Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 15, 2017

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." -- John 1:29

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” — John 1:29

 

Jan. 15, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 49:3, 5-6

      Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10

      2) 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

      Gospel: John 1:29-34

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

I went to the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time at age 33 and, as a convert to Catholicism, I was surprised by a palpable sense of relief and gratitude for God’s forgiveness.

Years later, I’m finally coming to the deeper understanding that reconciliation through Christ means he has paid the ransom to free me from my sinfulness.

But how does that work exactly, I’ve wondered.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist calls us to take a hard look when he says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus’ sacrifice was for all humanity. I can see how it plays out in real life, at least symbolically. Our sinful acts are wiped away by Christ living in innocent victims of violence, oppression or discrimination when they suffer quietly and, whether through purity or willful love, harbor no resentment or desire for retribution or reparation.

But Jesus’ sacrifice is personal, too.

In college, one of my journalism classmates had cerebral palsy. I admired Rich’s perseverance and abilities particularly as a reporter for our campus newspaper. He was amazingly good at it despite his disability and never seeking special accommodations. As a fellow staffer, I occasionally advocated for him especially when he needed to interview people who were uncomfortable with his speech impediment.

But sometimes when Rich wasn’t around, I would joke with other reporters about some of his behaviors and difficulties caused by his condition. He likely sensed it all around him, but Rich never let on that he was aware of our thoughtless, shameful attitude.

To a fault, he was thoughtful and kind to me. He was an innocent, loving young man who chose to see only friendship.

In Rich, I now realize, I “behold” the Lamb of God, Christ suffering as a ransom for my sin. The person of Christ within him replaced the burden of my sin with his gifts of love and friendship.

It’s futile to try to repay such a sacrifice. I have nothing to offer that is equal to Christ. Besides, according to Psalm 40, the Lord doesn’t desire “sin-offerings.”

Instead, John suggests, he wants me to accept his gift and live through the Spirit of Jesus that I’ve received.

QUESTIONS:

In your personal experience, who has paid a ransom for your sin? How has that given you new life?

Beware of scammers trying to sell papal audience tickets, Pope Francis says

Tickets to his general audiences and his public Masses are free. Don’t be fooled, he told people at his audience today.

 

 

 

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 8, 2017

"They all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses." -- Isaiah 60:4

“They all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.” — Isaiah 60:4

 

Jan. 8, The Epiphany

Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 60:1-6

      Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-13

      2) Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6

      Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

 

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

One of the things I love most about holidays is the anticipation of gathering our whole family in one place. Multiple adult children in several different cities on two continents present quite a challenge to get together. Throw some in-laws, stepchildren, ex-spouses and new babies into the assembly, and you’ve got quite a group! At the center of it all is my mother, who rejoices when all her children come home.

As complex as the family tree has become, the varieties of relationships don’t seem to dilute the joy that permeates the holiday gathering. We’ve got relatives by blood and others by marriage. Other families have relatives by adoption — legal or otherwise.

My mother has two biological sons but she’s collected countless other “sons” along the way. Some represent ethnicities and cultures different from our own. Their presence is not merely tolerated. They’re all part of the family, and they each bring something special to the mix, even if it takes a while for some of us to discover what that distinctive gift is.

St. Paul reminds the Christian church at Ephesus of a mystery that has been revealed to him for their benefit. The Epiphany of the Lord is best understood as that kind of revelation — a sudden manifestation or a clearer understanding of something in a whole new, often life-changing way. St. Paul shares this epiphany with the church of his time: that gentile converts are not merely to be tolerated in the Christian assembly, but regarded as “coheirs” with Jewish Christians and “members of the same body.”

If we’re honest, we could admit that almost all of us in the Christian household of faith are, in fact, descended from these “gentiles.”

We’ve forgotten that we were once the outsiders; we’ve become secure, almost complacent in our identity as heirs of Christ’s promises. We need Paul’s reminder that there are still more “outsiders” being drawn to the good news of Jesus — people who don’t look like us, live like us or talk like us — whom the Lord is calling to the family gathering.

Our Father’s joy is dependent upon the welcome we extend to these brothers and sisters. Let’s roll out the welcome mat, pull up a chair and help them feel at home.

QUESTIONS:

Who around you seems to be drawn to Jesus’ light even though they are treated as outsiders? How can you welcome them into the family of God?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 1, 2017

"And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." -- Luke 2:19

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” — Luke 2:19

Jan. 1, Solemnity of Mary

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Numbers 6:22-27

      Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8

      2) Galatians 4:4-7

      Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

 

By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

For nine months after the angel Gabriel’s annunciation, Mary pondered his message about her miraculous child to be.

During that time, while visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s unborn baby leapt for joy, and Mary spoke with eloquence and humility about her understanding of God’s action in her life:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. … For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages called me blessed.”

Later when shepherds visited the manger, sharing the good news they had received during their night watch, Mary again reflected on these things in her heart.

In today’s Gospel we see Mary pondering and accepting her crucial role in the salvation of humankind. Luke’s subsequent narrative further reveals the burdens placed on her heart as the mother of Christ — and challenges us to likewise ponder and accept God’s call to each of us.

As Mary takes Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple, we recall that she was following the Mosaic law of her time — a time when Jews believed that life is governed by the Ten Commandments as written on the tablets that once were stored in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple’s innermost chamber. Now we realize Mary, as mother of God, is the new Ark of the Covenant.

Yet we know Mary’s joy was tempered when she encountered Simeon inside the Temple and he gives her something more difficult to ponder when he said, “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel … and you yourself a sword will pierce.”

For me, the challenge began while in my 20s. Feeling called to the priesthood, I consulted priests, read Thomas Merton voraciously, prayed and took frequent retreats. Eventually, the deciding factor was my fear that I could fall into spiritual arrogance as a celibate priest on a pedestal, taking pride in my sacrifices for the Lord and parishioners.

Choosing marriage has drawn me into the mystery of Mary’s simultaneous joy and fear about her Son’s destiny, challenging me to test my faith as a husband, father and ordinary guy. How would I handle working hard for a living, possibly losing a job or having a sick or handicapped child?

Accepting God’s call to marriage and the diaconate has allowed me to follow Mary as a grateful, lowly servant praising God.

QUESTION:

Crying out Abba, Father, how can I replace my tendency to control with trust in the Lord?

Most popular print stories for 2016

By Jim Lackey

Well, this might be a surprise! Or maybe not. Our list below of the year’s most popular print stories looks nothing like our list of most popular video stories for 2016.

But if we’ve learned anything in the last seven or eight years that we’ve been supplying video stories to our clients, print storytelling and video storytelling are like the proverbial apples and oranges — each appealing in different ways to different types of news consumers.

Following is our list of most-read print stories, according to our mobile-friendly public site, “CNS top stories.”

Actor Jim Caviezel pays his respects at the casket of Mother Angelica before her April 1 funeral Mass. (CNS/Jeffrey Bruno, EWTN)

Actor Jim Caviezel pays his respects at the casket of Mother Angelica before her April 1 funeral Mass. (CNS/Jeffrey Bruno, EWTN)

1. Homily: ‘God was full of surprises when it came to Mother Angelica’

2. For Catholic astronauts, flying to space doesn’t mean giving up the faith

3. Pope announces 17 new cardinals, including three from U.S.

4. Christians should apologize for helping to marginalize gays, pope says

5. Final resting place: Vatican releases instruction on burial, cremation

6. Pope offers red hat to priest whose story moved him to tears

Pope Francis arrives for Mass in Malmo, Sweden, Nov. 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives for Mass in Malmo, Sweden, Nov. 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)

7. Pope offers new beatitudes for saints of a new age

8. Military mantra, Catholic faith drove terminally ill woman to meet the pope

9. Pope meets parents of U.S. student found dead in Rome

10. Pope snaps at pilgrim who caused him to fall into boy in wheelchair

11. Pope Benedict denies latest rumors about Fatima ‘secret’

12. Catholic Church never likely to ordain women, pope says

 

Most popular CNS video stories in 2016

By Jim Lackey

It’s the end of the year and, like it or not, you’re getting flooded with top story picks for 2016.

We’ll make this easy on you: These are the top 12 most-viewed video stories on our YouTube channel for the past 12 months. Skim through these and see if you missed seeing any.

And remember, these aren’t the choices of editors in some ivory tower inside the Beltway — they’re the stories you picked by watching them!

(P.S.: Check out our most popular print stories for 2016 as well!)

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Which one is your favorite?

Dominican friars bring Christmas joy to streets of Washington

Dominican friars sing carols Dec. 23 on steps outside Smithsonian American Art Museum. (CNS photo/Julie Asher)

Dominican friars sing  carols Dec. 23 in downtown Washington. (CNS photo/Julie Asher)

WASHINGTON (CNS) –- Amid the hustle and bustle of last-minute holiday shoppers, long lines of Capitals hockey fans waiting to get into the game, restaurant-goers and various street performers, a large group of  Dominican friars — accompanied by drum, guitars and banjo — spread some Christmas joy last night with their caroling on the steps outside the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in downtown Washington.

Passers-by are “always positive. We’ve never had a negative response,” said Dominican Brother Timothy Danaher, who is in his sixth year with the religious order. He is studying for the priesthood at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington’s Brookland neighborhood, near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The idea to take their singing to the streets started five years ago, Brother Timothy said, when the Dominicans were thinking of ways to evangelize, “especially outside the chapel walls.” And “we live right near the Metro (subway), so why not take Metro down and carol?”

The goal is twofold, he told Catholic News Service: “First and foremost is to do something that’s beautiful and gives people joy and to do that simply” — and be a Christian witness. “The second thing is to create conversation.”

In a city it’s especially hard to engage folks in conversation, Brother Timothy added, but with music, especially songs that people know,  people stop to listen. Other religious men and women join the Dominicans. Some of them sing carols with the friars but others join those Dominicans who are their to mingle with the crowd.

zzdominciansalbumcoverOn Monday the Dominican brothers were joined by a couple of  Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who are studying in Washington. Last night the friars were joined by Capuchin Franciscans from Capuchin College, also in the Brookland neighborhood.

And the friars’ singing isn’t limited to street performances. The Schola of the Dominican House of Studies just recorded its fourth CD, titled “Christ Was Born to Save,” with Christmas carols old and new. This CD, Brother Timothy said, was recorded in another Washington religious landmark in the neighborhood — the church at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land — with the recording expertise of Dominican Brother Justin Bolger, a singer/songwriter. Information on the CD can be found online at Dominicana journal. It can be purchased at CD Baby or on iTunes. Proceeds go to support the Dominicans’ studies.