Pastoral Sharings: "Second Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Cusick 
Second Sunday of Advent
Posted for December 7, 2014
     

Second Sunday
Isaiah 40, 1-5.9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3, 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, “O come, o come, Emmanuel.” “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5) This is “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”: (Mark 1:11) God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation – he has sent his own “beloved Son.” (Mark 1:11) (CCC 422) The Catechism beautifully expresses what we anticipate and celebrate in this Advent season.

We take special efforts in liturgy and life to prepare ourselves anew to receive our Lord in the commemoration of his birth in a fitting spiritual way as we answer the call of John the Baptist to “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.” We also mark the historical birth of Christ in a continuing witness of the historicity of our faith. What we recite in the Creed did indeed really and truly take place.

We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He “came from God,” (Jn 13:3) “descended from heaven,” (Jn 13:3;6:33) and “came in the flesh.” (1 Jn 4:2) For “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.” (Jn 1:14, 16) (CCC 423) Many movies and television shows treat the subject of faith and the supernatural.

Some books purport to be “autobiographies” of God, some seek to remake Jesus Christ as a sinful human being, denying His divinity. Some of the most popular entertainment denigrates the authentic Christian faith and attacks the Church. It is often the case that when a religious figure or authority encourages Christians to avoid buying or reading certain books or viewing certain films that are inimical to the faith, there is a public outcry against “book banning”, and fear-mongers dredge up images of a rebirth of the inquisitions or book burnings.

For those who understand that salvation comes through faith, and that the faith must be loved, cherished and protected, it just makes good sound sense to avoid books, films and any influences that would deny or undermine what we know to be the truth. What good could come of reading a book which denies the Son of God existed, that he knew who he was, that he rose from the dead? What of a movie that denies the need for faith, that attacks Christ’s Body, the Church, or commits sacrilege against the Sacrifice of the Mass?

St. Paul teaches in one of his letters, “say only the good things men need to hear.” Our Lord reserved his most severe condemnation for those who scandalize the faith of the weak. It is for these reasons that we seek out those things which feed and nourish our faith, and reject or avoid those things which are destructive or corrosive of our faith. The first and ordinary means of growing in the Faith is our encounter with Christ in Word and sacrament. In the liturgy, the source and summit of our Christian life, we have the highest source of the upbuilding of the kingdom within us and within the communio of our Catholic Church. Active participation in the Mass helps us to avoid experiencing it as an empty ritual.

Begin or renew the practice of the prescribed postures for the Mass, for these are practical means of entering more deeply into the Paschal mystery fully present in the Eucharistic sacrifice. These include, (1), a bow of the head at the holy names of Jesus, the three persons of the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saint of the day in whose honor the liturgy is offered; (2), a profound bow at the words: “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man” in the Creed; (3) the striking of the breast at the words “that I have sinned through my own fault” in the Confiteor; and (4), the “strongly recommended” sign of reverence, such as the genuflection while in procession to receive Communion or kneeling to receive the Body of Christ. By our actions as well as our words we show our sincerity as we pray “O come, O rod of Jesse’s stem; O come, O come Emmanuel.”

Let us grow more profoundly in our desire for the coming of the Lord in the liturgy that we may be found acceptable on the great day of His coming in glory. I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we “meet Christ in the liturgy,” Father Cusick
http://www.christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/lowhome.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 7, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B—December 7, 2014
In Advent, if we ask how we can be prepare for the coming of Jesus in this new liturgical year, today’s readings are loaded with answers.

Gospel (Read Mk 1:1-8)

At the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel, he announces that Isaiah’s centuries-old prophecy of one who will prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah (spliced together here with Ex. 23:20 and Mal 3:1) has finally been fulfilled. John the Baptist was the “messenger” God sent to prepare His people for this great event. Why would the Messiah need someone to “prepare the way of the LORD”? Why couldn’t He just come and get the work of salvation under way? St. Mark tells us that “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
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Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1: 1–8

Gospel Summary

At the very outset, Mark declares his gospel to be the “good news.” He dares to say this in a world that is broken and weary because this gospel announces the consistent divine initiative to bring about a new creation where peace and harmony will prevail over pride and violence. This new beginning occurs at the coming of Jesus and easily transcends the original creation in scope and significance. If in fact God’s dream for a world of peace and justice has not been fulfilled, it is due entirely to the obstacles which we have placed in its path.
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Second Sunday of Advent: Comfort
Thirteen years ago we were all in a funk.  The Christmas season was beginning, the stores were offering all their bargains, but the people of the United States were still in a national shock and not in much of a mood for an oncoming celebration.  The events of September 11, 2001, were in our minds to such an extent that even the media had to limit its sensationalism.  Pictures of the plane crashes and people leaping to their deaths were no longer being aired. We couldn’t handle it. The government was concerned that many people had been too depressed to work.  The president addressed the nation pleading with people to resume their lives or, as the phrase went, “the terrorists will win.” Noted doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and behavior specialists told people that it was OK for them to eat food that would relax them even if it was not the best for them.  They called it comfort food.  Frito-lay and the captains of the cheese doodle industry did banner business. A short while later cardiologists would see a bit of a spike in the number of their patients.  I should know, because by the end of the next Spring I was enjoying their services myself.
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10 Things You Need to Know About Advent
Advent began this last Sunday.

Most of us have an intuitive understanding of Advent, based on experience, but what do the Church’s official documents actually say about Advent?

Here are some of the basic questions and (official!) answers about Advent.

Some of the answers are surprising!

Here we go . . .
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Advent: Come Lord Jesus
The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.
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For Prayers Such As These For Advent
Before I became a Catholic, I had no idea what Advent meant. It was just another one of those weird, mysterious, Catholic words for a time in the year before Christmas. Nowadays, I appreciate it more because I understand that it commemorates the time when the people of Israel yearned for the Messiah.
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The Catholic Man’s Guide to Christmas
And so, it begins… economists are predicting an estimated 140 million people will go Christmas shopping over the Thanksgiving Holiday. The race to Christmas is underway. It reminds me of a favorite cartoon: two fellas are walking along a sidewalk surrounded by an abundance of Christmas lights and trees, elves and reindeer, tinsel and ornaments. The two pause before a lonely house lacking the holiday glitz of their neighbors. There, on the snow covered lawn is a simple nativity scene: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph huddled under the roof of their manger. One fellow says to the other, “Don’t you hate how some people have to bring religion into everything?”
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The Prophets
“ Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of Angels, and have not kept it.”   (Acts 7:52-53)
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Who is Isaiah and why is his central message so critical today?
In Advent we read a lot from Isaiah the Prophet. Therefore, for my own meditation and yours I offer the following reflection of Isaiah, the man and his message. Any of the issues with which he dealt are still with us to today, even though we live in a far more secular world than he ever imagined. Let’s consider key elements of his life,
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God Turns Sinners into Saints
Sometimes my mind is too tired or distracted to engage in detailed meditations during prayer time. I look for a simple image to focus on that will bring me into God’s presence and still my scattered thoughts. One of my favorite images is fire. I can easily imagine red flames in the dark. I think of the flames as God’s love, burning away my sins and attachments as I submit to Him.

The other day while praying in this way, I began to think of Elijah’s sacrifice on Mt. Carmel. Do you remember the story?
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In the Still of a Cold, Wintry Night
In the still of a cold, wintry night …

… all of Heaven burst out in profound joy! A Babe is born in a manger: the King of kings, the Lord of lords, whose name is Emmanuel, the Word become flesh.

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14 NAB)

Peace, a gift from God, to those on whom His favor rests; yet sin is the means through which this precious gift is thrown away. But alas, a Babe is born into this world, innocent and pure: the Holy Word become flesh. He has come so that we might be set free.
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On Being Grateful for Our Challenges
“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” (St. Ignatius Loyola)

I woke up yesterday not feeling very grateful.  I am not sure why, but I started my day in a “mood.”  Maybe it was the stress of having too much on my plate as I pondered my numerous family, work, ministry and writing commitments.  It could have been the large private school tuition bills which are due every month regardless of our financial situation.  Maybe it was the anxiety around growing my new company.  It may have been the stress around giving my sons all that they need from me as a father in these critical teen years.  It is quite possible I just needed a break and some alone time in prayer.
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The Suffering Question
The first time I went to Europe came about when my essay was chosen to receive a mostly paid pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome.  $800 out of my pocket was all it took for me to embark on a once in a lifetime pilgrimage experience.
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Watch and Pray- Preparing for Christmas
The Taize Community of France, known for their rhythmic hymns, which encourage contemplation on lines from scripture, has a beautiful chant paraphrasing from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden before his arrest.  They hymn repeats: “Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray, watch and pray.”

This exhortation from Jesus is similar to how our Advent will begin with the gospel telling us to watch because we “do not know when the lord of the house is coming.”
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Fifteen Ways to Pump up Your Prayer Life
“Prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart conversation with Him, Who we know loves us.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Are you simply going through the motions when you pray or are you on fire for your faith?
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Hearts Aloft! A Reflection on our Mystical Transport to Heaven in Every Mass
Before November ends and our consideration of the four last things (death, judgement, Heaven, and Hell) gives way to Advent preparations for the the great Second Coming that ushers in those things definitively,  let us turn our attention to a short, often-overlooked summons to Heaven that takes place in every Mass. It takes place in a short dialogue just after the prayer over the gifts and before the singing of the Sanctus. It is called the “preface dialogue” and it is really quite remarkable in its sweeping vision and heavenly call.
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God’s Desire for You
For years, though I had been a committed Christian and enjoyed what many call a truly personal relationship with Christ, I had not really internalized the thought that God desired me. That He wants and longs for a relationship with me. The idea seemed odd that the great God of our universe would have any sense of personal longing for a relationship with any human, let alone one as broken as me. The breakthrough came when I was meditating on Luke 22:15. He was speaking to the disciples at the last supper—He was preparing for His own death by communing with them.

He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;”
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The Virtue of Gratitude
Let us attempt to obtain a view of this gradually disappearing virtue – gratitude. Let us ask what is necessary so that gratitude may become possible.

Above all there is this: We can be grateful only to a person. Gratitude and petition are possible only between an “I” and a “Thou.” We cannot thank a law, a board, or a company. We may do so out of mere politeness when the proper sum is handed to us, in order to keep everything in the domain of good manners, but real gratitude does not enter into the matter, for gratitude is the expression of a personal encounter in human need.
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The Dangers of Secondhand Christmas
A PTA of a public school in the Boston area apparently worked behind closed doors to prevent elementary school students from being exposed to the eeeeevil dangers of a…Christmas tree!!! (Cue the impending doom music.)
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Families & Grandparents: Why We Need Each Other
The art of living well not only depends on the virtues of motherhood and fatherhood and the parents’ commitment to the total well being of children in mind, body, and soul but also on the presence of the extended family. In older cultures and earlier times, the notion of “the nuclear family” was a foreign idea: newlyweds worked and lived near their relatives.
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Question from an Orthodox Reader: Why Am I Catholic?
He writes:

Hi Mark –

I’ve read your blog (+ articles) for many years now, and actually sent you a donation a few years back … I’ve especially appreciated what you’ve written on creation/evolution, as this has cleared up some misunderstandings for me.

Thanks!
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Reclaiming Advent
Every year, we resolve to have a peaceful, meaningful Advent in our household — yet every year it somehow sneaks up on us.

The culture doesn’t help: According to the retail-store calendar, the Christmas season began in mid-September.

By the time Christmas Day actually rolls around, it feels like a conclusion rather than a beginning.
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Chastity and Love: Please Don’t Let Them Be Misunderstood
Chastity and love are two of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture today. In her new book Chastity Is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, Arleen Spenceley does a masterful job clearing up the confusion. About chastity and how it differs from abstinence, she says:
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Prayer and Purgatory: Thresholds to Glory
Purgatory and prayer are both the thresholds to Glory.   In both cases, the disciple of the Lord receives purification to live life to the full, to be free, to stand before God and, finally, to see his face.   If we are not purified, healed, strengthened and taught how to love, we are not ready for such glory.   Prayer is better than purgatory when it comes to this work of grace.  It delights the heart of God and more fully reveals his glory when souls allow Him to accomplish this great work in this life.   Yet, in our weakness, we, even if we believe, do not always give God the permission He needs to do this work – and God never acts in us without our consent.
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Sins of Ignorance and Sins of the Flesh
It is a moral truth that “if we don’t know something is wrong, it may remain a moral evil, but we cannot be held accountable for sin. The very fact that we do what we know to be wrong is what makes it a sin.” This is because the three requirements for a mortal sin which are stated well in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1857:  “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” The requirement of full knowledge is a serious one. But many people ask if this is not akin to saying the ignorance is bliss and not knowing the law of God is a good thing.
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Staying Ready (Mark 13:28-37)
Mark 13:28-37: ‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father. Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
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Watch This!! NFL Great Becomes A Farmer
This!!! That is all I can say. Watch This!!

“When I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.”

Outstanding.
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The world will end with peace, not annihilation, Pope Francis says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Believing in eternity and in the final establishment of the kingdom of God, Christians throughout history — starting with the disciples — were filled with questions such as when the end will come and what will happen to the created world, Pope Francis said.

No one knows the answer to those questions, the pope said Nov. 26 at his weekly general audience, but Catholics are convinced that the end of time will not bring the “annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us.”God’s plan, he said, is to renew everything in Christ and “bring everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.”
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