Pastoral Sharings: " Model of Faith"

WeeklyMessage Father Phil Bloom
The Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2013

 Message: Mary is the model of faith.

Last Sunday I told you that I would introduce you to a 
woman who models all have learned about the light of 
faith:

The definition of faith
Why faith is a light
Faith vs idolatry
Salvation by faith
The inclusivity of faith
That faith makes forgiveness possible

Some of you asked who this remarkable woman is – and some even guessed that she is Sister Barbara! Well, Sister Barbara is a great model of faith, but she would not mind if I tell you there is someone who is a greater model. By now you have probably figured out who I mean: the one mentioned in today’s Gospel, the one who fulfills the Isaian prophecy: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call him Emmanuel.” The virgin mother is, of course, Mary.

Mary models everything we have learned about faith. Before giving examples, I would like to clarify something. Mary is a human being as you and I are – and she was subject to trials and temptations. Her temptations were different than ours, not that she had an easier time of it.

Just the opposite: You and I often fall for small temptations. I’ll speak for myself. The devil can often get the best of me with a piddling temptation – to anger, or lust or laziness, envy, greed or gluttony. To use a comparison: a guy wouldn’t need a tank to beat me up. He could do it with a stick. The devil can get with something small, but not Mary. As was the case with Jesus, the devil threw his biggest temptations at her.

We can barely imagine what they are, but we do get some glimpse in the Gospel. We see today the trial of her rejection by a very good man, the best of husbands – St. Joseph. But Mary kept her faith in Joseph as she did in God.

For us faith involves turning away from idols and turning toward the living God. Mary always kept her focus in the right place: “Let it be done to me according to your word…My soul magnifies the Lord.”

She had total faith in God, but not what some people call a “blind faith.” She asked questions, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” Faith does not destroy reason. As Pope Francis points out, “faith and reason each strengthen the other.” Some people think that faith and reason are opposed, that there is some kind of war between faith and science. On the contrary, says Pope Francis, “By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”

Mary is the model of wonder before the mystery of God and his creation. As we will hear on New Year’s Day, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” We live in a time of so much noise, so many distractions that we have difficulty finding time for reflection and meditation. Faith cannot survive without prayer. People tell me, “Father, I am too busy.” Yes, you are, but every evening Pope Francis spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Do you have more things to do than the pope does? Do you not find an hour in the evening for a television program or the Internet?*

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in hear heart.” She is our model for faith and prayer. I know an hour can be a lot, especially when a person is just getting started, but how about 20 minutes in the morning or the evening? If we could do that for the next three days, what a great Christmas we would have!

And the people who come at Christmas might see in us the light of faith. We need that light because our world seems to grow darker and more uncertain. I talk to so many young people who sense a diminished future. But that does not have to be. Jesus was born in the middle of the night of our world’s darkness. With Mary’s example and prayer we can turn to him. I would like conclude with the poem that Pope Francis addressed to her in his encyclical on the Light of Faith:

Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love,
especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus,
that he may be light for our path.
And may this light of faith always increase in us,
until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!
Amen.
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homilyfor-4advent-a.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 22, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel Summary

Having sketched the human provenance of Jesus (vs.1-17), Matthew now presents his account of Jesus’ divine origins. Unlike Luke, Matthew tells the story from the perspective of Joseph. It is Joseph who is distressed over Mary’s pregnancy and it is he who has a dream, which resolves the matter. As one who hears God’s message in a dream, Joseph is connected with the patriarch Joseph who communicated with God in dreams (Gen 37:1ff), for Matthew is intent on showing how the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in the story of Jesus.
…more

St. Joseph’s Claim to Fame
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In the drama of the incarnation, Jesus is, of course, the star.  That’s the way it is at every birth.  All eyes are on the baby.  The co-star, though, is definitely mom.  Without her love and labor, the event could not have happened.  In this case, without mom’s faith it couldn’t have happened either.  According to Luke’s Gospel, an angel brought her stunning news.  She believed the unbelievable and said “let it be.”
…more

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Behold
Behold!     

It was right there in front of him, but Ahaz did not want to see it.  He did not want to behold the work of God.  He would rather decide his own fate and that of his Kingdom, then trust in God.  Ahaz was the King of the first reading, from Isaiah 7.  His Kingdom was the Kingdom of Judah, the southern of the two Hebrew Kingdoms.  Here is what was happening:
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4th Sunday of Advent: 10 things to know and share
This Sunday the readings include the famous prophecy of Immanuel.

They proclaim God’s supremacy and our call to holiness.

They review the basics of the gospel message.

And they record the birth of Jesus and how it came about.

Here are 10 things to know and share . . .
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Preparing for the Twelve Days of Christmas
About a hundred years ago, the usual jolly G.K. Chesterton can be found lamenting two things that are still a problem today: First, that as a writer, he has to write about Christmas long before Christmas in order for it to be published at Christmas. Second, the rest of the world seems to celebrate Christmas long before Christmas and then when Christmas comes, everyone stops celebrating. Should be just the opposite.
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God Is With Us: Are We Listening?
Looking at the insurmountable pain and sufferings that weighs down humanity all over the world, sometimes it is hard to understand that He is Emmanuel- God is with us. For a long time in my life I was a believer of the indifferent god – the one who merely watches everything from the sidelines. If God is with us here, then why can’t he say something when I am in trouble, in pain, in despair?
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Remember Christ this Christmas
Shop until you drop! Buying, having, possessing and allowing your possessions to possess you! Rushing for this sale and this discount; stampeding into stores concentrating on things more than on human persons; worrying about the food, the drink, the parties and the pleasure.

Sad to say, this has all become the modern immediate preparation for Christmas.  Moreover, in many places even the word “Christmas” has been forbidden from modern vocabulary.
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When Did Jesus Know He was God?
Little is known about the time between our LORD’s birth in Bethlehem and the Wedding at Cana where he began his public mission. So the question of when Jesus in his human nature assimilated his knowledge of his divine nature is a little more speculative than many other questions. For that reason I’d like to give a disclaimer that this essay is not so much an answer to the question as much as it is a meditation on the Incarnation.
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St. John of the Cross and the, “spiritual sweet tooth.”
I encountered this gem of a passage by St. John of the Cross below in Chapter 7 in Book Two of the Ascent of Mt Carmel.  This would make a great examination of conscience: Do we love God for His sake, or for what He can give us?  When we speak to Him, is it always in the form of petition; or, do we pray simply to show our love for Him?
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Zechariah’s mysterious vision in the Temple: 10 things to know and share
The Gospel reading for December 19 contains the familiar story of Zechariah in the temple.

You can read it here.

It is the occasion when the Angel Gabriel appears to him to announce the birth of John the Baptist.

Although the story is familiar, there are some fascinating details in this account, and their significance is not obvious.

Let’s take a look.
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Forgiveness
Forgive.

It sounds easy. People often claim that they have forgiven, when, in fact, they are a long way out from anything that approaches actual forgiveness.
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The Sacrament of Reconciliation; The True Path to a Deeper Relationship with our Lord.
This post is probably the most terrifying post I’ve ever decided to share. It’s terrifying to me on several levels. I feel like I’m really putting myself out there for the world to see (not that the vast majority of the world even cares to read my blog). I often worry too much about what other people are going to think of me and it keeps me from sharing some of the most important messages at times.
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The Lord’s Hidden Message
As a little girl, I loved puzzles. The more difficult they were, the more I loved them. And how I remember my anticipation at Christmas to see if  a new mystery would be waiting under the tree for me to unravel.

So, it comes as no surprise that I found the following an interesting and exciting Christmas message!
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The Awesome Power of Prayer! God meets you where you are.
How do you pray? Jesus taught us to pray and it was the best prayer; but each of us looks to various other forms of prayer to inspire us to continue to go forward in our walk with Jesus Christ each day, or to ask God for the things we feel we or others need, or to properly thank Him for all he provides us with. Have you ever just tried to “talk” with God?
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20 Lessons I Will Teach My Son
My little boy should arrive any day now. Having ventured beyond my due date, I’m experiencing Advent as the “season of patient waiting” to a very realistic extent this year. The extra days have given me ample time to reflect and prepare for both his arrival and the celebration of the arrival of the infant Jesus shortly thereafter. I decided to come up with a list of 20 things I look forward to teaching my son, many of the lessons inspired by the example of the Holy Family. Now my baby just has to arrive so I can get to work!
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Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?
Will we have free will in heaven?

If so, does that mean we might sin and fall again?

If not, what kind of free will would we have there?

And if God can harmonize our free will and sinlessness in heaven, why doesn’t he do so in this life?

Here are some thoughts . . .
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Uproariously Good News: Religion is Good for You!
Recently, I got this shot in the arm of uproariously good news from listening to an interview with author  Rodney Stark  on the Al Kresta In The Afternoon radio show on Ave Maria Radio.

They were discussing Stark’s newest book entitled  America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists.   Mr. Stark is a Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, and his analysis of polls and data shows that Americans are more religious now than ever, despite the avalanche of news to the contrary from the secular media.  By  “religious”,  Stark is referring to those individuals who regularly attend a religious service—Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other.
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The Two Trajectories of the Soul
There is a troubling phenomenon noted by several doctors of the Church regarding the common waning of spiritual development after a period of progress. It often happens after a fervent soul makes notable gains against habitual mortal and then venial sin. It can also happen on the back side of any virtue based victory. The soul becomes satisfied with itself and then reaches for the cruise control button to relax at a pace that seems “reasonable.”
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“My Teen’s Don’t Go to Church”
Over at the National Catholic Register, Matt Archbold discusses his frustration with parents who give older kids and teens a pass on going to church.

I thought I’d throw my .02 in as well and say that Matt is on to  something when he encourages parents to insist that their children of every age attend Mass.  The Eucharist is the food our souls need for eternal life.
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THE ROSARY A WEAPON OF MASS CONSTRUCTION
As Our Lady of the Rosary, the Blessed Virgin Mary manifests herself as our spiritual Mother and the spiritual Mother of all mankind.  The Rosary is an invaluable gift she has given us, a powerful weapon she has placed in our hands.  The Rosary is a “weapon of mass construction.”   Praying it keeps us united to her, and aids us to live out our baptismal vocation.
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The Crusades: Urban Legends and Truth
Although many college students today are ignorant concerning the Holocaust from only a generation ago, many seem to think they know enough about the Crusades to use them as an argument for the evil of religion. Like the tired refrain that religion is “anti-science” even though only one example is usually offered (and it is mistaken), the Crusades are often “the” example listed for the equally wearisome complaint that religion causes more wars than any other factor (a laughable falsehood).
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Free Speech Isn’t Free
When it comes to parenting, I see a lot of Catholic moms and dads falling back on, “Everybody has to do what works for them. We all just have to do what works best for us.”

Of course this is true on a certain level.  All we can do is our best.  But that begs the question, “What does doing our best as Catholic parents really require?  What does ‘doing our best’ mean?”   Does it mean, “do what comes naturally?”  Does it mean, “do what’s easiest or most familiar?”  Does it mean, “Do what my parents did?”  How do we know what doing our best as Catholic parents really entails, and how do we know if we’re really doing it?
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