Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Be vigilant at all times"

Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and begin a whole New Year in the liturgical calendar. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The first two readings for this Sunday, from the prophet Jeremiah and from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, are very, very different from the Gospel, part of the apocalyptical section of the Gospel of Luke. Jeremiah ends his book of gloom and doom with today’s reading speaking about a time of God’s abundant love for his people. Thessalonians also speaks about love. But the Gospel is full of gloom and doom.

The Three Comings of Jesus

If our Church is celebrating the start of a new year, then why is this Gospel all about the End of the World? Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says this is surely one way to set our sights on our goal so that we can lay out our priorities for the coming year. And it is very much in line with the Advent themes of preparing for the "comings of Christ." Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA explains further that there are indeed three comings of Jesus. The First was his being born in Bethlehem, which is what Christmas celebrates. The Third coming will be his coming at the end of time. The Second Coming is right now as each day he comes to us. He knocks on doors of our hearts through others and through the events of our lives.

The End of Our Worlds

The gospel passage surely addresses the terrifying experience of one's world coming to an end. However, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB says it is not only is it about the final end of world. But also about our individual worlds such as our financial security, our marriage, our health, our life in dying. These are terrifying experiences not only because of the physical suffering they may entail, but because the tribulation may lead to despair about the meaning of life itself.

So, is this intended to sow fear? Definitely, says Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS. But not in the sense of being afraid of something. Rather, he says it is the reverential awe of God; a reverence for His power and glory. In other words, the fear of the Lord is a total acknowledgement of all that God is, which comes through knowing Him and His attributes. And with so much stress in our world, society and Church, we need to hear Jesus: "Stand erect, raise you heads, your redemption is at hand." Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that God will fulfill his promise.

A Time to Prepare

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that Advent is simply the Latin word for “coming.” Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us maybe we should look at the things that busy us in December as an analogy. The frantic shopping and card writing, and cooking, are just an analogy of the determined effort we must have to prepare for the Lord. But the finish line is not December 25th. The finish line is the end of our lives or the end of the world, whichever comes first. We must be ready to stand before the Lord.

Advent celebrates human longing. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says it asks us not to deny our longings but to enter them, deepen them, and widen them until we become insane enough for the light so that, like the butterfly, we open ourselves to undergo a metamorphosis. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us that our Lord invites us to quietly prepare our hearts and our lives for the coming of the ever-greater one in the flesh.

The new season confronts us and wakes us from our stupor. It invites each of us to become all that we can be. Fr. James Gilhooley points out that while God does not require us to be the best in the several weeks ahead, Christ surely wants us to try our best. Go back to the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday and pray, Fr. John Foley, S. J. advise each of us. Beg that Christ be given birth in your soul and in so many others in this world that need it so badly.

"Keeping the flames burning"

The local radio stations are already playing Christmas music and everyone is already talking about the "Christmas" season--but it's not yet Christmas. Simcha Fisher explains that one of the great things about any kind of Advent preparation is that, by definition, you have to keep it simple and spare. Taylor Marshall also gives us this week his list of "Top Ten Things to Know about Advent."

And to better brace ourselves for the weeks ahead, the Catholic Spirit newspaper (from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) has this terrific and practical primer on how to give Advent meaning and keep its flame burning.

Called to Be Holy

Bishop Michael J Sheridan explains one of the many achievements of Vatican II -- the council’s teaching on the universal call to holiness. Our Burning Question thjis week touches on this very topic: What is Holiness? Share your answers with us.

The teaching is found primarily in chapter five of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Because the Church is oly by reason of her establishment by Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, so every member of the Church is endowed with that same holiness which belongs to the Church. Holiness is first and foremost an attribute of God Himself, who alone is holy.

Which brings us to Meals and Mass. When Jennifer Fulwiler first converted to Christianity, one of the biggest changes in her daily life was saying a prayer before eating. It's no surprise that almost all major religions take special care to offer thanks to the divine for the privilege of eating. But what is it that makes this particular act so special? She also talks about her recent efforts to dress well for Mass. Noting that when she does make the small sacrifices necessary to transform the way she looks on the outside for Mass, she finds that it transforms her on the inside as well.

When Pat Archbold thinks about him fulfilling his evangelical duty, it conjures images of a man on a soapbox on the corner or walking door to door like the Jehovah Witnesses do. This causes him to get intimidated and then does nothing. So what can a regular Catholic Joe like him do to evangelize? He explains his "Accidental Evangelism." Meanwhile, for thiose intimidated by daily prayer, Simcha Fisher offers this: Ten Silly Reasons You Won't Pray Today (and Why You Should Reconsider).

Letting God Find You

Before her feet touched the floor on January 1st, 2012, Cheryl Dickow offered a simple prayer, "Please Lord, before the year is over, find me where you want me to be." Up to that point, she had been suffering from a decades-long chronic condition and although imagined health in her future, that morning she offered every cell in her body to the Lord. From that point on, all hell broke loose. Now 2013 is upon her. And whatever the new year brings, she is letting God find her. And she is sure God will be listening.

Finally, let's talk about the holidays. It’s that time of year again. The holidays are filled with all sorts of fun activities and while we’re busy shopping and celebrating, there are potential hazards lurking in unexpected places. This is the perfect time to do a few safety checks. We offer a few tips to insure that your holidays are safe and stress free.

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: What is Holiness?
FEATURED BLOG: Why do the souls in purgatory suffer so?
YEAR OF FAITH: "Speaking about God in our times"
PASTORAL HISPANA: Adviento tiempo de contrastes y esperanza

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