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Thursday, First Week of Advent

December 3, 2009

Blessed Memorial of St. Francis Xavier! (look for his biography at the end)

God our Father,
by the preaching of St. Francis Xavier
You brought many nations to Yourself.
Give his zeal for the faith to all who believe in You,
that Your Church may rejoice in continued growth throughout the world.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Opening Prayer from Mass)

Readings:
Isaiah 26: 1-6 (the just will live in a protected city,
but the lofty will be trampled underfoot)
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27 “Blessed is He
who comes in the name of the Lord”
+ Matthew 7:21, 24-27 (build your house on rock, not sand)

God sets healthy boundaries.

“A strong city have we;
He sets up walls and ramparts to protect us” (Isaiah 26:1)

In fact, when God breaks down walls,
it’s usually a sign of judgment, defeat and destruction
(see Isaiah 5:9, Jeremiah 52:14).

A city without walls is soon overrun by enemies and wild beasts.
We have enemies and wild beasts in our lives,
especially at this time of year
when so many things are vying for our attention.
Beasts of greed, gluttony and envy (in ourselves and/or others)
are all too happy snarl their demands.
Consumerism, over-commitment and cynicism
are just a few of the enemies looking for a way to creep into our lives.
Our God-given walls give us choices about what we allow to enter.

“Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith
A nation of firm purpose You keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust is in You” (Isaiah 26:2-3)

Our personal gate-keeping determines our level of peace, our stability.
We must carefully choose what we allow ourselves to listen to, watch,
think about, plan, and do.
If we trust in God, taking in His words and putting them into practise
(living in justice and faithfulness), then our lives will be set upon rock.
No storm, wind or waves will be able to shake us,
no enemies or wild beasts will have power over us.
If not, then we find ourselves on shifting sand,
subject to complete collapse under pressure.

This is often easier said than done.
Evil rarely shows itself in its native, repulsive form.
It looks attractive, pleasing, even loving and holy.
Jesus warns us to be on guard against false prophets
who come to us in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are wolves on the prowl (Matthew 7:15).
We need to look beyond appearances to judge the fruit.
Is this God’s will for me? Will this choice bear good fruit?
Will it lead to greater holiness?
If storms come (and they will),
will this choice leave me peaceful and secure on a rock foundation
or will it subject me to a great fall?
Is this really my pride seeking expression?
Have similar choices in the past left me peaceful or ruined in the end?

The Prince of Peace is coming to bring us peace,
that “shalom” which is utter safety, completeness, fullness, wholeness,
welfare, communion with all, all debts fully paid.
Let’s close our gates to the enemies of peace,
lifting them high to welcome the King of glory (Psalm 24:7).

Your fellow gate-keeper,

 


***********
St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), a noble young bookish Spaniard, had dreams
of making a name for himself in the world. He’d grown up with a knowledge
of his faith, but it was in the background of his life…until he met
another young Spaniard at the university, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius
recognized Francis’ God-given gifts and was determined to put them to good
use in God’s service. Francis wasn’t particularly interested, but Ignatius’
persistence in kindness, friendship and challenge, “What does it profit a
man if he gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36) finally sank
in and lit the fire of faith that would take St. Francis Xavier across the
Orient, spreading the Good News with great joy, humility and persuasiveness.

St. Francis Xavier joined St. Ignatius as one of the founding members of the
Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. After his ordination to the
priesthood, he was sent on a mission to Portuguese colonies in the East. To
make a long story shorter, he traveled extensively in the Orient, reforming
Christians who were living scandalously unchristian lives and bringing the
Good News of the Gospel to tens of thousands of native people in India,
Japan and the islands in between. He set his sights on China, but died on
an island just off the shore, still awaiting passage. He had the gift of
being understood in languages he had not studied (although he learned the
native languages whenever possible), and performed many miracles (including
raising the dead) for the sake of demonstrating that God is the true God.
He wrote that on some days he had baptized and instructed so many converts
that he couldn’t lift his arm anymore and his voice was gone. He suffered a
great deal of persecution, including three times having his hut set afire
when he was still in it. The church he established in Japan was so strong
that it survived for 200 years underground with no priests–which means they
had no Mass, no Eucharist, no Sacramental Confession, no Confirmation, no
Last Rites!

St. Francis Xavier, Apostle to the East, pray for us, that we might catch
your zeal to spread the good news of God’s redeeming love to everyone God
brings into our lives.

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