Today is the first day of Advent, and only 27 days till CHRIST-mas. Woo-Hoo!! Yippee!! We are looking forward to both Jesus’ birth and His final return at the “End Time:” the Parousia. At this time He will bring us into His kingdom fully and personally. Can anyone get a better gift than this?
“Prayer for Lighting the Advent Wreath Candles for the First Week”
“All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, forever and ever. – AMEN.”
Today in Catholic History:
† 741 – St Gregory III ends his reign as Catholic Pope with his death
† 1095 – On the last day of the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II appoints Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy and Count Raymond IV of Toulouse to lead the First Crusade to the Holy Land.
† 1880 – Death of Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos, (Portuguese) Archbishop of Goa (b. 1837)
† 1944 – Death of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
† 1959 – Pope John XXIII publishes encyclical Princeps Pastorum
† Feast Day: Pope Gregory III; Catherine Labouré
† Eastern Orthodox Church: Using the “Julian Calendar.” it is the beginning of the Nativity Fast; Repose of Saint Herman of Alaska; Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky; Martyr Stephen the New of Mount Saint Auxentius; Basil; Stephen; two Gregories; John; Andrew; Peter; Anna; and many others.
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Quote or Joke of the Day:
“Do what you can and pray for what you cannot yet do.” – Saint Augustine
Edited by Raymond Arroyo: The Prayers & Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica, Doubleday
Today’s reflection is about Jesus telling His followers that the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia) will find many people not prepared, and that His disciples should always be ready for the day of the Lord.
37 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. 44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (NAB Matthew 24:37-44)
Wow! What a weekend we had this year. My wife and kids were up at four a.m. to go shopping this past Friday (Black Friday). I was laughing as they excitedly, but still very sleepily, walked out the front door on their “little excursion” with craziness of “the good kind.” In today’s Gospel reading we are advised to “stay awake and to be prepared.” Would all these shoppers stand in line in the late night/early morning as willingly to do the same thing outside the local parish Church to grasp a “spiritual” gift from God? Would they be willing to lose sleep for something that can’t be purchased anywhere in this universe, yet still must be accepted at whatever cost, and used daily in order to “live”? Now is the time to be alert, to “stay awake,” and to prepare for His gifts, and His coming.
Let’s use this Advent season to remind us that we are already living in the “end times”. It began with the “FIRST” coming of Jesus Christ, with His incarnation and birth in that cold manger. It will be fully completed with His return at the Parousia. This second “coming” is guaranteed; only the time that it will fully occur is unknown. Also guaranteed at the Parousia is a swift judgment, which for many will be unexpected. Oh, how sad, for Jesus frequently warned His followers not to be caught unprepared when that day finally arrives.
Today is a new beginning in the Church year and a new beginning for us as well. It is never too late to start living in Jesus’ footsteps – – to follow His path. This “Advent season,” the next four Sundays, will end with the birth of Jesus. For Catholics, this season is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah. Now is the time to remember two crucial elements of our faith: the “final coming” of the Lord in glory (the Parousia), and “the Incarnation” of the Lord in the birth of Jesus Christ. Vigilant waiting, preparation, and justice are the important lessons of any Advent.
Good role models for the Advent season or Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38). Like sentinels at the Temple, they patiently awaited the “Messiah”. Their faith, hope, and trust never failed them. They waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises with perseverance unequalled by anyone. The Holy Spirit lived in them, and exuded from them, in their eagerness to see God’s salvation fully realized with His glorious entrance to this sinful world in human form. Their prayer and steadfastness allowed them both to see the “Messiah” when brought to the Temple by His Holy earthly parents. God’s view and behaviors became their views and behaviors, and His life became their lives.
The Gospel of Matthew will be the principal Gospel read this Liturgical year (Cycle A). In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the need for “staying awake”, for “watchful waiting”, for the “coming of the Son of Man”.
Matthew’s Gospel was probably written about or after 70 A.D. Scholars believe that Matthew wrote for a mostly Jewish population, yet a population that wasn’t centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. Remember, the Temple (and a large portion of Jerusalem itself) was destroyed around this time in history. These Jewish Christians tried to come to terms with their relationship towards Judaism and “The Way” (an early name for “Christians”) that Jesus established and preached. There were many Christians who believed that the events of the world surrounding them, such as the destruction of the Temple, gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord – “in glory” (the Parousia).
Let’s go WAY back in history. The people in Noah’s time ignored the Lord’s warning of judgment. They missed the boat, literally! The Old Testament account of the flood put little emphasis on what was vital for Matthew when he said that the unexpected flood befell on those who were not prepared for the deluge of water (verses 37- 39). Luke also had a corresponding passage, in Chapter 17:26-27: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
What does Jesus mean when he says that one will be taken and another left? Associating with “desirable” friends and acquaintances (especially those who are very pious) does not guarantee anyone an “E-ticket” to heaven. No matter how close someone may be to God, we cannot hitch a ride with them. God offers to each of us a personal invite and relationship. One only needs to simply accept Him, or reject Him; there is no neutral territory when it comes to the final judgment.
In today’s reading, those “taken” meant “taken into God’s kingdom”, with “will be left” meaning “left for destruction”. As is very prevalent and typical throughout the New Testament, people will be dealt with, in an opposite way to their present condition, in God’s Kingdom. In the context of today’s reading, God’s judgment will be based on how ready we are for the coming of the Son of Man (the Parousia). Luke’s corresponding verses can be found in Chapter 17:34-35: “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”
Matthew’s primary theme of alertness, eagerness, and preparedness is assisted in the telling with the daring contrast of the “Son of Man” to a “thief” who comes to break into a house. Luke’s counterpart is in Chapter 12:39-40: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
If you knew that a thief wanted to steal your possessions, wouldn’t you guard it with your life? God promises each of us an inheritance and reward which he calls a “treasure beyond measure” (Matthew 13:44-46) – – the Lord himself!! The kingdom he offers us is a kingdom of true and everlasting peace, joy, and righteousness.
It is uselessness to look for signs of the return of the “Son of God”; there will be none! As a thief sneaks in during the night so will the Lord’s glorious coming be. So, how do we prepare for the Parousia? It is about the “waiting” and what to do while waiting! Jesus compared the vigilance required of His followers to that of the vigilance a homeowner has when he knows the thief’s plan. If one knows that the thief’s deed is looming, one remains alert and vigilant. In kind, if we become lax in our Catholic life, practices, and worship, we may be caught unprepared.
My brother used to run in marathons. My nephew and his wife regularly participate in bi- and triathlons. For them, preparation is essential. It took months to achieve their goal. In the same token, we have an entire season to get ready for Christ’s entrance with His human birth.
Runners need to eat a healthy in a healthy way for the energy needed to finish the race. They pace themselves, working mile by mile or minute by minute, and not trying to hurry up the process unwisely. Runners travel light, with no extra baggage weighing them down.
Our Advent “meal” is prayer, Sacraments, and Holy Scripture. We can lighten our load as well by examining our consciences every day; to repent of our sins. We should approach this Advent season with the same sense of patience as the long-distance runner. Just put one step in front of the other on God’s path, and deal with the obstacles as they come, knowing the end is just ahead of you. With each step you get a little closer to your goal of salvation and eternal paradise with God. The awesome thing is that God is at your side, running with you all along the way, pacing Himself to your tempo. He will help you if you stumble on His path, and He will encourage you if you allow Him.
The holiday season is upon us full-blast. Many feel the pressure to get EVERYTHING ready for Christmas – – TODAY, if not yesterday. With the readings today, we get a stark reminder to be ready for something much more important than the secular aspects of Christmas.
What does it mean to be ready for the Parousia? Reflect on how you can help others be a better Catholic. Commit to one thing that you will do this Advent season to help another be a better Catholic. Write your commitment down on a piece of paper in large print and post it in a prominent place (i.e., on the front door of the refrigerator, the coffee pot, or the television); a place where you will see your commitment note multiple times each day. Pray to God daily for His help in your commitment. On Christmas day, reflect on how well you succeeded in your commitment, and how well you are prepared for God’s coming and judgment.
God knows our struggles, and he gives grace and help wherever we need it. God’s judges each of us individually according to how we have responded to his gracious invitation. He gives us fresh hope each day so that we can keep our eyes on an eternal reward waiting for each of us. Now that is true love!!
“A Family Prayer for the First Week of Advent”
“Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love, and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: St. James of the Marche (1394-1476)
Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop!
James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.
James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.
With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.
To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects.
Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James was canonized in 1726.
James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.
“Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven” (Sermon of St. James).
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance
In the name of the Lord!
Concerning Those Who Do Penance
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).
We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).
We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).
Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.
Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:
“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).