December 24, 2020

Dwelling Richly

(Reflection prepared for our vocation department's social media)

In the first reading for the Mass of Christmas Eve morning we hear how God takes the opportunity of David’s plans to build the house of God, the Temple, to turn the discernment around: it is God, rather, who will establish a house for David. (2 Samuel 7:11)

At Christmas we see this prophecy begin to come to its final fulfillment. Mary, in bearing the Lord in her womb, becomes the first tabernacle and the exemplar of the Church to come. She is, as St. Francis of Assisi puts it, the Virgin made Church. (A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, invites us into Holy Communion with him, that we, as the Church, might become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22) In this way, the great feast of Pentecost, at which we recall and celebrate the Spirit as the abiding presence of Christ in his Church, peeks out even now at Christmas. Indeed, Pentecost is the fulfillment of the prophecy given to David; God builds for us a house in which he himself will dwell among us, our home and mother the Church.

As Blessed Isaac of Stella writes: “Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.” (Office of Readings for Saturday of the 2nd week of Advent)

When you, faithful soul, discover the unique and unrepeatable way that Christ desires to dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16), you have discerned your vocation.

December 6, 2020

Heralds of the Great King

(Reflection prepared for our vocation department's social media)

Each year the 2nd Sunday of Advent recalls the preaching of St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord, sent to prepare his way and announce his coming. In this way John is one of the principal characters of the Advent season, which has the “twofold character” of a time to “prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered [and] as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year)

Between the first and final comings of the Lord there is a third—his quiet and hidden arrival in the hearts and lives of those who find the willingness to surrender to grace. This “middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last.” (St. Bernard, Office of Readings for Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent). This is where we are in the Advent season, recalling with joy the Nativity of the Lord, looking forward with devout expectation to his final advent at the end of time, and witnessing to his desire to be born anew, here and now, in our own lives.

Francis of Assisi, while still experimenting and figuring out his own vocation, once fell prey to bandits in the woods. While attacking him they asked who he was. He answered, “‘I am the herald of the great King!’” (Thomas of Celano, First Life of St. Francis, chapter 7) Considering not his own misfortune, he saw in his attackers the suffering of being trapped by evil and sin, and announced to them the good news of God’s Kingdom. Like John the Baptist, Francis found his vocation in announcing the God who desires to arrive in our lives anew in each moment.

How am I being called to witness to God’s desire to come and dwell in the hearts of the men and women of our time? How will I be a forerunner of the Lord and a herald of the great King?