Posted: 31 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST 1 Jn 2:18-21 / Jn 1:1-18 With the end of this day, we mark not only the end of a year, but the beginning of a new one. Our counting of time is entirely arbitrary, so the end of this day has nothing intrinsically special to offer us. But the symbolism of the day is powerful and potentially very wholesome, for it raises in our imaginations’ far-reaching thoughts about new possibilities.
As Pope John Paul II urged upon us repeatedly during his Pontificate, this is an opportunity to re-imagine ourselves and the way we live together in this world. It’s an opportunity to listen anew to the Good News of Jesus, to take it in more deeply than ever before, and to ask ourselves, “Why not?”
Why settle for so little when the Lord offers us so much? Why settle for lives that are half empty? Why let our days be darkened by fears and by unresolved conflicts with those we ought to love and enjoy? Now is the acceptable time. Now is the time to take the initiative in seeking reconciliation within our selves and with God and those around us. Let us become peacemakers and build a new world that knows peace.
Posted: 30 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST 1 Jn 2:12-17 / Lk 2:36-40 “Carnal allurements, enticements for the eye, the life of empty show….” Those words from today’s first reading seem especially cogent as we stand in the wake of Christmas, awash in bills and overdosed on the shopping mall culture with its urgent pressures to buy and consume. There comes to mind the familiar line of W. C. Fields in reference to a town he scorned: “There is no there there.”
So what and where is the “there” in us? What are we at the core? Is there anything more substantial than what we can get from the culture of the mall? There comes a point at which we need to decide quite consciously and deliberately to construct a life that has some weight and fiber to it.
We do that on a variety of levels, beginning with our relation with the Lord, which needs to go well beyond the surface if it’s to mean anything at all. That God relationship will in turn give us the foundations upon which to build friendships that last, friendships that flower into service and the sharing of life.
Don’t settle for emptiness. God wants us to be filled full. That’s why He sent His only Son to be our brother and to show each of us how to build a life that is a life.
Posted: 25 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST The Feast of Christmas Luke 2:1-14 A woman had a dog, and that little dog was the most precious friend in all her life. When Christmas came, she wanted to find just the right gift for her little friend, so she searched the department stores and boutiques high and low. Finally she found the perfect gift, a handsome jeweled dog collar. “This is it!” she cried. “What size would you like?” asked the clerk. “Oh, dear,” she fretted, “I just don’t know.” The clerk was sensible: “Why not take a tape measure and measure him?” “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” she exclaimed. “This is a Christmas present. It has to be a surprise!”
+ + + Tonight we celebrate the biggest surprise that God ever gave us: His very own Son, Jesus, who came to help us find our way home. When God made us, He made us good, every last one of us. But we weren’t finished, just barely started! Each of us has the lifetime task of growing into the persons God always dreamed we’d be. But as we’ve all discovered, it’s not a task we can do alone. On our own, we get stuck in an endless cycle of trial and error, trial and error! Eventually, we lose heart and give up.
That’s not what God wants. So He sent Jesus to give us back our hearts; to give us hope that all our striving is going somewhere; to pick us up, dust us off, take us by the hand, and show us the way home. Jesus came to save our lives. And now tonight He needs to hear from us: “Thank you, Jesus. I promise I won’t waste your gift.”
Posted: 26 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59 / Mt 10:17-22 Graduations, no matter what the level, seem to follow a prescribed course, and there seems no escaping the ponderous speeches from both young and old, and the endless role call of those who tromp onto the stage. But invariably there are compensations for enduring the tedium: The graduates themselves are so filled with hopes and aspirations to do so much better what their forebears have only done well.
We can only imagine what St. Stephen must have been like at that earlier stage in his life, but the book of Acts gives us a clue in describing him as a man “filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders and signs among the people.” What a fine young man he must have been to give birth to such an adult!
Yet, despite all his goodness and all his good works across many days, Stephen found himself confronted with jealous and angry men who hated him and all he stood for, men who indeed intended to kill him. And he knew it. This was the defining moment for him. Would he flee, or defect, or deny his Lord?
He would not. Instead, his faith enabled him to see beyond the pain and death that were about to be his lot. “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand….” And confident in that vision, he met his death.
Few of us will ever face challenges like those that Stephen faced, but we have our own troubles in abundance, troubles that can easily overwhelm us if we give in to them. Only one thing stands between hope and the despairing surrender to oblivion and that is faith: The ability to see that opening in the sky. The opening is there. It remains for us to see it and trust it!
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- During this time of a global economic crisis, Benedict XVI is calling for more solidarity.The Pope said this today after imparting the blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world.
Speaking in Italian, he expressed his with that "the great celebration of the birth of Christ be a source of light and confidence for the life of all."The Pontiff continued: "In our times, characterized by a considerable economic crisis, may Christmas be a time for a greater solidarity among families and communities. "May the light of evangelical hope, originating from the poor and simple stable of Bethlehem, spread everywhere and may the news that no one is far from the love of the Redeemer resound."The Pope then began to extend Christmas greetings in 64 languages.
In English, he said: "May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Savior has been born for us."
Posted: 24 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8-11,16; Lk 1:67-79
Our life-span is so short. As the scripture says, we spring up like the grass in the morning, and by nightfall we have withered and died. Yet, as our lives proceed, individual hours, days, weeks and years can seem interminable because we can see in them no clear direction, no great purpose or grand conclusion. What a contradiction, life too short and too long at the same time! That is the great anomaly, the great contradiction, whose answer and resolution we are about to celebrate in the feast of Christmas. Jesus broke into this world of ours and shared our humanity, with no special privileges. In the fullest sense, He became one of us. In doing so, He gave us hope by showing us the way out of the trap that seemed inescapable.
Jesus confirmed beyond all shadow of a doubt that we are loved and cherished by the good Father who made us, that our life here has real purpose, and that we have a destiny that is grand beyond all imagining. As we begin the year 2009, we have a great and wonderful hope to share with all of God’s people, a hope given to us by our dear brother Jesus. Let us not fail to share it!
Dozens of parents complained after the priest let out the Santa secret A Catholic priest has been criticised by parents in a city in northern Italy for telling their children that Father Christmas does not really exist.
Father Dino Bottino, the parish priest of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Novara, let out the secret at a children's mass earlier this month. A local paper published complaints from dozens of parents. "You've ruined my children's Christmas," said one mother.
JERUSALEM, DEC. 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The patriarch of Jerusalem says he hopes Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land in May will be an aid to solving the problems that plague the Middle East. Archbishop Fouad Twal affirmed this in his Christmas message for 2008, in which he called for "a new era of peace, stability and security."
The archbishop expressed the "wish that our prayerful celebration of the Christmas feast may bring the peace desired by all peoples, founded on justice and truth" so that the land "ennobled and sanctified by the prophets, might have the chance of becoming a continuous and increasing Christmas, where joy might reign in our hearts and our families, showing forth in our streets." He prayed to God for peace in the land, among peoples of all religions and cultures. He spoke of the need for stability in order to stop emigration, to help people avoid the need to uproot themselves "from their religious and national roots, erasing their identity."
Though recognizing the signs of hope for peace, the patriarch noted that it "does not prevent us from being saddened on a daily basis by the instability, insecurity, the unclear vision for the future, and, not least, the aggression against citizens and their land and property." Thus, he continued: "As Bethlehem waited throughout history [...] so are we awaiting a manifestation of the Savior's grace that will put an end to the occupation and the injustice, delivering us from those fears, hardships and internal divisions that beset this land.
"We are looking forward, to the dawning of a new era, where the false road of revenge no longer leads us to perdition, but where our steps turn instead to the true path of forgiveness, where love releases those captured by hatred; an era when the sun of peace and justice rises, when greed and grudges do not rule us, and when enmities among us decline; a time when people find agreement, in a spirit of harmony and friendliness."
Archbishop Twal affirmed, "We are deeply concerned about the Holy City!" He added, "We bear the responsibility of defending its holiness and preserving its unique characteristics. It is the very shrine where the followers of the three monotheistic religions meet: Judaism, Christianity and Islam." "In this Christmas feast," the prelate added, "we pray for the towns, cities and villages of the Holy Land, because they are isolated from each other. With pain and deep sadness, we observe civilians being blockaded by the erection of walls and barriers. These contribute to the creation of violence and humiliation, generating grudges and hatred, whereas what we need most urgently are bridges leading to a quiet and serene life, sustained by mutual trust and friendly cooperation."
In particular, the Jerusalem patriarch decried the "unjust siege that has struck Gaza, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent residents there." And he called Iraq a "second tragedy," saying its occupation has "brought about the destruction of its fundamental structures, transforming it into a jungle of chaos, violence and terrorism. It is our wish that all Iraqi citizens should be able to remain in their homeland. We pray for the unity of Iraq and for its return to normal life." Archbishop Twal concluded with a prayer to the Child Jesus: "O Infant of Bethlehem, you who wanted to be born in silence and stillness, plant in our hearts a love for peace, justice and serenity! [...] O Infant of the grotto, who rejected violence, homicide and hatred, [...] expel war from your homeland, and bring an end to the destruction of its homes. [...] May your homeland be the land of blessings and prosperity, where the followers of all religions meet in harmony, so that 'no nation raises the sword against another.'"
Posted: 23 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Mal 3:1-4, 23-24 / Lk 1:57-66, 80 A jetliner was roaring down the runway when, just before takeoff, the pilot reversed engines, slammed on the brakes, and taxied back to the gate. Then it just sat there for more than an hour before finally taking off. A nervous passenger asked the flight attendant what had happened. ”Well,” she explained, “the pilot was really worried by a noise he heard in the engine, and it took us all this time to find another pilot!” + + +
A surprise, but not a happy one! It’s hard to imagine the surprise that the parents of John the Baptist felt when they discovered Elizabeth was pregnant. They were old, really old! And childless! And suddenly there was a baby: Their lives were transformed, and they never would have dreamed it!
God still has lots of surprises, even for the oldest among us — gifts and blessings we’ve not yet even imagined. Many of them are already on the way. But will we receive them? Will we even notice when they arrive on our doorstep? We may, and then again we may not. It all depends on what we’ve decided to value, what we’ve decided is worth noticing, and what’s not.
An example: If “success” and “winning” are our priorities, we’ll look at people in a very specific, limited way. We’ll see them as potentially useful tools and also as possible adversaries, and we won’t see much else. That way of looking at people screens out their best parts and leaves the gift of a new friend lying unnoticed on the cutting room floor. God sends us wonderful gifts, but too often we don’t receive them.
Another example: If “peace and quiet” is our ultimate priority, the only real place for us is the grave. But that won’t stop some of us from trying to insulate ourselves from the world. And the payoff will be empty, cranky lives. We’ll be mad at our neighbors, mad at the guy who wants a hand-out, mad at our kids, mad at the little girl who picks a flower from our yard and then disturbs us by ringing the doorbell to give it to us. Our peace-and-quiet priority will screen out life’s nicest gifts, and leave us narrower and narrower, sadder and sadder, meaner and meaner.
If, on the other hand, we listen to Jesus and make God’s family our top priority, the flow of wonderful gifts will never stop: The upturned face of a child who knows we can be trusted, the confident stride of a troubled kid we helped grow into a doctor, the tender gaze of someone who knows how hard we’re trying, the hug of a friend we rescued from disaster. So many unexpected gifts will fill our days, because we learned from Jesus how to see, how to love, and how give ourselves as a gift.
God never runs out of surprises. For those who know how to see and how to love, every day will be full of them, right up to our last day. Then God’s best surprise will just fall into our hands, because we knew how to see and what to love. Live what you’ve learned from Jesus, and you’ll have a future full of surprises, a future you never could have dreamed up on your own!
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- While protecting nature is an essential mission of the Church, it's no more important than protecting the nature of the person, says Benedict XVI.The Pope spoke today of what he termed an "ecology of man" during his traditional exchange of Christmas greetings with prelates and members of the Roman Curia.
"Given that faith in the Creator is an essential element of the Christian creed, the Church can not and should not limit itself to transmitting to the faithful only the message of salvation," he affirmed. "It also has a responsibility with creation, and it has to fulfill this responsibility in public."The Pontiff added that while the Church needs to "defend the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us [... ], it must also protect the human being from his own destruction.""It is necessary that there be something such as an ecology of man, understood in the proper manner," he said.
This human ecology, he affirmed, is based on respecting the nature of the person, and the two genders of masculine and feminine.Always current"It is not outmoded metaphysics," Benedict XVI affirmed, "when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected."He said it has more to do with "faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, the contempt of which will lead to the self destruction of humanity."The Pope warned against the manipulation that takes place in national and international forums when the term "gender" is altered.
"What is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender,' is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator," he warned. "Man wants to create himself, and to decide always and exclusively on his own about what concerns him."The Pontiff said this is man living "against truth, against the creating Spirit.""The rain forests certainly deserve our protection, but man as creature indeed deserves no less," he added.
Benedict XVI explained that great theologians have "qualified marriage, that is to say, the link for life between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator.""This forms part of the announcement that the Church should offer," he concluded, "in favor of the creating Spirit present in all of nature, and in a special way in the nature of man created in the image of God."
Posted: 22 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST 1 Sm 1:24-28 / Lk 1:46-56
Few of us ever recognize the full extent of God’s remarkable and unique gifts to us. The main reason for that is that for as long as we can remember we’ve always had our gifts, beginning with the gift of life. We can’t remember a time when we weren’t alive. And to imagine the world without us seems very strange indeed.
But remember it or not, we did have a beginning, a moment when our good Creator “piled our plate high” with a splendid array of gifts, none of which we earned or merited. If we are ever to get our relationship with God right, we’ve got to get clear about this: When we didn’t even exist, God gave us life and everything else, not because we earned it, but because God is God, that is, generous beyond all understanding.
Mary understood this, she was grateful deep in her soul, and she knew what to do about it. She not only prayed her thanks in the Magnificat prayer we hear in today’s Gospel, she lived her thanks all her life long by sharing and giving away the gifts that God had entrusted to her, most especially her special gift for loving and being faithful.
As you prepare to celebrate the greatest Gift that God ever gave us, His own son Jesus, take the time to name all your gifts and give thanks for them. And prepare your heart to live a life of gratitude, a life of sharing God’s gifts with those for whom they were entrusted to you. Do that and the joy of Christmas will be yours all year round.
"We Must Think Even More Carefully and Deeply About Jesus "JERUSALEM, DEC. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Christmas message signed by 13 patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem. * * *Dear Sisters & Brothers As we prepare to celebrate Christmas there seems to be even more, darkness, conflict and despair in the world around us. That means for us, as Christians, we must think even more carefully and deeply about Jesus -- the baby born in Bethlehem's stable.Many people are afraid of the dark whether it be the absence of light around them or fear of the unknown in their personal lives or the world at large.
Despite all this we need to think and mediate about Jesus:"A light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower." (John 1:5)St. John's Gospel goes on to remind us of the facts of Jesus' birth:"That he was born into a world which did not recognize him and a people that did not receive him." (John 1:10-11)So, as we approach another Christmas we must show the world around us that Jesus is a light in the dark which never goes out, a burning light which takes the terror from the night and moreover, a light on which we should fix our eyes not least when the clouds appear to be gathering around us.
Just as the baby in the stable is the focal point of our Christmas celebrations, so we must affirm and witness to the fact that Jesus is the light which shines out from our personal and corporate lives at all times.Again and again we need to ask ourselves "What would Jesus do, what would Jesus say". Then, our thoughts and ideas of His actions and words must be translated into the daily life of our community -- particularly in this Holy Land.Similarly, we have to convince the world's political leaders that the true peace will only come on earth when we seek God's will for his people … not least through the words and actions of Jesus. Nor must we belittle the fact, affirmed in St. John's Gospel, that to all who accept Jesus, He gives power to become the Children of God.
This means we must stand alongside all who suffer around us -- the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed and the bereaved since Jesus tells us that when we help others we are doing it to Him as thought He were suffering for them.To stand alongside also involves us in action. We need the light of Christ to shine on this Land to enable us to work more realistically for a two state solution which would end the burden of restrictions arising out of Occupation.(So we pray for the president-elect of the United States that he and other world leaders may see the urgent need for peace in the Middle East and not least in this Land).
We need also to see the situation in which many are suffering in Gaza in the light of Christ and make a determined effort to bring them urgent relief.Moreover, we must never forget our duty to point our children and young people to the light of Christ assuring them that, through Jesus we all have hope for a better world.Then we would greet our Sisters and Brothers across the world -- not least the thousands who have visited this Holy Land recently. It is important to recall that you are walking in the footsteps of Jesus and when you pause to see the plight of many of your fellow Christians that you respond as you believe He would.We are conscious of all who suffer across the world but for all we believe the only way forward is to see people and situations in "The light of Christ".
Be assured of our good wishes and prayers for all of you as Christmas approaches and may God's blessing be on your homes and families."Walk in the light and the light will illumine your path, Walk in the truth and the truth will set you free,Walk in the way of peace and you will have, through Christ,The peace which passes understanding." (Prayers of the Way: by John Johansen-berg). Jerusalem December 2008 Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem H.B. Patriarch Theophilos III Greek Orthodox Church H.B. Patriarch Fouad Twal Roman Catholic Church H.B. Patriarch Torkom Manooghian Armenian Orthodox Church Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm Custos of the Holy Land Archbishop Anba Abraham Coptic Orthodox Church Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad Syrian Orthodox Church Archbishop Abouna Mathias Ethiopian Orthodox Church Archbishop Paul Sayyah The Maronite Church Archbishop Youssef Jules Zreyi The Greek Melkite Church The Rt. Revd. Suhiel Dawani The Anglican Church The Rt. Revd. Mounib Younan The Lutheran Church The Rt. Revd. Pierre Malki The Syrian Catholic Church Father Rafael Minassian The Armenian Catholic Church
Says It Challenges Existing Human Rights NEW YORK, DEC. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A U.N. declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity goes "well beyond" the intent of condemning violence against homosexuals, says the Holy See.
This was affirmed in a statement from the Holy See delegation, delivered at the 63rd session of the U.N. general assembly, in response to the U.N. declaration presented today."The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in the declaration on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity […] to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them," the Holy See statement affirmed.
But, it cautioned that "the wording of this declaration goes well beyond the abovementioned and shared intent."The delegation explained, "In particular, the categories 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity,' used in the text, find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law. If they had to be taken into consideration in the proclaiming and implementing of fundamental rights, these would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of states to enter into and enforce new and existing human rights conventions and standards.
"Sixty-six of the 192 U.N. member states signed the declaration, including all the nations of the European Union. The United States did not sign, indicating a reservation similar to that voiced by the Holy See: a lack of legal clarity in the declaration's wording. Muslim nations were also opposed to the declaration.The Holy See said the declaration goes beyond the goal of "rightful condemnation of and protection from all forms of violence against homosexual persons," and instead "gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms."
"The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided and urges states to do away with criminal penalties against them," the Holy See statement concluded.Homosexuality is against the law in several dozen U.N. member states, and in some cases, can even be punished by execution.
Affirms That Feast Reveals Life's Meaning VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Though the Christmas mystery might seem "too beautiful to be true," Christ's birth shows that there is meaning in life, and that this meaning is God, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today when he reflected on the mystery of Christmas during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He noted that today begins the Christmas novena. "The entire Church, in effect, turns its gaze of faith toward this approaching feast, readying itself, like each year, to unite to the joyful song of the angels, who in the heart of the night will announce to the shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, inviting them to draw close to the cave of Bethlehem," the Holy Father said.
"There lies Emanuel, the Creator made creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a poor manger."The Pontiff noted that Christmas -- as the "encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave" -- can lead us to think of so many children who live in poverty, of infants who are rejected, and of families "who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled."And Christmas, he said, "runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts."Nevertheless, the Pope contended, difficulties such as the world economic crisis "can be a stimulus to discover the warmth of simplicity, friendship and solidarity -- characteristic values of Christmas.
Stripped of consumerist and materialist incrustations, Christmas can thus become an occasion to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of the birth of Christ."Something moreStill, Benedict XVI affirmed, all of this is not enough to grasp the value of the feast of Christmas, which is really a celebration of the "central event of history.""In the darkness of the night of Bethlehem," he said, "a great light was truly lit: The Creator of the universe incarnated himself, uniting himself indissolubly with human nature, to the point of really being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time, man, true man.
"This mystery was expressed by St. John as "the Word was made flesh," the Pope recalled. But, he said, John's expression can be understood in another way: The Greek expression translated as "the Word" also means "the Meaning."The Pontiff went on to explain: "The 'eternal Meaning' of the world has made himself tangible to our senses and our intelligence. Now we can touch him and contemplate him. The 'Meaning' that has become flesh is not simply a general idea inscribed in the world; it is a 'word' directed to us.
The Logos knows us, calls us, guides us. It is not a universal law, in which we fulfill some role, but rather it is a Person who is interested in each individual person: It is the living Son of God, who has become man in Bethlehem."To many people, and in some way to all of us, this seems too beautiful to be true. In effect, here it is reaffirmed for us: Yes, there is meaning, and this meaning is not an impotent protest against the absurd.
The Meaning is powerful: It is God. A good God, who is not to be confused with some lofty and distant power, to which it is impossible to ever arrive, but rather a God who has made himself close to us and to our neighbor, who has time for each one of us and who has come to stay with us
To open one's heart to this mystery, the Pontiff acknowledged, requires yielding the mind and admitting the limits of our intelligence."Perhaps we would have submitted more easily before power, before pride," the Pope suggested. "But [Christ] does not want our submission. He appeals, rather, to our heart and to our free decision to accept his love.
He has made himself little to free us from this human pretension of greatness that arises from pride; he has incarnated himself freely to make us truly free, free to love him."Thus, the Holy Father encouraged preparing for Christmas with humility and simplicity, "readying ourselves to receive the gift of light, joy and peace that irradiates from this mystery."
"Let us," he concluded, "ask most holy Mary, the tabernacle of the incarnate Word, and St. Joseph, silent witness of the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they had while they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and enlivened by the determination of a sincere conversion."
Posted: 17 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Gn 49:2, 8-10 / Mt 1:1-17
Today’s Gospel does seem to be a rather strange package to be dropped on us just a few days before Christmas — all those strange names, most of which we don’t even recognize. But the Church has a purpose in asking us to listen once every year to the genealogy of Jesus according to the flesh. And that purpose comes clear when we examine the list more closely. There are kings there, the wise King Solomon and the hero King David, his father. There’s Abraham, the ultimate man of faith and father of the Jewish people. There are people like the holy woman Ruth. But there are also rascals aplenty and “horse thieves” as well, none worse than the adulterer and murderer King David.
What does all it mean? It means that God can bring good out of the worst of circumstances and the most rotten of human prospects. God can bring life out of what appears to be dead. That’s what the Lord wants us to hear and take to heart as we listen to this long, boring genealogy: Whether we are facing some incomprehensible evil or suffering, or are confronting our own intractable sins, we need to know and to be absolutely certain that God can turn evil into good, if we trust Him and cooperate with Him.
Don’t let your impatience or the shallowness of your trust get in the way. Let God be God for you, and make yourself available for the great and good work that He wants to work through you.
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is inviting youth to celebrate the next two World Youth Days at the diocesan level, leading up to a culmination in the 2011 Madrid event.
A statement from the Holy See affirmed that the Pope picked event themes for the '09 and '10 youth days, "so as to help build a spiritual itinerary that will culminate in the World Youth Day celebrations scheduled to take place in Madrid, Spain."The theme of the 2009 World Youth Day, which will be celebrated next Palm Sunday in Rome and in each diocese, is: "We Have Set Our Hope on the Living God" (1 Timothy 4:10).In 2010, the celebration will also be held on Palm Sunday in all dioceses, with the theme: "Good Teacher, What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?" (Mark 10:17).
These celebrations will lead up to the international World Youth Day in Madrid, scheduled for Aug. 16-21, 2011, with the theme: "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (Colossians 2:7).
Posted: 16 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Zep 3:1-2, 9-13 / Mt 21:28-32
A shy young man fell in love, but he was utterly tongue-tied whenever he was with the girl. A friend offered some advice: “Just memorize some great lines, expressing your total admiration. Something like, ‘When I see your face, time stands still.’”
It made sense, so for weeks the young man practiced: “When I see your face, time stands still.” Finally he was ready. He took her to a romantic restaurant. The lights were low. His eyes met hers and he said, “When I see your face, I, time, uh…” He couldn’t remember the words. Again he tried, “Mary, When I see your face, I, er, I mean…” Now he was totally flustered, so in desperation he blurted out, “Mary, your face could stop a CLOCK.”
We laugh, but there’s another part of us that’s a little sad when we hear a story like that, because it reminds us of all the things, large and small, that we’re still struggling to get right. “After all this time,” we say to ourselves, “I’m still stumbling at the same old places in the road. Same old places. Same old cuts and bruises!”
It can be mighty discouraging and can even make us want to give up. But before we do that, it might be a good idea to see what God has to say about it. He’s trying to catch our attention. He’s calling us by name. LISTEN!
“I’ve been walking at your side from the very beginning,” he says, “and following your progress with great hope. And that’s why I asked Jesus to tell you the story about the two sons. Because you are like the both of them: Sometimes you say ‘yes’ to me, but then get distracted or tired and your ‘yes’ accidentally turns into a ‘no.’
“And sometimes you start with a loud ‘NO!’ and then your better self takes over and you turn it round into the beginning of a ‘yes’ — maybe a little shakey at first, but a beginning. And that makes me so proud of you, because I know what turnarounds cost. “I know,” says the Lord, “that sometimes you don’t see the progress you’re making. You feel disappointed that you haven’t done better, faster. Dear child, I’m not surprised at all. These things take time. I knew that when I made you.
“Look at how long it takes ME to make a tree or even a flower! And that’s simple when compared to all I’m asking you to do. That will take a lifetime of you and me working together. And even when you reach the end of your pilgrimage, I know in advance that I’ll have to help you finish up. And I will do just that, I promise. “So don’t be discouraged at how much time everything seems to take Just hold to course. Don’t look back or waste time worrying about the past. And know that I am with you and that you are in my heart always!”
That is God’s word to us! Trust him. God is as good as his word.
Posted: 15 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Nm 24:2-7, 15-17 / Mt 21: 23-27
In a world filled with too much talk, the art of listening is one of the most valuable habits we can ever acquire. Listening can give us access to ideas we’ve never conceived of and insights that might never have occurred to us in a thousand years. And it can open for us the innermost doors of many hearts.
However, despite its manifest and myriad advantages, listening is a skill in short supply. And that is so for many reasons. Sometimes we’re just too full of our own ideas and agendas to make room for anyone else’s. Sometimes we’re too distracted by all the “noise” inside our own heads to listen attentively and peacefully. But worst of all, sometimes we’re afraid to listen, afraid we might hear some valid challenge to our way of living and thinking. We might hear something that would require us to move, to change, to give up one thing and take on something else quite different.
It was that kind of fear that closed the ears and the hearts of the chief priests and elders to whom Jesus spoke. They didn’t want to change, so they attacked Jesus, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him.
It’s a dire warning to us all, to see the lengths to which fear can drive ordinary human beings. And it poses an important question: Is fear of any sort causing me to close my mind or my heart to anyone? If it is, it’s time to give that fear to God, so that my heart may be free and open and listening to every single one of God’s creatures, and, indeed, to God Himself.
Posted: 13 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Is 61:1-11 & Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
There was an expert on Monarch butterflies who’d been observing them for years. Time and again he’d seen them struggle for hours and days to break free from their hard chrysalis so they could stretch their wings and fly. It seemed like such a useless and painful waste of energy, so the expert decided to give one of the new butterflies a little help. With greatest care he cut the chrysalis open so the butterfly could just hop out and fly away. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the little creature just lay there on the ground awhile, fluttered its wings weakly, and then died. That butterfly never got to fly because its wings had no strength — strength which could only be won in the painful struggle to break free from the cocoon.
None of us is a stranger to struggle and pain or to the darkness that often accompanies them. Our hearts get broken, our bodies betray us, our minds are often tortured. From our first breath to our last, the struggle never ends. All that changes are its shapes. So what are we to do with this uninvited guest who keeps showing up in our lives? Our first temptation is to run away — a good, quick sprint to the next county, or maybe just a closing of the eyes that denies there’s any problem here. It’s quick and easy, but it doesn’t work. Neither does that other form of running from hard reality: Bitterness and self-pity, which leave us in misery at life’s starting gate, stealing the growth and joy that always lie hidden beneath our pain.
As any butterfly could tell us, the only real option we have in the face of life’s over-sized challenges, pains and sufferings is to look them in the eye, take their measure, and walk through them — not around them — through them, one step at a time.
For it is precisely in the process of struggling and not running away that we almost accidentally discover what is best in us and then we grow it. We find we’re made to fly. And as our struggles continue, our wings stretch and strengthen without our even noticing it. Something else happens as we hold to course and refuse to turn away: Just as what is most true in us rises to the surface and grows, what is false and of no use slowly falls away and is part of us no longer.
To each of us God has given different assignments, and for each of us the struggles will be different too. But for all of us, they will be utterly beyond our doing, beyond our enduring unless we hold tightly to God. With him nothing is beyond us, nothing is too terrible to be faced. So take his hand. Step out of the darkness and into his light. You are going to learn how to fly!
NEW YORK, DEC. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The New York Province of the Society of Jesus reported that renowned theologian and prolific author Cardinal Avery Dulles died this morning at 90.
Avery Dulles was born Aug. 24, 1918, in Auburn, New York. He was the son of John Foster Dulles, who later served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower.Dulles converted to Catholicism in 1940 while studying at Harvard University. After graduation he continued at Harvard studying law, but after a year and a half he left the university to join the Navy during World War II, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.He entered the Jesuits in 1946 and was ordained 10 years later. He earned a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1960.
Father Dulles taught theology at Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and at the Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988.He served as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University from 1988 until April of this year.He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001, making him the first American-born theologian not a bishop to receive this honor.A respected theologian, he served as president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society. He authored over 750 articles on theological topics, and dozens of books, the latest including "The History of Apologetics," (revised edition, 2005), and "Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith" (2007).The cardinal had been suffering of complications of post-polio syndrome, which he contracted as a Naval officer.
Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, the cardinal continued to read and communicated by slowing typing on a computer keyboard or writing on a pad of paper.Upon stepping down as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in April, he wrote: "Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'"During Benedict XVI's visit to the United States last April, the Pontiff and Cardinal Dulles met for a private meeting.
Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop of New York, said in a statement this afternoon that he learned of the death of Cardinal Dulles with "deep sadness.""Cardinal Dulles was an eminent theologian and professor of theology in seminaries and universities throughout the nation," said Cardinal Egan. "All of us here in the archdiocese are very much indebted to him for his wisdom and priestly example."
Again Affirms Vatican's Opposition to Discrimination VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The position of the Holy See regarding a possible U.N. proposal on the decriminalization of homosexuality is being misrepresented by the press, affirmed a Vatican spokesman.Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi again had to clarify the issue when he was asked about it today by a reporter during the presentation of the papal message for the World Day of Peace.The misinformation was related to press reports on an interview with Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
The archbishop told a news agency that the Holy See would not support an expected French proposal for a U.N. resolution to decriminalize homosexuality. The prelate explained that the Holy See would reject the initiative because it could include at the same time the imposition of homosexual marriage in national law.Father Lombardi had earlier clarified that refusal to support the proposal does not imply support for discrimination against homosexuals."Obviously no one wants to defend the death penalty for homosexuals, as some would insinuate," he had said.Today, the spokesman went on to express doubt about whether such a French proposal will even be brought to vote at the next U.N. assembly.
"Therefore, it seems that there is no reason to set off polemics about a text, the contents of which are still not officially known," he contended. Archbishop Migliore's comments, Father Lombardi added, referred to the danger of imposing the recognition of "rights," such as homosexual marriage and the possibility of same-sex couples adopting children, something which is not even permitted in France.
Nevertheless, the spokesman clarified that regarding a "penal code that criminalizes homosexuals or even foresees the death penalty for them, there is nothing to discuss: The Holy See is totally opposed.""It is a position that respects the rights of the human person, in his dignity," Father Lombardi affirmed. "Archbishop Migliore also spoke out against all discrimination that affects homosexuality." The Holy See, therefore, is not in favor of "legislation that penalizes homosexuality," he said.
"At the same time, nevertheless, it opposes the addition of other clauses that imply that all sexual orientations should be put at the same level in all situations and in regard to every norm."As an example, the Vatican spokesman cited marriage: "The Church sustains that marriage is between one man and one woman and it does not accept that unions of persons of the same sex are placed at the same level."
Posted: 11 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Is 41:13-20 / Mt 11:11-15
Life’s journey can get lonely at times, and sometimes we can feel exceedingly alone in the midst of a crowd of people whom we’ve known for years. Even children with loving parents can experience this, and so can husbands and wives who are devoted to each other. At times this sense of isolation and solitariness is brought on by trouble somewhere in our lives, some heavy secret or private burden which we believe cannot be shared but must be faced alone. Sometimes it’s just our weariness that makes us withdraw and sit alone.
But at times, the decision is not our own. Our friends have left us and we have been deserted and left to face life with no support, no encouragement, and no comfort. That can be especially bitter, particularly when we know we’ve done nothing to deserve so painful a rejection.
Walking alone, especially for any length of time, can plunge us into a dark valley from which escape can seem impossible. At that juncture, we need to listen closely to God’s words to us as He speaks through the prophet Isaiah:
“I am the Lord, your God, Who grasps your right hand; it is I Who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Whatever your trouble, whatever the challenge you face, let the Lord grasp your right hand, and don’t be afraid, for your are alone no more. You never were!
Caritas Reports People Eating Cow Dung HARARE, Zimbabwe, DEC. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- As the World Health Organization today reported 775 cholera deaths in Zimbabwe, Caritas reported that people are mixing cow dung with remaining food to make it last a bit longer."This is poverty at its most dehumanizing," said Lesley-Anne Knight, Caritas secretary-general.And still no political headway is being made regarding a power-sharing deal that was supposed to resolve last March's disputed elections.Caritas is preparing for starvation to spread after poor harvests. In October, the aid organization found that 70%-90% of the households in their work area were going hungry. At least 5.1 million people face starvation, the agency reported.
Meanwhile, cholera is quickly becoming a widespread epidemic, with nearly 16,000 cases reported, mostly near the national capital of Harare.Knight said: "Zimbabwe's political impasse can continue no longer. An effective government that can rectify the policies that have put the country into this position must be established. "The international community must maintain the pressure on Zimbabwe for an end to this crisis.
We must also prepare ourselves for the implosion of the country and the catastrophe that will mean in terms of human suffering across the region. Zimbabwe's neighbors must address the xenophobia directed at Zimbabwean refugees in their own countries. "These are very challenging conditions for aid agencies to operate, but Caritas remains committed to delivering aid to the country in its hour of need."
LUCKNOW, India, DEC. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Faced to increased security concerns leading up to national elections, Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow has cancelled traditional Christmas festivities in his diocese. Aid to the Church in Need reported that the bishop of the northern Indian diocese called off the activities that normally draw tens of thousands of people to the city, including an annual Christmas "Dance Drama," and a traditional event for the chief minister of the state, governor and other dignitaries.
The diocesan vicar general, Father Ignatius D'Souza, explained to the charity that the period preceding a major election is an unstable time, with the "risk of aggressive acts by extremist political parties determined to influence voting by fair means or foul."India is set to have general elections -- held every five years -- by May.
The vicar affirmed: "We are concerned about fundamentalist activity. The extremists' strategy is very long term and they might see our diocesan Christmas activities as an opportunity to take action."Although we have very good security arrangements for the events and have an excellent relationship with the local police department here, we can't be too careful. You don't know the mind of those wanting to stir up trouble."The priest added that the elimination of certain festivities is made also in a spirit of solidarity with Christians in Orissa, victims of a wave of anti-Christian violence at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists.
On Dec. 2 the episcopal conference of India issued a statement encouraging bishops to unite in prayer with other religious groups, out of concern for the Christians of that east central state, as well as the victims of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai at the end of last month. Local Muslim leaders announced Saturday that they were also reducing Eid celebrations.
Father D'Souza stated that in spite of the cancellations, people were invited to visit a Christmas story exhibit at the cathedral, and light a candle according to custom.
Posted: 10 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Is 40:25-31 / Mt 11:28-30
As we trudge along life’s road, even the best of us falter at times. We stumble, we grow weary, we fall, and sometimes we even faint. That’s the truth about us, and because we feel our vulnerability and weakness so concretely and so strongly, we sometimes unconsciously project those very weaknesses upon God and make God too small. And in doing that, we can easily bring ourselves to the edge of despair and hopelessness.
Isaiah offers a vigorous corrective to that in today’s Old Testament reading. “The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.” It seems strange that we should have to say so, but the Lord is big enough to handle anything. And the response that he wants from us is to trust him so thoroughly that we will be able relax in him, confident that he will not drop us, reject us, or forget us. Not now, not ever.
“Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs.” It’s true! So relax in him, and know his peace.
Merry Christmas Posted by admin Friday, 05 December 2008 01:32
Tonight I bought my daughter A Christmas tree It was indeed Her first Christmas tree Her eyes went shining Smiled happily Felt she was lucky To all our friends Our Christian friends It’s a joy we are sharing We don’t know how To decorate the tree But surely enjoy Such festivity Merry Christmas
From another Muslim family By: Sisa Fajar, Malaysia
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has sent a message of condolence to the Russian Orthodox Church upon hearing of the death of Patriarch Alexy II, calling him "courageous" in his efforts to promote Gospel values.The Pope stated in the note that he "was profoundly saddened" to hear of the patriarch's death, and that he wished to convey his "most sincere condolences" and to assure the faithful of his "spiritual closeness at this very sad time."Alexy II, 79, who had been the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1990, died today at his residence near Moscow. No cause of death was given."Mindful of the common commitment to the path of mutual understanding and cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics, I am pleased to recall the efforts of the late patriarch for the rebirth of the Church, after the severe ideological oppression which led to the martyrdom of so many witnesses to the Christian faith," the Pope said.
The Pontiff also recalled Alexy II's "courageous battle for the defense of human and Gospel values, especially in the European continent, and I trust that his commitment will bear fruit in peace and genuine progress, human, social and spiritual."Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, also sent a message of condolence, as did Cardinal Walter Kaper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."Patriarch Alexis was called to guide the Russian Orthodox Church in a period of great change," wrote Cardinal Kasper, "and his leadership has enabled that Church to face the challenges of transition from the Soviet era to the present with renewed interior vitality."
Alexy II was last seen in public on Thursday, when he celebrated a liturgy in the Kremlin. His funeral will be held next week. Alexei Mikahilovich Rediger, the son of a priest, was born Feb. 23, 1929, in Tallin, Estonia. Ordained in 1950, he was elected bishop of Tallin and Estonia in 1961.In 1986 he was elected bishop of Leningrad (currently St. Petersburg) and Novogorod, and in 1990 the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.DialogueBenedict XVI and Alexy II have worked in recent years to intensify dialogue between the Churches.In 2006, Benedict XVI sent Alexy II a message for his birthday.
The patriarch responded to the Pontiff with a letter sent with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, and he gave him a pectoral cross as a gift.In January of this year, Alexy II proposed a series of common pastoral actions to be taken in conjunction with the Catholic Church.In May, Benedict XVI sent through Cardinal Kasper a letter to the patriarch that addressed the path to full union between the Churches.
In October, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, delivered to the patriarch another letter from the Pontiff, in which he invited the patriarch to offer with him a common testimony of peace to the world.The patriarch responded with a letter in which he underlined the positive development of the relationship and cooperation between Rome and the Moscow Patriarchate.
Posted: 05 Dec 2008 01:00 AM CST Is 29:17-24 / Mt 9:27-31
There is not one of us who cannot look back on certain moments in our past that make us blush with embarrassment or downright shame. Sometimes it’s a matter as simple as a foolish idea that we clung to far too tenaciously and far too long. Sometimes it’s a hurt that we inflicted on someone without even thinking. Sometimes it goes much deeper and involves a profoundly wrong and harmful choice, whose consequences are still reverberating through the years. Whatever the issue, the sadness and shame can run deep and can linger for years, leaving us with the feeling that we’ll never be done with it and never leave it behind.
In today’s reading from Isaiah, God is speaking to that very kind of experience. He knows the darkness of soul that our mistakes can burden us with, and the loss of heart as well. So through Jacob, the father of Israel, he speaks to all of us. “Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale…Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding.”
God sees into our souls and knows our sins even more clearly than we do. He wants to heal our hearts and to wash away our sins. He wants to make us new, from the inside out, and He can do that if we will let Him. So relax in the Lord. Give Him your heart, and let Him give you a new beginning.
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- What better time than Christmas for Christians to reunite with their families and return to their homes, says the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk.Archbishop Louis Sako is asking Iraqis to do "everything possible so that Christians can live in peace and serenity" and proposing that those Christians who have had to flee their country come home for Christmas.
The prelate told L'Osservatore Romano that, while offers from the European Union and other countries to assist Iraqi refugees are appreciated, "what interests us is that Christians stay here." If they leave, the country "ends up empty and weakened, without a millennial presence as the Christian presence has been.""Iraq," he added, "is a mosaic of cultures, religions and different ethnic groups. These diversities should continue coexisting."Archbishop Sako expressed his hope that with the commitment of other nations, his country will be able to get through the critical phase it is enduring.
"The visits, conferences, meetings -- all of them serve the Iraqi cause," he said. "Also the Church can fulfill a key role so that the country can recover its balance."The prelate noted that there are positive and negative elements to the talked-of retreat of U.S. forces from Iraq: "If the United States leaves now, Iraq runs the risk of being buried in the abyss," he said, mentioning that a civil war could explode."Instead," Archbishop Sako affirmed, "there should be dialogue and the projection of the country's future in a civil way."As Advent begins, the prelate expressed his hope that Christians will be able to come home."What better moment to reunite and be all together than awaiting the birth of the Child Jesus," he said. The prelate will join with believers of other religions for a day of prayer in December.
"We will ask Jesus to help us live together, to dialogue and to keep Kirkuk and Iraq from violence.""Dialogue and peace are the only weapons in our process," he concluded. "It is true, there are deep divisions that still mark Iraq and [there is] the danger of a civil war. If the country abandons itself, the problem could be serious, but we trust in the Lord and in the good sense of the people."
Is 25:6-10 / Mt 15:29-37 Death is not a topic that most of us are particularly happy talking about. Indeed, many people are so anxious about the thought of dying that they can’t bring themselves to do such simple things as writing a will, choosing a cemetery plot, or even visiting a dying friend. The reality of death for every human being, the mighty and the lowly, is as Isaiah says a “veil that veils all people and a web that is woven over all nations.” No one escapes this world alive.
By itself the inevitable prospect of dying could darken our days and cause us to ask why we should bother with anything — ultimately it’s all ashes. But death is not the end of the story, as Isaiah tells us and as the resurrection of Jesus confirms so powerfully. God didn’t make us to be discarded and disposed of as one would do with worn out shoes. He made us for eternity with himself, and he planted in our hearts a yearning that could be satisfied by nothing less than himself.
Trust his promise, trust that longing in your heart, and don’t let the prospect of dying steal your days and your joys. He holds you in the palm of his hand, and he’ll never drop you.
Commemorates St. Lawrence's Advent Example ROME, DEC. 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The message of St. Lawrence's life is holiness, which gives witness to "man's constant tension toward God" through history, and inspires our Advent preparation, says Benedict XVI.The Pope affirmed this in his homily Sunday at the Roman Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, at the closing liturgy of the jubilee year commemorating the 1750th anniversary of the Spanish deacon and martyr.
"In this beginning of Advent, what better message to receive from St. Lawrence than that of holiness?" asked the Holy Father. The spiritual message of Advent, he said, "points us already to the Lord's glorious coming at the end of history.""Celebrating the Eucharist," continued the Pontiff, "we proclaim in fact that he has not withdrawn from the world and has not left us alone and, though we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with material and sensible realities, he is with all of us and among us; what is more, he is in us, because in this way he can attract to himself and communicate his life to every believer who opens his heart to him.
"Thus, Advent recalls the Lord's first coming, his final return, and his presence among us now in the life of the Church, he said. "This awareness, dear brothers and sisters, nourished by listening to the Word of God, should help us to see the world with different eyes, to interpret the different events of life and history as words that God addresses to us, as signs of his love that assure us of his closeness in every situation." He added that as a preparation for the Lord's final coming in glory, Advent becomes a "time of waiting and hope, a privileged time of listening and reflection, allowing ourselves to be guided by the liturgy."Come, Lord
Remembering the invocation of the early Christian community, "Come Lord Jesus," Benedict XVI exhorted his audience to make it "also our constant aspiration, the aspiration of the Church of every age, which longs and prepares for the encounter with its Lord." The Holy Father recalled the first reading from Isaiah, with the image of "a tender and merciful Father, who takes care of us in every circumstance because we are the work of his hands." This Father took the initiative to send his son to redeem us, added the Pontiff. "Before so great a mystery of love, may our gratitude rise spontaneously and our invocation be more confident."
Turning his focus to St. Lawrence, the Pope commented: "His solicitude for the poor, his generous service to the Church in the area of social welfare and charity, his fidelity to the pope, which led him to want to follow him to the supreme test of martyrdom and the heroic testimony of his blood, spilt a few days later."
"He repeats to us that holiness," affirmed Benedict XVI, "namely, going out to meet Christ who comes continually to visit us, does not go out of fashion, on the contrary, with the passing of time it shines in a luminous way and manifests man's constant tension toward God."The Holy Father encouraged his listeners to make "a constant commitment to evangelization through charity. May Lawrence, heroic witness of Christ crucified and risen, be for each one an example of docile adherence to the divine will so that, as we have heard the Apostle Paul remind the Corinthians, we also live in such a way as to be found 'irreproachable' in the day of the Lord.
"Concluding with a reflection on Sunday's Gospel, he focused on Christ's command to "watch." "To watch," explained the Pontiff, "means to follow the Lord, to choose what he has chosen, to love what he has loved, to conform one's own life to his; to watch means to spend every moment of our time on the horizon of his love without letting ourselves be overcome by the inevitable daily difficulties and problems. So did St. Lawrence, so must we; and we ask the Lord to give us his grace so that Advent will stimulate all of us to walk in that direction."
Even If We Have Too Little Time for Him VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- We may not take time for God, but he takes time for us, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope spoke about God's availability for his creatures today before he prayed the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square. On the first day of the new liturgical year, the Holy Father reflected on the gift of time.
"We all say 'I don't have time' because the rhythm of daily life has become too frenetic for everyone," he reflected. "The Church has 'good news' to announce about this too: God gives us his time. We always have little time. Especially in regard to the Lord, we do not know how to find him, or, sometimes, we do not want to find him. And yet God has time for us!
"This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with an ever new wonder. Yes: God gives us his time, because he has entered into history, with his Word and his works of salvation, to open it to eternity, to make it into a covenant history."
The Holy Father said that in this perspective, time itself is already "a basic sign of God's love." "It is a gift that man can, like everything else, appreciate or, on the contrary, squander; he can grasp its meaning, or neglect it with obtuse superficiality," he noted.
Benedict XVI reflected that Advent "celebrates God's coming in its two moments: First it invites us to awaken the expectation of Christ's glorious return; then, nearing Christmas, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation."
"But," he said, "the Lord comes constantly into our lives. How opportune, then, is Jesus' call, which is more powerfully proposed than ever this Sunday: 'Be vigilant!' It is addressed to the disciples, but also to 'everyone,' because everyone, at the hour that God alone knows, will be called to give an account of his own life.
This entails a proper detachment from worldly goods, a sincere repentance for one's errors, an active charity toward one's neighbor and above all a humble and confident placing of oneself into God's hands, our tender and merciful Father." "The Virgin Mary is the icon of Advent," the Pope concluded. "Let us call upon her to help us to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes."