Sunday, December 29, 2013

Today's Mass Readings- Sunday, December 29, 2013 with Reflection

1ST READING - Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. 12 My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. 13 Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not all the days of his life; 14kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sin — a house raised in justice to you.
P S A L M - Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
R: Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored. (R) Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table. (R) Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. (R)
2nd READING - Colossians 3:12-21
12 Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14 And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. 21Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the words of Christ dwell in you richly.
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
13 When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. 23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”



I was at an open air concert many years ago. During the interlude, I noticed a young boy wandering around the park looking for his parents. In a state of angst he cried out, “Mommy,” in the midst of the multitude. In one moment, the whole crowd cried out in pity for the child who had been separated from his parents. Soon, the child was reunited with his mother. The crowd of people cried out in delight and made their relief known through a sudden round of applause. Similarly, the Gospel tells of Mary’s desperation in looking for her Son.

       They were returning from the Passover. Usually, families would gather in groups and head back home. Thus, Mary and Joseph presumed that Jesus was with their cousins going home. To their shock and amazement, Jesus was nowhere in sight. Can you imagine the desperation of Mary as she searched for her child? Any mother will identify with her. Meanwhile, Jesus is unaware of their trouble. Upon finding Jesus in the temple, Mary expresses her concern that she had not known of his whereabouts. Luke comments that Jesus went home with them and lived under their authority.

       Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. We thank God for bringing us into a family, where we can live and learn the ways of God. One of the commandments is that we honor our mother and father, those who have given us life. They are representatives of God, entrusted with the right and duty to exercise care and concern over our lives. We are to submit to their authority during our years of development. The family should be a great school whereby we learn to love and live according to the ways of God. Of course, each family is unique in the eyes of God. Each family has its own weaknesses, sins, secrets and traditions. Through the birth of Jesus, we are born into another family that is the family of God, the Church. We are to submit our lives to God our Father in obedience and faithful love. In God’s family, we learn to be busy with the Father’s business, placing Him above all things. Fr. Brian Steele, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: Are you busy about the Father’s affairs?
Lord, thank You for the gift of my family. Amen.

St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr, pray for us.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Women and the Culture Wars

by Father John McCloskey

The twenty fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of women (Mulieris Dignitatem) is upon us. The apostolic letter was given in Rome on August at St. Peter's on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 1988, the tenth of the reign of the soon-to-be St. Pope John Paul II — and what a document it remains!
I have been asked to write a few words on the letter to see if anything has changed vis-à-vis Catholic women in the Church's teaching on women and their role as a result of the past 25 years and as a result of the document. I will only attempt to speak about the United States, even though I have traveled to a good number of at least nominally Catholic countries since the apostolic letter was published.
Let's take a quick look at some of the teaching of Blessed John Paul's letter.
We are told in Genesis 1:27 that God created man in His own image—and that He created them male and female. As Pope John Paul II put it, "This passage indicates that men and women are essentially equal from the standpoint of their humanity, they both reflect the likeness of God." However, sin entered the world (no finger pointing at who is to be blamed!) and destroyed the unity that man and woman generated in the state of original justice; it also damaged the relationship of man and woman as a community of persons.
Do you have fights or, to put it more decorously, polite disagreements with your spouse? Well, that is why. What God intended the marital relationship to be when He created us—a loving, mutually supportive and mutually appreciative unity of complementary strengths and needs—has, since the Fall, the tendency to degenerate into a relationship of competition, criticism, and depreciation, with spouses tempted to keep count of slights, mistakes, or failures. As a result, spouses often judge the other partner from an emotional and spiritual distance rather than by seeking a mutually supportive union that allows them to pursue their own good and the good of their family and society. While there is plenty of scope in marriage for fallen attitudes and behaviors by both husband and wife, one aspect of the disunity resulting from Original Sin is an urge to use the other person to satisfy us rather than respecting his or her privileged status as a beloved child of God. Historically, one common characteristic of gravely disordered marital unions was a disrespecting domination of the wife by the husband. As Pope John Paul said (now we get down to business), "An authentic marital union requires the husband and wife to be treated as equal subjects in accordance with their status as spiritual persons. The disorder caused by sin must be overcome so that women are not treated as objects of "domination" and "male possession."
This truth has certainly been acknowledged in theory, but not in practice, in the United States. The Catholic Church in the U.S. has followed both the perennial teachings of the Church through the ages and the insights of Pope John Paul in this apostolic letter and his revolutionary talks early in his pontificate on the Theology of the Body. These teachings are available for all men and women to read and apply in the U.S., Catholic or not, and our new and "different" pontiff Pope Francis endorses them with vigor, regardless of how he may be misquoted or distorted by the press abroad.
What is the bad news for all women—whether or not they acknowledge it?
Consider the fruits of the current relationship between the sexes in an era supposedly devoted to equality and the untrammeled pursuit of happiness: 1. legal abortions, killing innocent babies; 2. legal unnatural birth control (often in actuality not contraceptive but abortifacient); 3. legal divorce and remarriage; 4. the United States as the pornography capital of the world, with women seen solely as sexual objects; 5. increasingly fewer mothers who can afford to stay home with their children; 6. a birthrate that is the lowest in our history; 7. legalized so-called gay marriage; 8. ongoing enormous incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
The good news? All of the above practices are unnatural—so judged by the natural law inscribed on human hearts and by the teaching of the Church. If the Roman Empire could fall over time under the influence of the early Christians, so can our country—and at faster rate due to good use of technology. God is with us, as is the Blessed Mother Mary, who is all-powerful in petitions to her Son. And let's not forget Blessed Pope John Paul the Great himself. If (in cooperation with Our Lady of Fatima) he was key in destroying the Evil Empire of Communism, then we can be sure of his help in our own Crusade, also so close to his heart.
The Culture Wars are ours to win, and in the process we will surely earn a high place in heaven near Christ our King.
First appeared on Truth and Charity Forum in November, 2013.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

I Love Rubber Bands

By Bo Sanchez

Let me tell you a crazy story I heard recently.There's this husband who out of sheer love for his wife decided to prove it to her. So he swam the widest oceans, crossed the deepest rivers, and climbed the highest mountains to show his deep devotion to her. But in the end, she divorced him.

Why? Because he was never home.(Get it?)

Let me tell you an experience I had as a kid. One day, I asked Mom, "Why do my shoes keep eating my socks?" As a young boy, that was always a mystery for me. All my other classmates never had that problem. Their socks remained tight and high up their legs the entire day.

Mom didn't answer my question but simply gave me two rubber bands which I dutifully placed around the top of my socks. To this day, fifteen years later, I still have permanent circle marks around my legs. But aside from giving me this slight defect, the two bands worked like magic.

It never occurred to me that Dad and Mom didn't have the money to buy a new pair of socks for me. So I wore five-year-old socks, all soggy, grayish, and garter less. And yet amazingly, I never complained. I believe it was because Dad was always home when I needed him. Every night, after coming from work, we'd jog together, sit around, and talk about Tarzan, Farrah Fawcett Majors, God, and what I wanted to be when I grew up (a stockholder). On Saturdays, we'd walk to Cubao, eat a hotdog-on-a- stick,and buy new rubber bands before going home.

I've learned that in truth, we don't want our loved ones to show their love for us in big ways. Swimming the widest oceans,crossing the deepest rivers, and climbing the highest mountains seem spectacular - but that's not what we really want. Deep in our hearts, we just want them home. With us.

Sometimes, God will operate that way. Suddenly, He decides not to answer our prayers, or fill our need, or heal our sickness, or give us the miracle we're asking for. (He's got reasons why He won't, and believe me - they're pretty good ones.) So He'll just be there beside you, holding you in a hug. Sharing your pain. Weeping as you weep. Oh, He might give you some rubber

bands. And that small comfort from Him will be more than enough to sustain you. Because the most essential truth you already know.


Thursday, December 26, 2013


By: Bo Sanchez

Let me tell you a story. Three construction workers were on top of their half-finished skyscraper. Rrrrring!" the lunch bell sounded, and the three men sat on a steel beam jutting out of the 56th floor with their lunch boxes in hand.

The first guy opens his and groans in exasperation, "Tuyo!" There is not a day that I don't get tuyo for lunch!" He turns to his buddies and announces, "Mark my words. If I still get tuyo tomorrow, I'm going to throw myself from this building."

The second guy opens his lunch box and moans, "Tinapa". Everyday, I get tinapa!" He looks at his friends and declares, "Believe me when I say this.  If I get tinapa tomorrow, I'm going to jump and kil! l myself."

The third guy opens his lunch box and it was his turn to despair. "Galunggong" . All I get is galunggong!" I'm telling you, if I still get galunggong tomorrow, I'm going to jump from this building and die."

The next day, the lunch bell rings and all three men are again seated on the 56th floor. The first guy opens his lunch box and starts crying, "Tuyoooooo!" And so he jumps and crashes on the ground.

The second guy opens his lunch box and wails loudly, "Tinapaaaa!" And he also hurls himself off the building and dies.

The third guy opens his lunch box and screams, "Galunggonggggg! " And so he too jumps off the building and splatters on the ground.

Days later, during the funeral of the three men, their three wives embrace and weep together. The first wife cries out, "I didn't know my husband didn't like tuyo anymore! Why didn't he tell me? If only he told me, I would have prepared something else."

The second wife echoes her statement, "Yes! If only I knew, I would have cooked something else, not tinapa!"

The third wife, between sobs, speaks up, "I don't know why my husband killed himself." The two wives look at her curiously.


She went on, "Because ... my husband prepares his own lunch everyday..."

I love this crazy story because it presents a very important truth: all of us prepare our own lunch. If we don't like our jobs, if we don't like the state of our relationships, if! we don't like what's happening to our spiritual lives - we have no one to blame but ourselves. Because God has

given us free will. He has given us the power to prepare our own lunch.

If you want to earn more and be free from debt, if you're sick and tired of your bad habits, if we want to put more joy in our marriages, if we want to grow in our relationship with God - then go back to your kitchen and prepare yourself another dish. Because you design your own future. You create your own destiny. Ask yourself what kind of future do you want to have? What kind of life? What kind of eternity?

You decide.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ - Today's Mass Readings - Christmas, December 25, 2013 with Reflection

1ST READING - Isaiah 52:7-10 (or Isaiah 9:1-6)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. 10 The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.
P S A L M - Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6 (or Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13)
R: All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds; his right hand has won victory for him, his holy arm. (R) The Lord has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice. He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. (R) All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; break into song; sing praise. (R) Sing praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song. 6With trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the Lord. (R)
2ND READING - Hebrews 1:1-6 (or Titus 2:11-14)
Brothers and sisters: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”? Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”? And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: “Let all the angels of God worship him.”
A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. For today a great light has come upon the earth.
John 1:1-18 (or Luke 2:1-14)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. 12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’’ 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, 17 because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.



Merry Christmas to you and may Christ be born again in your hearts!

       St. John of the Cross says that God has spoken His Word; He has nothing else to say. Today, we celebrate the Word made flesh, Jesus who has united His divinity with our humanity. To quote a Father of the Church: “One of us is God.” The author of Hebrews proclaims that God has spoken to us through His Son. Today is the Day of Fire, the Fire of God’s love. Today we are united in the Son, giving glory to the Father for having saved His people through His visitation. We are called sons and daughters of God: You are my son, today I have become your Father.

       In the midst of our celebrations, it would be good to take time to reflect upon God who has taken upon Himself the fullness of humanity. See God’s humility in becoming like one of us, except having sinned. Jesus will grow and mature as a young man. He will live in a small village, learn a trade and study the Scriptures. He will die on a Cross for our salvation, destroying the defilement of sin.

       Jesus wants to be born again in our lives. Just as He was given a place in the stable, we open our hearts and lives to be that place, the throne whereby God takes His rightful place. For many years, we have been under the power of the evil one, who has ruled the world. Jesus, according to the author of Hebrews, is the radiant light of God’s glory, sustaining the universe by His powerful command. He has come to conquer sin and death. We are now reunited to Him since He is at the right hand of the Father; from thence He has taken His place to reign and rule. Fr. Brian Steele, MGL

REFLECTION QUESTION: Contemplate the baby in the manger. Acknowledge His greatness and humility and power. To us a Child is born, for us a Child is given.

Thank You, Father, for remembering Your truth and love for Your people. Amen.

St. Eugenia, pray for us.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013


By: Bobby Quitain

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68)

As I write this, my 1 year old Marco is on the floor, tugging playfully at my feet. Whenever I would glance down at him, he would flash his patented “please play with me Papang” smile at me. Amused but also a bit irritated, I do what most busy parents do: I multi-tasked.

And then it dawned on me --- a striking thought that spells for me perfectly what Christmas is really all about.

It is often said that the spelling of love is T-I-M-E.

This can be said in the truest sense during Christmas. On one extraordinary night 2000 years ago, God made time for man. The King of the universe made time for his people. The creator of life made time for his creatures. The father of all mankind made time for his children.

On Christmas Eve, He did the impossible. He not only made time, he, in fact, entered time.

Once not bound by minutes is now wrapped in years. He who created day is now bound by it. He who affixed the sun and the moon is now subject to its cycle. He who never grew old will now age. He who needed no sleep will now have to close his eye lids and dream if only to restore his body to wake up to another day. He who had no beginning will now have an ending --- on a hill...on a death.

And why? Because of you and me, my friend.

To tell us that God isn’t far. That he hears your cries. That he knows your pain. That he is with you every step of the way.

Beside the grieving mother in Tacloban. Holding the hand of the mourning widow in Bohol. Embracing the cancer patient in the nearby hospital. Comforting the wife and mother left by her husband. Uplifting the tired single mom who had to juggle three odd jobs just to make ends meet. Assuring the unemployed father of five that they will have food on the table the next day.

Christmas reminds us that God loved us enough to join us in our mess. It reminds us that God is not on a pedestal looking down on us but has come down precisely to lift us up. It reminds us that God, while He didn’t have to, made time for us.

Tonight, when you hear the cry of the baby from the manger, remember, not only that this isn’t an ordinary baby but that this isn’t an ordinary night as well. For it is nothing ordinary for the King of the cosmos to become a helpless baby born in a filthy stable.

Unless you know why he did it.

Because He knew perfectly that the spelling of love is T-I-M-E.

A blessed Christmas to you, my friends!

P.S. By the time I finished this piece, I already played “piggyback” and “catch the ball” with Marco. Indeed, making time is truly a gift of love.

My Prayer for You This Christmas

Dear one,

It is not within my power to give you all the special things you need and deserve, so this Christmas I'll offer a prayer for you, asking God to give you His very best. 

First, I pray for your happiness. The Bible calls it joy. My prayer for you is for joy that lasts even when things don't go just right.

Next, I pray for peace in your heart—a sweet knowledge that God is in control and that He won't let anything happen that He and you can't work out together.

And I pray for you to have faith—strong faith based on the most wonderful realities of all: God and His love and His promises to you.

Last but not least, I pray for you to experience love—great love, overflowing love, patient love, wise love, sweet love, fun love, exciting love, purposeful love, abiding love, strong love, encouraging love, God's love in all its wondrous forms.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Today's Mass Readings - Sunday, December 22, 2013 with Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Advent
1ST READING - Isaiah 7:10-14
10 The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: 11 “Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!” 12 But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” 13 Then Isaiah said: “Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
P S A L M - Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R: Let the Lord enter; He is king of glory.
1 The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. 2 For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (R) 3 Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in his holy place? 4 One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain. (R) 5 He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God his savior. 6 Such is the race that seeks for him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob. (R)
2ND READING - Romans 1:1-7
1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, 4 but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, 6 among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; 7 to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.
Matthew 1:18-24
18 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. 19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. 20 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. 21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.



The psalms make good reflection for our meditation since they are hymns and prayers of the common people. In every psalm, we can see our own lives expressed. What we find difficult in expressing, the psalmist has made 

known. Psalms can be a fantastic aid to prayer and intimate conversation with the Lord. The Divine Office, or Prayer of The Church, once prayed only by priests and religious, has now been made available for the laity.

       The ancient method of prayer Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading, is an aid to pray the psalms. By taking a key phrase or word, one allows himself to be nourished and enlightened by the Word of God. I often encourage
those I direct to use this method — those who are just starting out in their prayer lives and those who are seeking direction and guidance. The psalm says it all — laments, forgiveness, joy and thanksgiving.

       The Responsorial Psalm or Canticle in the readings today is the response of Hannah, echoed by Mary in the Gospel. Hannah acknowledges herself as part of the people of God whom He has saved. Hannah is invoking God’s assistance and salvation. In a time of praise and thanksgiving, she adds her voice — that the God who saves and exalts the humble has come to her aid. 

       On this last Sunday of Advent, we are near to the great celebration of God Incarnate. The Canticle or Responsorial Psalm of today is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the Helper and Rescuer of humanity. He comes to restore the vineyard of God, namely Israel, and now the Church. Truly, we find in Jesus the God who has looked down from heaven and seen the great confusion of mankind. In His loving-kindness, He has rescued His people from danger of sin. Fr. Brian Steele, MGL
REFLECTION QUESTION: Read the responsorial psalm and practice the lectio divina method of prayer. What phrase or word strikes your attention?
Lord, I turn to you in my need. You are my rescue and help. O God, come to my aid.

 Blessed Jacopone da Todi, pray for us.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

I Knew Pope Francis Was Good, But When I Found Out Everything He Did in 2013, I Was Blown Away

Mark Pygas

Pope Francis has been declared Time’s Person Of The Year. Looking back on 2013, he has done some incredibly progressive things to lead the Church.

1. He spoke out against frivolous spending by the Church

Pope-Francis-I-Angelus-and-Blessing-from-the-window-overlooking-St-Peter-s-Square Source:
The average set of cardinal’s clothes costs as much as $20,000. In October, Pope Francis urged officials to dress more modestly and to not squander such money. In the same month, he ordered a German bishop to explain how he had spent $3 million on a marble courtyard.


2. He invited a boy with Downs Syndrome for a ride in the Popemobile

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During a general audience, Pope Francis invited Alberto di Tullio, a 17-year-old boy with Downs Syndrome, to ride in his Popemobile while thousands watched.


3. He embraced and kissed Vinicio Riva

November saw Pope Francis embrace Vinicio Riva, a man scarred by a genetic disease. Fighting agonising pain on a daily basis, such an act restored the faith of a man who says that he is often mocked in public.


4. He denounced the judgment of homosexuals

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Pope Francis has stated several times that the Church has no right to interfere spiritually in the lives of gays and lesbians. Though Francis maintained the right of the Church to express opinions on homosexuality, he believes that Christians should not judge or ridicule. 


5. He held a major ceremony at the chapel of a youth prison

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In March, the Pope held a major Holy Week service at Casal del Marmo jail for minors, rather than the Vatican. During the service, the pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 young offenders to commemorate Jesus' gesture of humility towards his apostles on the night before he died.


6. He urged the protection of the Amazon Rainforest

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During his visit to Brazil, Pope Francis met with natives who have been fighting ranchers and farmers attempting to invade their land. He encouraged that the Amazon be treated as a garden and protected.


7. He personally called and consoled a victim of rape

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A 44-year old Argentinian woman, raped by a local policeman, was one of thousands to write a letter to Pope Francis in 2013. The woman was surprised when she later received a phone call from Francis himself--who consoled the woman and told her, “You are not alone.”


8. He snuck out of the Vatican to feed the homeless

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More recently, it has been discovered that Pope Francis regularly leaves the Vatican at night to feed the homeless. Dressed as an ordinary priest, he joins Archbishop Konrad Krajewski to feed the poor of Rome. 


10. He acknowledged that atheists can be good people

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Earlier in 2013,  Pope Francis spoke out against the common interpretation within the Church that atheists, by nature, are bad people. He stated that, “Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good.” After meeting the Pope, the openly atheist president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, compared Francis to a friendly neighbor. 


11. He condemned the global financial system

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In May, Francis denounced the global financial system for tyrannizing the poor and turning humans into expendable consumer goods. He believes that, “Money has to serve, not to rule!"


12. He fought child abuse

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The Catholic Church has been rocked in recent years by allegations and admissions of child abuse by members of the Church. Pope Francis became the first Pope to take effective action against such atrocities. He ammended Vatican law to make sexual abuse of children a crime, and he also established a committee to fight abuse.


13. He condemned the violence of the Syrian civil war

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In regard to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Pope Francis asked for peace and declared that, "War, never again. Violence never leads to peace, war leads to war, violence leads to violence.”


15. He spoke out against the Church’s ‘obsession’ with abortion, gay marriage and contraception

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In a voice of reason, Francis shocked the Catholic world when he stated that the Church was an unhealthy obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. He criticized the Church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized.


16. He called for cooperation between Christians and Muslims

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead Angelus at Vatican Source:
During his Angelus address, Francis paid respect to the end of Ramadan. He stated that both Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and he hoped that Christians and Muslims would work together to promote mutual respect.


17. He took part in a selfie

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In what might be his most progressive feat of all, Pope Francis met with youngsters to be a part of a truly remarkable selfie. He is embracing the present, and he is undoubtedly taking the Church to a more loving and accepting future.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Person of the age


Time’s article on Pope Francis explaining why he is the magazine’s Person of the Year made this observation at one point: “John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. 
Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.”
That is probably why Francis has been able to do what he has done in so short a time. He has done it not because he was once a professor of theology but because he was once a janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.

If I recall right, somebody else did the same thing in his time not because he was a Pharisee but because he was a carpenter, a bouncer of merchants in the temple, an alchemist of heart and mind, and an imparter of lessons by way of parable.

Time’s choice of Pope Francis as Person of the Year is an inspired one, giving us to see that this year has been the worst of times and the best of times. This is a year that has seen the bitterest wars, the most crushing tragedies, and the most mind-boggling disasters. The last afflicting us more than others, the spectacle of the devastation of Tacloban continuing to haunt us and the world. But this is a year also that has seen the humbling of the exalted and the exaltation of the humble.

This has happened of late not just once but twice in quick succession. The first of course was the passing of Nelson Mandela which brought the world to a halt, three American presidents, one current and two ex, travelling from afar like the modern-day version of the Three Kings to pay their respects to a great man. A man who broke down the walls of a vast prison that existed as much in the mind as in physical space.

And then coming on its heels, Time has bestowed a great honor on Pope Francis, which is one of those rare times when the world can agree unreservedly with it. There was really only one choice: Pope Francis has stood head and shoulders above everyone this year. Someone who has broken down the walls of a vast prison that exists as much in the mind as in physical space.
What he has done in less than a year has been wide-ranging. My own appreciation of it is this:

Like a chemical technician, he has changed the chemistry of an institution that is host to believers that number more than the population of China. That is no mean feat, the Catholic Church having earned its designation, the “Rockn” far less for its seeming permanence but for its patent imperviousness to change, the institution calcifying into stone. Overnight it has pulled the rug out from under the Inquisitors who have contented themselves with defending the faith—and their earthly power—by burning heretics at the stake, metaphorically or literally. The shrillness with which our own Opus Dei types consigned the advocates of RH to hellfire shows so.

Overnight, Pope Francis restored the faith in his faith. To believe is not to avoid sin, it is to do good. To believe is not to save one’s soul, it is to save the world.

Like a janitor, he has swept the dust from our eyes to show how the other three-fourths live, which is in direst poverty, not unlike the denizens of the slums of Buenos Aires who cower in fear when gangs fight and grovel in want the rest of the time. Like a bouncer, he has locked horns with poverty, seeking to throw out its unwanted presence from the world. We do not lack for people who have shown a desire to push back poverty and are doing something about it. We do lack people who know the sting of poverty, who are driven by the atom of their being to try to end the scourge.

For the first time, we have the one person who is so removed by his exalted position from the cares of the world conscripting the world to meet the cares of the world.

And like a literature teacher, he has given us new insights into the human condition, he has given us new ways of looking at life.

The one story about Pope Francis that I’ve found truly moving is the one about him kissing a violently disfigured man and praying over him. The incident took place at St. Peter’s Square while he was attending to a flock of pilgrims. Toward the end of his general audience, a man of such grotesque appearance—he suffered from the same disease as the Elephant Man, his face and neck a ragged mass of gigantic warts and sundry protrusions, a monstrous vision Hollywood’s makeup department would have been hard put to conceive—came up to him. Without hesitation, Francis embraced him, kissed him on the cheek, and put his hand on his head in blessing.

The cameras caught it and Francis was later lauded for his compassion and kindness. I myself would not call it that. It was a natural and spontaneous gesture and I don’t know that Francis himself was fully aware of it. It never looked as though he fought his natural revulsion and brought himself to do what he did, it looked as though he didn’t even see the man’s disfigurement, or found it to be too trivial, incidental, superficial to the human presence in front of him. Compassion and kindness suggest looking down on someone, which the Pope seems incapable of, seeing others only as equals.

In this day and age of egotistical vanity and obsession with cosmetic beauty, he reminds us of the essence of things, of the core of things. This is one pope who gives whole new meanings to the phrase “Holy See.” Not unlike a predecessor who embraced lepers along with turning water into wine.

In fact, forget that he is the Pope, forget that he is the one person Catholics look up to as heaven’s representative on earth. Mind only that he is one incredibly decent person who puts us to shame by his boundless humanity. He keeps at this, he’ll be the person of the year for years to come.

He’ll be the person of the age.