Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“The child grew and became strong."

This Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the Sunday Gospel - and the Discussion Questions we've chosen - the story of the presentation of the child Jesus at the temple in accordance with Jewish tradition is described in detail.

You are receiving a condensed version of this weeks's reflections on the Sunday Readings because most of our ParishWorld staff are gone for the holidays. We will be back with our normal full issue after the holidays.

One of the figures in the Gospel was an old woman named Anna. Though she had witnessed thousands of children being brought to the temple, when she laid her teary eyes on the infant Jesus she knew at once who it was. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains how he could suddenly see that Anna has laid down a condition for each of us who are within a family. Swords will pierce our souls. Maybe if we accept them, they will open our eyes as they did Anna’s. Maybe we will find the God-child in our arms.

We celebrate this Sunday not the feast of the Perfect Family but the fFeast of the Holy Family. Fr. Andrew Greeley explores the Gospel accounts of how ordinary and human the Holy Family seemed to be. Fr. James Gilhooley asks us to consider the consider the teen years of Jesus. Most teens believe they know everything. Can you even speculate how difficult it had to be to raise one who did? Do you still find it difficult to relate with such a family as Jesus, Mary and Joseph?

And Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds all you parents to be the best parents you can be. Remain grounded in the Lord. Make prayer a part of your home life. Pray with your children at bedtime and pray for them after they fall asleep. Teach your children respect. Let them witness your respect for them, for each other, and for others and demand that they respect others, including you. Do your best and trust God to do the rest.

Our Burning Question this week challenges you to read up on the first two chapters of Matthew and discuss the symbolism of the "Adventures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph." Reflect on how their lives relate to your own family life and share your thoughts with us.

Christmas is that time of year again when we spend time watching old Christmas movie classics. And there is no more beloved Christmastime flick than the manly classic, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. It's full of life lessons specially for men. Check out the lessons in manliness that can be gleaned from this classic.

We hope you had a meaningful and blessed Christmas. Enjoy the rest of the holidays and may you have a most Happy and Holy New year.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: How does Matthew explain the infant Jesus is "Special?"
FEATURED BLOG: Lessons in Manliness from It’s a Wonderful Life
RECONCILIATION: A Baghdad Community Lives in Peace, for Now

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.

Wally Arida
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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Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Make straight the way of the Lord"

We have in Sunday’s Gospel, Dec. 14, 2014 - the Third Sunday of Advent - an interesting interrogation. The priests and Levites came out from Jerusalem to find out who this John the Baptist was, and whether he was the Messiah. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

Gaudete. Rejoice.

The third Sunday of Advent is often called "Gaudate" which means, "rejoice". We count it as the mid-point of this season of anticipation. You will notice that the candle we light this Sunday is pink not purple and the priest's stole and other parts of our altar environment are rose suggesting a more rejoicing attitude. And appropriately, Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us that Joy is a decision. St. Paul tells us we will find joy by praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstance and refraining from every kind of evil. Rejoice always.

Fr. John J. Ludvik explains further that Gaudete Sunday invites us into a world of reversals, a world where the captives are freed, where the hungry are filled and where the rich are sent away empty. It is certainly a world where things are turned upside down. In Sunday's Gospel, Fr. John Foley, S. J. points out, the people are hungry for daylight. “Are you the light?” they shouted to John. Will you “bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release the prisoners?” No, he replied, “I am pointing you toward the light. He will be here soon.”

During the season of advent, Christians are asked to light candles as a sign of hope. But lighting a candle in hope is not just a pious, religious act; it’s a political act, a subversive one, and a prophetic one. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says Hope is precisely that, a vision of life that guides itself by God’s promise, irrespective of whether the situation looks optimistic or pessimistic at any given time.

The Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness

Father Cusick quotes the Catechism (CCC719) to explain the messsenger, "John the Baptist is 'more than a prophet.' In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. Like John the Baptist we also have been called to be apostles and witnesses. We have been entrusted with a mission from God, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino tells us. We are created for a purpose.

We were given God's life at baptism so we can share his life with others.“I am the voice crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.” Which way? The only way! Like John, Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS urges us, we prepare the way of the Lord with our lives of holiness and righteousness. There is no other way to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord but to live with Him and in Him.

Knowing that Jesus is Close

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out to us that if we read the Sunday Gospel text very carefully, we will realise that Jesus himself must have been actually present when John the Baptist was cross-examined by the Levites. Why else would John the Baptist say: ‘There stands among you, unknown to you, the one who is coming after me’? The life implication of this gospel passage is ultimate in its significance. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler says it is whether or not we recognize God's coming among us in Jesus Christ.

But whose vision of God is yours? Is it the God of John full of anger? Or does it belong to the Teacher? His is a God anxious to forgive our sins and faults when we get down on our knees and ask for forgiveness in the confessional. Fr. James Gilhooley reminds us that the best eraser in the world is confession to God.

The Immaculate Conception

Last Monday, Dec. 8, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And forty-six years ago yesterday, Pope Paul VI closed the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica along with 2,300 bishops gathered from the entire world. The Council Fathers saved December 8, the day on which they wanted to place everything in Mary’s hands, for something even more special. They solemnly invoked Mary under a new title: Mother of the Church.

The Immaculate Conception is one of the most overlooked and rejected dogmas. But for Benedict XVI, it was so "overwhelmingly obvious" that six years ago he talked about it three times in eight days. Without it, he says, Christian redemption "would lose its foundation." This dogma is also the most misunderstood. While it refers to the Immaculate Conception of the infant Mary, many Catholics mistakenly think it refers to the virginal conception of the Christ Child. Fr. Ryan Erlenbush adds that this common misconception about leads us to a further point of reflection: Was Christ immaculately conceived? His answer to this Christological question will help us to understand the Marian dogma in a new light.

And recalling Thursday's Feast of Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI encouraged

The Season of Advent

It is the most Sacramental season. And there is much in this season of anticipation that resonates deeply with our culture even as it contradicts some of our less noble inclinations. As people concerned with spreading the Good News, Stephen P. White says this should be a consolation to us, an incentive to redouble our efforts.

Taylor Marshall's family found another spiritual way to use Advent. He says if you observe Advent in a certain way, you will not only establish a family altar for the whole year, you will also establish the daily family Rosary. He tells us how they did it. And for converts or anyone else who needs some baby steps to get started celebrating Advent, Catholic convert Jennifer Fulwiler offers eight of her favorite super-simple ideas sent to celebrate Advent. She also talks about one of her favorite holiday traditions. She offers seven good reasons to continue mailing out Christmas cards.

Food-Related Tech Geeks

We close this issue with a nifty article for the cooking geeks among you. Recently Jill Harness featured a microwave that was hacked to play YouTube videos while it cooked food. But for those who want their kitchen hacks to play a direct role in their food preparation, here are ten ideas to get your food-related geek-juices flowing. How about cooking chicken pesto using your office coffee maker.

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: Do Catholics "worship" Mary as we do Jesus?
FEATURED BLOG: The spiritual act of voting in our elections

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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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