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December 11, 2014

This Sunday, the third in the season of Advent, is traditionally called "Gaudete" Sunday. The Latin word gaudete means "rejoice" and the Church calls for rejoicing because we have passed through the midpoint of Advent and the object of our longing and deepest hopes is fast approaching.

December 3, 2014
READY FOR ADVENT. Gunfire. Lawlessness. Bloody clashes on the streets. A poor African woman flees and finds refuge in a schoolroom. But what awaits her there beggars her imagination - the lifeless bodies of schoolchildren. Before she could even react, armed men start to approach. She feigns death and lies among the massacred innocents. The armed men take her for dead and leave. She is saved. Just as she gets up, she is startled by the sight of a small boy adorned with white feathers on his chest. "Hark, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee," he announces. "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son. His name shall be Jesus." With that, the mysterious boy disappears.
November 26, 2014
Billy Strayhorn, the great jazz composer and collaborator with Duke Ellington, once described his favorite time of the day as the time that was "halfway to dawn." It was the time of night when the frenetic pace of the previous evening had given way to a mood which anticipated the dawning of a new day. The crowds had gone home from the restaurants, nightclubs, and bars; musicians wandered into each other's places for informal jam sessions; and new riffs were tried out to be tucked away for future use.
November 21, 2014

The Feast of Christ the King, which marks the end of the liturgical year, has a strong eschatological theme, reminding us to continue to await the return of Jesus and the final judgment. However, the image of Christ as a king or judge on the final days is given a counter-cultural twist both for the early Christian communities and for us today. Rather than picturing a king as an overbearing or distant ruler, we are given the image of a caring shepherd.

November 13, 2014
"Be Watchful and Diligent." November is an interesting time of the year. We begin by honoring all the holy women and men who are not officially recognized by the Church as saints. Immediately on the next day, we commemorate All Souls Day. As a matter of fact, for some cultures, for example the Latinos and Vietnamese, the whole month is set aside to pray for all the deceased loved ones. Praying for them and visiting their gravesites are ways to reconnect with the dead and also to remind the living that life is fragile and constantly changing.
November 5, 2014

Today's feast marks the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, the Pope's Cathedral. It was built in the time of Constantine and was consecrated in 324 by Pope Sylvester. As the first basilica to be built, it has been called "the mother and head of all the churches of the city and of the world." The feast was originally celebrated only in Rome; after 1565, all the churches in the Roman Rite began to observe this celebration.

October 29, 2014

At one time I lived in a second floor apartment and a newly widowed woman lived in the first floor apartment. In conversation she spoke about her husband and about his last days of life. She never once used the language of death, never said "he died," but only said "he closed his eyes." I never asked her about that phrase but recognized what some, like author Ernest Becker, have come to call the denial of death. In such denial, life is perceived as a separate reality from death, and death is treated in just that way - completely separate from life.

October 22, 2014

"If we only have love." Every once in a while, the world of popular music brings forth a song that can captivate our minds with its beautiful simplicity and lift our yearning souls heavenward. Jacques Brel's "If we only have love" is such a song. The melody is simple enough to grasp after singing only a few bars, but it is the lyrics of the twelve short stanzas that touch us deeply. According to the song, it is love that will open our arms wide to embrace all; it is love that will melt guns so that all the children of the world will be able to live in peace. As seemingly insignificant as human beings might be, with love in our hearts we will be able to accomplish what time, or space, or stars alone cannot accomplish. Some critics might think that the words of this ballad are trite and the melody monotonous. But no one can question the profundity and challenge of the sentiments expressed, sentiments that reflect the message of today's readings.

October 15, 2014

In one of his famous interviews with a journalist, Pope Francis noted that "God is not a Catholic" - a comment that startled many! The Pope, of course, is an exemplary Catholic and has nothing but love for his Catholic faith. The truth he was expressing is that all people belong to God, no matter what their religious, or for that matter, non-religious persuasion may be. This was also the strong conviction of Paul the Apostle - he was convinced that God was not a Jew either. The God of Israel was also the God of the Nations.

October 8, 2014

There is a real and important code of hospitality in the Middle East: people are generous in their invitations, and invited guests are expected to accept.