Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Blessed are you among women"

Fourth Sunday of Advent (4AdvC), December 20, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What is the symbolism of Jesus being born in a manger?
FEATURED BLOG: Ever thought about Hell?
PRIEST STORY: In Kenya, an Irish priest gives his life for Christ
PASTORAL HISPANA: La promesa se acerca

Dear Friends,

This Fourth Sunday of Advent, we change our focus. The past two Sundays have centered on the ascetic, somewhat fierce figure of John the Baptist. This Sunday we focus on a young, gentle woman, who is about to give birth to a child. Her name is Mary. Our Discussion Questions will guide you during your Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church group.

Mary, the Mother of God

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says this is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. We see her singular role as the Mother of Jesus and we also recognize she has a role in our lives.

It is for that reason, according to Fr. Phil Bloom, we pray the Hail Mary - a biblical prayer that combines the greetings of the Angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth.

Mary as a Model of Faith

Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS points out to us that God choose to enter into our human experience through the person of the Blessed Mother. Her unconditional “yes” to God’s will untangled the knot tied by the sin of Adam and Eve. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio calls the Blessed Virgin Mary the Model of Faith and First Believer.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks us to imagine Mary hastening to her cousin’s house, a long trip, on foot, over dirt and sand and rocks, under the hot sun. She does not spend even a second worrying whether the way is too hard. Everything else is in second place. Mary's free choice to move forward and outward, explains Fr. Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that it all began with Mary. As the mother of our Savior, she is also the most perfect model of fruitfulness. However, we are alsoasked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in this world. So what is God asking of you and me? Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA says it is usually in our daily life that God’s will is revealed to us. So we really need to listen deeply to what God is really asking of us.

Two Mothers and Two Unborns

What excited Mary and Elizabeth, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, was the mystery that they had each in their own way been chosen to be vehicles of God's plan of love. Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, would leap in the womb and point to this Love become flesh. Jesus, Mary's son, would be this love. So, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains, although this Sunday's bible account is ostensibly about the meeting of two mothers,it is really about the meeting of two unborn children. John, himself already a person, salutes not merely a ten day old personless embryo but another genuine person. Just what is today's Gospel telling us through Elizabeth and her unborn son John, asks Fr. James Gilhooley? Human life, "alive, sexed, and complete," is present in every mother's womb from the beginning of her pregnancy.

This brings us into an interesting query by Taylor Marshall. Christ's blood is the price of salvation, the very life of the New and Everlasting Covenant. It is therefore worth asking whether Christ's precious blood ever mixed with Mary's or coursed through her veins. Read his take on this subject here.

Celebrating the Holidays

It's interesting to find out where the Blessed Mother is in the most popular Christmas carols. In looking at the texts of 381 English-language Christmas carols, she appears in 27 percent of them. She’s slightly behind the angels and shepherds (who both are in 28 percent of the songs) but significantly ahead of the wise men (who come in at 13 percent).

This week on Dec. 16, the Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi, the nine-day novena of dawn liturgies and early morning meal, will fill churches from the from far-flung barrios of the Philippines to parishes across the USA. Fr. Ben Alforque, a Filipino missionary in Riverside, CA explains the origins of this centuries-old novena tradition.

From the Vatican, the Pope performed the traditional blessing of the Bambinelli, the figures of the Baby Jesus brought by the children of Rome, which will be placed in the Presipi (creches) of their homes on Christmas. And along the way, he used the moment as a reminder of the scene's import beyond the symbolic sense.

Frank Capra’s classic "It’s A Wonderful Life" seems to have more resonance this year as the country struggles with recession and war. Suzanne Morse reflects on the movie and says it should be aptly renamed "It’s A Wonderful (Catholic Social Justice) Life." And for those who feel the "Happy Holidays" greeting is taking Jesus out of the season, this internet chain email article is for you. It's called "A letter from Jesus about Christmas."

Catholic News

Pope Benedict this week said,"Today there is a danger of forgetting that the Eucharist is truly the risen Christ in his resurrected body." He reminds us al, specially in this Advent season that the Eucharist is not a mere 'rite of socialization'. And completing the work initiated by Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI announced two changes in canon law this week: one regarding marriage for those who have formally renounced the Church and another clarifying the ministry of deacons.

From Washington DC, theUS Bishops reiterated their concern about the Senate's health care proposal. The U.S. episcopal conference sent two letters to lawmakers urging them to respect life, make health care affordable for everyone, and give immigrants access to basic care.

Holiday Gift-Giving

So what do we do with America’s gift-giving extravaganza at Christmas? It’s Jesus’ birthday, but the presents under the tree are the real focus, especially for the kids. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio offers "A Catholic Approach to Holiday Gift-Giving."

Don't expect others to give you a cool gift for Christmas if you don't give cool gifts yourself. You have less than two weeks before Christmas, so take a little more time to make a good gift a GREAT gift. It's not about spending more money, but being creative and working with a theme.

More Holiday Stories

Many inspiring Christmas-related stories are circulating on the web this week and we bring you a couple. One tells of a little boy who climbed up on the lap of a store Santa, holding a picture of a little girl. And the little boy's Christmas wish moved Santa to tears. The other one is a recollection by Senator John McCain of his captivity in North Vietnam. It was the act of kindness by one of his communist guards that made one Christmas day in the hard confines of the POW camp a memorable one for the senator.

For some people, the holidays are all about making the best of a bad situation. Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken or addicted parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore? This article might offer some healing.

And if you have pets, you might like to hold off giving them left-over scraps from the table. Make no bones about it! Holiday meals can kill pets. Which table foods are dangerous to cats and dogs? We tell you.

Finally, join us on a colorful photo journey around the world that depicts how Christmas is celebrated in different places.

Another event-filled week in our Catholic world. Merry Christmas to you all from all of us at

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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