Year A – Fest of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Zechariah 2:14-17 or Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Judith 13:18bcde, 19 (R/. 15:9d); Luke 1:39-47Image

A few days after celebrating Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we honor her as Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The feast of Mary’s being conceived without sin can seem to separate her from us as the sinless one, but today reminds us that this privilege only served to make her close to us.  Because she was the mother of Jesus, she is now mother to all God’s children, especially the poor and most abandoned.

When Mary appeared to a poor native convert, Juan Diego, she asked him to go to the bishop and tell him that she wished a chapel be built to which all peoples would come to worship, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, the mighty and the lowly – and know each other as God’s children.  She is truly the mother of the Church, of God’s pilgrim people.  The Gospel presents Mary’s great song of joy, praising God not only for what God has done for her, having looked with favor on her, but for also what God will do through Jesus: lift up the lowly, cast down the mighty from their thrones, fill the hungry with good things.

What does Mary want to bring together in our day?

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How December 25 Became Christmas

ImageChristmas is coming, along with many atheistic notions that the reason we celebrate Christmas on December 25th is so that it coincides with a Roman Pagan holiday.  This, however, is not true.

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.  March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.  Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year.  Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

Read on here for more…

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Year A – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 9, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; cf. Luke 1:28; Luke 1:26-38

God’s word gives us two vivid images of the relationship we can have with God.  A shadow has fallen over Eden with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, their no to God’s command.  After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit that the serpent promised would make them like God, knowing good and evil, all they discovered was that they were naked.  They had broken not their bond with God but with each other and with creation.  Notice how mutual blame and suspicion have entered the world.  Soon they will be barred from Paradise.

With Mary’s yes, a new day has dawned.  The communion with God that was lost has been reestablished.  Mary’s consenting word built a bridge over the divide when she answered the Angel Gabriel, “Be it done to me according to your word.”  Today’s feast celebrates the gift of intimacy that Mary shared with God since the moment of her conception.  It also signals to us that God wishes to bless us with every blessing in the heavens, for God has chosen us in Christ.

How can you respond to God’s invitation to deeper intimacy?

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Bare Minimum Checklist for Heaven

An excellent homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A, from Father John Reutemann of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, titles “Bare Minimum Checklist for Heaven.”  Do these things, and you will go to heaven!  

http://www.reutepriest.com/2013/12/08/bare-minimum-checklist-for-heaven/

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Year A – Second Sunday of Advent – December 8, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 (R/. cf. 7); Romans 15:4-9; Luke 3:4, 6; Matthew 3:1-12

Advent is a season that set before us visionaries like the poet-prophet Isaiah, the preacher-missionary Paul, and the herald-prophet John the Baptist.  Each offers us a vision of God’s good creation coming together in unity.  For Isaiah, it is all creation – human and animal; for Paul, it is the church in Rome “thinking in harmony with one another;” for John it is the Promised One coming to gather the good wheat into his barn, God’s harvest, which is the children of the kingdom.

We are brought together each Sunday to think, live, pray, and sing in harmony to the gracious God who continues to come to us in Jesus Christ, the One who came in the power of the Holy Spirit, an who continues to come in God’s Word and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The risen Lord draws us more deeply into communion with the Father and with one another.

How can you help bring about God’s dream for a renewed and unified creation?

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St. Nicholas, Bishop

The veneration with which this saint has been honored in both East and West, the number of altars and churches erected in his memory, and the countless stories associated with his name all bear witness to something extraordinary about him. Yet the one fact concerning the life of Nicholas of which we can be absolutely certain is that he was bishop of Myra in the fourth century. According to tradition, he was born at Patara, Lycia, a province of southern Asia Minor where St. Paul had planted the faith. Myra, the capital, was the seat of a bishopric founded by St. Nicander. The accounts of Nicholas given us by the Greek Church all say that he was imprisoned in the reign of Diocletian, whose persecutions, while they lasted, were waged with great severity. Some twenty years after this he appeared at the Council of Nicaea,[1] to join in the condemnation of Arianism. We are also informed that he died at Myra and was buried in his cathedral. Such a wealth of literature has accumulated around Nicholas that we are justified in giving a brief account of some of the popular traditions, which in the main date from medieval times. St. Methodius, patriarch of Constantinople towards the middle of the ninth century, wrote a life of the saint in which he declares that “up to the present the life of the distinguished shepherd has been unknown to the majority of the faithful.” Nearly five hundred years had passed since the death of the good St. Nicholas, and Methodius’ account, therefore, had to be based more on legend than actual fact.

He was very well brought up, we are told, by pious and virtuous parents, who set him to studying the sacred books at the age of five. His parents died while he was still young, leaving him with a comfortable fortune, which he resolved to use for works of charity. Soon an opportunity came. A citizen of Patara had lost all his money and his three daughters could not find husbands because of their poverty. In despair their wretched father was about to commit them to a life of shame. When Nicholas heard of this, he took a bag of gold and at night tossed it through an open window of the man’s house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was quickly married. Nicholas did the same for the second and then for the third daughter. On the last occasion the father was watching by the window, and overwhelmed his young benefactor with gratitude.

It happened that Nicholas was in the city of Myra when the clergy and people were meeting together to elect a new bishop, and God directed them to choose him. This was at the time of Diocletian’s persecutions at the beginning of the fourth century. The Greek writers go on to say that now, as leader, “the divine Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with other Christians. But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas.” St. Methodius adds that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as a death-dealing poison.” He does not speak of Nicholas’ presence at the Council of Nicaea, but according to other traditions he was not only there but went so far in his indignation as to slap the arch-heretic Arius in the face! At this, they say, he was deprived of his episcopal insignia and imprisoned, but Our Lord and His Mother appeared and restored to him both his liberty and his office. Nicholas also took strong measures against paganism. He tore down many temples, among them one to the Greek goddess Artemis, which was the chief pagan shrine of the district.

Nicholas was also the guardian of his people in temporal affairs. The governor had been bribed to condemn three innocent men to death. On the day fixed for their execution Nicholas stayed the hand of the executioner and released them. Then he turned to the governor and reproved him so sternly that he repented. There happened to be present that day three imperial officers, Nepotian, Ursus, and Herpylion, on their way to duty in Phrygia. Later, after their return, they were imprisoned on false charges of treason by the prefect and an order was procured from the Emperor Constantine for their death. In their extremity they remembered the bishop of Myra’s passion for justice and prayed to God for his intercession. That night Nicholas appeared to Constantine in a dream, ordering him to release the three innocent officers. The prefect had the same dream, and in the morning the two men compared their dreams, then questioned the accused officers. On learning that they had prayed for the intervention of Nicholas, Constantine freed them and sent them to the bishop with a letter asking him to pray for the peace of the world. In the West the story took on more and more fantastic forms; in one version the three officers eventually became three boys murdered by an innkeeper and put into a brine tub from which Nicholas rescued them and restored them to life.

The traditions all agree that Nicholas was buried in his episcopal city of Myra. By the time of Justinian, some two centuries later, his feast was celebrated and there was a church built over his tomb. The ruins of this domed basilica, which stood in the plain where the city was built, were excavated in the nineteenth century. The tremendous popularity of the saint is indicated by an anonymous writer of the tenth century who declares: “The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, in the country and the town, in the villages, in the isles, in the farthest parts of the earth, his name is revered and churches are erected in his honor.” In 1034 Myra was taken by the Saracens. Several Italian cities made plans to get possession of the relics of the famous Nicholas. The citizens of Bari finally in 1087 carried them off from the lawful Greek custodians and their Moslem masters. A new church was quickly built at Bari and Pope Urban II was present at the enshrining of the relics. Devotion to St. Nicholas now increased and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.

The image of St. Nicholas appeared often on Byzantine seals. Artists painted him usually with the three boys in a tub or else tossing a bag of gold through a window. In the West he has often been invoked by prisoners, and in the East by sailors. One legend has it that during his life-time he appeared off the coast of Lycia to some storm-tossed mariners who invoked his aid, and he brought them safely to port. Sailors in the Aegean and Ionian seas had their “star of St. Nicholas” and wished one another safe voyages with the words, “May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.”

From the legend of the three boys may have come the tradition of his love for children, celebrated in both secular and religious observances. In many places there was once a year a ceremonious installation of a “boy bishop.” In Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands gifts were bestowed on children at Christmas time in St. Nicholas’ name. The Dutch Protestant settlers of New Amsterdam made the custom popular on this side of the Atlantic. The Eastern saint was converted into a Nordic magician (Saint Nicholas—Sint Klaes—Santa Claus). His popularity was greatest of all in Russia, where he and St. Andrew were joint national patrons. There was not a church that did not have some sort of shrine in honor of St. Nicholas and the Russian Orthodox Church observes even the feast of the translation of his relics. So many Russian pilgrims came to Bari in Czarist times that the Russian government maintained a church, a hospital, and a hospice there. St. Nicholas is also patron of Greece, Apulia, Sicily, and Lorraine, of many cities and dioceses. At Rome the basilica of St. Nicholas was founded as early as the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century. In the later Middle Ages four hundred churches were dedicated to him in England alone. St. Nicholas’ emblems are children, a mitre, a vessel.

Notes:

1 Nicaea was a city in Bithynia, now northwestern Turkey, a short distance south of Constantinople. The Council of Nicaea, in 325, was the first ecumenical church council, and was called by the Emperor Constantine to bring about agreement on matters of creed. For more on Arianism, see below, St. Athanasius, n. 6.

This was taken from “Lives of Saints”, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

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Year A – First Sunday of Advent – December 1, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:11-14; cf. Psalm 85:8; Matthew 24:37-44

Having something to look forward to brings hope into our lives.  Having something good coming in our future helps us to move through difficult times and to bear suffering more peacefully.  Advent begins by holding up what believers have to look forward to at the end of time, and at the end of one’s own time on earth.  The prophet Isaiah expresses it as people gathering on God’s holy mountain to be instructed by God and to live in peace.

In the second reading, Paul instructs us that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” so we should “conduct ourselves properly as in the day.”

In the Gospel, Jesus also calls us to live in a way expectant of the Second Coming of the Son of Man.  He warns that it will come “at an hour you do not expect.”  This notion brings fear to some, but for those who conduct themselves properly and live as God has commanded, the Second Coming brings something to look forward to with great hope, life in peace with God for eternity.

Do you live trusting that something; rather, Someone good is coming?  If you are fearful, take this time of Advent to reflect on how you can change your outlook to a feeling of hope and anticipation for the Second Coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, for none of us know when he will return, and none of us know when our time on earth will come to an end.  Let us all come into the right relationship with Him so that we may trust in His coming peace.

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Year C – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 24, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 (R/. cf. 1); Colossians 1:12-20; Mark 11:19, 10; Luke 23:35-43

The image of a shepherd became linked to the role of the king in the Old Testament.  David, the youngest son of Jesse, who tended sheep, exalted the Lord through his harp music, and slew Goliath, was destined to become king of Israel.  The leaders of Israel came to David and asked him to shepherd them as king, fulfilling what the Lord had said to David, “You shall shepherd my people Israel and be commander of Israel.”

The life of David foreshadowed the life of Christ:  Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David prefigures Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds of Christ; the betrayal by his trusted counselor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ’s Sacred Passion; finally, many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the Messiah.  Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe is not an earthly king though.  His crown is a crown of thorns, his royal purple robes are draped over his beaten body in mockery, his throne is a cross, and the only jewels he has are the nails that pierce his hands and feet.  They hang a sign on the cross above his head that says, “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum,” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”)  It is through this unearthly image of a king that he shepherds human souls into his kingdom.

Jesus picked up the image of the Good Shepherd in his preaching to human souls and carried it out in his actions as he sought to shepherd his flock into the kingdom, searching out the blind and the deaf, the lame and the sick, the possessed and the grief-stricken.  He became the king of the poor, the weak, and the suffering.  He is our king.  He is not just the king of a nation, or even of the world; he is king of the entire universe.  He is a king so powerful and feared that Herod tried to kill him as a defenseless newborn baby.  He is so powerful that he may shepherd those most astray back to the flock, no matter how far they have gone or how long they have been away.  He gives hope to those most in need and ushers them into his everlasting kingdom.  A kingdom, as he told Pilate, which is not of this world.  He ushers all in like sheep with wool, white and pure.

Even from the cross, Jesus seeks and saves the lost.  Over the heckling of the crowd and the verbal abuse of one of his crucified companions, Jesus responds to the faith of the nameless thief on his other side.  (Tradition calls him Dismas.)  Through his confession, repentance, and spiritual act of mercy by admonishing the sinner, Jesus absolves the criminal, promising him Paradise that day.  Dismas secures his salvation, becoming the first saint of the Church, through his longing for the kingdom and exaltation of Christ as God and King of the Universe.  Even as Jesus is laying down his life for his sheep, he is also carrying one on his shoulders into the kingdom.

How does it help you to see Christ the king as Jesus the shepherd, leading us to green pastures where he feeds us, gives us rest, and finally leads us through the dark valley of death into the kingdom of light and life?

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The whole concept of “Dark Age” is increasingly rejected by scholars

“Far from being a stagnant dark age, the period from 1000 to 1500 AD actually saw the most impressive flowering of scientific inquiry and discovery since the time of the ancient Greeks, far eclipsing the Roman and Hellenic Eras in every respect. With Occam and Duns Scotus taking the critical approach to Aristotle further than Aquinas’ more cautious approach, the way was open for the Medieval scientists of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries to question, examine, and test the perspectives the translators of the Twelfth Century had given them, with remarkable effects”

In this article atheist blogger and founder of “Atheist Foundation” and the “Australian Skeptics” Tim O’Neill Master of Arts in Medieval Literature , is correcting a pseudo-historical misunderstanding called – “dark age”.

http://www.strangenotions.com/gods-philosophers/

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Year C – Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 17, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 (R/. cf. 9); 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:28; Luke 21:5-19

As the end of the liturgical year approaches, the readings call our attention to the “end time,” that “Day of the Lord,” referred to by both Old Testament prophets and most New Testament writings.  Throughout history, groups have predicted the end time was right around the corner.  In our own day, such dates have come and gone.  And we are still here!  Most recently, we all survived the supposed Mayan Apocalypse of December 21, 2012.

It may be more helpful to live aware that, while we do not know when the end of the world will come, we do know that one day we will face our own end, dying to this life as we know it.  We can take comfort in Jesus’ final words today, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  For, if we persevere in faith, hope, and love, and if we strive to bring justice, mercy, forgiveness, and peace into our world, whenever the Day of the Lord comes, we will be counted among the just and experience it as the arrival of “the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  In the meantime, as Paul advises, go about your lives, working quietly to bring about the kingdom of God even now.

How does life’s eventual end influence your days?

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