December 20, 2017 – Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Advent

Dear faithful readers of “Scratchpad Reflections,”

I’m sorry that the computer system for blog.stdominics.org experienced a breakdown and was not able to show the posts for the past few days.  It seems to be up and running at this time and I will post the reflection for 12/21/17 later this afternoon.

Thanks for your patience and prayers during the past few days. Hopefully, we are back up and running for the greater honor and glory of God.  As ever, Brother Daniel Thomas.

December 15, 2017 – Friday in the 2nd week of Advent

Saint for the day: Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (January 3, 1819 – 12/ 14/ 1876)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 48:17 – 19 – Psalm 1:4 &6 – Matthew 11:16-19

“Behold, the Lord will come descending with splendor to visit his people with peace, and he will bestow on them eternal life. (Today’s Entrance Antiphon)

 The promises that we are hearing these Advent days from the Prophet Isaiah are reminding us over and over that the Lord will bring prosperity and salvation to us if we only listen. That seems to be the key word for today’s liturgy: listen! In the Gospel Jesus says we are “like children in the marketplace who play the flute – and no one dances; who play a dirge – and no one mourns.” Nobody is listening. But we can’t just not listen. We have to be listening to something. A psychologist said, “while I’m speaking to you, you’re talking to yourself ten times faster than I’m speaking.” So the question seems to be: what am I listening to? Yesterday we heard of the fall of man: “the woman told me it was good,” And the women said, “the serpent tricked me and told me that I would be like God.” As human beings we have and always will be “tricked” by what we listen to. In the Christmas story the shepherds “heard” the angles singing, “Glory to God in the highest… and on earth, peace to men of good will.”

If we “listen to the world’s words” all we’ll get is more junk: the latest mobile phone; the spiffiest new car; the fastest ever internet connection. But none of this will bring us “peace.” If we “listen” to the Lord we’ll hear Him say, “come to me… and I will give you rest.” And, “take up your cross and follow me.” One bite of the “world’s apple” taints us and forces us out of paradise; one sip of the Blood of Jesus brings us back into loving fellowship with our savior and redeemer. Let us pray that our ears might be opened to hear the “music of heaven” and listen to the songs of the angels promising us the “peace of God.” Amen!

December 14, 2017 – Thursday in the 2nd Week of Advent

Today’s saint: John of the Cross (June 24, 1541 – December 14, 1591)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 41:13-20 – Psalm 145 – Matthew 11:11-15

“…there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:12)

 What do you think Jesus meant when He said the words quoted above? “… the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than [John]” Remember what happened when the Sons of Thunder asked to have places at the right and left of Jesus in the Kingdom. Jesus’ response was, “You don’t know what you’re asking…that’s not mine to give.” But Jesus also said, “the Kingdom of God/Heaven is among/within you.” So, here we are back to the drawing board: it’s here and yet not here; we’re parched in the wilderness but promised refreshing waters. We’re not just this or that but both and. We’re forever on the way and the problem that every age falls into to is like the “Sons of Thunder’s” request: “grant that we may skip this journey – save us from the hardships of the desert – and bring us directly into the Kingdom.” Our Advent Journey takes us to Bethlehem where we find Jesus. But we can’t just stay there. Even Mary, Joseph and Jesus left Bethlehem and ultimately climbed the Hill of Calvary. If we want to “be with Jesus” it will always be out there. On the way. Yet most of us, when we look at the people around us, say, “This can’t be it! The Kingdom has to be better than this!” I’m sorry to say that if we can’t find Jesus among the people around us and the people that we live and work with we’ll most likely not find him anywhere. And you ask, “You mean that jerk that I live and work with – that drives me up the wall – is part of “the Kingdom?” Better start looking in the mirror every once in a while. Amen!

 

December 13, 2017 – Wednesday in the 2nd Week of Advent

Today’s saint: Lucy (283 – 304)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 40:25-31 – Psalm 103 – Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

These words of Jesus are the beginning of today’s Holy Gospel. What do you think Jesus meant when He said the words quoted above?

As I was preparing today’s reflection I found myself jumping back and forth from one set of readings to another and getting on the verge of frustration: “Which way am I going to go? How do I come up with words that speak to the Universal Catholic world?

The key seems to be a focus on Mary, the “rose blooming” in the cold and dark of winter, which certainly figures in with our Advent themes.

Nobody knows the exact date of the Birth of Christ. We can almost pin it down to the year – which I think comes out to be 6 BC. Ironic that Jesus is born six years before Christ! Still, the Church celebrates the Birth of Christ just after the Winter Solstice when the days are beginning to get longer so that Jesus can say, “I am the Light of the World.” That’s also why the Church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist on June 24th – just after the Summer Solstice when the days are getting shorter – so that John can say, “I must decrease so that He (Jesus) can increase!”

 The other factor that plays into this winter celebration is the miracle of the roses. After Juan Diego encountered the Virgin he was stunned and more so with the miraculous roses that began to bloom through the snowy ground. When he gathered them up in his “tilde” and took them to the Bishop the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was impressed on his cloak

Bottom line: if God can make a highway for us through the hills and valleys of our lives – and cause roses to bloom in the cold of winter don’t you think that he can turn the darkness of our lives around and show us the way to go?

Our prayer on this Advent Wednesday – no matter where we are in the world – might best be back to that old stand-by: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” (the Doubting)

December 12, 2017 – Tuesday in the 2nd Week of Advent

Today’s Feast: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Scripture options for today’s Liturgy

Zechariah 2:14-17 0r Revelation 11:19a, 12:1…10 / Judith 13:18…19 /Luke:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47

As an opening to today’s reflection I have to say: if you can’t find anything in meaning from all the above choices of scriptures for today’s feast I don’t know what more I can do! When I was growing up   in Catholic grammar school I can remember the nuns telling us that Mass was being celebrated – somewhere in the world – at every moment of the day. This gave me a confidence that my Church was bigger than just me who was living in Oakland, California in the United States of America. Now days, the Mass is still the same but the celebrations might differ depending on where you are living. In the USA Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the Americas and today is a Feast Day. For the rest – in different parts of the world – the Advent Journey continues with the appointed readings for the day. As I was preparing today’s reflection I found myself jumping back and forth from one set of readings to another and getting on the verge of frustration: “Which way am I going to go? How do I come up with words that speak to the Universal Catholic world? The key seems to be a focus on Mary, the “rose blooming” in the cold and dark of winter, which certainly figures in with our Advent themes. Nobody knows the exact date of the Birth of Christ. We can almost pin it down to the year – which I think comes out to be 6 BC. Ironic that Jesus is born six years before Christ! Still, the Church celebrates the Birth of Christ just after the Winter Solstice when the days are beginning to get longer so that Jesus can say, “I am the Light of the World.” That’s also why the Church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist on June 24th – just after the Summer Solstice when the days are getting shorter – so that John can say, “I must decrease so that He (Jesus) can increase!”

 My bottom line in today’s celebration would be to rejoice in our Church which goes to great efforts to make our celebrations connect to us on a variety of levels so that it is possible for us to celebrate divine events with some grounding on the reality of our world where we live and have our being. As we continue our Advent Journey let us pray that we can always be open to the Lord touching our lives in a variety of way which – hopefully – draw us closer to the reality of knowing His abiding presents to us as we try our best to follow the path that will ultimately lead us to Glory! “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen!

December 11, 2017 – Monday in the 2nd Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Damasus – (304 – December 11, 384)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Isaiah 35:1-10 – Psalm85 – Luke 5:17-26

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations: declare it to the distant lands: Behold our Savior will come; you need no longer fear.” (today’s Entrance Antiphon.)

 Today, the images from our Isaiah reading continue to show us that Messiah will bring about a new situation in the desert: not only will the way be leveled but water will spring up to bring the desert back to life. These readings are intended to help us see that God is the restorer of whatever hard and harsh situation we find ourselves stuck in. The rough, desert path will be turned into a Highway for the Lord. God opens up a “way” for us to get back to Him.

The Gospel builds on this theme with the story of the paralytic who can’t get to Jesus by the ordinary path but is able when his friends “open up” a way through the roof! It’s an image that boggles the mind. Imagine, if you were waiting round on a stretcher and friends told you that they were going to lower you into the hospital surgery through a hole in the roof? This reminds us that we are brought to Jesus when we allow those closest to us to help us get into the presence of Jesus. Then, He will be able to free us – not only of our paralysis – but also of our sinfulness. These two things seem to go together and are necessary for Jesus to heal us. Can we pray for the Lord to forgive our sins? Or are we too proud to even admit our sinfulness in the presence of this God who wants to make us whole? It’s not enough for our friends to go to extraordinary means to bring us to Jesus if we don’t first allow Jesus to heal us of our sinfulness. Amen!

 

December 10, 2017 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Saint for the day: Blessed Adolph Kolping (December 8, 1813 – December 4, 1865)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 –Psalm 40 – 2 Peter 3:8-14 – Mark 1:1-8

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation)

On this Second Sunday of Advent Isaiah gives us “comfort” in the promise that the adverse situation that we find ourselves in will, one day be turned around. The “mountains of our problems” will be leveled and a broad highway will appear before us as we seek to climb the mountain of he Lord. We are urged to stand on the heights and shout loud to those who are shrouded in fear and discouragement. This is the setting for us to hear the Gospel story of John the Baptist. That wild man dressed in camel skin and eating locust and wild honey who urges us to repent, be baptized and follow the Lord who is coming after him. Most of the people in the time of Jesus had a very strict understanding of who and what Messiah should be and look like and JB didn’t fit that image! How often have we “missed” meeting God in the person of Jesus because the image or picture that we have of God didn’t fit? Advent gives us that chance to change our perspective and rise up to meet God rather than waiting for some “pie-in-the-sky-Messiah” who fits more comfortably into our image of God. Remember, we are made in His image. Not the other way around. The Old Testament people had been so long in waiting that they had forgotten what the time of the Messiah would be like. We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking, “that was then. This is now” and in our stubbornness miss out in something wonderful from God. The first scripture reading for today’s Liturgy is all about getting us back on the track. Most of the time we are just like the people of old testament and we forget that God plans to intervene into our world. In the Scripture from 2nd Peter we are pulled back with the words, “…with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Translated into our own understanding, that means that God, who is almighty, can be the now presence for me as if I was the only one in need of salvation. Advent gives us that chance to change our perspectives and receive the real presence of our Redeemer, Jesus, the Messiah who brings peace and healing into our world of pain and suffering. Often, where we miss out is the fact that we don’t think that the Gospel command to “go out … on the way” is exactly where we will meet the Messiah. But, of course, we still have to pick up our cross – whatever it might be – and follow. Amen!

 

December 10. 2017 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

December 10. 2017 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Saint for the day: Blessed Adolph Kolping (December 8, 1813 – December 4, 1865)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 –Psalm 40 – 2 Peter 3:8-14 – Mark 1:1-8

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation)

 On this Second Sunday of Advent Isaiah gives us “comfort” in the promise that the adverse situation that we find ourselves in will, one day be turned around. The “mountains of our problems” will be leveled and a broad highway will appear before us as we seek to climb the mountain of he Lord. We are urged to stand on the heights and shout loud to those who are shrouded in fear and discouragement. This is the setting for us to hear the Gospel story of John the Baptist. That wild man dressed in camel skin and eating locust and wild honey who urges us to repent, be baptized and follow the Lord who is coming after him. Most of the people in the time of Jesus had a very strict understanding of who and what Messiah should be and look like and JB didn’t fit that image! How often have we “missed” meeting God in the person of Jesus because the image or picture that we have of God didn’t fit? Advent gives us that chance to change our perspective and rise up to meet God rather than waiting for some “pie-in-the-sky-Messiah” who fits more comfortably into our image of God. Remember, we are made in His image. Not the other way around. The Old Testament people had been so long in waiting that they had forgotten what the time of the Messiah would be like. We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking, “that was then. This is now” and in our stubbornness miss out in something wonderful from God. The first scripture reading for today’s Liturgy is all about getting us back on the track. Most of the time we are just like the people of old testament and we forget that God plans to intervene into our world. In the Scripture from 2nd Peter we are pulled back with the words, “…with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Translated into our own understanding, that means that God, who is almighty, can be the now presence for me as if I was the only one in need of salvation. Advent gives us that chance to change our perspectives and receive the real presence of our Redeemer, Jesus, the Messiah who brings peace and healing into our world of pain and suffering. Often, where we miss out is the fact that we don’t think that the Gospel command to “go out … on the way” is exactly where we will meet the Messiah. But, of course, we still have to pick up our cross – whatever it might be – and follow. Amen!

 

December 9, 2017 – Saturday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Juan Diego (1474 – May 9, 1548)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-28 – Psalm 147 – Matthew 9:35 – 10:1, 5a. 6-8

“Come and show us your face, O Lord, who are seated upon he Cherubim, and we will be saved.” (Today’s Entrance Antiphon from Psalm 80)

 Isaiah’s picture of what the world will look like when Messiah comes is rather graphic and I had to ask myself, “what would a day be like when “the light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days?” But the line that caught my attention was in the beginning of that reading where he says, “He [the Lord God] will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears He will answer you.”

Why is it, then, that it appears that the Lord has not heard our cries for justice, peace and an end to pain and suffering? Drought stricken places, where livestock and crops are dying, cry out for rain and it comes – but it comes in places where it floods and brings havoc rather than relief.

I heard on the BBC that it has been said that there is enough food produced throughout the world to feed all the world’s populations but it is hoarded and kept by countries that have plenty and more than enough. The end of today’s Gospel, perhaps, has the answer: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give!” Jesus sent his first disciples out. Out of themselves and into others. Most of the problems in our world probably stem from the fact that we don’t do what this Gospel tells us. We hoard for ourselves while our brothers and sisters starve to death! The “discipleship” that is our call requires us to have the trust and courage to “go out” to bring healing to our world and to bring about the Kingdom which is “within” or “among” us. Let us pray that we have the faith in Jesus to let these Gospel words become a reality for each of us. Amen.

 

 

 

December 8, 2017 – Friday in the 1st Week of Advent

Today’s Solemnity: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings for today’s Solemnity

Genesis 3:9-15,20 – Psalm 98 – Ephesians 1:2-3-6, 11-12 – Luke 1:26-38

Today, the Church celebrates the “Birth of Mary” a feast that has its origins as far back as the 6th C.   Yet, given the fact that the early Church developed and grew from the Apostolic times, we are once again reminded that no matter how we try to understand “God” we will always fall short and all of our descriptions will be based on our inability to grasp the fullness of who and what God is in our lives and our world.

Just as the early Church told its story from the Resurrection backwards the later developing Church will always grapple with some of the mysteries of Emmanuel – God with us. We have to remember that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was only defined in 1950 even though it was believed from some of the earliest centuries of Christianity.

So we can see that the Church celebrates the “Birth of Mary” on 8th of September and the Immaculate Conception on … you can figure it our … 8th December. The same can be said of the “Birth of Jesus (25th December) up against the birth of John the Baptist – 24th June. Jesus’ birth is celebrated just after the Winter Equinox – when the days are just beginning to get lighter and lighter while the birth of JB is celebrated just after the Spring Equinox – 24th June when the days are beginning to shorten so that the words of JB, “I am not the light… I must decrease as he increases further help us to understand the mystery of the Messiah.

Now, many fundamentalists would argue that the Church is wrong in “fiddling” with these dates but there is nothing that we can do that does justice to the fact that God is so much more than we can fathom and understand and tries to give us tangible images in order to bridge the gap that exists between our world and the world of God.

When I asked the group people to write down three words that convey their concept of Heaven we got almost 20 words that try to define “Heaven” (which by its very definition is beyond our “wordy” comprehension.)

When the Bishop asked a group of youngsters coming for Confirmation to “explain the Holy Trinity” one of the children mumbled an answer and the Bishop had to ask, “I’m sorry I couldn’t understand what you were saying.”

When he asked again, he got the same response and pushed a little further to which the youngster said: “Of course you can’t understand! It’s a Mystery!” Amen!