The Second Sunday of Advent,
December 4, 2011
Advent is a time of joyful anticipation. For someone even bigger than Santa Claus is coming to town.
The human race has been waiting a long time for his next and final visit. Actually, it waited a long time for the first visit. Things had gone awry quite early in the history of the human race. We went from Paradise to misery in the blink of an eye, but found there was no way to get back into the garden. Only God could turn things around, but he was a long time coming. There had to be some groundwork laid first–a slow, gradual preparation of the human race to get it ready for the historic encounter with its Savior. There were some ideas about God and his plan that had to be gotten across to the people. Moses was entrusted with the lion share of that job. But besides this doctrinal, intellectual preparation, there had to be spiritual and moral preparation as well. Calling the people of God to repentance and holiness was the specialty of the prophets, and given the magnitude of their job, there were many of them.
General George Patton once said of his soldiers “every young man needs a good pat on the back from time to time–sometimes high and sometimes low.” Israel was young, and God spoke to them both stern and comforting words through the prophets. Isaiah 40, for example, begins with comfort. It proclaims that captivity is over, that God is coming to the rescue, coming with power as a shepherd to feed his flock.
Yet is goes on to say that a road in the desert must be prepared for this coming. Valleys must be filled in. Mountains must be leveled. Crooked ways made straight. This is a massive undertaking, to tell the truth.
Actually, it would be easier if all we had to do was literally dynamite some mountainside. But the last and greatest of the prophets, John the Baptist, helps us understand the true meaning of Isaiah’s words. The prep work needs to be done in us, not in sand and gravel.
For the Messiah, the good shepherd to come, the way must be leveled and straightened. The heights blocking his approach were mountains of pride. The sin of pride exalts itself higher than God, erecting a barrier against him. It is characterized by know-it-all-ness and smug self-sufficiency. The tower of Babel is a great example of pride’s futile loftiness. But how about the valleys that must be filled in? Philosophers and theologians define evil is as the privation of good, the lack of something that ought to be there. Lack of faith is a sin. Lack of prayerfulness is a sin. Lack of charity is a sin. These are all sins of omission, and these gaping holes need to be filled in to make a highway for our God.
In his fabulous space trilogy, CS Lewis calls Satan “the Bent One.” Because the nature of the deceiver is to take great blessings from God and twist them, misdirect them, so that they become curses. With a little twist, abundance becomes greed, marital love becomes lust, and piety becomes self-righteous hypocrisy. In Advent, these crooked ways must be made straight.
The last of the prophets, John the Baptist, lived his message. The mountains of pride had been leveled in him, the way cleared. He pointed not to himself, but to him whose sandal strap, he says, he is not fit to untie. He was as excited as anyone about Him who was to come. For John knew what He was bringing. “I have baptized you in water; He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” The messiah was coming to utterly immerse us in the power and wisdom of God in order to make us new people, able to be like God, able to do new and great things.
This is without a doubt worth preparing for.
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 4, 2011
Why was John baptizing?, and John Paul II: When confession is needed before communion
St. John the Precursor is a central figure of the Advent season and his baptism is set before us not only this Sunday but also the following. But why was John sent to baptize in the first place?
What was the value of John’s baptism? Was it a sacrament? Did it forgive sins? Did it confer grace? Why did John baptize? We will see that our answer directs us to the devotion with which we must receive our Lord in Holy Communion, and the role that confession plays in preparing the way of the Lord.
Worth the wait!
A young man considering a vocation with the Franciscans was invited to dinner at the local friary one evening. As dinner went on, from time-to-time, one of the friars would stand up and say a number and the rest of the friars would laugh hysterically. One stood up and said, “72,” and everyone laughed. Later, another stood and said, “149,” and again everyone laughed. Another stood and said, “14,” and again, everyone laughed. Confused, the young man asked the friar beside him what was going on. He answered, “Well, you see, we’ve all lived together for a long time. By now, we know each other jokes by heart, so we numbered them all to save time. Someone says a number and we remember the joke and laugh,” then he said, “Why don’t you give it a try. We have 300 jokes, just stand and say any number you like.” The young man stood tentatively and said, “107,” but this time there was nothing but silence. The man sat down sheepishly and asked the friar what went wrong. He said, “What can I tell you? Some people can tell a joke, some can’t.”
Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant
In the comments, Waterloo Region African asked how early Christians thought of Mary as the New Ark. I think that the best answer is that St. Luke lays this out pretty clearly in the first chapter of his Gospel. He draws some incredibly obvious parallels between Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and David’s movement of the Ark through the hill-country of Judah. These are ones that a well-read Jewish audience should have been able to pick up on, and it helps reveal who Luke is telling us Jesus is, as well as the role he says Mary plays.
Creation is not man’s property, Pope teaches as Advent begins
Advent offers a chance to remember that all things belong to God, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims in his Angelus address on Nov. 27.
“In reality, the true ‘owner’ of the world is not man but God,” said the Pope to the thousands gathered in St. Peters Square on the first Sunday of Advent.
The Pope reflected on the day’s scripture reading in which the Prophet Isaiah tells God there is “none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.”
Whose Is the Face of Life?
In the course of a conversation I was having with a teenager a few days ago about the Culture of Life, he asked, “When we talk about ‘life,’ what do we mean?” He accepted my response about realizing and protecting the dignity of every human being at every stage of life, but that evening the question was still lingering on my mind as I sat before the Lord in prayer.
The more I reflected upon the question, the more I realized its depth. We talk about building a “culture of life,” but maybe rather than a philosophical examination of the elements of such a culture, we can start with an example, maybe even an image of life. Maybe we could even start with what we might call the True Face of Life — Jesus Christ. If you’ll walk with me through a few passages of Holy Scripture, I’ll show you what I mean.
Who was the first disciple of Jesus?
The Church begins her liturgical year with the disciple called first by the Lord. For, while it is true that the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth, and St. Joseph (in that order) all believed in the Messiah before him, St. Andrew is the Protokletos, the first-called.
St. Andrew was the first disciple of Christ Jesus in his public ministry – and in this sense, it is fiting that his feast be celebrated at the first of the Church’s year.
St. Jude and the “Brothers” of Jesus
In the New Testament, certain men are described as the “brothers” of Jesus, including “James and Joses and Judas and Simon” (Mark 6:3; and see Matthew 13:55). The Catholic position is that these men are simply male relatives: in the same way that Abraham calls Lot his “brother” (Genesis 13:8), even though he’s actually his nephew (Gen. 12:5).
But the typical Protestant position is that these other men were literally Jesus’ brothers, meaning that the Virgin Mary didn’t remain a Virgin (despite prophesies like Ezekiel 44:2). I’ve handled this before more thoroughly, showing that two of Jesus’ “brothers,” James and Joses, are the sons of another woman, Mary of Clopas (Mark 15:40; John 19:25), and thus, are obviously not His literal brothers.
Peter Kreeft Calls a Spade a Bloody Shovel
We live in a low, dishonest age where blatant evil is protected with euphemisms. I take heart whenever anyone stands up against this meretricious trend. I therefore applaud Dr. Peter Kreeft, Boston College Philosophy Professor and a Catholic convert, for his remarks at a speech sponsored by the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin on the subject of whether a Catholic can be a liberal. He minced no words when the subject of abortion and the Kennedy clan came up
Is Sola Scriptura Taught in the Bible?
One of the “pillars” or founding principles of the Protestant Reformation is the Protestant teaching of Sola Scriptura. Simply defined, Sola Scriptura is the belief that the Bible alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer. In other words, if a teaching is not contained in the Bible, then it is to be rejected as having no authority over the individual Christian. Therefore, according to Sola Scriptura, the Church’s teachings (or a pastor’s – or anyone’s teachings, for that matter) are true only as far as they are found in the bible. Another aspect of Sola Scriptura is that each believer, guided by the Holy Spirit, will be led to the proper interpretation and understanding of what he reads in the Bible.
Pope reflects on Jesus’ prayer life
Pope Benedict XVI used his Nov. 30 general audience to discuss Jesus’ prayer life and how it challenges Christians to faithfully devote time to prayer.
The Pope told pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall that Jesus “by his own example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer.” The Lord’s own prayer life, he said, was like “a hidden canal irrigating his life … and guiding him with increasing firmness to the total gift of self, in keeping with the loving plan of God the Father.”
St. Joseph is Waiting, Too
In my experience – certainly speaking for myself – poor St. Joseph seems to somehow take a back seat to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. It seems his main “claim to fame” among many Catholics is as a guarantee of the sale of a house. The idea of burying a statue of him – upside down, some have told me – in the yard of the house to be sold just doesn’t do much for me. It seems rather self-serving and disrespectful.
Over the last year, though, I’ve been working on developing more of a relationship with the Guardian of the Redeemer. St. Teresa of Avila, my confirmation saint, highly recommends devotion to St. Joseph, so I took her at her word and started praying to him.
Catholic Social Teaching: The Human Person is Made in the Image of God
It is essential to understand the concept of personhood as an ontological concept, and not as a functional concept
Only persons are made in the image of God, have a capacity for God, and have supernatural destinies. Remove God from the picture, therefore, and invariably the concept of person becomes unintelligible. The dignity of man, the concept of personhood, cannot be built upon agnostic, much less atheistic, foundations. True, it is a philosophical concept, but it is intimately theological at its foundation.
Surrender and Strength
Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” — St. Ignatius Loyola
What is the connection between surrender and strength? Surrendering to Christ and putting His will before my own for the first time over six years ago was the very moment I felt stronger than any other time in my life. The strength of the Lord flowed through me, energized me, gave me courage and put me on the path to a life of discipleship filled with meaning.
How To Pray With Your Spouse: Four Simple Steps
Ever wonder how to pray more intimately with your husband? Wish you were spiritually closer to your wife? Couples can learn a great deal from the Mass about how to pray together as husband and wife and how to deepen their intimacy at the same time. This is because the Mass is the perfect prayer between Christ and His bride, the Church. Spouses who want to learn how to pray together can begin by following the same basic structure of the Mass. So let’s first look at how the People of God—the Church—pray during Mass and then we will explore four simple steps for praying with your spouse.
Ten things to do before you kick the bucket
An emphatically non-exhaustive list of to-do items for Catholics intent on a life well-lived
Bucket lists (i.e., lists of stuff you should oughtta wanna do before you kick the bucket) are hot these days. So, canny fellow that I am, I thought I would put together a bucket list of 10 things a Catholic should oughtta wanna do before he or she takes the dirt nap, lies down in the back of that long black Cadillac and otherwise stops squeezing the plasma pump behind the sternum.
For Man, It is Impossible
Several weeks ago, I suggested here that some priests seem to be trying to get rid of the hardest part of their jobs: namely, dealing with sin. In response to something I had read in the British journal The Tablet about priests who were “scandalized” by “the increasing distance between theory and practice in the Church,” I admitted that in my own life that there was a rather large gap between theory and practice. I call it “sin.” The theory is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In practice, I act like a selfish jerk. So yes, I know it’s difficult to deal with sin. I have to deal with it every day. That’s precisely why I need a good priest who is willing to go through the hard slog with me.
Cloistered nun and former actress to tell story of Hollywood and faith
The Central California Marian Eucharistic Conference this January will feature a rare speaker: Mother Dolores Hart, OSB, a former award-winning actress who performed in two Elvis Presley movies and still votes for the Academy Awards.
“We feel really blessed that she is coming,” conference organizer Pat Borba told CNA on Nov. 29. “That in itself is a miracle that we got her. We thought that since she’s cloistered that that would never happen.”
Secrets of the Habit
The video at the bottom of this post is a fascinating little exploration of the traditional habit of Religious Sisters. The video does not make it clear as to what Order the Habit belonged. There are many things I learned about a habit I never knew. Things like hidden “saddle bag” pockets, opening crucifixes, symbolism in the pleats, and the purpose of the outer veil. I hope you’ll take time an view a fascinating video.