Who am I? Asks Pope during Palm Sunday homily

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On Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, in an unscripted, extremely moving, Ignatian-style homily, Pope Francis invited the crowd of over 100,000 people to enter into today’s passion story from Matthew’s Gospel and ask some very personal questions of our own roles in the Gospel story.

Here is the Vatican’s official English translation:

CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
St. Peter’s Square
29th World Youth Day
Sunday, 13 April 2014

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing , praising Jesus.

But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!” and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.

After Communion, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, during which he extended a special greeting to the participants of the World Youth Days (WYD) organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

He recalled that the next WYD will take place in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, under the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5,7).

The Pope recalled how 30 years ago John Paul II entrusted the WYD Cross to the youth, exhorting them to “carry it through all the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity.”

He also announced that St. John Paul II would be the patron of the next World Youth Day in Krakow. Then a delegation of young people from Brazil handed to a delegation of youth from Poland the WYD Cross, which had stood in Saint Peter’s Square throughout the Mass.

The Holy Father went on to announce he would be paying a visit to Daejeon, South Korea, on August 15 where he will meet with the youth of Asia.

Pope Francis concluded his address by calling us to turn to the Virgin Mother, “because she helps us always to follow the example of Jesus with faith.”

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CNS photo/Paul Haring

IEC Day 2 – Br. Alois: A Passion for the Unity of Christ’s Body’


The following is the full text of the catechesis talk given by Brother Alois, Prior of the Taizé Community, at the Internation Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland in 2012

Passion for the Unity of the Body of Christ
Presented by Brother Alois, Prior of the Taizé Community

The Christ of Communion

The first day of this Eucharistic Congress wishes to deepen the meaning of our common baptismal faith. Mutual recognition of baptism among the various Churches is a great gift that God has given us in the last century. Despite the certainty expressed by the apostle Paul: “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), this recognition has not always been obvious. Definitively concluding a long period often marked by suspicion, the Second Vatican Council asserted confidently: “Baptism establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it” (Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 22).

Can I allow myself today to illustrate the question of the meaning of our common baptismal faith by sharing with you our experience in the Taizé Community? The life we live in Taizé is intimately linked to the rediscovery of our common baptism as, in the words of Vatican II, a “beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ” (ibid.).
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May you imitate Thomas More in your noble calling

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Red Mass Homily, Holy Rosary Cathedral
Vancouver, January 16, 2014
Archbishop J.M. Miller, CSB

Dear brother priests, dear members of the St. Thomas More Guild: lawyers and their co-workers, members of the judiciary, and law students; dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Introduction

Today’s sober readings speak of “sharing Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 4:13), while rejoicing; of being “reviled for the name of Christ” (1 Pet 4:14), while blessing; and of not worrying when handed over to the courts to be flogged (cf. Mt 10:17), because how you will defend yourself will be inspired from “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20). Tough words, but also with a consoling edge. These Scriptures bluntly lay out for us the cost of discipleship: what we can expect when we live our calling with fidelity to Christ and his law. There is a real warning here – plain talk. Christians cannot expect to be spared anything that the Lord himself did not experience (cf. Jn 15:20), for “a disciple is not above the teacher” (Mt 10:24).

Thomas MoreDown through the centuries, countless faithful Christians have faced persecution by the powerful. Thomas More, “a canny London lawyer,”1 was one such man. This great sixteenth-century English scholar and statesman was a model layman who lived the Gospel, like Christ, “to the end” (Jn 13:1). He was a learned academician, an outstanding member of the legal profession and Lord Chancellor of England. This “man for all seasons” was also a loving husband and doting father, as well as being courageous, humorous and holy in adversity.2 It’s no wonder that St. Thomas More “is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ‘good servant’ he was, because he chose to serve God first.”3 In order to remain faithful to his own conscience, he was willing to give up everything: honours, affection, and even life itself; but by doing so he acquired the pearl of unsurpassable value, the kingdom of heaven.

The dilemma which More faced in those difficult times touched upon the perennial question of the relationship between what we owe to God and what we owe to Caesar. He chose God and his law. Even when subjected to various forms of psychological pressure, St. Thomas More refused to compromise his conscience, informed by his faith. At the same time, however, he never forsook his reverence for legitimate authority. He was always firm “in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice.”4 Your Guild’s patron is, then, for all of us, “an extraordinary example of freedom and of fidelity to the law of conscience in the face of morally untenable, albeit authoritative, demands.”5

Marginalization of Religion

Among the many questions which touch upon the role of law in society, I would like to voice my concern at our country’s increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, even while we pay lip service to tolerance. Some advocate that the voice of religion in public life should be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere, because they seek to deny religious faith any influence on society. And there are those who argue that Christians in public roles should, at times, be lawfully required to act against their conscience.

This occurs wherever laws are promulgated – most often those dealing with issues linked to the dignity of human life from conception to its natural end or the nature of the family – which would limit the right to conscientious objection by health-care workers, legal professionals and educators.

Such situations are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the right of believers to freedom of conscience and of religion, but also the legitimate and healthy voice of religious believers in the public square.

This past November, Pope Francis summed up the challenge to religious freedom societies are facing in this way. He said:

Religion is looked upon as something useless or even dangerous; Christians are even required at times to act in the exercise of their profession with no reference to their religious and moral convictions (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 2011). It is widely thought that coexistence is only possible by hiding one’s own religious affiliation, by meeting in a kind of neutral space, devoid of references to transcendence. But how would it be possible to create true relationships, to build a society that is a common home, by imposing that each person set aside what he considers to be an intimate part of his very being? . . . Of course it is necessary that all things be done while respecting the convictions of others, and of unbelievers, but we must have the courage and patience to come together as we are.6

The Pope is right. The suppression of religion in the public affairs of humankind is no way to achieve social harmony among citizens in a free and democratically plural society. This approach of a forced “privacy of religion” is a thinly veiled way of curbing the freedom of religious believers to express their convictions publicly. To act and speak out publicly as convinced believers in one’s professional life has never been more necessary.7

It is my hope that the traditional mutual respect and cooperation between Church and state, which has characterized Canadian history, will continue to mark our national life. This will be possible, however, only if religious institutions as such – and I include here specifically our Catholic health-care institutions and schools – are “free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching”8 of their respective traditions.

Prayers for the Legal Profession at Red Mass

Those of you learned in the law have the awesome responsibility of safeguarding the fundamental principles of justice and equity which undergird a humane social order. Undoubtedly there are times when you feel almost overwhelmed by the burdens of your profession, and for that very reason today we want to assure you of our prayers for your success and consolation. Yours no easy task under the best of circumstances. Considering the ruthless secularism that is seizing Canadian life, it is a vocation of justice and mercy that has only grown even more difficult.

Invoking the Holy Spirit

Fortunately, you are not left alone in fulfilling your demanding duties. This evening, we have gathered to invoke the Holy Spirit who pours forth the love of God into your hearts (cf. Rom 5:5); to pray that you will place yourselves under the influence of the Creator Spirit who is ready to speak through you (cf. Mt 10:20). Recall what Jesus promised his disciples at the Last Supper: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26; cf. 16:12-15). The Spirit is with you. He is your great advocate, your defender, your counsellor and your guide along the way.

At the beginning of our celebration we sang the ancient ninth-century hymn of Rabanus Maurus, the Veni, Creator Spiritus, “Come, Creator Spirit,” which has been intoned at the Red Mass since the early Middle Ages. Why this hymn? Because the Church understands the complexity of your world, of the climate which envelops the practice of law and the administration of justice.

And so, at this Red Mass – whose colour links the blood of martyrdom and the fire of the Holy Spirit with the robes of justice – we stand before this altar to invoke the Holy Spirit: that he will come with his grace and heavenly aid to fill your hearts; that he will kindle a light in your minds to know and honour the truth; and that he will strengthen your conviction that the law is an irreplaceable and morally worthy instrument for attaining a society where justice and mercy will prevail.

Like St. Thomas More, may you grasp ever more clearly that your profession is a noble calling which, when lived faithfully and courageously, unites your natural talents with a vision of faith and the force of reason to serve the supreme ideal of justice and the common good.

J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver

The “O” Antiphons: O King…


From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 22, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 2:4; 11:10, Psalm 47:8; Jeremiah 10:7, Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:8, Romans 15:12 and Ephesians 2:14, 20.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of all peoples and their hope, cornerstone uniting Jews and Gentiles in one people: Come, and save man whom You formed from the dust of the earth. [Read more...]

The “O” Antiphons: O Key of David


From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 20, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 22:22, Jeremiah 13:13; 51:19, Matthew 4:16; 16:19 and Luke 1:79

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel! You open and no one closes, You close and no one opens: Come and lead out of prison the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

From Evening prayer
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come,
break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 5:
O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Key of David
Jesus, our Lord possesses the royal power of His ancestor David in a far fuller and higher way. What he commands is done. By His death on the Cross, He broke open the gates of death and led the souls of the just into everlasting life. He broke the power of the devil who had helped all people captive in sin and the fear of death. We pray Him to come and free us from slavery to sin and to the fear that sin brings with it.

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(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Stock of Jesse…

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 19, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 11:1, 10, Isaiah 52:15 and Romans 15:12.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O stock of Jesse, set up as the rallying sign for the nations! In Your presence rulers are silent and the peoples make supplication: Come deliver us; do not delay.

From Evening prayer
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come,
let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 4:
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Stock of Jesse
In His human nature, Christ is the descendant of Jesse, Father of David, the great king of God’s people.

Our Lord is the King of kings. His power extends to all peoples and to their rulers. In the desperate perils of our age, we pray Him to come quickly and deliver us, to establish in all hearts His kingdom of truth and of life, of justice, love and peace.

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(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Adonai…


From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 18, the antiphon is based on Exodus 3:2, Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12, Micah 6:4 and Acts 7:30-31.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai and Leader of the House of Israel! You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave the Law on Mount Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm. [Read more...]

The “O” Antiphons: O Wisdom…

I vaguely remember my mother telling us, during the Season of Advent, while growing up, about the “O” antiphons. I never really understood what these were. Even as an adult, she would occasionally send me various reflections on the “O” antiphons. I must say, with regret that while I thought it to be an important part of our Advent Tradition, I didn’t really see them as part of my tradition.

Until I began praying the Office of the Church.

As a Deacon, I have made a promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning prayer (laudes) and Evening prayer (vespers). This prayer of the Church allows us to pray with (and through) the Psalms. They have been part of the prayers of the Church since very early in our history. As we pray the psalms, each one is introduced by an antiphon (not unlike the refrain we pray at Mass during the Responsorial Psalm). Added to the Psalms, which are different every day, there are two canticles from the Gospel of Luke that are prayed every day: The Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) in the morning for laudes; and the Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55) in the evening for vespers.

On the last seven days before the Vigil of Christmas, December 17-23, our Church sings antiphons that are slightly different than the rest of the year. For evening prayer, before the Magnificat, each of these antiphons begins with the word, “Oh” (or in Latin “O”), thus the short-handed name, the “O” antiphons.
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Advent: A Time to Wake from our Hypnotic Sleep

First Advent cropped 

The First Sunday of Advent, Year A – December 1st, 2013

The Advent season in its liturgical observance is devoted to the coming of God at the end of history when Jesus shall reign as king.  The time is chiefly a celebration of “the coming of God” in ultimate triumph.  Our three Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A) challenge us to adopt a timetable in which the seemingly distant parousia (final coming) impinges on the present moment. 

An unexpected vision of salvation

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah [2:1-5] sends chills up and down our spines today.  The prophet describes a beautiful and rather unexpected vision of universal salvation, justice and peace, not only for Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but for all of humanity:

In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.  All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” [vv 2-3].

In the messianic kingdom the prophets generally see the Lord’s house as the seat of authority and the source of clear and certain doctrine; also, its rule willingly accepted by all peoples, maintained by spiritual sanctions, and tending to universal peace. This passage is found substantially unchanged in Micah 4:1-3; it probably, although not certainly, has Isaiah as its author.

The Isaiah reading is very fitting to begin the Advent season, for we are truly on pilgrimage during the next few weeks – making our long and tedious journey up to the Lord, in order that we may pay him homage and recognize in the Child of Bethlehem just to what degree God would go to show us his love.

Awaking from our hypnotic conditions

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans [13:11-14], the Apostle to the Gentiles says that Christians claim to be people of the new day that will dawn with the return of Christ.  In verse 11-12, Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome that this is the hour to awake from their sleep… for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the armor of light…

The Greek word for sleep is hypnos, (11) and while we cannot attribute the full notion of being “hypnotized” to Paul himself in this text, it is nonetheless true that we can become so accustomed to the normalcy of evil that we live under its spell, as if hypnotized by a power outside ourselves that we cannot discern or dislodge ourselves. It is good for us during Advent to ask: “What are the hypnotic conditions that we experience without our consciousness of them?” The sins of the “flesh” (v. 14) are not only sexual sins, but anything that opposes the life-giving work of the Spirit begun in Christ.  Instead of planning for nighttime behavior they should be concentrating on conduct that is consonant with avowed interest in the Lord’s return. 

In the days of Noah

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew [24:37-44], Noah’s contemporaries were unprepared for the flood. They ate and drank and married. They didn’t dream of an event that would mark the end of time as they knew it. The people of Noah’s time were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Three parables are told to remind us of the necessity of vigilance–because the Second Coming has no “estimated time of arrival.”

In the verses: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left [40-41], the former probably means taken into the kingdom; the latter, left for destruction. People in the same situation will be dealt with in opposite ways. In this context, the discrimination between them will be based on their readiness for the coming of the Son of Man.  The theme of vigilance and readiness is continued with the bold comparison of the Son of Man to a thief who comes to break into a house [vv 42-44].

Centrality of time

Time is central to the Christian celebration of Advent.  This season reminds us that the mystery of faith is not complete until Jesus’ Second Coming.  We are living in this in-between time of Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost and the time of the Parousia.  How do we deal with the issue of time?  Christ has given us warning of such an event coming.  We can’t say, “We had no idea,” as the people said up to the day that Noah went into the ark and closed the door.

We need to be ready and we need to be awake.  Just like a security alarm wakes up a homeowner, Advent wakes up Christians who are in danger of sleeping through their lives.  If we are no longer asking the hard questions and if we are no longer getting our answers from God through his Scriptures, then it is time to wake up!  Advent asks us to be aware of responsibilities and see to their fulfillment!  Advent challenges us to attend to relationships, reach out to the needy, cherish the gift of human life, and make time for prayer!  The Second Coming thus becomes an event that gives purpose and energy to our every breath and pulse here and now.

The coming of Christ

Advent does not change God.  Advent deepens our longing and anticipation that God will do what prophets and the anointed have promised.  We pray that God will yield to our greedy need to see and feel the promise of salvation here and now.  As Christians, we proclaim the coming of Christ – not just a first coming but another as well that will be far more glorious than the first.  The first took place under the sign of patient suffering; the second, on the contrary, will see Christ wearing the crown of God’s kingdom.  In the meantime, however, there is the painful necessity of the cross for Jesus and all believers in him.

The pregnant season

Three years ago this Saturday, on the eve of Advent, November 27, 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” in St. Peter’s Basilica coinciding with first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. At that the Holy Father remarked:

The period in which we prepare for Christmas is an appropriate time to invoke divine protection on every human being called into existence, and to thank God for the gift of life we received from our parents. 

“Nascent” is a word not frequently used in our daily vocabulary.  While it clearly refers to unborn human life, its other meanings include “promising”, “growing”, and “hopeful”. As we enter into Advent, our thoughts naturally focus on the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ came to us first as an unborn child, tiny, vulnerable and in need of protection and care of his mother.

By calling for this worldwide prayer vigil, Pope Emeritus Benedict was inviting us to focus both on the hope and promise of new life in Christ that we celebrate at Christmas but also to acknowledge the sad fact that world-wide there are an estimated 50 million abortions performed each year.  Lives are simply thrown away.  Many people in our time have truly become “hypnotized” to this reality.  We have justified our reasons and means for destroying life in the womb because it disturbs and upsets us, forcing us to change our way of living. What are the hypnotic conditions against human life that we experience without our consciousness of them?

More than any other time of year, Advent is a pregnant season.  We need a renewal of faith and hope about the meaning of life as the reflection of God. The timing of this prayer service for “nascent life” at the beginning of the Advent season is a happy coincidence that reminds us of the great gift from God that each and every human life represents.

Taking stock of human life

As we begin this holy season of longing and waiting for the Messiah, let us take stock of human life and not become like the people of Noah’s time who were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Advent reminds us that it is no longer business as usual.  Something new is about to happen.

Let us pray during these days of Advent:  May God, the Father of Life have mercy on all who have sinned against life.  May the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus, who knit us in our mother’s womb, preserve all infants from physical harm from the moment of conception.

May Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, who ennobled all human life when he became flesh in the womb of the Daughter of Zion, enlighten our minds to see the dignity of every human life from its earliest moments.

May Jesus of Nazareth who loved the afflicted, the sick, the broken and those who mourn, strengthen parents of unborn children with disabilities to cherish the infant entrusted to their care.

May the Lord who forgives sinners each day, draw all who have acted against innocent human life to repentance and forgiveness, and heal them through an outpouring of grace.

May the God of Israel increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.

Looking forward to the second coming

Let us not forget the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem this season:

At his first coming, he was wrapped in linens and laid in a manger; at the second, light shall be his robe.  In the first coming he endured the Cross, heedless of its shame; in his second coming he will be in glory surrounded by an army of angels.  Let us therefore not stop at his first coming but look forward to the second.  We hailed him at his first coming with the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and shall hail him in the same way at his second coming.  For we shall go out to meet the Lord and his angels, and, prostrating ourselves before him, we shall cry, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

[The readings for the First Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2.1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13.11-14; and  Matthew 24.37-44.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2010 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

The dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

The local Church or diocese established in Rome was founded by the two Apostles Peter and Paul and sanctified by the lives of many martyrs. As the spiritual leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Pope is also the Bishop of Rome in the footsteps of St. Peter the Apostle, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome.

The prime title of Pope Francis is ‘Bishop of Rome’, a role he has emphasized on many occasions during the past month. Beginning at the start of his pontificate when he said: “…the diocesan community of Rome has its Bishop and now let us begin this journey: bishops and people – this journey of the the Church of Rome which presides in Charity over all the Churches”.

MOTHER AND HEAD OF ALL CHURCHES IN THE CITY AND THE WORLD

There is a significant inscription on the façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran:  “Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput.”   “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head”

Many think that St. Peter’s Basilica is the head of all the churches but in fact it is the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Every bishop has a cathedral and the Pope’s cathedral is the Basilica of St. John Lateran not the Basilica of St. Peter.  The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome and was the Pope’s official residence until the 15th century.

This magnificent Church was first called the Basilica of the Savior but later was also dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist and so it acquired the name Basilica of St. John Lateran. When the Papacy transferred to Avignon for about a century, the condition of the Lateran deteriorated so much that when the Papacy returned to Rome the Pope lived in two other locations before finally settling adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica where he now lives.

The word “basilica” comes from the Greek word meaning royal or royalty.  Basilica is a name given primarily to certain ancient churches of Rome and elsewhere which were built in the fourth century and later in a form chiefly derived from that of Roman public and private halls.  The church was approached through a portico, beyond which was an open space with colonnades around it (the atrium) and on the far side an ante-room or narthex; the church itself was usually divided by columns into a nave and two aisles.

In the course of its history, St. John Lateran suffered just about as many disasters and revivals as the papacy it hosted. Sacked by Alaric in 408 and Genseric in 455, it was rebuilt by Pope Leo the Great (440-461), and centuries later by Pope Hadrian I (772-795). Almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 896, the basilica was again restored by Pope Sergius III (904-911). Later the church was heavily damaged by fires in 1308 and 1360. When the Popes returned from their sojourn in Avignon, France (1304-1377), they found their basilica and palace in such disrepair, that they decided to transfer to the Vatican, near St. Peter’s (that basilica, also built by Constantine, had until then served primarily as a pilgrimage church).

Several important relics are kept within the Lateran basilica. The wooden altar on which St. Peter celebrated Mass while in Rome is believed to be inside the main altar. The heads of Sts. Peter and Paul were once believed to be inside busts above the main altar. Part of the table on which the Last Supper was celebrated is said to be behind a bronze depiction of the Last Supper. At one time the Holy Stairs which is nearby was also in the Lateran, the stairs in Pilate’s house on which Jesus is said to have walked during his trial. It is a marble stairs and is now covered with wood to protect it. Pilgrims ascend the stairs on their knees contemplating Jesus’ Passion and on the way up drops of blood may be seen on the marble stairs beneath protective glass. The stairs was brought to Rome by Constantine’s mother St. Helena.

Many important historic events have taken place in St. John Lateran, including 5 Ecumenical Councils and many diocesan synods. In 1929 the Lateran Pacts, which established the territory and status of the State of Vatican City, were signed here between the Holy See and the Government of Italy.

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic