Our journey depends on what we allow God to do for us

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 18 (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

The idea of building a house for God seems rather preposterous. In the verses omitted from the lectionary reading, God tells David in no uncertain terms that he is out of line.

David is sternly reminded that throughout all the years of wandering in the wilderness God never asked for a permanent dwelling and was quite content. We can have mixed motivations for big God-projects. Often lurking below the surface is a subtle desire to play God. The result is usually a hugely inflated ego.

    Seeking depth through prayer

    In our more reflective moments we sense the importance of prayer, yet we struggle to pray. Sustained, deep prayer doesn’t come easy for us. Why?

    First of all, we struggle to make time for prayer. Prayer doesn’t accomplish anything practical for us, it’s a waste of time in terms of tending to the pressures and tasks of daily life, and so we hesitate to go there. Coupled with this, we find it hard to trust that prayer actually works and brings about something real in our lives. Beyond that, we struggle to concentrate when we try to pray. Once we do settle in to pray, we soon feel ourselves overwhelmed by daydreams, unfinished conversations, half-forgotten melodies, heartaches, agendas and the impending tasks that face us as soon as we get up from our place of prayer. Finally, we struggle to pray because we really don’t know how to pray. We might be familiar with various forms of prayer, from devotional prayers to different kinds of meditation, but we generally lack the confidence to believe that our own particular way of praying, with all its distractions and missteps, is prayer in the deep sense.

      Pope prays for migrants, encourages international assistance

      VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI expressed concern for the millions of migrants around the world, and encouraged the agencies trying to help them.

      "I entrust to the Lord all those who, often forcibly, must leave their homeland, or who are stateless," the Pope said at his noon blessing Dec. 4.

      "While I encourage solidarity for them, I pray for all those who are doing their utmost to protect and assist these brothers and sisters in emergency situations, even if it means exposing themselves to serious hardships and dangers," he said.

        Christian theology has role to play in promoting peace, pope says

        VATICAN CITY - Theology is not simply an academic discipline or a means of explaining the faith to believers, it also has a role in promoting peace and harmony, Pope Benedict XVI said.

        Catholic theology's attention to the links between faith and reason "is more necessary than ever today" because it demonstrates the compatibility of different sources of knowledge, avoiding "the violent results of a religiosity opposed to reason and of a reason opposed to religion," the pope said.

        Pope Benedict made his comments Dec. 2 during a meeting with members of the International Theological Commission, a group of theologians appointed by the pope to study themes of current interest and offer expert advice to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

          Toronto parishioners seem to accept new Missal

          TORONTO - Toronto’s first run at the new Sacramentary hit a few rough spots but didn’t upset many parishioners.

          “I didn’t notice a lot of difference. It was more what the priest says, I think,” noted Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner Peter Maigher at the end of the 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. Maigher’s reaction was typical of what churchgoers told The Catholic Register at Nov. 26-27 Masses.

            At audience, Pope praises groups for efforts to ban death penalty

            VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI gave a special greeting of encouragement to delegations meeting in Rome -- including a group from Illinois -- to promote the abolition of the death penalty.

            During his weekly audience Nov. 30 at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said he hoped the work of the delegations would "encourage political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a number of countries to eliminate the death penalty" and promote progress in penal law that speaks equally to "the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order."

            The 12-person Illinois group, members of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, was led by state Rep. Karen Yarbrough. Under Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty in March.

              We struggle to complete the mission Jesus has for us

              Third Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 11 (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28)

              Timely words of comfort and encouragement can work miracles, even more so when they are inspired by the Spirit of God. The prophet figure in Isaiah has clearly been anointed to bring healing words to the broken Israelite exiles. Good news: freedom, liberty, release and healing. But this is far more than a pep-talk — he will proclaim these Spirit-inspired words on behalf of God.

                Seeing the unseeable for Christmas

                First Woman: “There’s one at Yonge and Finch. I’ve heard it’s good.”

                (Me — overhearing in the fitness-centre change room — “A club? A restaurant?”)

                First Woman: “I’m not sure if it’s Lutheran or Catholic.”

                (Me – “I’m imagining she said that.”)

                Second Woman: “I’ve been going to church for a while. I tried the Martyrs’ Shrine.”

                  Empathy for a world that is still maturing

                  There’s a story told, more legend perhaps than fact, about a mayor of a large American city in the late 1960s. It wasn’t a good time for his city. It was facing financial bankruptcy, crime rates were spiralling, its public transportation system was no longer safe at night, the river supplying its drinking water was dangerously polluted, the air was rife with racial tension and there were strikes and street protests almost weekly.

                  As the story goes, the mayor was flying over the city in a helicopter at rush hour on a Friday afternoon. As the rush-hour bustle and traffic drowned out most everything else, he looked down at what seemed a teeming mess and said to one of his aides: “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a plunger and we could flush this whole mess into the ocean!”

                    Pope says Asia offers vast opportunities for evangelization

                    VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Asia offers "vast scenarios of evangelization" for the church, but currently faces difficulties and "true persecution" in some places.

                    The Pope made the comments Nov. 25 to members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who were meeting in a plenary assembly at the Vatican.

                    He noted that, last year, an important meeting of Catholic laypeople was organized in South Korea, and it became an occasion for strengthening the missionary commitment throughout Asia.

                      Embracing change to renew communal worship, faith

                      NEWMARKET, Ont. - As the catechist in an active suburban parish, I have been responsible for helping parishioners and teachers in our parish schools prepare for the changes that English-speaking Catholics will experience now that Advent is here.

                      When I first learned that we would be using a new translation of the Mass a few years ago, I knew that it would be very important to prepare people for the change. In my 20+ years of experience in pastoral ministry, I have learned that change in general is difficult for people. Change in peoples’ traditions and rituals, however, can be exceedingly difficult.