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
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.”
Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1: 1–8
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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?”
“ 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)
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,
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?
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.
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.
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.