The Dec. 26th Unplugging of Christmas

I look around at the non-Catholic/non-believers and how different are their Christmas “celebrations” taking place besides our own. We have a religious-themed Holy Day of Christ’ Birth and a whole season, with liturgies to mark the Lord’s Coming into our world. The Incarnation gets a season of celebration.

They have a ho-ho-ho holiday that is unplugged on Dec. 26th.
Here are three photos of Christmas deflated. It comes from a neighbor’s lawn. Kind of sad.
In their secular-led version of Christmas, they let the commercial driven pre-Dec. 25th hype dictate their celebration. Dec. 26th comes and its about over. Talk about depressing and deflating!

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Be from Pittsburgh; Become a Bishop

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‘See the headlines in the Pittsburgh Catholic Newspaper?

Here we go again; another bishop named, and where is the priest from? Pittsburgh. No surprise there!

What a great contribution the Pittsburgh clergy are making to the Catholic Church in the U.S.A. A Pittsburgh priest named Bernard Hebda has been named to Newark New Jersey to succeed Archbishop John Meyers. Hebda had been a priest in Pittsburgh, then was made bishop to Gaylord, Michigan diocese, and now Pope Francis asks Hebda to take on greater responsibilities with a large northern Archdiocese.

Here in Washington, we know something of Pittsburgh priests becoming bishops. Our Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington was first a Pittsburgh priest. He became a bishop.
There are eight other Pittsburgh priests who went on to be bishops who currently hold the office. Here is the list: Bishop Paul Bradley of Kalamazoo. Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit-and then Vatican City. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence. Bishop William Winter of Pittsburgh (ret.) and Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh.

That is a nice contribution from their diocese to the Church in the U.S.A. Did you notice that there are four Cardinals on the list?!
I am sure they’ll be more Pittsburg priests coming down the pike to bless a diocese with their being named its new shepherd; it’s what these Steel city clergy have learned to do. Bravo to them!
Pittsburgh has a Catholic store called Meurhart that does business in church goods; they must have a lot of bishops clothes, mitres and croziers in stock! :)

Christmas Song for Holy Family Mass “Make Your Home In Me”

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I have sung a few songs for Christmas this year
“A Silent Night medley” Dec. 29th Simba Gabi close
“Some Children See Him” some Dec. 24th Masses
“Grown-up Christmas List” and “I Wish You Jesus” Dec. 25th Masses
and “Make Your Home In Me” on Feast of the Holy Family

the words to the last one, as it is a 2013 song, are below
(the others have been out a while)
All of them can be You-Tubed to see a great artist do them. Yet this week, why not just point and click on our weekly web site short show, “Five Loaves,” as it is right there for you to hear. The writer and artist Ben Walther sings it.

Make Your Home in Me A Song by Ben Walther –from Spirit and Song Music, 2013
As heard on the Christmas show “Five Loaves” on our web site: listen in to it!

MAKE YOUR HOME IN ME (*the small letters are the chords)

( c ) Every fox a den every bird a nest ( f ) but the ( a ) Son of Man has no ( g ) place to rest…
every heart a man every king a throne but the Word made Flesh no earthly home…

( f ) Your burden’s ( c ) light and your ( g ) yoke is ( am – c ) easy
( f ) Your name is ( c ) love and ( g ) your grace is ( c ) free
( f ) My heart was ( c ) locked but ( g ) you had the ( am ) key
(c f am g) Make your home in me
Make your home in me.

( c ) Lord, you come to me in your ( f ) homelessness
Burning ( am ) in your eyes, such a ( g ) great distress
Who will ( c ) heal your wounds, who will ( f ) make your bed?
I will ( am ) comfort you, I will ( g ) share my bread

Up to chorus

Bridge Where ( g ) there is love, there ( f ) is no ( c ) fear
So ( g ) make your home and ( f ) residence ( c ) here
( c ) I am so ( am ) alive when ( g ) you are (am) near
So, ( f ) make your ( g ) home in ( c ) me

Chorus

Advent Teaching On Love

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Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love. These are our Four Advent Virtues.
In the Lord, we hope to know all four of them in fullness.

In this fourth week of Advent, it is time to talk about love.
So many sages and philosophers and poets and song artists have tried to define love. Many have come up with good definitions. All of them know that love cannot be limited to that definition. Love is endless, unbounded, unconditional and so much more.

So what can be said here of Love?

First and Foremost: “Love is God, and God is Love.” This is the highest of virtues, and Love is the best term of them all to describe Who God is, What God is, How God is, When God is, and Why God is, and so forth.

As some of the great words of St. John say: (1st John 4:7-11)
“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love
…Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

So— God is love, and He wishes to be shared as the love that gives us birth, and a special knowing of being loved. Also– God is the love that wishes to be shared between us. Further–God wants to show how He can abide (remain, live, dwell, bless us incredibly) in us and even lead us to our utter perfection of life. Love will save us into Heaven. God’s love working in us, as it ought to, will save us into Heaven.

That must be our lead statement about LOVE.

Secondly, I would like to define love as acceptance.

Acceptance is a most fitting word for love. For we must be in an agreement with God as to truly love. Our hearts must be open to be vehicles/instruments/ways of God’s love to move in the world. Openness means an agreement with God.

Acceptance means that we are willing to have love on God’s terms.
Since God is love, He knows all about how it is to work in our lives and in this world. Acceptance means that in the context of understanding how love is working, we are willing to let love happen in whatever circumstances “it” wants to present “itself.” (“Itself” is really God’s realm finding agreement in us.) We trust God that love can be found in any place, time and situation. Love is available everywhere. God is omni-present; so His love is ready to be received and lived anywhere.

Even amidst the trouble of our sinful lives; love can be found.
This is truly amazing. This is evidence of how God is real.

Even as things may not go as we’d like or imagined it to go, love can find a way through us.

In this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we have the example of Joseph. He is mentioned in the gospel of Matthew 1(vs. 18-24), and he is a rock solid example of love. He has fallen in love with the maiden Mary. He has been told in a dream, by an angelic message, that Mary is the mother of the Messiah. Thus, He loves Mary, and loves the incoming Christ, and he goes about the business of acceptance and obedience to God. As it says in today’s gospel: “When Joseph awoke, from the dream, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” What does that mean? He accepted what God was laying out. He took responsibility for his love for Mary and what was happening to her, and he accepted God’s plan.

If you think that was easy, then you might not know the story well enough. Joseph was amazing in his acceptance of how he was to act in love and responsibility ahead. His example led Pope John Paul II to write a good deal down about this amazing example so humbly given there in the Christmas story. Humble Joseph loved. His love was expressed in acceptance of God’s will. He will love out to the full what had been started in him and Mary. God’s mystery of love has come between them. God’s fruit of love, the blessed fruit of the womb of Mary, will be coming into the world. God has found an accepting and supportive spirit in St. Joseph.

Love is Acceptance.

Love is willing to do what God wants.
That is a definition in your life and mine. If we are willing to do what God wants through our lives, then we are living in love.

Joseph was definitely challenged in this plan for him.
He did not have total control or knowledge of what to do in the circumstances. He just trusted and was at God’s service.

Perhaps that could define our situations. Life has a way of dealing us some challenges that we don’t feel ready for. The phone call at 3 a.m. as a friend calls on you for a special favor. Or the grim face of a doctor telling you that the results of your normal check-up have shown a bad abnormality in your annual medical study–now you have your life altered ahead by this health challenge. But can you love and accept that you are in God’s service, even in this challenge? Or, perhaps your company that you work for has decided to downsize and you might be expendable, even after 25 years of good work for them! What are you to do now? Love is needed. Acceptance of God’s plan even in this change. Can you respond? Joseph did. And he was caring for the entrance of the Son of God! Talk about a tall order. He met it with accepting love of the will of God. He met it with accepting love of the will of God. (Plus, he would use all the human talents he had at his disposal.)

Love is Acceptance. How can you apply this definition to yourself?

When you think about this definition, it is not so easy to apply, is it? Yet, “love is of God”… we must rely on the help of God. God is found in the realm of love, and He wishes to reveal its power to us.

I will add one other concept here for you, if you are able to add it in. I take this advice from another person who has looked at today’s readings, and they say this: “It’s our acceptance, our consent to God’s will for our lives, that opens us up to creating love. And heaven knows, this world can use all the love that we can manage to create! Acceptance changes our attitudes from resistance to openness.
This is such a big concept; let me repeat it. Acceptance, in the power of love, changes our attitudes from resistance to God to openness to God. What happens when this comes about? God’s will can flow more freely. And we become the instruments of that will. Agents of His love. It was what we always were meant to be. Right?

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As we are just a couple of nights from Christmas, allow me to share with you a fellow parishioners new version of the Night Before Christmas.

The Night before Christmas
By OTELLA BRANTMIER (parish member/
Adaptation from Clement Moore’s

Twas The Night before Christmas
in Bethlehem town
Not an inn was empty, Not a room to be found.
Joseph was looking for a room they could share,
For Jesus, Our Savior soon would be there.
The town was all nestled, all snug in their beds
While visions of tax collectors danced in their heads.

Mary on our donkey and I led the way,
To a lowly stable where we could stay.
Mary in her kerchief and I in my cap,
Had just said our prayers before a long needed nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a light,
I sprang from my bed to see what shone in the night.

Away to the window I flew with a dash,
Tearing open; the shutters, I saw a great flash!
When what to my wondering eyes should I see,
But a magnificent star shining down on me.
A STAR , with such brilliance! None could compare,
It shone on our stable, it shimmered everywhere.

I whistled and shouted, Called for my wife.
I turned and I saw Her surrounded in light.
Mary was bathed in this heavenly Glow,
Just how it was done, I don’t really know?
The stable was shinning as bright as the sun,
The next thing I knew God delivered His Son.

Falling, we adored in complete holy joy.
For Our Heavenly Father had sent us a boy!
Oh! JESUS, Our Savior, A child so fair!
Oh! God Our Redeemer to save men everywhere.
A Child from heaven to His earthly home,
Laid in a manger for His Kingly Thorne.

Angels chanting hymns of humble adorations
One by one bowed in profound veneration.
Then up to the housetops the Angels, they flew,
With their hearts filled with singing Alleju!
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
Angels in multitudes mounted the sky.

And then in a twinkling I heard angels still,
Singing to shepherds out on the hill.
All of nature was in movement of joy and delight
I stared in amazement at this wondrous sight.
The shepherds approaching, sheep gathered near
In low adoration, they too bowed here.

As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Adoring on knees, the ox and lambs were found.
The fox dressed in fur and the rabbit afoot
Came to the crib their little gifts to put
A bunch of berries, flowers and a fig,
A dove floated in with an olive branch twig.

And then from the East, they came from afar’
Three Wise Men on camels following that star.
In magnificent robes so grand to behold,
They came bearing gifts, myrrh, frankincense and gold.
Softly they praised Him, the King of Kings,
Giving thanks to God for the Savior He brings.

To this very day, Christmas comes each year,
In the hearts of all children, a Babe so dear.
If you listen carefully, you may hear,
The Myriads of Angels singing quite clear,
You may hear them exclaim ere they fly out of sight,
Blessed Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Advent Teaching on “Hope”

Teaching on Hope. [Long, full-teaching blog-version.]
2nd Sunday of Advent Readings

Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. These are the Four Words our parish is reflecting on for this Advent. We began last week in pondering of Peace. In sum, my homily said: Peace is a Person. That Person is Jesus.

Now we turn to the word Hope. What is hope? Hope is the holding to the Ultimate Reality.

But there are many ways to be duped from the fulfillment of entering the Ultimate Reality. We shall see the remedy in Isaiah 11 today, and from the general course that Jesus is directing, as proclaimed in our gospel today. He gives the remedy in His Spirit.
Yet let’s first talk of un-reality. Non-reality. Escapes from reality. Tricks from reality.

I was thinking this past week about the tricks of magicians and illusionists who like to employ some techniques for suspension of reality. How do they do it? I found in some internet searches that, lately, many scientists have been very busy asking the same questions, in trying to relate how brain waves change and different states of being occur in us. They ask: what is mind control or perception control or suspension? How is it accomplished, such as in what they call “magicology” or in other mediums such as in use of media or in communication methods?

The science world agrees that it can often involve one’s heightened concentration or focus on something, that then takes away a notice of “reality” into a secondary scenario (that is, we get manipulate to choose a secondary place for an experience going on, as so are so involved in another one, that has been strongly suggested to be our primary and only one of focus). It is chosen subconsciously or consciously by a person under some power of suggestion. The one directing our focus knows how to play some games with our sense of reality. Thus, we get duped!

It is a lesson that applies over to the spiritual life. Have we let our focus stray from its intended gaze upon Our God?

I was looking at a simplistic trick of diversion and focus, done in a scientific study, when a group of basketball-playing persons were asked to dribble two basketballs and to count and shout out of how many times the balls hit the floor every ten seconds, in viewing a clock projected on the floor for them. While they were doing this exercize for 3 minutes, a person in a gorilla suit walked onto the court among all the participants. When the exercize was completed, people could then view a video of themselves and see how they had various scores of bounces that were close to accuracy, but then, to their great surprise, notice for the first time the gorilla character who had been moving about around them. None had seen him the original time in the exercise. They had been manipulated not to.

Likewise, we have many blind spots in our spiritual being and in understanding our physical and mental and emotional lives. We are the sport of many tricks or dupes, whether we know it or not. We live in a time when a godless society has all sorts of deceit going on to manipulate others, and then there’s the work, too, of a real figure called Satan, the father of lies, who directs all sorts of efforts for us to be duped away from God. He, and those lost in sin and pawns of the game of life, are duping people today from seeing the Loving God and Hope of all the world in Christ Jesus. Rather than hoping in the Lord Who Is Come to us, many people are in despair, depression, and suspension of much reality. They look to escape any direct living, in the world as it is, and to deny acceptance of life as it really is, and to avoid the Reality that/Who is God among us.

We are in a world crying out for hope. We are fallen into so much deceit and darkness that it is hardly understood how bad it is. Yet the cries are there. Where is hope? To some, they are so taught to be numb that it is likened to the situation in the sci-fi movie “The Matrix “ when many humans are oblivious to being asleep and under control, but then some people start waking up to find that they have been altered into a false existence under great manipulation, and only with determination, do the characters like the person Neo, find out how to really live. Pre-awakened persons like Orpheus enlighten him and ask him to join the cause.
A fantasy film like that has an interesting parallel to some things Catholic and Christian.

God personally has come to change things, yet there is a huge population on the planet loaded up on distractions and temporary pleasures that has addicted them to the fallen state rather than in the Hope that is there presenting itself to them, or Presenting Himself to them. Can they come awake to Hope? To Life?
Isaiah 11 lists a seven-fold way of the awakening of man, if he/she would only participate into the Great Spirit, for their Renewal. We are counseled by our Lord Spirit to come into a new manner of life, breaking free of the sin and darkness encumbering and enslaving so many in our world. What are the 7 Gifts of the Spirit? They are (1) wisdom, (2)understanding, an inner counsel or astuteness of life, (3) a fortitude or courage to accept what’s Real rather than settle in the false fantasies and escapes, plus (4) the Spirit of knowledge to work within our gift of reason and even common sense, and a participation of life with body and soul and mind in union—then there’s (5) our need for the Spirit of piety at work within us, and (6) a reverence/respect for God/man, and finally, (7) an Awe and Wonder that we live in God’s created world, where all can lead to the Ultimate Reality. The Ultimate Reality is living in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was all about this new life.

We heard Isaiah 11 today. All these gifts of the Spirit are about being awake to the Ultimate Reality. God. We may live to the Glory of God. Eternal, immeasurable, incomparable. Or live to the glory of self and glory only of man.
In Christianity, Hope would be the fullest or highest embrace of our lives into God. It would be the goal of our lives, to enter into an eternal life with God. Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Here The Fire begins. Destiny sets in.
As we are made for the pleasure of God, when we live as Baptized in the Spirit, we delight that pleasing God is now leading our Hope. We have the Ultimate as God in our faith-sight. He is our goal. The Bible teaches that the children of God are led by the Spirit of God. It must be so. If the Spirit isn’t leading, how can there be hope? We need Someone to help us get over the hump of our mortality, our sin, and our limits. Did you hear the line by John the Baptist in today’s gospel? He, Jesus, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with power.

We Bible believing Christians know that Hope must be connected to the Spirit of God in Christ. We need to get what this Baptism of the Spirit is. Perhaps said the simplest: Hope is not resting on ourselves alone, nor in first what is coming from human power. Hope is transfer to the power of the Spirit. The true Christian awakening.

Hope gives an Ultimate Reality or Destiny and purpose as the Call to us from the Source of All Existence. It is a virtue and personal gift of God that He lets come into us, then, to guide and direct us well in all things.

The Catholic Catechism says this and more: hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. As Scripture says in one verse: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” and in another verse “The Holy Spirit…He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Article 7. #817.

Outside of our Faith, as in a practice of worldly sense or good philosophy, there are also people who long for the realization that this life on earth has meaning, that their good deeds were worthy of some return in an afterlife, and that people may go to a “better place” after their time on this broken-down and suffering Earth.
This “stirring up for hope” is explained in the Catechism’s next line of #818 : “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by this aspect in himself (herself), they are led to find what leads to this happiness and away from the (dead end) in (mere) selfishness. and to lead to the happiness that flows from charity.”
All Humankind who are out of Christ Jesus needs help to get there to Him. They have been duped into many replacements for the Hope meant to be in them. Hope must be sourced from God. People start getting that—like Neo figuring things out in the Matrix. There is a Reality called God which we must awaken to!

How is it that much of humankind is not holding to the Ultimate Reality, nor often engaging in perceiving life as it really is, nor really open to the state of reality? It is preferring sin than preferring God. As we accept reality, in a spiritual approach, we know that it includes being open to seeing our own sin and the world’s sin and separation from God, and that we do repent or turn from our sin in an act of surrender to God. This is how we enter into participating with the Lord for the Ultimate Reality. Now we have hope. True hope in God.

Our Gospel on this Hope Sunday of Advent, recalls the time that John the Baptist had urged Israel to return to her Hope in a God Who Would Come to them. The chosen people should acknowlege their sins, and make a public act of wanting to prepare the Way of the Lord. In Matthew 3, the evangelist describes a large crowd going out to the Jordan River, and being baptized in a ritual of being sorry for their personal sins and their communal sins as an unfaithful chosen people by God. Then Jesus is revealed on the scene. He will bring Sacrament to people. God will be involved with humankind now. Emmanuel has come. He is now revealed.
We are now left with a choice. A fundamental choice. To hope in Christ or to rely on self. The choose the former is to sin versus hope. If one takes it ever so far, you may actually qualify yourself for some of the only unpardonable sins before God—where you cannot be saved. St. Thomas Aquinas was famous for putting out a list:

The field of theology on sins: Forgivable or Unpardonable belong to what is named : “hamartiology.” As Mark 3:29 says, there are sins that are “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” Aquinas says Catholics commonly list of six specific sorts of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. First, and mostly, there is despair: which consists in thinking that one’s own malice is greater than Divine Goodness, as the Master of the Sentences teaches. Next is presumption: that is, if a man wants to obtain glory without merits or pardon without repentance. Next is resistance to the known truth, where your mind is fighting versus hope. Next is envy of a brother’s spiritual good, i. e. of the increase of Divine grace in the world, for some reason, you don’t want the world to bow down to God, not you, not others, ever. Next is impenitence, i.e., the specific purpose of not repenting a sin, and it usually drops you over the cliff in obstinacy, whereby a man, clinging to his sin, becomes immune to the thought that the good searched in it is a very little one. These are sins which will not be forgiven by God whereby salvation becomes impossible.

Is today’s Gospel important, and is today’s message important?! Yes. Yes. Yes. We need hope. Hope is the holding to the Ultimate Reality. God exists. We can rest assured in it.

Advent Teaching on Peace

THE MEANING OF PEACE IN OUR LIVES.

First, allow me a commercial for our Advent Bible studies.

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Advent is a season to “Conversion.” At my residence, I am showing a DVD series made by Word of Fire institute (Fr. Robert Barron) on Biblical examples of conversion. I hope you can come and see it. I have scheduled myself free for all of December (at 835-930 and 1035-1130) to show this program at my residence and to lead a discussion on it. It will be a succinct but powerful series of how people have changed by God’s power. We have such studies as the conversion of the blind man Bartimaeus and the conversion attempt of the rich young ruler. If you would like to view a segment, then contact me to view it.

COMMERCIAL OVER.

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THE MEANING OF PEACE.

Peace is a Person.

Jesus is that Person. We name Him as the Prince of Peace.

Advent starts with that declaration. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Todays readings are: Is. 2. 1-5 Romans 13: 11-14 Mt. 24:37-44

Isaiah 2 has often been quoted as a dream for peace. President Abraham Lincoln saw it as a prophetic verse for what could be lived in a land of peace. “The mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established…exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of God where He will teach us his ways… His law will go forth…He will be the judge between the nations and will settle all disputes among the peoples. The result: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Lincoln, the avid Bible reader and God-believing President, looked to the Lord for his words of hope. He saw that the Lord of the Temple in Heaven was Peace. Peace was a Person. The Lord of Peace could indeed “teach us His ways.” In the end, this Person also would be the Judge of all the nations, since He had right to the task, having given humankind help to their conscience.

Peace is a Person. The Divine Son is this Person. He instructs humankind to not use our vast resources to find one another, but to till the land for a good harvest. We have one another as friends and co-workers in God’s field. We are not meant to be rivals nor enemies.

So, in the end, we will be brought to the Lord’s Mountain to see how this is all practiced. Humanity is designed to live in peace, not war.
Swords can be plowshares, spears made as pruning hooks.

There is a harvest to be brought in. It is the harvest of souls all in accord with God. We can be servants of His Peacemaking on Earth, rather than be at odds with God and be dividers of the world. A harvest speaks of all being gathered up together. This is a Gospel image today.

The gospel gives us a view of two different persons out in the Lord’s field. One is ready for a harvest of the Lord, the other is divided from the Lord’s purposes and will be caught surprised and unready to serve a harvest time.
We are put out in that field to ask ourselves: Which one are we?

Are we expecting the Lord of Peace and Justice to return to earth and see if we are being peacemakers and sowers of justice?
Or are we busy about the things of a temporal and passing world, with no real concern of the Lord’s purposes for the earth?

Peace comes as a Person. Jesus is Returning in Glory. He will be looking for people ready to harvest his peace and justice. Are you ready?
“That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Some say that Peace is the absence of conflict. That is too narrow. Peace is not something you don’t have. Peace is a Person you do have.

Jesus said: My Peace I give unto you, it’s a peace that the world cannot give. It’s a peace that the world cannot understand. Receive a Peace that brings you life. Peace that brings you Me.

I shall be Your Peace.

“O Antiphons” Start Tonight, Dec. 17 O Come, Lord!

One of the best known Advent songs is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” It’s verses are based on an Advent prayer going back 14 centuries called the “O Antiphons” of the Church. This seven day prayer recites titles of Jesus and prophecies of Isaiah of the Coming of the Lord (and in his various ways of recognition such as “Wisdom,”, the “Emmanuel of God” and the “Root of David”), and one of the seven titles of expectation are prayed each day of the period from December 17 hrough Dec. 23.

The O Antiphons mainly come from the daily prayer book of clergy and religious of the Church, called the Liturgy of the Hours and it is included in the Advent Vespers (Evening Prayer) that they offer in the closing evenings of Advent. Yet now it is also has been introduced to all of the Church for its Advent liturgies. It is included in the Gospel Acclamation at Daily Mass in Dec. 17-23. It also is put in the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that is now a regular Advent song of the Church.

They say that the O Antiphons (example: O Come, O Wisdom from on high…) are first are mentioned in writing by the 6th century Italian philosopher Boethius and by the 8th century were in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. They have long been used at the very end of Advent (December 17-23) in the liturgical prayer of the Church. They are used as an inspirational part of preparation for Christmas, the Church recites or chants the “O Antiphons” as anticipation of the Lord’s Coming.

The Benedictine Monks have much to do with the early spread of this end-of-Advent prayer. The order of the titles of Jesus, also, has a meaning hidden to us who know the song in English. It was first a Latin song. The Benedictine monks arranged the 7 Latin words in the Antiphons to spell out a phrase. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – the Latin words “ero cra”s are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.”

So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion. Recall that the word Advent is from the Latin Adventus, which means “coming.”
The importance of the “O Antiphons” is twofold. First, each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. The O Antiphons express the Church’s longing and expectation for the Messiah, her startled wonderment at the fullness of grace which the Christ-Child is about to bestow on the world. Their theme is the majesty of the Savior, His wisdom, His faithfulness and sanctity, His justice and mercy, His covenant with His chosen people, who in their ingratitude broke faith with Him. They are concerned with His power and love as King and Redeemer of the world, His relation to every soul as Emmanuel, God-with-us. By the way, Wisdom begins the Seven O Antiphons, Dec. 17. I write this blog on that opening of the Antiphons. I have the 7:30 evening Mass to proclaim them.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…
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Advent Teaching on “Joy”

3rd Week of Advent/ Reflection on Joy Fr. John Barry
[This is part 3 of 4 Teachings on the Advent Words: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.]

What is Joy to you?
To me, I place “joy” in the category of spiritual words, as something that surpasses happiness or pleasurable delight or just a temporary elated feeling. Joy is great. We open Christmas using that word: Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

In Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary it says, “In spiritual literature, (joy is) the feeling aroused by the expectation or possession of some good. Harden also points out in his dictionary that “joy is listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” thus it is more than a fleeting feeling, but ever so more—it is the fruitful changing of our being into a child of God. Hardon explains: “Joyful emotions affect the body, but they are essentially in the higher faculties of the soul. (This) differs from pleasure, which may affect the human spirit but originates in some bodily sensation. Thus—joy is possessed by angels and human beings, and its source is the rational will.”

How about other definitions of joy? I remember a Catholic high school retreat where the group of us formed one on joy. Joy is Jesus, others and you. J-o-y. repeat sentence. I think the idea was Jesus is first, others are second, and then comes yourself, that is your ego, it comes third. It is said this order brings happiness. The NFL Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers once wrote an autobiography, entitled “I am third.” He said it was his formula for living in joy. It was a nice testimony.
Perhaps the world has it all backwards: They like to put their ego-first, with others a far second, and then there’s no real place for Jesus in one’s circle of life. You, others, blank— that spells “Yo’!” As in: Yo-Yo. Look at me. Bright like a Christmas tree. Watcha’ getting’ me, for Christmas?
Christmas, for those people–it’s as if it’s their birthday, not Jesus.’

The opposite of the greedy self would be the self that is bending their will to please the Lord and to care for others. This is the way to joy.

There is joy in obedience, that’s right, a joy in obedience to the will of God. We bend to God’s goodness and His reign to be at work among us. Jesus shows how it worked. God prompts us to acts that will serve the best way for everyone in life, including ourselves. The Divine will is all-good and trust-worthy to follow. We have been made to follow this way, as we were designed by our Maker for His good guidance. Yet, humanity often forsakes that, choosing what suits our own ego and pride—rather than go obediently with the heavenly design in us. Which will bring joy? Only one.

Christmas, though, is all about Jesus Christ coming and His serving humankind, in the Father’s will, for what would be the common good. This was Jesus’ joy. Recall what we hear in today’s gospel for Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. John the Baptist wants a joyful report about Jesus, as he asks messengers to update him on the activities of The Lord. They go to Jesus for a message to bring back to John. (John, was confined in prison, so had to rely on messenger reports.) Jesus says to the messengers: (Here’s the joyful report:) “Tell John what you see going on here: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
John evidently was very pleased in the report, as it confirmed for him that Jesus was the long-awaited Anointed One, the Messiah. Isaiah 35 was certainly fulfilled, the prophecy that the blind and lame and deaf would be cured by Messiah, and the poor ones—the “anawim”—the faithful, poor in spirit, would be reached. Joy is at work in Jesus.

Jesus, as The Servant of God (which Isaiah prophesizes of the Christ), was John’s hope in the Christ. Jesus was an instrument of the Heavenly Father’s will and the person of whom the Holy Spirit could rest upon here on earth and humanity. Jesus lived first for communion with God, then lived a life totally for others, and he denied himself to “third place.”

Pope Francis just wrote a letter of exhortation and encouragement to the Church this past month. It is called “Joy of the Gospel.” I’d like to read a few lines from it. Officially it’s called “Evangeli Gaudium,” which translates: “The Joy of the Gospel.” In it, early on in his writing, Pope Francis says that: “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Christ. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness.”

Hear that word the pope uses: the joy of the encounter of Christ.
Pope Francis says that the encounter with the personal and transforming Christ Jesus is meant to start a joy in us that spreads out to others. God puts joy inside the soul. So where are we in the transformation of ourselves in joy? Need we repent of anything to make room for a joy in Christ that wants to spread out to others?
I like what Christian author Gordon Fee once said of the Spirit of Joy. He said that what God starts in us might not be so understood as Divine Perfection but rather a “Divine Infection.” As if holy joy could be caught into us and it would start in spreading God’s influence, which is the spreading of healing. God’s infection of healing, of joy! “Interesting term, and angle!

When joy is alive and moving through us, we are then evangel-izers. “Evangel”—The holder of Good News, and “izers”—the energized people from it. Pope Francis says, in “Joy of the Gospel,” that “An evangelizer must never look like a person who has just come back from a funeral. Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing … and may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient, or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.”
Pope Francis adds this: “When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Ah, there we are with the joy again. Joy is linked to authentic personal fulfillment. Nice. I started with the Fr. Hardon definition that “Joy is the feeling aroused by the expectation or possession of some good. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” Can I add here that “Joy is being engaged and aroused within by God, as towards a high and authentic personal fulfillment that harmonizes with others’ happiness in God, all in accord with His good will to humankind, to all be one.” It’s a mouthful, but a joyful mouthful.

Let’s review our Advent longings so far. Peace, Hope, Joy… Peace is a Person—Jesus (Advent Week 1)
Hope is a Longing for the Ultimate—Union with God (Week 2)
Now–Joy is being engaged and aroused within towards fulfillment to the good, which has started its course in us. (Week 3)

Joy. We must believe that our ultimate fulfillment is our getting to be possessed in God, which in the Divine plan, means that we need to freely surrender ourselves to God’s possession of us.

As I asked once, how much of this holy joy is ours, experientially, in the Christian church? How much are we infected with joy?! Speaking about our human desire, writer C.S. Lewis comments: “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and (wanton) sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too far easily pleased…” (in the temporal, and in pleasures in the fallen situation: Can’t we better desire joy in the Lord?).

Pope Francis, later in his Evangeli Gaudium pages, comments: (I am gladdened by) how many Christians are giving their lives in love. They help so many people to be healed… they are present to (others)… they devote themselves to the education of children and young people… they take care of the elderly who have been forgotten by everyone else. They look for ways to communicate values in hostile environments. They are dedicated in many other ways to showing an immense love for humanity (:) inspired by the God Who became man. I am grateful by the beautiful example given to me by so many Christians who joyfully sacrifice their lives and their time.
‘Nice words, Holy Father.

And, very lastly, I am touched by what an evangelist said when leading a conference for Christians on how to share their faith. He opened the conference with an instruction, saying: People, we will first have some time for song and prayer and orientation of ourselves to God, and I have given to you a helium-filled balloon as you came in, and, so, when you feel joy in the Lord here, release the balloon you have.” Next, they had some praise songs and worship and prayer. When the evangelist got up to give his address, he noticed that many balloons were still in the people’s hands. So, in his opening, he said: “Evangelism is simply the expressed joy of what, and even more so, of Who is in your hearts. We just gave the Lord twenty minutes of praise, and some of you did not let His joy have you. So I call out to you: Let go of the balloons. Let go of the balloons. Find the joy of the Lord in you. And you be released in His Spirit!” ###

Bible Study in December

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I went and purchased a dvd series by Fr. Robert Barron. It is called “Conversion” and it features six different sessions where we study different persons and their biblical story of how God brought conversion to their lives. We will watch it on Sunday mornings. I will offer two sessions to choice from. I’d like for a number of persons to benefit from this program. Thus, I made it to fit before or after our Sunday Masses.
The sessions last less than an hour. It consists of viewing the dvd (15 min.) and then discussing its conversion story of the week.
This week we will be studying Bartimaeus in Mark 4.

The location of the showing will be my residence across the street from the church (yellow house). Bring a Bible.