Thursday, December 12, 2013

“What did you go out to the desert to see?"

This Sunday - the Third Sunday in Advent - is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. And it takes it's name from the opening antiphon: 'Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice, the Lord is near.' Our Discussion Questions will guide your Online Sunday Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church groups.

This week we also celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The readings show God transforming despair into joy. He did it when he "ransomed" the Israelites and crowned them with everlasting joy. He did it for John as he sat in the darkness of Herod's prison. Fr. Phil Bloom adds that God also did it for the Aztec people when he sent them a beautiful lady. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe brought them immense consolation and hope.

Gaudete Sunday - A cause for rejoicing

The readings, particularly the Gospel, express this theme of rejoicing at the imminent coming of the Lord. John's disciples ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come. 'Look around you', they are told. 'The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy are those who believe.' These events really are a cause for rejoicing; the Lord has come and is working miracles among us. Our salvation is at hand.

The readings force us to ask ourselves: What makes us happy, really happy? What really makes for lasting happiness? Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that happiness is found in relationship. And the greatest relationship we can possibly have is the one that brings us the greatest joy. Real happiness comes from the encounter with God.

Father Cusick points out how the disciples of John come to him to hear his testimony. Because they are open to the truth, they will hear and believe. They will know the power, peace and joy of the kingdom. They had faith, like John the Baptist had faith. And, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. reminds us, that only if we are able, like John, to be freed of our own expectations, will we be able to welcome the coming of the Lord and his way of love.

There would be no substitute for raw faith either for John or anyone else down through the centuries, Fr. James Gilhooley explains. Through our waiting we find that, tiny as we are, still, through gift, we have an openness to the real and consoling presence of God. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says there's no need to dress in fine clothing or live in royal palaces. Become yourself and be content. Be patient.

Advent invites us to ask about salvation over and over. Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB reminds us that sometimes we are so caught up in religious words that we overlook the simple reality: salvation is to share in God's life and not be imprisoned in our own. Jesus came to give hope to all people whose lives were thought to be permanently tainted by illness, injury, sin and sadness. College student Caroline Seroka highlights the fact that God has already come to save us and will come to save us again so that, as the first reading says, “they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser expresses the meaning of Advent as preparing for the sublime. But for something to be sublime there must first be sublimation; fasting is the necessary prelude to feasting; greatness of soul is contingent on first nobly carrying tension; great joy is not experienced if one is not first properly prepared; and what’s truly divine can only appear after a certain kind of gestation. Advent is about proper waiting.

No room for compromise

There is no room for compromise. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that we are either for Jesus and his kingdom or against it. We either give him our full allegiance and submission or we hold on to the reigns of running life as we want it to go.

So this week let us carve out some spiritual space in our lives where we can strip away the false things that cling to us and breathe new life into our dreams and begin again. In the midst of the desert, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB assures us, we hear what God will do if we open our hearts to him and allow him to make our own deserts bloom. What God does to the southern desert of Israel, God will do for us: transform our barrenness into life, and trace a highway and a holy way in places we believed to be lifeless and hopeless.

Are we on the Highway of Holiness? Are we making progress on it? Are we enjoying the travel? Are we inviting others to join us on the way?

Meditations on Advent

Here is the Advent reflection delivered Friday by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, for Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia. The talk was titled: "The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientistism."

And you must have noticed that “It’s Getting Late Very Early These Days.” It's also the title of another stirring Advent meditation from Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington DC.

Immaculate Conception & Vatican II

On December 8, our Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It was also the anniversary of the most important event in the history of Christianity since the Reformation and the Council of Trent. Forty-eight years ago on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Paul VI closed the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica along with 2,300 bishops gathered from the entire world.

Pope Benedict said three years ago on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that the day honoring Mary should give Christians “comfort” and remind them that God's mercy “is more powerful than evil.” In this Feast, then, we celebrate three things: the glory given to Mary, the free choice of God to save us, the divine being of Jesus – like all those originally connected with this event, we rejoice and are thankful, and reflect in wonder.

The word “Immaculate” doesn’t simply mean “perfectly clean,” as we tend to think from its use in real estate ads, but “unstained.” Catholic blogger David Mills says the doctrine emphasizes Mary’s freedom from moral corruptionnot, and this is the crucial point, what she is in herself but what she is by the grace of God.

And allow us to add a twist to the converastion with our Burning Question this week: Was the Blessed Virgin Mary a Virgin Forever? Did Jesus have brothers as some Evangelicals often point out in their interpretation of the Bible? Join the discussion.

Also three years ago this week, the Church officially recognized the 1859 Marian apparition at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, WI. Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay announced the decision this week. Our Lady of Good Help at Champion becomes the first and only site in the United States of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Baptism, Prayers & More

Reflecting on this Sunday's Readings, Fr. Alex McAllister says we realise with hindsight just how fitting it was that Jesus himself was Baptised. He entered into our lives so fully and shows us so clearly the way to go. We must be Baptised as he was Baptised, we must undergo a Passion just as he underwent a Passion; and we will rise to new life like him, the new life he won for us.

Now let's turn ourt attention to Prayer. How do you think of prayer? Is it another thing you “have to do” among many other things on your list? Or is prayer a time where you refrain from doing? Is prayer a requirement you regret or a rest that you relish? What is prayer for you? Msgr. Charles Pope offers answers to these pointed questions. And offers sound advice.

And as schools face many final exams starting this week, here are some "Prayers for Students and Tests." St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of students, so it is a common practice to ask for his intercession and use prayers that he wrote. Plus a few other meditative ones.

Anglican Conversion, Finding Molly & More

In recent years, many Anglican priests and bishops converted to the Catholic faith. Here's an intensely touching detail from the final Anglican sermon of the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, delivered last week at St John the Evangelist, New Hinksey, Oxford. At the end of the service, Bishop Burnham – who will be ordained into the Ordinariate as a Catholic priest – “laid aside his crozier and mitre at the feet of Our Lady”. Here is his sermon.

Marcel from Aggie Catholics Blog talks about the past death of his sister. Like many who suffer pain and grief, he found himself asking many questions on faith. Have you ever felt that God just wasn't interested in your problems? Have you ever felt God was distant and unaccessible? Have you ever thought maybe God is just a myth, because He just doesn't seem to care? He talks about his pain and his loss in "Where Are You God?"

Finally, let us all praise God on this Gaudete Sunday. We thank him for all he has done for us. We rejoice that through the coming of his Son Jesus we have been saved. We do what we can to imitate his life, to follow his Gospel of love. We join together to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing the bread that is his body and the wine that is his blood. We take seriously his plea to the Father: 'May they be one, Father, even as you and I are one.'

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

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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