Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Reflection: January 1st - Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

(Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21)


Because the cross
became a tree;
because the rock
became a door;
we celebrate
return to birth,
we kneel upon
the humble floor.

For this our shepherds
sing their hymns;
for this our Wise Men
travel far:
because the cross
became a tree;
because the stone
became a star.

– poem by Jean Burden;

offered for reflection by Bro. Didacus Wilson, T.O.R.

Christmas Reflection: December 31st - Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

(I Jn 2:18-21; Jn 1:1-18)

“Silence can open a door
on a new dimension of reality.
In silence we find ourselves
in open country.”

– Morton Kelsey

As this year ends, and a new year is on the horizon, give yourself the gift of twenty minutes of silence today.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Reflection: December 30th - Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

(I Jn 2:12-17; Lk 2:36-40)

The author of this passage from John's first letter is addressing many in the Christian community who have experienced the forgiveness of the Father. Those who have experienced and accepted the forgiveness of the Father have in this way also strengthened themselves against the power of the evil one. In having been forgiven, they have experienced the love of the Father and His Son, Jesus.

John also warns those who have been forgiven against following and loving the things of this world. “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father in not in him.” So, the writer of this letter is telling us that we must not waste time loving “the things of the world.” By this he means that we must not be influenced by what is against God. That is all those things in the world that are contrary to the following of the Gospel. We must live our lives entirely in the presence of the Father and His Son, Jesus, if we are to gain eternal life. Only in renouncing all for the sake of Christ will we be in the love that is of Christ.

– Fr. Donald Frinsko, T.O.R.

Christmas Reflection: December 29th - Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

(I Jn 2:3-11; Lk 2:22-35)

God is light. God is that light, that perfection and love which we strive to follow and emulate. While perfection for us may not be attainable, that does not mean that we should not strive for it. God has given us the means to do this. God has allowed us to see this love and perfection in His only Son, Jesus. Jesus has given to us this great gift of an example. Yet we must choose this gift. We must decide not once but always to follow Jesus and to follow the commandments which He has given us.

Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph all had to make that decision to follow God. God did not reward Simeon and Anna because they were in the temple. No, God rewarded them because of the faith that they nurtured and put into action. Their faith was rewarded by seeing the Son of God.

Mary and Joseph, while family, were not automatically brought into faith in God. They had to make that decision. They had to make a choice to believe in God. They had to make the choice to follow God.

Do you recognize the hand of God in your life? Do you choose to see the good that God does for you? Do you choose to do this good for others? Your love of God, your faith, is not just an activity of the mind but is an outward activity to others. Pass it on!

+ Fr. Robert Juroszek, T.O.R. (1959 – 2010)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Reflection: December 28th - Feast of the Holy Innocents

(I Jn 1:5-2: 2; Mt. 2:13-18)

“If we walk in light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another.”
(I Jn 1:7)

“ ‘A cry was heard at Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation:
Rachel bewailing her children;
no comfort for her,
since they are no more.’ ”
(Mt 2: 18 —quoting Jeremiah 31:15)

From 1973 through 2007, an estimated 48,000,000 abortions were performed in the United States. This is an average of about 3,800 abortions that are performed in the United States every day.

As of December 28, 2011; 1,277 death row inmates have been executed in the Unites States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. In addition, the Innocence Project reports, “Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row” (

In this season of light and life, spend some time in prayer today for those whose lives are no more.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Reflection: December 27th - Feast of St. John the Evangelist

(I Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20:2-8)

John, John, John. Whether my name was called endearingly by my mother many years ago or mischievously today by one of the friars, I like to hear it. One who can name me usually knows me. Naming and knowing me gives me an identity which is unique and precious.

Today’s gospel never uses the name John. John the evangelist had a greater purpose than honoring one disciple. He calls the disciple with Peter “the one Jesus loved.” That is the disciple I want to be. The reality is that I am… and so are you.

Mary Magdalene is the beloved disciple who first came to the tomb and found it empty. Peter is the beloved disciple who heard the news and later became the head of the new Church. Yet the beloved disciple who outran Peter is even more special. Why? Maybe because he was given the talent and the athleticism, but particularly because of the faith that made him fleet of foot. Jesus’ love in him literally lifted him along the path to the tomb.

St. Francis must’ve been fairly fleet of foot, because we know people were always chasing him. “Why are they all running after you?” one of his brothers asked. I think it was because they saw a man who was radiant with love and they wanted some of it for themselves. Francis

made God visible to all of his time when they had thought it was only possible to find the Lord in clerical garb or behind cloistered walls.

Long before the Middle Ages when Jesus’ first disciples were experiencing a new life with him, they were compelled to share it. In John’s letter we read “Our purpose in writing you is that our joy may be complete.” Today I am called to believe: “John, you are the beloved disciple; share it with others to make your joy complete.” I hope you will hear God’s call of the beloved and share that joy with those you meet today.

– Bro. John Kerr, T.O.R.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Reflection: Christmas Day - Mass at Midnight

(Is 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14)

There is something fascinating about the hands of an infant—especially when they reach up and grasp the outstretched fingers of a doting adult. Although the child will not be able to speak for months, through their hands, they are able to express one of our most basic needs; the need to belong, to touch and be touched. Most of us find it easy to respond to this need and to do so eagerly. Caressing a baby in our arms seems to soften even the most hard-hearted among us.

Why is it that we are so ready to love and be loved by an infant? Perhaps it is because of their absolute innocence. Maybe it is because we love that which is fresh and new. It is probably both of these—and more. But I think it is also a matter of being drawn into a love that demands very little from us. It’s easy to love an infant—to hold and lavish attention on someone without any commitment. It makes us feel good and there are no strings attached (except, of course, if you are the parents).

And so, we delight in the feast of Christmas. We gaze lovingly at the infant Jesus and wish that we could just pick him up and hold him and love him.

My brother and sisters, sometime during the weeks of the Christmas season, go to the crib scene in church or in your home. Reflect on the mystery of God’s loving patience and then look at those outstretched hands that seem to demand so little from us. They are the same hands which, as they grow older and before they are folded in death, will demand a great deal from us. They are the same hands that commanded the sea to be calm as he and his disciples were being tossed about on the stormy sea. They are the hands which, when laid upon the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, or the withered limbs of women and men broken and in need, brought sight, hearing, and wholeness. They are the hands that took bread, blessed it, broke it, and said, “Take and eat; for this is my body.” They are the hands which, when fastened to a cross, embraced every woman, man, and child whoever lived and whoever would live, in one supreme and selfless act of blessing and redemption.

My brothers and sisters, by all means, take the hand of the infant Savior into your hands. But as his hand grows larger and his grip grows stronger and the wood of the crib becomes the wood of the cross, do not pull back. Rather, tighten your grip and savor the unimaginable peace and joy that comes with total commitment—not just a warm and sentimental Christmas moment—but total commitment to the eternal Son of God.

– Fr. Anthony Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Christmas Season Reflections

The Story of Greccio

“Therefore, desiring to represent as faithfully as possible the lowly poverty of the infancy of the Savior born at Bethlehem, when the Feast of the Nativity was at hand, the man of God sent word to a religious nobleman in the town of Greccio named John, who provided an ox and an ass, with a stable, in anticipation of the joys of the coming celebration.

Finally the holy night arrived. Blessed Francis was there with many of his brothers gathered around him.

The hay in the manger is prepared, the ox and the ass are arranged around the manger, and the vigil celebration begins with joy. A great multitude of people stream together from various places, the night is filled with an unaccustomed joy and made luminous by candles and torches. And so, with a new ritual, the festival of a new Bethlehem is celebrated.

The brothers also paid their debt of praise to the Lord, and all present acclaimed him with new songs of praise. Blessed Francis, however, was standing before the manger full of sighs of joy and suffused by an indescribable sweetness. Finally, when Solemn Mass was celebrated above the manger, the holy Levite of God, dressed in festive vestments proclaimed the gospel with a sonorous voice and then with a voice flowing with honey he preached to the people about the poor King born in Bethlehem. Truly, he was so overcome by sweet devotion toward the infancy of that King, that whenever he had to speak the name of Jesus Christ, he would, as if stuttering, call him “the babe of Bethlehem,” out of an excess of loving tenderness.

Lest it be thought that these things happened without divine approval, a miraculous vision was shown to a certain virtuous man, who saw Blessed Francis go up to the manger and waken, as if from a deep sleep, a child who seemed to be lying there lifeless. It is therefore believed, and not without reason, that the Lord Jesus aptly revealed his infancy in this vision to the one who reflected upon it. He who was asleep or dead in the hearts of many, owing to forgetfulness, was awakened and recalled to memory by the teaching and example of Blessed Francis. The solemnities were completed with great exultation, and everyone happily returned to their homes.”

– Julian of Speyer, The Life of Saint Francis, X:53-55.

The reflections that follow have been prepared by friars of our Province to aid you in your prayerful meditations through the Christmas season.

Please keep the friars in your prayers. May the Christ-child no longer slumber in our hearts but be reawakened to become a living, vibrant presence in this world.

– The Franciscan Friars; Province of the Immaculate Conception, USA

According to Your Word - December 24th of the Advent Season

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(II Sam 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Lk 1:67-79)

“The Dayspring shall visit us
in his mercy
To shine on those
who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet
into the way of peace.”
(Luke 1:78, 79)

As we stand on the threshold of Christmas, create a space of quiet in the midst of today’s many activities.

“There is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before. . . .

Stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder.

There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing.

For now, stay. Wait.

Something is on the horizon.”

– Jan Richardson, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas (Cleveland, Ohio: United Church Press, 1998), xiii.

Friday, December 23, 2011

According to Your Word - December 23rd of the Advent Season

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(Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)

Advent is the Church’s “privileged time” to focus on Jesus, Emmanuel– “God-With-Us.” It is God's story of coming to us in the concrete reality of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of God bending down in love to embrace our fragile humanity and to bring us into unity with the divine love. Advent is about God’s Word become flesh and our reception of it— God’s intervention, a most noble work, in the lives of His people.

When the young and impressionable Francis of Assisi first heard the word of the Crucified say to him: “Rebuild my house, as you see it is fallen into ruin,” he immediately took mortar and stone and went about the task of rebuilding. As his relationship with the Lord grew and deepened over time, contemplation on that word revealed to him to rebuild his heart that had fallen into ruin.

St. Bonaventure tells us that God has come to us in a loving and personal way, making Himself visible and audible, so that seeing and hearing, humanity could once again be united to God and contemplate Him. (Bonaventure, “Vigilia nativitatis Dominus,” IX, 1O3a). By God’s grace and mercy, He has given us a capacity for a single-hearted relationship with Him, but it has been covered over with other things. Our Scripture readings for today remind us that this is the “privileged time” to clear away the clutter in our hearts and make room for the Word to be born within— a truly noble work— to be a dwelling for the Lord. For the One who has created the universe has called us to be intimately in relationship.

God bending over, embracing us, bringing us into unity—divine intervention, obscured in Advent darkness within us and around us. Let it come to light now in re-kindling and rebuilding our relationship with the Lord and with others. Forgiveness given, forgiveness received— a most noble work for the rebuilding of all things especially the human heart. Then “the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter His Temple.” (Mal 3:1).

– Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, T.O.R.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

According to Your Word - December 22nd of the Advent Season

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(I Sam 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)

The central figure of the first reading is Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She was married to Elkanah, who loved her more than his other wife, Peninnah. Hannah was childless but Peninnah had several children. When Elkanah could not notice, Peninnah would humiliate Hannah because she was barren.

Once a year Elkanah and his family would climb the hillside of Shiloh to offer sacrifices at their favorite shrine. During one of their visits, Hannah hid near a deserted altar, tears streaming down her face, her voice uttering incoherent prayers. Eli, the high priest, old and half blind, found the grieving woman and accused her, “Woman, you have taken too much wine.” “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.” Eli apologized and joined her in praying for a son. Hope filled the heart of Hannah as she left the shrine.

Hannah gave birth to a baby boy and named him, Samuel, which means “Name of God.” When it was time to go to Shiloh again, Hannah declined to go because it was more fitting to consecrate him to the Lord after she stopped nursing him.

Our reading today describes the moment that Hannah returned to Shiloh to fulfill her vow. She left Samuel with Eli in order to be trained for service to the Lord.

It is a well-chosen reading. With Christmas only three days away, the Church gives us the example of Hannah. She believed that Samuel, “Name of the Lord,” was born because of God’s intervention. The story prepares our hearts to believe that Jesus, “The Lord Who Saves” is the result of God's special intervention: “God so loved the world that He sent his Only Son so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave Hannah a son. God has given us His very Son. Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us welcome him into our hearts!

– Fr. Bonaventure Midili, T.O.R.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

According to Your Word - December 21st of the Advent Season

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(Song 2: 8-14; Lk 1:39-45)

“O Radiant Dawn,
Splendor of eternal light,
Sun of justice:
Come shine on those
who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.”

– “O” Antiphon for December 21 –

It is the month of August [2003] as I write this. The New York Times this morning reported that 95 people were killed by a car bombing in Iraq. As I look out over Lake Howell at San Pedro Center [Winter Park, FL] and see the sun dancing behind clouds, I think of this valley of darkness and the shadow of death.

George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, reported a vision wherein he saw a vast sea of darkness covering the earth. This frightened him, until he saw that over the sea of darkness flowed an even greater sea of light. At Bethlehem, over 2,000 years ago, a shaft of that light burst through that sea of darkness, “and the darkness did not overcome it.” Oh, how hard it is, in a world of such evil to realize that evil has already been conquered! That is the truth about Advent. We do not wait for promises to be fulfilled; we celebrate their fulfillment. The Father’s Kingdom will come and, in fact, it has already.

We pray that the “Peace on Earth” that we sing about every Christmas will become reality. All it will take is for each person to wake up and smell the poinsettias. How can you bring the peace of Christ into your life and the lives of each person you meet?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

According to Your Word - December 20th of the Advent Season

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(Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)

Have you ever wondered what significance the phrase “God-with-us” has for your daily life? What might an awareness of this significance look like in terms of one’s attitudes, thoughts, words, and deeds?

In today’s readings we get an illustration both of one who lived with such an awareness and another who did not. Mary’s response to God’s messenger is a clear example of someone who was animated by the knowledge of God's closeness. Through her “fiat” Mary gave witness to an on-going process at work in her life of assenting to the unfathomable and mysterious plan of a God who can do all that he wills.

In contrast to the example of Mary, we have in the reading from Isaiah that of Ahaz. At first glance, the response of Ahaz saying that he will not tempt God seems pious enough. However, this was but a gloss of the fact that he, unlike Mary, did not trust in the word of God as spoken through the messenger sent to him. Ahaz was facing some very tough political and military circumstances and could not believe in the ways of a God who had it in mind to resolve these issues through the birth of a helpless child. In refusing to accept the sign and plan offered by God, Ahaz was revealing the fact that he had long since chosen not to live in an abiding awareness of “God-with-us.”

As we continue our Advent journey, let us follow the example of Mary by seeking to immerse ourselves in the fact that God, as Holy Mystery, is indeed with us and seeks to change the difficult circumstances of our lives and world through the birth of Jesus in our hearts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

According to Your Word - December 19th of the Advent Season

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(Judg 13:2-7, 24-25; Lk 1:5-25)

“It has been said that two things frustrate us in life— when we don’t get what we want and when we get what we want. In either case, our expectation (generally inflated beyond imagining) exceeds reality. Hence, we are frustrated. Obviously, when we don’t get what we think we need or would like to have, we are frustrated and sense incompleteness and unfairness at the way we are treated.

But, the other (more serious) cause of frustration comes when we get what we want and then find out there are strings attached or challenges implied in our accepting it. Such is the plight of Zechariah and Elizabeth in today’s gospel. They had prayed for a child and had been careful in observing religious customs to be found worthy before God. But, just when what they had asked for was promised through the angel’s message, Zechariah doubted whether this could be true. He was about to get what he wanted and yet he could not accept this on God’s terms. Hence, he was struck dumb and could not announce or explain the coming birth to others.

It is when we submit to God and surrender to his plans for us, whether they are or are not what we expect or want, that we are able to achieve contentment and happiness. Real happiness comes from God’s ways, not our designs. Deep contentment should come from knowing that we are part of God’s people and that his plan involves our salvation. Nothing we could want on earth could ever substitute for the one thing that really matters— the life of God within and among us as we yearn for complete union with God in eternity.”

– Kevin W. Irwin, Advent/ Christmas: A Guide to the Eucharist and Hours (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1986), 147, 148.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

According to Your Word - Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Cycle B
(II Sam 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Rm 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38)

Words can be weapons and medicine. Words can be beautiful and ugly. Words can hurt and kill. They can heal and encourage. It depends on how we use them. It depends on us and our free choices.

Today’s readings mention the beautiful words spoken to Our Lady that she would be the Mother of God. The words of invitation troubled her at first. Being a solid and assured woman she questioned their meaning. When she understood the angel, she willingly accepted to become pregnant with the Savior of the world.

“And the Word was made flesh.” Jesus took his whole body from Mary. There was nothing of St. Joseph in Jesus’ making.

This tremendous mystery of God becoming human was accomplished through words: words of invitation and words of acceptance; the words of the Archangel Gabriel and the words of the Virgin Mary.

We hear the healing words of the Church which invite us to prepare for Christmas— a healing invitation to confess our sins and receive God’s pardon.

Our joyful acceptance opens us up to Christ and his becoming human.

Jesus will use words to teach, to heal, to console, to work miracles. He will say, “Come and see” to those who want to follow Him more closely.

I came and saw the Franciscans 46 years ago and am still listening to, laughing with and learning from the friars. They have brought Christ to me.

– Fr. Raphael Eagle, T.O.R.

Friday, December 16, 2011

According to Your Word - December 17th of Advent Season

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(Gen 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)

Today the Church goes into “Advent overdrive” with Scriptures and prayers that attempt to sharply focus our attention in the last eight days before Christmas. The best example of these is found in the “O Antiphons” which are prayed, beginning today, in the Church’s Evening Prayer: “O Wisdom, Holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: come and show your people the way to salvation!”

With ordinary life examples the Scriptures invite us to reflect on the extent of the wisdom which fashioned, and continues to fashion, this way of salvation.

Chapter 49 of Genesis recounts Jacob’s last will and testament. In its entirety it paints a very human and poignant picture. The dying Jacob desires to bless all his sons yet understands, in a moment of personal insight, the impossibility of this fatherly desire. Why? Because personal choice has made some of his sons allies of darkness instead of light. For them admonitions and instructions are the only words Jacob can offer. However, in today’s selection, blessings are given to Judah, one of Jesus’ ancestors. And these blessings are messianic in character: long lasting power and authority. From a simple tale of the ordinary life experience of dying, the author intimates that God’s promises endure despite the vagaries of human choices. God not only shows the way of salvation, God makes it happen.

Chapter 1 of Matthew’s Gospel is a challenge for most readers and listeners alike. On the surface, genealogies do not seem to capture the imagination. What is interesting is the inclusion of five women in this list. They lead us in a direction which can help give some contemporary significance to this little preached text. It is not difficult to understand the inclusion of Mary, mother of Jesus. The author’s intent is to emphasize that Jesus is born of her and not Joseph her husband.

The mention of three others—Tamar (Gen.38), Rahab (Josh. 2), and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah (2 Sam 11:1-27) – invites us to read their stories and to understand that God can and does work even with the shadows (theirs and ours) to form a hopeful future. Come Lord Jesus!

– Fr. Giles Schinelli, T.O.R.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

According to Your Word - Friday of the Third Week of Advent

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(Is 56:1-3, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36)

“Observe what is right,
do what is just;
for my salvation
is about to come,
my justice
about to be revealed.”
(Is 56: 1)

The restoration of God’s justice is a key theme throughout all of Advent.

What can you choose to do today that will begin to restore a broken relationship? Act on it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

According to Your Word - Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

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(Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)


This is a beautiful time, this last age, the age of
the Holy Spirit.
This is the long-awaited day of His reign in our
souls through grace.
He is crying to every soul that is walled:
Open to Me, My spouse, My sister.
And once inside, He is calling again:
Come to Me here in this secret place.
Oh hear Him tonight crying all over the world
a last desperate summons of love to a dying race.

Acres we are to be gathered for God: He would pour out His measureless morning
upon divinized lands, bought by blood, to their
Purchaser given.
Oh, hear Him within you speaking this infinite love, moving like some divine and audible leaven,
lifting the sky of the soul with expansions of light, shaping new heights and new depths,
and, at your stir of ascent,
spreading the mountains with flame, filling the
hollows with heaven.

– Jessica Powers, Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ed. Regina Siegfried ASC and Robert Morneau (Kansas City, Missouri: Sheed and Ward, 1989), 27.

According to Your Word - Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

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(Is 45:6-8, 18, 21-25; Lk 7:18-23)

Isaiah announces to us in this reading that there is only one true God, the Lord God of Israel, who is the “vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel.” These descendants include us; God is our only vindication whose glory radiates down, soaks into every fiber of our being and makes us holy. God's decrees are just and beneficial for his children, and his word, once uttered, cannot be changed. Yet, there is nothing to be feared from his word since it is just and not arbitrary.

The Lord calls us to justice: “Let justice dew from above,” let justice spring up from the earth and from the hearts of my people Israel. Pope Paul VI had once said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” He meant social justice. We cry out for peace, the world cries out for peace; but there is no peace because many individual lives, and the policies of not a few nations, are based on injustice, above all against the weak and poor.

Unless our lives, and the socio-economic programs of nations, are predicated on justice, there will be no peace. Charity begins at home; however, it cannot end there, but must flow out beyond the perimeters of our own self-interests.

John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod because he had denounced Herod for his on-going adultery. John languished in jail, and while he was there his disciples had told him about the miracles that Jesus was performing among the people.

When we are educated, have money, status, good health and freedom of movement, we feel that the world is our oyster. But, take away these sources of well-being and we begin to withdraw into ourselves and the scourge of mental illness makes its presence felt by stages. We start losing our equilibrium; what we had believed was normal, true and ours by right are now desperately questioned.

It seems that John, while he suffered imprisonment, began to wonder if Jesus was the Holy One of God. So, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them and blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” All of these were the signs, that were written by the prophet Isaiah (35: 4-6) of the coming of the long-awaited Messiah into his kingdom. John was sure to understand Jesus' words, and by understanding them, would be consoled and at peace.

– Fr. Cyprian Mercieca, T.O.R.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

According to Your Word - Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

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(Zeph 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)

“I will change and purify
the lips of the peoples,
that they all may call upon
the name of the Lord.”
(Zeph 3:9)

“Today, the scriptures invite us to ponder how truly converted we are to the Lord’s ways and how much we truly need this season for deeper conversion to the Lord. The gospel plays on words today; this can be amusing and offer a twist on religious truth. But Advent is no word game; it is about resolute conversion to the Lord.”

– Kevin W. Irwin, Advent/ Christmas: A Guide to the Eucharist and Hours (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1986), 107.

“Within themselves
let them always make
a dwelling place and home
for the Lord God Almighty,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
so that, with undivided hearts,
they may increase in universal love
by continually turning to God
and to neighbor.”

– T.O.R. Rule 2:8

Monday, December 12, 2011

According to Your Word - Monday of the Third Week of Advent

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(Num 24:2-7, 15-17; Mt 21:23-27)

“The utterance of one whose eye is true. . .
Of one who sees what the almighty sees,
enraptured and with eyes unveiled.”
(Num 24:3, 4)

“When [my grandmother] died, it was as suddenly as her Christmas cactus: here today, gone tomorrow. She left behind her letters and her husband of sixty-two years. Her husband, my grandfather Daddy Howard, an elegant rascal with a gambler’s smile and a loser’s luck, had made and lost several fortunes, the last of them permanently. He drank them away, gambled them away, tossed them away the way she threw crumbs to her birds. He squandered life’s big chances the way she savored the small ones. […] ‘I don’t know how she stands it,’ my mother would say, furious with my grandfather for some new misadventure. She meant she didn’t know why.

The truth is, we all knew how she stood it. She stood it by standing knee-deep in the flow of life and paying close attention.

My grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching: survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention. Yes, her letters said, Dad’s cough is getting worse, we have lost the house, there is no money and no work, but the tiger lilies are blooming, the lizard has found that spot in the sun, the roses are holding despite the heat.

My grandmother knew what a painful life had taught her: success or failure, the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”

– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992), 52-53.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

According to Your Word - Third Sunday of Advent

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Cycle B
(Is 61:1-2 10-11; I Th 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)

Exuberance is one of the words that befits the church’s momentum at this point in our celebration of the season of Advent. The coming of the long-awaited Messiah is so near that the church is bursting with anticipation. In some way, this is the rehearsal dinner to the great wedding feast of heaven and earth. Rejoicing is the only mood. John the Baptist lends clarity in the confusion of identities, the bewilderment that sometimes, even today, perplexes those of us who still seek the Anointed One of God.

John tells us that not only is he unworthy to wash the feet of the one in our midst, but that he should not so much as approach his sandal. Here is the summons to awe, awe that we are so gifted by the presence of God, not only in our midst but also as one of us. This Good News cannot but move us to embody the best of ourselves: perhaps rather to diffuse the best of ourselves, made in the image, and after the likeness.

May the God of peace sanctify us... the One who calls us is faithful! How can we keep from rejoicing?

– Fr. Robert D’Aversa, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:10-13)

Elias and John the Baptist were prophets of the one true God. Both spoke the same true inspired message of God. Elias predicted the coming of the Messiah and offered a message of spiritual deliverance. Moses delivered the Hebrew people from spiritual bondage in Egypt and established the kingdom of Israel.

Now we hear the same message from John. The Messiah is here to establish the kingdom of God on earth by delivering us from the bondage of sin and unlocking the gates of paradise. The Messiah will establish the kingdom of God on earth, the new Jerusalem, the Church of God. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, now sits upon his throne and is present in the Eucharist. Come to him. Unite with him. Commune with him in the Eucharist.

+ Fr. Barnabas Barker, T.O.R. (1924 –2004)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

According to Your Word - Friday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)


What Mary knew was just
enough for the usual day;
pull water, flint fire, bake
bread, smile, pray

the dark orations, sleep, wake
wait. When pain honed a nerve,

when birth or dying clotted
an hour, she leaned to the curve

of living, resilient to fear,
laughter, suffering.
Partings are a little death.
Each one's journey is a thing

wholly without precedent.
She looked at the sky
for compass. None. She, too,
created a road to travel by.

– poem by Maura Eichner;
offered for reflection by Bro. Didacus Wilson, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)

Today marks the second phase of Advent weekdays as described in the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass:

“On Thursday of the second week the readings of the gospel about John the Baptist begin.” (no. 94)

Bring to mind today someone who pointed the way to a deeper faith for you. Spend time in a prayer of thanksgiving for that person.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

According to Your Word - Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)

There are many words of hope and consolation in both of today’s scripture passages: a loving and kind Father as well as a caring Son; a God who created the universe and continues to care for it; a Son who came to confirm this love to us in our own time.

As the road seems to get longer and the hills are harder to climb, it is refreshing to read and reread these texts of Isaiah and to find that the Lord is one who gives help and strength to the overburdened and the weary. For those who put their trust in him they can be assured of his help. When the going gets tough, trials and temptations set in, and depression and anxiety seem to take over, he waits for our request for help.

Placing all our concentration on the “burden” of life we often overlook to see or find the “yoke,” the guide to help carry the “burden.” Jesus gives us the example and courage to go on. There are many difficulties in life today and at times it appears useless to continue, but these words of Isaiah and Matthew are for our hope and help. Let us reflect on them frequently.

– Fr. Seamus Corcoran, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)

The familiar opening lines of chapter 40 of Isaiah challenge us with opposing images of God: Judge and Comforter, Hidden, yet Revealing, Immortal, yet Creator of Mortality, Strong Ruler and Gentle Shepherd. For Isaiah, it is not a question of which of these characteristics describe God; rather God is all these things. What would be regarded as inconsistency in any human being we experience as perfect consistency in God.

“What is your opinion?” This is the question Jesus asks in chapter 18 of Matthew’s gospel. Does it make sense to us that the shepherd of a huge flock would leave it to seek after one, lone, lost sheep? Human logic says, “No.” Society tells us that the life of the one is not as important as the life of the many. But human ways are not the ways of God. For God, the life of every child is equally important. Once again, what would be foolish behavior for a human is perfect behavior for a loving God.

Can we accept God for who God is? Can we run to the rooftops and proclaim the love and mercy of God? Only when we acknowledge our own imperfection can we reclaim ourselves as children of God. Like a child, we will see the world and our Creator with innocence, wonder and awe. We will gently yield our sense and will to the perfect inconsistency of the Shepherd’s embrace.

There is work to be done: the coming of the Lord must be proclaimed.

There is work to be done: we must examine our lives.

There is work to be done: we must become children again.

We are invited to leave our sins behind and become the herald of God’s mercy in the world. “Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!”

– Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

Monday, December 5, 2011

According to Your Word - Monday of the Second Week of Advent

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(Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)

Today Isaiah strikes a triumphant note in a passage that is a song of joyful celebration. Jerusalem has been delivered from the hands of her enemies and this is cause for joy. Cripples leap about, the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf are opened to see and hear of Israel's liberation. Even the dry desert seems to bloom, and a highway - a holy path - has been cleared for all those whom Yahweh has ransomed.

This note of liberation is continued in our Gospel. Here it is a case of ransom from sin. We are given the example of some men who have brought a paralyzed man for Jesus to cure. There is such a crush of people within that the man's friends resort to removing roof tiles to lower their friend on his pallet down to Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus says to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven you.” The friends had expected Jesus to heal the man’s body. Instead Jesus heals both body and soul. It is the only time in the Gospels where an adult is healed because of the faith of someone else.

By the power of God Jesus forgave the man’s sins and restored his body to health. Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand. In the Our Father we ask that our sins be forgiven as we forgive those who have offended us. We gain mercy for ourselves when we show mercy to others. The measure of our forgiveness of others is the measure of the quality of our own love for God and others.

+ Fr. Columba Enright, T.O.R. (1930–2006)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

According to Your Word - Second Sunday of Advent

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Cycle B
(Is 40:1-5, 9-11; II Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8)

“One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down to loosen his sandal straps. I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John's ministry was one not only of preaching but also of waiting for the coming of the promised one.

Waiting is perhaps the most widespread of all human experiences. Waiting is an art unto itself. More often than not, we discover that what we were waiting for was not worth the wait. Or at least, that it wasn't what we had hoped for nor expected. A prolonged experience of waiting tends to show us we are not patient. The kind of waiting Advent asks of us as Christians is neither for impatience nor for cynicism. The basic thrust of Advent is waiting for something already experienced as present and powerful to be completed. It is waiting for someone who is always and already coming toward us in greeting and welcome.

Advent rekindles in us that sense of watching and waiting wherein we see and identify the constant breaking in of Jesus into our lives. The world around us will rush while Christians find themselves wrapped in a deep spirit of hope that is restored.

Christ has come among us; Christ is among us; Christ will come again in a glory to be recognized only by those who keep watch in the growing darkness and cold.

– Fr. Edward Sabo, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Saturday of the First Week of Advent

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(Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35-10:1, 6-8)

“The gift you have received, give as a gift.” Isaiah speaks today about the wondrous gifts God will give to the people of Jerusalem. “You will weep no more.” The Lord will give you what you need and no longer hide from us. We will see our teacher, and it will all be made clear what we should do – “walk this way, turn left or right.” Sometime we ache for such clarity in our lives. What is it we should do? What is our path in life? What is the Lord calling me to? Isaiah uses some of the language of the desert to promise us what we need, lots of water and fodder for our cattle to graze – not much of each in the desert.

Often our lives can seem like we are living in the desert, without much water and so we are thirsty, and no greenery to rest upon when we grow weary of wandering and searching. Isaiah uses the image of light: even the moon's light will be like that of the sun and the sun seven times as bright. How much more enlightening do we need? Isaiah promises us the presence and the power of God to wipe away our tears and give us clarity by his teaching us the path to follow, and to enlighten the darkness of our minds so we in brilliant light where we are going.

Jesus tells us that the reign of God has come in the person of himself and this great gift that we have received can now be given as a gift to others. We are invited to become one with him in his ministry. We have known what the presence and the power of God has done in our own lives and we cannot keep to ourselves the possibility of that happening in other's lives. We will proclaim healing, clarity and bold teaching to others. We want them to share the joy we have felt in finding the Lord. What we have been given as a gift we now give as a gift. We have indeed seen our Teacher, and he is the Christ. The gift of God in Jesus and his transforming power in our lives is meant for all. How can I keep from sharing this wondrous gift with others? “The gift you have received, give as a gift.”

– Fr. Ambrose Phillips, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Friday of the First Week of Advent

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“When Jacob's children
see the work of my hands
in their midst,
they shall keep my name holy.”
(Is 29:23)

“Jesus touched their eyes and
said, ‘Because of your faith
it shall be done to you,’;
and they recovered their sight.”
(Mt 9: 29-30)

As we near the end of this first week of Advent take a 20 minute walk today. Spend the time gazing upon creation. Pray for sight and insight to see the work of God’s hands in your midst.

According to Your Word - Thursday of the First Week of Advent

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(Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)

Recently the media, both in the press and on television, gave reports of a number of serious scandals in the construction field. Public buildings and homes were built upon faulty foundations. This resulted in dangerous problems that had to be taken care of and are proving to be quite costly. Had solid and stable foundations been made in the first place, the danger and additional cost could have been avoided.

Today’s Gospel reveals our Savior letting the Apostles know that they are to be considered sensible who hear His words and put them into practice, like men building their houses on a rock. Those who hear His words and do not put them into practice are foolish, like men who built their houses on sand. All through this holy season of Advent, through the Scriptures, we are provided extremely wise yet plain and simple counsels to build our relationship with God. Our Savior assures us that those who love Him must keep His Commandments. He guarantees us that those who would be His disciples must pick up their daily crosses and follow Him. We
cannot just cry out “Lord, Lord...” and then look for excuses and alibis not to do what God expects of us or what we have vowed or promised to do.

Advent is a time for us to seriously and prayerfully consider the depth and sincerity of our spiritual life. Is it solidly built on the rock of faith in and service to Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever? It is with reason that Jesus founded His Church on a rock– Peter– whose name means rock. In our trials, doubts, problems, fears and anxieties we say with Saint Peter, “Lord, to whom can we go?” We have the assurance of our Incarnate God, whose birth we prepare to celebrate. He tells us, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened.” This is the foundation of our trust, hope and confidence solidly based on the rock of the word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

+ Bro. Bernard Dougherty, T.O.R. (1926–2009)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.