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Bible Reflections View Comments

In the Right Place at the Right Time
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014
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February 2 is the much-ballyhooed Groundhog Day. In Wisconsin, where I grew up, if we got to see Spring six weeks from this date (which is, in fact, the first day of spring on the calendar), it was an early spring indeed, terrified rodent or not.

That groundhog afraid of his own shadow might be a good mascot for us in these dreary February days, though. Far too often we act as though there’s a monster under the bed, something in the dark that’s waiting to pounce on us. We wake up from our sleepy lives and as soon as we’re confronted with something new and perhaps startling, we run back to our caves. We think we must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we scurry back to where we’re comfortable, even if it’s a dark, underground den.

For the past few Sundays we’ve heard accounts of Jesus calling his first followers. We might be feeling exhilarated by that challenge, or we might be feeling not quite up to the task. Today, the liturgical calendar takes us back to the Christmas season with the feast of the presentation of the Lord. But if we think it’s going to be time to bask once again in the soft glow of Christmas lights, then we need to take another look at the Gospel reading.

While the infant Jesus is recognized as the promised messenger of salvation, the revelation also brings with it the promise of discord and contradiction. Salvation isn’t going to be a cozy retreat. Simeon prophesies that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart. He also says the thoughts of many will be laid bare.

While this feast has its somber moments, however, it is celebrated as a feast of light and often referred to as Candlemas. In times past, the year’s supply of candles were blessed on this feast. We include it among the joyful mysteries of the rosary.

Simeon and Anna both seem to be well-known in the Temple precincts. You know people in your own parish who are always around. They attend daily Mass and all the extra events in the parish. They’ve been part of the parish for as long as most people can recall. They keep the faith and their very presence is part of handing on the faith to new generations. They’ve been around long enough to know that all life is a mix of darkness and light, but they believe the light always prevails— no need to run from its rays.

When these two holy people see Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus, they recognize the divine presence and herald the good news. Luke tells us that both of them proclaim prophetic words about this child. They were truly in the right place at the right time. But I suspect they would also proclaim the wonder of all the infants being brought to the Temple to be presented to God. Yes, Jesus was special, but each child was part of the Chosen People. Jesus was being claimed and redeemed in this ritual presentation. In the same way, each child brought to our churches for Baptism increases our family of faith. And, like Simeon and Anna, we welcome those children and proclaim the wonder of their lives as they’re presented to God.

At the end of our lives, we will be brought forth once more to be presented to God in the funeral Mass of the Resurrection. We will be welcomed into eternity with wonder and awe. What we do between those two presentations will determine how much we ourselves are in the right place at the right time.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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