Pope’s homily for Christmas Mass

The faith we proclaim tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors.

This same faith impels us to make space for a new social imagination, and not to be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship, in which none have to feel that there is no room for them on this earth. Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity. The charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice, as if it were something natural, but that has the courage, amid tensions and conflicts, to make itself a “house of bread”, a land of hospitality. That is what Saint John Paul II told us: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”.

In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:35-36). “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.

Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.

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The Birth of Jesus Foretold

Luke 1:26-38 New International Version (NIV)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Annunciation

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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Christmas 7-Day Bible Reading Plan

Use this 7-day Bible reading plan to help you focus on the meaning of Christmas; the coming of our Savior as a baby.

[See and sign up for Bible Gateway’s Bible reading plans]

Click each Bible reference to read the passage on Bible Gateway:

 

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Reflection for Advent Week 3

Mary’s Impossible Dream

In the musical “Man of La Mancha,” when Dulcinea asks Don Quixote what it means to “follow his quest,” he responds by singing “The Impossible Dream.” Mary, who awaited the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago just as we do this Advent, could have written the song. She certainly lived it.

Imagine how young Mary—probably no more than 15 or 16 years old—must have felt upon receiving the news that the impossible was about to take place within her, that she would give birth to the Savior. How could she tell her betrothed, Joseph? What would her family think? Who would believe her?

“Do not be afraid, Mary,” the angel says to her. “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:30, 37). We know the rest of the story. The impossible was indeed made possible, not only at the birth of Jesus, but in the many miracles he performed, and most of all at his Resurrection. If God could accomplish all this, imagine what God can do in your own life. Advent is the season for imagining what is possible, for dreaming new dreams, for hoping beyond hope.

But it is also the season when hope can be hardest to find, dreams hardest to believe. The days draw short, the nights are long and the air turns. Expenses may loom at a time when resources are scarce. Separation, grief, loneliness, and depression are no strangers to the season. Hope may be in short supply during this time. We need Mary’s inspiring example of courage and trust in the face of uncertainty more than ever.

Mary can’t guarantee us a smooth ride, however. Look at her own difficult journey: first, she had to travel to Bethlehem late in her pregnancy (Luke 2:1–6). Have you ever tried riding a donkey? Now imagine doing so nine month’s pregnant! Later, she had to flee to Egypt with Joseph and the baby when their lives were in danger (Matthew 2:13–23).

Nor can Mary promise us a season free of anxiety and worry. Imagine how she must have worried about what was ahead for her beloved child as his messianic destiny was revealed to her, first by shepherds who left her pondering the news in her heart (Luke 2:16–19), then at the Temple by the prophet Simeon, who spoke to her of the sorrowful times ahead: “A sword will pierce your soul too” (Luke 2:22–35).

What Mary can offer us is a remarkable and inspiring example of courage in the face of adversity, patience in the face of uncertainty, and hope beyond hope that the impossible is indeed possible.

Mary stood with her son as he was crucified (John 19:25–27); she stood with his fearful followers who huddled after his death (Acts 1:13–14). She knew that the story wasn’t over yet. And she was right.

Our story isn’t finished, either, no matter what challenges or wounds burden us this season. All things remain possible with God. This is the miracle of Advent. We can once again dream the impossible dream—and reach the unreachable star.

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Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

St. Juan Diego, a humble Aztec peasant, saw the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Hill of Tepeyac near present-day Mexico City on December 9, 1531, the feast of the Immaculate Conception at the time. After a request by the bishop to prove her identity, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to gather the roses which he found growing on the hill, which were neither native to the area nor in season, and take them to the bishop. Juan Diego did so and placed the roses in his tilma (or cloak). Upon opening the tilma to reveal the miraculous roses to the bishop, there was something even more miraculous present—an image of the Virgin Mary dressed as a pregnant Aztec princess. The various design elements on the tilma read like a codex to the Aztecs, revealing to them the truth of the Catholic faith preached by the missionary priests. Millions quickly converted to the Catholic Church as a result. This apparition and image is venerated under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the first Marian apparition in the New World, and the only one where Our Lady produced an image of herself. The perfectly preserved tilma is venerated at her basilica and shrine in Mexico City. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas, the New Evangelization, and unborn children. Her feast day is December 12th.


 


Read More: The Woman Who Changed the Face of a Hemisphere

Las Vegas Catholic Worker

Compassionate Hearts, Mystical Body

Six pots boil away on the stove; it’s my morning to cook! A new Fettuccine Alfredo recipe demands more of my focus. Still, I’m aware of the volunteer arrivals. Conversations and greetings spill in and I recognize familiar voices and notice newcomers.

Miraculously, without much coordination on most mornings, enough volunteers arrive before dawn to participate in our mission of providing a hot meal for a few hundred homeless men, women and sometimes children.

Our volunteers trek from all parts of the city. Many are Catholic, some are from other faith traditions and some not claiming any religious affiliation at all. They are all ages: parents with young children, retirees, college students and teenage youth groups. They come from varied life experiences: teachers, doctors, social workers, artists, peace activists and seekers.

Looking about the circle, gathered hand-in-hand in prayer before venturing out to serve the morning feast, I am often struck by the spectrum of diversity. People who are unlikely to cross paths and converse are in this moment standing side-by-side, ready to transcend any illusion of our separateness for the greater purpose at hand.

A mystical body is being formed as we are willing to move together into the zone of the suffering reality with vulnerable, compassionate hearts. A mystical body that not only coexists but coalesces to manifest and mirror the divine light present in all life.

The miracle of what happens at the Catholic Worker may be that the multitudes are fed. And with your help we have done this consistently for over thirty-two years. Yet I offer that in this historic moment another dimension of the Catholic Worker way becomes especially relevant. In a time where many are defaulting to a stance of hatred, intolerance, fear and divisiveness, we stay committed to the vision of Gospel love and nonviolence. We aim to provide a place for the many members of this broken body to find hope and healing in working together for the well being of the lost and forgotten. We need your financial kindness to continue our ministry here on the streets of Las Vegas.

PayPal will pay 101% of donations made to the Las Vegas Catholic Worker in December. See our website: www.lvcw.org

Las Vegas Catholic Worker
500 W. Van Buren Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89106-3039


PLEASE JOIN US:

  • Wednesday-Saturday, 6:00 a.m.: Morning prayer at Catholic Worker.
  • Wednesday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.: Breakfast served to 150-200 poor & homeless people.
  • Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Hospitality Day, we invite 20 homeless men home for showers, to wash clothes and for a great lunch.
  • Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Vigil for Peace in front of Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
  • Thursday, 10:30 a.m.: 50 lunches taken to the homeless.
  • Second Saturday of the month: Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast to the homeless.
  • Third Saturday of the month: Deliver food boxes to homes in need.

Las Vegas Catholic Worker
500 W. Van Buren Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89106-3039
(702) 647-0728 ~ mail@lvcw.org ~ www.lvcw.org

Reflection for Week 2 of Advent

Out in the Wilderness

Something big was about to happen, but then John the Baptist had been expecting something unusual. He had heard stories about the time before he was born, how he had come onto the scene long after his parents thought children would be part of their lives. Both his mother Elizabeth and his father Zechariah, a priest, had received messengers—though his father did not at first believe what was happening—who made surprising promises that John would take after the prophet Elijah.

John “grew and became strong in spirit,” and in time he embraced his calling to be a prophet with a passion and headed out to the wilderness.

He even looked the part. With his camel’s hair clothes, leather belt, and a diet of locusts and wild honey, he was the spitting image of Elijah. And he had a prophet’s message: to call people back to God. “Repent,” he said—let your heart be changed, turn your life around—“for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Go down into the waters of baptism and come up a new person. Know you are forgiven.

Then came the moment John’s whole life had been heading toward. He realized one was “coming after me” who was “more powerful than I.” He even started denying he was the prophet he acted so much like. I’m not Elijah, or the Messiah, he said. The real Messiah was on his way.

John didn’t recognize Jesus at first when he showed up at the Jordan River to be baptized. But when Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and God’s presence came down like the Spirit of God that had swept over the waters at the creation of the world. And if anyone there needed any further persuading, a voice from above was heard to say, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

john baptize jesus

John had completed his work. He had made straight the paths for the way of the Lord.

It’s Advent. Jesus is near. With the rest of the people of God you are out in the wilderness waiting for him to appear. How can you make straight the paths of your own life? Be open to a change of heart, to letting yourself be turned in a new direction. To what new roles—perhaps unexpected ones—does your life, like John’s, point? Could it be to bring some forgiveness and peace to yourself, your family, your friends, your coworkers, the world?

The answers may be hidden just beneath the waters, waiting to surface.

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