flee into Egypt saving the Child Jesus from the vicious and murderous threats of King Herod. Faced with so many difficulties, Saint Joseph stood tall and confronted the obstacles with manly courage. May the men of the present generation lift up their gaze to the gentle but courageous man of God—good Saint Joseph.
4. Provide and Protect. Saint Joseph both protected and provided for the Holy Family. He was a hard worker—exercising the trade of a Carpenter. He earned the bread that he made with the sweat of his brow. He thought not of himself but of how he could best provide for and protect the family that God had entrusted to his care. As we draw close to Christmas let us beg good Saint Joseph to provide and protect our spiritual lives. Materialism, consumerism, hedonism are the gods of the present culture. These actually suffocate spirituality. Saint Joseph’s prayers can help us to look beyond the buying, having, and possessing. He can help us to realize that true joy and happiness does not come from having things, but in possessing God. To hold the Child Jesus in our arms and in our hearts is worth more than all of the money and possessions of the entire world. Good Saint Joseph can teach us this simple but profound lesson!
5. St. Joseph, Our Lady, and Jesus. To arrive at a true and authentic devotion to Mary, good Saint Joseph can serve as a powerful bridge. Aside from Jesus Himself, nobody on earth knew, understood, cherished and loved the Blessed Virgin Mary more than good Saint Joseph. Turn to Good Saint Joseph and beg him for the grace of greater knowledge and love for Mary, his beloved spouse. Your devotion to Mary will make a huge jump! Then turn to Saint Joseph and beg him for the grace of intimate knowledge of Jesus that you will love Jesus more ardently and follow Jesus more closely. Aside from Mary nobody knew Jesus better on earth than good Saint Joseph. The Holy Family is complete only when the three members are recognized, honored and loved. May the prayers of good Saint Joseph open your hearts to the immense treasures that God has in store for you this Advent Season. Then may Jesus be born in the depths of your heart this Christmas day!

From Fr. Ed Broom

http://catholicexchange.com/st-joseph-teaches-us-live-advent

The Pope’s homily on the feast of the Epiphany

Pope Francis presided over Mass for the feast of the Epiphany which was celebrated on Friday in St Peter’s Basilica.

Below is an English translation of the Pope’s homily.

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

With these words, the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the newborn King.  To see and to worship.  These two actions stand out in the Gospel account.  We saw a star and we want to worship.

These men saw a star that made them set out.  The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events.  The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it.  As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom).  Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness.  They were open to something new.

The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.  They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.

A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.  A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.  A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom.  That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.

This same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms.  This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace.  This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost.  Mary Magdalen experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master.  Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change.  Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.   Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future.  Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them.  They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord.  Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.

An entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, a short distance from Bethlehem, where no one realized what was taking place.  As the Magi made their way, Jerusalem slept.  It slept in collusion with a Herod who, rather than seeking, also slept.  He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience.  He was bewildered, afraid.  It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.  The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it.  The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone.  The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for “winners”, whatever the price.  A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life.  Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime: “You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart” (SAINT QUODVULTDEUS, Sermon 2 on the Creed: PL 40, 655).

We want to worship.  Those men came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace.  Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects.  For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement.  One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated.  True, but not necessarily loved.  For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: the cult of power, outward appearances and superiority.  Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement.

It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey.  There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey.  They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically.  There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved.  For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us.  To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals.  To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him.  To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned.  That his strength and his power are called mercy.  For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!

Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things.  He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.  He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him.  Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.

The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare.  They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day.  But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness.  There something new was taking place.  The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out.  And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.

Link:

http://www.news.va/en/news/the-popes-homily-on-the-feast-of-the-epiphany

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

.- Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity.

It wasn’t until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.

When Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa’s close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications.

Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions.

During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary’s school in Calcutta.

Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.”

It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.

“She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.”

Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “’I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,’” Fr. Vazhakala related.

According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “’I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.’”

After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.”

Mother Teresa’s spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta.

This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.”

People around the world know about Mother Teresa’s visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala.

Mother Teresa’s motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said.

Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted.

She said, “I’m not going to sleep in heaven, but I’m going to work harder in another form.”

Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

Article by Hannah Brockhaus

Link: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/did-you-know-mother-teresa-experienced-visions-of-jesus-60088/

The Feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr | iPray with the Gospel

Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Matthew 10:17-22
A day after the celebration of Our Lord’s Birth we celebrate the death of the first martyr, St Stephen. He became the first Christian to be killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus warned his disciples of this persecution. In fact, that is a clear sign that you are on the right path: If you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you get what He got, and you end up where He ended up. St Stephen gave witness to Jesus, but they didn’t accept his testimony. The Acts of the Apostles tells that they “stopped their ears and rushed upon him” (7:57).
They couldn’t refute anything. They just stopped their ears. But Stephen didn’t compromise the truth. And for that reason he was killed fulfilling the prophecy that we read about in today’s Gospel. They thought they had finished him. However that was just the beginning. Do you remember Saul? Saul was a young man, full of zeal. He helped the executioners stone Stephen to death. Stephen died praying for his murderers.
Saul couldn’t stand that Message; he covered his ears to stop hearing that Truth but the Truth came to him. From Heaven, St Stephen kept doing his job and eventually, the man who had been stoning him became St Paul, the Apostle, the man who changed the history of Christianity and spread that Message, that Truth all over the world. He would in turn also be killed for that same Truth.
Because the transforming work of martyrs doesn’t finish when they die. That’s just the beginning! Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help me to be steady in witnessing to that same Truth, namely, that God became a Man in Bethlehem to die for our sins in Jerusalem.

Link: http://stjosemaria.org/ipray-st-stephen-martyr/

Pope Francis: Want to see God this Christmas? Be humble

On Christmas Eve, Pope Francis noted how the coming of Jesus as an infant is paradoxical to the images of grandeur that had accompanied the prophesies on the coming of the Messiah, saying this should challenges us to go beyond the ephemeral and focus on what really counts.

“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” the Pope said Dec. 24.

This is the “enduring sign to find Jesus,” he said. “Not just then, but also today.”

He noted how the day’s Gospel reading revealed “a paradox,” speaking of the emperor and mighty people of those times, yet God doesn’t manifest himself there.

Jesus “does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises,” Francis said.

So if we want to find him, “we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small.”

Pope Francis spoke to attendees of his Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. During this year’s procession, a Vatican police officer and firefighter were chosen to carry the statue of the baby Jesus as a sign of gratitude for the 200th anniversary of the Gendarmerie, as well as the help the firefighters offered to those affected by the earthquakes in Central Italy earlier this fall.

In his homily, the Pope said the Child Jesus “challenges us” by inviting us “to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have” and rediscover “peace, joy and the meaning of life.”

The infant in the manger is a challenge, but Francis also urged attendees to allow themselves to be challenged by the children of today, “who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity.”

Many children today hide underground to escape bombs or are forced to sleep either on the streets of large cities or at the bottom boats overflowing with immigrants, he said, noting that this reality should also challenge us.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons.”

Christmas is both a mystery of hope and of sadness, he said, noting how the arrival of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem points us to the indifference of many in the face of those who are discarded.

The same indifference is present modern society “when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized,” he said.

However, Christmas is also a sign of hope, because despite the darkness in our lives, God’s light “shines out.” His gentle light doesn’t make us fearful, but rather, “God who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us, as one of us.”

Pope Francis closed his homily encouraging everyone to let themselves be challenged by Jesus, and walk toward him with trust from the part of us in which we ourselves feel marginalized and limited.

He told them to take time to pause and look at the crib where Jesus was born, imagining the “light, peace, utmost poverty and rejection” that accompanied his birth.

“Let us enter into the real Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds. Then, in Jesus we will enjoy the flavor of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God.”

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-want-to-see-god-this-christmas-be-humble-29445/