Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bishop’s Note: Week of Advent 4B

Bishop Eric Menees

As I make my parish visitations, and as we approach the last Sunday of Advent and light that final candle, you can feel the excitement in the air. Last Sunday we lit the rose color candle for Gaudete (or Rejoicing) Sunday. This Sunday we light the last purple candle – the Angel Candle, sometimes referred to as the Candle of Love. Given our Gospel reading from the First Chapter of Luke, that name makes perfect sense.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:26-28)

I cannot hear these words without being brought back to my childhood. I was first exposed to the gospel message of Christmas in a most unique manner – TV, and specifically, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I was just a boy when that came out – I wonder how many millions of children around the world were exposed to the Word of God in that stirring cartoon presentation?  

I cannot hear these words without thinking of my first year as a priest in East Los Angeles. At that parish we had a long-standing tradition of the “Posada,” which is a wonderful Latino custom of re-enacting the story of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter. The service began in the church with this reading from the first chapter of Luke. We had a man and woman dress up as Mary & Joseph, and even brought a donkey to help us process through the neighborhood. The Angel Gabriel was always played by a strong young man who dressed like a warrior angel – which, of course, Gabriel is!

I cannot hear these words without thinking of later years and the Christmas pageants in my congregation, where my children would dress up – sometimes as a shepherd, sometimes as an angel, and always a handful!

The Word of God as expressed by the Angel Gabriel not only touches lives, but also transforms them. And yet, we live in a world in which the number of children who will not hear these words on TV, or in the streets, or in church is rising.  

Over the past three weeks I’ve spoken of the Messianic Prophecies. This week I would like to call each and every one of you in the Diocese of San Joaquin to be an Angel or a Prophet. Bring someone to church to hear the Word of God, to see transformed lives, and to be caught up with the heavenly host!

God bless you all!   Bishop Menees

Catechism Questions 55 - 57

55.    Was Mary the only human parent of Jesus?
Yes. Mary is held in honor, for she submitted to the will of God and bore the Son of God as her own son. However, after God told Joseph of Mary’s miraculous conception, Joseph took Mary as his wife and they raised Jesus as their son. (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38, 2:48)
56.    What is the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and his divinity?
Jesus is both fully and truly God, and fully and truly human. The divine and human natures of Jesus’ Person may be distinguished but can never be separated, changed or confused. All that Jesus does as a human being, he also does as God; and before he ever became human, he was eternally living and active within the unity of the Holy Trinity. (John 1:1-2; 5:18; 10:30; 14:8-9; Luke 2:7; Definition of Chalcedon)
57.    Why did Jesus suffer?
Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could have peace with God, as prophesied in the Old Testament: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

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