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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Teach Me

 A Reflection on Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 
By: Larry T 

According to non-canonical sources Joseph was born in Bethlehem in 90 B.C. and is thought to have died in 18 A.D. Biblical scholars generally fix the year of Jesus’ birth at 6 or 7 B.C. So Joseph could have been eighty something when Jesus was born. By all accounts Joseph, a descendant of King David, was a righteous and compassionate man, a devout observer of Mosaic Law, and known to be a man of profound faith. 

Jewish maidens were considered marriageable at the age of twelve years and six months, though the actual age of the bride varied with circumstances. By most accounts Mary was fourteen at the time of her betrothal to Joseph. By mutual consent and understanding between the spouses, Mary was to be a virgin, so her pregnancy would have astonished and shocked Joseph. Since the mystery of the Incarnation hadn’t yet been revealed to him, Mary’s condition presented him with a dreadful decision. On one hand she was clearly guilty of adultery, and if he exposed her scandalous pregnancy she would have been stoned to death. On the other hand stoning was a slow torturous death; he couldn’t bear the thought of it, so he decided to divorce her quietly. But, the Lord had other plans for him.

20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord  appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.”
- Mt 1:20-21 N.A.B

Joseph’s fidelity to God was sorely tested by this dream. He could have easily ignored it and continued with his plan to divorce Mary quietly, but, with Abram-like faith in God, Joseph took her into his home.

Herod’s fury at the deception of the magi put Joseph’s trust and devotion to God to yet another test.

13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
14 Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
– Mt 2:13, 14 N.A.B.

And just as Abram before him heeded God’s call to leave his home in Haran and travel to the land of Canaan (Gen 12:4-6 N.A.B.), Joseph heeded God’s command to flee with Mary and the infant Jesus to safety in Egypt.

15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” - Mt 2:15 N.A.B.

The Lord had yet more directions for his obedient servant.

19 When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt
20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.
23 He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”
– Mt 2:19-23 N.A.B.

Mary was most likely born in Jerusalem, though some theologians insist on Bethlehem or Sephoris (about three miles north of Bethlehem). She was the daughter of Joachim and Anne. Joachim belonged to the royal family of David, and Anne was a descendant of the priestly family of Aaron. It’s for this reason that Jesus is said to have come from both a royal and priestly family.  

The childless Joachim and Anne had prayed long and hard for the gift a child, and when Mary came they presented her to the Lord in the Temple. Our Church celebrates the Presentation as a revelation of Mary’s total dedication to God’s service and obedience to His will. Some early Church Fathers wrote that Mary was three years old at the time of the Presentation and that she remained in the Temple to be educated with other children. There she also made a vow of virginity and enjoyed ecstatic visions and daily visits of the holy angels.  

Why would she consent to marry Joseph when she had made a vow of virginity? Mary must have had implicit trust in the Divine guidance that she had received, and therefore was certain that her vow would be kept even in her married state.  

Her “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” shouldn’t be a surprise considering her background.

34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
37 for nothing will be impossible for God.”
38 Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
– Lk 1:34-38 N.A.B.

Her virgin pregnancy was another matter. How could she explain it to Joseph? The penalty for adultery was stoning, so her life was in imminent danger. She wouldn’t be able to conceal her condition for long. If Joseph didn’t report it, her neighbors and relatives were certain to do so.  

How much trust in God did it take to sustain her through the trials of the birth of Jesus, the desperate flight to Egypt, and return to Nazareth? Can we even begin to comprehend the devotion to God it must have taken for Mary to stand at the foot of the cross, watching in silence and horror, as her son suffered the most punishing death the Romans could devise.  

The Holy Family faced untold hardships on their hasty flight to the safety of Egypt. But their combined faith and trust in God enabled them to prevail over danger and overcome unimaginable difficulties. We also know that they didn’t have much money because on the eighth day following the birth of Jesus, when Joseph and Mary went up to the Temple to present him to the Lord, their sacrificial offering was a pair of birds. This suggests that they couldn’t afford to buy an animal for the sacrifice, a sign that they were poor (Lv 12:6 N.A.B.). 

On this Sunday as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we might ask ourselves what they have to teach us. Is there a greater example of faith and trust in God for us to imitate? Do we need a better illustration of how trust in the Lord can give us the strength to overcome hardship and persevere in the face of adversity? Who can deny that God’s Holy Family was comprised of a man, a woman, and a child?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


(a reflection on Matthew 1:18-24, 4th Advent A)
by: Deacon Paul Rooney

 "When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus."

Joseph’s response to God can lead us in many, many directions, but today I would like to focus on just two points.  The context, of course, is Joseph’s humble submission of his will to God’s will in all things, which is what one would expect of someone called "righteous."

There is a Dominican mystic from the 14th century that is often quoted, because his words capture so well our own participation in this process of submitting to God's will.  His name is Meister Eckhart, and he asks the questions that we all ought to consider.  First he asks: “What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?”  Both Mary’s “Yes” (that brought Christ to the world), and Joseph's "Yes" (that gave a perfect example of unconditional trust in God)—those two events are not just “memory events” (such as recalling that Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan set records to remember).  Instead, they ought to lead us to ponder how to imitate them: how can I bring Christ to the daily world that I live in and participate in?  Do I reflect Christ in what I say and do?

A second question that Meister Eckhart asks: “What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son . . . does not take place within myself?”  When God comes to dwell within us at our Baptism, we are empowered to live the Christ-life, one oriented to loving God and Neighbor.  Do I see that orientation in my own heart, or am I still oriented to selfishness?  Do I humbly submit to all of the teachings of the Church, or do I pick and choose?

In summary: like Joseph and Mary, have I truly given an unqualified “Yes” to Jesus in my own life?  Is the submission of my will to God unconditional?

St. Joseph, patron of family life, pray for us!

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Friday, December 13, 2013


Joy!  That is the message this Sunday.  We light the pink candle, and we look to our joyous celebration of Christ’s birth as well as to His second coming, which we wait for amidst the groaning labor pains of all creation. Even in suffering our joy is at hand. 

This is why I love Enya’s version of O Come, O come Emmanuel.  It has that soft mournful tone of a world that is subjected to futility, a world that longs for redemption.  And echoing in the background, as if from somewhere outside of time you hear: Rejoice! Gaudete!

And we need to know that our rejoicing is not a glib refusal to accept the harsh realities of our day, but an enduring hope that we can indeed reject the concerns of the flesh, which lead to death, and receive the Spirit of God, which is not enslaved by fear:  "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'" Romans 8:15

We received this through Christ who came with power and strength as a baby, born into a family.  Who came and touched individuals, those who yearned for redemption.  Do you yearn?  Every candle we light during Advent should increase our yearning. Pray for that, and you will begin to perceive the joy that is always present in His Kingdom.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers,and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD,the splendor of our God.Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Advent blessings to all!

I decided to add a video of my daughter singing in the Wayne State Madrigal choir's Celtic Advent Carol...I apologize for the late start and the shaky camera work (I was holding an infant).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Reflections for Sunday, December 8 --  The Second Sunday of Advent

By: Judy Morss

For those of you who keep the tradition of the Advent Wreath, we light the second candle today. Candles one, two and four are purple in color. The first candle which we lit last Sunday is called the prophet's candle and it symbolizes hope. We think of Isaiah, the Prophet, who foresaw the coming of our Messiah.  The second candle is known as the Bethlehem candle and it symbolizes faith and preparation as we prepare for the coming of Jesus. The third candle is pink/rose in color and is lit on Gaudete Sunday. The priest wears rose colored vestments; my priest laughingly tells us that he is "pretty in pink." This candle is called the shepherd's candle and symbolizes the joy that was proclaimed by the angels when Jesus was born. The fourth candle is called the angel's candle and symbolizes peace and love when Jesus came to earth.  Some churches and families add a fifth candle, a white candle.  This candle is lit on Christmas Eve and is known as Christ's candle.  The Advent Wreath can be a wonderful symbol of our Advent journey as we move closer and closer to the beautiful gift from God, the birth of our Savior.

Today's gospel is taken from Mathew 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism,
he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Advent indeed is a time of waiting, of hope and of preparation. Just as John the Baptist, we are crying out in the desert. We are looking and longing for something. Often we don't know what we are looking for; we just know that we have a hole that cries out to be filled. The Baptist reminds us that we need to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God -- Christ himself. We should be focused on "making straight His paths." We often wander about in the darkness or in dim light, not sure where we are going or what we have as our objective. It is so easy to get involved in the preparation of Christmas and lose sight of the wonder that is before us. In order to straighten my path, I need to ask God for forgiveness and hope. If I focus on the holiday instead of the Holy Day, then I wait for Christ in vain. When I spend more quiet time with Him, I begin to see in the birth of Jesus what He really means in my life and what He gives me. Through His love, my life can bloom and flourish. I can indeed make a straight path for Him to enter directly into my heart. May the season of Advent draw you closer and closer to our Savior and as you light another candle each week, may your straight path become brighter and brighter.

With peace and love,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

"I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013

sponsored by the Catholic Bloggers Network.

Be sure to visit as many links as possible,

listed at the bottom of this post.

Trusting in Your Awkward Fiats

“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may instruct us in his ways,

and we may walk in his paths.”

It is Advent!  What is your plan for you and your family?  What sort of prayers will you say? What gifts of charity will you prepare for the Christ child?  How will you awaken wonder and awe for the first coming of Christ in yourself and your family? How will this Advent make His voice more recognizable to you and your children, so that you are prepared for His second coming in glory, so that you can alert others? What part of the secular celebrations will you take part in, what will you let go of?

Are you overwhelmed yet?

Last year a popular blogger asked her readers to share epic Advent failures.  I have had a few of those myself. What I have discovered is that, when I persevere in family prayer, even my epic Advent failures have produced fruit, though I did not know it at the time.

One year, in addition to the traditional prayers and hymns around our Advent wreath, I wrapped an empty box for Baby Jesus that the children were to fill with little slips of paper describing their hidden acts of kindness and charity.  They were gifts for Baby Jesus.  Within in a week it was tattered and torn, shoved to the back of a shelf. I presumed it was already forgotten in the flurry of activities. Epic Advent Fail!

But on Christmas Day I opened it and to my surprise, it was full of little slips of paper, mostly written by my Junior High aged children.  I had forgotten to "promote" or "hype' that activity, but the children knew it was there.  They did not need me to make it exciting and fun, they needed me to open the door to Him.  How did I open the door?  Through our family prayers and Scripture readings.

In fact, a few years later that Christmas was bought up. That activity had placed a seed in one particular child's heart that has begun to grow; it is still remembered.  The gifts he received that year are completely forgotten, the gift of awakening to Christ's coming was still in his heart.  Let me remind you, that activity was one I considered and Epic Advent Fail!

In reality, it was not the activity so much as it was the family prayer time that kept Christ in Christmas. The activity was fruitful only through the relationship that was present by finding Christ in His Word and in His Church.

photo by Heidi Knofczynski
Celebrating Advent with unsorted socks all around us.
Don't worry how your prayer time looks, just do it!  Ours does not resemble anything one might describe as pious (think more of a three ring circus). Many nights our Advent prayers feel distracted and poorly done – what with the fire hazard and little children who are fighting over whose turn it is to blow out the candles and the older, sulky children who have piles of homework to do -- there are often a lot of side bars during our prayer time (which may or may not include a parent who has lost all patience and finds him or herself screeching at the children in a not so peace-on-earth way). And, all too often I feel our Advent prayer time is hastily done; the holiday activities make for later evenings and children must be put to bed. Mom and Dad need to have a little time to chill, maybe even with a glass of wine (We do! We really, really do!).

Who could possibly be getting anything out of it!!  Don't quit, muddle through!

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
muddling through

In the wilderness I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers. Isaiah 43:19

It takes a firm hope that our time spent in praying the Scriptures with the children -- a sort of  fumbling and awkward fiat our family gives, will be enough. We see through the glass darkly, it is difficult to recognize His movements in our efforts to bring Christ into our Christmas preparations. Give Him your fiat anyway, read from your Bible and light the candles, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  Open the door and prepare the way for Christ!  He is coming!

Peace and Grace to all, Heidi

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