Thursday, December 29, 2011

"He was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel"

This Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, is not only the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, it is also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. It is highly appropriate that the whole Church pauses at the commencement of the New Year to take time to pray for world peace. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Mary, Mother of God

The readings for Sunday are extremely short; probably the shortest in the whole liturgical year, but this does not mean that they are without meaning. This Sunday we see Mary just days after the grueling journey and the amazing birth of Jesus. All is well. The child is healthy and cute, and the angels, unable to contain their joy, have once more danced into Mary’s life. Even the animals understand. It is breathtaking.

When we look at how Mary gave birth to Jesus, we can see that there are four moments in the process: Impregnation by the Holy Spirit; gestation of God within one’s body and soul; the stretching and agony of giving birth; and the nurturing of an infant into adulthood. Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains to us what is implied in each of these.

Does this all impinge on Mary’s peace? No, says Fr. John Foley, S. J. She is good to her word. The Gospel says that she quietly "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Mary was a woman of complete faith. Fr. Joseph Pelligrino points out that she had faith that somehow God would care for her in her pregnancy, in the childbirth, throughout her life, and at the foot of the cross. She had faith that His plan was working through this wonderful child of the common life.

Father Cusick reminds us that we therefore proclaim and preach the marvel God has brought forth in her, granting her a unique role in our redemption as "Mother of God". And so as we honor Mary on this day as Mother of God, we recall that during the Second Vatican Council Paul VI called her Mother of the Church. Fr. John J. Ludvik tells us that today we are reminded that all Christians too have conceived Christ in their hearts and are called to bring him forth into the world.

So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate January 1, the Octave of Christmas, as a holy day of celebration, the Feast of Mary the Mother of God? Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas. Jesus is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

The New Year & World Day of Peace

The fresh New Year is in some ways like the infant Jesus "wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains that both the new year and the new child seem so vulnerable but the almighty power of God is hidden in the new year, just as it is in the tiny infant. God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of his ever present and constant love.

As we begin the New Year, we focus on the First Reading from the Book of Numbers and Fr. Phil Bloom asks us to make this resolution: Bless those who are close to you. At first it may be awkward to do so, but at least begin with a blessing in your heart. And in celebration of World Day of Peace, Fr. Alex McAllister says we should pray for peace - peace in our hearts, peace in our communities, peace in the world. In the words of the Book of Numbers let us pray that ‘the Lord will uncover his face to you and bring you his peace.’

Celebrating the New Year

Around this time of year, we see on TV and the Internet all sorts of lists of the most memorable events of the past year, as we try to put the past year in perspective. It's another New Year. But for what reason, asks Jamieson the Wolf?

So Leon Suprenant list his seven reasons why January 1st itself is of significance. While George Weigel, on the other hand, talks about his long-standing aversion to making a Big Deal out of New Year’s Eve. He explains why he feels going bonkers over the turn of the civil calendar is giving a bit more to Caesar than Caesar has a right to receive.

In the new year, why not set out to do a little memorizing — not only of Scripture — but of key phrases from the Catechism that “speak” to you? Pat Gohn named her favorite 25 lines that capture the essence of the first 1000 paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And Jerome Placido offers solid advice to the youth in our communities: Make each day of the New Year a conversion story.

New Year Resolutions

Whatever your plans for New year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the beginning of a new calendar year invites us to reflect on the past and focus on the future. At the New Year’s Eve dinner party Danielle Bean hosts nearly every year, she subject friends and family alike to her list of discussion questions. She usually winds up sharing a little and laughing a lot. You can use her list (or make your own!) for personal reflection or family discussion.

And with the New Year comes new hope for a new beginning. Melissa Knoblett-Aman says a new beginning is a perfect time to decide to strengthen your Catholic faith life. Listen to the inner voice that calls us to do good and avoid evil and to the church’s moral teaching that helps spell out what is good and what is evil in practical terms. Then, Francis Cardinal George, OMI adds, pray for strength from God to change your activities.

And what life changes do you want to make in the New Year? What is your New Year's resolution for the New Year? Are you one who is looking to land a new job in the New Year? If you are, experts say you should be deliberate in deciding what you want and how to achieve it. And if you are one looking to make a financial resolution for the New Year, know that such resolutions have more often than not traditionally failed each year. Being realistic and sharing goals with others can help limit disappointment.

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: Is it a sin to wear a rosary as jewelry?
FEATURED BLOG: Did the Holy Innocents die baptized?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Santa Maria como madre de Dios es un regalo para la Iglesia

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

"And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."

The joy and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, born for us, be with you! This Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011, we celebrate Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The meaning for us of Luke's Christmas story is completed by the prologue of John's gospel read at Mass During the Day (Jn 1:1-18). Christ is born of Mary so that he might be born and live in us. Those who accept the Word who became flesh become the children of God, not by natural generation, but by divine grace. The good news of Christmas will not be fully realized until we can say with Saint Paul: "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

We are short-staffed because of the holidays but your ParishWorld still comes with a full complement of relevant articles for Christmas Day, one of the most blessed of all holy days.

The Meaning of Christmas

A full section of the many Christmas Mass homilies we have prepared for you can be found here in this link. From the Vatican, Pope Benedict preaches that Christmas is more than just an anniversary. We also bring back an address he made a few years back where he explained why Chrsitmas trees are part of our tradition. As well as another piece where the pontiff reiterates that Christmas is not a fairy tale for children. And Fr. Peter de Souza reflecs on why the gift of life is the Christmas celebration.

Why do we go to Midnight Mass? Sr. Anne explains its biblical roots. How did December 25 become Christmas? We have the answer here. Plus we list for you the twelve daily celebrations of Chrismastide, the season of Christmas from Dec. 25, Christmas Day, to Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany.

Celebrating the Holidays

Are you offended by the term "Xmas?" Should you? We explain to you the meaning of the term and why it's best you fight biogger battles instead. Like using the greeting "Merry Christmas" instead of the politically correct "Happy Holidays" that's being promoted by our secular society. We bring you seven reasons why Merry Christmas will always beat Happy Holidays. TV and media personality Ben Stein also chimes in on the topic. A Jew, he highlights that he himself doesn't get offended by the greeting as he offers this reflection on God, Christmas and our way of life.

There’s nothing quite like this wonderful time of year to gather round with the family and sit by the warming roar of a television set. Christmas has inspired some of the finest cinematic classics – as well as things like Jingle All the Way. Here's a list of the Top 5 christmas movies. Pluswe picked  some holiday videos that will surely kick the Chrtistmas spirit into high gear. Thje forst is a rousing albeit slighly irreverent rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Followed by a really cute Nativity Story told by some young school children from New Zealand.

Arwen Moser talks about their family's holiday picture tradition. While Life Teen offers gift-giving suggestions that can result in cool holiday gifts with just little investments of time and love. Finally, we take you around the world with a grand slide show that illustrates the grandeaur and challenges of the holy season.

Merry Christmas! May the love that Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced during that first Christmas Day fill your home with blessings, happiness and goodwill.

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: Why was Jesus born in a manger?
FEATURED BLOG: What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?
PASTORAL HISPANA: Navidad es la fiesta de la luz de Cristo

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