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Bringing Home

the Word
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 2, 2007

An Advent Wake-Up Call

By Diane M. Houdek
“The night is advanced; the day is at for light, emptiness waiting for full- Advent comes into the darkness of
hand”—a paradoxical thought at the ness, cold waiting for warmth, hearts our everyday lives with a promise of
beginning of Advent, coming as it does waiting for love. love and light, a challenge of conver-
in the winter of the year when the days Our Gospel today warns us not to be sion, a sense of discovery. Advent is a
are ever shorter, the nights longer, dark- lulled to sleep by daily routines and time to rediscover our faith, to explore
er, colder. This very discrepancy jolts us the holiday flurry of activity. Jesus con- who we are and who we follow. The
into awareness. It is easy to be wrapped demns the people of Noah’s time not prophets call us to believe in God’s
up in our own comfort at this time of for their activities, but for their indif- promise—to take risks, to make diffi-
year. In our attempts to escape the grey ference to the realities of life in their cult choices, to give of ourselves.
skies that threaten snow, the starkness midst. Too often we like to pretend Christmas celebrates the first risk Jesus
of black branches of winter trees against there’s nothing beyond the next festivi- took—being born into our world. Every
cold skies, we build fires in the fireplace ty. Advent is a time to prepare our- day we’re called to take the risk of liv-
or turn up the furnace. We have festive selves not for a whirl of Christmas par- ing in that world and transforming it
meals. We shop and decorate and bake ties but for the Lord who is continually through our belief in God’s promise
for Christmas celebrations. breaking into our lives. fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Grounded
But Advent calls us to an awareness We might shake our heads at the in our faith, we discover that taking
of something beyond the comfort and obvious truth in Jesus’ statement: “If risks can awaken within us a sense of
cheer of Christmas traditions, calls us the owner knew when the thief was promise and anticipation, not dread
into the winter of the year to see the coming, he would not let him break and fear and remorse.
beauty of waiting—darkness waiting into the house.” In these days of elabo- Once when I was a child, the north-
rate security alarms and neighborhood ern lights were making a particularly
watch programs, we seem to have dazzling display in the skies over our
decided that the best response is to be house. My parents tried to wake me for
SUNDAY READINGS always vigilant against threats known it, but said I just wouldn’t wake up
and unknown. But have we prepared as enough to go outside. I’ve always
Isaiah 2:1-5 well for the coming of the Lord into regretted missing that experience. Paul
A prophet describes the wonderful our lives? How aware are we of the tells the Romans, “You know the time;
changes that will take place when peo- Lord trying to break open our hearts? it is the hour for you to awake from
ple look to God for instruction. Advent calls us to transform our sleep. For our salvation is nearer now
Romans 13:11-14 lives because of God’s promise to dwell than when we first believed.” And
Paul tells us that our salvation is near at in our midst. As the liturgical seasons Jesus tells his disciples, “Stay awake!
hand. and scriptures cycle around each year, For you do not know on which day
we might begin by asking, Where was I your Lord will come.” They’re not say-
Matthew 24:37-44 when this was proclaimed last and ing this to frighten us, but to make
Jesus admonishes all to be in a constant where will I be when it’s proclaimed sure we don’t miss the wonder that is
state of preparedness. this year? How has my life changed? Emmanuel.

St. Anthony Messenger Press l www.AmericanCatholic.org

REFLECTION HOME The church has designated particu-
CHURCH lar colors to carry the symbolism
• Who are you and who do you fol- By Jeanne Hunt and mood of each sacred season.
The liturgical color for Advent is
purple, not red or even green.
These colors are meant to create a
• What practical changes can you liturgical mood that key into the
grace of the season. It is important
make in your holiday plans in order
for us to put aside the colors of
to keep Advent? Christmas with all the decorations
and first display the more somber
purple tones of Advent. Put out a
• How can you enter into Advent and little purple this year in your home
put off Christmas until these four and save the colors of Christmas for
weeks have passed? their own time.

Something about darkness scares us. We imag-

ine things “that go bump in the night.” It

seems to be a universal fear. Everyone runs OO O
from the horrors of the night into the bless- Create a family Advent wreath. After
ings of dawn. Little surprise, then, that the
the sun sets on the First Sunday of
Advent story begins in the darkness.
Come, long-awaited Savior Everything that scares us about being alone, Advent, turn out all the house lights.
without God’s love, can be known in the gut Stand for a few moments in the dark-
Fill the dark places feelings of standing in the dark of night.
ness. Listen to the house noises, feel
of my life We are invited on this first Sunday of
Advent to experience the darkness so that we the darkness.Then, light one candle
with your amazing Light
can receive the Light with grace. In the dark- on the wreath and watch the light
Come to those places est and longest nights of the solar year, we can
radiate around you. Say together ,
where I have closed pause in the pre-holiday rush and simply
stand in the quiet of night. “Jesus Christ, Light of the world, come
the shutters, This is the perfect time to take a night walk. into our hearts again.”
drawn the curtains We can go alone or gather our family and
walk out into the night. If we can walk in a
and refuse to open Join the Conversation!
place far from the city lights it is all the better.
my soul What parts of our lives are filled with the Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog
to the truth unknown? What light can Jesus bring to the
future? Of what are we afraid? These ques- (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to
that light brings. tions of the night are the soul work of Advent. share your experience of making the
Come, long-awaited Savior, The Scriptures call us to keep Advent in Word part of your everyday lives
quiet darkness so that we can revel in the
change me. splendid sound and light of “Gloria in and to comment on what you’ve
Amen. Excelsis Deo!” read here.

Monday Is 4:2-6/Mt 8:5-11 Francis Xavier Thursday Is 26:1-6/Mt 7:21, 24-27 Nicholas
WEEKDAY Tuesday Is 11:1-10/Lk 10:21-24 Friday Is 29:17-24/Mt 9:27-31 Ambrose
READINGS Wednesday Is 25:6-10a/Mt 15:29-37 Saturday Gn 3:9-15, 20/Eph 1:3-6, 11-12/Lk
1:26-38 Immaculate Conception

Bringing Home Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman
the Word For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org.
Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
December 2, 2007 All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.
Bringing Home
the Word
2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 9, 2007

Roots Aren’t Enough

By Diane M. Houdek
Prophets are gifted with an intense per- hand. The great prophets of the dead wood and chaff being burned
sonal awareness of God's love for his Hebrew scriptures may struggle with while the fruit and grain are gathered
people. Their call both inspires and their call to be prophet, but they never into barns to nourish and sustain life.
compels them to preach this word to deny the word of the Lord. Roots provide valuable nourishment.
those who will listen — and to those John the Baptist, the man Jesus They make life possible. But if they’re
who close their ears. From the time a spoke of as the greatest of the too constrained, they can inhibit the
prophet hears the word of God, the prophets, knew the desire of the very growth they’re designed to nour-
burning desire is to find the words that prophet to tell people of the love of ish. Isaiah’s well-known vision of
will express this eternal message to the God. But the call to be prophet is nature in harmony calls us to imagine
people of one time and place. makes demands, asking one to risk sworn enemies sharing food and shel-
The Word of God was spoken to everything for the word. John became a ter, frolicking as companions. And the
John, son of Zechariah, in the desert, voice in the wilderness, a man totally prophet neither minimizes the distinc-
and John knew that the old order focused on his call and God's message. tions nor emphasizes the nearly
would have to pass away. Having pre- In his desert fasts and struggles he unreachable idealism of the vision.
pared himself not through temple must have known the experience of Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He
observances but through desert fasts being alone with only the whisper of didn’t say, “Your enemies will become
and prayers, he comes out of the God's word in his heart. Yet this whis- your friends and then you will find it
deserts preaching reform and conver- per clamors to be proclaimed and we easy to love them.” Often our rooted-
sion. The kingdom of God was at must come forth from our desert ness in one way of life or one set of
silence. John found his message” attitudes keeps us from reaching out to
“Prepare the way of the Lord. The those who are different, those we have
kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent avoided out of fear and hatred. To be
SUNDAY READINGS and believe the good news.” fruitful, we must be open to this sort of
John was rooted in the message of newness.
Is 11:1-10 the Hebrew prophets, but he was being Paul tells us Jesus fulfilled the
A prophet looks ahead to the reign of called to proclaim something com- covenant of the Jews and brought a
a new king. In his day the kingdom will pletely new. Roots aren’t enough. We vision of God’s mercy to the Gentiles.
bring to mind the Garden of Eden. need to grow and bear fruit. Winter Paul’s gifts unite the dreams of these
can lull us into a state of resting, of two groups into one vision of
Rom 15:4-9 waiting for spring to energize us. Christianity. He doesn’t destroy healthy
Paul proclaims the value of the A group of Pharisees and Sadducees differences, he doesn’t deny individual
Scriptures. come to John the Baptist relying on roots. He sees the possibility for com-
their status as sons of Abraham. But munion. Advent is a time of vision, the
Mt 3:1-12 John tells them that the ax is at the vision of a shared future among all
John the Baptist prepares the way of root of trees that aren’t producing fruit. people as we grow beyond our rooted-
the Lord. The Gospel gives us a vivid image of ness.

St. Anthony Messenger Press l www.AmericanCatholic.org

CHURCH The intercessory prayers of the
Church are a beautiful expression
• About what attitudes have we By Jeanne Hunt of our connection with each other,
become complacent? How do the the universal church, the world
Scriptures challenge us to expand and its leaders, the poor, the sick
and the dying.
these attitudes? Listen carefully on Sunday to the
intercessions at your parish liturgy.
• Who are your personal prophets, Savor each one instead of respond-
ing automatically with “Lord, hear
those who have spoken for God in
our prayer.”
your life? Notice whether one in particular
strikes a chord with you. Write it
• Like John the Baptist, what are we down at the end of Mass and begin
willing to risk for the sake of the each day of this second week of
Isaiah and John the Baptist, the prophets of Advent by praying it with special
Word? care.
this Sunday, share one thing in common: No

one hears them with a sense of urgency. We
casually let the words float above our Advent
heads with little impact. John is shouting
“Prepare the way!’ Isaiah is proclaimed across Create a John the Baptist desert with
O saints of old, church microphones saying, “a new shoot will your children. Fill a dish with sand, a
grow…” and we think,” Oh, that’s nice.”
Isaiah and John, few rocks, some twigs and a few
The radical message of conversion offered
We want you to tone it by these two voices is not something to listen bones. Create a sign for your desert
down a little. to politely until we can get back to our holi- that says “One comes after me whose
day activities. Both saints mean to stop us in
It seems you are shouting sandals I am not fit to untie.” Let it be
our tracks and call us to be aware that some-
too loud for our comfort. thing is changing… right now… right here. a visual reminder of the Baptist’s role
Oh! You say that’s We are told to go home and live in expecta- in preparing his followers—and us—
tion. John wants us to create a place in our
the point. for the coming of the Lamb of God.
lives for the Christ, who wants to be wel-
We are suppose to be comed into family prayer, Advent reconcilia-
uncomfortable tion services and even into the way we spend Join the Conversation!
our holiday cash. Isaiah wants us to know that
preparing for Jesus. something new is about to happen. Change is Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog
Pray that your words in the air and every family should throw away (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share
change our hearts their old agenda and embrace a new way of your experience of making the Word
being Catholic this Advent and Christmas.
like never before. Are we going to really listen or is business part of your everyday lives and to
Amen. as usual this Advent at your house? comment on what you’ve read here.

Monday Is 35:1-10/Lk 5:17-26 Thursday Is 41:13-20/Mt 11:11-15 Lucy

WEEKDAY Tuesday Is 40:1-11/Mt 18:12-14 Friday Is 48:17-19/Mt 11:16-19 John of
READINGS Wednesday Zec 2:14-17/Lk 1:26-47 the Cross
Our Lady of Guadalupe Saturday Sir 48:1-4, 9-11/Mt 17:9a, 10-13

Bringing Home Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman
the Word For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org.
Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
December 9, 2007 All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.
Bringing Home
the Word
3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 16, 2007

When Waiting Is Difficult

By Diane M. Houdek
A farmer plants seeds deep in the times we need to let ourselves be pre- tion and doubt. We hear of John the
earth. He knows from experience that pared, as soil is prepared for the seeds Baptist, imprisoned for his efforts at
they will produce plants. Does he ever as seeds are prepared for the planting. preaching conversion and the king-
doubt in the cold winter, looking at the Advent is a time of waiting. A time of dom. In his disillusionment he begins
barren fields? Even in the spring, wait- preparation, yes, but while we must to doubt whether Jesus was the
ing for the first green shoots to poke prepare, we must also be prepared to Messiah at all. Jesus responds by assur-
through the ground? We can’t see the wait. ing him that the signs of compassion
growth taking place beneath the sur- The letter from James counsels and healing indeed herald the kingdom
face of our lives. Patience and trust are patience: “See how the farmer awaits of the prophets. And he praises John
so desperately needed. the precious yield of the soil.” In this for his role as forerunner. Like the
We wait for so many things. Waiting time of activity, of a too often commer- desert of Isaiah’s vision, John’s desola-
itself creates tension. Sometimes we cialized rush, it is good to remember tion now blooms with hope. A word
think we can’t wait a moment longer, the natural cycle of the earth, the from the Lord can refresh tired bodies
especially when that waiting is so growth that takes place only in its own and weary spirits.
heavy with uncertainty. We like to be time. We can help it along, we can We are each called to do a specific
active. We like to prepare. But some- plant and nurture the seed, but in the task fully and justly. We are not all
end we can only be patient while the called to be saviors. We might follow
growth happens. We must take time to John’s example: “I am baptizing you in
reflect, to believe in the promise of water but there is one to come who is
SUNDAY READINGS new life taking place. We must pre- mightier than I. I am not fit to loosen
pare, but we must also be prepared to his sandal strap.” John’s role is that of
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 wait, to hope, to trust. prophet and forerunner. He accepts his
A prophet anticipates big changes in the We begin Advent with a rush of role and makes no grandiose claims of
world.Through the grace of God the visions and good intentions. We hear messiahship. Had he set himself up in
desert will spring to life and people will the call to conversion and growth. We rivalry with the one messiah, he would
be healed. begin our preparations for the coming have been blown away as so much
of Christ into our lives. After three chaff. Instead he was a grain of wheat
James 5:7-10 weeks we’re beginning to wear a bit contributing his part to the Bread of
James tells us to be patient as we look thin. Our bodies are tired, our nerves Life.
for Jesus’ glorious coming. frayed, our emotions stretched beyond The Lord is near to us, he is
their everyday endurance. We’re excit- Emmanuel, “God with us,” and this
Matthew 11:2-11 ed yet apprehensive. We anticipate but gives us the integrity we need to live
John the Baptist wonders if Jesus is real- we also doubt. Suddenly we wonder if the promise according to our means.
ly the Messiah and Jesus responds by we’ve done everything we should. The The spirit of the Lord will lead us in
describing the actions that will Scriptures for this third Sunday of the ways of the kingdom in good time,
accompany the advent of the Messiah. Advent speak to this feeling of exhaus- in God’s time.

St. Anthony Messenger Press l www.AmericanCatholic.org

CHURCH Statues are a very Catholic phe-
nomenon. Originally Catholic art
• What do you find most difficult to By Jeanne Hunt was meant to teach the Gospels to
wait for? How does waiting for people who were illiterate.
Christmas rub the wrong way in Every parish church puts out a
beloved nativity scene during these
your life? days. It is meant to connect us with
the very human birth of Jesus.
Many people also set up a nativity
• What are some ways you allow
scene in their homes.
Jesus to be the savior in your life? This year, stand in front of these
In what ways have you tried to figures and pray awhile allowing
save yourself? yourself to enter the birth moment.
Imagine it all, even that sweet,
small cry bringing light to us all.
In an age when we want instant results, wait-
ing is not a strong suit. Every problem seems

to be able to be solved in a sixty- minute com-
mercial, there is food ready to eat in thirty

Hurry up, Lord
minutes, and it takes only five minutes to have
your car’s oil change at Mr. Lube’s. We are
called to wait blindly just like John the
This week spend your time in line at
the mall, market and shops being
patient. Remember that each person
We don’t have all day! Our hope is that what we believe is going to around you is loved by God.
happen. We yearn for a peace, a presence that Spend this time silently praying for
There is shopping
will give meaning to our lives. But that resolu-
the customers and clerks around you.
and baking tion seems so distant and our lives are filled
with hectic commotion that blots out the You may discover that those waiting
and decorating
sound of his coming. moments are meant “to soothe the
to get done. It is time to restore some space for waiting
sin sick soul.”
O Lordy, Lord, you are just in our homes. Parents need to limit the activi-
ties of these pre holiday weeks. Turn down the
standing there noise and the busyness as a family. Go for
with a smile on your face. some quiet walks together. Listen to the holy Join the Conversation!
What’s that you are saying? music of the feast to come. Spend some time
in your parish church just waiting with the Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog
I can’t hear you over the Lord. Advent is a time to prepare the soil of (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share
loud music of “Jingle Bells” our hearts for a new incarnation within. Like a your experience of making the Word
mother awaiting her child, we await God once
you whisper: again. We need to slow down and wait. This part of your everyday lives and to
Come, wait with me.” good God will not be rushed. comment on what you’ve read here.

Gn 49:2, 8-10/Mt 1:1-17
Jer 23:5-8/Mt 1:18-25
Thursday Is 7:10-14/Lk 1:26-38
Friday 1Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/Lk 1:39-45
READINGS Wednesday Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25 Saturday 1 Sm 1:24-28/Lk 1:46-56

Bringing Home Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman
the Word For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org.
Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
December 16, 2007 All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.
Bringing Home
the Word
4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT Decmeber 23, 2007

Difficult, Life-Giving Choices

By Diane M. Houdek
The scriptures for the Fourth Sunday differently the stories of Advent would word breaks into our lives with the
of Advent are filled with great promise be if Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had startling and dazzling revelation that
but also with risk beyond imagining. let fear and anxiety triumph over love through Jesus of Nazareth, God loved
They tell stories of crisis and challenge, and trust and faith. Would we tell the us in the visible, tangible ways the
of calls to conversion and questions stories at all? Advent promises the tri- angels could never understand.
that insist on answers. They demand a umph of love over fear, of light over Because we believe this, we’re called to
life lived on the cutting edge of aware- darkness. This love is difficult but so love one another with the same incar-
ness, a life that risks and responds essential; we need to know that God is nate love. Such love is a challenge to
without counting the cost. Life lived to with us. be gentle, to give of one’s self, to enter
the full, life in God, is filled with Joseph tossed and turned in the deeply into reconciliation, to grow and
promise, with signs and wonders. night and the questions crowded out to change, above all to trust. It is a
This is the way of God’s life within us. all other concerns during the day. commitment of trust and faith, of
When difficult questions have to be What would he do? How would he promises made, kept, broken, recon-
answered, when tough choices have to arrange this? What were his responsi- ciled. No real love can be born without
be made, only love can move us in the bilities? He tries to find as comfortable risks, without vulnerability. Perhaps
direction of life-giving choices. At a solution as possible for everyone con- this is at the heart of our reluctance to
times like these we need people to cerned. But the word of God breaks believe the good news. We know that if
walk with us, to reassure us, some- through this chaos and darkness and it’s genuine, it will always have a price.
times just to celebrate with us. How Joseph sees with startling clarity that As Christians we’ve staked our lives on
the answer lies not along the path of the belief that only through death is
least resistance but in the one solution there life. Our love is born of a pas-
SUNDAY READINGS he never considered. When the spirit sionate belief in promise, in commit-
Isaiah 7:10-14 breaks into human life we are con- ment, in covenant.
A king declines the invitation to place fronted with an insistent challenge. We To this love we commit all that we
his trust in God. Even so, God’s plan of are called to choose life or death. are and all that we can become. When
salvation will move forward. Joseph follows the spirit, chooses life despair overwhelms us, when promises
and receives the assurance of suddenly seem empty, when it seems
Romans 1:1-7 Emmanuel. We, too, are called to let that we’re surrounded by dashed
Paul introduces himself as the slave of the word of God break through the dreams and disappointment, by love
Christ Jesus and explains what this confusion in our lives. If we accept its betrayed and friendships faltering,
means for his ministry. illumination in spite of our fear, our prophets break into our lives with the
uncertainty, our human weakness, we word that God still cares, that love is
Matthew 1:18-24 will know God with us. This is the way still possible. To believe this promise
Joseph learns in a dream that Mary has the birth of Jesus comes about. demands that we risk once again, that
come to be with child through the Out of the silence of Advent comes we reach out in love, that we trust the
power of the Holy Spirit. the promise of the incarnation. The hand reaching out to us.

St. Anthony Messenger Press l www.AmericanCatholic.org

CHURCH Music is a wonderful way to pray.
In the Catholic tradition there are
By Jeanne Hunt many ancient musical prayers. As
• Share a time when you had to
you listen to hymns of this season
make a tough decision that was hear them as the prayers they are
rooted in love. meant to be.
For example, the song “O Come,
O Come Emmanuel” is an ancient
• Think about an area of your life hymn that comes from the “O”
where there is doubt and confu- antiphons, traditionally part of the
sion.What choices can you make Morning and Evening Prayer of the
church. These titles of Jesus
to bring life? express both his many roles and
the long history of longing for a
Has the panic set in? Are you beyond your
wits with too much to get done in two days?

Do you still remember that little light of the
first Sunday of Advent that held such prom-
ise? It is not too late to rekindle all four of
these Advent candles and put out the darkness Write a family prayer to be said as
of the world’s version of our feast.
you place the infant in the crèche on
Come, now, my Jesus. Can I convince you that you are really fin-
ished with what needs to be done for the Christmas morning.You might want to
The days of waiting are
feast? Can you possibly believe that your soul change the candles in your Advent
counting down to an end. is far more important than the perfect version
wreath from purple and rose to
of a magazine-photo Christmas you tried to
We need to see your love white, or you might want to light a
and power in our What Jesus really wants is you and your special white candle through the
family to spend time with him. He could use a
sin-weary world. Christmas season.
few less presents under the tree. He wants to
Just like days of old, decorate your heart with his love and could
care less about a house trimmed in red bows.
We yearn for your
He wants to see you smile again. He simply Join the Conversation!
love and care. loves your smile.
God is giving you plenty time to do those Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog
The world in silent
things that are invisible and will remain forev- (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to share
stillness lay er. God’s time means forgetting a few unneces- your experience of making the Word
sary details on your list in favor of that one
just waiting for You. part of your everyday life and to com-
most important detail: Let go and allow God
Amen. to prepare your heart for the Messiah. ment on what you’ve read here.

Monday 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/Lk Thursday 1 Jn 1:1-4/Jn 20:1a, 2-8 John
WEEKDAY 1:67-79 the Evangelist
Tuesday Is 9:1-6/Ti 2:11-14/Lk 2:1-14 Friday 1 Jn 1:5—2:2/Mt 2:13-18 Holy
READINGS Wednesday Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59/Mt 10:17- Innocents
22 Stephen Saturday 1 Jn 2:3-11/Lk 2:22-35

Bringing Home Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman
the Word For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org.
Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
December 23, 2007 All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.
Bringing Home
the Word
THE HOLY FAMILY December 30, 2007

Taking on Great Responsibility

By Diane M. Houdek
A lot of mental and emotional inter- all families should be just like Jesus, with the young father tossing and turn-
ference takes place when we hear the Mary and Joseph. Paul tells the ing during the night, caught in the
readings for this feast. People tend to Colossians to forgive one another, but stressful tension between work respon-
focus on the line from the Letter to we know that some people might not sibilities, the insistent nighttime needs
Colossians about wives being subordi- yet be at a point in their healing where of a growing infant in the next room,
nate to their husbands, or parents and forgiveness is possible. and the juggling of too many things.
children exchange looks at the line, When we hear the phrase Holy Family responsibility ebb and flow at
“Children, obey your parents in every- Family, too often we think of some- different times of our lives. Young fam-
thing.” Most of us don’t want to return thing that’s “holy card” perfect, instead ily have the concerns of infants and
to the “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father of the deeply sacred, graced-by-God children and all that entails. But the
Knows Best” era’s way of defining fami- reality of Mary, Joseph and Jesus—but responsibility of caring for our elders is
ly relationships, and it can be hard to also of our own families, whether those also a very real part of many people’s
see past the superficial interpretation of blood or those intimate communi- lives. At times the two coincide creat-
we put on these readings. ties that sustain us as adults. The scrip- ing what’s become known as the sand-
We tend to be either cynical and dis- ture readings for the feast keep us wich generation.
missive of this feast or we over-idealize grounded in an awareness that God One of the most touching lines in
the idea of family. People with unpleas- knows that family life is both essential the reading from Sirach is, “My son,
ant memories of an abusive or dysfunc- and complex, but always very real. take care of your father when he he is
tional childhood resent the notion that The Gospel recounts the story of old;... Even if his mind fail, be consid-
Jospeh being told in a dream to take erate of him.” Several friends are
his wife and infant child to Egypt to among the countless people caring for
save the boy from Herod’s massacre. parents suffering from Alzheimer’s and
SUNDAY READINGS What Matthew summarizes in a few other forms of dementia. It’s an almost
Sirach 3:2-17 terse lines after the fact, and with a overwhelming responsibility and
A wise man affirms the close relation- good dose of Scripture fulfillment built through even the most difficult times,
ship between God and the human fami- in must have been terrifying for the it’s obvious that they’re doing it
ly. It leads to honor and respect for young family. It brings to mind scenes because of the great love they have for
those who give us life. from the news media of families of their parents.
refugees fleeing war, genocide and We need to celebrate this feast not as
Colossians 3:12-21 famine. some seemingly unattainable goal for
Paul urges the Christian community to When we hear of the messages mere humans, but as a sign of the
practice every virtue. Joseph receives in his dreams, again we obstacles that we can overcome if we
imagine the serene scenes portrayed by truly place ourselves in the arms of a
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 artists, with the words of the angel loving God who is Father and Mother
Joseph learns in a dream that he must twining into Joseph’s ear as he sleeps. to us all, and in whose sight we are all
take his family and flee to Egypt. But I suspect it has more in common part of a holy and sacred family.

St. Anthony Messenger Press l www.AmericanCatholic.org

CHURCH God puts us together in family for
good reason. The domestic Church
• What one thing would you like to By Jeanne Hunt is the first church where children
change in your family life? How can and parents learn the gift of being
church together.
this be achieved? Family prayer is basic to Catholic
prayer life. In the New Year make a
• What is the world’s criterion for a resolution to pray together more
often. Such devotions as the family
successful family? How does that
rosary, meal prayers, night prayers
differ from the Gospel’s criterion? with the children and prayers to
favorite saints are hallmarks of our

To live the faith means more than
an hour on Sunday morning. The
Nestled right in the middle of the Christmas day should be laced with prayer.
Octave is the feast of the Holy Family. We are This is a perfect time to obtain a
called to put down the eggnog and cookies Catholic prayer book and use it to
Jesus our brother, and look at the amazing people we with re-engage family prayer in your
whom we live. Catholic home.
teach us how to be Jesus, Mary and Joseph point the way to a
a holy family. realistic image of the real work and constant
attention it takes to be family. Loving family O CONNECTIONOO
When tempers members is the first place we follow the gospel In these times where families live far
grow short, challenge, “go out and make disciples.” In fact away from grandparents and extended
stop us in our tracks if we fail at making disciples of those in our
own house, we have little business going out family, Call a local nursing home and
and reminds us to evangelize the rest of the world. adopt a lonely resident. Begin a rela-
of your patience. On this feast of the Holy Family resolve to tionship with this person. Give your
reach out to your children, your elderly par-
When we are irritated ents, and your spouse. Begin to love them, children the grace of loving someone
with each other’s serve them and be happy with them. Celebrate who has no one.
the day with a few e-mails or phone calls to
extended family members. Tell your family Join the Conversation!
Remind us of your how much they mean to you, ask for a little Visit the Bringing Home the Word blog
love for the other. forgiveness (if it is called for) and share some
reminiscence of the good old days. It is the (http://bhtw.wordpress.com) to
When we are anxious greatest Christmas gift we could ask for: being share your experience of making the
about our family trails family with all its bumps, warts and dysfunc- Word part of your everyday lives
tion. Mary, Joseph and Jesus would love to
hold us tight and show us join in the fun. I can only imagine the stories and to comment on what you’ve
your care. Amen. they could tell. read here.

Monday 1 Jn 2:18-21/Jn 1:1-18 Thursday 1 Jn 2:29—3:6/Jn 1:29-34

WEEKDAY Tuesday Nm 6:22-27/Gal 4:4-7/Lk 2:16-21 Friday 1 Jn 3:7-10/Jn 1:35-42
Mother of God Elizabeth Seton
READINGS Wednesday 1 Jn 2:22-28/Jn 1:19-28 Saturday 1 Jn 3:11-21/Jn 1:43-51
Basil and Gregory John Neumann

Bringing Home Editor: Diane M. Houdek; Art Director: Michael Winegardner; Illustrations by Julie Lonneman
the Word For licensing information, call 1-800-488-0488 or visit www.BringingHometheWord.org.
Copyright © 2007, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.
December 30, 2007 All rights reserved. Print duplication rights granted only to license holder.