Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 3, 2017: Come, Lord Jesus: Our Advent prayer

scripture-purple

The Catholic News Service column, “Speak to Me Lord,” offers reflections on the Sunday Scripture readings. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Dec. 3, First Sunday of Advent

      Cycle B readings:

      1) Is 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7

      Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

      2) 1 Cor 1:3-9

      Gospel: Mk 13:33-37

 

By Jem Sullivan
Catholic News Service

Jem Sullivan writes for the Catholic News Service Scripture column,

Jem Sullivan

Each Advent, we are given a fresh chance to discover that the deepest longings of our heart are for God. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of this deep human desire for God. For this reason, he is considered the prophet of Advent who highlights the hopes of the people of Israel for a messiah. Our deep longing for God is at the heart of our Advent preparations.

The Israelites returned to their homeland after their exile. Almost immediately, they begin to fall away from God’s commands. The prophet laments his own sins and the sins of his people. He begs for God’s intervention. Then, he uses a striking metaphor to describe Yahweh’s relationship with Israel: the image of a potter and his clay.

A skilled potter shapes formless clay into beautiful and functional objects. In the same way, Israel is being shaped by God’s loving hand. Isaiah’s image begs the question: Are we willing to be molded by God just as a potter molds clay? Continue reading

Posted in "Speak to Me Lord", CNS columns

Catholic liturgies avoid Christmas decorations, carols in Advent

A lit candle is seen on an Advent wreath. Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins Dec. 3 this year. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS/Lisa Johnston, St Louis Review)

A lit candle is seen on an Advent wreath. Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins Dec. 3 this year. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS/Lisa Johnston, St Louis Review)

(Updated Dec. 4)

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — During the weeks before Christmas, Catholic churches stand out for what they are missing.

Unlike stores, malls, public buildings and homes that start gearing up for Christmas at least by Thanksgiving, churches appear almost stark save for Advent wreaths and maybe some greenery or white lights.

“The chance for us to be a little out of sync or a little countercultural is not a bad thing,” said Paulist Father Larry Rice, director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

By the same token, he is not about to completely avoid listening to Christmas music until Dec. 24 either. The key is to experience that “being out of sync feeling in a way that is helpful and teaches us something about our faith,” he told Catholic News Service.

Others find with the frenetic pace of the Christmas season it is calming to go into an undecorated church and sing more somber hymns like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” But that shouldn’t be the only draw, noted Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, who is the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Fear and loathing: Rohingya crisis shows danger of identity politics

Pope Francis kisses a child as he meets Rohingya refugees from Myanmar during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop's residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a child as he meets Rohingya refugees from Myanmar during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Backgrounder and analysis

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) — The themes chosen by the local bishops for Pope Francis’ visits to Myanmar and Bangladesh — “Love and peace” and “Harmony and peace” — sounded naive or just too “nicey-nice” to some people.

But when love, peace and harmony are missing, the situation is pretty much hell on earth. The Rohingya refugees from Myanmar now living in teeming camps in Bangladesh could testify to that.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, wanted to testify to the Gospel. And that meant emphasizing love, peace and harmony.

The situation of the Rohingya is an extreme example of what happens when one’s ethnic or religious identity incites such strong fear or pride or that it creates ironclad categories of “us and them.”

And when the lines are drawn that clearly, the migration of the minority group is a natural result. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican, World

Defend God’s image by defending the Rohingya, pope urges

Pope Francis meets Rohingya refugees from Myanmar during an interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace in the garden of the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) — Each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, yet so often people desecrate that image with violence as seen in the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, Pope Francis said.

“Today, the presence of God is also called ‘Rohingya,'” the pope said Dec. 1 after meeting, clasping hands with and listening intently to 16 Rohingya who have found shelter in Bangladesh.

“They, too, are images of the living God,” Pope Francis told a gathering of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders gathered in Dhaka for an interreligious meeting for peace.

Continue reading

Posted in Vatican, World

Commentary: A plea for our fellow Catholics

By Greg Erlandson
Catholic News Service

Greg Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Greg Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service. (CNS/Bob Roller)

This Advent, stop worrying about Christmas presents and hanging lights, negotiating mall traffic or scouring the web for the perfect gift.

This Advent, imagine that you and your family lose everything. Home, neighbors, livelihood. This Advent, imagine that you have only one choice: Leave everything you know, you possess, you count on. Or die.

And then imagine that the only reason you have to do all of this is because you are Catholic. All those Masses you’ve hoped would end quicker, all those religious ed classes you had to drag your kids to, all those bishops’ appeals that you groused about paying: They mean a possible death sentence.

So actually, imagine you have a second choice: You can keep your home. Be at peace with your neighbors. Go on with your lives. All you have to do is give up your faith.

This Advent, imagine what you would choose. What your spouse would choose. What your kids would beg you to choose.

This Advent, imagine you are a Christian in Iraq. Continue reading

Posted in CNS columns

In light of faith: Blessed Solanus Casey’s witness to my family

(A series of columns focused on and written by millennials and young adults)

By Kate Bryan
Catholic News Service

Kate Bryan

Kate Bryan

Pope Francis has said in the preparatory document for the upcoming synod on “young people, faith and vocational discernment” that we need to see credible witnesses in order to be inspired to be holy.

Blessed Father Solanus Casey was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life. On. Nov. 18, more than 60,000 people descended upon my hometown, Detroit, to celebrate the beatification of this humble and faithful servant of God. The beatification Mass perfectly reflected this ordinary man who truly lived an extraordinary life.

While many people hadn’t heard of Father Solanus prior to that weekend, I was raised with a devotion to him. Prayers to Blessed Solanus were commonplace in my family. I vividly remember praying at his burial site in Detroit when I was no more than 5 years old.

As a child, I suffered from terrible eczema, and once I found out that Father Solanus had also suffered from the same skin condition, I used to pray and ask him to help me. While I was never “cured” of my eczema, my prayers to God through Father Solanus were answered and I was always granted peace and strength to endure even the severest pain.

Continue reading

Posted in CNS columns, focus on millennials

Pope, as ‘grandfather,’ urges Myanmar’s young to love and serve

Young people react as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass with youths at St. Mary's Cathedral in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Young people watch as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass with youths at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) — Before ending his visit to Myanmar, Pope Francis turned to the nation’s young Catholics, urging them to pursue lives of faith, hope and love.

Celebrating Mass Nov. 30 in Yangon’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, the pope asked the youths to serve their tiny church and their struggling nation with prayer, solidarity and a defense of human rights.

The cathedral was packed full of teenagers and young adults, many of whom were wearing traditional outfits. Despite their numbers, the atmosphere was hushed except for the chirping of birds in the trees outside the open windows. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican, World