Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy birthday, Kitten!

Today my lovely oldest girl whose blog name is Kitten is turning seventeen.

Yes, 17.


Good grief, where did all the years go?

She's such a sweet, kind, wonderful, helpful daughter who keeps things running smoothly around here!  As has been my habit these last few years, I'm now going to turn this blog post over to her--but not without saying, first, that I love her dearly and really appreciate the wonderful young woman she has become. :)  And now--Kitten!

Hi everyone!  In previous years on this blog, I've talked about things that I have been doing in the past year, as well as things I am looking forward to in the new one.  I would like to stick to that tradition today.

This past year has been a great one for me full of fun and interesting times.  It was just a few months ago that I got my first full sized guitar and I am enjoying playing it and teaching myself songs like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Dust In The Wind.  I am hoping to take guitar in college and maybe someday become a singer.  

Another one of my interests is learning the Korean language.  For the past six months we have enjoyed watching Kdrama (such as Heartstrings) and a Korean variety show called Running Man (which rocks!!)  These shows which have taught me so much about the Korean culture and their customs have made me determined to learn the Korean language as well as to live in South Korea for at least a short time after college.  

 I still love organization and secretarial work and this past year I have had the opportunity to use a lot of my talents helping my grandparents (who recently moved here to TX) keep track of mail and little office items that seem to go missing very easily (You don't believe me?  When was the last time you saw your telephone directory?)

Thank you for letting me ramble on about the things I am interested in and have been up too.  As always may God Bless you this New Year and forever.  감사합니다!  



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, with cake!

Just popping in to wish everybody a Merry Christmas!  I know this isn't one of those blogs that features pictures of lovely celebratory things, but today's an exception.  Here are before-and-after pictures of our Candy Cane Christmas Cake:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking a blog break for Christmas...

...and wishing my readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Open prayer thread

In light of the horrific news coming out from Connecticut today, I want to offer some prayers for the victims and their families.  No prayer seems more appropriate to me right now than this one:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Please feel free to offer your prayers as well in the comment boxes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflection: December 25

This is the reflection for Christmas Day, and thus the last one for the Jesse Tree.  I hope that these reflections, and my sister-in-law's symbols, have been useful to you!

Dec. 25
Optional Reading: Luke 2:6-21 (The Birth of Jesus)
Symbols: Manger and Star

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn.  And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2: 7-11

Today we recall the birth of the Savior.  Christmas Day is a day full of joyful celebration, a day to ponder this great gift God has given to us: the gift of His own Son, to save us from our sins.  There are, perhaps, no more eloquent words for us to reflect upon today than this lovely prayer by which the Church recollects and celebrates the Nativity of Christ: the prayer called the Angelus, which is prayed, traditionally, at six, at noon, and again at six each day:

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 23 and 24

Dec. 23
Optional Reading: Matthew 1:18-25 (St. Joseph)
Symbol: Carpenter’s Square

“But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1: 20-21

We can imagine how puzzled St. Joseph must have been when Mary returned from St. Elizabeth’s house, where she had been for her first three months of pregnancy, and he realized that she was with child.  Mary was so obviously a child of God that it was hard to imagine that she had done anything wrong, and St. Joseph certainly didn’t want to hand her over to the law.  His decision to divorce her quietly was made out of compassion for her.

But the angel would not leave Joseph long in doubt.  No, Mary was still the woman he thought she was, the holy child of God who had arranged to enter into a marriage with him on the agreement that they would live like brother and sister.  This child was a miraculous sign of God’s love and His great plan for the salvation of His people; this child was the promise foretold in the Garden of Eden, the one who would crush the serpent and restore the friendship between God and Man.  And Joseph was to be their earthly protectors, and act as an earthly father to the Son of God Himself!

It is hard to imagine how Joseph felt about such a huge responsibility, but we know what he did--like Mary, he immediately accepted God’s will and took on the task of raising the Christ-child.  We look to St. Joseph to teach us how to approach the Son of God in our needs and prayers.

Dec. 24
Optional Reading: Luke 2:1-5 (The Census)
Symbol: A Scroll

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.”  Luke 2:4-5

The fullness of time has come.  The hour is nearly set for the birth of the Son of God, the Savior, the Lord.  Even the secular authorities of the world have a part to play: a Roman census being taken is the reason for Joseph and Mary to make the journey to Bethlehem, to fulfill a long-ago prophecy about where the Savior will be born.

There is a hushed expectation around Christmas Eve.  The anticipation of the delights of Christmas day, the hour drawing near for the beautiful Christmas Mass, and many such things make it hard for us to wait. 

Soon, soon, Christmas Day will dawn, and all the joys of Christmas will be revealed once again.  But tonight we remember that we are still waiting for the Lord, for His second coming in power and glory; we are waiting that endless Christmas joy of Heaven when we will be in His wonderful presence forever.  The joys of Christmas are but a small taste of what wonders lie ahead for those who believe in Christ and follow Him.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 21 and 22

Dec. 21
Optional reading: Luke 1:5-17, Matthew 3:1-6
Symbol: Scallop Shell

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.  ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’  Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Matthew 3: 1-6

We have moved into the New Testament readings, and in a few days’ time will be reading the story of the birth of Jesus.  But this reading takes us a little way into the future: it is not his cousin’s birth that John the Baptist is heralding, but the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry to preach the Gospel, to suffer, die, and rise again for the forgiveness of our sins.

When Our Lord approaches John and requests baptism Himself, John objects: Jesus does not need the baptism of repentance.  But Jesus asks John to do this anyway, and the Father’s voice is heard, telling the crowd of witnesses that this is His beloved Son.

And so St. John becomes the herald of the Gospel.  Are we also heralds of the Gospel?  Do we tell others the Good News that Christ has come into the world for our salvation?  Do we live and act as though we believe the hope and promise of the Gospel message is true?

Dec. 22
Optional Reading: Luke 1:26-38 (Annunciation)
Symbol: Lily

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.’  And the angel departed from her.”

Man sinned by his own free choice.  Adam and Eve, knowing God as they did, chose to turn against him, to disobey, and to sin.  So it is fitting that in the fullness of time our salvation should also await the free choice of the new Eve; that all of Creation should hold its breath awaiting Mary’s answer to the angel.

Just like Eve, Mary had a choice.  God was not going to impose His plan of salvation upon her without her consent.  And Mary did ask for one point of clarification: since she had vowed perpetual virginity, how would this marvelous plan come about?

The angel assured her that God was already pleased with her vow of virginity; Isaiah had foretold that a virgin would conceive and bear a son whose name would be Emmanuel, or “God With Us.”  She would not bear this child in the ordinary human way, but through the power of the Holy Spirit who would overshadow her as He had once overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant.

Receiving this assurance from the angel, Mary spoke with humility, love, and total acceptance of God’s will: let this be done to me, she said.  And all of Creation could sigh in wonder, for the long-promised salvation was now truly at hand.

Mary’s “yes” to God is the most important word any human being has ever spoken.  But we, though sinful and weak, are called to imitate Mary by always saying “Yes!” to God’s will.  So can we, too, cooperate in His great plan for our salvation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 19 & 20

Dec. 19
Optional Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Symbol: Watchtower (dark brown, gray stones)

“I will take my stand to watch, and station myself on the tower, and look forth to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.  And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie.  If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.’” Habakkuk 2: 1-3

The days are growing shorter, and Christmas is fast approaching.  But like the people who awaited the Lord’s first coming, we do not know how long it will be before Christ comes again in glory.  Jesus Himself reminds us in the Gospels that we must watch for Him, and be ready.

How can we be ready for Him to come?  By preparing our hearts, by turning from sin and evil, by making a commitment to obeying His commandments and following His Church in all that she teaches in His name.  Then, like the wise virgins who filled their lamps with oil, we will be ready to greet the Bridegroom and enter into the Heavenly banquet with Him when He comes again.

Dec. 20
Optional Reading: Malachi 3:1-5, 4:1-6
Symbol: Sun of Righteousness

“‘For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root or branch.  But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.’” Malachi 4: 1-2

In this, the last reading of the Old Testament for our Jesse Tree readings, we hear a prophecy that again points as much to Christ’s second coming as to His first.  For, as Christ says, He will come again as the just judge to judge all men, to separate the good from the bad, to cause the good to sit at His right hand while the evil must depart from Him. 

We are given so many chances in our lives on earth to choose good, to turn from evil, to serve God and to refuse to remain in sin.  Yes, we are weak, but we are also not left as orphans; God pours out His grace on us through the sacramental life, and gives us everything we need.

That is why it is not inconsistent with Christian faith to believe that ultimately God may, indeed, allow those who have stubbornly and persistently chosen darkness to remain apart from Him forever, and that state of forever-separation is what we call Hell.  We do not know for certain the fate of any human being, and must pray for all to seek God, to find Him, and to rejoice in Him both in this life and forever in Heaven.  But God will not force our wills; He does not wish us to serve Him and follow Him except by our own free choice.  As this passage from Malachi points out, there will be consequences, possibly grave and dire ones, for those choices.  But if we fear the name of the Lord and follow Him in faith, we need not be afraid that we will lose sight of Him, the sun of righteousness.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 17 & 18

My sister-in-law has the last page of symbols posted on her blog!  Here they are.

Dec. 17
Optional reading: II Chronicles 36:11-21 and Jeremiah 30:23-31:14 (Babylonian captivity)
Symbol: Stalks of grain against a green oval

“Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from afar.  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!  Again you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.  Again you shall plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.”  Jeremiah 31: 2-5

Again, Israel and her leaders have done evil in God’s sight, and again, God has chastised them, this time sending them into captivity in Babylon.  Jeremiah prophecies the end of that captivity, but his words also speak of the love of God for His people, and His coming advent among them.  From the depths of His love He will send forth His Son to save them, and all of us, from our sins.

God is faithful to us, and keeps His promises, even when we don’t deserve His love.  Without His gift of faith to each of us, we would be lost.  Yet He wants us to be happy with Him forever, and always seeks us even when we turn from Him.

Dec. 18
Optional Reading: Jonah 1:1-4:11 (Jonah and the Whale)
Symbol: The Whale

“Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he made proclamations and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?’”  Jonah 3: 6-9

Is there anyone who does not know the story of Jonah, the prophet?  Jonah is given a mission by God: go to Nineveh, a city renowned for its wickedness, and preach to them a message of God’s wrath and their planned destruction.  At first, Jonah tries to flee, and ends up in the belly of the whale.  Then, Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches his message, and withdraws to a hillside to watch Nineveh get destroyed.  But the people of Nineveh repent, and do penance; God spares them.

Instead of being happy, though, Jonah is angry!  He complains to God that after all he has been through, and how reluctantly he even came to Nineveh in the first place, the least that could have happened was that God could have done as He had planned, and wiped out Nineveh.  Jonah complains even further when a plant which is giving him shade on the hillside dies--why is God humiliating him and making him suffer so?

God replies to Jonah’s complaint by saying that if Jonah can be sorry at the death of a plant he didn’t sow and didn’t tend, can’t God Himself be sorry for Nineveh, and spare them from their sin?

The story of Jonah teaches us that God expects us to be concerned for each other.  He never wants us to wish others ill.  He wants us to work tirelessly and to pray without ceasing for those who do not know Him, instead of washing our hands of them and turning away to await their destruction.  Our charity toward others reflects our Father’s will, and pleases Him.

Monday, December 10, 2012

We interrupt your Advent panic...

Yes, it is true that there are only fifteen days (and counting) until Christmas.

If you are a procrastinator like me, that thought might make you panic.

Therefore, as a public service to ease your stress today, I offer this gratuitously cute cat picture (taken by Hatchick) of our auxiliary back-up cat, Smidge:

(And if you're wondering, I did name him after the main character in my book--we just changed the spelling of his name.  It turned out to be a good choice for him, given that just like the Telmaj Smijj, our Smidge seems to have the power to disappear!)

We now return you to your Advent activities. :)

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 15 and 16

Dec. 15
Optional Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13 (Isaiah in the Temple)
Symbol: Tongs and Burning Coal

“Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.’” Isaiah 6: 6-7

With this reading we move beyond the history of the Chosen People and into the books of prophecy.  In this reading Isaiah recounts his vision of God seated upon His throne, surrounded by angels who ceaselessly cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts!”  When Isaiah’s lips are cleansed by the burning coal, he accepts the commission of God to be sent forth to tell the people what God wishes them to know.  And what God wishes them to know is that He has not forgotten His promise of salvation; soon, the time will come for the Messiah to come and save His people.

Like Isaiah we may sometimes feel that we are unworthy to tell the Good News of salvation to others.  But it is not our doing, after all.  God will work through us, however unworthy we may be, if we conform ourselves to doing His will.

Dec. 16
Optional Reading: Isaiah 8:11-9:7 (The kingship of Christ)
Symbol: Crown

“‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

This beautiful prophecy of Isaiah’s contains some of the most familiar words referring to our Lord: we hear that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, we learn that the holy one to come will take the throne of David and establish his kingdom forever.

Yet it is not an earthly king who will be born, and the power of the One Whom Isaiah foretells in these verses is not to be a temporal, worldly power.  The King of kings who will be born into the world is not going to overthrown the political enemies of Israel and establish an earthly kingdom.  Instead, His Kingship is over our souls, and His Kingdom is a heavenly one.  The first crown He will wear will be a crown of thorns and suffering; only after His Resurrection will He take His place at the right hand of the Father to reign forever.

We struggle at times to remember that the Kingdom Christ rules is not of this world.  We grow weary and impatient with the ascendency of evil.  And yet we know that Christ has already won the victory over sin and death, and when He comes again He will, indeed, come as King and as Judge in power and glory.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 13 and 14

Sorry for not posting any of these on Friday--busy weekend!

My sister-in-law has made the second set of symbols for your Jesse tree available here.

Dec. 13
Optional Reading: I Samuel 16:1-23, II Samuel 5:1-5, 7:1-17 (The story of David)
Symbol: Lyre

“‘And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies.  Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.’” 2 Samuel 7 10-13

In today’s readings we first learn how God chose David to be King, rejecting Saul who had first rejected Him; we then read about the evil spirit that tormented Saul, which was banished when David entered Saul’s service and played for him on his lyre; finally, we see the mighty King David planning to build a fitting house for the Ark of the Covenant, only to be told by God that this was not for him to do--at which point the Messianic promise of the quotes above is made.

In King David we see one of the foremost figures of Christ in the Old Testament.  It is from David’s line that the promised Messiah will be born, in the fullness of time.  Like David, the Messiah will be King over all of God’s people.

Yet the Messiah will not be an earthly King.  As Jesus Himself tells us much later in Holy Scripture, His Kingdom is not of this world.  It is the Kingdom that will endure forever, as promised by God to David of old.

Dec. 14
Optional Reading: I Kings 18: 17-39 (Elijah and the priests of Baal)
Symbol: Stone Altar

“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” I Kings 18: 38-39

In this famous story of Elijah and the priests of Baal, Elijah issues an ultimatum to the people: he will put Baal to the test, and if Baal is truly a god, then they should all follow him--but if the Lord is God, they should reject the false god Baal forever and follow the Lord.  Though the priests of Baal try for hours to make their god hear them, he does not; he is not real.  But a single prayer of Elijah’s is enough to cause the Lord to consume by fire the offering Elijah has placed upon the stone altar--and not merely the offering, but the altar itself.  The people respond with joy.

Again and again the people of Israel have turned from God to false gods or idols.  Again and again we, too, conduct ourselves as if God does not really exist or is not really important in our lives.  Yet we should avoid such sins, and say with St. Thomas the Apostle, “My Lord and my God!” when we are shown the wounds of Christ, the price He paid for the hardheartedness and sins of all mankind.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 11 and 12

Dec. 11
Optional Reading: Joshua 1:1-9, 5:13-6:20 (The Walls of Jericho)
Symbol: Gold Trumpet

“On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.  And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout; for the Lord has given you the city.’ ...  So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown.  As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.”  Joshua 6: 15-16; 20

With the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho we see that God’s promise to give His people the promised land has begun to be fulfilled.  The people of God will triumph over the people who worship false gods and, in doing so, violate many of the Ten Commandments. 

But the true promised land, our true home, is Heaven.  To enter the Eternal Kingdom we do not need to battle against enemies outside of us, but against our own temptations to sin and evil.  These temptations rise against us at times and seem as insurmountable as any army, but with the grace of God, we can prevail over them and come to the joy of eternal life and happiness with God forever.

Dec. 12
Optional Reading: Judges 2:6-16, 6:1-16, 7:1-23 (The story of Gideon and the defeat of Midian)
Symbol: A Water Jar

“So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands.  And the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Judges 7: 19-20

The people of Israel had forgotten God, and His mighty deeds, and had given themselves over to the worship of false gods.  Because of this, God allowed the Midianites to prevail over the Israelites, to destroy their crops and take their land.  But in due time God raised up the hero Gideon and showed His might by causing Gideon to drive away the army of Midian with only a few hundred men.

The power of God over the deeds of men is strong.  But His power over our sinful hearts is stronger still.  If we are faithless and turn away from God, we may not have to fear a human enemy, but we will still be in enemy hands until we return to God and seek forgiveness and mercy from Him.

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 9 and 10

Dec. 9
Optional Reading: Exodus 12:1-39 (Passover)
Symbol: A Kneading Bowl (tan oval, brown trim)

“‘It is the Lord’s passover.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.  The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 12: 12-13

There are so many echos in the story of the Passover of the One who is to come.  A spotless Lamb will be offered as the sacrifice, and His blood will be shed for the salvation of many.  Those marked with the blood of the Lamb will not perish, but live.

Christ is the true Lamb of the Pascal sacrifice.  We keep the memorial of His Death and Resurrection at every Mass.  And when we receive Him under the appearance of bread, we, like the ancient Israelites, know that we will escape death--not the death of the body, but the eternal death of the soul.

Dec. 10
Optional Reading: Exodus 19:16-20:20 (The Ten Commandments)
Symbol: Stone Tablets

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  Exodus 20: 1-3

It is fashionable in this modern age to pretend that the Ten Commandments no longer mean anything, or have any force.  But that dangerous pretense ignores the fact that Christ Himself told us He did not come to abolish the Law or the Commandments.  The Church’s moral teachings flow from this earliest code of moral law, expanding on it and applying it to our everyday lives, as Christ Himself did in His teachings.  Those who say that Christ never taught morality do not truly know Him, nor do they know the Father Who gave us these laws so very long ago, not for His benefit, but for our own.  If we would approach holiness, there is no better place to begin than to learn to keep the Commandments with attention and love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 7 and 8

Dec. 7
Optional Reading: Genesis 42:1-45:15 (The story of Joseph)
Symbol: Grain Sack

“So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near me, I pray you.’  And they came near.  And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God set me before you to preserve life.” Gen 45:4-5

The story of Joseph is one of the most powerful and moving stories of the Old Testament.  One of 12 brothers, his father’s favorite, has dreams in which he foretells his own ascendency over the rest of his family; his resentful brothers plot his death, but then sell him into slavery.  Joseph’s gift of interpreting dreams lifts him out of slavery and prison and puts him at Pharaoh's right hand; his interpretation of the dreams warning of seven years of famine assures that Egypt will come through a time that will devastate its neighbors, and Joseph becomes one of the most powerful men in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.  Then his brothers arrive, desperate to buy food--and Joseph’s dream in which he sees his brothers bowing to him comes true at last!  But there is no anger or hatred in Joseph’s heart--he sees God’s hand in everything that has happened to him.
Jesus, too, will be hidden in Egypt as a child, returning to His home nation only after Herod is dead.  And He, too, will accept the form of a slave and the death of a criminal to set us free.  If we wallow in self-hatred on the road to repentance from sin, we are pridefully refusing to be as merciful as our dear Lord, who also reminds us that He has been set before us to preserve our lives.

Dec. 8
Optional Reading: Exodus 1:1-14, 3:1-12
Symbol: The Burning Bush

“And Moses said, ‘ I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’  When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’  Then he said, ‘Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.’”  Exodus 3:3-5

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we recall that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from every stain of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception.  For Moses to be in God’s presence, he had to witness a miracle, a burning bush that was not consumed; he had to remove his shoes to approach the holy ground.  But Christ, our Emmanuel, or God With Us, would come as a helpless baby, carried in His mother’s womb.  It is fitting that God prepared Mary for this great privilege by keeping her free from sin, applying the merits of her Son’s Passion and Death on the Cross outside of time to keep her free from sin.  Like the miraculous appearance of God to Moses in the desert, the miracle of Mary’s holy and Immaculate Conception illustrates for us that God has the power over nature, over sin, and even over death itself.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 5 and 6

Sorry this is late today!  It's my birthday, so I've been celebrating. :)

Here are the Jesse Tree reflections for December 5 & 6:


Dec. 5

Optional Reading: Genesis 22:1-19
Symbol: The Ram (God tests Abraham and asks him to sacrifice his son)

“Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’  And he said, ‘Here am I.’  He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’”  Gen 22:10-12

In the story of the test of Abraham we see how strong Abraham’s faith is, that he does not refuse to give God his only son as a sacrifice.  This offering of Isaac is a prefiguring of Christ’s own Sacrifice on the Cross, when in obedience to His Father’s will He lays down His life for our salvation.  We are called to take up our own crosses to follow Him, not against our own wills, but uniting our wills to the will of the Heavenly Father in imitation of Christ, Our Lord.

Dec. 6
Optional Reading: Genesis 28: 1-17 (Jacob’s dream)
Symbol: Jacob’s Ladder

“And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!  And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.’” Gen 28: 12-14

Many early Church fathers and saints have spoken of Jacob’s ladder as a symbol of the life a Christian should live, growing in the practice of holiness and self-denial to grow closer to the heavenly perfection of the next life.  Others see Christ Himself as the Ladder, since He is both true God and true Man, the bridge that brings heaven and earth together.  Jacob’s dream is a powerful reminder to us that we do not live in a world that is only material.  In the new translation of the Nicene Creed at Mass we pray “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”  In saying these words, we profess our faith in the spiritual realities which surround us, and seek to keep present in our minds our own spiritual nature, the existence of our immortal souls which will live forever.