Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Hard Lesson to Learn

Suppose there is a guy -- or let's suppose that it is you -- who engages in a certain activity, a certain practice. And this practice provides him with a measure of comfort and a degree of happiness. Life appears to be much better for him, much easier for him, because of this practice. Conversely, were he to stop this practice, and thereby lose out on those resulting benefits, he believes that life would be much harder. Thus, for fear of losing those benefits of comfort and happiness, he continues the practice.

Now let us suppose that the activity or practice that he engages in is morally wrong. Perhaps this wrongful activity or practice is economic or sexual or perhaps it involves perpetuating a lie about this or that. In any event, despite gaining certain advantages and benefits from engaging in it, it is wrong, it is sinful. Or maybe the practice is not sinful at all, but it is not the right path for him in life, it is not the life that God intends for him and the practice is keeping him from that right path.

What to do? What to do? With respect to the former case, he knows that what he is doing is wrong, but he fears losing the things that he gains from it. The benefits he gets are not themselves wrong -- some comfort in life, some economic or emotional security, and the peace of mind that goes with having these things -- but the means to those good ends are bad. He is otherwise a good and decent fellow, and he sincerely does want to be good and do good, but he also believes that he needs these goods things and were they to be taken away, so he believes, he would despair, he would be lost. Augustine was at a similar point in his life -- knowing what was right, wanting to do right, but enjoying the benefits of the wrong he was doing -- when he famously exclaimed, "God grant me chastity . . . but not yet."

Likewise, with respect to the latter case, where the practice is not sinful, just wrong in the sense that it is not what God intends for him, he continues the practice because of the benefits that he enjoys. He really has not put much thought into whether it is the right path in life, into what he might be called to, what his particular vocation is at that point, he only knows that the activity provides him with some comfort, happiness, and security, all of which he would not want to lose.

The Gospel reading for today has Jesus counseling,
"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Mk 9:43-48)
It is a hard lesson to learn, and harder to implement. But we need to let go of that wrongful practice, we need to detach ourselves from those sinful deeds, and those non-sinful deeds that are keeping us from our proper path, no matter how much we might enjoy them or even depend upon them.

And if we do not let go of that practice or activity voluntarily ourselves, perhaps God in His providence and mercy might intervene and take it away Himself. Although we might be alarmed at the loss, to have what we think is a necessity snatched away from us, we should be thankful to God for doing us the favor. He did what we knew should be done but did not have the will to do ourselves.

It may not be easy at first, it may cause our anxiety level to skyrocket. But rather than bemoan the loss of the bad, whether we let go voluntarily, or He takes it away involuntarily, we should seek the grace of understanding the lesson of the pruning of the branches, the lesson of the lilies of the field, the beatitude of being poor in spirit, of putting our lives in His hands and trusting that He will replace those ill-gotten gains with something better. We need to trust that after closing the bad door, He will open a good door for us; new opportunities will present themselves, opportunities for obtaining good by doing good, rather than by doing wrong. What we thought was our misfortune may instead be our salvation.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners."

Today is the feast day for St. Matthew, whose name I took in Confirmation. Matthew the despised tax collector, Matthew the sinner, Matthew the unworthy, Matthew the recipient of wholly unwarranted gift and grace from the Lord, "It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick."

 A sermon by St Bede the Venerable
Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.

He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life – not just walking after him. St. John tells us: Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

And he rose and followed him. There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

As he sat at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon. Notice also the happy and true anticipation of his future status as apostle and teacher of the nations. No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation. He took up his appointed duties while still taking his first steps in the faith, and from that hour he fulfilled his obligation and thus grew in merit. To see a deeper understanding of the great celebration Matthew held at his house, we must realise that he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love. Our Saviour attests to this: Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

On hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done. Christ, since he dwells in the hearts of his chosen ones through the grace of his love, enters so that he might eat with us and we with him. He ever refreshes us by the light of his presence insofar as we progress in our devotion to and longing for the things of heaven. He himself is delighted by such a pleasing banquet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Gourmet Tip of the Day

This is a lesson that I have learned many times over. But if you use this tip, you will find your cooking experience to be so much easier and enjoyable.

When heating water, after putting the water in the pot and putting it on the stove, so that it will come to a vigorous boil much faster, it is really helpful if you then turn on the burner.

You will be amazed at how quickly this will happen. There have been times when I did not use this helpful tip and I would come back five, ten minutes later and the water would essentially still be at room temperature and probably would take another hundred years, if that, to finally come to a boil. Of course, by then, I've gotten hungry and eaten something else.

So, for more successful heating of water to a boil, turn on the burner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Gourmet Tip of the Day

Here's a helpful tip I learned this evening --

When you put a slice of American cheese on a hamburger, be sure to first remove the plastic wrapping. That way, when you bite into it, you will be able to actually eat the cheeseburger, rather than wonder what that strange crunchiness is.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The New Evangelization: “In this sign you will conquer!”

Today, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Pope Benedict published his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente on the Church in the Middle East. Despite its title, the teachings in the document really apply to us all. The Middle East, which includes the Holy Land as well as parts of what was once called Christendom, is an especially appropriate setting in which to consider the New Evangelization, which includes re-evangelizing those places where Christ once was, but no longer is or is marginalized, places where difficulties and hardship may impede access to or a full relationship with Christ, perhaps beginning with ourselves. The document is now posted in pdf format here at the Vatican website, but hopefully they will soon post an easier-to-read hmtl version.

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Visit to St. Paul's Basilica in Harissa for the Signing of
the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente
Apostolic Journey to Lebanon
14 September 2012
Providentially, this event takes place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a celebration originating in the East in 335, following the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection built over Golgotha and our Lord’s tomb by the Emperor Constantine the Great, whom you venerate as saint. A month from now we will celebrate the seventeen-hundredth anniversary of the appearance to Constantine of the Chi-Rho, radiant in the symbolic night of his unbelief and accompanied by the words: “In this sign you will conquer!” Later, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, and gave his name to Constantinople.

It seems to me that the Post-Synodal Exhortation can be read and understood in the light of this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and more particularly in the light of the Chi-Rho, the two first letters of the Greek word “Christos”. Reading it in this way leads to renewed appreciation of the identity of each baptized person and of the Church, and is at the same time a summons to witness in and through communion.

Are not Christian communion and witness grounded in the Paschal Mystery, in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ? Is it not there that they find their fulfilment? There is an inseparable bond between the Cross and the Resurrection which Christians must never forget. Without this bond, to exalt the Cross would mean to justify suffering and death, seeing them merely as our inevitable fate. For Christians, to exalt the Cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith! To exalt the Cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love! To exalt the Cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!

In examining the present situation of the Church in the Middle East, the Synod Fathers reflected on the joys and struggles, the fears and hopes of Christ’s disciples in these lands. In this way, the entire Church was able to hear the troubled cry and see the desperate faces of many men and women who experience grave human and material difficulties, who live amid powerful tensions in fear and uncertainty, who desire to follow Christ – the One who gives meaning to their existence – yet often find themselves prevented from doing so. That is why I wanted the First Letter of Saint Peter to serve as the framework of the document. . . .

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente makes it possible to rethink the present in order to look to the future with the eyes of Christ. By its biblical and pastoral orientation, its invitation to deeper spiritual and ecclesiological reflection, its call for liturgical and catechetical renewal, and its summons to dialogue, the Exhortation points out a path for rediscovering what is essential: being a follower of Christ even in difficult and sometimes painful situations which may lead to the temptation to ignore or to forget the exaltation of the Cross. It is here and now that we are called to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, service over domination, humility over pride, and unity over division.

In the light of today’s Feast, and in view of a fruitful application of the Exhortation, I urge all of you to fear not, to stand firm in truth and in purity of faith. This is the language of the Cross, exalted and glorious! This is the “folly” of the Cross: a folly capable of changing our sufferings into a declaration of love for God and mercy for our neighbour; a folly capable of transforming those who suffer because of their faith and identity into vessels of clay ready to be filled to overflowing by divine gifts more precious than gold (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-18).

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente provides some elements that are helpful for a personal and communal examination of conscience, and an objective evaluation of the commitment and desire for holiness of each one of Christ’s disciples. The Exhortation shows openness to authentic interreligious dialogue based on faith in the one God, the Creator. It also seeks to contribute to an ecumenism full of human, spiritual and charitable fervour, in evangelical truth and love, drawing its strength from the commandment of the risen Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

The Exhortation as a whole is meant to help each of the Lord’s disciples to live fully and to pass on faithfully to others what he or she has become by Baptism: a child of light, sharing in God’s own light, a lamp newly lit amid the troubled darkness of this world, so that the light may shine in the darkness (cf. Jn 1:4f. and 2 Cor 4:1-6). The document seeks to help purify the faith from all that disfigures it, from everything that can obscure the splendour of Christ’s light. For communion is true fidelity to Christ, and Christian witness is the radiance of the paschal mystery which gives full meaning to the Cross, exalted and glorious. As his followers, “we proclaim Christ crucified … the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24)

“Fear not, little flock” (Lk 12:32) and remember the promise made to Constantine: “In this sign you will conquer!” (emphasis added)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Days When Life As You Know It Ends

Life as you know it can change in an instant. The world can change in an instant. A prime example is September 11. We woke up on that day in one world and we went to bed that night in another. The plans that we had made and the path that we had expected to follow, both as a nation and individually, came to an abrupt end that day, and we were thrown onto a different course.

The Lord has warned that such could happen, that such will likely happen to us in our lives. We often will not know the time or the hour of life-changing events or, most especially, life-ending events. And so, we must always be ready, always be prepared, and part of that preparation for the possibility of catastrophic change is not merely stocking up on those things that might be changed or lost in an instant, but by building our lives on rock, on things that last, the eternal things, that is, the Eternal One, rather than building on lives on sand, which are then washed away when the inevitable storm comes, such as the sands of temporal worldly things, worldly wealth, possessions, jobs, health, all of which will one day crumble and turn to dust.

With the Lord, in hope, we are already saved. With Him, all things are possible, including perseverence in the face of hardship, peace of heart and mind, love, and even the ability to forgive, rather than retaliate in self-corrosive hate, when that hardship and life-changing event are brought about by evil and wrongs against you.
Eternal and Merciful God, at times of tragedy our intellects seek understanding, our hearts seek healing, and our souls turn to You: our source of hope and solace. Heal our troubled nation as our nation turns its eyes to You and comfort those whose lives are changed forever: those who have perished, those who have lost family, friends or loved ones, and those who now live in the aftermath of these acts of terror. May God bless our national leadership, may God bless our servicemen and women, and may God bless America. Amen

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, let thy protection be upon all those who are in the service of our country; guard them from all harm and danger of body and soul; sustain and comfort those at home, especially in their hours of loneliness, anxiety, and sorrow; prepare the dying for death and the living for your service; give success to our arms on land and sea and in the air; and grant unto us and all nations a speedy, just and lasting peace. Amen
September 11, 2001. Many of us remember it as if it were yesterday. But also, for many, we experience our own personal September 11 in our personal lives when they are radically ended and our path forever changed by, for example, death of loved ones, illness and/or injury, job loss and inability to obtain other employment, or even the adverse consequences of our own sin and folly. But whether you are an entirely innocent victim or a sinner, the Lord is ready to protect us.

Written on Saturday, September 15, 2001

I drove by the Pentagon today. I decided to go by a condo I saw advertised that is nearby. Luckily, the damage appears to be quite localized to the crash site. I drove down the parkway along the river and then onto the highway that runs past the Pentagon.

As I approached, I saw the building, standing as firm and imposing as always. I curved around and the next side of the five-sided building was perfectly fine, but there in the parking lot were countless trucks and trailers. I could see some smoke and smelled food being cooked for the rescuers. There was a McDonald's sign atop one tent.

Then, I came around the bend and saw the unmistakable black markings along the exterior from the fire and smoke. Now I could see the crash site, the middle of the building that was rubble.

I turned off onto my exit and got on Arlington Ridge Road, on the heights above D.C. On the far east end, there is a hairpin turn and at that end there is a park, what used to be Fort Albany -- a place on the heights where cannon and other guns were placed to protect the city from attack in the Civil War. Here were many people, looking across the highway to the damaged side of the Pentagon. None of them said much of anything. Everyone just staring grimly at the collapsed middle. A few taking pictures.

As I said, thankfully, the damage was fairly localized, so I gazed around the city. Being on the heights, I could see a few miles to the spires of the National Cathedral. I could see about six miles in another direction to the dome of the National Shrine at my school Catholic University. The Washington Monument of course loomed over everything.

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful city. The one thing I could not see, try though I might, was the White House. Only two stories high, nestled in the trees, perhaps its lack of visibility saved it from being the place of destruction.

I had thought about going to a funeral mass for one of the victims this morning at St. Thomas More Cathedral here in Arlington, but my sleep was kind of restless last night and I woke up late. For the first time in the 12 years (so many!) that I've been here, I experienced a bit of personal apprehension for my safety.

I've always realized in the abstract that if we ever suffer a missile attack, all I'll ever know of it is a momentary bright flash and that's the last you'll hear of me, but its never really concerned me. Never once during the Gulf War was I concerned. But late last night, as I was on the computer, I heard this very loud BANG! and then all the power went out. It was a very unusual sound, but last week I would have simply figured someone crashed into a electrical pole or a transformer blew, but this isn't last week. It was a sound I hadn't heard before and, although there is nothing in this neighborhood worth attacking, I was a little jumpy after that. Just to be safe, I reported it to the police. Just in case.

So, we all have to be a little more vigilant now that we are at war. A buddy of mine from high school is in the reserves and I expect he'll be one of those called to active duty. Over in the District, the national guard has been deployed. Many street corners have humvees sitting there with soldiers on the sidewalks. I'm glad to see them. Not for my benefit, because except for being startled last night, I'm not too concerned about me getting it, but I do expect further attacks on us. This is war, not merely for some in uniform going to southeast Asia, but for all of us.

We all have our part to do and sacrifices to make. It’s entirely possible that we will not be able to all be together this Thanksgiving. I expect we will have positioned our troops and have launched our campaign by then. If so, expect the airports to be shut down again. Even if we have not launched our attack by then, expect the planes to be grounded. Our enemy is perfectly aware that Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year for air travel and would like nothing more than to kill some more of us.

If the planes are flying, as passengers, we'll need to stay alert during the flights and prevent that from happening. If hijacked, we need to emulate the heroes of the plane in Pennsylvania and retake the plane, no matter the cost. As for me, if I'm hijacked and we cannot regain control -- shoot us down. I'll not allow them to make a low-tech missile out of me.

At the same time, pray for true peace. Pray for my buddy as he gets activated and sent into battle. Pray for our enemy, that God grant them grace and wisdom to choose peace. Pray for us, that, as we destroy that enemy, that God grant us grace and strength to not hate those He commands us to love, that we kill not for vengeance, but to end the violence and the capacity and will of the enemy to make war on us, until the day we again may live in peace with these children of God.


Added September 11, 2010

The morning of September 11, 2001, I was at the Arlington Courthouse, waiting for cases to be called in both circuit court and general district court. During a break, I popped down to the clerk's office for something and, while I was there, the phone rang and the clerk answered it. After a moment or two, he told us that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon, which is about two miles or so to the south.

We thought that that was odd, to say the least. National Airport is almost right next to the Pentagon, but still, how could a plane crash into it?

I next went up to circuit court, where there was still a break, but the judge was on the bench talking to the clerks and bailiffs, saying that "this is war." Still not comprehending (not knowing anything about New York), I went down to general district court to see if my case down there could be called.

A few moments after I entered the courtroom, I saw sheriff's deputies running up to the bench, saying something to the judge. The judge then announced that all the cases were being cancelled and that an evacuation of the building had been ordered for safety reasons. (Apparently this was when there was a plane approaching D.C. (Flight 93). The deputies and police were also needed for mass mobilization to the Pentagon and throughout the area.)

Once outside, I talked to one of the prosecutors who said that he had seen a very low-flying plane over in the direction of the Pentagon.

As I got into my car to drive home, there was a report on the radio of an attack at the State Department, but that was later determined to be false. There was also talk about an attack on the World Trade Center and something about a collapse or possible collapse. In my mind at the time, I was thinking that they meant some of the facing had come off or something like that.

When I got home (about a mile away) and turned on the TV, I don't remember when it was that I first saw that the WTC building or buildings had collapsed entirely. I don't have any recollection of "Oh my God," but I must have had a response of that type. I was definitely stunned enough to not really remember my reaction, considering that I believed at the time that 25-30,000 people had just died, maybe even as high as 50,000 (thank-you Lord for the WTC personnel and firefighters who were able to evacuate the towers so efficiently).

After sitting in front of the TV for a few hours, I walked out of the house and went over to Lee Highway, which leads directly to the District. There were long lines of crowds of people walking down the sidewalk, they were federal government workers evacuating D.C. on foot because the Metro (subway) had stopped running.

In the days that followed, heavily armed military personnel began to populate many of the street corners. We were happy to see them.

See also Why I Believe, or, How I Know that God Exists

September 11: Never Forget

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today to remember the attacks on our nation,
that day of incredible violence and pain ten years ago.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died in Arlington, New York, and Pennsylvania -—
the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them there on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence there that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
in the days and years following in the on-going battle against terrorism.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
--See Prayer His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero, New York
Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Ephphatha! Be Opened to Hear and Speak in God's Language of Love

This week, over at Cinema Catechism, we are beginning Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series in preparation for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization. So it is appropriate that the Gospel reading for today should have Jesus saying "Ephphatha." (Mk 7:31-37)

A few weeks ago, on August 12, we read of Elijah becoming weary and sleeping after fleeing for his life. He is woken by an angel and told to get up and eat. Elijah then eats some hearth cake, drinks some water, and promptly goes back to sleep. The angel returns, touches him and insists, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" And this time, Elijah listened and ate fully so that, strengthened by that food, he could walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God. (1 Kgs 19:4-8)

We too, like the prophet, too often have been wanting to sleep. But it is necessary now for us to get up from our slumber and eat of the Word of God, and the Eucharist as well, so that we might be filled and strengthed for the journey of New Evangelization that awaits us.

And in addition, we should here adopt the "Ephphatha," which Jesus said and pray that He say to us, so that we too, in our closed-in deafness and muteness, might be opened up to communication and relation (communion) with God and others as we prepare ourselves and thereafter go out into the world to proclaim His Good News.

Reflection of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, 9 September 2012
Dear brothers and sisters!

At the heart of today's Gospel (Mk 7, 31-37) there is a small but, very important word. A word that - in its deepest meaning- sums up the whole message and the whole work of Christ.

The Evangelist Mark writes it in the same language that Jesus pronounced it in, so that it is even more alive to us. This word is "Ephphatha," which means, "be opened."

Let us look at the context in which it is located. Jesus was travelling through the region known as the "Decapolis", between the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and Galilee, therefore a non-Jewish area. They brought to him a deaf man, so that he could heal him - evidently his fame had spread that far. Jesus took him aside, touched his ears and tongue, and then, looking up to the heavens, with a deep sigh said, "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened." And immediately the man began to hear and speak fluently (cf. Mk 7.35).

This then is the historical, literal, meaning of this word: this deaf mute, thanks to Jesus’ intervention, "was opened", before he had been closed, insulated, it was very difficult for him to communicate, and his recovery was '"openness" to others and the world, an openness that, starting from the organs of hearing and speech, involved all his person and his life: Finally he was able to communicate and thus relate in a new way.

But we all know that closure of man, his isolation, does not solely depend on the sense organs. There is an inner closing, which covers the deepest core of the person, what the Bible calls the "heart." That is what Jesus came to "open" to liberate, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others.

That is why I said that this little word, "Ephphatha – Be opened," sums up Christ’s entire mission. He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others.

For this reason, the word and the gesture of '"Ephphatha" are included in the Rite of Baptism, as one of the signs that explain its meaning: the priest touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized says: "Ephphatha" praying that they may soon hear the Word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to "breathe" the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had invoked from Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and dumb man.

We now turn in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose Nativity we celebrated yesterday. Because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word, Mary is fully "open" to the love of the Lord, her heart is constantly listening to his Word. May her maternal intercession help us to experience every day, in faith, the miracle of '"Ephphatha," to live in communion with God and with others.