Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. On this first Sunday after Christmas, the Church is celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family.
As at the crib, in a glance of faith we embrace together the divine Child and the persons beside him: his most holy Mother and Joseph, his putative father. What light shines from this Christmas “group icon”! A light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, a light of truth for every person, for the human family and for individual families. How lovely it is for spouses to be reflected in the Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph! How comforting for parents, especially if they have a small baby! How enlightening for engaged couples, struggling with their plans for life!
To gather round the Bethlehem grotto contemplating there the Holy Family, enables us to appreciate the gift of family intimacy in a special way, and spurs us to offer human warmth and concrete solidarity in those unfortunately numerous situations which, for various reasons, lack peace, harmony, in a word, lack “family”.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Jesus chose to enter the world as a baby, as part of a family. In this way, family life has been part of God’s plan for our salvation, a path to holiness. You might say well that’s easy for a family with two members who knew no sin and the third who was very righteous. But as we see in today’s Gospel, life was not easy for the Holy Family. They are not holy because they never struggled, never worried about what to do, never had problems. No, they are holy because despite their challenges and sufferings they kept trusting in God and His plan for their life. And the family is the path to holiness for most of us here. By placing our trust in God throughout the joys and struggles of married life we are called to grow in holiness.
Before exploring further marriage and family life, a short story. I heard this on Relevant Radio. There was a fireman, I believe from Ireland, who was asked to comment on the one thing that stood out to him the most throughout his career. He had this to say. Whenever I responded to a fire at a residence I could usually tell when a couple was married or just living together. When the couple was just living together, the man of the house would always get out even if all the other family members were not out yet. Whereas, if the couple were married the man of the house would not leave until the other family members were out of the house. That is the self-sacrificial love marriage calls us to.READ MORE
As our Advent reflections draw to a close, we should examine how our prayer life fits in with our preparation for the coming of Jesus. Prayer is how we communicate with the Triune God and is absolutely necessary when making a home for Him in our hearts. Imagine living in a home with someone – a spouse, or a child – and never speaking to them. In the context of Advent, imagine anticipating the person coming home from school or work and then saying nothing upon his or her arrival. We have an innate understanding that relationships, families, and homes require a regular practice of communication. Then, the depth and intimacy within that communication determines the depth and intimacy of the relationship. This is true for our relationship with God as well.READ MORE
I mentioned in last week's reflection that we would dive a little deeper into other ways we can prepare for the coming of Jesus, both at Christmas and at His second coming at a me unknown to us now. This week, we'll take a closer look at how the Sacramental life helps to prepare us.
Most of us likely know the seven Sacraments of our Catholic Church: Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. However, what is a Sacrament and how do these things ﬁt into the picture? Each of these seven Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ Himself and are the means by which visible actions and physical matter communicate supernatural realities and His grace to us and allow us to participate in the divine life (CCCC #1131). When we ﬁnd ourselves in Heaven, we will no longer need physical signs because we will actually be living in the supernatural reality of the Trinity (CCCC #1130). For now, while we are here, Jesus wants to give us a foretaste of what is to come. These Sacraments are literal opportunities to participate in the divine life–in our physical bodies–while we exist in this physical world on Earth until everything is fulfilled at the end. So, with a proper understanding of the Sacraments, it is not difficult to see how regular participation in the Sacraments prepares us for what we will experience much more fully in the eternal Kingdom.READ MORE
As we continue our journey of preparation for the coming of our Lord, we must take a closer look at the thing that keeps us separated from Him – sin – and how to avoid it.
Sin occurs when we act in a way that is contrary to our love for God or our love of neighbor, and is therefore an act of disobedience toward our Lord, which then damages our relationship with Him and others (CCC #1849-50). The Church distinguishes between two types of sin – venial and mortal – according to their gravity. Venial sins are the smaller sins we all do every day. These sins damage our relationship with God, but they do not cut us off completely from His grace (CCC #1855). In other words, cursing at the person who cut you off in traffic hurts God’s heart, but you won’t be condemned to Hell over it. Mortal sin, on the other hand, is sin of a much more serious nature and will completely sever your access to God’s sanctifying grace until you are repentant and confess it in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The result of continuing in a state of mortal sin without repentance is to spend eternity excluded from Christ’s kingdom (CCC #1861). Three conditions must be present to constitute a mortal sin: 1) it must be of grave matter, 2) it is committed with the full knowledge that it is in opposition to God’s law, and 3) it is done deliberately despite having full knowledge that it is wrong (CCC #1857-1859). In order to understand the different types of sin and the effects they have on our souls, I recommend reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs #1854-1864.READ MORE
This week and next, our Gospel will focus on the person of John the Baptist, and more importantly how he announces and reveals the fulfillment of the coming of Jesus Christ.
Now, raise your hand if you have a loved one, or at least know of someone who has fallen away from God and the practice of their faith? Chances are, they were raised to believe in God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and they might have grew up going to Church. Think about the many people who might only come to Mass this Christmas, what do you think they would say they believe in? They might know we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but to them the birth of this baby is really no different than any other little child. If Jesus is God, they might wonder: what makes Jesus God? Is it just the mighty works and miracles that Jesus later performed- the same miracles they may or may not believe what they read in the Bible to be true. Even so, they probably don’t know why Jesus is relevant in their lives today. What makes Jesus God? And why is Jesus and Christianity relevant and important to them today? Let us see how our readings today answer these questions.READ MORE
Welcome to the first installment of our series of reflections for Advent. On this first Sunday of Advent, let’s take some time to first understand what Advent is and what it means for us, as Catholic Christians.
Most of us know that Advent is the period of time ahead of Christmas in which we prepare for the remembrance of the coming of the Incarnate Word in the form of a baby born of Mary. We enjoy decorating our homes, playing Christmas carols, and lighting the candles in our Advent wreaths to mark the passing weeks. Advent is a season of joy, anticipation, and patience as we wait for the Son of God to come, as promised, and save us. All of this is true and good, but there are some deeper layers to Advent that are worth exploring further.READ MORE