Mother of Mercy

Posted on December 30, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

MaryMary is the Mother who lovingly brings us to God, the one who turns human “yes’s” into miracles. Mary not only gave birth to the Son of God, she gave birth to our hope that by our own affirmative reply to God’s calling in our life, that God will comfort and care for us as His own. Our Lady is then not only the Mother of God, but the Mother of Mercy, for without her, the pathway of mercy and grace does not break into our world.

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Looking Up

Posted on December 29, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 3, 2016, The Epiphany of the Lord

Horse - oil painting like cave painting a la Altamira.

On a summer’s day in 1879, an amateur archeologist named Marcelino de Sautuola went into a cave in Altamira, Spain, looking for prehistoric artifacts. He’d been there several times before, and hadn’t found much of interest. But this day, he brought with him his eight-year-old daughter. The two of them began to explore the cave. Marcelino was studying the ground, when he heard his little girl cry out. “Look, papa,” she said, “Oxen!” He couldn’t imagine what she was talking about, until he looked in her direction and saw she was pointing to the ceiling.

There, Marcelino saw them: the most incredible images—pictures of animals and people that had been left there over ten thousand years earlier. What his little girl spotted was later hailed as one of the greatest artistic discoveries ever. In the 1920s, Picasso visited the caves and came away awed. To this day, thousands visit Altamira every year to see what many consider to be the very beginnings of art.

And it happened because a eight-year-old looked up. She brought to that adventure a sense of wonder. Just like the Magi, the Wise Men, in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. They also looked up, saw the star, and then they followed.

The Magi had no idea where the star would take them. They didn’t know what their final destination would be. They couldn’t anticipate what they would find, or that it would all end up in Bethlehem.

The journey to Jesus was, for them, as it is for all of us: unpredictable, uncharted, unknowable.

And, significantly, it left them changed. As Matthew writes: “They departed for their country by another way.” After encountering Christ, they couldn’t travel the same road.

It should be that way for all of us. After discovering Jesus, after our own epiphanies, nothing can be quite the same.

John Henry Newman once wrote that “to live is to change.” It’s a beautiful thought for this season, when we’re starting a New Year and many of us are struggling to change old habits—or maybe lose old weight.

The fact is: all of us, like the Magi, are pilgrims on journey. But where will the journey take us?

Remember the Wise Men, the journey they took, the star they followed, the epiphany they made. They traveled to places unknown, guided by wonder. And they discovered the Son of God.

But we need to remember, too, that little girl in Altamira. So often, we spend our lives looking at the ground, studying the dirt, checking out the broken remnants of life that lie at our feet. We can miss the glory that is just above us. We can miss epiphanies.

So: Look up! Look forward. And follow. Follow the light, the light that is Christ.

And after that, we have no choice but to live differently—like the Magi, returning to our lives “by another way.”

Dcn. Greg Kandra

PRAYER

Remember us, O God;
from age to age be our comforter.
You have given us the wonder of time,
blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.
Bless your children at the turning of the year
and fill the months ahead with the bright hope
that is ours in the coming of Christ.
You are our God, living and reigning, forever and ever.

Prayer for the New Year, Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, USCCB.

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December 25th – The Nativity of Our Lord

Posted on December 25, 2015 by - Advent Reflections

Illustration of traditional Christian Christmas Nativity scene with the three wise men

Today’s Gospel

“‘For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,’ (Luke 2:11-12).”

Daily Advent Reflection

Today we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord – a day of great celebration. We may be surrounded by cards showing this as a cosy and homely scene. Yet we know that shepherds came – and shepherds were seen by those in authority as outsiders and unclean. God has indeed turned the world upside down.

Daily Advent Challenge

“Today I will reflect on how compassionate I am to those on the margins of society for any reason. Do I have time, talent or treasure that could be used to spread the Word of God in either word or action? Are there local outreach projects that I could support? Could I offer my gifts as a response to God gifting us with the gift of Jesus?”

 

December 24th – Fourth Thursday of Advent

Posted on December 24, 2015 by - Advent Reflections

24Today’s Gospel

“‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David,’ (Luke 1:68-69).”

Daily Advent Reflection

This prophecy, spoken by Zechariah, is part of the Benedictus, which forms part of the Prayer of the Church that is prayed by thousands of people across the world every day. In the Northern Hemisphere we have had the darkest day and now the nights are starting to get lighter. Is that true for our spiritual journeying this Advent?

Daily Advent Challenge

“Today I will  spend some time thinking about the blessings the Lord, the God of Israel, has bestowed on me. How will I share those blessings? I will write down one way that I can do that in the coming week and make it my gift to the Christ-child.”

 

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

An Everyday Stewardship Christmas

Posted on December 23, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

NativityThe average American will spend close to $800 this year on Christmas gifts. That number is for the average person, not even the average family, which would be much higher. Most Americans will also take on some credit debt this Christmas in order to get their loved ones all the gifts they want.

Of course, all of this spending is in the name of Jesus, the reason for the season, right?

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December 23rd – Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Posted on December 23, 2015 by - Advent Reflections

23Today’s Gospel

“All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’ (Luke 1:66).”

Daily Advent Reflection

Today’s Gospel reading shows Zechariah naming his son John. This week we are moving towards the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Thursday. The theme is anticipation and expectancy – although the media is changing its focus from Christmas presents to post-Christmas sales. We need to try to sustain our focus on Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. We know what he will turn out to be – we have the familiar narrative. There is an opportunity here to reflect on our own journey through life.

Daily Advent Challenge

“Today I will spend some time reflecting on my own life journey. Who have I turned out to be? For which parts of who I am today am I grateful? Are there things I need to change – things that don’t resonate with the Christian life?”

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

Fifteen Minutes in a Target

Posted on December 22, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, December 27, 2015, The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Scared child lost in store.

We were in Target, shopping for something I have long since forgotten. We often find ourselves in stores long after the intentionality of buying something has past, now aimlessly encountering things that promise to make our lives better or more exciting. On this day, it didn’t matter what I was looking for at all, because I forgot all about the reason we went into the store before we even left. That’s because after what seemed like only a few seconds, I looked toward my very young son and saw no one there. He was missing.

Surely, he was simply around the corner! No, he was not. Surely, when I call his name he will answer me! No, he did not. The panic on my face was evident.

Can you imagine the distress of Mary and Joseph when they realized that Jesus was not in their caravan leaving Jerusalem? Then they looked for Jesus for a day amongst relatives and those they knew, but still nothing. After their search produced no results, they returned to Jerusalem. They had to have wondered if he was hurt, suffering, or in pain. They might have worried that somehow they didn’t take the care needed to keep him safe with them. Perhaps, there was even something or someone sinister at work.

Running through Target, I am sure I experienced some of the same fears. Especially after five, then ten, then even more minutes having passed. Your fears change quite often, because your mind is showing you all the possible scenarios that could be happening at that very moment. Then the worst fear hits you: what if I never see my child again?

Mary and Joseph searched for three days, and then in Jerusalem they found him, teaching in the Temple and seemingly without any concern for their fears and anxiety. They questioned him, “Son, why have you done this to us?” Of course, he honestly expressed that he hadn’t done anything to them. He simply was preaching in his heavenly Father’s house and that seemed to be an adequate reason. He really just wanted them to trust him.

A strong family is built on trust: trust in each other and trust in God. Mary and Joseph had already shown how much they trusted each other and God by their willingness to give themselves over to the events from the Annunciation through the birth of Jesus in less then fine accommodations. Now, they were being asked to trust once more. Their relationship would continue to grow and even when Jesus had reached adulthood, the events at the wedding in Cana would show that he trusted his mother as well.

Every family finds bumps in the road as they grow and live in this world. The Holy Family was no exception. Families today need to trust in God and each other more than ever. At the recent World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the struggles of families were highlighted several times. However, having been there and witnessed so many families committed to the process of building more loving and trusting households, I felt encouraged for the future. And as I look into our world I see so many beacons of hope in the midst of tragic stories of loss and betrayal. We are many years removed from the beginnings of Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Rosary Crusade in the 1940s, but it is still here in the form of Holy Cross Family Ministries. The slogan of “the family that prays together stays together” still has meaning today. Families now have new programs and aids to help them grow and stand strong, like the Families of Character program or media programming brought into your home through the online catechetical service Formed. At times it may seem harder today to raise a family, but God provides assistance in so many ways; hope needs to be the emotion of the day, not despair.

The Holy Family will always serve as an example of how to love, how to adapt to circumstances beyond our control, and how to trust one another. We need to never give up, even if we find ourselves in search of our lost loved ones for days at a time. Love never gives up.

And even though it seemed like days in that Target, it was only about fifteen minutes. That still is a very long time. But we found my son. He found his way to the front of the store. He knew we would be there soon, so he arrived at the other end of the cashiers and trusted all would be well. Yes, something much worse could have happened, and sometimes it does to people who love their kids as much as we do. But if it had been fifteen minutes, three days, or years, just as God will always do for us, we would have continued to look and continued to hope. We love each other too much to ever give up or compromise. To this day we remain unwilling to compromise. And no power shall come between us. We are family.

May the love of God that never gives up find you and your family, whether it be big or small, and provide you all with many blessings this Christmas season.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping
in this valley of tears!
Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Traditional prayer said when praying the rosary with your family. (Thanks Fr. Peyton!)

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December 22nd – Fourth Tuesday of Advent

Posted on December 22, 2015 by - Advent Reflections

22Today’s Gospel

“‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly,’ (Luke 1: 46, 52).”

Daily Advent Reflection

Today’s Gospel is the Magnificat, where Mary reflects on God in the world. God turns the world upside down – God casts down the mighty, exalts the humble, feeds the hungry and sends the rich away hungry. This is the God we profess.

Daily Advent Challenge

“Today I commit to doing something for those on the margin – it might be to buy the Big Issue or do something about famine in the world or Ebola. It might be to Steward my treasure or it might be to Steward my faith by praying for those in need. It might just be to pray for the grace to act in the ways of God.”

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

Tear Down Those Walls

Posted on December 22, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

wallsWalls are not just physical things – we all build them around ourselves for protection of some sort. They separate us – and they can stop us from reaching out, perhaps because we are afraid or jealous or perhaps we are just feeling mean-spirited and don’t want to give of ourselves. To be true stewards we need to be on a journey of self-awareness and to begin with ourselves.

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December 21st – Fourth Monday of Advent

Posted on December 21, 2015 by - Advent Reflections

21Today’s Gospel

“‘How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Luke 1:43).”

Daily Advent Reflection

The Gospel reading today is the same as yesterday, the account of the Visitation from Luke’s Gospel. Elizabeth feels honored that Mary, the mother of God, has come to visit her. We too feel honored when we become aware of God’s presence in our lives, guiding us towards Him.

Daily Advent Challenge

“Today I pray that I can continue to feel honoured by God’s presence in my life and in thanksgiving for that faithfulness and love, I will visit someone in need or phone someone who would appreciate that call. I will then reflect on the gifts that I received through doing that.”

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark