Thursday, December 18, 2014
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, December 21, 2014, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.
Also on this last Sunday of Advent we begin more intensively to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. There are the many practical things to do: the buying of presents, the shopping for food and all the necessities of a great feast. But we do not forget that this great feast is in honor of the Lord and we take time to prepare ourselves spiritually as well.
God's Promise to David
Sunday’s Scripture texts describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. From the First Reading, David expresses his sincere desire to build a temple for God but it is actually God who will build his own house and establish a great family of descendents: the House of David. Fr. John J. Ludvik say this meant God would actually become personally present among humankind through David’s descendant, Jesus the Messiah.
The amazing thing about this promise by God is that it does not depend on David's worthiness. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. In the Psalms we hear echoes of David's repentance. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains that we ourselves are indeed spiritual descendents of David. And Fr. Phil Bloom says there is also a message here for us: Not to go out and sin, but to know that every day we depend on God's mercy - and his promise.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." For nearly two millennia Catholics, and other Christians, have committed to memory these words of the angel Gabriel as they pore devotedly over the sacred scriptures. The angelic salutation, now incorporated into the prayer of the Hail Mary, is sent up to heaven millions of times each day from every corner of the globe. Father Cusick says our frequent repetition of these words can dull our sense of awe for the fantastic event which they announced: the incarnation of God.
Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. points out for us the fact that when considered specifically as the mother of our Savior, Mary is also the most perfect model of fruitfulness. Mary models for us a life that is wonderfully fruitful through loving concern for the welfare and happiness of others. And the challenge we face according to Fr. John Foley, S. J. is this: How much do you and I listen to the voice of God’s promise, written in our hearts? Do our words and actions tumble out without reference to that unwavering love deep within?
The Word Became Flesh
Our Readings this Sunday place us at the origin of the human existence of the Word of God. The word became flesh in Mary’s womb. One does not require a massive brainpan to conclude that the awesome entry of God into the body of an itinerant preacher named Jesus of Nazareth was no hit and run accident. It was set from day one. Fr. James Gilhooley explains that for God the long journey was part of the gift to us.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser discusses the virgin birth. He said it should invite imitation rather than admiration. What is at issue, he points out, is not celibacy rather than sex but patience rather than impatience. It is about accepting to live in tension rather than capitulating and compensating in the face of unrequited desire. Paul Dion, STL meanwhile answers a question frequentl;y asked: Was the Blessed Virgin Mary a Virgin Forever? ...
Meanwhile, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. explains that The Word came to Mary looking for far more than accommodation. He became flesh of her flesh. That means our flesh, human nature. This means whatever God the Father gave His Only-Begotten Son in human nature, He gave all this to all of us. The Annunciation therefore is not to Mary alone, but to you and me. Each one of us has part of God's plan. We are not merely part of the audience. We are actors in the eternal Christmas pageant. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that like Mary, we can make the spiritual physical. No, we can’t give birth to the Savior, but we can make His Presence a reality in the world.
It is a continuing miracle that the whole world pauses to celebrate at Christmas. Far more marvelous is the blessed Christian for whom the lights, festive parties and gift-giving are only signs of the real source of abiding joy: the gift of Jesus, "He who saves his people from their sins." Prepare well for a truly merry, blessed, 'Christ-Mass'.
Preparing for Christmas
We recall this Christmas message from Pope Benedict two years ago when he said Christmas is not a fairy tale for children. It's a message that's equally valid today. Christmas is much more than the season of Santa Claus and sugar plums. It is God's answer to mankind's yearning for peace.
Meanwhile, Msgr. Charles Pope discusses the many paradoxes and seeming impossibilities in the incarnation. He reminds us that as mysteries they cannot be fully solved, so they claim our reverence. As we approach Christmas lists some of the paradoxes of Christmas, saying as little of them as possible, just enough to make the paradox clear. And do you know the twelve days of Christmas? It starts on the evening of Christmas Day and end on the morning of Epiphany (January 6th).
And Dr. Lilles offers a pathway for prayer in Advent. He reminds us that Advent is a time for opening our hearts to the Lord with contrition-filled prayer. It is the most important thing we can do to prepare for the joy of Christmas. He says not to do so is to prefer to live in self-contradiction, a cold dark misery not worthy of human dignity.
Celebrating the Holidays
Jennifer Fulwiler was doing Christmas cards this week when she catches sight of a certain person’s name and address, about half way down the third page of labels. Every time she see it, she winces because it reminds her of just how unsaintly she can sometimes be. This is a story about what hitting reply to an email instead of forward taught her about sin. And if you ever get in the same bind, here's a video that will tell you how to quickly untangle it.
It’s Christmas, so we’re singing carols. But the Blessed Virgin Mary merits only passing mention in a few carols or—even better—no mention at all in most. Michael Linton looks into it for us. Also, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is one of the most popular Christmas songs today. Do you know the story behind the song? This popular Christmas song's plea for peace is as relevant today as when it was written—during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As you ponder what presents to give friends and family, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio's helpful thoughts offer a Catholic approach to holiday gift-giving. Similarly, Fr. Peter deSousa suggests that we share the gift of love with those who are lonely, suffering or in need.
Finally, this time of year, it's not out of this world to hear about generous folks going around and dropping coins in parking meters or picking up a round of drinks for strangers at the bar. But some truly secret Santa has helped out three Michigan Kmart customers by picking up their layaway tabs. Really.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Was the Blessed Mother a Virgin Forever?
FEATURED BLOG: The New Translation: What's Changed and Why
PASTORAL HISPANA: Maria la Virgen del Adviento
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