Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Rejoice in the Lord always."

This Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, is the Third Sunday of Advent. In the Gospel the people asked John ‘what must we do to prepare for the One who is to come?’ He tells them that it is in their daily life situations that they are expected to act honestly and peaceably for the good of their neighbours as each of us is. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

"Rejoice" Sunday

This Sunday is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’, The name comes from the opening line of the Latin version of today’ second reading, - ‘Rejoice’ or ‘Be happy’. Why all this exultation? Are we finally getting a break from the somberness of Advent? Yes, but there is more to it than that. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us of the importance of us realizing that this joy does not depend on external circumstances, but on the nearness of God. Advent is designed to give a serious electrical shock to one's spiritual nervous system.

Let's all remember that Advent is like a retreat that the worldwide Church is making. Our joy is not in our circumstance. Indeed it is often in spite of our circumstance. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us that we become even stronger and more intimate in times of persecution. And while it is true that Jesus cannot be born again, Fr.James Gilhooley notes that we can. And that really is what Advent is all about.

Rejoice always. Joy is a Christian duty. This Sunday St. John teaches the basic steps to joy. First, strive to keep the moral law. Second, find your proper place in the order of things - above all, in relation to God. And third, practice patient waiting. Joy comes from God, not from our meager efforts. Three things then, Fr.Phil Bloom points out -- good conscience, humility and patience.

"What are we to do?"

In Sunday's Gospel, John the Baptist preached to all including tax collectors and soldiers, and he caused a stir. He had something that they longed to hear, even as they were challenged by his words. Stricken with fear at St. John's message, they asked him, "What are we to do?" Father Cusick narrates how John instructed them to live in charity -- give a coat to him who has none, share your food, act with justice. These are the fruits of the virtue of charity.

But, as Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, the Baptist’s message was a difficult one. It involved real change. It was no mere lip service. The people of various professions that approached John with the question also knew what they had to do. However, they just could not get themselves to doing them. Do all these sound familiar? Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS challenges us all, “Oftentimes the very thing you find difficult to do is the only thing worth doing.

Nowadays when we think of repentance we tend to mean sorrow for sin. We feel remorse or sadness that we have transgressed and wish we had done better. But this is not the way John the Baptist intended. Conversion means a change of perspective, a turning around.

‘The Lord is in your midst’

The key of it all, according to Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA, is found in those insights we find scattered through this Sunday’s liturgy of the word -- ‘The Lord is in your midst’. ‘Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’. 'The Lord is my strength, my song’. 'The Lord is very near’.

And indeed the most ordinary and most surprising way of all that the Lord comes to us is in the reality of the Present Moment. Each moment becomes a sacrament of divine presence if we say in faith, "It is the Lord." Christ was born into our world when, trusting in the Father, he let go of the things of heaven to embrace us. Christ is born in our hearts when, trusting in Christ, we let go of the things of earth that keep us from embracing Him.

Christ is already here. But, still we need to sing: "O come, O come, Emmanuel!" Christmas is upon us. How can we prepare the world for the Kingdom of God? We should rejoice, exclaims Fr.Joseph Pellegrino. And John the Baptist makes it clear. We proclaim the Kingdom in the way we treat others. We should live our lives in the joy of the Lord. Related to this, Fr. John McCloskey offers a number of ways in which we can more fully enter into the spirit of Advent – a spirit of expectation, watchfulness, repentance and joy.

This Advent, may the example of John the Baptist give us the strength and courage necessary to transform our deserts into gardens, and our emptiness into rich Catholic meaning and experience. May the boldness of St. Paul and the example of Mary, Virgin Daughter of Zion, teach us how to rejoice in the Lord, whose coming is very near.

Year of Faith

Benedict XVI sent out his first tweets this week to more than 700,000 inaugural followers. The Twitter account, @pontifex, which was announced Dec. 3 by the Holy See Press Office, is being used as a way for the Holy Father to communicate with the faithful and answer their questions on faith.

The Holy Father also continued with his weekly Wednesday catechesis on the Year of Faith. The phases of Revelation, conveyed in the Scriptures and culminating in the Advent of Jesus Christ, were his themes this week. The Pope renewed his invitation to read the Bible more frequently and to pay closer attention to the readings at Sunday Mass, to provide "valuable nourishment for our faith."

Similarly, Msgr. Charles Pope reminds us how God, like any good Father, tells us our Biblical story and asks us to tell our own children. But he laments that most people no longer “get it” because the whole point has been lost. He says it’s time to rediscover the central element of the “plot” of Sacred Scripture -- Sin. It’s time to speak of it, creatively, in a compelling way to help people rediscover the greatest story ever told.

Meanwhile, the U.S. bishops have announced a five-part pastoral strategy that is aimed at creating a movement dedicated to penance and prayer for a renewed culture of life, marriage and religious freedom. It's not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith.

Hobbits, Holidays & Staying Safe

One of the developing traditions I picked up from my rapidly grown extended family is watching a nice movie together on Christmas Day. And this year, we've all chosen to watch The Hobbit. Bro. Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P. offers us "The Hobbit’s Guide to the Spiritual Life." He says J.R.R. Tolkien imbued meaning and purpose into his literary work. The Hobbit tells the classic adventure story, the kind of story ordinary people naturally crave. And I am one who is surely looking forward to this nice Christmas treat.

Finally, most of us are deep into holiday preparation and festivities by now. Amid all of the hectic activity — decorating, shopping, partying and so on — don’t let your guard down and forget about home security. Here are four tips that may help protect your home, family and belongings throughout the holiday season, and beyond.

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 the Old Testament root of Baptism?
YEAR OF FAITH: "Advent reminds us of God's presence in the world"
FEATURED BLOG: 8 prayers to help you through the workday
PASTORAL HISPANA: Adviento tambien es tiempo de alegria 

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