Bringing Home the Word

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 2, 2007

An Advent Wake-Up Call
By Diane M. Houdek
“The night is advanced; the day is at hand”—a paradoxical thought at the beginning of Advent, coming as it does in the winter of the year when the days are ever shorter, the nights longer, darker, colder. This very discrepancy jolts us into awareness. It is easy to be wrapped up in our own comfort at this time of year. In our attempts to escape the grey skies that threaten snow, the starkness of black branches of winter trees against cold skies, we build fires in the fireplace or turn up the furnace. We have festive meals. We shop and decorate and bake for Christmas celebrations. But Advent calls us to an awareness of something beyond the comfort and cheer of Christmas traditions, calls us into the winter of the year to see the beauty of waiting—darkness waiting for light, emptiness waiting for fullness, cold waiting for warmth, hearts waiting for love. Our Gospel today warns us not to be lulled to sleep by daily routines and the holiday flurry of activity. Jesus condemns the people of Noah’s time not for their activities, but for their indifference to the realities of life in their midst. Too often we like to pretend there’s nothing beyond the next festivity. Advent is a time to prepare ourselves not for a whirl of Christmas parties but for the Lord who is continually breaking into our lives. We might shake our heads at the obvious truth in Jesus’ statement: “If the owner knew when the thief was coming, he would not let him break into the house.” In these days of elaborate security alarms and neighborhood watch programs, we seem to have decided that the best response is to be always vigilant against threats known and unknown. But have we prepared as well for the coming of the Lord into our lives? How aware are we of the Lord trying to break open our hearts? Advent calls us to transform our lives because of God’s promise to dwell in our midst. As the liturgical seasons and scriptures cycle around each year, we might begin by asking, Where was I when this was proclaimed last and where will I be when it’s proclaimed this year? How has my life changed? Advent comes into the darkness of our everyday lives with a promise of love and light, a challenge of conversion, a sense of discovery. Advent is a time to rediscover our faith, to explore who we are and who we follow. The prophets call us to believe in God’s promise—to take risks, to make difficult choices, to give of ourselves. Christmas celebrates the first risk Jesus took—being born into our world. Every day we’re called to take the risk of living in that world and transforming it through our belief in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Grounded in our faith, we discover that taking risks can awaken within us a sense of promise and anticipation, not dread and fear and remorse. Once when I was a child, the northern lights were making a particularly dazzling display in the skies over our house. My parents tried to wake me for it, but said I just wouldn’t wake up enough to go outside. I’ve always regretted missing that experience. Paul tells the Romans, “You know the time; it is the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” And Jesus tells his disciples, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” They’re not saying this to frighten us, but to make sure we don’t miss the wonder that is Emmanuel.

SUNDAY READINGS
Isaiah 2:1-5
A prophet describes the wonderful changes that will take place when people look to God for instruction.

Romans 13:11-14
Paul tells us that our salvation is near at hand.

Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus admonishes all to be in a constant state of preparedness.

St. Anthony Messenger Press

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ
• •
Who are you and who do you follow? What practical changes can you make in your holiday plans in order to keep Advent?

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

• How can you enter into Advent and
put off Christmas until these four weeks have passed? Something about darkness scares us. We imagine things “that go bump in the night.” It seems to be a universal fear. Everyone runs from the horrors of the night into the blessings of dawn. Little surprise, then, that the Advent story begins in the darkness. Everything that scares us about being alone, without God’s love, can be known in the gut feelings of standing in the dark of night. We are invited on this first Sunday of Advent to experience the darkness so that we can receive the Light with grace. In the darkest and longest nights of the solar year, we can pause in the pre-holiday rush and simply stand in the quiet of night. This is the perfect time to take a night walk. We can go alone or gather our family and walk out into the night. If we can walk in a place far from the city lights it is all the better. What parts of our lives are filled with the unknown? What light can Jesus bring to the future? Of what are we afraid? These questions of the night are the soul work of Advent. The Scriptures call us to keep Advent in quiet darkness so that we can revel in the splendid sound and light of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!”

The church has designated particular colors to carry the symbolism and mood of each sacred season. The liturgical color for Advent is purple, not red or even green. These colors are meant to create a liturgical mood that key into the grace of the season. It is important for us to put aside the colors of Christmas with all the decorations and first display the more somber purple tones of Advent. Put out a little purple this year in your home and save the colors of Christmas for their own time.

Come, long-awaited Savior Fill the dark places of my life with your amazing Light Come to those places where I have closed the shutters, drawn the curtains and refuse to open my soul to the truth that light brings. Come, long-awaited Savior, change me. Amen.

PRAYER

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
Create a family Advent wreath. After the sun sets on the First Sunday of Advent, turn out all the house lights. Stand for a few moments in the darkness. Listen to the house noises, feel the darkness.Then, light one candle on the wreath and watch the light radiate around you. Say together , “Jesus Christ, Light of the world, come into our hearts again.”

Join the Conversation!
Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share your experience of making the Word part of your everyday lives and to comment on what you’ve read here.

WEEKDAY READINGS
the Word
December 2, 2007

Monday Is 4:2-6/Mt 8:5-11 Francis Xavier Tuesday Is 11:1-10/Lk 10:21-24 Wednesday Is 25:6-10a/Mt 15:29-37

Thursday Is 26:1-6/Mt 7:21, 24-27 Nicholas Friday Is 29:17-24/Mt 9:27-31 Ambrose Saturday Gn 3:9-15, 20/Eph 1:3-6, 11-12/Lk 1:26-38 Immaculate Conception

Bringing Home

Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org. Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.

Bringing Home the Word
2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 9, 2007

Roots Aren’t Enough
By Diane M. Houdek
Prophets are gifted with an intense personal awareness of God's love for his people. Their call both inspires and compels them to preach this word to those who will listen — and to those who close their ears. From the time a prophet hears the word of God, the burning desire is to find the words that will express this eternal message to the people of one time and place. The Word of God was spoken to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert, and John knew that the old order would have to pass away. Having prepared himself not through temple observances but through desert fasts and prayers, he comes out of the deserts preaching reform and conversion. The kingdom of God was at hand. The great prophets of the Hebrew scriptures may struggle with their call to be prophet, but they never deny the word of the Lord. John the Baptist, the man Jesus spoke of as the greatest of the prophets, knew the desire of the prophet to tell people of the love of God. But the call to be prophet is makes demands, asking one to risk everything for the word. John became a voice in the wilderness, a man totally focused on his call and God's message. In his desert fasts and struggles he must have known the experience of being alone with only the whisper of God's word in his heart. Yet this whisper clamors to be proclaimed and we must come forth from our desert silence. John found his message” “Prepare the way of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” John was rooted in the message of the Hebrew prophets, but he was being called to proclaim something completely new. Roots aren’t enough. We need to grow and bear fruit. Winter can lull us into a state of resting, of waiting for spring to energize us. A group of Pharisees and Sadducees come to John the Baptist relying on their status as sons of Abraham. But John tells them that the ax is at the root of trees that aren’t producing fruit. The Gospel gives us a vivid image of dead wood and chaff being burned while the fruit and grain are gathered into barns to nourish and sustain life. Roots provide valuable nourishment. They make life possible. But if they’re too constrained, they can inhibit the very growth they’re designed to nourish. Isaiah’s well-known vision of nature in harmony calls us to imagine sworn enemies sharing food and shelter, frolicking as companions. And the prophet neither minimizes the distinctions nor emphasizes the nearly unreachable idealism of the vision. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He didn’t say, “Your enemies will become your friends and then you will find it easy to love them.” Often our rootedness in one way of life or one set of attitudes keeps us from reaching out to those who are different, those we have avoided out of fear and hatred. To be fruitful, we must be open to this sort of newness. Paul tells us Jesus fulfilled the covenant of the Jews and brought a vision of God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Paul’s gifts unite the dreams of these two groups into one vision of Christianity. He doesn’t destroy healthy differences, he doesn’t deny individual roots. He sees the possibility for communion. Advent is a time of vision, the vision of a shared future among all people as we grow beyond our rootedness.

SUNDAY READINGS
Is 11:1-10
A prophet looks ahead to the reign of a new king. In his day the kingdom will bring to mind the Garden of Eden.

Rom 15:4-9
Paul proclaims the value of the Scriptures.

Mt 3:1-12
John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord.

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ

About what attitudes have we become complacent? How do the Scriptures challenge us to expand these attitudes?

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

Who are your personal prophets, those who have spoken for God in your life?

Like John the Baptist, what are we willing to risk for the sake of the Word? Isaiah and John the Baptist, the prophets of this Sunday, share one thing in common: No one hears them with a sense of urgency. We casually let the words float above our Advent heads with little impact. John is shouting “Prepare the way!’ Isaiah is proclaimed across church microphones saying, “a new shoot will grow…” and we think,” Oh, that’s nice.” The radical message of conversion offered by these two voices is not something to listen to politely until we can get back to our holiday activities. Both saints mean to stop us in our tracks and call us to be aware that something is changing… right now… right here. We are told to go home and live in expectation. John wants us to create a place in our lives for the Christ, who wants to be welcomed into family prayer, Advent reconciliation services and even into the way we spend our holiday cash. Isaiah wants us to know that something new is about to happen. Change is in the air and every family should throw away their old agenda and embrace a new way of being Catholic this Advent and Christmas. Are we going to really listen or is business as usual this Advent at your house?

O saints of old, Isaiah and John, We want you to tone it down a little. It seems you are shouting too loud for our comfort. Oh! You say that’s the point. We are suppose to be uncomfortable preparing for Jesus. Pray that your words change our hearts like never before. Amen.

PRAYER

The intercessory prayers of the Church are a beautiful expression of our connection with each other, the universal church, the world and its leaders, the poor, the sick and the dying. Listen carefully on Sunday to the intercessions at your parish liturgy. Savor each one instead of responding automatically with “Lord, hear our prayer.” Notice whether one in particular strikes a chord with you. Write it down at the end of Mass and begin each day of this second week of Advent by praying it with special care.

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
Create a John the Baptist desert with your children. Fill a dish with sand, a few rocks, some twigs and a few bones. Create a sign for your desert that says “One comes after me whose sandals I am not fit to untie.” Let it be a visual reminder of the Baptist’s role in preparing his followers—and us— for the coming of the Lamb of God.

Join the Conversation!
Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share your experience of making the Word part of your everyday lives and to comment on what you’ve read here.

WEEKDAY READINGS
the Word
December 9, 2007

Monday Is 35:1-10/Lk 5:17-26 Tuesday Is 40:1-11/Mt 18:12-14 Wednesday Zec 2:14-17/Lk 1:26-47 Our Lady of Guadalupe

Thursday Is 41:13-20/Mt 11:11-15 Lucy Friday Is 48:17-19/Mt 11:16-19 John of the Cross Saturday Sir 48:1-4, 9-11/Mt 17:9a, 10-13

Bringing Home

Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org. Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.

Bringing Home the Word
3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 16, 2007

When Waiting Is Difficult
By Diane M. Houdek
A farmer plants seeds deep in the earth. He knows from experience that they will produce plants. Does he ever doubt in the cold winter, looking at the barren fields? Even in the spring, waiting for the first green shoots to poke through the ground? We can’t see the growth taking place beneath the surface of our lives. Patience and trust are so desperately needed. We wait for so many things. Waiting itself creates tension. Sometimes we think we can’t wait a moment longer, especially when that waiting is so heavy with uncertainty. We like to be active. We like to prepare. But sometimes we need to let ourselves be prepared, as soil is prepared for the seeds as seeds are prepared for the planting. Advent is a time of waiting. A time of preparation, yes, but while we must prepare, we must also be prepared to wait. The letter from James counsels patience: “See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil.” In this time of activity, of a too often commercialized rush, it is good to remember the natural cycle of the earth, the growth that takes place only in its own time. We can help it along, we can plant and nurture the seed, but in the end we can only be patient while the growth happens. We must take time to reflect, to believe in the promise of new life taking place. We must prepare, but we must also be prepared to wait, to hope, to trust. We begin Advent with a rush of visions and good intentions. We hear the call to conversion and growth. We begin our preparations for the coming of Christ into our lives. After three weeks we’re beginning to wear a bit thin. Our bodies are tired, our nerves frayed, our emotions stretched beyond their everyday endurance. We’re excited yet apprehensive. We anticipate but we also doubt. Suddenly we wonder if we’ve done everything we should. The Scriptures for this third Sunday of Advent speak to this feeling of exhaustion and doubt. We hear of John the Baptist, imprisoned for his efforts at preaching conversion and the kingdom. In his disillusionment he begins to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah at all. Jesus responds by assuring him that the signs of compassion and healing indeed herald the kingdom of the prophets. And he praises John for his role as forerunner. Like the desert of Isaiah’s vision, John’s desolation now blooms with hope. A word from the Lord can refresh tired bodies and weary spirits. We are each called to do a specific task fully and justly. We are not all called to be saviors. We might follow John’s example: “I am baptizing you in water but there is one to come who is mightier than I. I am not fit to loosen his sandal strap.” John’s role is that of prophet and forerunner. He accepts his role and makes no grandiose claims of messiahship. Had he set himself up in rivalry with the one messiah, he would have been blown away as so much chaff. Instead he was a grain of wheat contributing his part to the Bread of Life. The Lord is near to us, he is Emmanuel, “God with us,” and this gives us the integrity we need to live the promise according to our means. The spirit of the Lord will lead us in the ways of the kingdom in good time, in God’s time.

SUNDAY READINGS
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
A prophet anticipates big changes in the world.Through the grace of God the desert will spring to life and people will be healed.

James 5:7-10
James tells us to be patient as we look for Jesus’ glorious coming.

Matthew 11:2-11
John the Baptist wonders if Jesus is really the Messiah and Jesus responds by describing the actions that will accompany the advent of the Messiah.

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ

What do you find most difficult to wait for? How does waiting for Christmas rub the wrong way in your life?

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

What are some ways you allow Jesus to be the savior in your life? In what ways have you tried to save yourself? In an age when we want instant results, waiting is not a strong suit. Every problem seems to be able to be solved in a sixty- minute commercial, there is food ready to eat in thirty minutes, and it takes only five minutes to have your car’s oil change at Mr. Lube’s. We are called to wait blindly just like John the Baptist. Our hope is that what we believe is going to happen. We yearn for a peace, a presence that will give meaning to our lives. But that resolution seems so distant and our lives are filled with hectic commotion that blots out the sound of his coming. It is time to restore some space for waiting in our homes. Parents need to limit the activities of these pre holiday weeks. Turn down the noise and the busyness as a family. Go for some quiet walks together. Listen to the holy music of the feast to come. Spend some time in your parish church just waiting with the Lord. Advent is a time to prepare the soil of our hearts for a new incarnation within. Like a mother awaiting her child, we await God once again. We need to slow down and wait. This good God will not be rushed.

Statues are a very Catholic phenomenon. Originally Catholic art was meant to teach the Gospels to people who were illiterate. Every parish church puts out a beloved nativity scene during these days. It is meant to connect us with the very human birth of Jesus. Many people also set up a nativity scene in their homes. This year, stand in front of these figures and pray awhile allowing yourself to enter the birth moment. Imagine it all, even that sweet, small cry bringing light to us all.

PRA ER
Hurry up, Lord We don’t have all day! There is shopping and baking and decorating to get done. O Lordy, Lord, you are just standing there with a smile on your face. What’s that you are saying? I can’t hear you over the loud music of “Jingle Bells” you whisper: Come, wait with me.”

Y

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
This week spend your time in line at the mall, market and shops being patient. Remember that each person around you is loved by God. Spend this time silently praying for the customers and clerks around you. You may discover that those waiting moments are meant “to soothe the sin sick soul.”

Join the Conversation!
Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share your experience of making the Word part of your everyday lives and to comment on what you’ve read here.

WEEKDAY READINGS
the Word

Monday Gn 49:2, 8-10/Mt 1:1-17 Tuesday Jer 23:5-8/Mt 1:18-25 Wednesday Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25

Thursday Is 7:10-14/Lk 1:26-38 Friday 1Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/Lk 1:39-45 Saturday 1 Sm 1:24-28/Lk 1:46-56

Bringing Home
December 16, 2007

Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org. Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.

Bringing Home the Word
4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT Decmeber 23, 2007

Difficult, Life-Giving Choices
By Diane M. Houdek
The scriptures for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are filled with great promise but also with risk beyond imagining. They tell stories of crisis and challenge, of calls to conversion and questions that insist on answers. They demand a life lived on the cutting edge of awareness, a life that risks and responds without counting the cost. Life lived to the full, life in God, is filled with promise, with signs and wonders. This is the way of God’s life within us. When difficult questions have to be answered, when tough choices have to be made, only love can move us in the direction of life-giving choices. At times like these we need people to walk with us, to reassure us, sometimes just to celebrate with us. How differently the stories of Advent would be if Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had let fear and anxiety triumph over love and trust and faith. Would we tell the stories at all? Advent promises the triumph of love over fear, of light over darkness. This love is difficult but so essential; we need to know that God is with us. Joseph tossed and turned in the night and the questions crowded out all other concerns during the day. What would he do? How would he arrange this? What were his responsibilities? He tries to find as comfortable a solution as possible for everyone concerned. But the word of God breaks through this chaos and darkness and Joseph sees with startling clarity that the answer lies not along the path of least resistance but in the one solution he never considered. When the spirit breaks into human life we are confronted with an insistent challenge. We are called to choose life or death. Joseph follows the spirit, chooses life and receives the assurance of Emmanuel. We, too, are called to let the word of God break through the confusion in our lives. If we accept its illumination in spite of our fear, our uncertainty, our human weakness, we will know God with us. This is the way the birth of Jesus comes about. Out of the silence of Advent comes the promise of the incarnation. The word breaks into our lives with the startling and dazzling revelation that through Jesus of Nazareth, God loved us in the visible, tangible ways the angels could never understand. Because we believe this, we’re called to love one another with the same incarnate love. Such love is a challenge to be gentle, to give of one’s self, to enter deeply into reconciliation, to grow and to change, above all to trust. It is a commitment of trust and faith, of promises made, kept, broken, reconciled. No real love can be born without risks, without vulnerability. Perhaps this is at the heart of our reluctance to believe the good news. We know that if it’s genuine, it will always have a price. As Christians we’ve staked our lives on the belief that only through death is there life. Our love is born of a passionate belief in promise, in commitment, in covenant. To this love we commit all that we are and all that we can become. When despair overwhelms us, when promises suddenly seem empty, when it seems that we’re surrounded by dashed dreams and disappointment, by love betrayed and friendships faltering, prophets break into our lives with the word that God still cares, that love is still possible. To believe this promise demands that we risk once again, that we reach out in love, that we trust the hand reaching out to us.

SUNDAY READINGS
Isaiah 7:10-14
A king declines the invitation to place his trust in God. Even so, God’s plan of salvation will move forward.

Romans 1:1-7
Paul introduces himself as the slave of Christ Jesus and explains what this means for his ministry.

Matthew 1:18-24
Joseph learns in a dream that Mary has come to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Anthony Messenger Press

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ

Share a time when you had to make a tough decision that was rooted in love.

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

Think about an area of your life where there is doubt and confusion.What choices can you make to bring life?

Come, now, my Jesus. The days of waiting are counting down to an end. We need to see your love and power in our sin-weary world. Just like days of old, We yearn for your love and care. The world in silent stillness lay just waiting for You. Amen.
Monday

PRAYER

Has the panic set in? Are you beyond your wits with too much to get done in two days? Do you still remember that little light of the first Sunday of Advent that held such promise? It is not too late to rekindle all four of these Advent candles and put out the darkness of the world’s version of our feast. Can I convince you that you are really finished with what needs to be done for the feast? Can you possibly believe that your soul is far more important than the perfect version of a magazine-photo Christmas you tried to create? What Jesus really wants is you and your family to spend time with him. He could use a few less presents under the tree. He wants to decorate your heart with his love and could care less about a house trimmed in red bows. He wants to see you smile again. He simply loves your smile. God is giving you plenty time to do those things that are invisible and will remain forever. God’s time means forgetting a few unnecessary details on your list in favor of that one most important detail: Let go and allow God to prepare your heart for the Messiah.

Music is a wonderful way to pray. In the Catholic tradition there are many ancient musical prayers. As you listen to hymns of this season hear them as the prayers they are meant to be. For example, the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an ancient hymn that comes from the “O” antiphons, traditionally part of the Morning and Evening Prayer of the church. These titles of Jesus express both his many roles and the long history of longing for a Messiah.

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
Write a family prayer to be said as you place the infant in the crèche on Christmas morning.You might want to change the candles in your Advent wreath from purple and rose to white, or you might want to light a special white candle through the Christmas season.

Join the Conversation!
Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share your experience of making the Word part of your everyday life and to comment on what you’ve read here.

WEEKDAY READINGS

2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/Lk 1:67-79 Tuesday Is 9:1-6/Ti 2:11-14/Lk 2:1-14 Wednesday Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59/Mt 10:1722 Stephen

Thursday 1 Jn 1:1-4/Jn 20:1a, 2-8 John the Evangelist Friday 1 Jn 1:5—2:2/Mt 2:13-18 Holy Innocents Saturday 1 Jn 2:3-11/Lk 2:22-35

Bringing Home
the Word
December 23, 2007

Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org. Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202. All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.

Bringing Home the Word
THE HOLY FAMILY December 30, 2007

Taking on Great Responsibility
By Diane M. Houdek
A lot of mental and emotional interference takes place when we hear the readings for this feast. People tend to focus on the line from the Letter to Colossians about wives being subordinate to their husbands, or parents and children exchange looks at the line, “Children, obey your parents in everything.” Most of us don’t want to return to the “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” era’s way of defining family relationships, and it can be hard to see past the superficial interpretation we put on these readings. We tend to be either cynical and dismissive of this feast or we over-idealize the idea of family. People with unpleasant memories of an abusive or dysfunctional childhood resent the notion that all families should be just like Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Paul tells the Colossians to forgive one another, but we know that some people might not yet be at a point in their healing where forgiveness is possible. When we hear the phrase Holy Family, too often we think of something that’s “holy card” perfect, instead of the deeply sacred, graced-by-God reality of Mary, Joseph and Jesus—but also of our own families, whether those of blood or those intimate communities that sustain us as adults. The scripture readings for the feast keep us grounded in an awareness that God knows that family life is both essential and complex, but always very real. The Gospel recounts the story of Jospeh being told in a dream to take his wife and infant child to Egypt to save the boy from Herod’s massacre. What Matthew summarizes in a few terse lines after the fact, and with a good dose of Scripture fulfillment built in must have been terrifying for the young family. It brings to mind scenes from the news media of families of refugees fleeing war, genocide and famine. When we hear of the messages Joseph receives in his dreams, again we imagine the serene scenes portrayed by artists, with the words of the angel twining into Joseph’s ear as he sleeps. But I suspect it has more in common with the young father tossing and turning during the night, caught in the stressful tension between work responsibilities, the insistent nighttime needs of a growing infant in the next room, and the juggling of too many things. Family responsibility ebb and flow at different times of our lives. Young family have the concerns of infants and children and all that entails. But the responsibility of caring for our elders is also a very real part of many people’s lives. At times the two coincide creating what’s become known as the sandwich generation. One of the most touching lines in the reading from Sirach is, “My son, take care of your father when he he is old;... Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him.” Several friends are among the countless people caring for parents suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. It’s an almost overwhelming responsibility and through even the most difficult times, it’s obvious that they’re doing it because of the great love they have for their parents. We need to celebrate this feast not as some seemingly unattainable goal for mere humans, but as a sign of the obstacles that we can overcome if we truly place ourselves in the arms of a loving God who is Father and Mother to us all, and in whose sight we are all part of a holy and sacred family.

SUNDAY READINGS
Sirach 3:2-17
A wise man affirms the close relationship between God and the human family. It leads to honor and respect for those who give us life.

Colossians 3:12-21
Paul urges the Christian community to practice every virtue.

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Joseph learns in a dream that he must take his family and flee to Egypt.

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS NOITCELFER SNOITSEUQ

What one thing would you like to change in your family life? How can this be achieved?

THE HOME CHURCH
By Jeanne Hunt

What is the world’s criterion for a successful family? How does that differ from the Gospel’s criterion?

Jesus our brother, teach us how to be a holy family. When tempers grow short, stop us in our tracks and reminds us of your patience. When we are irritated with each other’s shortcomings, Remind us of your love for the other. When we are anxious about our family trails hold us tight and show us your care. Amen.
Monday Tuesday

PRAYER

Nestled right in the middle of the Christmas Octave is the feast of the Holy Family. We are called to put down the eggnog and cookies and look at the amazing people we with whom we live. Jesus, Mary and Joseph point the way to a realistic image of the real work and constant attention it takes to be family. Loving family members is the first place we follow the gospel challenge, “go out and make disciples.” In fact if we fail at making disciples of those in our own house, we have little business going out to evangelize the rest of the world. On this feast of the Holy Family resolve to reach out to your children, your elderly parents, and your spouse. Begin to love them, serve them and be happy with them. Celebrate the day with a few e-mails or phone calls to extended family members. Tell your family how much they mean to you, ask for a little forgiveness (if it is called for) and share some reminiscence of the good old days. It is the greatest Christmas gift we could ask for: being family with all its bumps, warts and dysfunction. Mary, Joseph and Jesus would love to join in the fun. I can only imagine the stories they could tell.

God puts us together in family for good reason. The domestic Church is the first church where children and parents learn the gift of being church together. Family prayer is basic to Catholic prayer life. In the New Year make a resolution to pray together more often. Such devotions as the family rosary, meal prayers, night prayers with the children and prayers to favorite saints are hallmarks of our devotion. To live the faith means more than an hour on Sunday morning. The day should be laced with prayer. This is a perfect time to obtain a Catholic prayer book and use it to re-engage family prayer in your Catholic home.

N OOCON ECTIONOO O O
In these times where families live far away from grandparents and extended family, Call a local nursing home and adopt a lonely resident. Begin a relationship with this person. Give your children the grace of loving someone who has no one.

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WEEKDAY READINGS
the Word
December 30, 2007

1 Jn 2:18-21/Jn 1:1-18 Nm 6:22-27/Gal 4:4-7/Lk 2:16-21 Mother of God Wednesday 1 Jn 2:22-28/Jn 1:19-28 Basil and Gregory

Thursday 1 Jn 2:29—3:6/Jn 1:29-34 Friday 1 Jn 3:7-10/Jn 1:35-42 Elizabeth Seton Saturday 1 Jn 3:11-21/Jn 1:43-51 John Neumann

Bringing Home

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