Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son"

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent we change our focus from John the Baptist to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

Joseph and Christmas

In the drama of the incarnation, Jesus is, of course, the star. The co-star, though, is definitely mom. Without her love and labor, the event could not have happened. But there is a best supporting actor in the drama as well. Joseph was the silent man of the New Testament. True, Joseph was not the biological father. He does not speak one word in the scriptures and yet, explains Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Joseph had a crucial role in the great mystery of the incarnation.

He spares Mary embarrassment, he names the child as his own, and he provides an accepted physical, social, and religious place for the child to be born and raised. Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that in essence what Joseph teaches us is how to live in loving fidelity to all that we cling to humanly and religiously - even as we are open to a mystery of God that takes us beyond all the categories of our religious practice and imagination. Isn't that one of the ongoing challenges of Christmas?

Fr. Alex McAllister expands our reflection on Joseph. He says perhaps in today's era of fused families and changing social dynamics, we need to look more at the role of Joseph as foster father and think about those who have accepted parental responsibilities in all kinds of circumstances. Anyone in this role needs support and good role models.

Mary is "ever-virgin"

We also reflect upon Mary in this Sunday's Scriptures. Father Cusick says the deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth 'did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.'  So, yes, we do honor Mary. We do pay particular attention to her. We do make a big deal about her. Fr. Phil Bloom says it's because she was the closest to Jesus - and she suffered greatly with him.

Fear Not All You Josephs

Joseph was confused, as we often are. He heard an angel say, “Do not be afraid.” Fr. John Foley, S. J. says the angel's message fit right into the design of the saintly man's life with God. In this Gospel, we learn that God takes charge in really critical situations and that we are asked to acquiesce in His assertion of divine control.  Joseph trusted God's mysterious ways and found incredible blessing in what he had not planned. And so he followed, explains Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm.

College student Jimmy Starke says the message is not only trusting in God’s work at some time in the past or future, but the message is to trust in the work of God in our lives today. Can we love others as they deserve to be loved? Will we be hurt in return? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says these are the questions that Joseph asked himself as he stirred in his sleep. And Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. asks us the same question of us today. Are we ready to believe in the promises of God, even when faced with perplexing circumstances and what seems like insurmountable problems?

So as we come to the end of Advent, Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB reminds us that each one of us are challenged to listen to God's Word and to understand how this word works in Scripture and in our personal lives. And know that we cannot respond to this challenge without a daily reading of some small portion of Scripture.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of the Scriptures

Our Burning Question this week challenges you to review the Chosen People's most glorious, and notorious, adventures that are experienced by Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the first two chapters of Matthew. Join our discussion: How does Matthew let us know that Jesus is "Special?"

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB actually provides some of the answers to our Burning Question. He points out that Matthew's entire Gospel is about the scriptures being fulfilled in Jesus. In the genealogy (1:1-17), Jesus is the culmination point toward which Israel's long covenant history has been leading. The birth of Christ brings the infinite God within reach of finite man. We must tell others of Jesus. But firstly, Fr. James Gilhooley urges us, allow Him to be born in you. He can't be born again, but we can.

It's the Season of Advent

As we enter the last few days before we rightly give our hearts over to the joy of Christmas, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. of Denver reminds us that we might take a few minutes in prayer over two brief passages from the past about the meaning of Advent. He points out this lesson for Advent: Christ comes so the world may be shaken.

From the Vatican, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said that a renewed faith in eternal life is one of the keys to the New Evangelization. The preacher of the Pontifical Household offered this suggestion during the second of three Advent sermons that he gav ethree years ago in the presence of the Pope and the Roman Curia.

Christmas is Upon Us

Christmas is in the air. But , do we really need Christmas? The answer is yes, says Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas. We need Christmas because we can’t see the invisible. Christmas is a sign of God’s immeasurable love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” John 3:16

And as the secular celebrations heighten, Santa Claus is back in the limelight. The real St. Nicholas was nothing close to the St. Nick (Santa Claus) of the modern age. He was a thin curmudgeonly man with a zeal for the Lord that caused flairs of anger. Compromise was unknown to him. The saint's slow transformation into “Jolly ole’ Saint Nicholas is a remarkable recasting of him centuries in the making.

You also must be receiving cards the abbreviated "Xmas" instead of Christmas. But is this abbreviation really a secular slight of christmas? Msgr. Charles Pope advises us to avoid being too easily offended. In the end, perhaps a middle ground regarding the term “Xmas.” Avoid its use but do not easily take offense regarding it either. There are bigger battles.

And the gifts need to be wrapped. Paul Dion, STL offers thoughts about his Gifting Philisophy. "Shake it, shake it, shake it!," he said, " I have decided to give you my life long thought on gift giving." Question to be resolved: Is it a gift or a donation?

And what about the Christmas cards? It’s a multi-part process: writing the accompanying letter, ordering the cards, making sure we have enough stamps, actually stuffing and addressing the pile that seems to grow as we work. But for Arwen Mosher, by far the most daunting part is obtaining the dreaded Christmas Card Picture.

Spiritual Directors, Family Life & More

December 14th was the Feast of St. John of the Cross, the spiritual director of St. Theresa de Avila. She was 52 and he was only 25. Recognizing the importance of spiritual direction and the lofty qualities required of a director, what ought we do if we cannot find a spiritual director? This story gives you answers.

 Judith Costello, a member of the ParishWorld family of Catholic bloggers blogs about relationships, creativity, lessons from the barnyard animals and the power of prayer - with a hint of humor. Her column is titled "Mysteries of Parenting." And as the Advent season unfolds, her initial post looks to the Holy Family and the new challenges at her house - animal deaths and computer problems. Lots of ending and opportunities for new beginnings.

Meanwhile Bo Sanchez posts a blog he calls "What Award Do You Want To Receive?" He recalls the story of a close friend's dad who passed away. The man was 82 years old and he worked until he was 81 years old. Because of his dedication to his work, he was financially successful. But behind all this success, this man died with a deep regret. Because some years ago, his wife passed away. And they had lots of unaccomplished things in their Bucket List.

Let us all celebrate Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, with joyful hearts and let us renew our faith and hope in God and in his redeeming work.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: How does Matthew show that the infant Jesus is "Special?"
FEATURED BLOG: Gifting Philisophy: Gift or Donation?
PASTORAL HISPANA: San Jose - El hombre justo del evangelio 

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