Laying the Groundwork / Poner el Cimiento

Advent is such a beautiful time for us as Catholics to pause and reflect on where we are at in our life of faith. It is a time of expectancy, of watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus not only at Christmas but also for His Second Coming. Because we do not know when Jesus will come again, we must always be ready and the season of Advent really reinforces this theme. 

Today’s Gospel provides us an opportunity to reflect on our foundation in light of how we will spend eternal life. A house built upon a firm foundation like rock will withstand the rain, the floods, the wind and everything else that it comes up against. A house built upon a weak foundation like sand, though, will crumble when it meets any sort of resistance. 

How does this apply to our spiritual lives? We can get a little insight in verse 24, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Using this verse as a measuring stick, then, a firm foundation includes hearing the word of God and acting on it. We can accomplish this in a number of different ways. Are we taking time out of our day to read Scripture? Do we sit with the readings and pray with them or do we just read them to forget about them? Do we listen attentively to the readings at Mass or do we zone out until Communion time? Do we take time to pray and hear what words God has to say to us? 

Then, strengthened by a life of prayer and Scripture and the sacraments, how do we go out and live our lives? Do we choose words of kindness and charity over gossip? Do we cheat or steal or do we choose to remain honest? Do we share our gifts, talents, blessings and overabundance with others or are we selfish? And so much more … 

When we have a firm foundation built upon Jesus Christ, that changes everything for us. The rains and the winds will come in our spiritual lives (think suffering, desolation, etc.), but we will not be shaken because we know that we can turn to the Lord, that He will support us and give us strength for the journey and that He is more powerful than the rain and the wind. 

I can only speak from personal experience but, when spiritual attacks and desolation have come at different moments in my life, my faith foundation played a huge role in how I weathered the storm. When it was firm, the storm didn’t bother me. But when my foundation was built on sand, I suffered greatly. 

After taking this time to assess your life of faith, what can you do to make a firm foundation this Advent season? 

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El Adviento es un tiempo tan hermoso para nosotros como católicos para hacer una pausa y reflexionar sobre dónde estamos en nuestra vida de fe. Es un tiempo de expectación, de velar y esperar la venida del Señor Jesús no sólo en la Navidad sino también en Su Segunda Venida. Como no sabemos cuándo volverá Jesús, debemos estar siempre preparados y el tiempo de Adviento realmente refuerza este tema.

El Evangelio de hoy nos brinda la oportunidad de reflexionar sobre nuestro fundamento a la luz de cómo pasaremos la vida eterna. Una casa construida sobre una base firme como la roca resistirá la lluvia, las inundaciones, el viento y todo lo que se le presente. Sin embargo, una casa construida sobre una base débil como la arena se derrumbará cuando encuentre cualquier tipo de resistencia.

¿Cómo se aplica esto a nuestra vida espiritual? Podemos obtener una pequeña idea en el versículo 24: “El que escucha estas palabras mías y las pone en práctica, se parece a un hombre prudente, que edificó su casa sobre roca”. Entonces, usando este versículo como una vara de medir, un fundamento firme incluye escuchar la palabra de Dios y actuar de acuerdo con ella. Podemos lograr esto de varias maneras diferentes. ¿Estamos tomando tiempo durante el día para leer las Escrituras? ¿Nos sentamos con las lecturas y oramos con ellas o simplemente las leemos para olvidarnos de ellas? ¿Escuchamos con atención las lecturas de la Misa o nos distraemos hasta la hora de la Comunión? ¿Tomamos tiempo para orar y escuchar las palabras que Dios tiene para nosotros?

Entonces, fortalecidos por una vida de oración y la Escritura y los sacramentos, ¿cómo salimos y vivimos nuestras vidas? ¿Elegimos las palabras de bondad y caridad por encima de los chismes? ¿Hacemos trampa o robamos, o elegimos ser honestos? ¿Compartimos nuestros dones, talentos, bendiciones y sobreabundancia con los demás, o somos egoístas? Y mucho más …

Cuando tenemos un fundamento firme edificado sobre Jesucristo, eso cambia todo para nosotros. Las lluvias y los vientos vendrán en nuestra vida espiritual (el sufrimiento, la desolación, etc.), pero no seremos sacudidos porque sabemos que podemos volvernos al Señor, que Él nos sostendrá y nos dará fuerzas para el camino, y que Él es más poderoso que la lluvia y el viento.

Solo puedo hablar por experiencia personal, pero cuando los ataques espirituales y la desolación llegaron en diferentes momentos de mi vida, mi base de fe jugó un papel muy importante en la forma en que aguanté la tormenta. Cuando estaba firme, la tormenta no me molestaba. Pero cuando mi fundamento fue construido sobre la arena, sufrí mucho.

Después de tomarte este tiempo para evaluar tu vida de fe, ¿qué puedes hacer para tener una base firme en esta temporada de Adviento?

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is passionate about the Lord Jesus, all things college sports and telling stories and she is blessed enough to get paid for all three of her passions as a full-time youth minister and a freelance sports writer.

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Andrew the Strong / Andrés el Fuerte

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, who was a follower of John the Baptist; when John pointed to the Lamb of God, Andrew recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and was quick to introduce him to his brother, Simon. Simon would later become the first pope, of course; but both brothers were crucified in witness to Christ.

In today’s Gospel, we witness Jesus’ call to the brothers, right in the midst of their work as fishermen, right as they are casting their nets into the sea. He calls them to follow him, and promises to make them “fishers of men,” a term we have all heard, but which they could not have fully understood. Still, they left their nets “at once…and followed him.” They dropped what they were doing, walked away from the life they knew very well, and entered into the adventure that is the life of faith, without asking any questions or pausing to make any calculations about the future. This is a model for all of us in our walk with Christ – to follow him without any reservations, hesitations, or calculations! The spiritual life requires profound faith and limitless trust, like that of St. Andrew.

The long and rich tradition of the Church means that various places have invoked his intercession for various needs, and so he has become the patron saint of Greece (where he probably brought the Gospel), Russia, Scotland (where some of his relics were taken for safety in the 350s; the Scottish flag features St. Andrew’s saltire – X shaped – cross!), Romania, Ukraine, the Amalfi coast, and Barbados, as well as many cities in Spain; he is also the patron saint of singers, spinsters, maidens, fishermen, fishmongers, and women hoping to be mothers, and is invoked against gout and sore throats!

As another part of our tradition, many people pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena beginning today. It is traditionally prayed 15 TIMES A DAY each day for 25 days, ending on Christmas Eve. It can be a very meditative prayer that helps us to keep the spiritual meaning of this great season alive in our hearts:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires (mention request), through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His blessed Mother. Amen. 

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Hoy celebramos la Fiesta de San Andrés, quien fue seguidor de Juan Bautista; cuando Juan señaló al Cordero de Dios, Andrés reconoció a Jesús como el Mesías y se apresuró a presentárselo a su hermano Simón. Simon se convertiría más tarde en el primer Papa, por supuesto; pero ambos hermanos fueron crucificados en testimonio de Cristo.

En el Evangelio de hoy somos testigos de la llamada de Jesús a los hermanos, en pleno trabajo de pescadores, en el momento en que echan las redes al mar. Él los llama a seguirlo y promete hacerlos “pescadores de hombres”, un término que todos hemos escuchado, pero que ellos no podrían haber entendido completamente. Aun así, dejaron sus redes inmediatamente y lo siguieron. Dejaron lo que estaban haciendo, se alejaron de la vida que conocían muy bien y entraron en la aventura que es la vida de fe, sin hacer preguntas ni detenerse a hacer cálculos sobre el futuro. Este es un modelo para todos nosotros en nuestro caminar con Cristo: ¡seguirlo sin reservas, vacilaciones o cálculos! La vida espiritual requiere una fe profunda y una confianza ilimitada, como la de San Andrés.

La larga y rica tradición de la Iglesia hace que en varios lugares se haya invocado su intercesión para diversas necesidades, por lo que se ha convertido en el santo patrón de Grecia (donde probablemente llevó el Evangelio), Rusia, Escocia (donde fueron llevadas algunas de sus reliquias por seguridad en los años 350, la bandera escocesa presenta el saltire de San Andrés, en forma de X, ¡cruz!), Rumania, Ucrania, la costa de Amalfi y Barbados, así como muchas ciudades de España; es también el santo patrón de las cantoras, las solteronas, las doncellas, los pescadores, los pescaderos y las mujeres que esperan ser madres, ¡y es invocado contra la gota y los dolores de garganta!

Como otra parte de nuestra tradición, muchas personas rezan la Novena de Navidad de San Andrés a partir de hoy. Se reza tradicionalmente 15 VECES AL DÍA durante 25 días, terminando en la Nochebuena. Puede ser una oración muy meditativa que nos ayude a mantener vivo en nuestros corazones el significado espiritual de esta gran temporada:

Salve y bendita sea la hora y el momento en que el Hijo de Dios nació de la purísima Virgen María a medianoche, en Belén, en un frío portal. En esa hora concédete, te suplico, oh Dios mío, que escuches mi oración y concedas mis deseos (mencionar petición), por los méritos de Nuestro Salvador Jesucristo y de Su Santísima Madre. Amén.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and seven grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

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What Only A Child Could Believe / Lo Que Solo un Niño Podría Creer

In the liturgy on this third day of Advent, the Church expands our hearts to take in the length and breadth and height and depth of God’s love in Christ. We are immediately reminded, as we pull out our nativities and advent wreaths and Christmas decorations, as we make our lists for Christmas gift-giving and party-throwing, that the birth of Christ brings eternity into time in such a way that time now has meaning only in light of the Kingdom of Love that will last forever. It is the Last Day of the Old Creation and the First Day of the New Creation. It is about the Day that we await with ardent hearts and fervent longing for the return of Christ.

“On that day…the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.”

We will see this gentle image on the Christmas cards we receive and send, but we long even more for this Peace that we have not yet experienced in our hearts. There is too much “harm and ruin” in the world, shattering our hearts and hopes and security and trust.

But there it is. Isaiah has foretold it. It shall be. On that day there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountains; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.

In today’s world, who can believe this? Who can believe that a tiny Child, the Son of God, who lived but thirty-three years two thousand years ago in a small and poor countryside could be about such a Kingdom, could bring about such a Peace?

Only a child.

We cannot stand with our hands at our sides waiting for this consummation beyond time of Isaiah’s joyful prophecy to be bestowed upon us. We have no reason to throw up our hands and cry out that things are getting worse and that the birth of God on earth has not brought about the kingdom of love that he preached.

The Gospel passage today follows immediately upon the return of the seventy disciples who had been sent out two by two to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand. Notice. They were not to proclaim that if people changed their lives and listened to them that the kingdom would come. They weren’t announcing that the kingdom would arrive as the result of a perfectly executed evangelization plan. No. It was a simple message. The kingdom is at hand. It is here. It is now. 

This message was so powerful that Jesus told them that as a result of their preaching this message he had seen Satan fall like lightning from the sky. 

“At that moment, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.’” 

It is only the childlike who can continue to announce the arrival of the kingdom of love in a world filled with insecurity, violence, and even hatred. With even greater mystery than his sending the seventy-two disciples out to preach the kingdom, Christ continues in the Catholic Church to send out the “seventy-two” to preach the kingdom. He continues today to live and love and speak just as truly as when two thousand years ago he called twelve apostles to preach throughout Galilee, and heal and reconcile and pray and love. Christ makes use of the Church so that the work he began in his lifetime might endure until the Second Coming. Today we are sent to announce that the kingdom is at hand.

Who can believe this?

Only a child. 

If we try to make sense of it, we will not be able to. If we try to explain the existence of evil in the world in relation to Isaiah’s prophecy, it will not be possible.  

God has hidden these things from the wise and the learned. If we want to believe we must receive the revelation that the Father wishes to give to us, and to receive it, we must be childlike. 

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En la liturgia de este tercer día de Adviento, la Iglesia expande nuestros corazones para abarcar a lo largo, ancho, alto y profundo del amor de Dios en Cristo. Inmediatamente se nos recuerda, mientras sacamos nuestros pesebres, coronas de adviento y adornos navideños, mientras hacemos nuestras listas de regalitos y fiestas navideñas, que el nacimiento de Cristo trae la eternidad al tiempo de tal manera que el tiempo ahora tiene sentido sólo a la luz del Reino del Amor que durará para siempre. Es el Último Día de la Vieja Creación y el Primer Día de la Nueva Creación. Se trata del Día que esperamos con corazón ardiente y ferviente anhelo por el regreso de Cristo.

“En aquel día… Habitará el lobo con el cordero, la pantera se echará con el cabrito”.

Veremos esta dulce imagen en las tarjetas navideñas que recibimos y enviamos, pero anhelamos aún más esta Paz que aún no hemos experimentado en nuestros corazones. Hay demasiado “daño y ruina” en el mundo, destrozando nuestros corazones, esperanzas, seguridad y confianza.

Pero ahí está. Isaías lo ha predicho. En ese día no habrá daño ni ruina en todos mis santos montes; porque la tierra será llena del conocimiento del Señor, como las aguas cubren el mar.

En el mundo de hoy, ¿quién puede creer esto? ¿Quién puede creer que un Niño pequeño, el Hijo de Dios, que vivió sólo treinta y tres años hace dos mil años en un pueblo pequeño y pobre, pueda saber acerca de tal Reino y pueda traer tal Paz?

Sólo un niño.

No podemos pararnos con las manos a los costados esperando que se nos conceda esta consumación más allá del tiempo de la gozosa profecía de Isaías. No tenemos por qué levantarnos las manos y gritar que las cosas están empeorando y que el nacimiento de Dios en la tierra no ha traído el reino de amor que él predicó.

El pasaje evangélico de hoy sigue inmediatamente al regreso de los setenta discípulos que habían sido enviados de dos en dos para anunciar que el reino de Dios estaba cerca. Aviso. No debían proclamar que si la gente cambiaba su vida y los escuchaba, el reino vendría. No estaban anunciando que el reino llegaría como resultado de un plan de evangelización perfectamente ejecutado. No. Era un mensaje simple. El reino está a la mano. Está aquí. Esto es ahora.

Este mensaje fue tan poderoso que Jesús les dijo que como resultado de la predicación de este mensaje había visto a Satanás caer como un rayo del cielo.

“En aquella misma hora, Jesús se llenó de júbilo en el Espíritu Santo y exclamó: “¡Te doy gracias, Padre, Señor del cielo y de la tierra, porque has escondido estas cosas a los sabios y a los entendidos, y las has revelado a la gente sencilla!”

Solo los niños pueden seguir anunciando la llegada del reino de amor en un mundo lleno de inseguridad, violencia e incluso odio. Con un misterio aún mayor que el envío de los setenta y dos discípulos a predicar el reino, Cristo continúa en la Iglesia Católica enviando a los “setenta y dos” a predicar el reino. Continúa hoy viviendo, amando y hablando tan verdaderamente como cuando hace dos mil años llamó a doce apóstoles para predicar por toda Galilea, a sanar, reconciliar, orar y amar. Cristo se sirve de la Iglesia para que la obra que comenzó durante su vida perdure hasta la Segunda Venida. Hoy somos enviados a anunciar que el reino está cerca.

¿Quién puede creer esto?

Sólo un niño.

Si intentamos darle sentido, no seremos capaces de hacerlo. Si intentamos explicar la existencia del mal en el mundo en relación con la profecía de Isaías, no será posible.

Dios ha escondido estas cosas de los sabios y de los entendidos. Si queremos creer debemos recibir la revelación que el Padre quiere darnos, y para recibirla debemos ser como niños.

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Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes

Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is an author and offers online evangelization as well as spiritual formation for people on their journey of spiritual transformation and inner healing. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com My Books: https://touchingthesunrise.com/books/
Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ HeartWork Spiritual Formation Group: https://touchingthesunrise.com/heartwork/

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Let Us Go Rejoicing / Vamos Regocijando

Every Sunday, Catholics are bound by obligation to go to the “house of the Lord” to attend Mass. Of course, many fail to meet this obligation. Others would never dream of missing Mass for any reason other than illness. But I wonder if many of us go every week, but fail to “go rejoicing.”

Weeks are long and weekends are short. Life is hard and we are so busy, so tired. Catching up on household chores, sleeping in, trying to have a little fun with family or friends—for many of us there is so much we want to do or need to do that a weekend never seems long enough.  Sunday Mass can begin to feel like just another weekend chore, and maybe even one that we resent having to do.

I spent an evening with some of my best high school friends recently. We have known each other for over 40 years, and we all attended Catholic schools together. We found ourselves reminiscing about morning Mass, which was strictly voluntary once we were in high school. I attended exceedingly rarely. I told my friends what I have often thought since—how I did not appreciate what an opportunity it was to have Mass available daily, how much I wish daily Mass could fit in my schedule right now, how I regret all those Masses I skipped so I could have a few extra minutes to chat with my friends before school.

I am not perfect. I have missed Mass before without a legitimate excuse. There are Sundays when I wish I could stay in bed, when the secular concept of a lazy Sunday morning seems compelling.

But one thing I know: I NEVER regret that I made it to Mass. There is nowhere I am happier and more at peace than in our favorite pew at the church I have attended since I was baptized there as an infant.

In today’s Gospel we hear the centurion speak to Jesus in the words we echo at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”  Every week we admit that we are not worthy to receive Jesus and yet he chooses to be present with us anyway. And it follows that we are much less worthy  to enter under HIS roof, the house of the Lord. Yet every week—every DAY if we wish—we have that honor.

Today is the second day of Advent, so therefore the second day of the liturgical year. New years are a good occasion for resolutions. Can we resolve to appreciate Sunday Mass as a privilege rather than looking at it as a chore? Can we resolve to “go rejoicing”?

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Todos los domingos, los católicos tienen la obligación de ir a la “casa del Señor” para asistir a Misa. Por supuesto, muchos no cumplen con esta obligación. Otros nunca pensarían faltar a misa por cualquier motivo que no sea una enfermedad. Pero me pregunto si muchos de nosotros vamos todas las semanas, pero fallamos en “irnos regocijando”.

Las semanas son largas y los fines de semana son cortos. La vida es dura y estamos tan ocupados, tan cansados. Ponerse al día con los quehaceres de la casa, dormir hasta tarde, tratar de divertirnos un poco con la familia o los amigos: para muchos de nosotros hay tanto que queremos o tenemos que hacer que un fin de semana nunca parece suficiente. La misa dominical puede comenzar a sentirse como una tarea más del fin de semana, y tal vez incluso una que nos molesta tener que hacer.

Recientemente pasé una noche con algunos de mis mejores amigos de la escuela secundaria. Nos conocemos desde hace más de 40 años y todos asistimos juntos a escuelas católicas. Nos encontramos recordando la Misa de la mañana, que era estrictamente voluntaria una vez que estábamos en la escuela secundaria. Asistí muy raramente. Les dije a mis amigos lo que he pensado a menudo desde entonces: cómo no apreciaba la oportunidad que era tener Misa disponible todos los días, cuánto desearía que la Misa diaria pudiera caber en mi horario en este momento, cuánto lamento todas esas Misas que me salté solamente para tener unos minutos extras para charlar con mis amigos antes de ir a clase.

No soy perfecta. He faltado a misa sin una excusa legítima. Hay domingos en los que desearía poder quedarme en la cama, cuando el concepto secular de una perezosa mañana de domingo parece convincente.

Pero una cosa sí sé: NUNCA me arrepiento de haber ido a Misa. No hay ningún lugar en el que me sienta más feliz y en paz que en nuestro banco favorito en la iglesia a la que he asistido desde que me bautizaron allí cuando era bebé.

En el Evangelio de hoy escuchamos al centurión hablarle a Jesús con las palabras que repetimos en cada misa: “Señor, no soy digno de que entres a mi casa”. Cada semana admitimos que no somos dignos de recibir a Jesús y, sin embargo, él escoge estar presente con nosotros. Y se sigue que somos mucho menos dignos de entrar bajo SU techo, la casa del Señor. Sin embargo, todas las semanas, todos los DÍAS si lo deseamos, tenemos ese honor.

Hoy es el segundo día de Adviento, por lo tanto, el segundo día del año litúrgico. Los nuevos años son una buena ocasión para los propósitos. ¿Podemos decidir apreciar la misa dominical como un privilegio en lugar de verla como una tarea? ¿Podemos decidir “irnos regocijando”?

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Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.

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Oh Happy Day….Or Not! / Qué Día Tan Feliz, o Capaz No Tan Feliz

Oh Happy Day… Oh Happy Day, when Jesus comes, oh when he comes..

You don’t have to be a Scripture expert to see in the last couple weeks’ readings, including today’s, that the writers are attempting to wake us up to what is coming. That it will be either very good or very bad. I am often reminded of that Scripture verse in the Old Testament that talks about that great and terrible day, how it will be great for believers and not so great for non believers.

When I think of today and the condition that our world is in I’m reminded of Noah. It seems as though everyone was partying down and having a great time doing whatever they wanted regardless of the consequences. Noah was the only one that listened. And what was the Lord telling him, to build an ark that would hold one pair of all the animals in the world. One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Kentucky and see the replica of this great ark. I have talked to people that have been there and they were pretty blown away. Can you imagine what a laughingstock Noah was as people walked by laughing and jeering at him for doing such a silly thing. Some say it took Noah many years to build the ark. Scripture says that it was built from gopherwood. Interesting, because gopherwood was not available where he lived. At least, that is what some historians say. Somehow it got there. Were the people still laughing when the rain didn’t stop? I really doubt it. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were begging Noah to get on board. Sorry, too late, the ramp has been shut. 

Scripture reminds us that the Lord will come back like a thief in the night. Kinda sounds like we should be ready at all times. And if we aren’t, then what? Scripture doesn’t beat around the bush about what will happen at that time. It will be a time of judgment. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats as in Matthew 25. I have decided I want to be a sheep.

The world has become so secularized that many have decided that they do not need God anymore. Why? Perhaps, we have nothing to pray for anymore. How about a bigger house, a new car, new clothes, new gems, and so on. It doesn’t seem to matter what any of those things cost, as long as the monthly payment fits into our budget, then we can pay on it forever. We all should review Scripture and see what the Lord has to say about debt. I’ll give you a hint, he doesn’t like it!

If you have read some of the Saints stories then you know that they have at least two things in common. One is love and two is humility. Advent is a good time to prepare for our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I mean really prepare! Set aside a little time each day to spend with the Lord. Most likely he will not ask you to build an ark, but I’m pretty sure he will ask you to help someone. When he told us to love our neighbor he wasn’t kidding, he really means it! So grab a spiritual book, pray your rosary, say a Divine Mercy Chaplet, or do something even more radical and sit in silence with the Lord.

Serving with joy!

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Oh Feliz Día… Oh Feliz Día, cuando venga Jesús, ay cuando venga…

No es necesario ser experto en las Escrituras para ver en las lecturas de las últimas dos semanas, incluso las de hoy, que los escritores están tratando de despertarnos para lo que es por venir. Será muy bueno o muy malo. A menudo recuerdo ese versículo de las Escrituras en el Antiguo Testamento que habla de ese día grande y terrible, cómo será grande para los creyentes y no tan grande para los no creyentes.

Cuando pienso en el día de hoy y en la condición de nuestro mundo, me acuerdo de Noé. Parecía como si todos estuvieran de fiesta y pasando un buen rato haciendo lo que quisieran sin importar las consecuencias. Noé fue el único que escuchó. ¿Y qué le estaba diciendo el Señor, que construyera un arca que pudiera contener una pareja de todos los animales del mundo? Una de las cosas en mi lista de deseos es ir a Kentucky y ver la réplica de esta gran arca. He hablado con gente que ha estado allí y se han quedado bastante impresionados. ¿Te imaginas el hazmerreír de Noé cuando la gente pasaba riéndose y burlándose de él por hacer una cosa tan tonta? Algunos dicen que demoró muchos años construir el arca. Las Escrituras dicen que fue construido con madera de gofer. Interesante, porque la madera de gofer no estaba disponible donde él vivía. Al menos, eso es lo que dicen algunos historiadores. De alguna manera llegó allí. ¿Seguía riendo la gente cuando la lluvia no paraba? Realmente lo dudo. No me sorprendería si le estuvieran rogando a Noah que subiera a bordo. Lo siento, demasiado tarde, la rampa ya está cerrada.

Las Escrituras nos recuerdan que el Señor volverá como ladrón en la noche. Parece que deberíamos estar listos en todo momento. Y si no lo somos, ¿entonces qué? Las Escrituras no se andan con rodeos acerca de lo que sucederá en ese momento. Será un tiempo de juicio. Jesús separará las ovejas de las cabras como en Mateo 25. He decidido que quiero ser una oveja.

El mundo se ha vuelto tan secularizado que muchos han decidido que ya no necesitan a Dios. ¿Por qué? Tal vez, ya no tenemos nada por qué orar. ¿Qué tal una casa más grande, un auto nuevo, ropa nueva, joyas nuevas, etc.? No parece importar lo que cueste cualquiera de esas cosas, con que el pago mensual se ajuste a nuestro presupuesto, entonces podemos pagarlo para una eternidad. Todos deberíamos revisar las Escrituras y ver lo que el Señor tiene que decir acerca de las deudas. Te daré una pista, ¡a él no le gusta!

Si ha leído algunas de las historias de los santos y tienen al menos dos cosas en común. Uno es amor y dos es humildad. El Adviento es un buen momento para prepararse para nuestro Señor y salvador Jesucristo. Me refiero a ¡prepararse de verdad! Aparta un poco de tiempo cada día para pasarlo con el Señor. Lo más probable es que no te pida que construyas una arca, pero estoy bastante seguro de que te pedirá que ayudes a alguien. Cuando nos dijo que amáramos a nuestro prójimo, no estaba bromeando, ¡realmente lo decía en serio! Así que toma un libro espiritual, reza tu rosario, reza una Coronilla a la Divina Misericordia o haz algo aún más radical y siéntate en silencio con el Señor.

¡Sirviendo con alegría!

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Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki have been married for over 50 years. They are the parents of eight children and thirty grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

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Jesus is Born!

In preparing for Christmas in Italy, a family will assemble an intricate, detailed Nativity Scene called a presepe.  This custom was started by our beloved St. Francis of Assisi on Christmas Eve in 1223.  The presepe goes beyond a mere stable to include a landscape of the village and hillsides.  In addition to Mary, Joseph, assorted shepherds and wise kings who have often arrived too early, are villagers going about their daily chores.  The ordinary life of ordinary people is depicted.  What is not immediately part of the display is the Christ child.  In true Catholic tradition, the baby Jesus does not arrive until his appointed time at Christmas.

One tradition is to hide the babe somewhere in the village.  Viewers are tasked with trying to find him, a subtle reminder that Jesus can be anywhere, even in the mundane and prosaic.  The presepe is also a remembrance that our Lord was born without pomp.  The greatest thing to happen to the human race occurred quietly one night. The next day, all but a handful of people went about their daily life with no change.  Men and women labored.  Children played.  No one knew that the Son of God was in their midst and the world was going to change.

The Son of God is still in our midst.  Men and women still labor. Children still play. Now we celebrate each year.  As we search the presepe for the Christ child we also slow down and search the world for him.  He is present in the people we encounter and the tasks we complete.  Like a snowfall, Jesus brings beauty and unexpected joy.  He softens the harshness of our lives.  He connects us to others.  Everything is the same but so much better.  He comes during the darkest time of the year and brings us hope and light.

If we still our minds and hearts, if we step back from the hustle, if we just pause and breathe, we will find him quietly beckoning to us, inviting us in.

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Merridith Frediani loves words and is delighted by good sentences. She also loves Lake Michigan, dahlias, the first sip of hot coffee in the morning, millennials, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. She writes for Catholic Mom, Diocesan.com, and her local Catholic Herald. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Adoration is available at Our Sunday Visitor and Amazon. You can learn more at merridithfrediani.com.

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Walking With Zechariah Through His Personal Advent

We are two days away from Christmas. Are you getting antsy for the arrival of Jesus, for visits with family and opening presents? I am, but I’m trying to slow down and savor this liturgical season. 

Today’s Gospel is a bit of a nudge to slow down. We’re reminded that John the Baptist came before Jesus and taught us to prepare the way of the Lord. It’s fitting then that we see the preparation of John’s father, Zechariah, in Luke’s Gospel today. 

As you may remember, Zechariah prayed for his wife, Elizabeth, to have a child. While he was in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son and that he would be called John (Lk 1:13). Zechariah, however, did not believe Gabriel or the promises that the angel relayed to him. Because of this disbelief, Gabriel silenced Zechariah (Lk 1:20).

In a way, Gabriel took Zechariah’s speech but gave him a personal Advent – a season of waiting and expectation. We receive the fruit of Zechariah’s advent today. Upon John’s birth, he is presented in the temple on the eighth day according to Jewish tradition. At that time, he was also named. 

When questioned about why Elizabeth intended to name their son John, Zechariah puts all questions to rest by an act of obedience. As the Angel Gabriel proclaimed that the child would be called John, Zechariah wrote, “His name is John” (Lk 1:63) on a tablet for all to see. 

With this act of obedience, Zechariah’s speech is restored and we receive the fruit of his quiet waiting – his offering of praise – “he spoke blessing God” (Lk 1:64). 

Has your Advent been a time of waiting and expectation? Have you been a little quiet this season? Spend some time with Zechariah today and consider how even in the bustle of Christmas preparations you might prepare your heart, mind, and lips to receive Jesus on Christmas so that we may all emerge from this quiet season speaking “blessing to God” (Lk 1:64).

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Elizabeth Tomlin is the author of Joyful Momentum: Building and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups and contributing author to the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She is General Counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Elizabeth is an Army wife and mother of three and currently lives in the DC area. She blogs at JoyfulMomentum.org or @elizabethannetomlin on social media.

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Translations

People are often surprised to find out just how many translations of the Bible there are. It is hard to find a definitive count and the numbers found online vary. According to one source, the Wycliff Bible Translators (a Protestant ministry), the complete Bible is translated into over 700 languages. In English, a quick Google search will bring you to a minimum of 15 different English translations with more if you dig deep enough.

The translation that the U.S. Bishops have approved for use in worship is the New American Bible. This is a solid translation which is grounded in academic scholarship, research and historical context. If you look at today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke which highlights Mary’s Magnificat, you will be reading in English what is as close as biblical scholars could get to the words, phrases, and meaning of Mary’s prayer.

When I am studying a piece of Scripture I know well or have heard often, I like to spend some time with other translations in addition to our own. I have found that it can be worth looking at other translations to see what other scholars in different times and places understood the original words of Scripture to mean. There are some translations that focus primarily on a literal word-for-word translation.  Others look to convey a contextual or overall meaning of a passage. These worry less about word-for-word and instead look to use their modern language’s nuances and phrases to pass along the message.

For the Magnificat¸ I’d like to offer you a translation you may not be familiar with. It is called, The Message, and is translated by Eugene H. Patterson. There is a Protestant and a Catholic version. This is a reading Bible, as Patterson says. This is a unique translation. Patterson explains, “I became a ‘translator’, daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children” (12).

The Message is the Bible in everyday speech. With this in mind, take a few moments to read Patterson’s rendition of the Magnificat. It is decidedly not what you will hear in Church, but it may evoke new images, emotions, or inspirations you had not considered before. This is not meant to replace your study of the Magnificat found within an approved translation. It is meant to enhance that study experience.

“And Mary said ‘I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened – I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now (Luke 1:46-54)

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Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

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Ark of the New Covenant

St. Luke weaves together Old Testament typology with New Testament truth throughout his Gospel; this is breathtakingly evident today as we see Mary held up as the Ark of the New Covenant.

The original Ark was kept in the tabernacle God instructed Moses to build in the wilderness, and it held a golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod, and the stone tablets of the Covenant. A mysterious cloud – now dark, now light – covered the tent and filled the tabernacle, revealing the presence of God Himself. Later, when David goes to retrieve the Ark (see 1 Sam 6), he has second thoughts when one of the attendants is struck dead, and he says, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” and leaves the ark in the hill country for three months. David also danced and leapt in front of the ark when he brought it into Jerusalem (2 Sam 6).

See the parallels with today’s Gospel? Luke is clearly leading us in a direction!

  •         Both the ark and Mary are “overshadowed” by the Spirit of God. The same Greek word (episkiasei) is used for the overshadowing at the Annunciation and the cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus, and is associated with the shekinah glory of God in Exodus.
  •         Both the ark and Mary traveled to the hill country of Judea.
  •         Both the ark and Mary remained there for three months.
  •         Both the ark and Mary eventually arrive in Jerusalem.
  •         Dressed as a priest, David dances and leaps before the ark; John the Baptist (of priestly lineage) leaps in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary.
  •         There is joyful shouting as the ark is carried to Jerusalem; Elizabeth exclaims with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
  •         David asks, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth asks, “How can the mother of my Lord come to me?”

From ancient times, the Church has taught these beautiful parallels revealing God’s Plan for the world, drawing additional reflections from the CONTENTS of the Ark and Mary:

  •         The ark held the word of God inscribed on stone tablets; Mary carries the Body of Jesus Christ, the word of God in flesh.
  •         The ark held manna, the miraculous bread from heaven; Mary carries Jesus, the true Bread from heaven.
  •         The ark held the rod of Aaron that budded to prove the true high priest; Mary carries Jesus, the actual and eternal High Priest!

As we prepare to welcome our Redeemer at Christmas, we can marvel at the long choreography of God, Who prepared His people and prepared the way for His Son to enter the world to save it through the Ark of the New Covenant, whose most profound identity is BELIEVER. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Wishing you and all those you love a blessed Christmas and peaceful New Year.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com

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Mary’s Yes and My Yes

In five days we will be celebrating Christmas and even in these final days of Advent many are already attending Christmas parties and rejoicing with the “joy of the season.” Once again we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, as we continue to walk through the darkness that has swirled around us for the past couple years. 

Today’s Gospel introduces the young girl who would mother the Son of God, the woman whose response to the angel Gabriel would bring to birth the eternal Joy that would wipe away our tears.

“Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

In the midst of the darkness of the world she lived in, Mary believed in the promise of God that she was the Mother of his Son. Mary’s life returned to normal as the angel left her. How could she explain what the Holy Spirit had brought about in her? Who would understand? She didn’t celebrate the first Advent expectation for the birth of the Christ, she lived it in her flesh and in the solitude of faith. She walked through nine months toward the birth of her Son with an open heart, increasingly overwhelmed with wonder, gradually more aware that her walk of faith would be a path of suffering. 

Mary was the first to know the “joy of the season.” We learn from the narrative of the Annunciation, that it is in the midst of the daily routine of our own lives that we receive the most beautiful announcement we can hear: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you!” Our Christmas celebrations, though important, are but a flicker of joy compared with the story of God’s relentless love for us, the true cause of our joy.

Pope Francis said that “God continues to look for allies, he continues to seek men and women capable of believing, remembering and recognizing that they are part of his people and cooperating with the Holy Spirit.” He seeks for “hearts capable of listening to his invitation and making it become flesh here and now” (Pope Francis, March 25, 2017). 

The young girl Mary shows all of us the only response to this God that will bring the world joy: “May it be done to me as you say. I am saying YES to your whole plan. I give you myself, here, now, and forever. I give myself to your plan for the world through me.” God’s plans are far more beautiful than any plan we could create for ourselves. 

In his sermon on December 6, 2019, Father Raniera Cantalamessa wrote: “The contemplation of Mary’s faith urges us to renew, above all, our personal act of faith and abandonment to God. That is why it is so vitally important to say to God, once in life, let it be done, fiat, as Mary did. This is an act enveloped in mystery because it involves grace and freedom at the same time; it is a form of conception. The soul cannot do it alone; God helps, therefore, without taking away freedom.”

In these final days of Advent let the joy that fills your heart, be the amazing realization that the Lord is with you! Whatever may be your sorrows or distress this Christmas season let the Virgin of the Annunciation, the Mother of the Lord, assure you again and again, “Rejoice, my child, the Lord is with you!”

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

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Blessed Are You Who Believed

And the course of salvation history changed with our Mother’s simple, Yes to God. With time holding no boundaries between her and her Son, Mary exemplifies Thy Will Be Done. A young peasant girl, who would hold in her the epitome of His Grace. 

The relationship between this most humble girl and her older cousin is such a powerful moment. Imagine these two women being so genuinely happy, both for each other and for the world. They put others before themselves at all times. Isn’t this what God has asked of us, to love and serve one another? 

But additionally, Mary places her trust in God at all times. Today, I encourage us all to especially reflect on the last line of our Sunday Gospel. 

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

How often do we doubt God’s magnificent ways? Is He not the LORD of hosts, the all-powerful Ruler over the entire universe? Through His ways, the unthinkable can be achieved. 

Let us follow the example of our most humble yet powerful Mother, who changed the world in her infinite love and belief.

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Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

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Jesus, Sun of Justice

Today’s readings are full of hope and promise, as is fitting for the Third Week of Advent.  In the First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah promises a king who will “reign and govern wisely, [and] do what is just and right in the land.” The Responsorial Psalm repeats the message: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” Then comes the twist: the Gospel tells us how these promises were fulfilled, by the birth of a baby. 

The Israelites, we know, were expecting a worldly king, described as a “shoot to David,” and who would be like David: a mighty soldier who would defeat their enemies once and for all. Instead, God sent Jesus with his message of justice, yes, but not through violence and conquest: rather by forgiveness, love, and mercy. And instead of immediately establishing his just and righteous kingdom, Jesus accepted an unjust condemnation and death. Is it any wonder that his friends despaired at first and went into hiding? 

We all long for justice. Children are born with this innate desire—they are obsessed with fairness until their parents tell them enough times that the world is not fair.  Well, it is a fallen world so that is unfortunately true. But I have never said this to my own children. Instead, I say this: “The world is not fair but we have to try to be.” We must not fall prey to the temptation to think that there is no hope for any justice here on earth. While perfect justice may be only attainable in God’s Kingdom, we cannot just stand around, staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to show up. We are called to do our best to bring about his justice here, acting as God’s hands on Earth.  Jesus showed us the way over and over, perhaps most notably when he said “Whatsoever you do to the least of these you do unto me.” We are not meant to sit passively by and wait for him. Rather, he calls us to be a people of action and to act on his example. 

Working for justice is demanding and difficult. People of good will in our society often disagree about what justice means and how to achieve it. But the Christian life is not supposed to be easy nor is it supposed to be all about ourselves and our comfort. So let today’s readings make us hopeful, but never complacent.  We can never achieve perfect justice on Earth, only a shadow of what it will look like in the Kingdom of God, but that does not free us from the responsibility of trying.

“But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd” (Malachi 4:2).

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Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.

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