Keep your eyes open!...


Christmas Week, 2015  



(Luk 2:10-14) And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: For, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.


YOUTUBE: "Silent Night" Plácido Domingo -ThePianoGuys

Fr. Robert Johansen:  "Because God has become one of us in the incarnation, we can actually look upon his face; he has a face like ours".


We struggle to believe this. For many reasons, each of us has the propensity to miss seeing God in the ordinary because we are forever searching for him in the extraordinary. We tend, nearly always, to miss the sacredness of the domestic as we look for the sacred in the monastic.

Too often we are unaware that the incarnation fundamentally changed us from being theists to being Christians, that is, from being people who believe in God to becoming people who believe in a God who was made flesh in Christ.

We need to understand what the very word “Christ” means.The word “Christ” is not Jesus’ second name. Christ is a title, not a name. Literally, in Greek, it means: the anointed one. Jesus Christ=Jesus, the anointed one.

Part of the meaning of that however is that the anointed one is the one who is God-in-the-flesh, God-in-carnus. Christmas then means God-in-the-physical just as it also means that the-physical-contains-God.

We no longer need to look for God in extraordinary visions—a sunset will do. An incarnational God normally gives precisely that kind of vision! Likewise we don’t need to look for people with the stigmata to see the wounds of Christ—the pain in the faces of those we sit down at table with will do. God’s wounded body too is everywhere.

May the incarnation deeply bless our lives! May God’s many-faced face be present, sacramentally, in all of our Christmas celebrations—our food, our drink, our gifts, our family sharings. Likewise, may each of us struggle to give birth to God’s many-faced face so as to be more sacrament to those around us. God, we bow down and worship your beloved many-faced face.

“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”

“...And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.” ? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 2- "On Detachment"

2. After our call, which comes from God and not man, we have left all that is mentioned above, and it is a great disgrace for us to worry about anything that cannot help us in the hour of our need, that is to say, the hour of our death. For as the Lord said, this means looking back and not being fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Knowing how fickle we novices are, and how easily we turn to the world through visiting, or being with, worldly people, when someone asked Him: 'Suffer me first to go and bury my father,' our Lord replied, 'Let the dead bury their dead.

Fourth Week of Advent, 2015

(Luk 1:41-45) And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.

RC.NET: Praising the Names of Jesus: The Antiphons of Advent

ANGELUS ADDRESS: On the Wonder of Christmas

To celebrate Christmas well, we are called to spend time in the “places” of astonishment [wonder]. And what are these places of wonder in daily life? There are three.

The first place is “the other,” in whom we recognize a brother, because since the birth of Jesus, every face is marked with a similarity to the Son of God. Above all when it is the face of a poor person, because as a poor man, God entered the world and it was the poor, in the first place, that he allowed to approach him.

Another place of wonder - a place in which, if we look with faith, we feel wonder, is history. The second one. So many times we think we see it the right way, and instead we risk reading it backwards: It happens, for example, when history seems to us to be determined by the market economy, regulated by finance and business, dominated by the powers that be. The God of Christmas is rather a God who “shuffles the deck” – He likes to do it, eh? – As Mary sings in the Magnificat, it is the Lord who casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty (Lk 1:52-53). This is the second surprise, the wonder of history.

The third place of wonder is the Church. To look on her with the wonder of faith means not just considering the Church only as a religious institution – which the Church is – but to feel that she is a mother who, despite her warts and wrinkles – we have so many! – lets the contours of the bride beloved of and purified by Christ the Lord shine through. A Church who knows how to recognize herself in the many signs of faithful love that God continuously sends her. A Church whereby the Lord Jesus will never be a possession to be zealously defended; those who do this are erroneous. The Lord Jesus will always be the One who comes to meet her and who she knows how to await with trust and joy, giving a voice to the hopes of the world. The Church who calls to the Lord, “Come Lord Jesus.” The Mother Church who always has the doors open, and her arms open to welcome everyone. Even more, Mother Church goes out from her own doors to seek, with the smile of a Mother, all of those who are far away and bring them to the mercy of God. This is the wonder of Christmas.

At Christmas, God gives us all of Himself by giving His one and only Son, who is all his joy – and it is only with the heart of Mary, the humble and poor daughter of Zion, become the Mother of the Son of the Most High, that we can rejoice and be glad for the great gift of God and for His unpredictable surprise: may she help us to perceive the wonder, these three wonders: the other, history and the Church; so let it be with the birth of Jesus – the gift of gifts – the undeserved gift that brings us salvation, that it might also make us feel this wonder in meeting Jesus. We cannot have this wonder, however, we cannot meet Jesus, if we do not meet Him in the other, in history and in the Church.


A Christmas visit with Mother Teresa
St. Faustina’s Christmas
Padre Pio's Christmas Meditation

EXCERPT RON ROLHEISER, OMI: To make a festival of Christmas, to surround the marking of Jesus’ birth with all the joy, light, music, gift-giving, energy and warmth we can muster is (and the Gospel makes for strange paradoxes) a prophetic act. It is, or at least it can be, a radical statement of faith and hope.

It is not the person who says: “It’s all rotten, let’s cancel it!” who radiates hope. At the end of the day, that’s despair masquerading as faith. No. It’s the woman or man, who, despite the world’s misuse and abuse of these, strings up the Christmas lights, trims the tree and turkey, pours gifts and drinks all around, turns up the stereo which is playing the carols and flashes a smile for the whole world, who radiates faith, who says that we are meant for more than gloom.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1: "On Renunciation of the World"

1 (cont.). By friends of God, dear and holy father, we simple people mean, properly speaking, those noetic and incorporeal beings which surround God. By true servants of God we mean all those who tirelessly and unremittingly do and have done His will. By worthless servants we mean those who think of themselves as having been granted baptism, but have not faithfully kept the vows they made to God. By those estranged from God and alienated from Him, we mean those who are unbelievers or heretics. Finally, the enemies of God are those who have not only evaded and rejected the Lord's commandment themselves, but who also wage bitter war on those who are fulfilling it.

Third Week of Advent, 2015  

(Php 4:4-7) Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

NCR: Gaudete: Anticipation within Anticipation

EXCERPT VATICAN RADIO: Today is called “Gaudete” Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). Today we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments to express our communal joy in the coming of Jesus, as our Savior. 

The theme of the third Sunday of Advent is rejoicing in hope.  Advent is a time for joy, not only because we are anticipating the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, but also because God is already in our midst.  Christian joy does not come from the absence of sorrow, pain or trouble, but from an awareness of the presence of Christ within our souls. 

In today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah says, "Shout for joy, O Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel.” Zephaniah made this prophetic proclamation at the height of the Jewish exile when things appeared hopeless and unbearable. 

The instruction is repeated in the response to the Psalm, "Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."  St. Paul echoes the same message of joy in the second reading, taken from his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again, rejoice...  The Lord is in your midst…  Fear not… be not discouraged...  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all…”  Paul was imprisoned when he made this appeal for rejoicing. 

In the gospel today, John the Baptist explains the secret of Christian joy as wholehearted commitment to God’s way by doing His will.   A sad Christian is a contradiction in terms.  According to the Baptizer, happiness comes from doing our duties faithfully, doing good to others and sharing our blessings with others. John’s call to repentance is a call to joy and restoration.  Repentance means a change in the purpose and direction of our lives.  Filled with joyful expectation that the Messiah was near, the people asked John, “What should we do?”  He told them to act with justice, charity and honesty, letting their lives reflect their transformation.  For us, that transformation occurs when Christ enters our lives, and it is to be reflected in our living in the ways John suggested.

BLOG: Gaudete Sunday: 11 things to know and share . . .

PODCAST: The Sacrament of Reconciliation

The season of Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ and the best way to prepare is to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins and to receive the graces to live holier lives. Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor are on location at St. John Seminary where they talk with Vince Lynch, who gives his view from the pew as a Catholic who loves this sacrament and as a licensed social worker with insight into the human need for reconciliation and forgiveness. LINK

COURAGEOUS CATHOLIC: 3 Easy Steps to Make an Awesome Confession

ST. CLAUDE DE LA COLOMBIERE: I glorify you in making known how good you are towards sinners, and that your mercy prevails over all malice, that nothing can destroy it, that no matter how many times or how shamefully we fall, or how criminally, a sinner need not be driven to despair of [God’s] pardon.  .  It is in vain that your enemy and mine sets traps for me every day. He will make me lose everything else before the hope that I have in your mercy.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1: "On Renunciation of the World"

1. Our God and King is good, transcendently good and all-good (it is best to begin with God in writing to the servants of God). Of the rational beings created by Him and honoured with the dignity of free-will, some are His friends, others are His true servants, some are worthless, some are completely estranged from God, and others, though feeble creatures, are His opponents.

Second Week of Advent, 2015  

(Php 1:9-11) And this I pray: That your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding: That you may approve the better things: that you may be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ: Filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.


EXCERPT CATHOLIC HERALD: On the Year of Mercy by Bishop Robert C. Morlino     

“I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” -- Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 5

In calling for an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has issued a call meant not only to urge a return to the Almighty, but also to reinvigorate and inspire those of us who try to live lives as followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Holy Father has also unintentionally, but not surprisingly, endorsed our own diocesan “mission.”

The Holy Father begins his Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, with the following words: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.” In carrying out our diocesan mission of “inviting others to meet the person of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, face to face, and be changed by Him,” we are inviting them to meet the face of the Father’s mercy -- to meet mercy incarnate. This invitation is one which is tied up in a challenging realization with regard to who God is and who “I” am, and it should be a profound and even startling invitation for each woman and man who lives in, and grapples with, a world that is nearly completely lacking in mercy.

Our world and our culture offer a great deal of lip-service to certain notions of tolerance and license, but these notions are grounded in a premise that truth is what you make it, and is subject to change, if public opinion is swayed to agree on the matter. Absent a grounding in the Truth and a foundation in humanity’s authentic encounter with mercy itself, all attempts at justice and mercy are mere shadows, structures built on sand. To experience mercy and to grant mercy, individuals and cultures must be anchored in the Truth and in a recognition of sin and repentance.

Our call to the world around us is not, “Come! We’ll tolerate you (for now), no matter who you think you are!” Our call and invitation is, “Come and meet the One who knows you better than you know yourself, who knows your sin, and who welcomes you home, with the tenderest embrace of mercy.”

The only remedy to the scarcity of mercy in our culture is to begin preaching mercy, truth, and love – and the One who is the face of all these things, Jesus Christ!

In this Year of Mercy, what we are offering (and what we are being offered) is an invitation to an extraordinary time of grace, so that we might return to the Father who desires our every good, our joy, and our peace, and so that we might make known the face of the Father’s mercy.

NEWS.VA: Mercy Jubilee: press conference details events, initiatives

CHIESA: Homilies and Gregorian Chant for Advent

CONCLUSION HOMILY: "The Night is Passed and the Day is at Hand"

Are we, then, near the end of the world?  Will Christ be returning any day now?  To be sure, things look bleak.  But who is to say that things will not become bleaker still?  All we know is that, the darker the world becomes, the more unstable the human foundations of the Church become, the nearer our salvation will be — nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11).  The darker things become, the more reason we the faithful have to walk in the light of faith and remain in the household of God (Eph. 2:19).  As long as we remain in this light, the darkness of night is already passed, even as we await the coming of the full light of day, when the Sun of Justice arrives.  With God’s help, may we all strive to remain aligned with Christ the chief cornerstone, that we ourselves may always be living stones in the temple of His body.  With the armor of light and the shield of faith, we shall be able to extinguish the fiery darts of the most wicked one” (Eph. 6:16), the devil, so as not be among those who were destined to disobey the Word (cf. 1 Pt. 2:8).  Thus, we shall, like the stars in the heavenly firmament, proclaim the glory of God for all to see.  And we shall have no reason to “wither away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world” (Lk. 21:26).  Rather, we shall be able to look up with heads held high, because our redemption shall be at hand.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Visions

18. A brother asked Poemen about the words, 'Do not render evil for evil' (1Thess. 5:15). He said to him, 'The passions work in four stages: first in the heart, then in the face, third in words, fourth in deeds- and it is in deeds that it is essential not to render evil for evil. If you purify your heart, passion will not show in your expression, but if it does, take care not to speak about it; if you do speak, cut the conversation short in case you render evil for evil.'

First Week of Advent, 2015  

(1Th 3:12-13) And may the Lord multiply you and make you abound in charity towards one another and towards all men: as we do also towards you, To confirm your hearts without blame, in holiness, before God and our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints. Amen.


CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT: Advent orients us to the heart of the Nativity

“We preach not one advent only of Christ,” wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century, “but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave a view of His patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of a divine kingdom.”

The term “advent,” as we’ll see, is drawn from the New Testament, but when St. Cyril (named a Doctor of the Church in 1883 by Pope Leo XIII) was writing his famous catechetical lectures, the season of Advent was just starting to emerge in fledgling form in Spain and Gaul. During the fifth century, Christians in parts of western Europe began observing a period of ascetical practices leading up to the feasts of Christmas and Epiphany. Advent was observed in Rome beginning in the sixth century, and it was sometimes called the “pre-Christian Lent,” a time of fasting, more frequent prayer, and additional liturgies.

One of the prayers of the Roman missal from those early centuries says, “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thy only-begotten Son: that by His coming we may be able to serve him with purified minds.” This echoes today’s reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, in which he exhorts them “to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.”

The Greek word used by St. Paul for “coming” is parousia, which means “presence” or “coming to a place.” The Vulgate translation of the phrase “the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thess 3:13) is rendered “in adventu Domini.” The word parousia appears twenty-four times in the New Testament, almost always in reference to the coming or presence of the Lord. It appears in Matthew 24 four times, the only place the term appears in the Gospels; that chapter records the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ prophetic warnings about a coming time of trial, destruction, and “the coming of the Son of man” (Matt 24:27). Today’s Gospel reading, from Luke 21, is a parallel passage warning of distress, startling heavenly signs, and “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

What connection is there between the foment of earthly tribulation and cosmic upheaval, and preparations to celebrate Christ’s birth? If we consider the Christmas story cleared of sentimental wrappings, we see events as dramatic, raw, bloody, and joyous as can be imagined: the birth of Christ, the slaughter of the innocents, the praise of angels, the murderous rage of Herod. Christmas is about birth, but also death; about rejoicing, but also rejection. It is the story of God desired and God denied. It is the story every man has to encounter because it is the story of God’s radical plan of salvation, the entrance of divinity into the dusty ruts and twisting corridors of human history.

Advent orients us to the heart of the Nativity—not in a merely metaphorical way, but through the reality of the liturgy, the Eucharist, the sacramental life of the Church. It is a wake-up call, perhaps even an alarm rousing us from “carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” The birth of Christ caught many by surprise. Likewise, we can find ourselves trapped in the darkness of dull living and missing Christ’s call to raise our heads as salvation approaches.

“Advent calls believers to become aware of this truth and to act accordingly,” said Pope Benedict XVI in a homily marking the beginning of Advent in 2006. “It rings out as a salutary appeal in the days, weeks and months that repeat: Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now!” Jesus exhorted his disciples to be vigilant, prepared, and prayerful.

The same is true for his disciples today, so they might escape the tribulations of spiritual darkness and stand purified and prepared before the Son of Man, the son of Mary.

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Advent: 10 things you didn't know about the pre-Christmas season


DYNAMIC CATHOLIC: Best Advent Ever Rediscover Mercy! Are you Ready?

CREIGHTON UNIVERSITY'S ONLINE MINISTRIES: Praying Advent and Celebrating Christmas

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Visions

15.  It was said that Silvanus wanted to go away to Syria but his disciple Mark said to him, 'Abba, I don't want to leave this place, nor will I let you leave. Stay here for three days.' On the third day Mark died.
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Jubilee 2000: Bringing the World to Jesus

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