THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for December 23rd, 2017
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Liturgical texts here
Moscow at dawn…
Now more than ever it is crucial that you be “watchers of the dawn”, the lookouts who announce the light of dawn and the new springtime of the Gospel
of which the buds can already be seen.
—POPE JOHN PAUL II, 18th World Youth Day, April 13th, 2003; vatican.va
FOR a couple of weeks, I have sensed that I should share with my readers a parable of sorts that has been unfolding recently in my family. I do so with my son’s permission. When we both read yesterday’s and today’s Mass readings, we knew it was time to share this story based on the following two passages:
In those days, Hannah brought Samuel with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh. (Yesterday’s first reading)
Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers… (Today’s first reading)
You see, when my eldest son Greg was born some 19 years ago, I had an overwhelming sense that I needed to take him to my parish, and before the altar, consecrate him to Our Lady. The “anointing” to do this was so strong… and yet, for whatever reason, I delayed, postponed, and put off this lingering “divine directive.”
Several years later, around the age of twelve, something suddenly changed in Greg. He withdrew from his brothers and his family; his playfulness and humor dissipated; his incredible giftedness in music and creativity became buried… and tensions between him and I increased to the point of breaking. Then we found out, about three years later, that our son had been exposed to pornography and that he had found a way to view it without us knowing. He shared how, the first time he saw it, he was horrified and wept. And yet, like a rope tightening itself around the hook of curiosity, he found himself being dragged into the darkness of the lie that the world of porn is. Nonetheless, tensions increased as our son’s self-esteem plummeted and our relationship deteriorated.
Then one day, at my wits’ end, I was reminded of that interior and unrelenting call: that I was to take my son to the local church, and there, consecrate him to Our Lady. I thought, “Better late, than never.” And so, Greg and I knelt before the Tabernacle and a statue of Our Lady and, there, I placed my son firmly into the hands of that “woman clothed in the sun”, she who is the “morning star” heralding the coming of Dawn. And then, I let him go… Like the father of the prodigal son, I decided that my own anger, frustration, and worry was doing neither of us any good. And with that, Greg left home a year or two later.
Through a series of situations and events over the next year, Greg found himself unemployed and with no where to go—that is, except for an open invitation to join a Catholic missionary team that his sister had once been on. Knowing his life had to change, Greg sold his car, packed a small bag, and headed toward home on a small motorbike.
When he arrived at our farm, I embraced him in my arms. After he packed a few more things, I took him aside and we talked. “Dad,” he said, “I see what I’ve put mom and you through and what has to change in my life. I really want to grow close to God and become the man I am supposed to be. I’m seeing so many things now in the light of truth….” Greg went on for the next hour sharing what was stirring in his heart. The wisdom that came out of his mouth was remarkable; the contrition, unexpected and deeply moving, was like seeing the first ray of dawn after a long, dark night.
Coming to his senses he thought, ‘… I shall get up and go to my father’… his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:20-21)
With tears in my eyes, I held my son and told him how much I loved him. “I know dad. I know that you love me.” And with that, Greg gathered his things and drove off into the country to join his new brothers and sisters to become ministers of the Gospel. Like Peter, who was still in his boat when Christ called him… or like Matthew the tax collector, who was still sitting at his table… or like Zacchaeus, who was still up in his tree… Jesus invited them, and Greg (and me)—not because they were perfect men—but because they were “called.” As I watched Greg disappear into the evening dust, the words rose in my heart:
…this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found. (Luke 15:24)
With every week that passes, my wife and I are utterly amazed at the transformation taking place in our son’s life. I can barely speak of it without welling up with tears. Because it was totally unexpected, totally unforeseen… as if a hand from Heaven swooped him up. The light has returned in his eyes; his humor, giftedness, and kindness is touching his family all over again. Moreover, he is witnessing to us what following Jesus looks like. He knows he has a long journey ahead, as do the rest of us, but at least he has found the right road… the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Recently, he shared with me that he has found grace in the most difficult times through the Rosary, and thus, Our Lady’s help. Indeed, as I entered my office this morning to begin writing this, Greg was leaning over his open Bible, a Rosary in his hand, immersed in prayer.
THE PRODIGAL RETURNS
The reason I share all of this with you is that Greg’s story is a parable of what is happening with Russia. In 1917, just weeks before the Communist Revolution broke out in Moscow Square, Our Lady appeared to three children with a message:
[Russia] will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated… To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world… —visionary Sr. Lucia in a letter to the Holy Father, May 12th, 1982; The Message of Fatima, vatican.va
But for whatever reason, the popes delayed, postponed, and put off this “divine directive.” As such, Russia did indeed spread her errors throughout the world causing untold pain, suffering, and persecution to break out across the globe. But on March 25th, 1984 in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II in spiritual union with the Bishops of the world, entrusted all men and women and all peoples to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Mother of all men and women, and of all peoples, you who know all their sufferings and their hopes, you who have a mother’s awareness of all the struggles between good and evil, between light and darkness, which afflict the modern world, accept the cry which we, moved by the Holy Spirit, address directly to your Heart. Embrace with the love of the Mother and Handmaid of the Lord, this human world of ours, which we entrust and consecrate to you, for we are full of concern for the earthly and eternal destiny of individuals and peoples. In a special way we entrust and consecrate to you those individuals and nations which particularly need to be thus entrusted and consecrated. ‘We have recourse to your protection, holy Mother of God!’ Despise not our petitions in our necessities”… —The Message of Fatima, vatican.va
Without wading into the controversy that lingers today over whether the “consecration of Russia” was as Our Lady requested, we can, at the very least, say that it was an “imperfect” consecration. Like the one I did with my son. It was late, and I made it in desperation… probably not with the words that I would have used years earlier. Nonetheless, Heaven seems to have accepted it for what it was, along with John Paul II’s Act of Entrustment, because what has happened in Russia since then is utterly remarkable:
On May 13th, less than two months after John Paul II”s “Act of Entrustment,” one of the largest crowds in Fatima’s history gathers at the shrine there to pray the Rosary for peace. On the same day, an explosion at the Soviets’ Severomorsk Naval Base destroys two-thirds of all the missiles stockpiled for the Soviets’ Northern Fleet. The blast also destroys workshops needed to maintain the missiles as well as hundreds of scientists and technicians. Western military experts called it the worst naval disaster the Soviet Navy has suffered since WWII.
• December 1984: the Soviet Defense Minister, mastermind of the invasion plans for Western Europe, suddenly and mysteriously dies.
• March 10, 1985: Soviet Chairman Konstantin Chernenko dies.
• March 11, 1985: Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev elected.
• April 26, 1986: Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident.
• May 12, 1988: An explosion wrecked the only factory that made the rocket motors for the Soviets’ deadly SS 24 long-range missiles, which carry ten nuclear bombs each.
• November 9, 1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Nov-Dec 1989: Peaceful revolutions in Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.
• 1990: East and West Germany are unified.
• December 25, 1991: Dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics reference for timeline: “Fatima Consecration – Chronology”, ewtn.com
Just as my son is undergoing a transformation that is still painful as God reveals and heals his brokenness, so too, there are still dusty corners that need to be swept out in Russia from the whirlwind of decades of Communist rule. But just as Greg is now becoming a beacon of hope to those around him, so too, Russia is becoming a ray of light of the Dawn to the Western World, which has fallen far from grace:
We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual… And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis. What else but the loss of the ability to self-reproduce could act as the greatest testimony of the moral crisis facing a human society? —President Vladimir Putin, speech to the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sept. 19th, 2013; rt.com
In a newsletter titled, Has Russia Been Consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?, Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi further notes:
• In Russia hundreds of new Churches are being built out of necessity, and the ones now in use are more than full with believers.
• The Russian Churches are filled with the faithful to the brim, and the monasteries and convents are packed with new novices.
• The Government in Russia does not deny Christ, but speaks openly and encourages schools to keep their Christianity, and teach pupils their catechism.
• The Government together with the Church declared openly that they will not be part of the European Union, because the EU has lost its moral values and their Christianity, as they themselves had in the past under the Soviet Union; they left their faith and denied Christ. This time they declared “no one will tear us away from our faith and we will defend our faith until death.”
• The Russia government has openly denounced the “new world order”.
• Russia declared that agenda-promoting gays are not welcomed and not allowed to make processions, let alone enter into gay marriages. Russia declared that any foreigner who wants to live in Russia will be asked: 1) to learn Russian, 2) to become a Christian… (Note bene: While Russia is predominantly Orthodox Christian – they have all 7 Sacraments which Rome acknowledges as valid,) they
• They allow other Christians to openly express and practice their faith; there are in Moscow several Catholic and Anglican Churches.
• In 2015, The Minister of Health in Russia, Veronika Skvortsova and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, signed an agreement that abolishes abortion and includes palliative care throughout all of Russia. In sum, no abortions are permitted in Russia.
Comparing Russia to what’s happening in Europe and the rest of the West, Fr. Iannuzzi asks: “Who of the two needs to be converted?”
Recently, I asked Is the Eastern Gate Opening? It is one of the most hopeful things I have been privileged to write in some time. For many years, the mysterious words “Look to the East” have been on my heart. Traditionally, the Church has faced the East in anticipation of the Dawn, the “day of the Lord,” the coming of Christ. Our Lady indicated that a new era would come, a “period of peace”, after the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. Once again, we find ourselves looking to the East—both spiritually and geographically—for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, which leads inevitably to the Triumph of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
What we see in Russia (and what I see in my son) is, for me, a powerful testimony to how taking not only Jesus, but Our Blessed Mother into our hearts and homes, can transform them. For who seems to tidy, re-arrange, and restore a home better than a mother? Was not Our Lord the very first to let Mary mother Him?
[Jesus] wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. I promise salvation to those who embrace it, and those souls will be loved by God like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne. —This last line re: “flowers” appears in earlier accounts of Lucia’s apparitions. Cf. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, Louis Kondor, S.V.D., p, 187, note, 14.
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. (Luke 1:20)
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
How Our Lady helped to heal me after an encounter with porn: A Miracle of Mercy
To the men and women addicted to porn: The Hunted
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