Welcome to "For Catholic Grownups"

December 9, 2009

Welcome to “For Catholic Grownups”!

This blog is an attempt to provide interesting and worthwhile Catholic Adult Education materials, either texts or podcasts I have produced myself, or links to other good resources.

I am doing this for several reasons. One is to act as a means of distributing to interested people recordings I have already made. Another is to advocate for Adult Catechesis within the Catholic Community, which I believe is sorely neglected in most parishes, despite the priority it is given in official Catholic documents on Catechesis.

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 23, 2019

Year C – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Scriptures of the coming Sunday are the second part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” which parallels (in Luke) the better-know “Sermon on the Mount” which appears in Matthew’s Gospel. The first part was proclaimed on the Sixth Sunday of the Year.

The words Jesus speaks are very challenging indeed. They are very much about God and not commandments as such. There are three different basic attitudes to life which people can have, and three matching attitudes to God.

  1. People who are selfish and vengeful. They are interested in what they can get for themselves. There is a matching view of God like this too, vengeful and destructive, but who favors one group of people (i.e. “Us”) over others.
  2. People who want equality in the sense of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Vengeful retaliation is restrained but people just want “equality”. People will not give freely and will not be in debt. They are not thieves, but have no generosity. cf. the classic statue of Justice: blindfold with a set of scales. Some people see God in this way too.
  3. People who receive and give life as a gift, who neither count offenses nor debts, as God does not. God is generous without measure to all: Jesus calls us to be the same.

How delightful is someone who is like this. How people behave and turn out is much to do with their own life experience. If a person (especially a child) is treated with contempt they will be vengeful; if treated grudgingly, will be mean; if treated fairly and generously will grow into a loving and generous person. Therefore Jesus is calling us to be as God is: compassionate.

The expression to “love your enemies” can be misleading, for love of this kind is not a matter of feeling, but acting justly and even generously. it is a matter of not seeking vengance nor holding grudges. This is not just a matter of personal relationships, but should also be a principle to live by in social, economic and political life, and this is where its demands can sound particularly difficult.

The principle of equality is a big improvement over an attitude of vengeance, but we need to go even further. For those who are poor or lacking in power, they are not in a position to gain what is justly theirs even if they are merely treated equally. Therefore generosity is needed, and a “preferential love” for the poor and the weak.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – God is generous to us, and calls us to act with great generosity in return. This is the foundation of Stewardship. Also God calls us to forgive even our enemies.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

February 15, 2019

February 17, 2019

Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Family Resources from RCL/Benziger

Saints This Week

February 17 Blessed Luke Belludi
February 18 Blessed John of Fiesole (Fra Angelico) patron of Painters
February 19 Saint Conrad of Piacenza
February 20 Blessed Jacinto and Francisco Marto
February 21 Saint Peter Damien, Doctor of the Church
February 22 Chair of Saint Peter
February 23 Saint Polycarp Patron of Earaches
February 23 Servant of God Leo Heinrichs

Scripture Commentary

The Gospels this Sunday, and for the following two weeks, are very challenging. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus delivers a “Sermon on the Plain”, which is similar in many ways to the better known “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel. The sayings in the “Sermon on the Plain” are shorter and punchier than the “Sermon on the Mount” where their impact is somewhat softened. Along with the “Blessed are…” saying, Luke also has the “Woes”, which are almost curses, against the rich, satisfied and complacent.

Part of the purpose behind the sayings of Jesus is ‘reversal’ (a prominent theme in Luke’s Gospel), the idea that the Kingdom of God will invert the usual expectations which people have. The ‘chosen ones’ in the Kingdom will be the poor, the outcasts, the sinners, the sick, the humble, rather than people who are favored in the eyes of the world: the rich, the strong, the respectable. This reflects other sayings from earlier in Luke’s Gospel, such as in the Magnificat, in which Mary says, “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry with Good things, and sent the rich away empty,” and when Jesus is presented in the Temple to Simeon, who says that “this child is destined for the fall and rise of many,” (Luke 2:34).

For a lot more on this theme, listen to my podcast, “The Option for the Poor and the Gospel of Luke“.

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2019

January 13, 2019

Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22 (The Baptism of Jesus)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Resources for Parents from RCL/Benziger

Question of the Week (Adults) Do you think that God was “well pleased” by your actions in recent weeks? Why?

Question of the Week (Children): What good thing could you do this week that would be pleasing to God?

Catechism Connection

536, 608  – The Baptism of Jesus
696 – Fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit
2600 – Jesus prays before his Baptism

Find this reference in the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

January 13 Saint Hilary
January 15 Saint Paul the Hermit
January 16 Saint Berard and Companions
January 17 Saint Anthony of Egypt
January 18 Saint Charles of Sezze

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Scriptures

We know very little about the life of Jesus from the time of his birth to when his public ministry began. We know that he was “like us in all things but sin” so he had to grow in self knowledge and understanding as did any human being, and had to work at discovering his “vocation” in life.

The Baptism of Jesus is a very significant event in his life, and one which I believe helped Jesus to know who he was and what was his mission in life. I imagine that it took place something like this:

Jesus heard John the Baptist preaching, and what he said went right to his heart. John’s words about turning back to God and the nearness of the Kingdom of God moved him greatly, and showed him what he also must do – preach the same message. So he submitted to baptism, to show his complete dedication to God and to God’s Kingdom.

The way St. Luke tells the story, he doesn’t actually tell us of the baptism of Jesus, as Matthew and Mark do, but rather he tells us of the effect it had on Jesus, how after his baptism Jesus was praying, reflecting on what had just happened to him, and then the Holy Spirit descended upon him and Jesus heard the God the Father speaking to him from heaven, “You are my son, the beloved, my favour rests on you.” It was a moment of great clarity in his life, and the moment, I believe, when he came to fully realise who he was and what his mission was to be, as he heard the voice of his Father from heaven.

For Jesus, it must have been a very special moment. He would have been very deeply aware of God’s love for him, he would have felt very special, specially favoured and chosen. Perhaps at this moment he realised what his calling from God was to be, what he most deeply wished for his own life – to take up where John the Baptist had left off, preaching the kingdom of God.

As the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, he was given the gifts and the power to enable him to carry out his mission – or perhaps he became aware of the gifts he already had. Look at the reading from the Acts of the Apostles: Peter gives the significance of the baptism of the Lord for Jesus’ work and mission. He says, “God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”

As we listen to this story of Jesus’ experience, we can ask if Luke tells us this because it was an event unique to Jesus, or because it is something which is open to us too.

I believe that it is a bit of both: this story tells us something of Jesus’ unique call from God, but reminds us that each of us is called by God by name, each of us is God’s beloved child, son or daughter, and each of us is given God’s Holy Spirit and the gifts and power needed to do what Jesus did – “to go about doing good and curing all who have fallen into the power of the devil.”

The role of the Holy Spirit is crucial in this passage. In Luke’s Gospel the Holy Spirit drives the action along, from the Annunciation of God’s plans to Mary, unto the death and eventual resurrection of Jesus. Luke speaks of the passing back and forth of the Holy Spirit between the Father and Jesus. Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at baptism and then gives the Spirit back to his father in his death: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Following the Baptism of Jesus, (not in today’s reading) is Luke’s version of the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38). In his baptism, Jesus has been called by God, “My Beloved Son.” The genealogy traces this relationship of Jesus back though his male ancestors, “He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, son of Heli … the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” Whereas Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy, Luke waits until the voice from heaven says, “you are my Son” and then traces this back, “…son of Adam, son of God.” The most ancient version of the creed.

The Epiphany of the Lord

January 6, 2019

January 6, 2019

The Epiphany is depicted in a mural titled “Adoration of the Magi” in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo. Painted by Benedictine monks in the late 1800s, the artwork is the first appearance of the German Beuronese style in a U.S. church. Christians celebrate the incarnation of the divine word — the birth of Christ — Dec. 25. The feast of the Epiphany is Jan. 6.
(CNS photo courtesy Conception Abbey) (Nov. 8, 2004)

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12 (The visit of the Magi)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

RCL Benziger Family Resources

Question of the Week (Adults): When have you found the presence of Christ in an unexpected place?”

Question of the Week (Children): Where and in whom will you look for Jesus?

Catechism Connection

486 – The gradual manifestation of Christ
528 – The Epiphany
724 – Mary makes her Son known

Saints This Week

January   6 Saint Andre Besette
January   7 Saint Raymond of Penafort
January   8 Saint Angela of Foligno
January   9 Saint Adrian of Canterbury
January 12  St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
January 13 Saint Hilary

Scripture Commentary

The name of this Feast, “Epiphany” is a Greek word which means “Revelation”. It is the day on which we celebrate that Jesus was revealed to all the Nations, represented by the Wise Men who came from the East. They were seekers after Wisdom – they seem to be astrologers, from their interest in the stars – and they found what they were looking for in the person of Jesus Christ – the Revelation of God’s Wisdom in person.

So who are the Wise Men, and what do they represent?

Our popular telling of the story adds imagery drawn from both the First Reading (Isaiah 60) and the Psalm (72) to the Gospel story. The camels and dromedaries appear in Isaiah; they are not mentioned in Matthew. Likewise it is the psalm which mentions “Kings” and their places of origin are listed as Tarshish (which is now Spain), Arabia and Seba, or Sheba, which was an African kingdom near Ethiopia. Thus the Wise Men represent the three continents known in Biblical times: Europe, Asia and Africa, in other words, they represent all regions of the world.

Also, it seems probable that the Wise men did not arrive immediately when Jesus was born, as it were meeting the shepherds outside the stable, but when Jesus was somewhat older, perhaps even two years old. The story goes on to say how Herod killed all boys in the vicinity up to this age.

The Wise Men are certainly not Jews – they are pagans. The Jews were very wary of dealing with astrologers and magicians, yet that is what they are. And yet, they are led to Jesus. They come from a completely different religious tradition from the people of Israel whom we know from the Bible, they were not part of the tradition of Moses, the Law, the prophets, belief in one God. Yet they come seeking Jesus.

The way the story unfolds shows us that Jesus comes for all nations, and God’s revelation is for all people. This story at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel anticipates the “Great Commission” at the end of the same Gospel to “go and teach all nations.”

The other readings of today illustrate what the Church sees as the significance of this day: The author of the Letter to the Ephesians tells us that Pagans and Jews now share the same inheritance; the division between them has now been broken down, by God’s new Revelation meant for all. Breaking down this division was central to the mission of the Apostle Paul. What was once hidden or secret is now visible for all to see. We know that some people, such as astrologers and magicians, and various religious people, too, are very fond of secret mysteries and hidden doctrines. But now there are to be no more secrets – God is made visible to all.

The Psalm not only prophesies the tribute and gifts given to God’s Chosen One, but shows that he brings justice especially for the poor. The picture we get of kings falling prostrate, while the poor, the needy and the helpless are heeded, is similar to the vision of Mary in the Magnificat, that the birth of Jesus will mean humbling the mighty and raising up the poor. This is one aspect of the revelation of Christ, and in particular the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany, which “turns the world upside-down”.

The Infancy Narratives in both Matthew and Luke act as a prelude or overture to the rest of those Gospels. Many of the themes or central ideas throughout the Gospels are introduced here and developed further later. One such abiding theme in Matthew is the sharp contrast between the human Empires which operate through violence and terror, and the “kingdom of heaven” which Jesus proclaims and inaugurates, which is ready to suffer violence from the Empires of this world, rather than mimic them or try to compete with them. We see this as the story unfolds in the Flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13-15, 19-23), and the Massacre of the Innocents (Mt 2:16-18), where the “Empire of this World” in the form of King Herod slaughters innocent children rather than risk a rival to his rule. Behind the repugnance at the Slaughter of the Innocents is the Jewish rejection of child sacrifice in Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which a god who requires the violence of human sacrifice is sharply contrasted with God who forbids it.

Please watch out for this contrast between violence and peace throughout the cycle of Matthew’s Gospel in the coming year. This is most visible in the Sermon on the Mount, and most visceral in the circumstances of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

A Note to Economists

The title of Adam Smith’s famous work, “The Wealth of Nations” is drawn from today’s psalm.

A Musical Note

Patti Smith has a powerful if unusual version of “We Three Kings”, in which she intersperses the spoken text of Matthew’s Gospel with the sung verses of the well-known Epiphany Carol. Her reading continues further in the Gospel to include the Flight into Egypt, because of Herod’s violent threats. She expresses well the sinister contrasts between the “two kingdoms” discussed above.

A Comical Note, and a Warning to Readers

Message for World Day of Peace

January 1, 2019

In 1968 Pope Paul VI issued a Message of Peace for January 1st, which he declared to be the “The Day of Peace.” He and every Pope since have continued the custom, and publish a message every year, reflecting upon the “signs of the times” and Jesus Christ, “who is our peace”.

For 2019 Pope Francis has written “Good Politics is at the Service of Peace.” Read the full Message at the Vatican web site, and all previous Day of Peace Messages at the St. Thomas More Parish web site.

Summary of Message: Pope Francis begins (n.1) by remembering that when sending his disciples on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ ” (Lk 10:5-6). Therefore bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples.

He continues (n.2) by stressing the need for good politics, and says, ” Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction. … If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”

He develops further the idea of political life as an exercise of Charity by citing Pope Benedict XVI writing in Caritas in Veritate, (n.3) and stresses the necessity of the “human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity. ” He illustrates this with eight “Beatitudes of the Politician”.

He contrasts the political virtues with political vices (n.4) , “which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. [Including] corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, … xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile. “

In (n.5) Pope Francis stresses the necessity of participation by all people in political life, not just “a few privileged individuals”. Rather, “politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual,” especially young people. “Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family. “

In (n.6) he remembers that it is the centenary of the end of the First World War, which caused terrible carnage and destruction. This event reminds us that “an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. ”

In (n.7) entitled A Great Project for Peace Pope Francis reminds us that Peace is always a challenge to a conversion of heart and soul, and it has three inseparable aspects: peace with oneself, peace with others and peace with all creation. He ends by quoting Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, as an inspiration for peacemaking, “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).

The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

December 27, 2018

January 1, 2018

Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Family Resources from RCL/Benziger

Question of the Week (Adults) Which of God’s blessings are you most thankful for right now?

Question of the Week (Children) What does it mean to you to be  child of God?

Catechism Connection

525 – The Christmas Mystery

This Feast falls upon January 1st, so is often forgotten as most people are observing the secular “New Year’s Day”. However, it is an important Feast in the Church’s calendar.

The meaning of the Feast is of course connected with what we are celebrating in the Christmas season, the birth of Jesus the Savior (Christmas Day, and the Feast of the Holy Family) and his manifestation to the world (Epiphany).

The title of Mary as ‘Mother of God’ requires some explanation. People may ask how God can have a mother, when God is the Creator of all things. However, the title refers to the doctrine of the Incarnation, that in the birth of Jesus God became “in-carnate”, literally “in-the-flesh”. This title derives from a decision of the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) when the nature of Christ was in dispute.  The Council declared,

“We confess, then, our lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God perfect God and perfect man of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the virgin, according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy virgin to be the mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her.”

Or putting it briefly, “Mary bore Jesus, Jesus is both human and divine, therefore Mary is rightly called ‘The Mother of God’”.

The word used in Greek is Theotokos, which literally means “God-bearer”. In celebration of this declaration a Church was built in the city of Ephesus dedicated to Mary, the first ever, and from this moment devotion to Mary as we know it really began. Ever since, the Church has seen proper devotion to Mary not as in any way a rival to the status and importance of Jesus, but rather as a protection of it.  




The Feast of the Holy Family, Year C

December 27, 2018

December 30, 2018

Bible illustrée_Images Eric de Saussure_Textes de la bible de Jérusalem-Les pressesde Taizé-Seuil 1968

Gospel: Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus is lost in the Temple)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Family Resources from RCL/Benziger

Question of the Week (Adults) What does your family do to honor and respect its older members?

Question of the Week (Children): Why did Jesus leave the Temple? How can Jesus be an example to you?

Catechism Connection

472 – “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age”
517 – Even Jesus’ hidden life is redemptive
531 – Jesus was obedient to his parents
534 – Finding Jesus in the Temple
583 – Jesus and the Temple
2599 – Jesus learning to pray

Find this reference in the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

December 29 Saint Thomas Becket
December 30 Saint Egwin
December 31 Saint Sylvester I, Pope
January 1 Mary, Mother of God
January 2 Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop

Scriptures – Feast of the Holy Family

These first comments are based on Colossians 3:12-21, the assigned Second Reading for all three years of the Lectionary.

The Church gives us this Feast Day with a purpose: to meditate on the example of the Holy Family as a pattern for our own lives. However, we know little about the family life of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Much is filled in by “tradition,” and perhaps by idealizing them.

The Church talks much about the importance of family life, yet we have very few saints who were married couples and parents, apart from Joseph and Mary, and Joachim and Anna (Mary’s parents). There are few other couples canonized for their good Christian life as spouses and parents, yet this is where Christian life happens for most people.

We can learn something about the life of the Holy Family by looking at the character of Jesus. We believe that he was “like us in all things but sin” so he would have had to learn from his parents the way any child does. What sort of character did he have, and so what can we see that he learned from his parents?

  • God as loving Father
  • Self-confidence
  • Sensitivity to injustice
  • Prayer
  • Respect for others
  • Respect for creation.

The Second Reading, Colosians 3:12-21, contains these controversial lines, “Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.”

I have available a long critical essay on the subject of “wives be subordinate to your husbands”, looking carefully at the background to these puzzling and challenging readings. Please email me if you would like to read it: jamesjhynes.jh@gmail.com  

The story from Luke’s Gospel today is that of Jesus becoming lost in the Temple in Jerusalem. Note that twelve years old is the age of the bar-mitzvah for Jewish boys; in this celebration Jesus becomes an adult male, able to participate fully in the Jewish life of Temple worship and study of the Torah, the Jewish Scriptures. This is why in this story Jesus goes to Jerusalem, to fully participate in the Passover for the first time.

This story acts as a prelude to Jesus’ later and more dramatic journey to Jerusalem, which will mark the end of his life. Luke 9:51: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” It is a story of going to Jerusalem for the Passover and finding that Jesus isn’t with us anymore. Where is he? “After three days, they found him in the temple.” It’s a story about the crucifixion and the resurrection. It’s the overture, so that when we get to the journey to Jerusalem, we’ll remember something about it. You come away, Jesus isn’t with you, you’re anxious about it. When his parents in their anxiety ask Jesus what he is doing, he answers, “Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” Another translation of this is, “I must be about my father’s business” which is the business of bringing salvation to the world.

The Nativity of the Lord

December 27, 2018

Christmas Vigil Mass: Matthew 1:18-25
Midnight Mass Readings: Luke 2:1-14 
Mass at Dawn Readings: Luke 2:15-20
Mass During the Day Readings:John 1:1-18

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Christmas in Rome: Pope Benedict’s Tale of the Crèche

The origins and meaning of the holiday, and St. Francis’ stroke of genius. This is how Pope Benedict explained Christmas to the pilgrims who had come from all over the world, just before Christmas Eve.

Art and FaithChristmas

Question of the Week

Why do you think Jesus is called the Prince of Peace?

Catechism Connection – Luke

333 – Jesus is surrounded by angels
437 – The birth of Jesus is announced
486 – Jesus’ whole life manifests the Holy Spirit 
515 – Jesus’ humanity is “sacrament” of his divinity
525 – The Christmas Mystery
725 – The humble are the first to accept Jesus 

Catechism Connection – John

151 – Jesus is The Word Made Flesh
291 – God created all things through the eternal Word
423 – Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God
461 – The Incarnation
496 – The virginal conception of Jesus
504, 505 – Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit
526 – We share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity
530 – Jesus’ flight to Egypt indicates persecution, and his return recalls the Exodus
2466 – In Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth has been revealed

Saints This Week:

December 24 Christmas at Greccio
December 29 Saint Thomas Becket
December 30 Saint Egwin
December 31 Saint Sylvester I, Pope

Christmas Day

The story of the birth of Jesus is one which we all know very well, but one which we never tire of hearing. We know that Joseph and Mary had to travel because of the census, to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem. How difficult and painful it must have been for Mary to travel, be it on foot or on the back of a donkey, as she was about to give birth. And then even for a woman about to give birth, no bed could be found. The baby had to be born in the barn, along with the animals. It is hard for us to imagine the poverty and the bad treatment they suffered, for a new born baby to be denied a proper shelter and put in a cow shed.

Some how, Jesus birth is made more special, more important, more glorious, because it happened in such poverty and deprivation. I’m sure that there is nothing wonderful or romantic about being born in a cow shed. It must have been terrible for everyone involved.

When Jesus was born, the angel called him “Emanuel” – God-is-with-us. God is revealed in an ordinary human event – the birth of a child. God comes as close to us, as close as a child is to his mother. Jesus is found in a stable, not in a palace. His birth shows us these things: that God is found amongst people, that he is found in the precious gift of human life itself, and that he makes his dwelling with the poor.

The way in which Jesus came to be born fits in with the teaching he gave when he was an adult. He called his followers to meekness and poverty and service, not domination of others. He said that he came to bring good news to the poor, because he knew from his own experience what poverty was really like. He showed people what is really important in human life, of the meaning of life and death and love and justice. But perhaps more than anything, as human beings we celebrate God being born as one of us, and therefore we become one with God, filled with God’s goodness and so transformed.

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

December 27, 2018

December 23, 2018

Gospel: Luke 1:39-45 (Mary visits Elizabeth)

‘Sunday Connection’ Scripture Commentary

Question of the Week (Adults) When was it hardest for you to trust in God’s plan for you, as Mary did? What can help you at such times?

Question of the Week (Children): When is it hardest for you to obey a parent or teacher? What can help you obey with more trust?

Catechism Connection

148 – Mary embodies the obedience of faith
495 – Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth
523, 717 – John the Baptist bears witness to Jesus
2676-7 – Origin of the ‘Hail Mary’

Find this reference in the Online E-Book of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Saints This Week

December 23 Saint John Kanty
December 24 Christmas at Greccio

Scriptures – Fourth Sunday of Advent

During the first three Sundays of Advent we concentrate on the Second Coming of Christ, his return at the end of time as judge. It is only on the Fourth Sunday that the Lectionary turns its attention to his First Coming, in the story of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. The two earlier readings draw upon Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah.

All three readings for this Sunday include a theme of ‘reversal’. Through God’s action, what the world expects is turned upside down: the Savior will come from the most insignificant of towns (says the Prophet Micah); the complex system of temple sacrifices is inadequate, and salvation will come through the obedience of Jesus (says Hebrews); a virgin will conceive (Luke).

In the Gospel, the miraculous pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary hark back to the stories of Sarah and Hannah, both of whom give birth to sons who were chosen instruments of God’s plan of salvation. Luke aims to make clear who Jesus is, and his relationship to John the Baptist. Elizabeth’s address to Mary, and her child’s leaping in the womb indicate that Jesus is ‘the Lord’ and John already by his actions is his herald.

Note that the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” is the second phrase of the ‘Hail Mary’. The first lines come from the Annunication (Luke 1:28).

The prophet Micah says of Jesus, “He will be peace.” In 1914 at Christmas the guns stopped firing in the battles of the Great War. The German, French and British soldiers knew intuitively that the birth of Jesus means that, “He himself will be peace”. Unfortunately the war restarted. Soldiers who participated in this spontaneous true were disciplined, yet their witness to peace was never forgotten.

Lesson Theme Suggestion – Jesus’ birth is miraculous. It is through the Holy Spirit that Mary is expecting her child. John the Baptist even before birth is witnessing to who Jesus is. Jesus came to bring peace.

The ‘O’ Antiphons

December 18, 2018

The popular Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel has a long tradition. On the nine days before Christmas there are nine beautiful antiphons composed centuries ago. They were used to accompany Mary’s Canticle called the Magnificat which was always sung at Evening Prayer. Each antiphon addresses Christ with a different title. 

For a longer article, see this by Lawrence E. Frizzell.

  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)—Jesus is the Wisdom that comes forth from the Father. He is the one who teaches us to walk in the path of knowledge. 
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)—Jesus comes as God in human form. This is the sacred title for God which we translate as “Lord.” 
  • December 19: O Radix Iesse (O Root of Jesse)—Jesus comes from the line of Jesse, the father of King David. The image of the root of Jesse is prophesied in Isaiah, 
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)—Jesus is the personification of authority and the one whose judgment we both fear and welcome. 
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Rising Sun)—Jesus is the Light that rises like the sun to shine on us with his redemption. This antiphon is sung on the darkest day of the year.  It calls for the sun to shine with redemption. 
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of all nations)—Jesus is the king and center of all, the cornerstone that binds together all humankind. 
  • December 23: O Emmanuel—The great title of Jesus is Emmanuel or God with us. This last of the O Antiphons is most commonly known through the hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.