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Catholic Caucus: Sunday Mass Readings, 12-04-11, Second Sunday of Advent
USCCB.org/ RNAB ^ | 12-04-11 | Revised New American Bible

Posted on 12/03/2011 7:46:25 PM PST by Salvation

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Advent is Not Christmas

December 4th, 2011 by Food For Thought

First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm: Psalm 85:9-14
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

Advent is not Christmas. It is a season uniquely its own, very much like Lent. Each day of Advent has its own proper Mass, pertinent readings, antiphons, and responses. It is four weeks of celebration and preparation – weeks that focus on the past, the present, and the future: Christ has come, Christ is here, and Christ will come again. It is a glorious crescendo increasing in power and intensity until it climaxes on a midnight outshone only by an Easter Sunday.

On the other hand, for most of us, Advent is “no big deal.” And how could it be otherwise? How can you make a big deal out of Advent, when you have a full-time job, a family to feed, your favorite ball games and tele-novela to watch? How can you concentrate on Christ, when every commercial seduces you with gifts that seem far more necessary for human living – from reducing pills, breast enhancement pills, and the latest fads through TV and internet, to fruitcakes, ham, and castañas, to Asti and Chivas Regal. Time enough to celebrate Christ only, when Midnight Mass comes around.

So, how can we break through these barriers? – in a practical way, a layperson’s way? I suggest for this Sunday, let Mary be your Advent Guide. Perhaps three sentences from Scripture from St. Luke’s Gospel might bring fresh meaning to your Advent without much pain and paranoia.

First, a sentence in Luke – after the shepherds have hurried to the stable to pay homage to the Savior “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” As previously, the angel in Nazareth, so here before the shepherds in Bethlehem, Mary was puzzled. She had to ask herself what all this, what each incident might mean: conceiving a child without the benefit of a human father, giving birth to the Son of the Most High in a manger, later fleeing like a refugee to Egypt, watching helplessly as her Son moved firmly toward the death he predicted. She had to wrestle with all these happenings.

And so for you and me, my first Advent suggestion: Take 15 minutes out of each day to ponder, to reflect, to puzzle over, to wrestle with what the Lord has told you about His Son-made-man, a reverent pondering each day over the overwhelming affirmation in John: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should have eternal life”; pondering over a Son of God, who chose to take our human flesh, become what we are, experience our fragile human existence, die our death.

What does it mean to you and me? What child is this? In your day to day living, is Jesus Christ real to you as your ninong and ninang, as Michael Jordan, Shaq O’Neil, Gloria Macapagal, George Bush, Osama Bin Ladin, the Abu Sayyaf, as the man or woman you love? Let the image of Jesus, Son of God in swaddling clothes; trigger your thinking – about him, about you, about the other people touching your life or those whose life you touch.

And at some point stop thinking! Just gaze and contemplate. Have a long loving look at Jesus. Don’t analyze. Just feel the scene. Picture yourself kneeling at Bethlehem’s crib, become a child again, touch little toes as real as any infant’s, let naked reason disappear, let Christ simply be! Just look … and love.

Fifteen minutes a day – on the event that changed history forever, the puzzle of puzzles. Let your beeper, your cell phones, your CD sit in silence; let your stereo and karaoke wait. For 15 minutes let the rest of the world go by; let the rest of the world make sense – in Christ.

Second, a sentence in Luke after the angel departed: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” The point is: What did this teen-age Jewish girl do when the angel left her – left her with God’s Son in her body? She did not sit down to plan what hospital to book to deliver her baby, or who should be her doctor, or how to notify her friends and relatives, what kind of party to have.

The Gospel tells us that Mary heard from Gabriel that her cousin, Elizabeth was six months pregnant. And Elizabeth was old, and “advanced in years.” What did Mary do? She went “with haste” to visit Elizabeth, walked briskly to a town in the hill country of Judea, walked perhaps 67 miles. Not to spread her own good news, not to compare child with Elizabeth, not to rave over “my son, the Messiah.” She went simply to help – for three full months, till Elizabeth’s child was born.

As soon as Mary greeted her kinswoman, the Gospel tells us – little John the Baptist “leaped in [Elizabeth's] womb…” leaped for joy, leaped at the coming of Christ, sensed miraculously the presence of God’s Son in Mary’s womb.

And so for you and me – Contemplation is good – focusing mind and heart on a Christ who walks the earth no longer. But Advent with Mary calls contemplation to action – focusing mind and heart on a Christ, who is still moving from Bethlehem to Calvary. Not far from you is a brother, a sister, akin to you in the bone of humanity and the blood of Christ, someone, who needs you, someone who hurts, someone, who finds it difficult or impossible to enjoy life, because “life is cruel.”

A short story writer, who died of lupus at 39 years, once wrote these words from her own incurable cross: “You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.” Do that, be that, come with your Christ, with your cross, to someone too poor, too naked, too sad, too crippled to joy in Christmas, and the miracle of Mary’s visitation will be repeated as it has been through the ages. The person you touch in love will leap for joy from the barren womb of sorrow. A 15- minute contemplation… hasten to some hill Calvary… what is left? Only the rest of your life.

The third Advent text about Mary stems from the public life of Jesus. “A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, `Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you fed on.’ But he said, `Blessed rather are those who listen to the word of God and keep it!’”

Jesus was not denying that Mary was blessed in her bearing of him. Of course, she was. What the woman cried from the crowd was true – but only part of the picture. St. Augustine expressed it powerfully, “Mary was more blessed because she laid hold of faith in Christ than she conceived the flesh of Christ, Her motherly relationship to him would have been of no use to Mary had she not carried Christ in her heart more happily even than she bore him in her body. She “conceived Christ in her mind before she conceived him in her womb.” “It was by faith she gave birth, it was by faith she conceived him.”

In Luke’s story, Mary is indeed to be praised – simply because she gave birth to Jesus, but because she too listened to God’s word, believed it, acted on it – from the glad tidings brought by Gabriel in Nazareth to the days in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension, when the apostles “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus…” That is why we see Mary most profoundly when we see her as the first Christian disciple, the model and pattern of Christian discipleship. She listened to what God was asking, and she said yes – not only to the bliss of Bethlehem, but also to the sword that pierced her heart on Calvary.

And so for you and me, Advent, the “coming” of Christ, is not simply a season, four weeks out of your year. From contemplation to action – You must face up to a fact at once frightening and encouraging: God is constantly speaking to you. Not too often through angel, more often through human events. Not only through the Ten Commandments etched in stone, but in a law of justice and love written into your flesh and spirit. Not only through a document from Rome, but in the sad starved eyes of children of the victims of calamities and wars that meet your eyes on the TV screen. Not only through the “word of the Lord” from the lectern, but in the grim silence of the homeless huddled in the kareton on the sidewalks. Not only through a pastoral letter on peace, but in the undeclared wars that divide the rich and the poor, male and female, ordained and lay, the powerful and the powerless. Tune in to the God within you and the world around you. Ponder – puzzle over, what you hear. At some point say yes, even if what you hear is not all clear. Then, with the profound faith of a perplexed Mary, act…do something…carry Christ somewhere, to someone.


51 posted on 12/04/2011 6:44:41 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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One Bread, One Body

One Bread, One Body

 


<< Sunday, December 4, 2011 >> Second Sunday of Advent
Saint of the Day
 
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14

View Readings
Psalm 85:9-14
Mark 1:1-8

 

ARE YOU COMMITTED TO REPENTANCE?

 
"John the Baptizer appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance which led to the forgiveness of sins." —Mark 1:4
 

During Advent, we "prepare the way of the Lord" (Is 40:3) as we await His Christmas coming. Today, the Church proclaims that a major way to prepare is to repent.

John the Baptizer could never be accused of dabbling in repentance. Anyone watching John live day after day in a hot, arid desert, wearing camel-hair shirts and eating grasshoppers (Mk 1:6), would conclude that John was committed to repentance.

Anyone watching Jesus stretch out His hands to be nailed to the cross and then hang in crucified, excruciating agony would have to conclude that Jesus was committed to the forgiveness of sins. Look at a crucifix for a minute, and you can't come to any other conclusion but that Jesus was serious when He called us to repent and reform our lives (Mk 1:15).

Do we merely dabble in repentance, or will we make a commitment to repent? Will our Advent Confession reflect our commitment to "make every effort to be found without stain or defilement" in utter holiness? (2 Pt 3:14) Jesus wants "all to come to repentance" (2 Pt 3:9). "Commit to the Lord your way" (Ps 37:5).

 
Prayer: Father, may I do no more preparations for this Christmas until I have made an Advent Confession.
Promise: "Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land." —Ps 85:10
Praise: Praise You, risen Jesus. You gave Your all so that You could be our All. "I will extol You, O Lord, for You drew me clear and did not let my enemies rejoice over me" (Ps 30:2).

52 posted on 12/04/2011 6:50:31 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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Pray for an end to abortion and the conversion of America to a culture of life.

53 posted on 12/04/2011 6:53:23 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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Archdiocese of Washington

In the final lines of yesterday’s Gospel, John the Baptist says,

I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8).

Matthew and Luke add: and with fire.

We ought to consider, What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire)? In the first place we must be careful to indicate, right from the beginning, that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not distinct, different, or later than our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather it is the unfolding and deepening experience of what the Sacrament of Baptism (and Confirmation) have effected in us.

In a strictly theological sense,  John the Baptist is distinguishing his Baptism, which was merely a washing that signified repentance, from the Baptism of Christ, which actually brings forgiveness and the bestows the very life of God, and all the graces of this new life to the believer. We are not merely washed of our sins in the Sacrament of Baptism, we are made new, and the seed of God’s very own life, love and grace are sown in us, to grow. We are actually sanctified and made new.

Some of the Fathers of the Church have this to say:

Theophylus – The baptism of John had not remissions of sins, but only brought men to penitence. He preached therefore the baptism of repentance, that is, he preached that to which the baptism of penitence led, namely, remission of sins, that they who in penitence received Christ, might receive Him to the remission of their sins.

Jerome – For what is the difference between water and the Holy Ghost, who was borne over the face of the waters? Water is the ministry of man; but the Spirit is ministered by God.

Bede – Now we are baptized by the Lord in the Holy Ghost, not only when in the day of our baptism, we are washed in the fount of life, to the remission of our sins, but also daily by the grace of the same Spirit we are inflamed, to do those things which please God

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ’s death, is buried with him, and rises with him: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4) The baptized have “put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies (1 Cor 6:11). Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the “imperishable seed” of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. (CCC 1227-1228)

This quote from the Catechism then moves us beyond the merely Theological answer to the question, “What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?”  and opens also, the “experiential” question: What is it “like” to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Experientially, It means knowing what we have received in Baptism and Confirmation. But here, “knowing” does not mean mere intellectual knowing (οἴδα – odia in the Greek New Testament). Rather it means experiential knowing (γινώσκo – ginosko in the Greek New Testament). It is one thing to “know about” God and to be able to pass a religion test. But to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to “know” the Lord, personally, deeply, intimately. It is to be in a life changing, transformative relationship with the Lord. It is experiential faith.

Too many people are satisfied with with living their faith by inference, rather than by experience. In other words, they are content to go along saying what they heard some one else say. “Jesus is Lord and risen from the dead” because my mother says so, or my preacher says so, (or even), the Bible says so. All of this is fine, for faith first comes by hearing. But there comes a point when YOU have to say so, because you personally know it to be true.

And this is what it means to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is to be able to say, “In the laboratory of my own life I have tested the Word of God and found it to be true. I have personally met and know the Lord, I know Him for myself.”

In other words, it is having faith come alive! Faith that is real, tested and certain. It is knowledge that is personal. It is to be a first hand witness to the power of Jesus Christ to change my life, for I am experiencing it in the laboratory of my very own life. He is changing and transforming me. I am seeing sins put to death and wonderful graces come alive. I am more serene, confident, loving, generous and chaste. I am more forgiving, patient, trusting and patient. I love the poor more, and I am less attached to this world. My prayer is becoming deeper as I sense his presence and power in my life. Yes, God is working in my life and He is real. This is my testimony. What is yours?

But this is what it means, experientially, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire).

And this is also at the heart of evangelization. How are you going to convert anybody if you’re not convinced yourself? Parents, you want your kids to go to Church? Great, and proper. But why do you go? Because it’s Church law? Alright, fine, but shouldn’t there be a deeper reason? To be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to go to Mass and make the Christian walk because you know and love Jesus Christ yourself, and you want to bring your children into that living, powerful and life transforming experience of the Lord in prayer, the Mass, the Liturgy, and the Sacraments. That’s what you’re after. And that’s what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Pay attention to these word of St. John the Baptist. He, through the Holy Spirit, is teaching us about the “normal Christian life,” which is to be alive, joyful, confident, serene and thrilled at what God is doing in my life, at to know (not just know about) the Lord. “I baptize you with water, BUT HE, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” And he will light a fire in your life, a fire that never dies away, but that grows in intensity as it transforms your very self.

Let he who has ears to hear, heed what the Spirit is saying. Baptism is not a tedious ritual, it is a transformative reality.

Photo Credit: Yousuf Karsh, 1962, The Books These are the Sacraments (By Bishop Fulton J Sheen).

Here is Father Francis Martin on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.


54 posted on 12/05/2011 10:52:55 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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http://resources.sainteds.com/showmedia.asp?media=../sermons/homily/2011-12-04-Homily%20Fr%20Gary.mp3&ExtraInfo=0&BaseDir=../sermons/homily


55 posted on 12/11/2011 7:38:20 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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