Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Baptism of the Lord 
Baptism of the Lord – Cycle B – Mark 1:7-11

An atheist said, “If Christians are the light of the world, 
somebody has forgotten to turn the switch on.” “Since 
1960, there has been a 560% increase in violent crimes, 
more than a 400% increase in illegitimate births, a 
quadrupling of divorce rates, tripling of children in single-
parent homes.” The speaker was William F Buckley, Jr.
 
The world, according to him, does seem to be going to hell in a hand-basket. But was the world of Jesus really that different when He was baptized by John in the Jordan? Listen to John as he answers that question in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Turn away from your sins. You snakes. Don’t collect more than is legal. Don’t take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely.” The world of Jesus’ time seems to resemble our own. John the Baptizer could very easily recycle his Jordan sermons to speak to our problems. Listening to him, contemporary preachers might be tempted to whisper, “I could use John’s material. He describes our times.” The crucial question is how the Christ responded to the dry rot all about Himself.

The answer is to be found in the cleansing waters of the Jordan and in today’s feast. It is important to note that all four Gospel writers refer to the baptism of Jesus. So, in their minds, the baptism is e-mailing an important message. It is our job to discover what that message is. The baptism was important to Him. He uses this dramatic event to commence His public life and work. If one could say Jesus had an inauguration, this was it. The silent Jesus waded out to the spot where John stood in the Jordan river. He asked for baptism. John went into immediate shock. He intuitively knew that this baptism was not designed for the Man from Nazareth. He waved Him off. He had no desire to hold a fully grown tiger by the tail. Yet, Jesus insisted and gave him no choice. John knew who it was standing in the cold rushing water before him. The reluctant John baptized Him, but he must have sensed the Saviour had a method in His apparent madness. He did and we find the answer in art, courtesy of Henri Daniel-Rops.
 
Artists from day one have wrestled with the Master’s baptism. You will find drawings in the catacombs, in early sculptures, in books on liturgy, in mosaics, and in stained glass. Curiously though, the artists have invariably treated the subject in a minimalist style. One finds neither embroidery nor embellishment. What you see is what you get.

Even the untutored eye will find this minimalism in the stained glass window at the Chartres cathedral outside Paris. It is the case even more so in a famous medieval psalter by the Dane, Ingeborg. His work portrays Christian subjects in rich and opulent colors with one exception. Yes, Jesus’ baptism! But why?
 
Jesus is telling us that we must first direct our attention to our own personal lives with little ceremony and less pomp. We must cleanse ourselves with rough brown laundry soap in clean waters as He did. Then and only then can we properly address ourselves to the many human problems referred to by Mr Buckley. Every reformation must first begin in one’s own home and with oneself. It must be done as simply and quickly as possible. It was St Paul who told us that “He was like unto us in all things except sin.” And yet that sinless
Christ took it upon Himself to enter the waters and wash Himself before He set out to reform anyone else. Can anyone of us do less?
 
The Teacher is a doer, not a talker. He wants action, not pious platitudes or vague resolutions. The Associated Press breathlessly reported that a British astronomer speculated that the Christmas star was the “coming together of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC.” Perhaps and of course perhaps not. Yet might we not all agree that one can still see traces of that Christmas star in the night sky?

But this time it is illuminating not the creche but the confessional in your church. Why not step in there and first purge yourself of your sins? Then, like the renewed Christ, tackle the problems in your families, community, and the world. St Peter of Alcantara puts the case this way. “Truly matters are in a bad state. But if you and I begin to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.” Remember the monk’s dictum. To show His love, Jesus died for us. To show our love, we must live for him.

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 11, 2014

The Baptism of the Lord—January 12, 2014
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At the Nativity, we celebrated Jesus’ birth in flesh and blood. Today, we celebrate a second “birth” in the Spirit—our own.

Gospel (Read Mk 1:7-11)

We know from the Gospel accounts that John the Baptist raised many Messianic expectations when he preached a baptism of repentance at the Jordan River. Because of an Old Testament prophecy in the Book of Daniel, in which the angel Gabriel revealed a kind of “timetable” for the coming of the Messiah (see Dan 9), the people in Jesus’ day, knowing that the prophecy’s date had come due, were on high alert.
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The Baptism of the Lord:A Call to Change the World
This is the last Sunday of the Christmas Season and the First Sunday of Ordinary time.  The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes Christmas and begins the meditation on the ministry of Jesus.  There are four aspects of this feast: 1) the Lord humbles himself before John the Baptist, 2)the Lord is empowered by the Spirit to begin the mission of the Father,  3) the Lord accepts the mission to suffer and die for us and 4) the Lord expresses his solidarity with those looking to change the world.
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Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1: 7-11

Gospel Summary
John the Baptist offered his disciples a water ritual which was essentially preparatory. It was a visible, public way of declaring one’s readiness for the coming of the Messiah. It said, in effect, that from now on no human preconditions would be laid down.

This represented a significant decision because we humans are very tempted to tell God how to do things.

When the Messiah does come, he will bring with him his own powerful baptismal rite. It too will include a water ritual but it will be far superior to the baptism of John because it will confer the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that was sent from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and which signaled the dawn of a new world.
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Fearing the Silence
Why do we fear coming to God? Why does turning to God come only once we have no where else to turn in our trials? Rather than God being first, we turn instead to friends, family, spouses, culture, society, and only when other sources are exhausted do we turn to Christ in prayer. Obviously, these all could very well be God-given avenues of advice and comfort, but He wants us to bring all things to Him, especially in the moments we are most afraid to come to Him.
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No, the Bible Isn’t the Fullness of Revelation. Jesus is.
In other words, the fullness of revelation isn’t the Bible or Tradition, but Jesus Christ. That’s the clear teaching of Scripture. For example, the Letter to the Hebrews begins (Heb. 1:1-3a):

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.
  
So we received portions of revelation before through the prophets. This certainly includes the Old Testament, but (at least from a Catholic perspective) wasn’t confined to written revelation. Rather, this revelation occurred in “many and various ways.” And now that partial revelation has come to its perfection, not in the New Testament, but in Jesus Christ Himself.
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Stealing God’s Job
If you asked a typical Catholic, “Are you stealing God’s job?”, they would laugh out loud at such a ridiculous question and emphatically deny it.  I know I did.  Granted, the wording of this question is designed to shock. Yet the question is also meant to provoke self- examination.  After someone asked me this question, I examined my life and was surprised at what I discovered. I realized like almost everyone else, I was trying to fulfill the role of God in my day-to-day life.
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Why Are Catholics Afraid to Talk About Jesus?
Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, relates the following story about Sara, raised by a non-practicing Catholic mother and Jewish father in New York. At age 28, a powerful experience of God’s presence moved her to an intense exploration of Catholicism. After completing RCIA, she was received into the Church at Easter 2010.  Sara shared part of her experience with Weddell:
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Because Thomas Merton Gave Lectures Like This On Love
Of the theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Love, St. Paul writes that the greatest of these is Love. Our Lord also said so when He was being questioned by the scholar of the law and gave us the Two Greatest Commandments, both of which are based on love; the love of God and the love of neighbor.

It sounds pretty easy, and in theory it is. But in practice?

Well of the two, loving God is relatively easy, but loving our neighbors can be downright challenging. That is, for me anyway.
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Overcoming Life’s Storms: A teaching from St. Paul to some storm-weary souls
In the midst of a great storm in Acts 27, St. Paul finds himself among desperate and defeated people. Though the storm is from nature, their problems are of their own doing and are rooted in a foolish refusal to listen to either natural warnings or God. All of this foolishness was described in yesterday’s post. Is there a way out of their situation? With God there is, but only with God and only by turning to Him in obedient faith. As long as we live, conversion is possible and things can change. Let’s consider how St. Paul, good pastor that he is, shepherds his doomed shipmates through the storm and to God, who can make a way out of no way. Again, the full and uninterrupted text of Acts 27 is here: Acts 27.
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The Forgotten Corporeal Work of Mercy
My days were frantic preparing for a two-week trip to Turkey; before I left I had to have my home, kids, dog, and get everything at work prepared for my absence. I laid out extensive back-up plans at work since I am the only Perinatal Bereavement Nurse in my region.

I thought I was ready for anything until I received a call from Kara, a woman I didn’t know, but with whom I shared many mutual friends. “Tammy I know of the precious work you do and the loss you have suffered. I have prayed for you and I hoped that I would never need you, but I do”.
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Sharing in Mary’s Heart for True Greatness
Writing about Mary as the Mother of God, St. Anselm wrote, “Wonder of wonders… There is nothing equal to Mary; only God is greater than Mary.” What is the basis for this greatness of the Mother of God?
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Possible Site of Jesus’ Trial Uncovered in Jerusalem
WASHINGTON — Archeologists believe they may have discovered the place where Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate took place in Jerusalem.

In an effort to expand the Tower of David Museum, archeologists began excavating an adjacent, abandoned prison building, The Washington Post reports. As they stripped away layers of the prison floor, they realized they were likely uncovering a missing link in the puzzle of the Holy Land’s history.
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God has Come in Search of You
We often hear of our search for God, but seldom, if ever hear of God’s search for us—or at least we do not think we do. But, the truth is that God first seeks us out, so that we might seek Him. He thirsts for us, so that we might thirst for Him (cf. CCC nos. 2560-2567).
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What is Our Purpose? – One Catholic’s Perspective
“The most important days of your life is the day you are born and the day you die.”  (Mark Twain)

I recently read the book The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. Warren uses the Bible throughout his very successful book to come up with five basic ideas as to why we are here. 1. “We were planned for God’s pleasure.” (First purpose is to offer worship.) 2. “We were formed for God’s family.”  (Second purpose – enjoy fellowship) 3. “We were created to become Christ like.” (Third purpose – Learn to be a disciple) 4. We were shaped for serving God. (Fourth purpose – perform ministry) and finally, (our 5th purpose) – we were made for a mission.” (In other words – live Evangelism).
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Believe it or Not
I once had a conversation with one of my fellow Anglican priests at our Diocesan Clergy Conference.

Simon was a very nice English guy, diffident, intelligent and self effacing with a good sense of humor. He had received a typical mainstream, liberal education and was an Anglican priest of the broad church, progressive opinion.

After a couple of drinks at the bar I said, “Tell me. Straight up. I’m interested. What is it you actually believe?”
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The Story of My First Confession
My first confession was when I was in my late twenties. I was a member of the Church of England and was taking a year between seminary and ordination.

I’d done something of which I was deeply ashamed and knew that I wanted to go to confession. As an Evangelical Christian I had been taught that I could just say “Sorry!” to God and that was enough.
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What the Early Church Fathers Said About Fasting
In a time and culture as obsessed with food as ours, it would be a good thing to take a look at what the Church teaches about fasting. As a Kinesiologist and bodybuilder, I can say that fasting has its merits and its toils. Fasting can actually help the body find its proper balance of hormones. While many might take fasting as an outdated mode of life, what the Church offers is evergreen. When combined with proper nutritional habits and exercise, a regular fast can help both the body and the soul. Today, the average diet consists of fast food and pre-packaged snacks, which carry very little if any nutritional value. A regular fasting routine can help us understand what food is, fuel. Just to remind you of the importance of proper discipline with food, I thought I might offer a few quotes from the Church’s beloved Early Fathers.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #5: How the Devil Tricks us into Believing that Death Will Never Come
This week, in the fifth installment of our series on the tactics of the Enemy, we see how the Enemy is cunning in his ability to suggest to us that death is a distant reality that we should never worry about.

The Enemy uses all of his influence to try to prevent us from preparing for death. His greatest fear is that we will realize life is short and instead of pushing off our preparations, we will live as if today could be our last.
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Holy Sacrifice, Living Sacrament
As Catholics, we firmly believe that the Real Presence of Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis) asserts,

The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate are bound up with the Eucharist and are directed towards it. For in the most blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself, our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through His flesh — that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit” (#5).

For this reason, the Council referred to the Holy Eucharist as the source and summit of the whole Christian life (Lumen Gentium, #11).
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Strive for a More Intense Interior Life
There is nothing so important in the supernatural order as to have a deep, intense interior life. This is so, because at times we run into the error of subordinating the interior life to the practice of the virtues, as if our contact with God were only a means to perfect ourselves.
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Saints Among Us
We have heard it often enough, “I don’t need to go to church. I don’t need organized religion. I can just worship God in my own time, in my own way.”

If I would have chosen that path–which is often tempting on Sunday morning–to just roll over and pull the covers over my head and ignore the chaos and confusion of getting breakfast on the table and everyone dressed, presentable and to church on time, I would have been the one who would have suffered for it, for I would have been the one who would have missed out on friendships that have nudged me–if not catapulted me–in the right direction, the direction of holiness.
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I Have a Confession to Make
I have a confession to make.

Years ago, before I converted to Catholicism, I harbored suspicion about the Catholic Sacrament of Confession (also known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation). Now, let me be clear. As a Lutheran, I always believed in the importance of praying to God and asking for the forgiveness of my sins. That was simply “part of the Christian deal”. God created us, loves us and passionately wants a relationship with us. Unfortunately, we screwed up that relationship in the beginning and continue to screw it up. As a result, we separated ourselves from God and are dependent on his loving Grace to be reconciled to him. Yet, to achieve that reconciliation, we needed to approach him, admit our sin, demonstrate our contrition and ask for forgiveness. In sum, to heal the rift between God and us, we must repent.
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A 1-Step Plan for the Unhappy Life – (And How to Subvert It)
The theory of evolution proposes an explanation for how life in general and mankind in particular arose. It holds that that there was a long period in which natural processes gave rise to life and to the different life forms on earth.

This in no way conflicts with the idea of God. As the omnipotent Creator, he is free to create either quickly or slowly and either directly or through intermediate processes that he sets up.
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10 Facts about Angels That Will Blow Your Mind
The Church has very few official teachings on angels (CCC 328-336, 391-395). However, theologians have come to a consensus on certain topics relating to the angels. Most of these teachings come from St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as St. Bonaventure, and Dionysius.

Below are some of the most mind-blowing things we know about angels.
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Pastoral Sharings: "Epiphany of the Lord"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Epiphany of the Lord
Posted for January 4, 2015

We celebrate today the Epiphany of the Lord —by which
  we mean the Manifestation of Christ to the World.

We commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men at 
the stable in Bethlehem. It is in some way curious that
  this encounter does not take place at some later stage in the life of Jesus at a time when he is more able to properly reveal himself to them.

But this is not God’s way of doing things; his ways are much more mysterious. In the Bible we are simply told that the Wise Men find their own way to Christ completely unaided by him when he is but a tiny child. They leave their gifts at the manger and just as mysteriously, without saying a word, they return home by a different way.

Matthew in his Gospel presents us with two contrasting approaches. Firstly God reveals himself through the Scriptures and through the words of the Prophets to the People of Israel; but secondly he also reveals himself through natural phenomena such as the star the Wise Men followed.

Ironically God’s more direct revelation through the words of the Prophets is ignored by those who should know better. And yet his very indirect and almost tenuous revelation by means of that star is noticed by the wise men who resolve then to undertake a very laborious journey to find the Christ Child.

These kinds of things are things are not confined to ancient times but are just as relevant to us today.

It is sad how many people who know the scriptures, and who have had the Good News thoroughly explained to them during their childhood, despite these great advantages somehow manage to drift away from their faith.

This is a problem we face every day in the Church and in our families. God gives us the great privilege of being brought up in a practicing family and reveals himself to us in all kinds of ways and yet this is still not sufficient to bring some of us to faith.

And on the opposite hand we see these Wise Men who go to extraordinary lengths to find faith and give due homage to the Christ Child.

I have often conducted classes for those who wish to become members of the Church and have sat in amazement as I listened to wonderful stories of how people have been very gradually but irrevocably drawn to Christ over a period of many years.

They have frequently undergone all kinds of difficulties and overcome extraordinary obstacles to finally get to the point where they can profess their faith in God and find their true home in the Church.

Each one of us has a story of conversion. For some it might be simple and straightforward, for others it might be very convoluted. But all our stories have at their foundation the simple fact that God is calling us to faith in him.

We come by different routes, some of them very curious, some of them very painful. But we are all being led through life on a great pilgrimage of faith sometimes despite ourselves. And the destination of that pilgrimage is not the pew in which you are sitting now but that much greater seat that awaits us all around the banquet table of heaven.

This Feast of the Epiphany with its marvellous story of Wise Men led first to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem and their avoidance of the trap laid by King Herod is not something just for the history books.

Nor is it merely a fable to demonstrate Christ’s openness to the Gentiles from the first moment of his presence in the world.

No, it is most of all a real challenge to each one of us. It underlines just how important it is that Christ came to reveal the Good News of the Kingdom to absolutely everyone in the world. And we who are his disciples are commissioned to spread his Good News to the ends of the earth.

That does not mean that we need to rush out and buy a ticket for some poor benighted place no one has ever heard of in order to preach the Gospel to its natives, though this should never be excluded.

There are plenty of people living right around us who have never heard the Gospel, or while they might have heard it never really understood what it meant.

Often enough, we don’t even have to step outside our own front door to complete this mission. Our task might even be most of all within our own families.

The symbolism of the star should not be overlooked as we celebrate this feast in which it plays such a significant role. The star represents the Light of Christ which drew the Wise Men to the truth.

Christ is indeed the Light of the World since he came into our world to bring light into darkness, knowledge to dispel ignorance, hope to overcome despair. He is indeed the one who all sincere searchers are seeking.

In Ancient Times this Feast of the Epiphany was considered more important than Christmas and indeed still in the East it is kept as a higher ranking feast. It achieved this status early in the history of the Church surely because the many converts from paganism saw in the story of the wise men their own story.

These wise men were guided by a star; they were led by God to the stable in Bethlehem where they offered the Christ Child their gifts and paid him homage.

The early converts to Christianity, like any convert today, realised that like those Wise Men they too were guided by God and led on a journey of faith and brought to belief in Christ. When they finally encounter him they place all they have at his disposal and worship him as the Son of God and the one true Saviour of the World.

They may not be rich like those Magi, but they know that they have come to the knowledge of the greatest treasure anyone could possess—belief in Jesus Christ.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1942

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 4, 2014

The Epiphany of the Lord, Year B—Sunday, January 4, 2015
In today’s Gospel, magi “from the east” ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” Just by asking this question, they herald the New Light that has dawned on all men.

Gospel (Read Mt 2:1-12)

Today, St. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, an event loaded with significance for the whole world took place. “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,” looking for a king who had been recently born, the “king of the Jews.” Who were these men, and why did they ask this question?
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The Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Mystery of Inclusion
It was a mystery.  It was a truth hidden for the ages.  It was revealed to Paul.  No one would have ever heard of it, least of all Paul in the days when he was Saul of Tarsus, pharisee and persecutor of anything that did not appear to be thoroughly Hebrew.  But the mystery was in Sacred Scripture.  It is just that no one understood the meaning of the verses. 

The mystery was this: all the peoples of the world would be included in God’s great promise to the Jews.  Jews and Greeks, all people, would be co-heirs in Jesus Christ.
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Solemnity of the Epiphany
Isaiah 60, 1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3, 2-3.5-6; Matthew 2, 1-12

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. By longstanding sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus. …more

The Holy Name ofJesus (Part I of II)
1.  It is not difficult to meditate upon the Holy Name, or to use the Holy Name in prayer. More than any other name, perhaps alone among all proper names, it is appropriate to the One Who owned it. Usually the names of men are given at random; they mean nothing in themselves; a man who happens to be called John might just as well have been called Thomas or William; the mere name tells us nothing about him; it is a convenient means of distinguishing him from others, a label put upon him and little or no more. With a few human beings it has been otherwise : Adam, Abraham, Josue [Joshua], John the Baptist were given names that signified the men on whom they were bestowed. But with none is this so true as it is with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
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Christ’s Empire of Peace
An angel had appeared. The glory of the Lord—a mountain-consuming cloud of fire—had enveloped them. News of a miraculous new birth that would change the world had been announced.

On a forlorn hilltop of sleepy shepherds, resting sheep, and the occasional wolf, the gospel had been announced to a humble gathering of Jewish sheep herders in a most spectacular fashion, as recounted in Luke 2. After the heavenly messenger had told of a savior for the whole world, a baby in a manger, what more could be said?

Apparently heaven had one more thing to add:
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God Saved the World Through a Baby
Within the octave of Christmas, we observe the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Saint John Paul II said in his 1994 Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane), “To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that…the family will be strong with the strength of God.”
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Pope Francis: Large Families Represent Hope for Society’
VATICAN CITY — In an address on Sunday to Italy’s National Numerous Family Association, Pope Francis thanked the members of large families for their cultivation of virtues that benefit society at large, as well as themselves.

“The fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you,” he said Dec. 28 to the children among the some 7,000 members of large families from across Italy at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
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Not According to Plan
There are the plans we make, and then there are God’s plans. Sometimes, they line up.

Take for instance last week. I thought I had it all figured out. Easy trip to the airport with one small caveat, the necessary requirement of bringing the old family dog into the friendly skies.
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The Smallness of the Large
Just the tiniest little thing: Jesus Christ, lying in the manger. Those who have ever held in their arms a newborn baby, will know how delicate they are. Without a word, this fragile creature tells us to be careful with him. His neck is weak, and his head must be supported. Your attention rivets on the miniature eyelids, mouth, and nose.

One of the reasons I believe in God – the proper, Triune, Catholic God – is His way with paradox. This strikes me as true to my own experience of the universe we currently occupy, which is full to busting with scale reversals.
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Listen for God in Peaceful Silence
One of the most admirable characteristics found in the life of Jesus Christ, our Master and our Model, is silence. All the mysteries of His mortal life and the in­effable mystery of His eucharistic life have this mark: the divine seal of silence.
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For Post-Christmas: Unwrap a Bit of Silence
The silence of which we sing so wistfully at Midnight Mass, is at an all-time premium at Christmas; it is so difficult to find a silent night, let alone sit within one and become immersed in it, that the possibility of a seasonal soothing of the heart—a quieting of the grief of the world—seems the stuff of illusion and myth.

Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest.
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Pope’s New Year Message: Embrace Gratitude and Reject Sin’s Slavery
VATICAN CITY — At the year’s end, Pope Francis reflected on Christ’s saving presence within time, cautioning against nostalgia for the slavery of sin, and encouraging gratitude that leads to repentance.

The theme of time was central to Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff homily, delivered during evening Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 31.

“The significance of time, temporality,” he said, “is the atmosphere of God’s epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of God and his concrete love.”
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The Renewal of Catholic Cultureand the Flourishing of Human Society
In the Catholic intellectual community, there is a growing call for the renewal of Christian culture as a solution to the impoverishment of 21st century society. This intellectual movement has two momentums: on the one hand, there is an aggressive, necessarily confrontational rhetoric that speaks boldly in the public square. This part of the movement is calling for a more compassionate form of politics based on the dignity of the human person, the common good, and objective morality. Its greatest demand is for repeal, or prevention, of laws that allow violence to humanity, such as abortion and euthanasia.
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Alice von Hildebrand on Fleeting Fads and Eternal Truth
The Catholic philosopher offers a solution to today’s ‘severe moral crisis.’

At 91, Alice von Hildebrand knows she is approaching the end of her life. However, she does not take this as an excuse to blithely give today’s moral problems a free pass. As devoted to objective truth as ever, she does not hesitate to challenge moral relativists or even orthodox Catholics who might be mistaken on a given issue.
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If We Don’t Know It’s Sin, Does It Hurt Us?
It seems that people are less likely to recognize sin these days. So given that committing a sin requires a person to know it is a sin and freely choose it, does that mean there are less guilty people now? I posed this question to two priests: Monsignor Thomas Richter, Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, ND, and Monsignor. John Esseff of the Diocese of Scranton, PA who has been a priest for sixty-one years.
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15 Quotes on Forgiveness &Other Ways to Annoy Your Enemies
“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

– Oscar Wilde

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

– Gandhi

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”

– Luke 23:34
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Earthly Sucker or Eternal Fool
The Magnificent Seven is one of the definitive Westerns, with timeless themes, Oscar-nominated music, gun play (and knife play),  and characters whose goodness or evil is never in doubt. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) is one of the six gunmen that Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) recruits to help a small Mexican village raided periodically by marauding native bandits led by the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach).

When Chris convinces Harry to ride with him, Harry is certain that there is much more in this for them than simply saving the villagers from Calvera’s oppression: some big payday, some treasure that Chris is keeping secret. Harry asks, “Gold? Cattle? Payroll?” Certain that there is more, Harry agrees to help Chris and the villagers.
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Ask Mary to Speak to Her Son
You cannot count the number of times in your life you have said these words: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” Why do we do this? Why ask Mary to pray for us?

Many say “No need to get the Mother involved, just go straight to Jesus with whatever you need.”
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You Choose Hell (or Heaven)
An inner voice says “That is wrong” or “This is right” and then one makes a choice – to freely do a human act. That inner voice is God’s voice through the spiritual smartphone of conscience.

The divine voice speaks in a language with the syntax and vocabulary of the Natural Law, a law mirroring the Eternal Law of God. The Natural Law is imprinted on each of us through our human nature. St. Paul speaks of, “The natural law, whereby each one knows, and is conscious of, what is good and what is evil.” (Romans 2:14).
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A priest’s strategy for confession – 16 tips on how to make a good confession — and how to avoid the derp face.
Father Steve Schultz, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge, Virginia, offered the following tips on going to confession via his Facebook page this weekend.   

Some tips on going to confession from a priest who cares:

1. Prayerfully prepare! If you don’t prepare, it’s like practicing your Spanish at the ATM with a bunch of people waiting in line.
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The Sins That Come From Being a Busybody – A Meditation on a Teaching of St. Gregory
Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord there’re none in me!

The term “busybody” usually refers to one who is intent on the matters of others but looks little to his own issues. Busybodies also tend to focus especially on the faults, foibles, and troubles of other folks. Seldom are they chattering away about good news related to other people; more often it is the scurrilous and scandalous that occupy their minds.

Merriam-Webster online defines a busybody as  “a person who is too interested in the private lives of other people.” It is a form of sinful curiosity.
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Thank You: Two Words That Can Transform Your Marriage
Every night since we’ve been married, my husband crawls into bed, turns toward me, and says: “Thank you so much for everything you did for us today.”

After a couple years, I asked Peter if he felt obligated to thank me every night. “No not at all!” he replied “You mean so much to all of us, and I want you to know how grateful I am.”
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Does Evolution Contradict Genesis?
The theory of evolution proposes an explanation for how life in general and mankind in particular arose. It holds that that there was a long period in which natural processes gave rise to life and to the different life forms on earth.

This in no way conflicts with the idea of God. As the omnipotent Creator, he is free to create either quickly or slowly and either directly or through intermediate processes that he sets up.
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Is Mary God’s Mother?
Each January 1st (on the Octave of Christmas), the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  I receive more comments and questions from non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, about the Church’s Marian practices and teachings than just about any other topic. Some want to know where we can find these teachings in the bible. Some even suggest that Catholics pay too much attention to Mary somehow leaving too little attention for Jesus.
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Without the Church, Jesus ‘Is At the Mercy of our Imagination,’ Pope Says VATICAN CITY — In his homily on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis said that Jesus and his mother Mary are “inseparable,” just like Jesus and the Church, who is the mother of all humanity that guides her children to God.

“To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an ‘absurd dichotomy,’” the Pope told Mass attendees who were present in St. Peter’s Basilica for his Jan. 1 Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

“[The Church] is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity … Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling,” he said.
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“The Catholic who stood up to Hitler
It is impossible to read My Battle against Hitler by the German philosopher and theologian, Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977), translated by John Henry Crosby, without being inspired by its vital lesson: that you must always bear witness to the truth, even at great personal cost. These memoirs and essays, published in English for the first time, provide essential documentation of the thoughts and responses of a highly cultured man of faith when faced with the nascent ideology of National Socialism in Germany, in the 1920s and 1930s.
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My Top Ten Favorite Saints
I have always thought it says a lot about Catholics as to whether they have favorite saints, and who they are if they do have special saints.  Here are my top ten.

10.  Saint Andreas Wouters-Most saints have been extraordinary men and women.  That was decidedly not the case with Andreas Wouters!  A scandalous priest, he fathered several children.  Suspended from his priestly duties, he was living in disgrace when God him the opportunity to die a martyr’s death, an opportunity he seized with both hands like a drowning man cast a life line. His courage and steadfastness redeemed his life of sin.  May all of us have such a happy death as he did.  Go here to read about him.
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Pastoral Sharings: Feast of the Holy Family


WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

Posted December 28, 2014

We have here today part of the only story in the Gospels from the boyhood of Christ it gives the account of his Presentation in the Temple. The second part is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. In the Gospel of Luke these passages act as a kind of a bridge from the story of Christ’s birth (the Infancy narratives) which is a sort of ‘overture’ before moving to the main theme which is Christ’s public ministry.

In this story we can see reflections of many of Luke’s favorite themes: the journey, the temple, loving submission, etc. There is also the natural tendency to see the man in the boy. And there are parallels with the Old Testament story of Samuel and his call at the age of twelve.

The feast we celebrate today is that of the Holy Family. But we know so very little about the life of the Holy Family. Yes, we have the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke and we have this little account of his Presentation and then his Finding in the Temple, but that is about all.

What conclusions are we meant to draw? If we look at them as an ideal family then they fall wide of the mark: Mary was pregnant before marriage which somewhat falls short of the ideal; they lived together in perpetual chastity which would be very much less than ideal for most; and to cap it all they had only one child and he was the Son of God, which sounds like most people’s worst nightmare!

There doesn’t seem much there that we would want to or even could model ourselves on. Jesus is presented as something of a prodigy; but how could he be otherwise?

What is there here for us? Let us look first at the Prophet Simeon. Here in his prophecy we have one of the most beautiful prayers of the Bible. ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’

Here is a prayer we can all share in. A prayer which can really grow in us over the years until it reaches its prophetic culmination at the point of our death when we really can say with all our hearts: ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’

Simeon was a devout and holy man; he had received a revelation that he would see the Christ and he longed for that day. This yearning is an important lesson for us in prayer. Prayer is not just about rattling-off rosaries or constantly asking for things. Prayer often does not need words. A simple longing, a yearning for the coming of the Kingdom is an authentic expression of the Christian virtue of hope and is a deep and important form of prayer.

Here in this Gospel reading Simeon makes his prophecy about Christ’s destiny and as it says, ‘the child’s father and mother stood there wondering about him’. Every parent wonders about their children. Every parent is full of hope for their children. Over a period of time this might turn in to fear and anxiety, but the fundamental feeling of hope is still there.

We hope that everything will turn out well for them; we hope that they will make a success of life; we hope that they will be safe and keep out of trouble; we hope that they will be happy.

If we were to take these perfectly ordinary aspirations and express them in a Christian way we might express them as: we hope that they will realize God’s will for them; we hope they will be true to their faith; we hope that they will be good and holy; we hope that they will be effective witnesses to Christ; we hope that they will, after a long and happy life, be welcomed into God’s Kingdom.

These aspirations are our prayers for our children. We know that our children, from time to time, will also bring us pain and sorrow. The same went for the Holy Family. Look at the second part of Simeon’s prophecy: ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’. How often have mothers and fathers experienced this sword of pain and sorrow? But it does not stop them loving. Indeed it frequently causes them to love more deeply and to pray more earnestly.

And what of the children? There is no word from Jesus here. How could there be since he was just an infant? We know that Jesus fulfilled all that was promised. You might say he had to; after all, he was the Son of God. But what of us? How are we to fulfill the expectations of our parents? The answer is simple: you cannot and you probably should not. You are most likely to experience these expectations as a burden, even though your parents have the best of intentions.

But there are other expectations that you can and indeed you should fulfil. These are the expectations of God himself. God has set us on a course through life, he has given us gifts and talents and all the quirks of our unique personality. He has put us in the way of all sorts of experiences each of which has presented us with a whole series of choices and as a result of our reactions to them we have become the person we are today.

However, God also has expectations and hopes for us. His desire for us is simple: that we should love him with our whole heart and mind and soul. This might seem a tall order, and it might not sound like much fun. But really, it not just possible it is actually the most fulfilling thing we could ever do.

We hear a lot of talk today about ecology and being at one with nature. We are told we have a responsibility towards the environment and that we will experience serious consequences if we disturb the balance of nature. This concern for the environment is possibly one of the best things that has happened in the last thirty years. It is very good but it is not all. What about being at one with our maker? What about realising the consequences of upsetting our relationship with him?

God has a plan for us. It is to live in accordance with his will, it is to take Jesus for our model, it is to be at one with our fellow humans, it is to live a life of sacrifice, it is to be united with the Father in prayer.

That prayer of Simeon is a powerful one: ‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, because my eyes have seen your salvation.’ Simeon saw Christ in the flesh. But he only recognized him because he had spent his whole life in his service. He had totally dedicated himself to prayer and to the service of God just as the Prophetess Anna had also done. They were both rewarded and saw the face of God.

They prayed that they would see His salvation, but their prayers had in a real way brought about that salvation. This is the same with us. Christ has won the victory but the work of salvation goes on. We are his co-workers. We help to make his salvation present to the world of today. This is how we play our part in the redemption of the world. And by doing so we win our own redemption. This is what it is all about. We work for salvation and the result is that the prayer of Simeon, which is also our own prayer, is realized. We see and experience our salvation.

We are also part of the Holy Family; Simeon and Anna are our brother and sister. Our task is to be like the Christ Child and as it says in today’s Gospel, ‘to grow to maturity’. Then we will be filled with wisdom and God’s favor will be with us.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1939

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 28, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Year B—December 28, 2014
Today, the Church gives us an episode from Jesus’ early family life to ponder. Why?

Gospel (Read Lk 2:22-40)

St. Luke tells us that after the wonder of Jesus’ remarkable birth, announced by angels and praised by shepherds, His parents did what all devout Jews did in that day after the birth of a firstborn son—they presented Him at the Temple in Jerusalem.
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The Feast of the Holy Family: Being a Holy Family
One proud grandma was showing off pictures of her grandchildren to a neighbor.  “How old are they?” the neighbor asked. “The lawyer is two, and the doctor is four,” the grandma replied. 

We all have great ideals for our children.  It is not that they need to become a lawyer or doctor to make us happy, but we do want them to grow up into the finest people they can be, using their potential, being happy in their lives.
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Feast of the Holy Family
Luke 2: 22–40

Gospel Summary

Today’s gospel reading about the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple is most suitable for the feast of the Holy Family because it deals very gently with the difficult question of the relationship of young and old in families and in society generally.
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The Holy Family
The Passion of the Christ was the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. But there was a moment of comic relief, a flashback to a young Jesus in the back yard, building a new invention. It was the kind of table that is now a commonplace. But in a society where people reclined to dine, this table would have put the food out of reach. Mary asked him to explain his idea. He responded that people would eat sitting upright, on chairs. Mary replied authoritatively, “it will never catch on!” He laughed, washed up for dinner, and playfully splashed mom with the wash water.
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There is More
Message: There is more. God wants to do a miracle in your life.

Merry Christmas! Don’t be afraid to say it. Merry Christmas!

Maybe you saw it on TV earlier this month – the ceremony lighting our National Christmas Tree. President Obama said this about Christmas: “It’s the story of hope –- the birth of a singular child into the simplest of circumstances -– a child who would grow up to live a life of humility, and kindness, and compassion; who traveled with a message of empathy and understanding; who taught us to care for the poor, and the marginalized, and those who are different from ourselves. And more than two millennia later, the way he lived still compels us to do our best to build a more just and tolerant and decent world.”
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Christmas
Luke 2: 1–14

Gospel Summary

In the gospel passage for Mass at Midnight we hear the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. It is a story so simple that even a child can grasp it; yet, even after 2000 years it is a mystery so profound that the richness of its meaning remains inexhaustible. We are reminded again of God’s providential care which makes all history sacred history. The powerful rulers of the world, whether an Egyptian pharaoh or a Roman emperor, may have their armies and issue their decrees, but through the odd coincidences of history, God’s own purposes are ultimately achieved. As foretold by the prophet, Mary gives birth to a savior, who is Christ and Lord, in Bethlehem, the city of David.
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Christmas: O Holy Night
O Holy Night.

Along with Silent Night and O Come all ye Faithful, O Holy Night is a Christmas hymn that touches us deeply.  We want to sing it or hear it  sung on Christmas.  One of the many beautiful verses in O Holy Night is: 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

This verse captures the depth of the mystery we celebrate tonight: God loves us so much that the Father sent the Son to defeat evil for us, to be one of us.  Together the Father and Son gave us the Spirit to empower us to continue the Divine Presence and lead other back into intimate union with God.
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Christmas Isn’t Perfect – So Find Christ in Your Real Christmas
Most of us have a perfect Christmas in mind. Often it is the creation of Hallmark, Currier & Ives, and various marketers. But none of us will have a perfect Christmas, just a real one.

The First Christmas wasn’t perfect either. In fact, the only way to describe it is to call it a crisis. Mary was pregnant before marriage, a very dangerous thing in those times. Just at the time of birth they were required to travel eighty miles on foot to Bethlehem. There was no room for them in the inn.
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The Miracle of the Poinsettia
For years, we’ve given and received poinsettias in gestures of kindness during the Christmas season. They’re just so fittingly festive, with their mix of red and green leaves. What’s more, they’re relatively inexpensive and thoughtful at the same time. Did you ever wonder where that custom came from? I did, so I went exploring to find out. Here’s what I discovered.
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The Promise and Fulfillment of Christmas
Some years ago, when I was recently ordained, it fell upon me to celebrate the Vigil Mass of Christmas at my parish. The pastor, as was his prerogative, always celebrated Midnight Mass, so the other parish Masses were divided between myself and the other associate. The gospel for the Christmas Vigil Mass is the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, which contains the genealogy of Jesus.
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Time to Make Your Own Christmas Traditions
So there we were on Christmas night. I’ll set the festive scene. A nearly empty Roy Rogers on the New Jersey Turnpike. Muzak “Feliz Navidad” played in the background. A man, his wife, a two year old, and a baby huddled in a back booth scarfing down stale burgers and salty fries while waiting for traffic to die down. The woman quietly hummed Christmas carols to quiet the baby as the two year old little blond girl tried hard not to fall asleep on her father, too tired to even finish her chicken nuggets. The husband and wife locked eyes in understanding and the man mouthed a promise: We are never doing this again.
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Proclaiming Christmas
A little treasure nestles beneath Nativity of the Lord Jesus Catholic Church in Akron, Ohio: a replica of Christ’s birthplace as it appears in Bethlehem today.

“Visiting the Holy Land is a way of getting in touch with the environment God chose to reveal himself to us,” said Father David Halaiko, the parish’s pastor. “These special places help us understand God’s actions.”

For Catholics unable to travel to Bethlehem, the next best thing might be a trip to the Akron church and its museum of Nativity sets.
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The Nativity of Christ – Its Historic Reality
In those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first took place when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town. And so Joseph went from his own town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea to his own town of Bethlehem—because he was of the household and lineage of David—to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. When they were there, the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her firstborn son. … (Luke 2:1-7)
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Preparing a Room for Christ
It is like it happened yesterday, even though 4 long years have passed since that fateful December day. If I allow myself, I can see the faces, smell the air, and feel the panic that filled my heart. The nurse’s words echo in my ears, “Sit down, we have no room for you.” Pain fills my heart in a way that is indescribable. I wondered if I would get through the nightmare that I experienced while losing William. I don’t allow myself to go to this place very often. It’s a dark place, a lonely place.
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Why God Becomes Human
The Advent and Christmas seasons are upon us. Like the reality itself, we Christians have to look more deeply to see the mystery beneath the glitter and the commotion. God has now descended into his creation to take up his rightful place as Lord and King of Heaven and Earth. He has infiltrated enemy lines in this civil war which rages in each of our divided hearts. In the history of this great battle, only one faithful woman has been his totally. Only she has never strayed, only she has never refused a command, only she is wholly his.
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Five Essentials for Discovering God’s Plan for You
When God has a Different Plan

I think most of us can remember an occasion when we had something all planned out. It might have been something relatively minor or it might have concerned something of greater significance to our lives. And then, everything changed and the plans we had made had to be set aside for a while or even abandoned entirely.
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The Mystery of the Incarnation
“Mystery,” he sneered. “That’s a good Catholic word.”

My friend was a fundamentalist who had more than a bit of antipathy towards the Catholic Church, charging that it added to the simple faith of the Bible.

But he didn’t read his bible very well. The word “mystery” is a Catholic word, only because it is a biblical word. Paul speaks of “the mystery hidden for many ages but now manifested (Rom 16:25-26).
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The Four Causes of Holy Mother Church
The simplicity, unity, and beauty of Holy Mother Church is stunning when seen properly through the lens of Faith. In the various ways of knowing, that of science, philosophy and revelation, we are afforded unique insights into the divine genius of creation. But in these dark times of skepticism resting on the shifting sands of relativism, for those without the eyes to see and the ears to hear, all that is said and seen of the Body of Christ seems but an irrational fairy tale. It is as the Apostle said in first Corinthians, “but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” All truth belongs to God, scientific, philosophical and theological, no matter what the “wise” or the “strong” men say.
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What is a Holy Family?
Not even ten minutes pass after Mass, and you find yourself sitting in the parish hall breaking up an argument between the kids who are fighting over a donut. So much for that peace we offered one another during Mass. Ah, peace. We want peace in our homes; we want to be holy families. But how can we get there if we can’t even get past the parish hall without fighting over donuts?

Enter THE Holy Family, as in Joseph (the saint), Mary (without sin), and Jesus (God incarnate). Are we crazy to think we can emulate them? Pope St. John Paul II thinks we can: “The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families.”
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Shudder — It’s Good for You
If you are reading this in the morning, good morning to you.

Today you could die. There are millions of people who woke with you this morning and of this vast number, some will be dead by this evening. Some are expected — and are expecting —  to die. Some are in dangerous circumstances where death lurks. But many are just like you.  They do not expect to die today. They have plans.  They have short-range and long-range goals. They have appointments on their calendars — places to go and people to meet. They will die anyway. You could be among them.

You could.
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Something New Under The Sun?
In contrast to science, which depends for its advancement upon the gradual temporal development of the technology of instrumentation, philosophy depends upon common human experience had by all throughout the ages.

St. Thomas presents five ways of proving the existence of God in the Summa Theologica, Q2, Article 3. He writes within the tradition of western philosophy, which recognizes the true, the good and the existent as only logically, not really, distinct. His five ways are logical perspectives of one argument, the singular conclusion of which is that there is a being whose nature and act of existing are identical. That Being, beyond our experience, must exist, in order to explain the existence of those beings which we do experience.
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The Seven Deadly Sins for Parents
As parents, we know that problems which are harder to see, like a young cancer, are easier to cure, while problems plain to the eye, like a five pound tumor, are hard to cure. And we know the same is true spiritually. This is why the Church’s tradition concerning the Seven Deadly Sins is so useful.

The Seven Deadly Sins are divided into the three “warm-hearted” sins of:
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The Seven Virtues for Parents
Last time, we talked about the bad news of the Seven Deadly Sins. This time, we will hear the good news: we parents are offered grace and help from God through Jesus Christ to live a truly good and happy life by practicing the Seven Virtues.

The Seven Virtues are the four Cardinal Virtues of:
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The Treasure is in Heaven
Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him and to be happy with Him in heaven forever. (Baltimore Catechism)

But mankind is not an understanding people [they are unwise and sinful]; therefore their Maker shall not spare them, nor shall He who formed them have mercy on them…You shall be gleaned one by one… (Isaiah 27:11-12)

We begin on a wide road. (See the man and girl who are walking.) The road to the right has temptations. To the left you can see a deer and farther ahead is a cross. Follow the cross.

[Yet] God will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, while the wicked shall perish in darkness…(Heaven and  Hell exist)  (1 Samuel 2:9)  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2)
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How the Catholic Church Saved Hanukkah
Tuesday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. As BuzzFeed recently demonstrated, a lot of Christians are ignorant as to what Hanukkah is. That’s a shame, not least of all because the story of Hanukkah is closely intertwined with Catholic history.

Here are two facts that you might not know about the Catholic connection to Hanukkah.
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Why the Crusaders Went
This post is the third in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them.

Anna Comnena was the thirteen-year-old daughter of Emperor Alexius I when the initial group of Crusaders marched into Constantinople during the First Crusade in the late eleventh century.
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The Enemy’s Tactic #3: Daily Pinpricks
Going into our third part of examining the many tactics of the Evil One, let us look at a very small and subtle way that the devil subverts our relationships with others: the daily “pinpricks.”

One tactic the devil is an expert at is turning small, ordinary occurrences in a relationship into overblown catastrophes that often lead to the divorce of a couple who appeared to have a perfectly normal marriage or causes a rift between family members that lasts the rest of their lives.
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The Magisterium of The Now
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

This is what often pops into my head many times when people use the word Magisterium in articles and comboxes across the Catholic Internet.

There are different kinds of Magisteria the infallible and the non-infallible kind.  Of course, non-infallible is just a nicer way of saying fallible.
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The Church Way Up North
The numbers don’t sound too impressive. There are about 11,500 Catholics in Iceland — or 3.5% of the country’s total population of 325,000. But considering there was just one professed Catholic in the country — one! — for many years in the early 20th century, 11,500 starts to seem quite respectable. And when you realize how new Christianity is to Iceland, the Catholic Church seems to be on quite a roll.
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15 Amazing Places You Can Tour Virtually
If you can’t check out these places in person, you can at least visit them virtually—no flights or road trips required.

1. The National Museum of Natural History

Learn where we’ve been by taking a look around the stunning exhibits at this Smithsonian museum in the nation’s capital.
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How Did the Star of Bethlehem Appear? What Science Tells Us and the Saints
          “There’s a star in the east on Christmas morn
           Rise up shepherd and follow
           It’ll lead to the place where the Savior’s born
           Rise up shepherd and follow”

An enigmatic celestial event that has engaged speculation for more than 2000 years, the Star of Bethlehem was an epoch-changing herald of the Messiah’s birth. For centuries saints, scholars and astronomers have wondered about this heavenly body. Was it a comet? A supernova? A conjunction of planets, possibly in constellation? A moon or dwarf planet briefly captured by Earth’s gravity? A free-floating planet or star? Was it a heavenly body that defied the known laws of physics and nature, such as the solar eclipse of the full moon on the first Good Friday? Or did it have divine origin like the shekinah glory that led the children of Israel out of Egypt during the time of Moses?
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Pastoral Sharings: "Fourth Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessage

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Posted for December 21, 2014

We have now come to the last Sunday of Advent and we are in the immediate preparations for Christmas. Each year Christmas seems to come around quicker and quicker and it is as if Advent hardly lasts any time at all.

Perhaps we have become over preoccupied with the practical preparations for Christmas, but we should be careful not to let ourselves to become so distracted that we neglect to prepare ourselves to celebrate this season in a truly spiritual way.

Actually the Readings today help us to properly prepare for Christmas and on this last Sunday of Advent they are extremely interesting.

The first reading is about King David who is the most famous of the Kings of Israel. We remember how his predecessor King Saul lost favour in the eyes of God and we recall how the Prophet Samuel then chose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, and anointed him as Saul’s successor. From that moment David grew from being an insignificant shepherd boy to a man of great stature.

We recall how he killed the giant Goliath by hitting him on the forehead with a stone from his sling. As a result Saul made David commander of his armies and gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. We remember too David’s famous friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan.

When both Saul and Jonathan died in battle David was then proclaimed King. He made Jerusalem his capital and took the Ark of the Covenant to reside there. As we heard in our first reading David had a great desire to build a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem; but the Prophet Nathan tells him that he is not to build a house for God to dwell in, but instead God would build a house for him. By this he means that God would grant David a great family of descendants; we call this the House of David.

We Christians have always considered ourselves to be part of David’s house and line, not through direct biological lineage like the Jews but through a deep spiritual lineage. It remains very important that Jesus himself can directly trace his ancestors back to King David because it was firmly believed that the Messiah was to be a Son of David.

Since we are the spiritual descendants of Jesus we regard ourselves as being spiritual descendants of King David too.

According to the Jewish people the coming Messiah would incorporate many of the best characteristics of King David and his rule would unite the People of Israel and inaugurate a time of universal peace and brotherhood.

Of course, we now see how the Kingdom of God as inaugurated by Jesus Christ goes far beyond anything the Jewish people could have conceived. Christ’s is no purely earthly Kingdom but is one which unites heaven and earth as well as past, present and future.

Ultimately the Kingdom of God is all the people of the earth from all the ages gathered in worship around God’s throne.

In the Gospel reading we are told the story of the Annunciation as given to us by Luke the Evangelist. We hear the story of how the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to be the mother of the Son of God. We hear too how Mary agrees to this divine proposal in her most beautiful words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.’

The Church places these two readings from scripture before us today because there is a very strong link between them.

It is understandable that David wants to build a temple for the Lord but he is told that this is not to be his task. It is a role eventually given to his son Solomon who constructs a fabulous temple in Jerusalem, but his Temple only lasts about four hundred years and was in fact completely demolished by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. A second temple was built after the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon, but this in turn was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD and was never rebuilt.

The lesson we have to draw is that these earthly temples, while being important places of worship in their day, were essentially material constructions. What we realise is that God cannot be housed in a world of his own creation. As an entirely spiritual entity God cannot be contained within four walls. God exists completely outside time and space; it is he who gives shelter to the world and not the world which gives shelter to God.

This brings us to Mary and to the account of her Annunciation. After many generations it is she who gives a home to the Son of God in her womb. This is a role for which she is specially chosen and prepared by God. It is she who becomes the real temple, the dwelling place of God’s only Son.

As we have seen God exists entirely outside the material world and yet he chooses to occupy the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to achieve his purposes, namely our salvation.

Mary is prepared for this unique task through her Immaculate Conception so that she could be free from sin and worthy enough to carry Christ in her womb. Moreover, the special graces given to her enabled her to be preserved from sin throughout her life.

We too become sharers in this great mystery because God sends his Spirit into our hearts and so lives within us. This is one of the ongoing results of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that occurred on the first Pentecost day.

As we were taught as children, this makes us Temples of the Holy Spirit. This wonderful gift helps us each one of us to live grace filled lives and to be faithful to the message of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We see now how the two readings link up. We see why David was commanded not to build a temple; we see how Mary herself became the true temple and indeed we see too how we ourselves share in this great gift to the world.

This is the last Sunday before Christmas; it marks an important stage in our preparation for the Feast of the Nativity.

It is a day on which we reflect on the great span of history involved in preparing for Christ’s coming into our world. It is a day on which we come to a greater realisation of Mary’s particular role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. It is a day which reminds us how deeply we too are involved in in this plan and how intimately we are connected to Christ and to his Mother Mary.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1924

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year B—December 21, 2014
On this last Sunday in Advent, an angel startles a young woman in Nazareth. What was old, and what was new in his message to her?

Gospel (Read Lk 1:26-38)

How many times have we heard this Scripture read? If it is very familiar to us, we should make the effort to hear it now with fresh ears. Perhaps we can do that by trying to imagine what it was like for Mary to have this conversation with Gabriel as it happened in history.
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Fourth Sunday of Advent
Luke 1: 26–38

Gospel Summary

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. However, the story of that birth is reserved for Midnight Mass, while today’s gospel tells us how Mary prepared for that wonderful event by accepting the message of an angel, which meant allowing God to determine how she could be a mother and remain a virgin.
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Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Everlasting Desire
As the whole world prepares to celebrate Christmas, making believe that the Christmas Season has started (It hasn’t yet, you know), I want to pause with you to consider the real need, the real desire we all have in our lives.  This need, this deep desire is the need for the presence of God. 

The need for God’s presence in my life, and in all our lives becomes quite obvious when we consider the power of sin within us and among us.  There are times when, as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, the forces of darkness appear to domineer us.  “Who can save us from these, who can save us from ourselves?” St. Paul asks.  Then he answers, “The grace, presence and life of Jesus Christ alone can save us.”  His very name, Jesus, means, God saves us.  He saves us from our sins.  He saves us from ourselves.
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Prepare Well for Christ – Advice for family preparation for Christmas
Christmas marks God entering time in a new, distinct way — in a way that fulfills all of his promises to his people to be with them and to save them. He chose to come through a family, and he invites all people to be a part of that family. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … so that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4:4).

Year after year, Christmas offers families a season to renew the sense of wonder at the way God entered time.  How will families allow him to enter their Christmastime this year? Catholic families should use the season to regroup, renew and revitalize their faith.
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Run, Don’t Walk, to the Nearing Jesus!
The Lord’s coming is near. And though we have all been well taught that the word “Advent” means “coming,” there is the danger that we think we are only passively waiting for him to come.  It is not just that the Lord is coming to us, but that we are also journeying to Him. In fact, as the Advent prayers in the Roman Missal instruct, we ought to run, not walk, and hasten to greet Him as He draws near.
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Persevering Through Suffering This Advent
A while ago, I asked a woman what I could pray about for her, and her response was pretty memorable. She asked me to pray for her to suffer with Christ — to suffer well, and that her suffering may be used to bring her loved ones closer to Him.

I didn’t know that she was suffering, but if I did, I would have probably thought to pray for her — that she might be relieved of that suffering and that her burdens would become lighter.

And yet, instead of asking for relief, she asked for the graces to suffer well — so that she may be united with Christ on the Cross, and so her loved ones would, too, be drawn closer to Him.
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The War on Christmas is over. Jesus won.
Kirk Cameron can breathe easy: the War on Christmas is over. Jesus won.

That’s the implication of a new Pew Research Center survey that finds nearly three-quarters of Americans — 73 percent — believe that Jesus was literally born to a virgin. This is especially surprising when you consider that only one third of Americans say that the Bible is the word of God and should be understood literally.
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Waiting in Joyful Hope
Advent is a tricky little season. On the one hand it’s a kind of “little Lent” inviting Christians to enter into the hush and mystery of God – God! – becoming a tiny baby boy, laid in a manger where animals eat and birthed in conditions no first-world woman would consider laboring in.

On the other hand, it’s the last 4 weeks before Christmas, the end of the calendar year, and jam-packed with more parties, social obligations, and family traditions than the previous eleven months combined.
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Confessions of a Publicly Grumpy Mom
Milk and toothpaste. That’s all that was left on my shopping list as I maneuvered myself, two shopping carts (one of the race car variety) and my five youngest sons toward the back of our local supermarket. The oldest boy was big enough to push a cart, only occasionally racing down an aisle or bumping into the back of my ankles. Thus far I had managed to avoid the restroom rodeo: that business of holding open the men’s room door and shouting into the abyss of strange men and hand dryer noises to get my boys to come out while keeping my aspiring-shopping-cart-diver three year old from jumping head first toward the tile floor.
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How much of Mass can I miss? You know, and it still counts?
Second only to questions on annulments, the above question—How much of Mass can I miss and it still counts for my obligation?— is probably the single the most common canonical question lay people ask.
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Confession! What a Relief!
My bride and I just went to Confession, and once again I pitied the poor priest who had to hear my lawyer’s confession!  I have never been to Confession without feeling a great sense of relief.

Here is the formula that I have followed for Confessions since childhood:

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been ____________ since my last Confession and these are my sins.

I then recite my sins.  I follow the rule of three B’s in Confession:
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Getting Ready for Judgment
December is the month of Advent and Advent is about not just the First Advent at Christmas but the Second Advent on the Last Day. Accordingly, it confronts us with the reality of Judgment.

Lots of folks wonder how to get ready for the Last Judgment. Everything in your life and mine, as well as in all the rest of the Universe, is moving inexorably toward That Day. Yet when we look at the saints, we find some remarkably unconventional advice. St. Therese of Lisieux, for instance, when asked what she would do if you knew the world was about to end, said, “I would have confidence.”
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The Spouse of Mary
“Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou that faith did co-operate with his works : and by works faith was made perfect ? And the scripture was fulfilled, saying : Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God. . . . For even as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” James 2:20-25
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Why Believe?
“Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors,” wrote G. K. Chesterton.

Faith is the Christian word. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., in his masterful theology of faith, The Assurance of Things Hoped For, writes, “More than any other religion, Christianity deserves to be called a faith”. He points out that in the New Testament the Greek words for “faith” and “belief” occur nearly 500 times, compared to less than 100 for “hope” and about 250 for “charity” or “love.” Which is not to say, of course, that faith is more important than love, since Paul makes it clear that love is the greatest of the three theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
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Scripture Alone Is Not Enough
Grace Alone – Faith Alone – Scripture Alone.

These are the three great “Solas” of the 16th century Protestant Reformation and the theological foundations of those communions that remain separated from the Roman Catholic Church. For those who adhere to the teachings of the reformers, one is saved by grace alone through faith alone, with scripture alone being the only rule and norm for Christian doctrine.
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Live Like a Hydra – Thoughts on how to get stronger when things are chaotic.
#1 What is antifragility?

I’ve been a fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb since reading Fooled By Randomness 9 years ago. It’s one of those books that you read and you can never look at the world the same way.

Since then he’s continued to think about the same ideas, and it’s been fascinating to follow. He really hit it out of the park with Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.

Basically, antifragile things are things that benefit from disorder, obstacles, unexpected events, change, etc.

Examples:
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Ten Ways to Battle Gossip
Have you ever really stopped to consider how ugly gossip is?

Working in school, family and parish life you experience time and again how colossally stupid, destructive and therefore sinful gossip can be.

The reason gossip is stupid is because it almost invariably deals in half truths.
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Why We Need Joyful Witnesses
Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I found myself in multiple conversations with people who were distressed about the evils of the world today: the lack of faith, poverty, injustice, and pornography, ISIS, abortion, euthanasia, and materialism, to name a few.  While all the concerns expressed were valid, I walked away from the discussions feeling depressed and hopeless about the state of affairs.

It’s easy for faithful Catholics, who desire to concentrate on the good, the true, and the beautiful, to be distracted by the abundant grotesque around them, to feel discouraged when it seems as if the darkness consistently overshadows the light.
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We Cannot Excuse Ourselves
As Catholics, we have a wonderful opportunity over the next week as we patiently await the arrival of Jesus to show our co-workers, friends, family, community and the world the beauty of our faith and the great capacity for love in our hearts.  As we prepare ourselves, what are we doing to help others?  How do we keep our focus on something much more important than gift buying?
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The History of Advent
The liturgical season of Advent marks the time of spiritual preparation by the faithful before Christmas. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30). It spans four Sundays and four weeks of preparation, although the last week of Advent is usually truncated because of when Christmas falls.
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What’s Keeping You from Becoming a Saint?
Bigger is always better. That’s the maxim of our culture. From our vehicles to our buildings, from our paychecks to our television screens, we are never satisfied with our possessions and want more, searching for meaning in a chaotic world. Even our heroes are the people who have made it big, whether on the silver screen, the football field, or the concert arena.
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Did Pope Francis say animals go to heaven?
The news networks are abuzz with stories saying that Pope Francis has said pets go to heaven.

They’ve even “helpfully” noted how this contrasts with the position of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

But the thing is . . . the whole story is false.

Here are 7 things to know and share . . .
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A Rosary Album That’s a Treasure
Though I’ve been devoted to the rosary for many years, that doesn’t mean I pray it easily. Most days, it’s a battle for me, between what I think needs done — like work — and what I know needs done — like prayer. Making myself sit still or even integrate prayer into what I’m doing is an ongoing practice, one that’s been made easier thanks to the new Rosary album released from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
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Let the Church Be a House of Wonder
A few days ago I entered for the first time what some people in the area call the Sistine Chapel of America. There’s reason for that. Saint Anne’s Church, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is a towering neo-Romanesque church whose interior vaults and domes, walls and panels, are covered with frescoes of sacred art. The people who love their old church and who are committed to maintaining it say that there are more frescoes here than in any other church in the nation. I don’t know how you could establish it for a fact, but I wouldn’t doubt it, either.
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Votive Candles: Lights of Faith and Hope
An elderly woman stands at the votive candle area and lights eight large candles. She says a prayer and then finds her place in the pew.

On exiting the Church, a young girl, no more than ten years old, lights a small candle with her dad watching on. Her dad told her to say a prayer for her grandmother.

There is something unique and special about a candle.
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Loving the Adult Jesus
When kids are very young, their needs are intense, but very simple. In the best moments, it’s easy for us parents to love our babies and little ones, because what they need is what you want to give them, and what you want is to be needed by them. In the good moments, at least, there isn’t much of a gulf between what you enjoyed doing and what you needed to do. In the best moments, it’s extremely easy to love a baby.

But when kids get older, there are more steps to love.
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Pope: Christian Families, Make a Place for Jesus in Your Homes
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis spoke today about Jesus’ choice to be born into a family, saying that it shows the importance of the vocation, which Mary and Joseph epitomized through their everyday holiness.

“We can learn so much from Mary and Joseph, and especially from their love for Jesus. They help us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Dec. 17 general audience.
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What are the “O Antiphons” and why should I care?
The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23, with December 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.
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The Four Greatest Christmas Gifts Parents Can Give to Their Children Year-round
What are the four greatest Christmas gifts parents can give to their children year-round?

Certainly we have the obvious one, love. But how do we love? How do we manifest our love, this love which should be poured out as agape love, a love of total self-giving, a sacrificial laying down one’s life and complete pouring out of one’s own blood kind of love?
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Best Catholic Books for Christmas Gifts 2014
1. Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures by Fr. Donald Calloway — Ignatius Press, 2014

I have this book and love it! It is one of the most inspirational books I have read! Beautiful photos, uplifting quotes from the saints about Mary, all make this an ideal Christmas gift.
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A Prayer for the Internet from the1946 Roman Ritual? Sure, and it’s wonderful
The old Roman Ritual was (is) a magnificent collection of blessings and prayers. It had some of the most amazing little blessings of things it would never occur to you to find in such a collection. For example, among other more common blessings of statues, religious medals, and so forth are blessings, often elaborately laid out, for things like a seismograph, a typewriter, a printing press, a fishing boat, a fire engine, a stable, medicine, a well, a bridge, an archive, a lime kiln, a ship, an automobile, mountain-climbing equipment, and an electric dynamo.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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Pastoral Sharings: "Third Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Phil Bloom
 
Third Sunday of Advent

Posted for December 14, 2014

Message: This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life – the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus.

This our third Advent homily on Preparing Our Hearts. Last Sunday we learned We prepare our hearts for Jesus by repentance. Repenting can be a dramatic experience – accepting Jesus as personal savior, welcoming him into one’s heart, making a sincere confession. We learned that repentance is a daily task. If we are not learning from our mistakes, if we are blaming others instead of accepting responsibility, then we start sliding back. We stop growing. A Christian disciple has to keep growing, preparing his heart for Jesus.

This Sunday I want to emphasize the seriousness of giving our hearts, our lives to Jesus. We can get drowsy, just kind of drift along. We can start thinking, well I always have tomorrow. A person can even think, maybe there’s even another life where I can have a second chance.

A lot of people believe in reincarnation and they even go so far as to say that the New Testament teaches reincarnation. They point to Jesus’ statement that John the Baptist “is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Mt 11:14) Therefore, they say, John is the reincarnation of Elijah. Today, however, when they ask John, “Are you Elijah?” he responds, “I am not.”

So how do you reconcile the two verses? Jesus says John is Elijah and then John says he is not Elijah. Well, John is Elijah in the way Pope Francis is Peter. He fulfills the role of Peter today. Similarly just as Elijah called Israel to repentance so John calls his generation – and us – to repentance.

This call to repentance is urgent because this life is the one chance we have. Jesus and his followers tell us that after death comes judgment – and that the judgment involves two possibilities: heaven or hell.

I wish I could tell you not to worry, everything’s going to be OK, you still have plenty of time, there will always be another chance. But if I tell you that, I would not be true to Jesus. When you hear him speak, you do not get a sense of leisure, but a sense of urgency. Consider the very first words in his public ministry, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Jesus picks up the message of John. Repent. This life is serious. It’s your one chance. Take it. Prepare your heart for Jesus.

John not only preaches repentance but he illustrates how we prepare our hearts. That preparation has two steps. The first involves giving of self. John had great talents – preaching, study, prayer, simplicity of life and fasting – and he invested those talents for his people. John’s investment made him the greatest man of his generation. He is the last and greatest of the prophets. Jesus says, “no man born of woman is greater than John.” The Jewish historian, Josephus, has a paragraph on John the Baptist, describing him as a crucial figure. And in the Acts of the Apostles we see that he had followers as far away as Ephesus in modern Turkey. This fame indicates John’s self gift. You and I will probably not achieve fame, but please God we will follow John’s example of investing all.

John exemplifies something else, a second step we must take after making that effort to give all. That step is humility. When you think about it, humility is the best gift we can give. If I give then start bragging about or if I give with strings attached, I will cut myself off from others – and from God. John represents beautiful humility. He was the greatest man of his generation, yet when he Jesus came he said “I am not worthy to untie…his sandal strap.”

This is tricky business. Humility does not mean hiding ones gift or worse burying them. It means giving all then acknowledging the truth – anything you and I could give (even if we had Bill Gates’ fortune, Einstein’s brilliance and Blessed Mother Teresa’ service to the poor) all that pales when we stand in front of Jesus – like a grain of sand:

At World Youth Day 2013 I spent a night on Copacabana Beach with about a million young people. It’s a huge area. Well, in relation to Jesus we are like a speck of sand: small in ourselves, but part of something glorious. John the Baptist shows that we must deposit that sand crystal and then praise God that we have joined ourselves to something – someone – incomparably great.

This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life – the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus. And we prepare our hearts by St. John’s example of self-giving and humility. Next week we will see an even greater example of humility, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Humility enables us to rejoice always, in all circumstances. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in God is the joy of my soul.” . Amen.
http://stmaryvalleybloom.org/homily-for-3advent-b.html

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 14, 2014

Third Sunday in Advent, Year B—December 14, 2014
On this Sunday, the Church calls us to rejoice, even though our waiting and preparation aren’t over yet. Why?

Gospel (Read Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)

Today we have another description of the work of John the Baptist before the public appearance of Jesus at the Jordan River. In addition to calling the people of Judea to repent, John also had to answer questions about himself. We need to know that expectation of the Messiah’s coming was at fever pitch in first century Judea. Centuries earlier, the prophet, Daniel, was given a message from the angel, Gabriel, with a numbered calculation of years that would pass between the Exile of Judah in Babylon and the appearance of God’s “anointed one.
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Third Sunday of Advent
John 1: 6–8, 19–28

Gospel Summary

The gospel passage tells us about a man named John who was sent by God to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. This is the way the testimony happened. Religious leaders from Jerusalem came to find out who he was. John tells them that he is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet. He does say: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord … ” Then John is asked: “Why then do you baptize … ?” He answers: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
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3rd Sunday of Advent: Called To Be Apostles and Witnesses
“There was a man named John, sent by God to give testimony to the Light.”  The first words of today’s gospel tell us everything we need to know about John the Baptist.  He was sent to give testimony.  He was sent.  The word in the original Greek is apostolein, apostle.  To give testimony, the word in the original Greek is marturios, martyr.  John the Baptist is an apostle and a martyr.  Actually, John was the first apostle.  He was the first one sent to proclaim the presence of the Christ.  He was also the first Christian martyr.  John was the first one to give testimony to the truth of Christ among us.  He realized that Divine Truth had entered the world as a human being.  This was no time to hedge on the truth. John would rather die than turn from the truth. And he did die, a martyr to Truth.
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The Angels of Advent
I’m of the opinion that angelic encounters are far more frequent than many people think. It’s just that who talks about it? Who was aware that what happened was an angelic interruption?

Maybe that meaningful dream you had, that close call you had in the car, that accident that didn’t happen, that chance meeting that helped direct your life or that surprising event was an angelic encounter.
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Christmas: Biblical Reflections
With Christmas coming up around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some connections in sacred Scripture that may not be evident to the casual Bible reader.

The story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem is rife with meaning. The inn-keepers of Bethlehem had no room for Mary and Joseph, even though Joseph probably told them that Mary was about to give birth. The moral sense of this story (how it applies to us) is a question we all must ask ourselves – “Do we have room in our heart for the Holy Family?”  Or are we too busy with the affairs of this world to give Jesus, Mary, and Joseph their proper due?
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Advent and the Drama of Light and Darkness
Here are the summary notes from a talk I gave tonight at the Parish of St. Columba, here in D.C.

Many people think of Advent merely in terms of pre-Christmas time: office parties, shopping, decorating etc. But in the Church, Advent is more a penitential period, a time of preparation for both the Christmas Feast and the Second Coming of the Lord. The purple vestments signal penance. The faithful are encouraged to go to Confession, and the liturgical texts and readings emphasize readying for the coming of the Lord.
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The Root of Restlessness: An Advent Hope
What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?

Some say it is desire. The root of all unhappiness is desire.

We desire what we do not have, and we desire more what we cannot have.

But what is at the root of that desire? I think it is something else.
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A Divine Mercy Christmas
What does Jesus want for Christmas? After all, it’s his birthday. And he has told us what he wants.

When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, to whom he entrusted his messages of Divine Mercy, he told her: “But child, you are not in your homeland: so fortify yourself by my grace and fight for My kingdom as a king’s child would, and remember that the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them, the possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, My child, a great number of souls who will glorify My mercy for all eternity.” (Diary of St. Faustina 1489)
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From the Realms of Glory
I imagine angels to be like responsible teenagers asked to babysit their toddler siblings. I’m sure that my own guardian angel is often exasperated with me, as tends to happen when babysitting mischievous toddlers. Sometimes the kids are adorable, and sometimes you have to lure the guinea pig out from under the couch because the toddler set it loose again. (Not that I, er, have any direct experience with that.) But I know that despite my tendencies to get caught in the same crazy predicaments time and time again, my guardian angel must also delight in me as well. After all, the angels have willingly chosen to babysit us, and they love us more than we know. Just as the antics of toddlers can have a certain charm, our human weakness and naiveté must seem endearing in the eyes of the angels.
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Come Lord Jesus! A Meditation on the Stunning Glory of Being Gathered to Christ on the Last Day
In Advent, as we continue to meditate on the Parousia (the magnificent Second Coming of the Lord), we do well to allow our imaginations to be engaged in contemplating the glory that awaits those who are faithful, to meditate on the joy and ecstasy of the culmination of all things!
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Sanctity and God’s Will
Presence of God – I place myself in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, asking Him to penetrate my soul with His words, “He that doth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7:21).
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It Was a Beautiful Confession
On Saturday, we went to confession. Mine was a pretty standard operation: “Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession. I did that thing I always do, and that other thing I always do. I also did that other thing I always do, except more so than usual. And I stopped doing that thing I usually do, but then I started again.  And I was mean on the internet. For these and all my sins, I am truly sorry.”
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The Priest of the Gulag: Walter Ciszek, SJ
Far in the bitter Russian north, word of the death of Joseph Stalin spread—even among the political prisoners and criminals who toiled ceaselessly, doomed and forgotten, in the mines and forests of Siberia. The news was a spark of hope that lit the fuse of rebellion. The camps erupted in violence as prisoners’ pent up frustrations with hard labor, hunger, and indignity were loosed. They never had a chance. By the butt of the rifle and the muzzle of the machine gun, Soviet soldiers put the uprising down. Among the prisoners of Camp 5, sprawled in the dirt and desperately trying to avoid the gunfire, was a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania. How he came there—and how he came back—is a study in, as the priest himself put it later, “the strange and mysterious ways of divine providence.”
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How Do I Love God Above All? Part II of II
…Father John Bartunek answers the following question:

Dear Father John,  I try to love God above everything and everyone else, but I’m not sure how.  I’m not even sure that I am doing that.  Can you help?

Editor’s Note:  In part I, we looked at why someone would even think about this question and the precise totality of love.  Today we will: talk about going beyond self-help lists, introduce the four arenas of love, and savor the promise.
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Pope Francis: There are many ‘hidden saints’ who live out the Gospel in their daily lives
In his Thursday morning Mass, Pope Francis talked about so called ‘hidden saints.’ Men, women, parents, religious and everyday people who live out the Gospel and give hope.

POPE FRANCIS
“Let’s think about all the priests who don’t publicize it, but who work in their parishes with great love: Teaching catechesis to children, caring for the elderly, the sick, and preparing newlywed couples…Every day it’s the same, the same, the same. They don’t get bored because their foundation is solid like a rock. It’s Jesus. This is what gives Holiness to the Church. This is what gives hope!”
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Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell?….So What
Deacon is busy publishing parish letters on the Four Last Things for the Sundays of Advent.

Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

But it seems to me that the response of most people in our society and our church is a careless shrug of “So what.”
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35 Promises Of God
The Bible contains numerous promises that God makes to His people.

Below you will find the top 35 promises God makes to His people.
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Rhyming the Beginning and the End
Since God is the Author of the great story of creation and salvation history, he knows the end from the beginning and can tell us about that end as he chooses.

What we immediately notice when we scan biblical prophecy is that God only tells us enough to give us a general shape of history, not to give us details. In that, he is like every good storyteller we know. He offers us hints and foreshadows, which tell us something of the end, even in the beginning.
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Prepare ye the Way – ?
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.
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The Priesthood is Love
“The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.  When you see a priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~ St. John Mary Vianney

Greed doesn’t sum up the priesthood. The average priest makes under $35,000 per year. Sexism doesn’t sum up the priesthood. Jesus ordained men, but women never had to be priests to be important in the Church. In fact, some of the most important people in Church history have been women.
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On Smiling Angels and Joy-Filled Hearts
It is difficult to be a parent today, especially if you have a child or children with special needs. The days are emotional roller coaster rides often filled with frustration and only fleeting glimpses of progress. These families often push the pause button on their old lives as the focus becomes all about therapists, adaptive learning, fighting with schools for support, medication regimens, special diets, etc., etc. The expenses are astronomical and sacrifices are made which other families would never understand. Each day is a battle for survival, which requires fully engaged mothers, fathers and often siblings to pitch in and make it work.
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We Teach Our Children That God Loves Them
As responsible and caring parents, we teach our children that God loves them. We also teach them to pray and to go to God with their needs. But how do we explain those times when God lets them suffer and their prayers are not answered the way they had hoped?
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Love and Judgment
Anyone with a Facebook account has probably seen the following quote at some point, most likely in meme form, along with a tagline from the poster that reads, “YES!”, or “Exactly!”, or “Why can’t Christians get this?”:

Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Mohammad wasn’t a Muslim. They were teachers who taught love. Love was their religion.
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I Should Have Said No
I should have said no.

But when I said yes, I felt POWERFUL.

I felt NEEDED.

I felt SOUGHT AFTER.

I felt DESIRED.

Now, I just feel TIRED.
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Caring for the Dying MeansNot Intentionally Killing Them
A week ago I received a message from a distressed family writing about a loved one in the final stages of living.

The members of this family were informed by hospice care that their dying relative, a 95-year-old father/grandfather with dementia who still recognizes the family and talks with them at times, had come down with pneumonia. They were told he had no chance of recovering due to his reduced lung capacity. As a result, he had been put on 100 percent oxygen (pure oxygen delivered by a ventilator).
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In the Enemy’s Camp: An In-depth Look at the Tactics of the Devil
If we are in a Spiritual War (which we are), we need to know our Enemy. Going into a battle blindly, without proper planning and preparation, will most assuredly result in utter defeat.

That is why over the next several weeks and months ahead, we will take a look in the Enemy’s camp and discover the varied ways he plots to destroy our souls.
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Evil Can Only Be Conquered Through Weakness
With all this talk about Spiritual Warfare and battling against the Enemy, it can give the false notion that if we are “powerful” enough, we can take down Satan. In fact, if we approach our own daily battles through this lens we will actually be overpowered and the Evil One will use our quest for power to his advantage.
 
Satan loves power and so he is going to use our desire for power against us. However, one thing he hates and the one thing that can conquer his temptations is weakness. That may sound strange to our modern ears, but it is entirely biblical and entirely true.
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Revitalizing Parishes Begins With the Liturgy – How Three Churches Are Putting Christ Front and Center
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How Three Churches Are Putting Christ Front and Center

What can happen if parishes are faithful to the Church’s centuries-old patrimony and seek to revitalize along a transcendent path, which expresses the “other” and the eternal, the divine?

This movement seeks to ensure that the faithful Mass lifts the believer out of the world and up to heaven, rather than dragging the Mass down to the standards of the world.
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SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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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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Pastoral Sharings: "First Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

First Sunday of Advent

Posted for November 30, 2014

I know that there will be no danger of anyone falling 
asleep during the sermon today since in the Gospel Christ 
has warned us not once but three times to stay awake!

And staying awake is what being a Christian is all about. Alertness, watching and waiting these are the themes of Advent, but they are actually also the programme for a truly Christian life.

Don’t take this in a literal sense because Jesus is here using spiritual language. Don’t think he means that Christians should stay up all night and never go to bed! If we did that we would soon be a sorry lot and wouldn’t be fit for anything, let alone for living the Christian life.

No, Christ means that we ought to stay awake spiritually. He means that we should be constantly on the alert, on the ‘qui vive’, vigilant and watchful.

But for what or who do we wait? For Christ, of course! As he says, when the Master comes he must not find you asleep. We wait for Christ and specifically we wait for his second coming.

We are in that period between Pentecost and the Second Coming; it is an era of expectation, a time of hope, a period of longing for Christ to come and bring his Kingdom to its complete fulfilment.

Actually the parable in this chosen text is highly relevant because it describes very precisely this period between Pentecost and the Second Coming. The master has physically left us, he has put his servants in charge, each with his own task, and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake to be on the alert for his return.

We are both the servants, each with our own task, and the doorkeeper on the alert for Christ’s return. We work and we watch. We strive to make the Kingdom a reality and we are constantly looking out for the coming of Christ.

Of course, we are most of us much better at working than at watching.

Working is something we all know about, we do it every day. Maybe we went through a phase of laziness in our lives, perhaps in our early teens, but as soon as we realised how much there was to be gained in this life by work we found a new focus.

A lot of us are very good at working; maybe some of us are too good, and we work to the exclusion of most other things.

But working for the Kingdom is not the same as any other work. It is actually quite subtle and it is not a question of just putting more energy in. It is about making connections between people, it is about saying the right thing at the right time, it is about being in the right place, it’s about touching the lives of others, it’s about reaching out, it’s about loving, caring and healing.

Working for the Kingdom involves going the extra mile, it means thinking about the needs of others, it means biting one’s tongue, it means teaching, praising and forgiving.

All of this really is work—believe me! But it is quite specific and involves a great deal of thought and care.

Now if you think that working for the Kingdom is hard then watching is much, much more difficult; it involves different skills such as patience, perseverance and alertness. But also skills that we haven’t been forced by life to cultivate such as being still, listening to the voice within, being sensitive to the action of God in the world and so on.

What we are watching and waiting for is Christ’s coming. But it is in the very nature of Christ to be always coming, always arriving in lots of different ways and in many varied guises.

The two comings we think most about in the liturgical season of Advent are firstly Christ’s coming into the world in human form on the first Christmas Day—the Incarnation—and secondly his coming at the end of time—the Second Coming, the Last Day.

In this season of Advent we feel very much at one with those who waited for the coming of the Messiah. We are only waiting for five weeks, they waited their whole lives long and still the vast majority did not see his arrival.

In fact, when he finally did come only a very few recognised him, and not the ones you would expect —insignificant people like shepherds, wise men from the East, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna; we know from the scriptures that they recognised him but not many others did so.

It is a firm doctrine of our faith that Christ will come in glory at the end of time; that’s what we celebrated last week on the Feast of Christ the King. We hope for and long for Christ’s coming on the Last Day to bring all things under his dominion.

We don’t know when that Day will be; it could be tomorrow or it could be many centuries in the waiting; the one thing we do know is that it certainly will come.

These are the two definitive comings of Christ but he is constantly making other kinds of appearances in our world and in our lives. For those with eyes to see he comes walking by daily. For those who recognise him Christ is always around.

And this is what watching is about. It is developing some very particular skills so that we are enabled to recognise him in his many guises. We need to train ourselves to be alert to his disguises, to notice the signs of his arrival, to be aware of his presence.

And most of all perhaps we need to be able to enjoy his coming, especially his coming to us in prayer.

A lot of the people who live around us don’t understand what we are doing when we pay special attention to someone who cannot offer us anything in return. They find our going out of the way to help others quite strange. They can’t comprehend our generosity.

But for us there is nothing to understand, it comes naturally—we are serving Christ in our midst.

Another thing a lot of people can’t understand is the time we spend in prayer. As far as they are concerned this is lost time, there are other much better things they think they could do with their time. But for us this is time spent with the best friend we’ve got.

And even if we sit there and try to pray but feel nothing that’s OK. We think of it as we would think about waiting for our oldest friend to come and visit us. We are content to wait, to sit quietly and to enjoy the memories of previous visits and looking forward to the joy of his arrival.

Working and watching—these are the things a Christian does. These are the themes of Advent; these constitute the programme of our life.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1897

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent, Year B—November 30, 2014
The Gospel reading sounds the call of Advent: Be watchful! How?

Gospel (Read Mk 13:33-37)

Our very first Gospel in this new season of Advent puts into our ears Jesus’ own words to prepare us for it: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Be watchful! Be alert!’” He then tells them how to do this. He uses the example of a household in which “the lord of the house” has gone away and left his servants “in charge, each with his own work.” The servants are warned against being asleep on the job. Since they “do not know when the lord of the house is coming,” they must not make the mistake of thinking they can be lazy or indifferent toward their work. The best way for them to “watch” for their master is to be conscientious and active in the work he has given them to do.
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First Sunday of Advent
Mark 13: 33–37

Gospel Summary

In this gospel passage Jesus illustrates the mystery of his future, final coming in power and glory with a simple parable. He says to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” He compares his final coming to a man traveling abroad who had placed his servants in charge of his house. The servants must do the work assigned to them, and the gatekeeper must be on constant watch awaiting the return of the master of the house. The parable, with its accompanying admonition to work and watch for the Lord’s final advent, completes Chapter 13 of Mark’s gospel—Jesus’ last teaching before his passion.
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First Sunday of Advent: Waiting for Him to Come and Heal Us |
The first reading for this, the First Sunday of Advent, has many verses that are key to our understanding of Advent.  The prophet calls upon God to come down from heaven.  He says that when the Lord does come he will come in power and might.  He is the Awesome God.  No ear has heard or eye has seen the might of God.  We are the clay, he is the potter.  We are the work of his hands.  Six hundred years after the first reading, St. Paul returned to this passage recognizing that the  prophet was speaking about Jesus Christ and the power and might of the Kingdom of God, and our role in that Kingdom.
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Do People See Jesus When They Look At You?
“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

In John 14:15, Jesus tells his apostles, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  In this passage, Jesus is preparing His Apostles for His departure and the coming of the Holy Spirit. After three long years with them, these are among His final words of instruction.  These words must be important.  Again, He tells them that if they love Him, they will keep His commandments.  Earlier in His public ministry Jesus told a scribe that the greatest of the commandments is that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and that the second is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
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Heaven is Seeing God
We are to know, love and serve God in this life and to share in the paradise of his Beatific Vision in the next life (CCC 1721). We know God only indistinctly in this life (1 Cor 13:12).

The fruition of sanctifying grace is the Beatific Vision, which is the theological term for seeing God face to face, i.e. as he knows and loves within the Trinity. In this mortal life no one can see God and live (Ex 33:20). Once enjoying the ecstasy of seeing God, no one could cease to possess the Beatific Vision, which is heaven, and then return to living this mortal life.
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7 Lessons from Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
Of all the gifts that God has given his Church, the greatest is without question the Blessed Sacrament, for it is nothing less than the body, blood, soul and Divinity of Jesus himself. In the Eucharistic host, our Divine Savior dwells among men in his fullness. He is truly God with us—what could be greater than this?

If the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus himself, and holiness is found in imitating Christ, then the Blessed Sacrament is a school of holiness. Today, I want to spend a few moments reflecting on the characteristics of Jesus in the Eucharist and what his presence can teach us about both holiness and masculinity.
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What the Our Father Teaches Us About Prayer
Some two thousand years after institution, the Our Father still has much to teach us about prayer.

Below are some lessons that various saints and doctors of the Church have gleaned from the first Christian prayer over the centuries.
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When We Struggle in Our Prayer Life
One of the biggest obstacles for me in the early days of my faith journey was the lack of a prayer life. I knew I needed to pray, but I couldn’t ever remember sincerely praying about anything. I was struggling with the typical male challenge of asking for help, especially asking God for help! I rationalized this by thinking, “Who am I to bother Him with my petty problems?”
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How I Pray: Jimmy Akin
Every Monday in How I Pray, I ask various Catholics about their prayer routines, their prayer lives, and their experience of prayer. This week I’m joined by the great apologist Jimmy Akin, whose clear and irenic explanations of Catholic teaching are always a welcome oasis in the often-fractious world of online Catholicism.
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Having a True Fear of the Lord
The worthy wife and mother depicted in the last chapter of the book of Proverbs in Sunday’s First Reading leaves us wondering how she could be constant in doing good for all around her. Her husband confidently “entrusts his heart to her” and she “brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.” She labors constantly and “works with loving hands” not for selfish reasons but she does this so as to benefit others: “She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”
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May You Sleep the Sleep of the Just: A Short Meditation on the Burden that Sin Brings
There’s an old expression, seldom used today although I remember the old folks used it sometimes when I was young, “May you sleep the sleep of the just.” When my Great Aunt Polly used it, she meant simply, “May you sleep well.” But more richly and historically, the phrase speaks to a serenity that comes from having a quiet conscience, a conscience that is untroubled by the burden of unconfessed and unrepentant sin. A serene and clean conscience is an untroubled conscience, and thus we can sleep well and deeply.
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Satan at His Most Subtle: A Reflection on the Temptations and Traps of the Pious
What is temptation? Temptation is the work of Satan to drag you to Hell. And Satan can read you like a book and play you like piano. Do not exaggerate his power, but do not underestimate it either.

Some of his subtlest work is done in the area of religious observance. There, he can cloak himself quite easily in the lamb’s clothing of piety, but, wolf that he really is, distort it, either through excess or defect, thereby destroying you with what is good. Beware what some spiritual writers call the “traps of the pious.” Consider some examples:
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St. Thomas on the Psychology of Advent
The phrase lumen fidei, the light of faith, is becoming a more familiar part of our lexicon. The phrase plays a key part in the psychology of St. Thomas. As the season of Advent is now approaching, I decided to meditate, with St. Thomas Aquinas as my guide, on how it is that a baby in a manger, or a personal act of selfless love, could draw us intellectually into the mysteries of faith.
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Preparing Our Hearts for Christ
You would have to live in a cave to not know that Christmas is coming. The day after Thanksgiving, almost everyone is preparing. Shopping for presents, putting up trees, sending cards, making cookies, and hosting parties. In some churches and Christian homes the Advent Wreath will come out, maybe a Jesse Tree, and the Christmas trees and ornaments may be added weekly to slowly emphasize the Light of Christ coming into the world. The Season of Advent is a time of busy preparation and one that even the secular world will not let us forget.
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Catholic Identity & Our Moral Life: “The Two Ways”
Our baptism gives us an identity that is thicker than blood: we are now adopted sons and daughters of God the Father and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ – members of God’s divine family and members of His Body, the Catholic Church, the new covenantal community.
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Is There a List of Mortal Sins?
One of the strengths and weaknesses of the internet age is that people write to strangers with personal problems which are often complex, but there is no context or background.

So I’ll get an email out of the blue from someone I don’t know asking “What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why does God judge us and sent us to hell when we never even asked to be born in the first place?”

The person doesn’t tell me how old they are, whether they are male or female, where they live, if they are Catholic or whether they like hot dogs…..nothing.
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Twelve Surprises About Catholicism and Evangelicalism
Over the past dozen years I’ve had the amazing and accidental opportunity to do something few Christians get to do: dive deeply into both the Catholic and Evangelical worlds.  That experience has been enlightening, confusing, encouraging, frustrating and inspiring all at once.  As a result, I’ve arrived at 12 realizations that surprised me about each side of Christianity, and the overlap between them.
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Joy in the Midst of Grief
As the holidays approach, most of us are engulfed with images of happy shoppers adorning their kitchens with comfort food and their living rooms with festive decorations; their smiles offer a false impression to many that the holidays are always occasions that conjure a sense of warmth and joy.  For some of us, the holidays exacerbate our pain and the glaring void of loss and loneliness that we attempt to mask for the sake of social graces and propriety.
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The Catholic Option: “All of the Above”
Samuel Gregg recently recapped an ongoing debate among conservatives and Catholics in America concerning how best to evangelize the contemporary culture.

Gregg (whose work I admire) contends that the so-called “Benedict Option,” i.e., imitating St. Benedict by withdrawing from a perverted society to preserve civilization, “isn’t open to … American conservatives … who take natural law seriously.” Gregg’s three reasons are: (1) the universally accessible nature of the natural law; (2) the poverty of alternative moral theories today; and (3) the American Founding, which was based on virtue theory and natural law.
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Living in the Past in the Present
Part of being a Catholic is to live in the past in the present.

What I am getting at is the idea that the universality of the Catholic faith means that it transcends not only particular cultural circumstances and particular locales, but it also transcends time.

Think about it. At Mass the priest comes out robed like a Roman senator. Did you know that’s where the vestments first originated?
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Dissecting Gossip and Sins of the Tongue
There is a popular story about a woman who had confessed the sin of gossip. For her penance she was told to go to the top of a nearby hill, pillow in hand, and cut it open. Shaking all the feathers into the wind, she had to go collect every last feather from the wilderness into which they had blown. Only then would her penance would be complete.

So it goes with each time we speak a word against another; we can never hope to recover all the information from whence it has been carried.
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10 Things To Do During Advent
Advent begins this year on Sunday, November 30. How do you plan to spend the time leading up to Christmas? Will you use it to go into frenzied shopping mode? Or will you choose to use it as a time for reflection on the mystery that is the Incarnation and Birth of the Christ Child? If the latter, here are a few ideas that might come in helpful.
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7 Facts You May Not Have Known About Advent
In this season of Holy Patience, we reflect and wait for the coming of the Christ Child. This feast being celebrated on the 25th of December, has become a grand holiday loved by both Christian and secular peoples. The coming time of preparation is, however, a much lesser known aspect of this season. Often chocolate calendars, carols, holiday movies and the changing of the priest’s vestments are the only precursory changes that we notice. We all know of Lent, but what is Advent? What is it’s history? Here are 7 facts you might not have known on the subject:
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Nothing Compares To You
Of the many things I appreciate about the Catholic education my children have received here in Ohio, one that is pretty high on the list is the schools’ endeavors to educate parents who may have been poorly catechized or who may not even be Catholic themselves.
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Here are 10 Very Interesting Facts About the Catholic Church You Probably Didn’t Know!
How much do you know about the Catholic Church? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know.
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The Altar Server: A School of Faith
Today’s video provides both an excellent explanation of some of the ideas behind the altar server together with practical tips on how to serve with reverence and understanding.
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Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?
Pure myth! That is today’s typical view of a literal Adam and Eve. Yet, contrary to current skepticism, a real Adam and Eve remain credible—both in terms of Catholic doctrine and sound natural science.

By calling the Genesis story a “myth,” people avoid saying it is mere “fantasy,” that is, with no foundation in reality at all. While rejecting a literal first pair of human parents for all mankind, they hope to retain some “deeper” truth about an original “sinful human condition,” a “mythic” meaning. They think that the latest findings in paleoanthropology and genetics render a literal pair of first true human parents to be “scientifically impossible.”
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Catalog of Sin – All Items are in Stock, With Free Shipping and Handling from the Supplier
The video at the bottom of the page is something of a spoof on drug commercials, treating sin like a drug. Wait until you hear the side effects disclaimer at the end.
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Grief, Loss, and Change through the Holidays – Making New Memories and Traditions
One of the hardest things about Thanksgiving Day, and then of course the Christmas holidays, is dealing with loss and grief. It’s just difficult to be in the holiday season when you are still dealing with sadness over the death of a loved one, loss of a marriage, or other changes in life that take us away from our traditions and ties to the past.

But there are ways to make the holidays bearable and even pleasant.  Here are some things that have worked for me in the past.
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13 Things You Should NEVER Say to a Priest
The last thing we want to is insult someone, most of all our priests. However, sometimes, words slip, are chosen unwisely, or just come out wrong. There are though, things you should NEVER say to a priest.

Here’s a few:
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