What Does It Cost?

“Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give” (Mark 10:8b). Gratitude. Humility. Thankful. Sacrifice. Share. Prayer. Authority. Heal. These are all words that come to my mind as I read the Gospel. And I ponder what I have received without cost. 

And then it hits me. Everything I have I have received without cost. How can I say that? On the surface it does not seem to make sense. I, like most people, regularly trade my time and talents for money; it is called work, career, or ministry. Our talents and time though, are gifts that we received from God Most High. We can choose to put those at His service and for the good of others. 

I often find myself at odds with the second part of the verse, “without cost you are to give.” In fact, I can spend lots of time thinking about how much it costs me to give. How much does it cost me to give love, care, concern, kindness, mercy? It costs as much as I want to believe it costs. 

When I remember that all I have received has been without cost then I can give without counting the cost. But when I start to tally up when I have given and what I want in return, I am not the person God created me to be or the person I want to be. Does that ever happen to you? 

During this season of Advent, it is a good time to reflect on what we have received. Make a list. It can include intangibles like faith and hope, people you love, your talents, material goods, where you live. Try not to judge your list. Then, each day, pray for a few people from your list, ask God to help you grow in a talent or use material things for His glory. 

It is not easy to give without cost but that is what we are asked to do. The Incarnation, which is upon us, is the beginning of Jesus giving to us. By virtue of that gift, we receive salvation. My prayer is for us to embrace the gift of salvation that we have received and share it with others by the way we live our lives without counting the cost.

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Deanna G. Bartalini, is a Catholic writer, speaker, educator and retreat leader. She is the founder of the LiveNotLukewarm.com community, a place to inform, engage and inspire your Catholic faith through interactive Bible studies, courses and book clubs. Her weekly podcast, NotLukewarmPodcast.com, gives you tips and tools to live out your faith. At DeannaBartalini.com  she writes about whatever is on her mind at the moment.

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Enlighten the Eyes

The imagery in today’s readings reflect the joyful promise of what is to come at the end of Advent.

The reading from Isaiah tells of the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, no more tyrants, the arrogant gone as well as those who want to do evil. The people who make errors in spirit get understanding and others who point out faults receive instruction. What a wonder-filled world this would be!

The Gospel has two blind men asking Jesus to heal them. The men are healed, their eyes opened according to their faith in Jesus as Lord. Yet Jesus warned them not to tell about this miracle.

The two previously blind men literally and physically experienced an epiphany. The First Reading also describes an epiphany. The text illustrates how divine insight obliterates darkness. It brings light to the prophet Isaiah’s vision of dwelling in the house of our Lord.

I am also reminded however that a sudden burst of light or insight can also create blindness. My eyes or mind need time to adjust to the brightness. How many times have I stumbled into something right in front of me or into situations where my awareness had been shrouded in the dark. Then all of a sudden l find that I am smack dab in the middle of something that is potentially destructive to myself or worse yet, in a ripple or tidal wave effect to others.

The season of Advent allows me the time to adjust to the coming of Jesus’ divine light. I need to be intentional as I reflect during this Advent time of preparation and waiting. I must try to become aware of the things my eyes, my conscience and thought process don’t, can’t or refuse to see.

O Divine Light, please fill my mind, my heart, my subconscious. Illumine the situations I need to see. Help me let go of each area to be enlightened with your love and guidance. Allow me to adjust to the obstacles before me so that I may have nothing to be ashamed of when I come before you. Grant me the grace to be a light for others to come to know the glory and joy of your kingdom. Amen.

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Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and a practicing spiritual director. Beth shares smiles, prayers, laughter, a listening ear and her heart with all of creation. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

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Doing God’s Will

Every now and again, we hear something in Scripture, as in our Gospel today, that reminds us to not just listen, but act. We need to be doers of the Word, not just hearers, as St. James says (James 1:22). Easy, right? It seems that way, but we have to recognize that this is something Jesus thought was worth emphasizing to His own listeners. It would be worthwhile to look at exactly how we can carry out this admonition.

We first need to listen. Notice that Christ praises the one who “listens to these words of mine and acts on them” (Matt. 7:24). There is a difference between listening and merely hearing. I noticed this recently in my own life. I had been preventing myself from listening. While engaged in conversation, I found myself either passively doing something else, like listening to a podcast, or paying just enough attention to be able to repeat what the other person said, but no more. I heard what was being said, but I did not internalize, process, or integrate it.

For me, this was because I was not paying enough attention, dropping both my external and internal distractions in order to be a true listener. As part of this process, I have begun to return to conversations in my down time, reflecting on what was asked of me and how I can implement it. For example, if my spouse or friend expresses a desire to go camping soon, how can I take concrete steps to make it a reality, rather than simply agreeing before moving on with my own concerns?

Christ asks us to listen. That means during Mass and while meditating on the Word, we must eliminate those distractions within our power: our thoughts of errands, our cell phones, noise. With distractions minimized, we can be receptive and attentive, which takes its own kind of energy. Then, we ought to return to the Word throughout the day, perhaps during the time that we’d normally be scrolling social media or letting our mind wander. What does it really mean, and how can we carry it out in our lives?

This will help us to listen, but then we need to act. How do we do God’s will? It’s a good step to do our own reflection on the readings at Mass and read Scripture consistently. Things like the Homily and the lives and writings of the saints can be helpful here as well. It’s good to see how others are making God’s Word practical, especially when those others are now praising Him in heaven.

Once we have listened to and reflected upon the meaning of the Word, we should actually do it. Understanding what to do is not quite doing God’s will; we need to make a practical plan. What concrete things will we do, today or this week, to make Christ’s words a reality? How will we turn the most significant resolutions into consistent, lasting practices? Who can help us do this?

The only thing left, then, is to start doing. Let us pray that the Lord will give us the grace to listen, understand, and act.

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David Dashiell is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader based in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. His writing has been featured in Crisis Magazine and The Imaginative Conservative, and his editing is done for a variety of publishers, such as Sophia Institute and Scepter. He can be reached at ddashiellwork@gmail.com.

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Long for Advent

Ah, the early days of Advent and a new liturgical year. There is so much anticipation in the air of the great upcoming feast, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Our Church is brimming with hope as we, her people – the Body of Christ – ready our hearts for the coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas. 

Advent serves a two-fold purpose for us. I just mentioned the first as a time of remembrance of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, but that’s not the only one. Advent is also a time for us to turn our hearts and prepare for His second coming at the end of time. 

We see themes of hope and longing, repentance and preparation during this liturgical season. We celebrate a Sunday of joy in Gaudete Sunday. There is so much that the season of Advent can do for our spiritual lives if we fully embrace and enter into these next few weeks, and that could be its own separate blog post. 

Let’s take a look at the theme of longing, though, through the eyes of today’s First Reading. The Book of the prophet Isaiah is laden with prophecies of the coming Messiah in addition to many words about how much the people of Israel long for said Messiah. With that being said, Isaiah is a frequent flier in the Mass readings during Advent and today’s First Reading is no different. 

Everything that is spoken about in the First Reading points to Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. The mountain on which he “will destroy the veil that veils all people” and on which he “will destroy death forever” points toward Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified. The veil of the temple was indeed torn in two when Jesus became triumphant over death and opened the gates of Heaven for us all. It is that same crucified body that he offers us in the Eucharist – his whole Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – which points toward the feast of rich foods and choice wines. There is truly no better food for our souls than the Eucharist. 

How can longing direct your Advent? Are you longing for consumerism, for the things of this world or are you longing for the Lord? How will you act on your longings? Turn them over to the Lord as you prepare your heart and make room for Jesus in this holy season. 

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Erin Madden 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. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter@erinmadden2016.

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Beautiful Feet: They Could Be Yours

In today’s First Reading St. Paul refers to a verse from the great prophet who accompanies us through every Advent: the prophet Isaiah (flourished 8th century B.C., Jerusalem): How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news….

The entire verse found in the book of Isaiah reads this way:

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am!
How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
    announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
    “Your God is King!” (Isaiah 52:6-7)

Those beautiful feet that Isaiah envisions came running to me in a restaurant parking lot last week where our family was gathering for a final meal before we placed mom in memory care in a facility where we could visit her daily. I was walking alone. “Hey, sister, is school out today?” a woman called out cheerfully. I laughed and shared with her the sorrow that was in my heart. “That is so hard,” she responded. “I promise you my prayers. I always ask God to take my body before my mind.” Then she continued with a mischievous smile, “But I tell my kids, don’t be afraid to put me in a nursing home at the end. If I have my mind it will be my last chance to evangelize. If I don’t have my mind I won’t know anyway.” Then she surrounded me with a great hug before going on her way.

“Beautiful feet…”

In the last meeting we had with the administrator on the previous day, she had said to my dad, “You have cared for your wife with great love till now. We are here to help you now. But in the end, even though we think we are the ones caring for her, we are the ones responsible, it is really God who is caring for her. God who is responsible for her. We are all just helpers.”

“Beautiful feet…”

Those who bring us the good news have beautiful feet because they are partnering with God to bring joy and salvation to others. Those feet that are actively moving about represent the way the Gospel reaches us in surprising places, through unexpected people, in exactly the right moment to assure us of God’s presence and God’s protection and God’s tender love for us.

Therefore my people shall know my name
    on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am! (v. 6)

Today is the feast of St Andrew and we celebrate liturgically the calling of this great apostle who in his turn became the beautiful feet that announced the good news to any and all who would listen. 

You, too, can be the one who in beautiful ways brings the good news to someone else, in a parking lot, in a meeting, in a moment of confusion or sorrow or grief. 

At some times you will be the one who announces the news that God says through you, “Here I am!” At other times you will be the one who receives the message of God reaching out to you through someone else. God whispered quietly in my heart, “You know, Kathryn, I love your mom too.” I had to let her go and give her to God’s very capable hands and hide her in his heart. 

So I end with this Advent reminder: Every year Advent and Christmas is a relearning that God is saying HERE I AM! We have a month to receive this message into our very bones so that we can in the new year be the beautiful ones who carry this message to others throughout the coming year. Or maybe someone needs your beautiful feet to find them today.

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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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No Shortage on Jesus This Christmas

Yesterday the haunting verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel were a welcome massage for my heart. Since early October we’ve been warned of supply chain shortages and inflation that threaten ruin to all we hope for the Christmas holidays. Hearing the name of God-with-us cracks open our hearts to receive the light, the Light of the World.

The invitation of this morning’s liturgy redirects our attention from commercial revelations to divine revelation. We almost catch our breath as we hear the nations cry out, Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain…. The Lord’s mountain will be seen as the highest mountain, according to the vision of the prophet Isaiah, speaking of the final age. Worship of the true God will be so conspicuous that it will be known to all people. The Kingdom established by the Messiah will be so attractive that all people will willingly lay aside the violence at hand to kneel before others in service: They shall beat their swords into plowshares / and their spears into pruning hooks. 

This “mountain” envisioned by Isaiah is presented to us by today’s Gospel reading as a Person, a man with two hands and two feet. The One who doesn’t wait for us to climb the mountain but who instead comes to us who are poor, wretched, made up of a billion needs, dependent. The One whose coming we celebrate at Christmas, and whose coming is so tenderly depicted in the nativity scenes that we’ll soon see in churches and homes.

Jesus says to us, as he said to the centurion in Capernaum who appealed to him for his servant who was paralyzed, “I will come [to you] and heal you.” 

As Christians we can hold on for sure to this promise even in the midst of the storms of these years we’ve lived: Christ has come. Jesus the Christ is here with us today. Christ will come again. The historical situation in which we live cannot rob us of the grace we’ve been given, the grace freely bestowed on us in Christ by the Father.

Take heart, my friends, from the simple words of the centurion in today’s Gospel. A simple, clear, humble statement: Lord, my servant is suffering. Jesus immediately responds: I will come and cure him.

Lord, I am old and worry about my life. I will save you. 

Lord, I am exhausted and suffering. I will come and cure you.

Lord, my children are far from you and from me. I will come and cure them.

Lord, I don’t know where to turn. I will come and hold you.

Lord, I feel alone and depressed. I will come and sit with you.

In the midst of all the struggles, trials and tribulations both in the world and in our lives, it is to the Lord himself this Christmas that we must look, to the God become man who walks among us even today, even now. It is to the Lord, more than any other resource, that we must turn to hear the Advent-Christmas promise: I will come. I have come. I will come again. There will be no shortage of Christ this Christmas.

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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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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the new Liturgical Year as well as the first Sunday of Advent. Today we begin our watch. Today we begin to prepare for the birth of our Lord.

The days are short and dark now and for those who live in the northern part of the country they are cold. There’s a beautiful purposefulness in this. The darkness we experience is a reminder of the darkness in the world before Christ was born. The prophet Jeremiah writes during the time the people of Israel and Judah were exiled. The tribes were scattered throughout Babylon and Assyria, taken from their homeland, living with strangers in a strange land. The times were dark and they were far from God. 

But Jeremiah writes with hope. He tells of God fulfilling his promise to the houses of Israel to save them. Jeremiah is prophesying the coming of Jesus, the one who will rescue them from the darkness. They were in a period of waiting just as we too enter a period of waiting during these dark months. 

It can’t be a coincidence that the shortest day of the year – December 21 – is just four days before the birth of Christ, our light. The days will be getting longer as we celebrate his birth. We remember that Jesus came so that we may live. He brought light to the world. 

So we begin this time with a spirit of watchfulness as Jesus commands in the Gospel. He is referring to end times but the attitude required of us is the same. We are reminded that this world is fleeting. This time on earth may be dark. It may have trials and it may be frustrating, but it isn’t permanent. 

Jesus is coming to save us and in the end we can be with him in heaven where the light of God will envelop us in pure love and joy. 

Keep watch this Advent. Start this new year watching and waiting for our Lord and believing in Jeremiah’s words that he is coming to lead us out of the darkness and into the light of his – and our- Father. 

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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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inviting Christ

First Sunday of Advent: Inviting Christ Into Our Lives

Sunday, December 3, 2017, marks the first Sunday of Advent, and the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. Advent is the time when we prepare for the coming of Christ. We remember the historical event of the birth of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, yet we also look forward to Christ’s return. The Gospel for this Sunday, from Matthew, reminds us to be alert to this event.

How exactly do we prepare for Christ? How do we invite Him in? Do we even really want to invite Him in? It’s all well and good to meet Jesus on Sundays – sort of like a weekly coffee date with a friend. But you don’t invite your friend to move in with you! No, it’s really far easier to just keep Jesus “contained,” in church, on Sundays.

In the book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, priest-contemplative Henri Nouwen says that the moment of Eucharist is THE single most important decision of our lives: Are we going to allow Christ in? It is a decision to make Christ part of your life, every moment of every day, to remove the walls you have placed around Him.

Jesus is a very interesting person; his words are full of wisdom. His presence is heart-warming. His gentleness and kindness are deeply moving. His message is very challenging. But do we invite him into our home? Do we want him to come to know us behind the walls of our most intimate life? Do we want to introduce him to all the people we live with? Do we want him to see us in our everyday lives? Do we want him to touch us where we are most vulnerable? Do we want him to enter into the back rooms of our homes, rooms that we ourselves prefer to keep safely locked? Do we truly want him to stay with us when it is nearly evening and the day is almost over?

Christ, you see, is not meant to be contained. He is not meant to be a weekly visitor or a standing coffee date which one can easily cancel if something comes up. He is not even meant to be a boarder in our home; a person who rents a room but is seldom seen or heard.

There is a reason that we encounter Christ around the table, the altar. The act of gathering around a table to share a meal is an act of intimacy. Even strangers become friends when they gather together to not simply eat, but to enjoy the food, the company, the joy of elevating basic human nourishment to an occasion of joy.

Yet no hostess in the world would think of handing out coats to the guests just as the last mouthful has been consumed: “Oh! Out to you go! Been lovely to see you, but time to get!” We would be shocked – and rightly so. No, part of the invitation to the table is the chance to linger and further enjoy the company of those gathered. And if the weather has turned bad while the meal was being enjoyed, the host and hostess would find blankets and pillows and places for everyone to rest their heads.

So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. – Mt. 24:44

As we prepare for the holy season of Advent, let us begin by asking ourselves: Do I REALLY want Christ to be part of my entire life? Am I only giving Him a sliver of my time? Where do I deliberately keep Christ from entering? Why? Is Christ truly a guest in my home, my life?

lift up your head

Advent: Lift Up Your Heads!

TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH FRIDAY OF ADVENT, 2016

Working on a college campus is inspiring. You are surrounded by young, energetic students who are here to learn and grow. But I have an interesting observation about these same students. I am amazed at their uncanny ability to walk between classes with their heads down, staring at their ever-present smartphones, a mere eight to 10 inches away.

These students seem to have developed a sort of “forward peripheral vision” that allows them to avoid collision with like-minded students; even with both in their heads-down-walk, they each veer slightly off course, without even looking up.

But not to just pick on the students, the next time you are at an airport waiting for your flight, take a look at how many people have their eyes firmly affixed to their smartphones, oblivious to what is going on around them.

The response for today’s responsorial song, Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand, seems to prophetically address this very phenomena, even to the last words, at hand.

While it is easy to judge those who are transfixed in what I call the “eight-inch stare” and conclude, “they need to get a life, to interact with those who are around them or to just put the darn thing in their pocket and enjoy God’s creation and the wonderful world around them,” where do we have our heads? What is our focus? What are we looking at? What path are we on?

This Advent season, have we been immersed in the online and print ads for the must-have Christmas presents, or are we taking the time to look at the path the Lord has laid out for us to follow each and every day?

Are we open to God’s constant presence around us and his desire to guide our each and every step, mindful that “paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees?”

So just what should we do?

For starters, the obvious.

We can take time to unplug ourselves from the computer and smartphone. Then, as we practice the Daily Examen, reflect on God’s presence in our lives and, more specifically, the path we are walking and where we are headed. Realize that God’s presence with you is not just at Mass or while you are reading this reflection, but with each and every step we  take on our journey called life. We can be grateful for the gifts which we have received and will receive today, be it the kind word from a co-worker or friend, or the love we receive from members of our family. Thank God for His steady, guiding hand as we walk our chosen path.

Our Advent season is about to end and the wait for the Christ child will soon be over, but that does not mean that we should stop finding time to quietly and humbly serve those in need, or neglect to always seek justice. To the contrary, the celebration of His birth should focus us and cause us to recommit our efforts to follow the path God has set before us and wants us to follow, each and every day.

Maybe all we need to do is lift up our heads.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Steve Schler, senior philanthropic advisor at Creighton University. He says, “I do not participate in social media websites so posting my personal interpretation about what the readings mean to me is a novel experience for me. However, being required to put pen to paper forced me to become more reflective about what God is really trying to say to me and this has helped me in my daily prayer life – to slow down and let the Word of God dwell within me instead of racing through the daily devotions.” Today’s reading can be found here.]

birth Christ

Advent: Born That Man No More May Die

TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH WEDNESDAY OF ADVENT, 2016

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.—1 Peter 2:24

I arrived at a car accident the other day before the police did. As I walked past the wreckage I fully expected to see someone dead, or nearly. The side of the car was split open, its parts spilled everywhere, the axle exposed and wheel far from the wreck, a pool of gasoline forming on the ground.

Thankfully (and maybe miraculously) the passengers looked like they’d be okay. The driver, a young man, was sitting beside the car bleeding heavily from the head, but he was stable. The girl who had been in the passenger’s seat was okay, too, aside from minor lacerations and obvious shock.

Witnesses said he had been going 80 in a 45, and had almost killed someone in the oncoming lane before he swerved into a wall.

As cops, ambulances, and firemen arrived at the scene, I wondered what caused such recklessness? That kind of driving is usually an expression of something wrong in the heart.

Was he driving like a maniac to impress a girl? Was he in a fight with her? I wondered if he was willing to risk his life that day because he’s angry, or places a cheap price tag on his own life. Maybe because he’s angry at his dad. Maybe he’s angry at his dad because his dad was distant, perhaps because his grandpa was abusive to his dad, perhaps because his great-grandpa was an alcoholic, and maybe that’s because . . .

And it struck me: the generational impact of sin, the web of pain we all weave through our self-centeredness, is staggering. Maybe in two hundred years some young man will end up swerving into oncoming traffic because I yell at my kids too much. No sin is committed in isolation. And anyone who flaunts the fact that they have “no regrets” is either ignorant of their connectedness with humanity or doesn’t care if they hurt others.

So how do we look straight on at the weight of sin, humanity’s sin and our own, and not crumble?

When Jesus was crucified we saw all that is worst about the human condition converging on one man. Political factions, shirking of responsibility, good ol’-fashioned bloodlust, manipulation in the name of religion.

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”

Look closer. Look into the center of the wreckage. In midst of the dust and the blood there are open arms. The tenderness of Bethlehem completed in the self-giving love of the cross. The antidote for sin: Mercy. And more, we see the example for how we’re to embrace the brokenness in others, and in ourselves.

Chris Stefanick - Guest AuthorChris Stefanick  is an internationally acclaimed author and speaker, who has devoted his life to inspiring people to live a bold, contagious faith. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap calls Chris, “one of the most engaging young defenders of the Christian faith on the scene today.”  Chris is also the founder of Real Life Catholic, a Denver-based non-profit which operates as the headquarters for Chris’s various initiatives. Above all, Chris is proud to be the husband to his wife Natalie and father to their six children. To learn more about Chris’s work, please visit: www.RealLifeCatholic.com.

jesus king

Advent: We Are Going To Meet The King!

TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH WEDNESDAY OF ADVENT, 2016

The end of the year is filled with hustle and bustle.  Classes are nearing the end of the semester, concerts are held to present our work, decorations are set in anticipation of Christmas.  The sales, the crowds, the shopping, the bills, the traffic, the taxes – all coming to a climax for the year.  There is a lot to deflect the most wonderful time of the year.

The Gospel, thankfully, focuses my attention to Mary.  It must have been an exciting time for her sensing the final days of carrying Jesus.  I recall those final days just before my children were born.  All the preparations were complete, we were just waiting in anticipation.  But that was a personal experience.

Well, my neighbors are expecting soon, and we are excited!  My colleagues are waiting for adoption, and we are excited!  That’s what a baby does to us.  In four days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus…and it is exciting!  Soon, and very soon, we are going to meet the King.  The final days before Christmas are a chance to reflect on the blessings of the year so that we can be more attentive to the reason for our Christmas celebration.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Fred Hanna, professor of music at Creighton University. He conducts the Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra, and teaches Foundations of Music, advanced Music Theory and Conducting.]

ancient antiphons

Advent: Ancient Antiphons Bring Us Hope

TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH TUESDAY OF ADVENT, 2016

Imagine a world without email and the internet, without cameras and books.  How did the early missionaries teach about the Incarnation?

To teach about Christ to many who were illiterate would be a challenge for us in the 21st century, but for those early missionaries who spread the GOOD NEWS, they used stories, visuals such as icons and taught prayers that could be memorized and repeated like the rosary and litanies. The story of Jesus’ birth and life did come to life in ways that stimulated imaginations and the story got passed on from one generation to another. 

In the Liturgy these days before Christmas, we have a treasure, the O Antiphons, which are  images dating back to the 5th century, which look deep into the gift of the Incarnation, Jesus was born and lived fully as a human person, walking this earth and living among a community of disciples.

We are in the midst of praying the O Antiphons in the daily Liturgy of the Hours, which are prayed from the 17th to the 23rd of December.  This tradition began in monasteries in about the 5th century. Each antiphon contains a biblical image drawn from the Messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the ancient hopes of salvation.

Today, December 20th, we look to Christ as the KEY to our salvation.  We pray with hope in the coming of Jesus to unlock the doors that imprison us.  We pray to be freed from all those things that bind us.

We pray:  O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal realm, come and free the prisoners of darkness!  Free us from fear, Free all held captive, free us from selfishness and open us to believe that nothing is impossible for God. 

This image of a KEY, provides us with the visual of a door being unlocked by Christ.  What is in the need of unlocking on our lives?  What is “locked off” from our attention or “locked off” from our love? In this prayer, let us be mindful of those who are imprisoned and held captive throughout the world.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Lucianne Siers, OP, currently serving as Councilor on the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids. Born in Saginaw, Mich. prior to her election as Councilor, she served as director of the Partnership for Global Justice which is an NGO at the United Nations in New York City. She has served in a number of leadership roles, including six years working in Eastern Europe on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops based in Washington, D.C.]