I have always enjoyed reading the Scriptures during the Advent season as they are so uplifting and a delight to the soul. Last week in one of the daily readings was the genealogy of Jesus in Mt 1: 1-17. It is one of those readings which is a bit long and has a lot of information but seems pretty boring. Boring if you don’t know the back story behind it all. Once you find that out, a whole new perspective comes into view! Which is why it is so important read the Scriptures and other religious writings outside of what you see and hear at Sunday Mass once a week. There are a wealth of resources in our Church of 2,000 years including the Word Among Us publication, the National Catholic Register newspaper and the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) just to name a few.
Getting back to the genealogy of Jesus, one discovers a big mix of bad apples in the family tree! For example, Jacob, a deceiver and thief; Rahab, a prostitute; King David, a murderer and adulterer; King Manasseh, an idolater and King Ahaz who did everything God had told him not to do!
So, what does this have to do with the title of this blog post (which is a bit edgy)? The inspiration comes from the meditation in Word Among Us for December 17th which is included below.
DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 1:1-17
The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)
A family of liars, adulterers, murderers, fornicators, connivers, and blasphemers. What a miserable lot! And yet the most famous member of this family tree isn’t known for some gross sin or heinous crime. Quite the opposite, in fact. He is God become man, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Why do you think God chose such a rogues’ gallery of ancestors for his Son? Is this the best he could come up with? Well, in a sense, yes! No matter how good any family may look on paper, they are still fallen, imperfect human beings.
Centuries of biblical history have shown us that God doesn’t usually choose the bravest or the strongest or even the holiest people to fulfill his plan. He chooses ordinary, sinful people. And so Jesus was born into an imperfect line—but a line that was made holy by God’s grace. That wasn’t a problem for God though. He can work with anything. In fact, it delights him to fill us, cracked and leaky vessels though we are, with his love.
Do you feel unworthy of being part of God’s plan? You’re right, you are! We all are. But however spotty our personal history or family tree may be, it doesn’t keep the Lord from offering us a new identity as his sons and daughters. All who are baptized into Christ are grafted into a spotless lineage and given the grace to grow into their new inheritance.
God redeemed a line of misfits and miscreants with his power. And he used this family as an important part of his plan. He is ready to do the same for you. You are more than able to bring Christ into the world, just as David, Solomon, Moses, and all the others did.
So come to the Lord and ask him to show you his plans for you. Does he want you to bring Christ to someone in your life? Will you let him renew your zeal for sharing the good news? Always remember that you are part of a royal line, and nothing is impossible for God!
“Father, help me to take up my role in your plan. Unworthy though I am, let me be your light to the world!”
The new liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent which was November 29th this year. Advent is always one of my favorite times of the year as it is the time to prepare for the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas which begins the Christmas season. The joy and anticipation is readily apparent in the daily Mass readings and the passages from Isaiah and others are especially beautiful. Now is a perfect time to begin a new season for your heart and soul after a very stressful and difficult year.
If you have been away from Mass and Reconciliation, you can return now. Or spend some time in Adoration. Many churches are still having Lessons & Carols in-person (with the usual health precautions) and online. Perhaps creating a new daily prayer habit. Start slow with 15 minutes a day with our Lord, or reading scripture. If something strikes your interest, follow that lead.
The Word Among Us (WAU) is an excellent publication of the daily Mass readings, meditations and spiritual resources. The beautiful meditation today tied the three readings together and follows below:
DAILY MEDITATION: PSALM 23:1-6
I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. (Psalm Response)
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” This popular song shows just how much we associate the holidays with the comforts of home. Even if we can’t be home this Christmas, we probably recall times of anticipation from the past—of stringing lights, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, and gathering around the table. But have you ever thought about how Advent is also a time to anticipate how wonderful it will be to gather in God’s eternal home?
Many of the readings we hear during the Advent season focus on just this theme. Why? Because just as we look forward to Jesus’ coming at Christmas, so the Church invites us to reflect on the day when the Lord will come again in glory and welcome us into heaven. Let’s see how today’s first reading stirs this longing.
Like any good host, Jesus is eager to welcome his guests and feed them. Isaiah envisions a great feast “for all peoples” (25:6). Everything we could possibly desire—Isaiah uses the image of “rich food and choice wines” (25:6)—will be ours because we will be face-to-face with what we have always desired the most, God himself.
On that day, all the guests will gather as one family around this table because God will have removed the “web that is woven over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7). Just imagine—all the strife, conflict, and arguments that we witness today, even in our own families, will no longer exist.
There will be great rejoicing in heaven. God will “wipe away the tears from all faces” and “destroy death forever” (Isaiah 25:8). The disappointments, losses, and pain we have experienced during our lives on earth—all will be healed. Reunited with our loved ones, we will never have to fear being separated from them again.
Who wouldn’t want to be welcomed into this kind of home? This is what awaits you as you prepare to live in the house of Christ, your Lord. So rejoice! This Advent, as you prepare your home for Christmas, remember that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is preparing a place in his home for you.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for inviting me into your home.”
I have always been very taken with music as part of the liturgy. I grew up in Queens, NY and attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and school. Vatican II came along when I was in eighth grade so I was very familiar with the Latin Mass and the many beautiful Latin hymns. I always enjoyed singing at Mass and greatly appreciate what music and singing bring to the Liturgy in creating that sacred space for worship. Later in life, I rediscovered Gregorian Chant and Polyphony both of which are a feast for the ears! This music will quickly take you to the ethereal realms.
This music brings an special awareness to the transcendent during Mass. The sound and sight of a choir of men and women from all backgrounds singing in harmony to God is a vocal manifestation of Jesus’ prayer to the Father that we all be one (John 17:21 – so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us..).
I was browsing for some chant music recently when a picture of Josquin Des Prez wearing a red hat caught my eye. I had not heard of him before so I began looking at videos of his music and came across the group The Brookline Consort.
I played the YouTube video of their performance of his Ave Maria – virgo serena on Catholic TV. I am at a loss for words but I can only say that their singing was so beautiful that it hurt! The prayer itself is very moving and is below in both Latin and English. The video is at the end.
I never thought that I would write something about music but sometimes things happen and I’m glad that they did. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. Or, maybe it will open up a new interest in liturgical music for you. The peace of Christ to you!
I’ve gone back and forth, and back and forth about publishing this post. Because, let’s be honest, a lady’s not supposed to talk about politics, religion or money. But then, when have I ever followed the rules when it comes to that. But my final push to publish this post came when I was having…
The daily reading on Tuesday of this week includes one of Jesus’ most astounding and difficult teachings. In Matthew 5: 43-48, He tells us it is not enough to love our neighbors. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us! And not only that but that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect! People who are perfect!? How can this be? Just read a history book or even just the news lately. Perfect? We are only human hence my question as the title of this piece. Below is the meditation from Word Among Us ( June 16th) which actually addresses this question beautifully.
DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 5:43-48
Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
According to the dictionary, “perfect” means “entirely without flaw or defect, meeting supreme standards of excellence, satisfying all requirements.” To which many of us would respond, “Really, Lord? I’m struggling just to hold my life together! Now you want me to be perfect? That’s impossible.”
One reason that perfection can seem so unattainable is that it sounds like an either-or proposition: you’re either perfect or you’re not. But as Scripture scholars point out, the Greek word translated as “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 carries a more dynamic meaning. It indicates something you are always growing into—a process of becoming whole and complete. From this perspective, we can imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t stop! Keep working on becoming the person I created you to be. Don’t settle for anything less than the holiness that comes from wholeness!” The more you become the unique person God made you to be, the more you will resemble Jesus, the perfect One.
So how do you grow into this perfection? Self-improvement programs won’t produce the right kind of change, and neither will piling on acts of self-denial and spiritual calisthenics. It comes as you work on using your talents and gifts in a way that glorifies the Lord and lifts up the people around you. It comes as you focus on one or two roadblocks in your life and ask for Jesus’ grace to help you resolve them: a lingering resentment, an unhealthy habit, or a skewed way of thinking about life.
Today, ask Jesus how he wants you to grow into the perfection he has set aside for you. Let him shine the light of his love on your heart. Let him show you both the person you’re meant to be and the person you are right now. Then come up with one or two things you can do to help bridge the gap between these two visions.
Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” As you seek to hear and follow Jesus, may you change—and often—day after blessed day!
“Jesus, I trust that you are leading me to wholeness and holiness!”
1 Kings 21:17-29
Psalm 51:3-6, 11, 16
My own comment is to remind you of the importance of receiving the graces of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist to help you in your journey. – John
It may not feel like it but Easter is with us still even though Easter Sunday (April 12th) was over five weeks ago! Even in spite of pandemics and whatever. The Ascension of our Lord will be observed on May 21st and Pentecost Sunday on May 31st a full 50 days after the Resurrection. This period of time being Eastertide. Although the weeks after Easter Sunday seem to be a very quiet time in the life of the Church, it is anything but.
This is the time period when the Apostles are transformed from a frightened group of disciples who abandoned Jesus as He awaited trial into a group of bold, passionate missionaries who defy the same religious authorities that killed Jesus and proclaim Christ as Messiah to all! Look at what they experience after Mary Of Magdala first reports the empty tomb to them (Jn 20: 1-10) and Peter and John run to see for themselves. Imagine the shock and confusion that confronts them when they see that Jesus’ body is not there!
After Peter and John leave, Jesus appears to Mary while she is still weeping (Jn 20: 11-18). Christ appears to two men as they travel to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35). The risen Christ then appears to the disciples behind locked doors (Lk 36-49 and Jn 20: 19-21A). A week later, Christ appears again to the disciples, this time showing His wounds to Doubting Thomas (Jn 20: 24-29).
Later on, Christ appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee while they are fishing one morning. He offers them some breakfast that He is cooking on the shore of which they partake (Jn 21: 1-14). Afterwards, He questions Peter three times if Peter loves Him (Jn 21: 15-19) . At another time, Jesus arranges to meet them on a mountain in Galilee where He instructs them to make disciples of all men (Mt 28: 16-20). Jesus speaks with them over a forty day period telling them to stay in Jerusalem until they are baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1: 4-5).
When they had gathered together again, He told them “ …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8). With that He ascended into heaven before them. Finally, a few days later when Pentecost came, they were all gathered in one room when the noise of a strong, driving wind filled the room and there appeared like tongues of fire which appeared over each one of them. They were filled with the holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues to all those around them so that each could understand them in their own language (Acts 2: 1-11).
No, the Easter season was not a quiet time. It was an explosion of spiritual transformation for humanity! Resurrection from the dead! Appearing to hundreds of people….loving everyone, even your enemies!! No, this isn’t a quiet time, business as usual. From that first Eastertide, life has never been the same.
Every morning I read the Daily Readings for Mass that day and for the past several weeks since Easter Sunday, I read passage after passage taken from the Acts of the Apostles which covers the time period immediately after Pentecost detailing the dramatic shift in the hearts and souls of the Apostles. In Acts 3, Peter cures a beggar crippled from birth at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. Afterwards, he speaks boldly about Christ to the crowd who were amazed by this miracle.
The captain of the temple guard and Sadducees came and arrested them for curing the crippled man and preaching about Jesus. The next day they are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked in whose name have you done this? Peter’s response “….it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” Not sure what to do since the crowd there saw the healing, they ordered the Apostles not to speak or preach in the name of Jesus and released them.
The Apostles continue their preaching and healing and bringing many people into their community of believers. In Acts 5, they are again arrested and thrown into jail by the religious authorities. That night an angel of the Lord opened the cell telling them to return to preaching in the temple which they do. In the morning when the Sanhedrin convenes for their trial, the captain of the guard cannot find the Apostles in prison. They then hear from someone that they are back in the temple preaching again! The temple guard brings them back to the court and the high priest questions, “We gave you strict orders to stop preaching in that name….”. Peter (the man who denied even knowing Jesus before his trial) and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree…” Needless to say, the Sanhedrin is infuriated by this and want to put them to death!
At this point, a respected teacher of the law in the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, stands up and orders the men to be put outside for a short time. He then warns the members of the Sanhedrin to be careful about how they deal with these men. He reminds them of two other false leaders with large followings who were killed and their followers disbanded and came to nothing. Gamaliel tells them to have nothing to do with these men and let them go. If the activity of these apostles is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them and you will find yourself fighting against God!! The Sanhedrin hears his words and are persuaded. The Sanhedrin have the apostles flogged, order them not to preach in the name of Jesus and then release them. They went home rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer for His name.
Outright persecution begins in Jerusalem against the Jewish Christian community which has been growing. In Acts 6, St Stephen is stoned to death as he forgives his killers. Acts 10 shows Peter wrestling with the idea of allowing Gentiles to be part of the Christian community. This is resolved when Peter receives a vision that tells him that God does not withhold divine favor from other people outside of Israel. This persecution actually increases the spreading of Christianity as those scattered by the persecution now carry the word to Antioch where another large community of believers is established.
With chapter 9 of Acts, comes a major surprise that does not involve the original Apostles and that man is Saul. Saul happens to be the most ferocious and zealous persecutor of believers in the Way. He was involved with the stoning of St Stephen and now is obtaining letters from the high priest to bring back in chains any men or women who belong to the Way in Damascus. On the way to Damascus, a brilliant light flashed knocking Saul off of his horse and blinding him! A voice heard by everyone there says:”Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” When Saul asks who is this, a reply comes:”I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” There in Damascus he becomes a disciple, his sight returns and he becomes one of the prominent evangelizers of Jews and Gentiles! Now known as Paul, his writings make up most of the New Testament (about 93 pages). The rest of the chapters in Acts from 10 thru 28 concern Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem, Asia Minor, Greece, Europe and Rome. The change from ferocious persecutor to a zealous preacher of Christ is as dramatic as Peter’s change from one who denied even knowing Christ to a zealous preacher himself. All of Christianity descends from the evangelizing action of these twelve men with God’s grace active in them!
No! As we can see, this is not a quiet time historically for the infant Church! Unfortuntely, all this action and activity are not part of the Sunday readings but a part of the daily Mass readings each day during Eastertide. This is not to minimize or make light of the readings in the Sunday Masses which have major significant meaning for our relationship with God. It is just that these readings do not highlight the dramatic and enormous changes in the Apostles because of the astounding experiences they had with Jesus and God’s graces. This also shows the importance for a follower of Jesus to be reading Scripture outside of what is heard at Sunday Mass. The appreciation of the effects and drama of Christ’s Coming cannot be fully realized without it.
The Acts of the Apostles, in its entirety, is only about 38 pages long. Not a lot of material to read. One could do it in an evening. You will spend a lot more time pondering on what it says and what it means for the rest of your life but it isn’t a long read. I urge you to do so. When you think of it, the entire New Testament is only about 298 pages. How many books have you read that were longer than this? The entire Old Testament is about 1100 pages. When you spend regular time learning more about your faith (Bible study, retreats, books, lectures) than only attending Sunday Mass, you will become a happier and more joyous person and will come to know what Jesus meant when he said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.