The Pain of Advent

This is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – or so Andy Williams would have us believe. Indeed, the air around us as we shop is filled with varied songs that say – more or less – the same thing, as they beckon us to open our hearts (and our credit cards) to the season. We are urged not to be like old Scrooge before he met those spirits of Christmas, but to be generous and give.

Not every one of us is in a position to give – or to give as much as we would like. For too many of us, the old Merle Haggard song “If We Make It Through December” comes far closer to our own reality. We’d like to be incredibly generous to all those we love in every way we can. But we can’t always be that generous financially. We begin to feel inadequate. This is one of the unintended pains of Advent.

But there are more.  Continue reading “The Pain of Advent”

Are We There Yet?

Advent’s Goal

Having already posted some thoughts on this Sunday’s readings, I hadn’t planned on writing a post today. Two things have conspired to change that plan. One, it is now snowing and is still rather cold out there. Two, I came across an idea in Bishop Robert Barron’s podcast homily for tomorrow that I’d like to play with a bit here today. As an aside, if you aren’t familiar with Bishop Barron and his work, do yourself a favor and go to wordonfire.org. You’ll find free podcasts, videos, as well as resources you can order (books and DVDs) that are all very helpful in exploring the Catholic faith and its implications in our time.   Continue reading “Are We There Yet?”

Emmanuel

Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)

Think of a famous person whom you admire greatly. It could be an author, a movie star, a recording artist. It could be a star athlete, someone successful in business, or a politician. It could be a well-known priest or nun, or even the Pope himself. Now, imagine that, somehow, you have a chance to spend some time with this famous person you admire. You might feel excited as the day approached. But you might also feel nervous, even intimidated. “What would I say?” you might ask yourself. Here is someone who seems to live in a very different world from yours, far beyond anything with which you are familiar. Would you find anything in common with this person you find so admirable? Would you embarrass yourself when you tried to speak?  Continue reading “Emmanuel”

Renouncing Our Possessions?

Feast of St. John of the Cross

“Every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” –  Luke 14:33

In the Gospel for the Mass of the feast of St. John of the Cross, Jesus is explaining to the crowds that they need to realize that there is a kind of cost to being a disciple. They need to know this. Jesus compares this to someone who decides to build a tower without seeing if that person has the resources to finish the job. Or, a king who needs to determine ahead of time if he can defeat another king in battle or not. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Jesus gives the crowds that line about renouncing their possessions. Somehow, Jesus is saying, this renouncing is at least one “cost” that any disciple must expect to pay.

What can this “renouncing” mean?  Continue reading “Renouncing Our Possessions?”

Am I Not Your Mother?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Christopher Columbus died in 1506, still convinced that the lands he had seen on his voyages west from Spain were islands just off the east coast of Asia. By this time, however, other explorers were beginning to suspect something else: that they had come upon a continent hitherto unknown to anyone in the “Old World”, with peoples hitherto unknown. Some came to these lands with the idea of bringing the Catholic faith to these peoples. Others had visions of wealth and fame for themselves and for Spain, and sought to exploit the native peoples for these purposes. Soon, there were debates in the Spanish universities over the question of whether these “Indians” had souls. Some, like Bartolome de las Casas, forcefully defended the native peoples. Others argued that, since these peoples could not be traced to the three sons of Noah, they could not be truly human and therefore did not have souls.

This was not some merely academic dispute. If these native peoples were seen as not truly human, therefore any Christian notions of love or human dignity did not apply to them. They could be exploited without any qualms of conscience.  Continue reading “Am I Not Your Mother?”