Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."

This Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, we celebrate the Second Sunday in Advent and the Readings feature John the Baptist. He didn’t look or talk like the Jews of his time. He was not part of the crowd that had always held power. Yet he talked about change. And the people listened, and followed. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

A Voice in Our Broken World

Our American spirit is being tested today. We live in a time of economic gloom, an economic depression that has affected not only our pocket books but our national spirit as well. Where do we look for hope? Has God abandoned us or is God bidding us to look beyond what presently imprisons us in darkness?

John the Baptist faced very similar conditions during his day. And at the very outset, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. points out, Mark declares his gospel to be the "good news." He dares to say this in a world that is broken and weary. Making this all the more marvelous, explains Fr. Charles Irvin, is the fact that God’s only Son entered into this broken humanity. He became fully and truly human in order to share in our darkness, to share in our moments of depression and despair.

A Call to Change

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that the Baptist said the most awful things to his own people. He dared call them “brood of vipers” and said they deserved nothing but destruction. And yet the people flocked to hear him. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says this is because he called out comfort to them. He was preparing the way for the Saviour, for the ultimate gift, the ultimate reception of God’s love.

And change was the heart of the message. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us that if we want change, if we really want the One who will reform the world and return mankind to God’s original plan, then we need to change. Loving and serving the Lord is what we are here for, it is our privileged task. And it is through this, Fr. Alex McAllister, SDS reminds us, that we will be creating that ‘new heaven and a new earth’ that St Peter talks about in the Second Reading.

Advent & the Second Coming

The holy season of Advent, Fr. Peter deSousa reminds us, is a time of waiting with eager expectation for Christmas. Caught between the two comings of Christ, we receive light from the past and the coming of Christ into human history, as well as light from the future at His second coming. Bevil Bramwell, OMI says we need both past and the future – to guide us in the present.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser says it is about intuiting the kingdom of God by seeing, through desire, what the world might look like if a Messiah were to come and, with us, establish justice, peace, and unity on this earth. We mark the historical birth of Christ in a continuing witness of the historicity of our faith. It reminds us, Father Cusick points out, that what we recite in the Creed did indeed really and truly take place.

And we take special efforts in liturgy and life to receive our Lord 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." In the Liturgy, Fr. Phil Bloom sums it up, we gather the strands of our lives. And we do so in a focused way - a way that sets the tone for the entire Mass: To the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Born Again" and Spirituality

As we begin a new liturgical year, and the time of waiting for the Lord in Advent, the theme of pruning has been on Sr. Lisa Marie's mind. Not of roses, however, but of the heart. She offers three lessons she has learned that allow God to be the ‘Gardener’ of our lives. Also, Dawn Eden reminds us all to take advantage of the opportunity for Confession many parishes are offering during Advent. When Christ, acting in and through the ministry of the priest, absolves us, restoring us to His most intimate friendship, He gives graces that help heal even those wounds that were not caused by our own sins.

Why is it that among 'conservative Catholics' there seems to be so little interest in spirituality? We're big on apologetics, dogma, the rules, the rubrics, the regulations and the routine. But Fr. Longenecker thinks we're a little bit scared of spirituality. He offers some good reasons for it. While Deacon Mike Bickerstaff answers a most basic question about us: Are Catholics “Born Again” Christians?

Mark Shea talks about bucket lists (i.e., lists of stuff you should oughtta wanna do before you kick the bucket). So, canny fellow that he is, he put together a bucket list of 10 things a Catholic should oughtta wanna do before he or she takes the dirt nap. While Jennifer Fulwiler talks about one of the practices that was initially most foreign to a new Catholic convert like her - the idea of Sunday being a day of rest. And Father John Flynn, LC talks about why so many 20-something Catholics drop out as they move into adulthood.

Tim Tebow, Hunting Trips and a TV Chef

Delia Smith is one of the most popular TV chefs in the United Kingdom. wants to do for Catholicism what she has done for cooking. A devout Catholic, she said she would like to switch the nation on to spirituality in the same way she has done with cooking.

And then we have Tim Tebow's unconventional life. Before him there have been numerous outspoken Christian sports figures but none have caused the intense interest, following, hatred, and speculation that Tebow has. But why? Is Tebow so fascinating an individual? Or is it because he is so unconventional a figure in American culture today?

We close with an interesting question: Can priests go hunting? Taylor Marshall doesn't know where canon law stands today. But he thought you might find the history of the question to be rather interesting. The Council of Trent provides an answer.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Enjoy the Thanksgiving weeken with your family and loved ones.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What is the Old Testament root of Baptism?
FEATURED BLOG: Why didn't Jesus tell us when He would return?

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