Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Catholic Layman's take on the "Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants"

In researching a paper, I came across an article titled  Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants.  The author did not say, in the article, what her affiliation was but claimed to be neutral for this article.  Here are her 12 "simple differences" and some clarifications from a Catholic layman.
Pope Francis

1. The Pope. Catholics have a Pope, which they consider a vicar for Christ — an infallible stand-in, if you will — that heads the Church. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.

Of course the pope is a "difference" between Catholics and Protestants.  The very name "Protestant" bespeaks of the protest of certain men and their followers in the 16th century who left the Church and founded churches on their own feelings, opinions, and personal interpretation of Scripture, and protesting against the authority and doctrine of the Church.

The pope is the vicar of Christ.  It is a title of honor as well as jurisdiction meaning that he is the earthly head of the Church, representing our true Head, Jesus Christ.  Christ Himself appointed Peter as His vicar when He said, "Feed My lambs...feed My sheep" (John 21:16-17).  This authority has been placed in the hands of subsequent popes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit and soul of the Christ's Church.

The pope however is not infallible in the way Protestants believe the word to mean.  Infallible does not mean he is sinless or never makes mistakes.  The pope goes to confession just like every other practicing Catholic does.  He is not perfect; he does sin.

Actually, infallibility is a charism (a gift or grace from God in order to do something God asks of us) given to the  pope which makes it impossible for him, as pope, to declare any error in doctrine.  This infallibility only applies to proclamations of doctrine that he has prayed over, has run by many theologians and bishops, and declared or proclaimed from the "chair of Peter."  While the pope's other writings and teachings are considered authoritative, they are not all infallible.

An example of an infallible declaration is the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854:
...for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." [emphasis mine]

Notice the declaration (in quotes) and how it is meant to be for "all the faithful."  This type of proclamation is protected by the Holy Spirit.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
2.  Big, Fancy Cathedrals. Catholics have them; Protestants don’t. Why? Catholicism says that “humanity must discover its unity and salvation” within a church. Protestants say all Christians can be saved, regardless of church membership. (Ergo… shitty, abandoned storefront churches? All Protestant.)

I can only address some of the many reasons for the "big, fancy" Catholic Cathedrals.  1) They were meant to model the Church after the Kingdom of Heaven.  When one steps into a cathedral (especially the vaulted, medieval ones) you are meant to feel as if you stepped into that Heavenly place.  2) The stained glass windows, statues, wall paintings, mosaics and tapestries of the medieval and middle ages Cathedrals were there to tell the stories of Scripture to illiterate worshipers.   The vast majority of the population lived just above poverty level, with no time to sit and learn to read.  (Even Emperor Charlemagne was illiterate.)  Statues and pictures of saints tell the stories of these wonderful Christians who are a part of the family of God.  In other words, they are family portraits.  3) The artwork in the cathedrals was both education for the people and gifts from the artists (or patrons of the artists).  4) The cathedrals, generally, were built by the people over a century or more as  a gift to God--a form of worship to God.

I would like to know where the quote "humanity must discover its unity and salvation" within a church came from.  I'm not sure what the author is trying to imply here.  The Catholic Church believes that Christ founded one Church and meant it to stay one ("...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.").  So, that is the unity, but it is not about the building.  The Church believes that salvation comes through the Church, however tangentially.  There is the salvation part, but that is not about the building either.  Maybe this is just a case of a Protestant not understanding Catholic vocabulary.?  Who knows.

While it is true that there are crappy store-front Protestant churches, there are also some pretty spectacular Protestant Churches such as the Washington National Cathedral, the Episcopalian Cathedral in DC which took over a century to build in modern times.

St. Walburga
3. Saints. Catholics pray to saints (holy dead people) in addition to God and Jesus. Protestants acknowledge saints, but don’t pray to them.

It is important to clarify here that Catholics do not pray to "holy dead people".  We talk to our living family members.  When we pray to the saints, it is indeed in addition to praying to God, but it does not replace praying to God.  One, we believe the saints to be alive ("He is not the God of the dead but of the living" Mark 12:27) and with Christ their Savior.  Two, we pray to them to talk to God for us, just as we ask the other members of the family of God on earth.

I don't what Protestants acknowledge saints, except Orthodox and Lutherans, at least not in the same context.  Many Protestants believe that all "believers" (In quotes, because believers is whatever their personal definition of a believer might be) to be saints.  Therefore, the meaning of the word doesn't even correlate. 

Holy Water font
4.  Holy Water. Catholics only.

Here the author did not even explain if or why holy water is a problem.  Why holy water?  Yeah, that's a difference, of sorts...

Here are some points on holy water:
--Water was used to ceremonially wash the body before entering the Temple in Jerusalem and it was a custom in the early Church as well.
--Holy water is used for baptism.
--Holy water fonts are available in Catholic Churches to remind us of our baptism and ceremonially cleanse us upon entering the nave (the main body of the Church).
--Catholics are sprinkled with water at certain Masses, reminding us of our baptism and our baptismal promises.
--On the altar, the priest pours a small amount of holy water in the chalice, indicating the water which came from the side of Christ along with His blood.
--The priest purifies his hands (ceremonially washes) before the Eucharistic prayers.
--It is a sacramental, not magic.

Fr. Morris, seen on TV
5. Celibacy and Nuns. Catholics only.

Celibacy was advocated by Christ and soon followed by the Early Church.
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'  (Matthew 19:10-12; emphasis mine)
The writings of the Church fathers show that, in the early Church, married priests were not the accepted norm in the main centres of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. They were considered a "problem" that existed in the outlying regions. By the third century there were almost no married priests and several councils put the issue to rest until around the 9th century when many bishops and priests took wives and had children. The state of the priesthood fell to an all time low.  A huge problem emerged with priests "willing" Church property to their families. Up to that point, the principle of celibacy was never completely surrendered in the official enactments of the Church. In 1123, celibacy was made official. Although, throughout history there have been scattered instances of abuses of the Canon Law, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently stuck to this position on celibate priests.  (Catholic Bridge, "Why Can't priests get married?")
Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's
In this day and age of clergy divorce, adultery, and "Preacher's daughters", the importance of singular dedication to God and their calling should be very apparent.  What some anti-Catholics do not understand is that there are married priests in the Catholic church.  Yes, they are the minority, but they do exist.  Celibacy is a discipline in order for priests and other religious to dedicate their whole lives to God without the distractions of spouse, children, and family responsibilities.  Men who become priests are responsible for a much bigger family--Christ's family.

In point of fact the Catholic Church is not the only church with nuns.  Both the Anglican church, and the Orthodox church have nuns, and the Lutheran church has "deaconesses".  I don't know much about Protestant nuns but Catholic nuns are women dedicated to Jesus Christ alone.  They spend their days praying for the salvation of the world and doing good (humanitarian) works.  This can only be a good thing.

6. Purgatory: Catholics only.

Yes and no.

Purgation  or Purgatory is not only Scriptural but traditional.

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Revelations 21:27 tells us that nothing impure will enter Heaven.

Purgatory is simply a place or state of being in which Christians are cleansed or purged of all stain of sin before entering Heaven.  It is neither a second chance, nor a place or state without hope.  Anyone who is in Purgatory or in the state of purging knows that they will be in Heaven once the cleansing is complete.  Since it is after this life, time does not exist there, so we cannot say that you spend a certain amount of "time" there because time doesn't exist there.

There are other Christian sects that believe in purification before Heaven but will not call this state or process Purgatory in opposition to the Church.  So, actually there are Protestant sects that do indeed believe in it, they just don't call it that.
7. Scripture: The be-all, end-all for Protestants is “the Word of God.” For Catholics, tradition is just important as scripture — maybe even more so.

What the blogger fails to point out is that Scripture is part of Catholic Tradition. It is the most important part of the Tradition of the Church.  It is extremely important to the Church and her members.

 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."  (CCC 132)
Protestantism that I have personally experienced has traditions of their own that is every bit as important as Scripture.  Scripture alone as the "be-all, end all" is a protestant tradition not based in Scripture.

One of my favorites for Children
8. Catechism: Protestant kids memorize the Bible. Catholic kids get catechism.

It is not quite as black and white as that.  The "catechism" that Catholic kids "get" includes Scripture.  While Catholic Children don't memorize large chunks of Scripture word for word, they learn whole sections and stories by heart.  Ask any Catholic kid about Creation, Moses,  the Prodigal Son, or the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Last Supper, or the Passion of Christ, I bet you'd be impressed.  The catechism is a concise outline of the Faith passed down for twenty centuries which includes Scripture.  Children learn their Faith and learn why the Church believes what it believes.  The Catechism, including the children's version, is filled with the rich gift of Scripture. While many Catholic children can't spout memorized Scripture on demand, properly catechized children can tell others about what is in the Bible and what we believe about it.

Vatican Council II
9. Authori-tay: In Catholicism, only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret the Bible. Protestants hold that each individual has authority to interpret the Bible.

 Yes, the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture.  Christ sent the Holy Spirit to His Church at Pentecost for this very reason.  He guided and inspired men who wrote the Scriptures, who taught the Scriptures, and interpreted the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit-guided Church gave the Bible as we know it to the world--even the Protestants.  And, there has been nearly 2,000 years of Catholic theologians, scholars, and councils studying and interpreting Scripture, why would an individual believe they've come up with something new?  That is the height of hubris.

The error of individual interpretation of Scripture is what gave us the "33,000!" (I'm quoting the blogger, now) different Protestant denominations, churches, or communities--however they want to distinguish or name themselves.  There are protestants fighting protestants.  Just one example would be the importance of baptism for salvation: one groups says it is necessary, others say you're just getting wet.

10. Sacraments: Catholic are the only ones to have the concept of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony). Protestants teach that salvation is attained through faith alone.

Ironically, those that claim that their only authority is Scripture don't or won't understand that the only place that the words "faith alone" are found in Scripture, they appear in the negative.   

"So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17, NAB)
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17, KJV)
Faith produces fruit or it is dead, after all, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19, KJV)     

These sacraments are beneficial in the order of grace and all seven were instituted by Christ.  God's free gift of grace helps us with our faith, and our faith gets stronger with each sacrament we partake in.
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. (CCC 1131)

Mary, Mother of God
11. Holidays: Catholics have 10 Holy Days of Obligation (which mean they must go to Mass). Protestants are more like, “Just come to church on Christmas, that’s all we ask.”

This blanket statement is much too general.

Yes, the Catholic Church in America has 8 Holy days of Obligation (2 of the original 10, Epiphany and The Body and Blood of Christ, have been transferred to Sundays) in addition to our Sunday obligation.  The reality is that all Catholics are obligated to go to Mass every single Sunday of the year.  The other eight days are in addition to the Sunday obligation.

The Nativity (Christmas)
The ten (the eight with the other 2 now on Sunday) days are:  Mary, Mother of God (January 1), Epiphany (Sunday after January 1), Ascension (either the sixth Thursday of Easter or the seventh Sunday of Easter depending on the diocese), Body and Blood of Christ (Second Sunday after Pentecost), The Assumption of Mary (August 15), All Saints (November 1), Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8) and Christmas Day (December 25).

As for Protestants, I don't agree with the blogger's blanket statement.  In the Baptist church in which I grew up, it was expected, if not an outright rule, that all good members of that church went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings.  Also expected was attendance to any "revivals" and extra prayer meetings.  You were told in the minister's message how you couldn't be a good Christian if you didn't give time and money to God.  I'm sure that this "obligation" is still true in many Protestant churches today.
The Eucharist and Heaven
12. Communion: In Catholicism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus is truly present on the altar. In Protestantism, the bread and wine are symbolic.

While true, this is a broad generalization.  The Catholic Church does believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The main reason is because we believe Christ words literally.  We believe He meant what He said:

Then he took bread, ...saying, 'This is my body given for you'...He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.' (Luke 22:19,20)
Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
Also, in the Orthodox and Lutheran traditions the bread and wine are more than symbolic, but expressed in a different way than the Catholic Church.

I, personally, feel sorry for Protestants who claim they believe in what Scriptures say, yet ignore what Scripture actually says.  If communion is just bread and wine (actually grape juice in most Protestants circles), what was the point of doing it in the first place?  Just going through the motions seems a lot less efficacious than believing in Christ's words.  

Conclusion: Christians have a lot more commonality than differences.  We all are sincerely trying to follow Christ and His teaching. Our Lord taught us to love God and love one another. Do I think Protestants are wrong on many levels?  Yes or I would not be a Catholic today.  I have found Christ, His Church, His family.  I am completely in love with my Savior and I believe that I am doing my best to follow Him and help my children know and follow Him.  Other Christians waste a lot of time, money, effort, and hatred on fellow Christians.  It is sad, really, because that is not what Christ intended. We are all God's children and we all deserve respect.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday Meal

Tonight I look forward to eating a full meal.  Yes, I did fast; I am not old enough yet to be "excused."  Went to Mass this morning, but immediately gave it to stress and irritation by getting angry with my teenage daughter.  The problem was resolved after our walk home and lots of deep breaths.  Then came the apologies and prayers for forgiveness.  (sigh)

Well, tonight we are having Macaroni and Cheese and Romaine Salad--Lenten meal 2

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Romaine Salad

Prepackaged Romaine Salad (Romaine, carrots, cabbage)
Cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
Chopped dill weed, parsley, and chives 
 Toss all ingredients

1/3 c. Balsamic vinegar
2/3 c. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Brown sugar optional
salt and pepper to taste


Ash Wednesday

Somebody on facebook said it well, "Catholics wear ashes to mark themselves as sinners, not holy or special. It's a scarlet letter, not a gold medal."

"For dust you are and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rules for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Lenten Fast, Again

This is a repeat of my post from last February, just before Ash Wednesday.  I thought it could use repeating since most people seem to forget from year to year.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.  All Catholics who have reached age 18 and are not yet 60 are required to fast on these days.  All Catholics who are age 14 and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.
Fast and Abstinence Requirements for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
--Eat only one regular size meal.
--Eat two smaller meals (or less) that do not equal your main meal.
--Do not eat or snack between meals.
--Do not eat any meat, soup made with meat, gravy, or broth, or any other dish prepared with meat.
However, if you cannot, for health reasons, fast think of another sacrifice you can make on those days.  My son is a type 1 diabetic, he is now 19 but he can not fast.  I suggested that he "abstain" from his iPod and computer for the day.  That is a sacrifice for him.

Let's not forget the most important things to remember during Lent: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving.
Added 2014:  Why do Catholics fast (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent? [For a full answer go to this article at]  Here are a few snippets:

"Lent bears particular relationship to the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the desert before entering into his public ministry (Mt 4:1-11)."
"Fasting is a biblical discipline that can be defended from both the Old and the New Testament."
"Abstinence from certain foods is also a biblical discipline."
"By having the sign of the cross made with ashes on their foreheads, Catholics mourn Christ's suffering on the cross and their own sins, which made that suffering necessary."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Approaching Lent

Wow, I can't believe it has been so long since I have posted on my blog.  Life gets so complicated and time passes too quickly.  However, we had a wonderful Friday meatless meal that I wanted to share for Lent.

Lenten Dinner 1 (for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, or any Friday meal):

Soup and Salad Menu--Serve with Sour Dough or a good crusty bread and butter

Lobster (or shrimp) Bisque (8 servings)

6 Tbls butter
6 Tbls all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
4 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups chicken stock (may use vegetable stock but I have not tried it)
1/4 cup white wine
3 Tbls minced onion
3 Tbls shredded carrot
3 cups cooked lobster meat, shredded (I used frozen cooked shrimp because Lobster is almost impossible to find in the middle of Oklahoma)
1 Tbls Cognac (I used sherry because I had no cognac, it was delicious)
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large pan over med-high heat, melt butter and then stir in flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.
Slowly whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and white wine, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened.
Add onions, carrots, and lobster meat (or shrimp); simmer 10 minutes.  Stir in cognac (or sherry) and cream, heat through, and serve hot.
(original recipe can be found here)

Avocado and Romaine Salad (makes 4 servings)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbls fresh chives, chopped
1 1/3 cup avocado, chopped
3 cups chopped Romaine hearts
2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, chopped
Balsamic vinegar dressing (below)

Toss all ingredients and drizzle with dressing.
(Original recipe here.)

Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 c. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. brown sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
garlic powder to taste

Whisk ingredients together.  Let flavors meld in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Whisk again before serving.
(Inspired by Emeril Lagasse's Simple Balsamic Vinegrette)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent


 Today we feel the joy of Christ's first coming.  Gaudete Sunday marks the half way point of Advent.  The joy we feel at this time of year is the joy of salvation, the joy of life, and the joy of our friendship with God.  Today the priest wears rose, just as we light the rose candle today, to represent that joy.  I know my children can't wait until Christmas.

However, Advent is a time for remembering (and waiting for) Christ's second coming.  Today we celebrate the joy of being with Him in Heaven or being here when He comes again.  Either way we get to be with our Savior and our Lord forever.

Today's first reading is from Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10:

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 he 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.

Next we sing Psalm 146: 6-10:

R. (cf. Is 35:4) Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.

Fra. Angelica's Christ the Judge
The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. James 5:7-10:

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

The Gospel today is from St. Matthew 11:2-11:

Navarrette-St. John the Baptist in Prison
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight, the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Scripture from:

So, feel the joy of the coming of the Christ!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent 2013

Sunday, December 8, is the second Sunday of Advent.  I can't believe it is Advent already, let alone a week gone.  The kids did not get Advent calendars (the kind with the little chocolates in them) this year because I waited for the next pay day to have money for them but they were gone.  Also, we live in Oklahoma were less than 10% of the population is Catholic, so no one else carries Advent calendars.  (Advent candles are hard to come by also, unless you go to one of the few Catholic books stores in the City.)  My almost 10-year old Advent wreath is in shambles.  I meant to get a new one or make one but that didn't happen either.  Now, we have snow on the ground and the local craft store is closed, so I can't get supplies to spruce it up.  I hope I can do so next week.  We praise God and sing, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" at dinner time.

The readings for the Second Sunday are wonderfully anticipatory:

Fra Angelica's Christ the Judge
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.
[Isa. 11:1-10]

Of course, today was the first time I've been a lector at Sunday Mass in quite awhile, and it had to be this passage from Isaiah.  It is however, one of my favorite's from the prophet.  Imagining all the animals living in harmony like that--a kind of second Garden of Eden complete with its second Adam.

R. (cf. 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
he shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
[Psalm 72:1,2,7,8, 12, 13, 17]

Notice how the theme of the Psalm and that of the Prophet Isaiah fit so well together.  That is the point of the lectionary. 

Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to  your name.

[Romans 15:4-9]

Here Paul's theme is about the Gentiles, and how they, too, are included in God's plan of salvation.  Isaiah touched on it too..."On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious."

The Gospel for today:
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.”
[Matthew 3:1-12]

The anticipatory pronouncements of John are especially appropriate at Advent.  He is both looking forward to and announcing the immediate coming of the Messiah--who happens to be his cousin, Jesus.