Sometimes what seems new is not. For what seems new is something forgotten from the past. What we might now experience as new is taking the path of returning to the Garden of Eden, wherein humanity experienced directly the love of God and life without sin. It was an existence in which loving God was more important than anything else and serving each other was always the second consideration. What is too often forgotten is what Jesus Christ came to announce: the presence of the Kingdom of God — something old offered new again.
The Israelites had been held in exile in Babylon for several generations. While in Babylon, some of what the Jews had believed was lost as many of them had been slowly assimilated into Babylonian culture. King Cyrus of Persia, who had conquered Babylon in 538 B.C., allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, but what they had left had been destroyed. The Book of Nehemiah describes the rebuilding Jerusalem and the efforts to help the people regain a sense of who they were as a religious people.READ MORE
In the first reading, Ezra gets a strange reaction from the people to whom he reads the book of the law. First they lie down, with faces to the ground, and then they all are weeping. Remember the background of this reading. The people of Israel had returned from exile and needed to become a unified nation. Most had never heard the laws, so when they learned what was expected of them and realized how much of the Law they had broken, they wept from shame. Many probably didn’t know that they had been breaking the law. Others might have been overwhelmed with all the requirements of the law.
Ezra and Nehemiah console the people by reminding them that their return makes this a day “holy to the LORD” (Nehemiah 8:10). He adds that they would draw strength from “rejoicing in the LORD.” That may be good advice for us also.READ MORE
Maria* was going back to Church after her second-grader enrolled in First Communion classes. She didn’t know what to say to her daughter after being asked why she didn’t go to Communion. Maria had an abortion in her teens and felt that she couldn’t go to confession because she had committed an “unforgivable sin.”READ MORE
On the Feast of the Epiphany, it is traditional to bless the home using chalk to write above the main entrance. Here’s a suggested format for the blessing:
Leader: + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Leader: Let us praise God, who fills our hearts and homes with peace. Blessed be God forever.
All: Blessed be God forever.
Leader: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place among us. It is Christ who enlightens our hearts and homes with his love. May all who enter this home find Christ’s light and love.READ MORE
Merry Christmas, everyone! Yes, it is still the Christmas season for one more week. In this season all people are invited to begin to uncover the mystery of who Jesus Christ is in His fullness. Indeed, Jesus Christ is a mystery. A couple of days ago, we celebrated in faith that Jesus, who is the eternal Son of God, the fulfillment of all the prophets in the Old Testament, the Messiah, and the Christ, was sent by God the Father to become a human baby who will eventually save his people. And today the mystery of God’s plan of salvation continues as we highlight the fact that God chose to carry out this plan by means of a family—the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Our Gospel today is so rich in foreshadowing and discovering who Christ fully is. In our Gospel, we flash forward 12 years into Jesus’ life when the good Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary, took their Son Jesus, though He already is the Son of God, to the Temple to present Him to God, His Father. And so, ironically, through this Christmas and the Gospel today, the mystery of who Jesus is becomes a little clearer, and as the mystery of who Jesus is becomes unraveled in our hearts, our identity and our families become who they are meant to be—holy.READ MORE
I see countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can’t compare
with the Christmas choir up here.
Gaudete in Domino Semper! — Rejoice in the Lord always; Again I say rejoice! The Lord is near! (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Phil 4:4-5)
Today, being the third Sunday of Advent, we celebrate Gaudete or “Rejoice” Sunday. Festive, rose-colored vestments, instead of the violet. The reason we call this Sunday Gaudete Sunday is that the Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass begins with the Latin: Gaudete in Domino Semper, which means, Rejoice in the Lord always.
The words rejoice and joy appear over a hundred times each throughout the Old and the New Testaments of the Holy Bible. (In the Old Testament they appear in the Psalms, Proverbs, Sirach, Tobit, Isaiah, Zechariah, Joel, and others.) In the New Testament they are used by our Lord several times in His parables and His other teachings, by Saints Peter and Paul, and is part of Mary’s Magnificat.READ MORE
As I write this, it’s been 48 hours without pain in my right foot. Well, out of respect for someone with real pain, I’ll call it being discomfort-free. You may recognize me as the person who hobbled around church on a knee crutch for a few months after having blown out my Achilles tendon playing racquetball with my son. Post-surgery and rehab, I’ve had more or less continuous tenderness in my right foot. More on that in a minute…READ MORE
Q: Last year we were on vacation overseas on the feast of the Assumption, which is a holyday of obligation. We went to Mass and hardly anybody was there. It seemed like it was an ordinary weekday Mass to everybody there but us. Is it possible that it wasn’t a holyday of obligation there? Or do you think maybe people in that country were just ignoring the obligation?
A: The obligation to attend Mass is addressed in canon 1246.1. First of all, the Sunday obligation is stressed, as Sunday is the day on which traditionally the Easter mystery is celebrated. But the canon also lists those dates which, in addition to all Sundays, are holydays of obligation. Catholic Americans may find parts of the list surprising:
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (December 25)
The Epiphany (January 6)
The Ascension (40 days after Easter Sunday)
Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday)
Mary the Mother of God (January 1)
The Immaculate Conception (December 8)
The Assumption (August 15)
Saint Joseph (March 19)
The Apostles Saints Peter and Paul (June 29)
All Saints (November 1)
On this list there are clearly some holydays of obligation that we Catholics in the U.S. have never heard of. What’s going on?READ MORE
Rule No. 1: Don’t argue. Arguing is like pushing and can quickly escalate. Voices get louder and anger reddens the face. Emotion can take over, and unfortunate things are said that cannot be taken back.
This is not to say that we should not discuss in a measured and charitable manner, but we should avoid the emotional, arm-twisting argument that generates more heat than light, more bad will than desired results.
Of course, for many of us this takes tremendous self-control. We have to remember that we can win an argument but lose a soul; win the battle but lose the war. We have to bite our lip and grimace inside.
I say this from experience. I’ve done the exact wrong thing more than once and paid the price. I’ve been on both sides of the confrontation. I’ve pushed, and I’ve pushed back. I’ve alienated family members and friends. I still regret my quick words and unmeasured responses.READ MORE
From a woman whose Catholic friends encouraged divorce — a strong word of caution to well-meaning friends:
I’ll save you the full background of my marriage, but it was difficult from the start. I was pregnant when we married, and we struggled in silence during the first few years. Then, one day, my husband finally confessed to me that he had been unfaithful before we got married and had been keeping it a secret for several years. I was devasted. I had recently reverted to Catholicism and took to my private Facebook group of faithful Catholic women to seek advice and comfort. When I shared my story, to my great shock and dismay, I was told by most of them that I needed to leave my marriage. I was told everything from “get a safety plan in place” to “set up a private bank account and start saving.”READ MORE
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The U.S. bishops are joining together in a commitment of prayer and reparation leading up to the bishops’ general assembly, where we will be making critical decisions in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. With our brother bishops across the nation, Bishop Nevares and I will be dedicating ourselves to seven days of intensified prayer and fasting, from Monday, November 5, through Sunday, November 11. The intentions for this period of prayer and sacrifice are three-fold:READ MORE