A thought for Advent

By Bishop Robert Barron
We know something about the cosmos as a whole that our ancient brothers and sisters didn’t, namely that it is subject to collapse. Ancient peoples thought that the sun and moon were forever; we know that they’re not. Aristotle and Plato thought that nature or matter have always existed and would always exist; we know they came into being at the Big Bang and will go out of being at the Great Crunch. Everything in the cosmos passes—and indeed the cosmos itself passes.
Now attend to this line in Mark’s Gospel: “After that, men will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory” (Mk 13:26). Jesus is hearkening back to the great prophecy in the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel. The prophet speaks there of “one like a Son of Man” who will “come on a cloud” and deliver Israel after a long period of oppression.
Well, this is precisely how the first Christians appreciated Jesus. He was not just one more prophet or teacher. He was the very incarnation of God’s eternal wisdom, God’s love, God’s way of being. And this meant that he was their link to that eternal power that runs through all things, that suffuses all things, that transcends all things, that power which endures even when the plants and planets and the earth itself fade away, that lasts even after our bodies have come and gone.
The whole point of this apocalyptic discourse is not to frighten us, but to give us hope and to tell us where to look. Don’t keep your eyes fixed on the always chaotic and always passing world. Don’t focus solely on the unreliable realm of politics or the fleeting bodily life that we live. Keep your eyes fixed on the Son of Man, who links you to the very power of God. Watch for him, wait for him, and find your peace in him.

Why Do We Seek God?

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Why do we seek God?

God has placed in our hearts a longing to seek and find him. St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We call this a longing for God.  It is natural for man to seek God. All of our striving for truth and happiness is ultimately a search for the one who supports us absolutely, satisfies us absolutely, and employs us absolutely in his service. A person is not completely himself until he has found God.

“Anyone who seeks truth seeks God, whether or not he realizes it” (St. Edith Stein)

We can understand religion generally to mean a relationship to what is divine. A religious person acknowledges something divine as the power that created him and the world, on which he is dependent and to which he is ordered. He wants to please and honor the Divinity by his way of life.

“The noblest power of man is reason. The highest goal of reason is the knowledge of God.” ST. ALBERT THE GREAT (ca. 1200-1280, Dominican priest, scientist, and scholar, Doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest theologians of the Church)

They [men] should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:27-28a

‘Worldly’ People Can’t Truly Celebrate” – Pope Francis

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Pope Francis celebrates Morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, October 2nd 2015

The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees (below), which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, and the rekindling of their identity as a people.

In contrast, those “who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate!” the Pope said.

“At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement; it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant,” he explained.

The Gospel reading from today (below) recounts the cleansing of the temple, with the attitudes of the money-changers in stark opposition to the rejoicing of the Maccabees.

“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things,” the Pontiff said. “They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple!”

The Temple is a symbol of the Church, the Holy Father said, and the Church “will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”

Pope Francis said the danger of corruption within the Church arises when “the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading. These priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.”

The Pope said that in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy: “These were people who had lost their sense of godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldiness.”

“Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says ‘The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus.”

But where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness, the Pope said.

“There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day. We must always heed Jesus’ words;  we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.”

The Pope concluded, saying “We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”

How Should Christians Respond to Recent Murder and Mayhem?

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Despite the murder and mayhem we insist that the love of Christ is stronger. Barbarism has been defeated by Christianity many times in the past, but Christianity has not defeated barbarism through violence, but through the gradual, painstaking heroism of mission.

Think of St Francis who wanted to meet the Sultan and share the faith with him in enthusiasm and love. Think of the early Christians who countered the barbaric tribes of Europe by their example of community, civilization and true Christian love.

Think of the countless missionaries who went into barbaric lands and faced death, torture and incredible hardships to live with the enemy and simply radiate from their lives a different way of living. Think of the martyrs who were slain by the barbarians–who were then converted by their innocence, their courage and their noble faith.

This is the Christian response, for each one of us to live faithfully and courageously as little Christs–showing the power and the glory of courageous Christianity which can overcome all evil.

By Fr Dwight Longnecker – http://www.patheos.com/

Pope Francis: Don’t Read Your Horoscope, Look to Jesus

When you feel the urge to check your horoscope, instead turn your gaze to Jesus, recommends Pope Francis, who assures that a glance toward Our Lord “will serve us better” than fortune-tellers.

The Pope said this today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square on this second-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year.

The readings from the liturgies of this season focus on the end of times, as today’s selection from the 13th Chapter of Mark.

Though there are “apocalyptic elements” in the reading, the Pope explained, “these segments are not the essential part of the message.”

“The central nucleus around which the words of Jesus turn is he himself, the mystery of his person, and of his death and resurrection, and his return at the end of time. Our final goal is an encounter with the Risen Lord.”

The Pope asked how often we consider the fact that “There will be a day in which I encounter the Lord face to face,” saying that what’s important is not knowing when or how the end times will come, but rather “that we find ourselves prepared.”

And the lesson from the fig tree that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel teaches us to “look toward our current days with an outlook of hope.”

Hope is a virtue that’s hard to live, the Pontiff acknowledged, referring to it as the “smallest of the virtues, but the strongest.” But, “our hope has a face: the face of the Risen Lord, who comes ‘with great power and glory,’ and this will manifest his love, crucified and transfigured in the Resurrection.”

Stable point

Pope Francis said that Jesus’ triumph at the end of time “will be the triumph of the cross.” And he said that there’s only one victorious power: “the sacrifice of oneself for love of neighbor, in imitation of Christ.” This, he said, “is the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals of the world.”

Jesus is the “destination point of our earthly pilgrimage,” but he is also the “constant presence in our lives,” the Pope continued, saying that “he is at our side; he walks with us; he loves us so much.”

“He wants to direct his disciples of every age away from curiosity about dates, predictions, horoscopes, and concentrate their attention on the today of history.”

In this context, the Pope asked: how many are there among us who read their horoscope every day?

“When you feel like reading your horoscope,” he said, “look to Jesus who is with us. That is better and will serve us better.”

“Everything passes, the Lord reminds us. His word alone remains as light that looks upon and steadies our journey. He always forgives us because he is at our side. We only have to look at him and he changes our hearts. May the Virgin Mary help us to trust in Jesus, the firm foundation of our lives, and persevere with joy in his love.”