Monthly Archives: December 2013

Off to Rome

Tomorrow I travel to Italy, spending time in Assisi and Rome, with a briefer stay in Florence. I will try to update you with posts, but can’t guarantee it, especially since I am leading a group. Please pray for the safety of the group. I will be remembering you in my Masses, especially those at the Tomb of St. Francis, and the Tomb/Altar of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Can’t hardly wait to actually see Pope Francis!

The Concho Padre

Reflections for Dec. 30

Today’s Readings from USCCB

“There was a prophetess, Anna …” Luke

The prophetess Anna rates just one mention in Luke as she thanks God for the birth of Jesus and tells people at the Temple about his importance. I love this passage because I resonate to its 84-year-old heroine.

Picture the Temple that day as a stately, wrinkled, white-haired woman with kind eyes pronounces her great news. Even men who normally would pay little attention to a woman can’t ignore Anna because of the palpable wisdom that her well-lived, long life has bestowed. Even her name is fitting: Anna, meaning “grace” or “favor.”

It’s especially easy for me to conjure up images of the Biblical Anna because I grew up with a wise old woman who shared her name, my Great Aunt Anna or “Aunt Annie” as everyone called her.

Aunt Annie prayed mostly in a little farmhouse, not the Temple, but she was devout in her own cock-eyed fashion, conversing regularly with God. She’d read the Bible and comment on Old Testament stories that reminded her of her beloved murder mysteries.

Like the Biblical Anna, Aunt Annie saw wonder and hope in children. Remembering how she would defend us to our male elders, it’s easy to envision Anna speaking authoritatively about the child to skeptical men in the Temple. Magnificent women, both, I’m sure!

One thing we notice in the New Testament is that God sometimes uses obscure people such as Anna to announce great news, like the significance of this child. We sense that they represent us, especially when they remind us of people we know.

So today I thank St. Luke for shining light on the beauty and wisdom of such people, especially those who happen to be older women. I hope that today’s Gospel also evokes joyful memories of the “Annas” and “Aunt Annies” in your own lives.

Happy New Year!!!!!

Eileen Wirth
Creighton University

News Briefs, Dec. 27

Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read their News Briefs for Friday, Dec. 27.

Prospects for the New Year in the Vatican

Here is the Vatican Letter from Catholic News Service.

Feast of the Holy Family

Holy Family Readings from USCCB

When I was a young wife and mother, I could never find the time to pray. Each day was so full and with each passing year our schedule as a family grew more demanding. How could I get the laundry done? How could I find time to pray?

I finally realized that no one ever came into the laundry room, and the peace of that room was the perfect place to pray. As I sorted laundry, I prayed for each person in my family while folding pajamas, school uniform blouses and an endless number of socks. My prayers and my spirituality were shaped in that laundry room, and I have always connected doing the family laundry with prayer.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, remembering how Jesus grew up in the normal busy-ness of family life, how he was shaped as a person by both Mary and Joseph.

Pope Francis wrote in his recent exhortation that the family is “where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another.” That very belonging to each other is what today’s readings are about.

In the first reading, Sirach entreats parents and children to love and honor each other. When one generation can no longer care for the other, he calls us to “take care of your father when he is old … even if his mind fails, be considerate of him.” He adds the care we give for the elderly “will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt” of our own failings.

Our lives are complicated and families don’t always consist of two parents. But Paul’s letter to the Colossians offers all of us the tools we need to care for each other: . I can guess that Paul was intimately connected with family as he notes other important family skills, like “bearing with one another” which seems like an apt phrase on the harder days. When we share a home, we not only have to forgive each other, but to be aware that we need forgiveness from each other, prompted by the example of God’s deeply loving forgiveness for us all.

The Gospel is Matthew’s story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt in fear of Herod, who was searching for their son. The left their homeland and lived in a country they did not know, with languages and customs not their own, separated from their family. When they could finally return to Israel, fear of Herod’s successor forced them to go not home, but to Galilee, where they would be less likely to be found.

But despite the stress of their situation, I picture them as holding onto each other even more closely. That seems to be our human reaction to tragedy – we want to gather our loved ones together and hold onto each other. Even with the people who drive us crazy. But they are family and they belong to us and we belong to them; because family is not about perfection but fidelity. As Pope Francis says about families, “We remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one an­other’s burdens.’”

He says when a parent speaks to a child, the parent “becomes small,” crouching down to eye level and speaking in a softer, different voice. He says, “Someone looking in from the outside might think, ‘This is ridiculous!’” and yet parents do it “because the love of a father and mother needs to be close.” He says God comes to us in the same “small” way of a parent, speaking to our fears with gentle love, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, I’m here.”

Being part of a family means being faithful to our everyday lives, to loving each other on our best and worst days, and to remembering the sacredness of even the pile of socks, overflowing in the laundry room.

Maureen McCann Waldron
Creighton University

News Briefs, Dec. 26

Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read their News Briefs for Thurs., Dec. 26

Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 27

Today’s Readings from USCCB

“God is love.” There’s hardly a less controversial statement in modern Western culture than this one. But if you were to press people as to the implications of this simple statement, you’d quickly see a divergence from the scriptural witness to this belief that God is, in His very Three-Personed nature, sel-giving love.

It is St. John the Evangelist, whose feast we celebrate on this third day of the Octave of Christmas, who tells us that “God is love.” But he also unpacks that simple statement throughout his three letters in the New Testament, and his Gospel account. We might say that these four books of the New Testament are a primer in both the nature of divine love, and its practice.

My favorite single verse of Sacred Scripture is from St. John’s first letter: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and offered His Son as an expiation for our sins.” The life of St. John the Evangelist bear witness to this truth. He was, of course, the only of the twelve Apostles to remain with Jesus during His Passion and death. Perhaps owing to this fidelity, he was the only one of the Apostles (excepting Judas Iscariot, of course) who was not martyred. Perhaps also owing to his fidelity to the Crucifixion of Love in the Flesh, it was to John that Jesus entrusted His Blessed Mother. All this illustrates why St. John the Evangelist is called “the Beloved Disciple”.

Reflections for Christmas

Readings from USCCB

The story of today is so familiar yet so new every year, every Christmas. It is so simple and beautiful that a child can grasp the image of a baby in a manger and so meaningful that we, no matter our age, can learn something from every telling. My favorite part of Christmas is the re-telling of that story in the children’s Mass I attend. In a dramatization called a posada, young people – probably about 13 years old – play the part of Mary and Joseph. Wearing simple costumes, they travel through the darkened, crowded church, stopping at several places to ask for a room for the night, only to be turned away. At the back of the church, a new mother hands over a little just-months-old baby to Mary. The two young people walk up the church’s center aisle, Mary oh-so-carefully holding the small bundle of life. The priest meets them before the Nativity scene at the altar and the little baby takes his (or her) place in the manger for a few moments of prayer before Mass starts.
This simple re-enactment always brings tears to my eyes because the presence of that little baby really brings home the grace of God becoming man. Despite the hardship and the pain, there is such joy at any birth. The act of God becoming man in a humble, all-too-human way can give us all hope in the rebirth of goodwill and peace. We are people who have walked in darkness and now have seen a great light. We can sing a new song, be glad and rejoice. The grace of God is here to help us learn to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age. Let us take this story and the good news of great joy into our hearts and let the joy and peace flourish. Let us be thankful for this great light. Let us keep the light burning brightly in our hearts and in our lives. Let us hold this simple story in our hearts throughout the year.

Carol Zuegner
Creighton University

Advent Reflections for Mon. Dec. 23

Today’s readings from USCCB

Advent is a beautiful season of the year. Christians wait and pray for the coming of the Lord. The liturgical texts focus on the Lord’s first and last coming. We anticipate Christmas but we also are reminded that the Lord is at hand. Each Sunday we confess, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Along with these comings, St. Bernard of Clairvaux reminded us of a third coming that we can celebrate during Advent or any season of the year. This is the coming of Jesus into our hearts as Lord. In the words of one of our seasonal hymns,

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

The fact that Christ came and will come again is critical to our faith. But what difference do those comings make if he has not come into our lives and transformed us into his image? If you are one of his disciples, thank him during Advent for the wondrous gift God has given you by personally entering into your life. Meek souls still receive Him.

The Malachi passage refers to the coming of the Lord God as a refining fire. God will come among his people to purify them so “that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord.” Before this God will send Elijah, the prophet, who will work to reconcile the people to God and one another. Several things about this passage stand out to me. First, Jesus alludes to this text in referring to John the Baptist as Elijah, the one who would come to prepare the way of the Lord. Second, the mission of Elijah is to reconcile parents and children. Is it any wonder that John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance? It takes humility to confess your sins, turn from them, and be baptized. That is exactly what divided families need. Humility will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents. Finally, when Jesus referred to his forerunner, John the Baptist, as Elijah, based on the words of Malachi, it should not shock us that this shocked his hearers. According to Malachi, Elijah will be the forerunner of God himself.

I love the gospel passage for various reasons. One of them is that my wife and I named our oldest son John and I took great delight in quoting this passage when people asked me his name: “His name is John.” Advent reminds us that we live in the kingdom of God by trust. Zechariah learned the hard way that God does what he says. Advent is also a great season for us to meditate upon the mystery of the incarnation and to express our joy that God has come among us. Zechariah’s “mouth was opened, his tongue was freed, and he spoke blessing God.” If you are one of those Catholics who does not sing during Mass, may God pull a Zechariah on you on Christmas so that your mouth is opened and your tongue freed to praise and bless our glorious God! Silence is a good practice for Advent but not for Christmas.

Have a Blessed Advent, what is left of it. And have a Merry Christmas.

George Butterfield
Creighton University

Reflections for 4th Sunday of Advent

Today’s readings from USCCB

God is With Us
“Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be as deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!” (Isaiah 7:11)

The king refused God’s request. After all, he too was a king and knew better than pester God for signs. But Ahaz’s humility was fake; he had no clue just how he wearied God. God wants our hunger, sorrow, and desire, not phony excuses. In Ahaz’s eyes, only one king really mattered. He tried to hold on to his seat at the center of things. But that is not where we find ourselves.

Should we ask God for signs? In Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor condemns Jesus for refusing to give us signs when he was tempted by the devil in the desert. If only God had turned stones into bread, then humans would have the proof we need. For this cardinal, people seek signs because they are too fearful to embrace true faith.

Do we hesitate to look for signs? After all, education teaches us to view the universe as matter in motion that follows mathematical laws. We learn that what is unexpected always has a cause, even if we haven’t discovered it yet. There is nothing new under the sun, we say. Yet Advent is a time of expectation, of awaiting the remarkable.

Look closer: our lives are full of signs of beginnings. When the robin returns, spring is close at hand. A first cry means the baby is born. To build peace after years of struggle, Nelson Mandela extends a hand to his jailers. A candle is lit in the darkness. Pope Francis kneels and washes the feet of a Muslim girl. Witnessing the presence of the sacred, we sign the cross.

God promised that a child will be born whose life shows how “God is with us.” Who would have thought a son of God would be conceived by an unwed mother, be homeless at birth, a refugee for years, tortured and crucified as a criminal, only to return to his friends after the resurrection? Our horizon shifts. There is much more to reality than what we expect.

When we find our place with the poor, with the child, with the single mother, with the gang member, with our enemies, we are the signs that God is with us. Pope Francis warns us not to close our doors to sinners and imbibe our own righteousness. In his recent letter, he writes, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” God’s kingdom is not a fortress. When we move outside the walls, we share in the freedom of God.

Jeanne Schuler

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