SATURDAY December 16
Mark, Chapter 1, Verse 23-24
23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
The account of a single day’s ministry of Jesus on a Sabbath in and outside the synagogue of Capernaum combines teaching and miracles of exorcism and healing. Mention is not made of the content of the teaching but of the effect of astonishment and alarm on the people. Jesus’ teaching with authority, making an absolute claim on the hearer, was in the best tradition of the ancient prophets, not of the scribes. The narrative continues with events that evening and the next day. An unclean spirit: so called because of the spirit’s resistance to the holiness of God. The spirit knows and fears the power of Jesus to destroy his influence. In speaking out “The Holy One of God” the man with the unclean spirit is not making a confession but is making an attempt to ward off Jesus’ power, reflecting the notion that use of the precise name of an opposing spirit would guarantee mastery over him. Jesus silenced the cry of the unclean spirit and drove him out of the man.
Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Read: In many Latin American communities, today is the beginning of Las Posadas– reenactments of the Holy Family's journey to Bethlehem. Posadas are celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Latin American countries. Usually neighborhoods get together to reenact the pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus as a way to prepare their hearts for the nativity of our Lord. They go from house to house singing traditional Advent and Christmas carols or villancicos, knocking on every door, but everyone turns them down until they find one house that gives them shelter. Some parishes in the United States also celebrate this tradition as a way to pass on this tradition to young children. They are celebrated starting December 16.
Reflect: "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God." (Leviticus 19:34)
Pray: Pray for migrants around the world today.
Act: "We call on the local church to help newcomers integrate in ways that are respectful (legal), that celebrate their cultures, and that are responsive to their social needs, leading to a mutual enrichment of the local church." (Strangers No Longer, no. 42)
Here is a wonderful description of the tradition of the nine-day custom Posadas, that commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
· Bunuelos are the big crisp fried cakes that Mexicans have for Christmas Eve supper. They are eaten either plain, with cinnamon and brown sugar syrup, or sometimes with honey. But before supper there is the traditional Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Cock, at the village church. And for nine consecutive nights before that, there are the posadas to commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for lodgings.
· The word, posada, means an inn. To the humble Mexican the re-enactment of the Holy Family's quest for lodgings is a ritual of deep religious significance. The posadas, which start on the sixtenth of December and end on Christmas Eve, take place at different houses each night. Since Christmas, to the Mexican, is a community rather than a family affair, relatives and friends in a neighborhood often club together to defray posada expenses. The climax of each is the breaking of the Pinata.
· Pinatas are pottery jars, filled with trinkets, candies, and miniature toys. The jars are ingeniously decorated with bright paper to represent birds of paradise, dancing girls in gaudy ruffled skirts, or clowns with grotesque costumes and chalkwhite faces. Since Christmas is not a time for gift-giving, pinatas, with their bright baubles and inexpensive trifles, are as important to Mexicans as Christmas trees to their neighbors, north of the Rio Grande.
· Posada ceremonies begin after dark on December 16. They start with a procession of pilgrims, led by two children. With poles on their shoulders, the little ones support a platform. with figures of Joseph, the Virgin riding a small burro, and a number of protecting angels. Green branches and paper stars adorn the platform. Each member of the procession has a lighted candle. As the pilgrims approach the door of the house assigned to the first posada, they chant traditional verses in which Joseph wakens the master of the place and asks for lodgings for Mary. From behind closed doors the master threatens beatings unless the company moves on. Once more Joseph pleads for admittance. At first, the owner of the house scoffs, but finally, convinced of his guests' identity, he joyously opens the door and bids the pilgrims welcome. Then everyone kneels before the nacimiento, or miniature manger — often loaned to, the host for the evening — and offers prayers and Christmas hymns. When the religious ritual ends, there are refreshments. Then the children start a gay little song:
"Scatter the candies, scatter the sweets, For we are children who want to eat."
· Generally the pinata is suspended by a long rope or pulley cord hung from a tree in the patio. Each child in turn is blindfolded, given a stout stick, and told to break the jar. But just as Lola or Jose is about to hit, a yank on the rope takes the pinata out of reach. This tantalizing performance continues for some time while everyone — except the blindfolded victimshouts, jeers, and claps. Finally the pinata is shattered. With shouts and whoops, the guests drop to all fours and dart about after the booty, scattered in every direction.
· In this mingled atmosphere of religious fervor and childlike enjoyment, posadas and pinata-breakings continue until Christmas Eve. Then the search for lodgings ends and the Babe is born, with great rejoicing on the part of the pilgrims. Shortly before midnight, they sing nine Ave Marias and address a song to the Virgin, telling her that the night of her confinement is at hand.
· At some posadas small children, dressed as shepherds, stand at either side of the nacimiento on this last night. Two of the guests, acting the parts of godfather and godmother, walk between the shepherds with an image of the Baby Jesus. As the pilgrims kneel, they chant a litany to lull the Little One to sleep.
· At midnight on Christmas Eve everyone surges into the churches to celebrate the Mass of the Cock. After the service, whistles blow, fireworks explode, bells ring, and magnificent processions form, for Jesus' birth is the occasion of unbounded demonstration.
· In the midst of the happy tumult families hurry home to, supper. For the poor there are special holiday foods such as tonightbean soup, revoltijo, a traditional dish made with shrimp, potatoes, chili, and prickly pears, and a salad of nuts and fruits. Then come the bunuelos, the festal fried cakes that are puffed, brown, and delicious.
Activity Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960
May the coming of our humble Lord help us to focus on our loyalties that are due to our God, Church, Nation, family and neighbors during this season and our own journey of life!
Loyalty-Sir Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Shackleton like so many of his generation were ultimate adventurers – part hero, part daredevil – fighting the elements and the odds, too far from civilization to call for help – laying it all on the line purely for the love of adventure. Shackleton led a doomed expedition to miraculous survival through the sheer force of his motivational leadership. In 1914, he set out with a crew of twenty-eight men on a quest to be the first to travel across the entire Antarctic continent by way of the South Pole. His ship, Endurance, became caught in ice and was crushed. After abandoning the ship, he and his men faced incredible hardship from a variety of brutal Antarctic conditions – from shifting weather to shifting ice, along with the trials of hunger, illness and discouragement – for more than a year. Yet every man got home safely, when the entire expedition would have perished under weaker leadership. Incredibly, the only casualty was frostbitten toes on one man. He had passion for the adventure of the mission but he also had passion for the men he led. When he was forced to abandon his doomed ship and realized he would not achieve his goal of reaching the South Pole en route to the other side, he kept his disappointment to himself while he shifted his priorities to the well-being of his men. He said to another leader, F.A. Worsley, “It is a pity [to miss the crossing], but that cannot be helped. It is the men we have to think about. “He put his men above himself. He understood that the survival of them all might well depend on the quality of his leadership. He also realized that he could provide better leadership if he served as well as led. “Shackleton shared the physical labors as well as the watches…[He] would forego his own rations in order to feed the undernourished or the ill. And he often did so without anyone knowing it…Shackleton always put the needs of his men ahead of his personal comfort, and as a result he saved them all.” He realized that in order to survive they would have to stay healthy – mentally as well as physically. When we are trying to survive, having fun is the farthest thing from our minds. It may even be seen as trivializing the suffering. But during harsh tribulation it is more important than ever to find something to enjoy. During hard times we need to find a source of joy in order to maintain a healthy perspective. As a leader, Shackleton accepted responsibility for maintaining the spirits as well as the health of his men. Yes, they were brave adventurers just as Shackleton was, well able to take care of themselves. Still, Shackleton knew that as a leader he could provide a unique kind of influence that would be empowering, energizing and uplifting. He continually sought out ways to boost morale. He set aside time for recreation. They improvised various forms of entertainment. Several of the men had chosen books among the possessions they salvaged, and they read aloud to each other. They played soccer on the ice. “Humor…played a role, with Shackleton telling stories or teasing his men. What Shackleton was doing was keeping his men alive inside; by encouraging them to read or sing, he was keeping their spirits from sagging or dwelling on the inhospitalities that in other circumstances might have overwhelmed them.” He Inspired Loyalty. Shackleton’s passion for his mission and for his men, his passion for leadership, and his passion for motivation were a source of energy and courage during times of severe adversity. These virtues made him a leader that people wanted to follow. Even when his men may not have wanted to do something for themselves, they would do it for him. He inspired this kind of loyalty because he gave it to his men. They respected and trusted him because he respected and trusted them. They took care of him because he took care of them. They put him first because he put them first. He was a wonderful example of what a role model should be. Shackleton dedicated South, the book he wrote about their extraordinary exploits,
“To My Comrades.” In one especially moving passage he observed: “In memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that natures renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”
Sixty years after they had been rescued, the expedition’s first officer, Lionel Greenstreet, was asked how they had done it, how had they survived such a deadly misadventure. Greenstreet gave a one-word response: “Shackleton.”
It is nine days before Christmas. Today start a Christmas Novena with your family or someone you love.
49 Godly Character Traits
During this Advent season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:
Flexibility vs. Resistance
Not setting my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)
2243 Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.
2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions," we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.
· Please pray for me and this ministry