Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Image result for Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,"

Gospel MT 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. 
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. 
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly. 
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. 
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her. 
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,


which means “God is with us.” 
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. 
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.
Reflection:
There are many ways to read and pray on this gospel passage, and as many times as I do one phrase keeps sticking out: “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of God appeared…”. Throughout our lives we have our own intentions and ways we want to do things and at times we have a divine intervention that leads us in a different path.  Someone on our journey or a spark of creative energy in our mind that sends us in a different direction is not an accident – it is the work of our God. Through us and in us He is working. And what joy there is to know of the many ways God works in and through our lives.  If only we could get out of the way more often and show greater faith in the power and mercy of our God.  Joseph had other plans when it came to his relationship with Mary and one can only imagine the course of human destiny if a divine intervention did not take place.  But it did – because God had a plan for Joseph as He has for each and every one of us.  Let us pray for an openness to the direction God is taking us and yield to His power and mercy to take us where He wants us to go.
Action Step:
Today, pray this simple prayer – “Lord, I don’t know where I am going but with your wisdom and guidance I know you will take me there.  Amen”
Rev. Fr. Jason Lody, FCM
Pastor – St. Anthony de Padua American National Catholic Church

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

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First Reading GN 49:2, 8-10

Jacob called his sons and said to them: “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
–your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you. Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage.”

Gospel  MT 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.

Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.

Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos,

Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

 

Reflection

 

The author of the Gospel of Matthew is often credited as writing to a primarily Jewish audience; in this case we see the importance of the tribe of Judah, and the genealogy of Jesus coming from that tribe. This was important to establish the authority of Jesus to the Jewish population, who was historically wary of outsiders.

What purpose does this lengthy genealogy serve for us today? Note that Jesus is linked to this genealogy through Joseph, but if we consider a virgin birth, for a biological genealogy perhaps it would have made more sense to do it through Mary’s line. Jesus enters Joseph’s line through a type of adoption. Jesus, in turn, claims us as his own, thereby entering us into this lineage through adoption. Hence we all become “children of Abraham” in the sense of inheriting God’s love and being assured we are valued, even though we may not be Jewish.

Adoption is a special form of family making, based on choice and not by accident. It is intentional. Many of the oppressed in our world today have been abandoned by their families of origin, and get their true support from their own “adopted” families of people whom they met in the world, and who care about them.

As we look forward to the days when God will gather all creation together once again, take solace in knowing that God has a very special genealogy with your name on it! We have all become part of the family, and this kind of genealogy is immutable and divine.

Prayer

Great creator and Father of us all, we praise your blessed name. We give you your rightful thanks for adopting us into your family in love. Please help guide us to be mindful of our family members in this life and the next, and help us to adopt a spirit of charity and love for each human being and all of your greater creation. Amen.

William Weightman

Seminarian

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

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Gospel MT 21:23-27

When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Reflection

This Gospel reading is one in which the religious leaders try to trap Jesus into either insignificance or blasphemy. In Jesus’s time religious authority was handed down from one generation to the next by scrupulous examination and if the candidate was found worthy, a priest or rabbi would lay hands on him in a public ceremony to transmit Godly authority to him. A practice we still use today in our ordination rights.

Jesus, however had no such ceremony so they challenge him in public. Jesus, in rabbinical fashion responds to their question with a question and inserts them in a dilemma where they themselves cannot answer his question and thus compromise their own authority.

As Jesus dared the Sanhedrin to follow him. He challenged their self-serving attitudes and their faithlessness.

So as we enter in to this third week of Advent, we too are challenged by Jesus and we need to examine ourselves to ensure that we are indeed following Christ in a faithful manner and not for our own self-importance.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, give us to courage to recognize the authority of your Most Holy Word over us.

Help us to curb or selfish nature and to live as children of light, illuminating your path for all whom we encounter.

We pray in Jesus name.

Amen

Fr. Don Simon, Pastor

St. Katharine Drexel, ANCC

Fargo, ND

The Third Sunday of Advent

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Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Gospel  MT 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
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.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out?  To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

 

Reflection

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. The Latin words from the introit for this third Advent Sunday give this Sunday its name: Gaudete Sunday. Many parishioners will ask, “Why is the priest wearing pink?” First, the color is not pink but rose, not that that makes a lot of difference! More to the point is the significance of the color. Advent’s liturgical color is purple. White, as a liturgical color, symbolizes joy, as when we celebrate Christmas and Easter. On this Sunday we are invited to experience the joy of anticipating the coming of our savior. White, when added to Advent’s purple, yields the rose color (okay: pink!) of this day. But this Sunday has more significance than a mere color change.

Advent’s four weeks of preparation corresponds with the hectic preparations and commercial bombardment many of us experience in our culture’s mad dash to Christmas. It is easy to get caught up in the culture’s focus on consumerism and setting out decorations. Advent invites us to live this time from a different perspective.

As Catholic Christians, we are invited to step away from the culture’s hustle and bustle and to make Advent’s four weeks a time of intentional prayerful spiritual preparation to celebrate our Lord’s coming among us. We are to be, in a word, countercultural. Gaudete Sunday’s call to rejoice is an invitation to see Advent as a countercultural time.

How can we, as Catholics, be countercultural amid our consumerist society? Use Advent as a time to get closer to those you love: your spouse, children parents, and others in your family you may not have spoken to in awhile. It’s nice to think of and anticipate giving them gifts but take time to see in each of them – even the difficult ones – the gift they are to you and rejoice that God has given them to you as a gift.

Take a few moments each day to rejoice in the ways you are and can be a gift to others: your family and friends, your neighbors and coworkers and even the strangers you encounter each day. Make time to see and appreciate the little things that remind you of God’s presence in your life: the beauty of nature, the wonder of friendship, the peace of quiet time, and Christ’s eucharistic presence at Mass. In these rejoice: they are reminders that the Lord is near.

Advent is a time of renewal and growth. It is a way to fulfill Isaiah’s admonition to “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, [and] say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”

As we await his coming in glory, Christ comes to us not simply as a babe in a manger long ago but also in the person of others we encounter each day. As we see Christ in them, rejoice, be strong, fear not and know that the Lord is near.

Prayer

Good and gracious God, in all times of our anxiety and confusion, of distraction and haste, may your Spirit’s presence guide and protect us, bring calm and peace amidst confusion and despair, and strengthen us in our weakness that we may have the grace to see you ever-present in the world around us, in those most dear to us and in those whose presence challenges us most: that in them we may know your humble presence and rejoice that you are always near. We ask this in the name of him who humbled himself to become one of us and whose coming we await with joy, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Joseph Harmon

Pastor, The Oratory of St. Thomas à Becket

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

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Reading 1         SIR 48:1-4, 9-11

In those days,
like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Gospel              MT 17:9A, 10-13

As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Reflection:

Today’s instruction in the Book of Sirach speaks about the prophet Elijah and all his mighty works as the Prophet of the Lord God. He was a prophet on fire for his Lord and Master and tirelessly performed all that God required of him. At the end of his life, he was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was said that one day Elijah would return as he had left to make things right once and for all. Ben Sira, the author of the Book of Sirach, catalogs the mighty works, the great signs Elijah worked in the name of God. To this day, at Passover, one seat is left empty for Elijah—such was the greatness of God’s prophet.

In today’s gospel, Jesus acknowledges Elijah’s greatness, but suggests that one greater than Elijah has already returned in the person of John the Baptist. Like Elijah, like all the prophets, John acted as the conscience of an evil King. He eclipses Elijah because he announces the coming of the Christ, the one who would take away the sin of the world. Unlike Elijah, John was not saved from those who hated him. He preached of conversion of hearts and baptized converts in the Jordan—even Jesus himself. Once Jesus comes John realizes that “He must increase. I must decrease.” He is imprisoned by Herod and is beheaded for the amusement of Salome. John is silenced, but the goodness of his life and words would not be extinguished. His heart’s fire burned to the end and for that John is greater than all who had preceded him—even Elijah. Our road, our own purpose may not be that of Elijah or John the Baptist, but we too through our baptisms are prophets and our lives need to be spent being the message God has written into our hearts for the sake of others, no matter its cost.

Prayer

Father in heaven, may your will for our lives be done in us. May we always be open to your touch, as was Elijah and John the Baptist. Help us to remain faithful to our baptismal call.  Enflesh the message you have written in us for the service of others, especially now as we reflect on Jesus’ coming in history. We ask this through Jesus, your Son.

Mthr. Phyllis McHugh

Pastor, St. Thomas More

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

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Gospel: MT 11:16-19

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

REFLECTION

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about the people of his time and how they keep looking for the perfect excuse to willingly and capriciously ignore the signs of wisdom. This Gospel reading is a perfect example of what the Advent season is about, a call to discover one’s self and his/her environment again and while contemplating the mystery of the incarnation and the second coming of our Lord, JesusChrist.

In life, we all have many opportunities to taste, smell, touch, see and hear God in everything that surround us. Opportunities that can be totally ignored or overseen due to many reason like priorities, egos, fears, business, distractions among others. However, Jesus is calling us to stop for a moment and open ourselves to those opportunities.

One may think that I am talking about supernatural experiences, spiritual trances or exaltations. No, I am talking about simple things that allow us to connect with the divine, a conversation with a friend, a kiss to a loved one, an opportunity to get to know a new person, a playful moment with a pet, a moment of silence, or the contemplation of nature. Every single moment in our life is an opportunity to discover the divine and it is only up to us if we allow that encounter.

PRAYER

O God, you that designed the perfect plan of salvation for your children, allow us to discover your presence in our lives daily, so that when we get to meet you face to face, on an eternal gaze of love, we may be able to recognize you with all our senses.

Rev. Fr. Julian Garcia-Londono

Pastoral Associate – St. Anthony de Padua American National Catholic Church

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Gospel: LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection
When I was first ordained, I was fortunate to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Among the many places we visited was Nazareth, where Jesus grew up.  There is a beautiful church called the Church of the Annunciation.  When you walk in, you will see many different mosaics on the walls about Mary. She is depicted in each mosaic as you would see her in that native country.  For example, Portugal would show her as Our Lady of Fatima.  France would show her as Our Lady of Lourdes.  Mexico as Our Lady of Guadalupe which we celebrate today.  There must have been a dozen countries giving honor to Mary in their native way.  It was wonderful to see.
The Scripture for today is about the Annunciation.  This feast is often passed over because it is always in Lent.  The date is March 25th.  But I feel that it is just as important as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.  When Mary said yes to the angel, our salvation through Jesus began.  The ancient prophesies about the Messiah finally became a reality through Mary saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Whether we honor Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any other expression, she is our spiritual mother and deserves our unfailing gratitude.
Prayer
Lord Jesus, as we honor your mother today, please give us the courage to say yes as she did.  Help us to follow your example and answer your command to serve one another.  Amen.
Rev. Fr. Anthony Testa
Pastor – Our Lady of Guadalupe American National Catholic Church