Five Ways to Have the Best Year FR. ED BROOM, OMV

 

This New Year can be the best of years and this all depends on us and God’s amazing grace! Hope, trust, joy, confidence, peace and happiness should be sentiments that simply overflow in the heart of a true follower of Jesus.

Jesus’ Birthday must be a source of the greatest joy and happiness. The reason for this most joyful of Seasons is the Person of Jesus the Lord. He came to save us from sin, sadness, the slavery of the devil, the fiery pit of hell and to bring us life and life in abundance. Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection burst open the gates of Heaven; eternal salvation is ours if Jesus becomes the center of our lives.

As we enter into the threshold of the New Year why not make concrete and practical proposals that will not dissipate like smoke or be blown by the wind? Rather may these proposals be a solid foundation on which we can construct an edifice of true holiness that will change and orient the rest of our lives and culminate in everlasting happiness in Heaven, our eternal goal and destiny!

Therefore our over-all proposal for the New Year will be to live out the grace and fruit of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius with reference to the center of the Exercises—the Person of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This year we will beg for the grace and strive for intimate knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so as to love Him more ardently and to follow Him more closely. This grace will necessarily overflow in my relationship to others in a desire to make Jesus known and loved and followed.  The end result in my person will be the words of the Apostle Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” I will aim at becoming a living reflection of Jesus, my Lord, God, Savior and Friend.

What then are ways that we can come to this deep, dynamic and fascinating relationship with Jesus the Lord? Why not read, meditate, pray over and try to assimilate these clear and concrete points for reflection!

1. No to sin

By making a firm and determined commitment to say “No” to sin as arch-enemy number one we are really saying “Yes” to Friendship with Jesus the Lord. That means that every time a temptation comes my way and I willfully reject it then what I am really saying by rejecting this temptation is “Yes” to the love of Jesus. How pleased Jesus really is when we reject forcefully temptation and even from the outset!

2. Gospels

How fortunate we are to be living in these present days that we have access to the Word of God, the Bible and the heart of the Bible the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In times past, few people knew how to read and Bibles were few and far between. Not so today!

Our challenge comes in another subtle but dangerous manner — too many distractions in modern life!  These distractions can push aside the Person of Jesus Christ.  We fall into the trap of saying:  “I have no time to read and meditate upon the Word of God.” In reality, it is not a lack of time but a question of priorities.

Our God is a jealous lover and will not take second place to any person, place or thing. The great Bible scholar Saint Jerome reminds us:  “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” In sum let us find a time, a place and good will to meditate upon the Word of God, preferably the Gospels  every day as a New Year’s proposal.

3. Friendship

The fervent and frequent meditation of the Word of God, the Gospel and life of Jesus the Lord should gradually transform our lives. We will come to realize in a very deep manner that we are not alone, never alone, but always present to a Friend; this Friend is the best of all Friends — Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

During the course of the day and your daily walk, stop at times to enter into friendly conversation with Jesus. He is never even for an instant too busy to enter into conversation with you. We tend to be too busy for Him, but He is never too busy for us!

The beauty of our Friendship with Jesus is that He is always knocking at the door of our hearts and we simply have to open up and He will come in to dine with us and we with Him.  We all know from experience with true friends that we must expend time, energy, good will towards those friends we love most. At times we fail our best friends and they at times fail us. Not so with Jesus; He is faithful in all times, especially in those critical moments when we need Him most!

4. Share the Pearl of Infinite Price

Saint Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, can serve as a model to imitate in this respect: share your Friendship with Jesus with others. Andrew met Jesus and he was so impressed by the Person of Jesus that he could not keep it to himself. He ran to tell his brother Peter, then Nathanael, and then even the Greeks about this treasure, this pearl of infinite price—Friendship with Jesus.

Now it is your turn! A sure way to grow in one’s faith is to share the faith with others. Likewise, a sure way to grow in Friendship with Jesus is to share Jesus with others. May Saint Andrew and all of the saints help us to be like a human magnet and draw others to Jesus. No greater enterprise underneath the heavens!

5. Our Lady, Jesus, and Us

Pope Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic letter “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary” invites us to a transforming experience. It is this: to meditate and contemplate the mysteries of the Rosary. However, the grace we want to beg for is to contemplate the Face of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through both the eyes and the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There was nobody on earth that knew Jesus, loved Jesus or followed Jesus more closely than His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In conclusion, if we want to experience the best of the New Year, then let us focus our mind, heart, soul, and exert all of our energies to know Jesus, love Jesus, follow Jesus, bring others to Jesus and be transformed into Jesus.

May Our Lady grant us the grace, in union with her Immaculate Heart, to contemplate the loving Face of Jesus.  “Blessed are the pure of heart they will see God.”(Mt. 5:8)

Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of Total Consecration Through the Mysteries of the Rosary and From Humdrum to Holy. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom’s Blog.

END QUOTES

A Convert Friend’s response to “Sola Scriptura”

“Again, it bears repeating, all heresies bear the name of fallen men. Only Catholicism can be traced back to the authorship and authority of Jesus Christ himself. All others claim a merely (sinful) human origin. Luther, Calvin, Cramer, Wesley, ad infinitum.  Rebellious humans create little cults of personality; Jesus Christ created The Church which St. Paul called “the pillar and bulwark of the faith”. Why align oneself with cheap imitations? Who would be a Lutheran when he could be a Christian? What seeker in his right mind would follow Calvin or Cranmer instead of Jesus? It makes no sense. I’ll take the Christianity of Jesus Christ, thanks. The teachings of lesser creatures hold no appeal for me! I pray that all believers who truly seek Jesus will find him where he is pleased to dwell, in the Church he ordained, created, and sustains.

Happy Christmastide, and a very Happy New Year! End quotes”
{irrefutable logic shared by a dear friend in response to a Lesson on “Sola Scriptura”. My friend is a Convert and a Church Historian.}

How St. John the Evangelist and Apostle Speaks To Us Today JONATHAN B. COE This is to good not to share {Pjm}

 

While today’s orthodox Catholic in the West complains about a virulent secular culture outside of the Church and scandal and crisis within the pillar and ground of the truth, the apostle whom Jesus loved had his own formidable challenges during his day. While we legitimately complain about the erosion of religious liberties in the U.S., he dealt with outright persecution, especially during the reigns of Nero and Domitian.

While we have grave concerns about the present scandal and crisis in the Church worldwide, John confronted his own enemies of the gospel. Though his enemies that surface in his First Epistle are difficult to specifically identify, the apostle called them antichrists, liars, deceivers, and false prophets who denied that Jesus was “the Christ” (2:22; 5:1) and “the Son of God” (2:23; 5:5) who had truly “come in the flesh” (4:2).

In the biblical narrative, there is definitely a rhythm and relationship between the servant of God’s private and public ministry. Moses spends 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai (private ministry), then comes down off the mountain to, among other things, administer punishment (public ministry) to the Israelites whom he found dancing around the golden calf.

Both John the Baptist and our Lord spent long periods of time in the desert fasting and praying before commencing their ministries. Jesus was known to regularly retreat to the deserted places during his earthly ministry to pray to the Father and replenish his inner resources.

Our own public ministry, which often involves marriage, family, friendships, work, local church involvement, etc., is like the house that is framed on a concrete foundation (our private ministry to God). Christians of all persuasions can find themselves cranky when the house they are building on the concrete foundation is twice as big as the foundation itself.

A common mistake in our time is to spend an inordinate amount of time in a prophetic mode in criticizing the Church and not nearly enough time in being refreshed internally by her immense resources. Some practicing Catholics do have a unique call and vocation to be in a prophetic mode much of the time, but unless this is counter-balanced by a devotional mode, they will eventually burn out.

Most of us cannot be in the prophetic mode 24/7. We put the prophetic mantle on when we are discussing with friends over coffee the most recent revelation of corruption and depravity in a particular diocese, but then take it off when we go to Confession and seek to confess our sins and get right with God.

This assertion is coming from someone who has recently written four articles in this magazine excoriating prelates and priests, especially in the U.S., who have wandered far from the sacred deposit of the faith, in both their teaching and behavior. There’s undoubtedly more where that came from, but, without a life of retreat and renewal, I am a man most miserable.

With today’s practicing Catholic facing opposition and turbulence from both without and within the Church, the life and writings of John the evangelist can be a good place to retreat to, along with other devotional practices, as we finish one year and look with vigilance to the next. For example, in times of affliction, when there is a confusing, cacophony of voices, I’ve never failed to be instructed and edified, by reading the First Letter of St. John in one sitting, a time investment of about 30 minutes.

The theological left and other sophisticates, who are in love with moral ambiguity and shades of grey, would undoubtedly find the epistle “simplistic” and “binary,” but, for the earnest and faithful Catholic, it is instead profoundly simple and renders one with a new clarity of vision and purpose. Such reading can be like hearing the still, small voice: the wisdom of God that is almost completely absent in our institutions of higher learning and in some of our local parishes where heterodox priests reach into their groovy grab-bag of social justice bromides and feel-good theology for their latest homily.

Immersion into the life and writings of St. John is a journey into the mind and heart of the apostle that Jesus loved (21:20, 24). Such a distinction leads one to ask, “Does God play favorites?” The well-taught Catholic smiles in response and answers, “Why of course he does; we call them saints.”

Cain was the first radical egalitarian and proto-social justice warrior. He and Abel made decidedly different offerings to God and yet he demanded an equal outcome from the Almighty (Gen. 4:1-13).

Yahweh played favorites under the old covenant. Corruption and depravity were so rampant in Israel during the time of the Babylonian exile that he told Ezekiel that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in the land, he would still judge the nation severely though these three luminaries would save their own lives by their righteousness (Ezek. 14:20).

One cannot help but notice that our Lord kept some of his followers at arm’s length (e.g., those who followed him for the loaves and fishes) while others he pulled especially close to himself. Peter, James, and John were in his inner circle.

At the Last Supper, John sat in the place of honor next to Christ (Jn. 13:23, 25). Such passages lead us to ask how one becomes like the apostle that Christ loved.

The answer to that question is certainly not by already being a saint or close to perfection. The Gospels make it clear that both John and his brother James struggled with selfish ambition and anger.

The sons of Zebedee would ask to be seated on his left and right when Christ came into the full glory of his kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37) and they wanted to call fire down on a village of Samaritans when they did not receive Christ (Lk. 9:51-56). This should be encouraging to practicing Catholics who are fighting various sins and question if God is even interested in intimacy with them or using them to advance his kingdom.

What God is looking for most of all is what Fr. Jacques Philippe calls “good faith.” Put another way, God is not only calling those to his inner circle who are already saints but also those who want to be saints.

I recently heard a practicing Catholic say, “I’m not entirely sure I’m on the straight and narrow, in comparison to the saints throughout Church history, but I want to be.” These Catholics may have their ups and downs but are pursuing a single-minded devotion to Christ exemplified by the apostles who left family, houses, businesses, and friends to follow Christ.

Like John, they are pursuing Christ as an End-in-Himself not a means-to-an-end (loaves and fishes). They get distracted now and then as John did but their modus operandi is characterized by pursuing the One Thing that is crystallized in Holy Writ:

King David only wanted one thing: “…that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27: 4b). Jesus told Martha that only one thing was needful and Mary had chosen it: to sit at his feet, listen to his voice and bask in his presence (Lk. 10:38-42).

The apostle Paul counted all things as refuse except for one thing: an intimate knowledge of Christ characterized by knowing him in the power of his resurrection, fellowship of his suffering, and identification with his death (Phil. 3:10). Like John, as practicing Catholics, we must not lose the Forest (Christ) in looking at all the individual trees (the particulars of our faith).

The truth of our mission is captured in the title of a book by Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, and summarized in John’s final directive to the audience of his First Letter: “Little children keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). Idols become like adulterous lovers who defile our marriage bed with Christ our Bridegroom.

Someone may ask, “Is a utilitarian relationship with Christ really such a bad thing? Doesn’t he do things for us? Isn’t he our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, Provider, etc.?”

This is an excellent question, and, yes, we no doubt receive the benefits of availing ourselves to a full sacramental life in Christ. However, this isn’t the whole picture.

The earnest, practicing Catholic is like a woman from an economically deprived background who marries a virtuous man who is well-off. She is grateful for her newfound financial security but her favorite part of the marriage is being with him.

Another important way to imitate the apostle whom Jesus loved is in his relationship to the Mother of God: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

We see this mutual affection in the recent (December 12) Feast of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe between Juan Diego and Our Lady. She met his needs for nurturing maternal care:

Listen, and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son, do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your Fountain of Life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

He met her needs for receiving the tender affection of a son and in aligning his life with her agenda, which was to build a shrine for her where she could “show him [Christ] … exalt him … make him manifest … give him to the people.” Diego humbly participated in her goal as Unifier in bringing the indigenous people and Spaniards together.

The Mother of God’s agenda was to bring heaven to earth. This is what the apostle John, as an elderly man, saw in his heavenly vision in the Apocalypse: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9; emphasis mine).

Few of us are called to such a spectacular or consequential mission as Diego or John, but we all are called, as St. Thérèse of Lisieux declared, to do small things with great love. This may mean, without sacrificing truth or integrity, bringing people together in small ways, whether it be at home, work, our local churches, and/or in the public square. END QUOTES

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “St. John the Evangelist” painted by Vladimir Borovikovsky (1757-1825) for Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia

Do We? A Brief Stroll through the Mass [We’ll only hit the highlights] Another I AM a Catholic Lesson by Patrick Miron

Do We?

A Brief Stroll through the Mass [We’ll only hit the highlights]

Another I AM a Catholic Lesson

by Patrick Miron

It is easy to fall into a sense of routine when attending Mass; to be there in body; but perhaps not fully engaged in mind and spirit. If and when we permit to happen to us we miss a most privileged encounter with our God. Our God who has been patiently awaiting our return.

This lesson aims to renew our understanding and to quicken our heats desire so as not to be caught unaware; or worse; not truly caring where we are; and why we are here at Mass. The Mass; like God Himself exist for our benefit, not our God’s.

Do WE?

Do we regularly recall at the beginning of Mass just why we make the “sign of the Cross?” What it means; and what it ought to bring to mind; and why we begin the Mass this way? Or that making the sign of the Cross with holy water has graces attached to it; and exactly what and why we do this?

When we first enter Church; we are confronted with a Holy Water font: most us [myself at times included] mindlessly dip our fingers; “cross ourselves” and quick look to see if OUR spot has been taken by someone else [heaven forbid]. In doing so we miss a “graced opportunity”. Holy Water is a “sacramental”; a source of grace when we use it consciously. And even more importantly we have missed our clue to “enter into the very Sacrifice on the Cross” that Jesus Died on. We also missed a reminder that the Early Church too had a “cross-themselves” tradition. We ought to be mindful that ours is the Faith; ours is the Church and the Mass is Christ Gift of remembrance; the tie that binds us in Tradition & in practice to our 2,000 year old past. Historically by the year 150 A D the Mass had already taken much of its current form. [CCC 1345] PAUSE momentary when you enter Church; and THANK God for this Blessing.

The Mass is always a RE-presentation of the one-original Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. That means that the very sacrifice of Jesus is made present to US; time and time again until time immortal. But now in an unbloodied manner: [CCC 1382] and by signing ourselves with The Cross we are personally & collectively entering into that very original Sacrifice of Jesus Dying for us on His Cross.

Do WE?

Do we understand the New language of the Mass & it’s all too common responses?

Priest: The Lord be with YOU

People: “And with YOUR Spirit”. We use to reply “and with you.”  … Why the difference?

This is not a casual; Hi! How are you doing? No; these words are intended to convey that GOD is in our midst! [Mt. 18:20] Our priest [God’s chosen emissary] here is modeling Almighty God’s greeting to the early Fathers like Abraham, Moses, and David; and later, also to Mary and Joseph. We are to be mindful of our Family Tree; our connection to them through our God whose presence we have now entered into. God is always first-seeking a relationship with us; long before we in turn seek a relationship with Him.

By intoning “And with YOUR Spirit”. We acknowledge the Holy Spirit being in our midst AND the essential Role of the Holy Spirit acting through His priest at Mass.

Do WE?

Do we actively engage in praying with the priest AND the community of believers: “I CONFESS ……. “

This prayer and it’s placement at the beginning of Mass [when we are without unconfessed / unforgiven Mortal sins], prepares our minds, hearts and our very Souls for an intimate and soon sublime-union with our God. This prayer beckons us to reflect and seek forgiveness for our past infidelities; perhaps minor to us, but not so for our God.  We beg forgiveness for what we have done against God; and also what we have failed to do For God. This prayer has the effect of remitting our Venial sins and thus “making ready the Way of the Lord.” [Mt. 3:3]

Do WE?

Do we actually mean it; are we conscience of what we’re saying & praying? The term “Mercy” here means unmerited forgiveness.”

Priest: Lord have Mercy

People: Lord have Mercy

Priest: Christ have Mercy

People: Christ have Mercy

Priest: Lord have Mercy

People: Lord have Mercy

Here we invoke the Blessed Trinity: God the Father; God the Son & God the Holy Spirit to take pity upon us. And they will; and they DO!

Do WE?

Do we get the connection here; especially as it relates to the Son of God; The Gift of the Father BY the Holy Spirit? This prayer; especially when it is sung; makes evident a primary difference in  Sunday “Worship” when compared to Sunday meetings or gatherings of our Protestant Brethren. GOD alone is worthy of Worship. We venerate Mary and the Saints; but give heartfelt Divine Worship to God; so we ask again: Do WE? Make this evident? Do we actively participate? Do we?

Isaiah 9: 1-2; 6-7 [1] “But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. [2] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. … [6] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” [7] Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” [“GLORY TO GOD IN THEE HIGHEST; AND ON EARTH [HIS] PEACE! TO all people of “goodwill” [Which means Obedience”]  

Do WE?

Do we prepare to encounter the two forms of our One God?

Do we understand that each of us individually must answer the Jesus Question for ourselves? C S Lewis in his book: Mere Christianity poses the question. Cf. either he is the Son of God [& therefore God] or he is a lunatic. You can shut him up as a fool-madman or something worse or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

If God is not Real; if the Real Presence isn’t THEE Real Presence; then there is no reason for man to exist.

God’s Word is God as much as the Eucharist is Jesus! These are the two “inseperatable-parts” of the One same Reality

John.1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…” John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

An interesting FACT about the “readings” is that in the Church’s three-year-cycle; were one Blessed to be able to attend daily Mass, the teachings of the entire bible would be laid open to us. What a Blessing.

Weekday Mass usually has two reading; normally one OT & one NT reading, with the NT reading from the Gospels being the most critical for the teaching and learning of our Faith. Sunday’s and Holyday’s usually have three. Most often an OT reading; then an NT Epistle [means “letter] reading followed by the Gospel [“the Good News.”] This then is followed by a homily; [by an Ordained minister] where the reading are further tied together and explained with greater detail and depth; making application to our lives. This is a time where the Holy Spirit desires to be let into our minds and into our hearts. God is speaking to us; we’d better listen.

Being in God’s Presence; it is a good idea to say a short prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant us fuller insights and memory recall. Active participation at the Readings; means to be actively engaged in both listening carefully to the readings and likewise to the homily. Which can be challenge overcome with God’s assistance.

2nd. Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Matthew 4: 4But Jesus answered, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.”

In a sense; the Readings are begging us to actually KNOW God; and not settle for just knowing “about Him.” … These reading and the homily are intended to prepare us for meeting our God in a manner not even granted to the Angels…. COMING SOOM TO YOU IN PERSON: GOD the Son of the Father! You have heard his WORD; now prepare to confront Him in Person.

Do WE?

Do we understand just why we pray our Creed each week?

Our Catholics Creeds [The Apostles Creed & or the Nicene Creed] are summaries of our Catholic Beliefs. The Apostles Creed is thought to have originated either from the Apostles themselves; or perhaps by others in that time period who knew the Apostles. The Nicene Creed dates from the Church Council at Nicea in 325 A. D.

This prayer too takes us back to our past, then brings us into the present and even extends into the future. It affirms OUR Faith; it articulates our core-beliefs; and we are to understand that each time we recite this prayer; we are part of the Universal Church [Mt. 28:18-19] that Jesus desired and instituted. That we do recognize these beliefs; that we accept them as true and that we agree to live and to share them as God presents us with the opportunity to do so. Each time we recite this prayer we personally are reaffirming our personal-relationship with our God through His Church. Amen!

Do WE?

Do we know our role in the “Prayers of the Faithful?”

This could also be termed “the unity prayer.” That my friends is its focus. It’s the Church’s way to get us “out of ourselves” and connect with the worldwide Catholic Church; those at a distance and those surrounding us at Mass. Then it even goes a step further; and it presents a window of opportunity to each of us to make an offering of all that we have [as it all comes from God] as a faithful and faith-filled recognition that God is, as God ought to be; in charge of our lives. We therefore offer back to God all that we are and all that he has given to us; to be used as he would have us use it.

Do WE?

Do we know WHY the gifts of bread & wine; and our tithings are brought from the back of church to the altar?

This act dates at least as far back to St Justin Martyr in 155 A. D.; where todays Mass had largely already taken its form. [CCC #1345].

This act is closely tied into the prayer of the faithful for a reason. Once again we are given the opportunity to “give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Due to our God”. [Mt 22:21] The “first fruits” of our labors; always with a grateful heart knowing that God rewards a cheerful giver; and that God’s generosity cannot be outdone. Critical here is understanding that these gifts represent “works from our labor.” Labor imposed in Divine Justice yes; but also a gift from God, to be able to work for a living.

Do WE?

Do we know just how we are intimately connected to the preparation of the gifts?

In the Old Testament bread was far more than a side-dish. It was seen as a necessity in order to sustain life itself. And it was through this very fact that God tested them to “give back” a portion of the bread as a sacrifice to God demonstrating both our faith in God AND tour reliance on God. So too wine was associated with the meal. A sustenance that stemmed from “the work of their hands”; BUT as any farmer will quickly attest; one that is only possible from God’s providence.

This sacred Tradition dates back to Father Abram [even before God changed his name to Abraham]; some 4,000 years in our past.

Gen. 14: 19-24 “[19] And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; [20] and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” [21] And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” [22] But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, [23] that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, `I have made Abram rich.’ [24] I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me; let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.” And God using priest dates to this same event: Ps.110: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz’edek.” [Also Heb. 5:6 & 7: 3, 17, 21]. It is highly signifient that so much of our history is contained in Our Mass.

 

Then God providing both bread [manna & flesh: doves] for the people in exile of course leads to the sum; and the very Summit of Catholic Beliefs.  Exo. 16: 31-33 “[31] Now the house of Israel called its name manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. [32] And Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: `Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” [33] And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout your generations.” Numbers 11: 18 “And say to the people, `Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat.”

 

The fact that both bread and wine require “sweat labor” and must also have God’s weather and soil blessings is too relevant. It is at the same time a sign of God’s love and our acknowledgment that we are truly the “work of His hand.” Psalm 18: 2 the heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.”

Do WE?

Do we my friends understand the mixing of water & wine and its significance?

In Sacred Tradition it dates back to common Jewish practice to weaken the alcoholic effects normally associated with wine consumption.  But it has great significance to us Catholics [and Orthodox as well] to the miracle at Canna where to forego embarrassment to the new Bride and Groom; and at the request of his Mother who; BTW, Jesus Address as “women”; NOT “mother” [also a sign of future events when on the Cross Jesus gives His mother to all of humanity so that she can aid them in their relationship with Christ her Son. [John 19:25-27] “So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Then there is also the correlation with this miracle of demonstrated Godly control over the very substance of “things” and the later Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist.

In this Sacred Tradition God is represented by the wine and we; each of us is represented by the water. There is a highly signifient “co-mingling” of the water and wine; representing both God’s desire to unified within us, AND we in Him. This is often graphically presented by some priest [a personal option] by just adding a drop or two of water to the wine he has already poured into the chalice for the soon to be Traunsbstanuation. The miraculous transformation of what WAS real wine; and has now become really Christ Blood; the Blood of His Glorified Body. God IN us; and we IN our God!

Listen carefully, actively and attentively to the words the priest say’s out loud; so that we cannot but marvel at how much; and how evidently God does love us. This begins a period where we need to show great gratitude & true Worship for so humble of a God; that He would stoop so low just to be united in and with us.

Do WE?

Do we understand that our priest who will soon become in front of our very eyes: an “alter-Christi”; that is, literally for the instants of the Traunsbstanuation; “another Christ?” And that he is about to enter into the commemoration of the Old Testament “HOLY OF HOLIES”  represented by the washing of his hands; bringing to our minds the OT ritual washings of the High priest before entering into such a Holy space?

Do WE?

Do we understand that we too are called to have an ACTIVE roll in being; not merely spectators; but active participants in what is about to take place: the priest says “pray brethren, that MY sacrifice AND YOUR’S may be acceptable to God the almighty Father.” And we then affirm this reality with our own invocation:

“May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name; for OUR good and the good of all His Holy Church?”

And here friends is precisely why this is of critical importance to each of us:

Isaiah 43 verses 7 & 21 [7] “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” & [21] the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”

What is taking before our very eyes is the opportunity to fulfill the very reason for our existence! We ought to make the most of this grace.

There is a theological sense of unity; of active participation here.

Do WE?

De we understand the Sacred Tradition of the “Eucharistic Prayer?”

It is rooted in Jewish “table prayers” recited at every meal. What an intimate connection this brings us to with our history and our past.

This prayer has four separate elements:

The [1] Preface: The Lord be with you; Lift up your hearts; & Let us give thanks to our God. Our replies are: And with your spirit; we lift them up to the Lord & it is right and just.

Each petition begs our participation and awareness of what in unfolding before our very eyes.

Next we are requested to Glorify our God though [2] the Sanctus: Holy; Holy, Holy is our GOD! Like Moses at the burning bush, we are in a very real manner; now in the Presence of our God.

Then we hear [3] the Epiclesis [meaning the invocation upon] where the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit to make Jesus present to us.

The Eucharist is:

FROM God the Father

OF God the Son

BY God the Holy Spirit

This beckoning of the Holy Spirit then leads us to The Words of Institution & Consecration [the Traunsbstanuation] which though the actions of the priest and the intercession of the Holy Spirit makes Jesus present to us. This reality is the sum and the summit of our Catholic Faith. Our priest who at the instants of Consecration become “alter Christi”; literally another “Christ”. We are witnessing not one’ but two miracles in this sequence of prayers. Now what was unleavened bread become for us the “entire Christ.” And the chalice of wine is now the Sacred Blood of the Glorified Christ.

We should understand that what we witness is the “RE-presentation”; that is to say; the making present at every Mass the one and original [same] Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; time and time again until the End Times. This then is the third miracle that we witness at every Mass. Not as some would suggest; a mere sign, or only a symbol of remembrance; NO! This dear friend is Jesus; “Really; Truly & Substanually made present to us: the “Entire Jesus” in his “Glorified Body; Soul and Divinity.”

The Priest then prays [4] the anamnesis [offering-prayer] which can take several forms:

Eucharistic prayer III: “We offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice”

TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND EAT OF IT; FOR THIS IS MY Body

Which is given up for you….

Take this all of you, and drink from it;

For this is the chalice of MY Blood,

The Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant,

Which will be poured out for you and for many

For the Forgiveness of sins [venial, but not mortal sins In its effects]

Do THIS is Remembrance [in memory] of Me”

From St John Gospel: Chapter 6:

[47] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] I am the bread of life. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [55] For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  … This verse expresses precisely what takes place in Catholic Holy Communion. GOD in us; and we IN our God.

And from the “13th Apostle: St Paul [a convert]

1st. Corinthians 11: 23-30

[23] For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, [24] and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [25] In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” [26] For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. [27] Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. [28] Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. [29] For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.[Which is to say Condemns themselves]  [30] that is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [Speaking here of a spiritual death: Hell] … “Amen” [I Believe!]

 Our Catechism: #1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” [Our Sacrifice]

Do WE?

Do we friend, permit ourselves to become distracted by what happens now; before Holy Communion? We must resist this tendency with prayer.

Before Holy Communion;

The priest makes intercessory prayers on his and our behalf. This is followed by the “Great Amen” [I BELIEVE!]

Next is the prayer Jesus taught us: Lord’s Prayer…

“Hallowed be THY name …..” [In other words: GLORY to God]

“THY Will BE done” [who’s in charge of your life?  … you or God? It cannot be a shared responsibility: YOU or God.]

“Forgive us our trespasses’” [BUT only to the same degree that I forgive everyone else]

…… AMEN! Is telling God:  that we understand; we accept & we believe. Do WE?

Do WE?

Do we dear friends understand the “to do’s” and NOT “to do’s” in the Rite of Peace

This practice too dates back to at least 155 A D, and was a common practice whenever Catholic-Christians met [and no Romans are other persecutors were evident]. Like the Sign of the cross it identified the Christian community.

The correct manner of doing this is to:

Limit it to ONLY those in very-close proximity to you; be as BRIEF and non-disturbing as possible; do not leave your location to greet others not near you. You need not share the sign with the ENTIRE church and all those present. While this remains an important sharing; it ought NOT to distract from the Divine Presence: Jesus/ our-GOD in our midst.

Do WE?

Do we actively and consciously participate in the “Lamb of God?”

Next is the “Agnus Dei” … The “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: have Mercy on us”; which is repeated three times [for the Father; Son & Holy Spirit] with the third response being “Grant US [your] peace.”

This prayer, often sung is a three-times repeated: Lord have Mercy on me a sinner. Nothing we could ever do; or have ever done can make us TRULY- worthy of what God now invites us with contrite expectations to participate in. We are invited to the “Supper of the Lamb.”

While this prayer is taking place the priest “fractures” the large Host. This is where the Sacred Tradition of “Breaking the Bread-churches” comes from.

In the very early Church; before the theological term of “Eucharist” came into being; this Miracle of all Miracles was termed “the Breaking of the Bread” [Act of the Apostles 2:42] “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

A very early Church practice was to have the Bishops actually break the bread they Consecrated and send a small portion of it to all of his diocese –churches as a sign of unity / Brotherhood. In our time if we are paying attention as we ought; we will take notice of the priest breaking a small portion of the large host and place it in his Chalice of Consecrated “Wine” [the Blood of Christ]; following a similar sign of unity with the Universal Catholic Church.

The priest holds up the “fractured” Host and proclaims:

“BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD

BEHOLD HIM WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD

BLESSED ARE THOSE CALLED TO THE SUPPER OF THE LAMB” ….

LORD I AM NOT WORTHY THAT YOU SHOULD ENTER UNDER MY ROOF

Following are the essential conditions of receiving Catholic Holy Communion

  1. One Must be a believing Catholic in the “state of God’s grace” [no unconfessed or unforgiven mortal sins]
  2. Unless excused by age [60 or older] and in “good health” we ARE expected [commanded] to fast from all solid food and drink [except water] for 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion.

Holy Communion/ Jesus may be received either on the tongue [Receiving Jesus] OR in one’s hand [taking Jesus]. BOTH are acceptable. However receiving our God on our tongues is a more humble and is often a more respectful manner to do so.

BEFORE receiving Jesus we are to make a sign of both humility and Glorification before our God. One can choose to genuflect [bending the knee to the ground WHILE the person in front of you receives;] OR opt for a “PROFOUND Bow.” A bow from the waist; NOT simply nodding one’s head casually. THIS IS OUR GOD WE ARE RECEIVING. Even the Angels in heaven are NOT grated this Gift; this Grace. Again a genuflection is the more humble of the two choices IF one is able to do so.

Our demeanor; our thoughts both in going up for Holy Communion; and even more-so having received Jesus into our body must reflect our BELIEF that we are now in the most astounding and intimate UNION with our God possible! This TRULY is a foretaste of Heaven on Earth. Like the Apostle John shares in chapter 6: [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” We are in God and God is in us. Amen!

The time immediately following our invitation of Jesus into our very minds; hearts and Souls is a time of enormous benefit to:

Thank God profusely for this unearned; unmerited Gift of Himself

This is the time to lay-open our hearts and our needs and wants [AFTER having given sincere thanks]

This is the time to pray for family and friends and all of our special needs.

Never is God closer or more attuned to hearing us than these moments following inviting God into our very selves.

As a FYI: GOD remains in us for about one hour after having received Him. Act accordingly.

THEN we have the Final Blessing; say our personal “good by” to Jesus and are sent forth to SHARE the good-news; BY our actions; even more so than our words.

Do We?

Do we dear friends know that GOD was satisfied with our knowing and active participation at His Mass?

So Do We?

Pray much my friends; pray very much!

God Bless you and yours,

Patrick

“Venite, adoremus.  Come, let us adore Him.” by  Peter M.J. Stravinskas

 

It is a divine principle of reality that nature abhors a vacuum. When God finds an empty space in the human person, He fills it up with Himself, if we let Him.

The saddest words in the infancy narratives of the Gospels inform us that there was “no room for them in the inn,” forcing the Son of God to be born in a hillside cave and causing us to remember an ox and an ass as His hosts, rather than human beings.  And those words which nearly caused a tragedy 2000 years ago are still uttered by people today – mankind, as it were, not having learned its lesson.

The “no vacancy” sign screams out to God from people who can find the time only once or twice a year to stumble into a church because they’re “too busy.”  If you’re too busy for God, you’re too busy indeed.  Married couples who are possessed of a contraceptive mentality and find children a burden are modern inn keepers who have no room for the God Who comes to us this day, of all things, in the form of a child.  Men and women who are always concerned about money and material possessions miss out on frequent opportunities to give God a home in the guise of the poor person who seeks aid; convinced that they need yet more, they fail to share what they already have in abundance.

It is no accident that those who celebrate Advent and Christmas best are children.  They are so good at waiting and hoping.  They are in a perpetual attitude of openness and readiness to be surprised.  They always have room for more; their horizons are boundless, and that is why Jesus loves them so.  Did you ever notice how easy it is to shop for a gift for a child?  Far different from shopping for that adult “who has everything”!

Christmas teaches us the importance of making room in our lives for God.  It is a divine principle of reality that nature abhors a vacuum. When God finds an empty space in the human person, He fills it up with Himself, if we let Him.  You see, if you are already full of yourself, there is no room for God.  The Lord Himself even followed this law of biology and psychology.  Before taking on human nature, the Son of God emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives.  God emptied Himself to become human, hoping that we would learn that we must empty ourselves if we would become divine.  By a marvelous exchange of gifts, emptying Himself, God fills us.  The silent sermon of the Babe of Bethlehem also seems to be saying that excessive self-love is really self-hate because it causes one to miss out on mankind’s greatest chance to experience meaning and beauty in life.

The birth we commemorate today celebrates anew the fact that we, too, can be born of God.  In the face of such a promise, many human responses are possible: doubt, hope, awe, wonder, confusion, gratitude.  However, one response is particularly worthy of a Christian – and that is joy.  I do not mean any kind of cheap hilarity or temporary and superficial happiness.  No, I mean a joy that makes every human sorrow and tragedy pale in significance – even war, death, poverty and loneliness; even tragedies as close to us and shocking as the effects of Hurricane Sandy and the horrific and senseless deaths in Newtown –  cannot destroy Christmas for a genuine believer who has left a space for God in his or her life.  Regardless of your personal hardships – and we all have our share – that little empty room in your heart is occupied by God in Christ His Son.  And the Son brings with Him that sense of perspective on human affairs and human suffering which can only be described as joy – the awareness that “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”; the realization that God in Christ endured the worst in His saving Passion and Death but gloriously rose above it; the faith that the Infant Jesus is also the mighty Lord Who gives to us, His brothers and sisters, the ability to do the same as He.

Lest we succumb to a soupy sentimentality, we are reminded that Jesus does not need us to come today to offer Him our greetings at His birthday party unless those greetings are part of a life lived for Him 365 days a year.  We must not fall into the American trap of using religion to make ourselves feel good and holy once a year if we do not intend to give Him our love and commitment all year long.  Let’s be honest:  When human life has been cheapened by decades of abortion and when the “war on Christmas” is but the logical conclusion to decades of the marginalization of God and religion, can we really be amazed that our occasional prayers for His intervention seem to fall on deaf divine ears?

Of course, some people will wonder how we Christians can naively celebrate this day – when the economy is erratic, when violence and crime rise daily, when family life is in a shambles around the nation.  The convert poet-monk Thomas Merton had an answer for such people, I think, in some lines he wrote describing his first Christmas in the monastery.  He said: “Christ always seeks the straw of the most desolate cribs to make His Bethlehem.  In all the other Christmases of my life, I had got a lot of presents, and a big dinner.  This Christmas I was to get no presents, and not much of a dinner: but I would have, indeed, Christ Himself, God, the Savior of the world.”

Therein lies the answer to the questions raised.  Today we hear God’s definitive response to human suffering, and we receive His last Word in a whole series of words, and the Word is His very own Son.

One final note: For Catholics, Christmas happens every day as the mystery of the Incarnation is renewed in every celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice – Emmanuel, God-with-us – abides with us and in us.  And so, permit me to extend a special appeal to those here today who may not have been here since last Christmas or Easter: Make a Christmas pledge to the Infant Lord as your birthday gift to Him that you will accept His invitation to allow Him to be part of your life all year long.  We know that God is never outdone in generosity, so that your gift to Him will be returned a hundredfold as He gives Himself to you, accompanied by His gifts of peace and joy.  Today we make our own the plea of the carol: “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”

Within a few short minutes, Christ the Lord will graciously and lovingly respond to that plea by coming upon our altar and, if we are properly disposed to receive Him in Holy Communion, by taking up His abode within us as He did within the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Venite, adoremus.  Come, let us adore Him.”

(Editor’s note: This homily was preached by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., on the Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity 2012, at the Church of St. Michael, Long Branch, New Jersey.)

About Peter M.J. Stravinskas

Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments.

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Did God Literally Create the World in Seven Days? JP NUNEZ

We Christians get a lot of flak for believing the Bible. Many today consider it little more than a collection of fairy tales that intelligent, sophisticated people have no reason to take seriously, and one of the stories they ridicule most often is the seven-day creation narrative in the first chapter of Genesis. Modern science tells us that the world took much longer than seven days to form, so, they contend, the Bible must be wrong. In response to such criticism, many Christians argue that we don’t have to take this account literally. Instead, they claim that we can take it as a story meant to convey theological rather than scientific truths. For instance, it is meant to teach us that God created the world, not how he created it.

However, there is a problem with this defense. When people say that we should not interpret the seven days of creation in Genesis literally, they are usually just reading the story through the lens of modern science. They are taking science as their standard of truth and then interpreting the Bible accordingly.

However, if this is all we can do, it’s hard to see how we can uphold the truth and reliability of Scripture. If the biblical text itself does not give us any indication that it is meant to be taken figuratively, then we are actually misinterpreting it. We can get all the theological truths we want from the seven-day creation story, but if it is meant to be taken literally, then it is tough to get around the fact that it is just plain wrong. We cannot save Scripture by imposing on it a meaning it was never supposed to have; that is just a less honest way of admitting that science is right and the Bible is wrong.

Patterns in the Days

Simply put, we can’t just assert that we should take the seven-day creation story figuratively. If we really want to defend the reliability of Scripture and show its compatibility with science, we have to demonstrate that the story is actually meant to be understood that way. We need to look for clues in the text itself that it is intended simply to give theological truths, not a literal description of how exactly God created the world.

To do that, we have to look closely at what God makes on each of the first six days (God doesn’t actually create anything on the seventh day, so we can leave that one off to the side), and when we do that, we can see a pattern. On the first three days, God creates habitats or environments, and then on the next three days, he fills them with inhabitants:

Habitats/Environments:

  • Day 1: Light/day and darkness/night
  • Day 2: The sky, which separates the waters above (basically what we now know are clouds) from the waters below (the seas and oceans)
  • Day 3: The waters below the sky are gathered into one place, and dry land appears

Inhabitants:

  • Day 4: The sun and moon “to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:18)
  • Day 5: Birds to fly in the sky and sea creatures to swim in the ocean
  • Day 6: Land animals, including man

Moreover, if we look at the pattern closely, we can see that there’s actually a more specific pattern than just the general connection between days 1-3 and days 4-6. Each day in the first set corresponds to one in the second set. Specifically, days 1 and 4 go together, days 2 and 5 go together, and days 3 and 6 go together. On day 1, God creates light/day and darkness/night, and on day 4, he makes the sun and the moon to inhabit the day and the night and to separate light from darkness. On day 2, God creates the sky and the sea, and on day 5, he makes birds and sea creatures.  On day 3, God creates dry land, and on day 6, he creates the land animals.

The Problem in the Pattern

So how does this clue us in to the figurative nature of the story? Let’s focus on days one and four. God creates the sun and the moon on day 4, and they are supposed to “separate the day from the night” (Genesis 1:14) and “give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:15). However, something isn’t quite right here. If we read the text closely, we can see that all of this is already done on day 1. God creates light and separates night and day on the first day of creation, before the sun and moon are anywhere to be seen, which creates a problem if we take the days literally.

At first, we might think that there’s a perfectly good solution to this problem: God could have miraculously given light to his creation and caused day and night to alternate before he made the sun and moon. However, this theory has a fatal flaw. In the second creation story (which comes right after it and which is meant to complement rather than contradict the first one), we read that in the beginning, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground” (Genesis 2:5). This tells us that when God created the world, he didn’t miraculously make things act contrary to their natures. He let the land remain barren until it got what it naturally needed for plants to grow, and we can extrapolate from that and conclude that he also would have let the world remain in darkness until it got what it naturally needed for light to appear. As a result, the appearance of light on the first day remains a problem for a literal interpretation of the story.

The Solution

The solution to this difficulty, I would suggest, is to lean into it rather than try to avoid it. We have to realize that while the creation of light, the sun, and the moon clearly doesn’t work as a literal description, it does work as part of the literary pattern we saw throughout the first six days. The creation of the sun and the moon is on the wrong day if the author of the story is trying to describe exactly how God created the world, but it is in exactly the right place if he is simply using the seven days as a framework to structure his story into a nice, neat pattern.

And that’s our smoking gun. Instead of disproving the reliability of the creation story, the problem of the creation of light, the sun, and the moon actually shows us that the story is not supposed to be taken literally. It shows us that the author intended to fit the various elements of creation into a literary pattern rather than give us a literal chronology. The text is supposed to be figurative and poetic, not scientific and precise.

Faith and Science

Consequently, when we defend the reliability of Scripture by taking the seven-day creation story figuratively, we’re not simply reading the text through the lens of modern science. We’re not just taking science as our standard of truth and trying to conform the Bible to its teachings. Rather, that is actually the way the text is supposed to be read. We are supposed to take the seven days figuratively, so on this point there is no contradiction between faith and science. Science tells us the precise details of how the world came to be, and Scripture tells us theological truths about God, creation, and our place within it.

By JP Nunez  JP Nunez has been a theology nerd since high school. He has master’s degrees in both theology and philosophy (with a concentration in bioethics) from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and he spent three years in Catholic University of America’s doctoral program in biblical studies before realizing that academia isn’t where he wants to be. During his time in Steubenville, he worked for two years as an intern at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, where his responsibilities included answering theological questions and helping to format and edit their Journey Through Scripture Bible studies. He blogs at JP Nunez: Understanding the Faith Through Scripture.

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From looking up to bowing down: This is the recipe to finding God’s presence Wonderlane

From looking up to bowing down: This is the recipe to finding God’s presence

Wonderlane |

Dec 25, 2018

Intensely attentive to their surroundings, both the magi and the shepherds follow the same path.

Those who first learn about the birth of Jesus are the ones who give us the perfect recipe for how to place ourselves in God’s presence as they did.

Matthew’s Gospel speaks of the magi arriving in Jerusalem with a question, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2). Not, “Is there a new king?” or “Do you think there’s a new king?” The magi know that he has arrived and now they wish to pay him homage.

Why?

On a practical level, these are men who constantly have their heads tilted towards the sky. The “sky” or the “heavens” is the place of highest importance for Matthew. He refers to the message of Jesus’ preaching not as “The Kingdom of God,” but as the “The Kingdom of Heaven.” When we hear Matthew speaking about the “heavens” or the “sky” we should hear him referring to Yahweh. Thus, in looking to the sky, the magi were looking to him, and to him alone.

Then we have the shepherds who are “keeping the night watch over their flock” (Lk 2:8). Shepherds are a curious group of people to receive the message of this Newborn King. In contrast to the magi, who deduce the coming of the Messiah by their own workings, these simple shepherds are given the news with an announcement. The shepherds seem to be minding their own business until God’s intervention with a choir of angels.

However, if we look more closely, the parallel with the magi is clear.

The shepherds were in the midst of their “night watch.” Night time was dangerous not only for the flock but for the shepherds themselves. Anything could happen at night. There were no street lamps or flashlights for the shepherds to use as an aid. The darkness would have been deep and it would have been extremely difficult to protect the flock from an attack by predators or thieves. Hence, these men are keeping watch, as they had to every night. The shepherds are intensely attentive to their surroundings, and it is within this attentiveness that they receive the message of the angels.

They had no distractions like we do today. It was simply them, their shepherd buddies, their flock, and God.

The shepherds and the magi both arrive after the birth of Christ. The first thing the magi do: “They prostrated themselves and did him homage” (Mt 2:11).

The position of prostration in the Bible is only used when human beings are before God in worship. There are numerous occasions when this occurs: Abram falls on his face when God speaks to him (Gen 17:3), Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the Lord in the meeting tent (Num 20:6), David and the people bow down low before God (1 Chr 29:20), and finally a leper sees Jesus, instantly falls on his face before him and begs the Lord to make him clean (Lk 5:12).

The first and only proper response to coming in contact with God is to fall on our faces before him in adoration. It is only from that position that we are able to focus on what is truly before us.

Two vastly different groups of people give us the same lesson on Christmas: Keep our attention focused upward, attentive to God, and when we’ve found Him, bow down in adoration. And never leave his side

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