Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Dec. 20, 2015

"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." -- Luke 1:45

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” — Luke 1:45


Dec. 20, Fourth Sunday of Advent

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Micah 5:1-4a

Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

2) Hebrews 10:5-10

Gospel: Luke 1:39-45


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

In May of 1986 I started work as the youth minister of my parish. Later that year when plans were drawn up for a new parish hall, I was promised a youth room with all the bells and whistles of modern design. I was excited but, as often happens in a growing parish, the plans were put on hold until the church could raise the necessary funding.

Along the way, other priorities intervened and the planned facility with the promised youth room was delayed. Finally, 20 years later, the new hall including a state-of-the-art youth room was opened. That experience came to mind as I was reading this week’s Gospel when Elizabeth says to her cousin Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

To be sure, the promise of a room dedicated to youth ministry pales in comparison to the promise of the coming of the savior of the world, but it reminds me that promises made and promises kept are a huge part of our life and faith.

In our human life there are many promises. Parents promise to be there for their children, and there is an implicit promise that the children will grow up and leave some day. Siblings and friends have an inherent promise to have each other’s backs and to love each other through good and bad times.

In our life of faith the church promises to be faithful and provide the sacraments, and the Scriptures are full of promises. In addition to the promise mentioned in the Gospel, the prophet Micah offers background for the promise that later is fulfilled in Mary when he states that from Bethlehem there shall come a ruler whose origin is from of old.

Micah lived around the year 700 B.C. That means that through him God made a promise that took 700 years to be fulfilled. This makes my 20-year wait for a dedicated youth space seem like nothing.

Sometimes it may seem that God is slow in keeping his promises, but as sure as a youth room would come to fruition at my parish, ever surer is the hope that God will fulfill all that he has promised.


What promises have you made that have yet to be fulfilled? How have God’s promises been fulfilled in your life?

Catholic colleges, universities make top 100 of Kiplinger’s best bang for the buck

Kiplinger announced its annual Top College Value ranking of U.S. colleges and universities where students get the best payoff for the investment they make in four years of tuition and other costs. Kiplinger bases the ranking on a combination of quality of education (55%) and financial measures (45%).

It should come as no surprise that schools with high academic standards and ability to put considerable money around students — thanks to healthy endowments and financial aid practices — should fare better than schools that aren’t that fortunate. In the financials, Kiplinger factors in such things as tuition, need-based financial aid and median starting salaries upon graduation.

University of Notre Dame graduates at a commencement ceremony. (CNS file photo)

University of Notre Dame graduates at a commencement ceremony. (CNS file photo)

After looking at a field of 1,200 schools, Princeton, Harvard, Vanderbilt, Rice, Yale and Duke top the list. No surprise there.

How did Catholic colleges and universities fare this year? Pretty well. One-quarter of the Top 100 list is populated by Catholic higher education institutions. Here is how they ranked:

16 – University of Notre Dame

17 – Georgetown University

19 – Boston College

30 – Santa Clara University

33 – Creighton University

35 – Villanova University

42 – Gonzaga University

45 – Franciscan University of Steubenville

51 – University of Portland

55 – University of Dayton

57 – Marist University

58 – St. Louis University

60 – Marquette University

66 – University of San Diego

69 – Providence College

70 – Rockhurst University

71 – Duquesne University

72 – Loyola Marymount University

75 – Loyola University Chicago

81 – Fairfield University

83 – Fordham University

86 – St. Michael’s College

87 – University of St. Thomas

89 – Loyola University Maryland

96 – St. Bonaventure University

100 – Xavier University, Cincinnati

So, as your high school junior is beginning to think of where to go to college, those are 25 that give you a good bang for the buck.



Voices from the creation debate

By Robert Duncan
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic News Service’s Junno Arocho Esteves posted a story today to our wire service explaining a new online course sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture that digs deep into the question of how scientific inquiry and faith in God are compatible. Here’s a sample:

A 1635 portrait of astronomer Galileo Galilei by Dutch painter Justus Sustermans. (CNS/Reuters)

A 1635 portrait of astronomer Galileo Galilei by Dutch painter Justus Sustermans. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Creationism vs. evolution, scientific method vs. ethics, science vs. faith, the church’s censure and rehabilitation of Galileo Galilei. For centuries, there have been countless confusion and arguments pitting science against faith as if they were two opposing forces.

In the hopes of dispelling lingering myths and misunderstandings, one ecclesiastical institute has launched a unique online course explaining the compatible roles religion and science play in seeking meaning and knowledge in today’s world.

Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the “Science and Faith in Dialogue” program is run by the Theological Faculty of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, and it seeks to bridge the gap between science and faith through education.


To help our audiences get a taste of how the so-called science-vs.-faith debate is playing out in the public square, we recently interviewed experts who are associated with contrasting approaches to the subject.

We spoke to Janet Soskice, a Cambridge University scholar of religion and science who argues for a metaphorical interpretation of Genesis and God-guided evolution. We also spoke to Dominican Father Michael Chaberek who has recently published book on the history of the debate called “Catholicism and Evolution: A History from Darwin to Pope Francis.”

Also included in the video is young-earth creationist Hugh Owen, arguing for a strict literal interpretation of Genesis. Finally, we chose to include Gerald Schroeder, an MIT-trained Orthodox Jewish scientist who claims that the Bible and science recount the same truth in different languages.

We hope you enjoy diving into the debate!

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Dec. 13, 2015

"Shout for joy … the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear." -- Zephaniah 3:14-15

“Shout for joy … the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” — Zephaniah 3:14-15


Dec. 13, Third Sunday of Advent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Zephaniah 3:14-18a

      Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6

      2) Philippians 4:4-7

      Gospel: Luke 3:10-18


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Recently I was invited to lead a discussion on evangelization as part of a faith formation series hosted by a local group of Catholic young adults.

But as people arrived for that evening’s session, their informal conversations were all focused on a fatal shooting that had occurred in our small city earlier in the day. The entire community was shocked and in mourning, and this group felt particularly connected to the tragedy because the two victims were their peers: young people in their 20s, just starting out in promising careers, committed relationships and happily anticipating what lies ahead.

So the group began the gathering with an earnest prayer for these young adults and their families and friends. Later, as we talked about Christ’s call to all of us to go and make disciples, I prompted the group to consider what motivated them, personally, to evangelize. “Why do you want to share the Gospel and encourage others to live this life of Jesus?” I asked.

One participant, Joe, began his response simply, “To make the world a better place.”

Then he went deeper: “If everyone was caring and loving, if everyone lived the way of Jesus, with concern and compassion for everyone else, imagine how different humanity would be. Imagine what life would be like. There wouldn’t be such terrible things as what happened today.”

This third Sunday of Advent calls us to joyful expectation. It calls us to anticipate the coming of Christ to humanity. It calls us to imagine, as Joe does, life fully infused by the spirit of Jesus.

In Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist reminds us also to prepare the way for it. The crowd asks, “What should we do?” John exhorts them to treat everyone justly and with dignity. Additionally, today’s readings tell us to spread the life of Christ. “Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds,” the prophet Isaiah says, and Paul tells the Philippians, “Your kindness should be known to all.”

In effect, live and proclaim Jesus’s Gospel. Joe said it can transform humanity. Zephaniah said it will.

“Fear not,” he prophesied, “the Lord, your, God is in your midst, a mighty savior.” Live Jesus’ life. Spread his message. Expect joy.


How can you prepare the way for Jesus to live within and among the people you know and encounter every day?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Dec. 6, 2015

"Prepare the way of the Lord." -- Luke 3:4c

“Prepare the way of the Lord.” — Luke 3:4c

Dec. 6, Second Sunday of Advent

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Baruch 5:1-9

Psalm 126:1-6

2) Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Gospel: Luke 3:1-6


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

In the Gospel reading, John addresses the central theme of his preaching in quoting the prophet Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled. … The winding roads shall be made straight … and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

His words seem to echo those of the prophet Baruch in the Old Testament reading for this week. The prophets are saying, “Look out world, God is about to do something new, and it’s for you. In fact, it will be the very salvation of God!”

When we think of Jesus coming into the world, which is what we’re supposed to be doing during Advent, it can get to be pretty abstract. But my own family’s experience was that when Jesus came into my father’s world and my father, at age 16, accepted him as his savior, it all became very concrete.

My dad told stories of what his life was like as a child growing up in his home. It was very different from my own childhood experience.

His father would stay out all night, gambling and carousing, arriving home at dawn. One story had my grandmother chasing my grandfather around the kitchen with a butcher knife, intending to do him harm. Fortunately she didn’t, but not for lack of trying.

The church where my father came to know the Lord is also where he met my mother in a Sunday school class. The rest, as they say, is history. My father became an elder and a deacon in his Presbyterian church, and as a child I almost never missed a Sunday service.

My father would understand the words of Paul quoted in the reading from Philippians: “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception.”

But if Jesus had not come into our world, had he not brought the very salvation of God, the words never would have been written, and a degree of love the world never before had known would not have come to us to shape us in his person, the very substance of love and mercy.


How has the coming of Jesus into the world made a difference in your family’s history?

CNS keeps the peace

By Jim Lackey

Did you know we played a role in protecting Pope Francis on his recently concluded trip to Africa?

Pope Francis visits a refugee camp in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis visits a refugee camp in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

OK, so maybe that’s not the same CNS.

Still, it was surprising that on the pope’s last stop, in Bangui, Central African Republic, CNS was there policing some of the crowds. Just check out the helmets.

Police patrol at Barthelemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic,where Pope Francis celebrated Mass Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Police patrol at Barthelemy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass Nov. 30. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Turns out that in Bangui, CNS stands for “Compagnie Nationale de Sécurité,” a national police force.

Fortunately, we don’t need those guns to do our jobs. But one of those helmets sure would be nice the next time one of our reporters has to cover some world trouble spot.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Nov. 29, 2015

"Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." -- Luke 21:36

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” — Luke 21:36


Nov. 29, First Sunday of Advent

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Jeremiah 33:14-16

      Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14

      2) 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

      Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

I was driving on an interstate highway one day with my daughter. We were chatting away when she interrupted the conversation to point out a highway patrol car parked among some trees in the median a good distance ahead. “You see the cop up there, don’t you?” she said, indicating I should probably slow down.

Indeed, I started to touch the brakes but then smiled and cut my eyes at her. “Seriously?” I asked with a slight tone of sarcasm. She looked at me and burst into laughter, “Oh, right.”

We both knew I’ve been driving “like a grandma” (slow) since I was 15. I’m not as attentive to watching for hidden patrol cars as she is. But I don’t have to be, because I so rarely drive over the speed limit.

The fact is I’ve never believed I was a very good driver, so I’ve always been overly cautious behind the wheel. It’s not so much that I’m conscientious about following the rules as it is that I’m extra-sensitive to risking the safety of everybody else on the road.

Too bad I’m not equally conscientious about how my attention to following the Father’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings affect everybody else around me. But that’s what God desires — of me and all of us.

The Scriptures for this first Sunday of Advent call us to constantly, faithfully follow God’s ways, because in this way we help open the world to God’s presence, both now and at the end of time.

Paul explained in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all … so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God.”

When we do stand before God, it will be our own failure to be faithful that will “catch you by surprise like a trap,” Jesus told his disciples.

God doesn’t hide among the trees in the median waiting to catch us for breaking his commandments. Instead, he wants us to “be vigilant” ourselves, so that our own lives always enhance the life of the world so it is worthy of God’s presence.


What kinds of daily distractions or inattention to faithfulness to Christ do you need to be more vigilant about? How do you believe God sees you standing before him right now?


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