December 22, 2016 – Unity

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Today’s antiphon is particularly insightful for our world today. We are recognizing that Jesus is King of all nations. He is not king over some nations or peoples. Nor is He king over a special selection of people, particularly those who agree with our understanding of Jesus or our worldly perspective. If we are to shout this antiphon as it is intended (today even gets an exclamation point at the end of it), then we are recognizing the universality of Jesus as King of all nations, of all peoples.

This antiphon was especially important for the early Church because of the divide that existed between the Jewish people and the Gentiles (basically everyone who wasn’t a Jew). There were many laws and customs that restricted or even forbid contact between the two groups, mostly imposed by the Jewish side of the equation. If Jesus is King of all nations, then that means that He is King over Jew and Gentile alike.

Think of our world today, particularly the political tensions that have arisen in America yes, but many other countries as well. Consider Syria and other war-torn countries where the mentality of “us vs. them” is literally killing people of every age every single day. Today’s antiphon reminds us that Jesus is both King and keystone, or cornerstone. Jesus is the King of unity. This unity is foundational, the cornerstone, of the Church. As members of Christ’s Church, this unity is supposed to course through our veins. We are called to see one another as men and women uniquely and specifically formed by God. There is no room for “us vs. them” when we recognize and love one another as images of God.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Advent Reflections – December 23, 2015

Living in Harmony: Real Life

Living in harmony and unity grows out of the cultivation of a few habits. Really, living in harmony and unity, within ourselves, with others, and with God could be concluded to be our main goal in life. After all, Jesus’ final prayer, according to the Gospel of John, was

That they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us. John 17:21

Jesus’ final prayer is about our unity, both with God and with one another. You can be sure that if this is a desire of Jesus, it is a desire of Mary, our Mother, whose purpose is always to concretely bring us into greater unity with her Son. In a way, each of the themes we have reflected on this Advent season pave the way for unity.

  1. Open to Life – we cannot find harmony and unity with others if we are not open to experiencing their life, no matter how different it is from our own. No only must we be open to it, we must find a way to reach common ground when our differing experiences cause us to view one another in suspicious, concerning or even hostile lights.
  2. Able to Love without Requiring Love in Return – we cannot find harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to be the first to love, to be the first to extend a hand of friendship. Being willing to love without requiring or needing love in return means making ourselves vulnerable and humble. We love not because someone else acted toward us in kindness, generosity, respect, or love first, but because we have been created in the image and likeness of Love Itself. We love because God loved us first, unconditionally and completely (cf. 1 John 4:19).
  3. Willing to Sacrifice for Others – we cannot experience harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to give up something of ourselves for the sake of the other. The gift of perfect love, of perfect unity, is Jesus on the cross, giving His whole self for the sake of our broken, imperfect, yet beautiful selves. If we are to live out Jesus’ call for unity, we can expect nothing less to be demanded of us. The more we die to self, the more we allow God to move and shape our lives, the greater and more perfect unity we will experience.
  4. Capable of Forgiveness – we cannot experience harmony and unity with others if we are not willing to seek and extend forgiveness. We are no longer the perfect creatures from the garden. We are broken. We are sinful. We are in need of mercy. These are not sentiments. They are facts. If we wish to find true harmony with one another and with God, we must accept the fact that we will need to become the living embodiment of forgiveness – quick to forgive and quick to seek forgiveness.

The beauty of Jesus’ final prayer is that even before He prayed it, He had prepared for us a practical, living example of how to bring it to fruition. The example of Mary’s Motherhood shines forth for each person, illuminating key moments which, when gathered together, present a path for holiness, for peace, and for unity among all peoples and most importantly, unity with her Son, Jesus our Savior.

 

Advent Reflections – December 22, 2015

Living in Harmony: In Church Tradition

Louis_Martin_1
“Louis Martin 1” by unidentified photographer – http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2008/07/04/blessed-louis-and-zelie-martin-and-saint-damien/. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 
Zélie_Martin_1
“Zélie Martin 1” by unidentified photographer – http://www.ouest-france.fr/actu/actuDet_-Les-parents-de-Therese-de-Lisieux-beatifies-_3636-725020_actu.Htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons 

Back on October 18, 2015, the Church celebrated the canonization of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The witness of their life together has given the Church a beautiful example of marital love, devotion and unity. Both firmly believed that God had called them to the vocation of marriage and that it was through their marriage they would reach heaven. As any couple, they did not always agree. However, they valued their unity over any discord. Most importantly,

The Blessed Martin spouses are a reminder also to those of you who are married, and those who are preparing to marry, that marriage is a way of faith; they encourage you to rediscover for your married life the centrality of Jesus Christ and of growing in the Church. – Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Marriage is learning to live in harmony with another person. When two become one, unity and harmony are required. The principle can be applied to all relationships. We are called to live harmoniously with all persons, not just those we like or get along with.

Spend time learning about Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin. What is one lesson from their life that you can strive to emulate in your own?