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MAXMark Twain wrote: “New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.”
 
Twain’s appraisal of the New Year makes me smile but rings a bit too true. I believe Twain captures the reality of many people’s experience. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The New Year can be a time of self reflection and an opportunity to become transformed into a “new person in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
 
The New Year is an opportunity to look back over the past year and recount both our many blessings and our many struggles—a time to claim the changes we want and need to make to live a fuller life. It can be a time to look to the new year with a renewed hope and promise of being a better you—all that God has created you to be.
 
Now, I know what you are thinking—the success rate of New Year resolutions is bleak—80 percent of resolutions fail by February and 92 percent percent fail later in the year. Most of us have attempted resolutions and failed. Real change is hard to sustain solely by will power. But I believe that, through the power of God and the support of others, we can be transformed. I find confidence in God’s promise: “I am making all things new” (Revelation 2:15).
 
I started “THE MAX 10-week Challenge” on the Monday after Thanksgiving. THE MAX Challenge is a fitness program that includes healthy eating, five days each week of intense cardio and strength training, motivational talks, and, most importantly, a community with the same goal and a desire to help each other reach that goal. I have completed five weeks of the challenge. I started on November 26. I thought, “Why wait to gain another five pounds over the holidays? I figured that it is best to start any change as soon as you have the motivation and opportunity. With God, every day is a new day.
 
I had been trying to lose that extra 10 pounds (which recently became 20) for the past five years with limited success. A few of the women in my parish shared with me their experience of THE MAX Challenge. They looked great, had lost weight and inches, were eating healthfully, and had more energy.
 
The results were tangible. Their living witness convinced me to commit to the 10-week Challenge. It has been a transformative experience—transforming my mind, body and spirit. I think it is working for me, because of the daily 7 a.m. exercise with my group, a strong sense of community, support from the trainers, and a solid eating plan. As I have reflected on these past five weeks and my success with the program, I have begun to reflect on why it works and how I can apply it to other changes I would like to make.
 
So I offer you three ways to effect change in your life as we begin this new year:
 

  1. Trust in God’s transformative power. God loves us unconditionally and wants us to live full and abundant lives. This means taking seriously the call from Jesus to be temples of the Holy Spirit, caring for our bodies, minds, and spirits.
  2.  

  3. Break through barriers. Self-reflection is key to being a spiritually healthy person. What small change do you want to make this year? Real and lasting change is slow and gradual and is effected by taking up the challenge every day. One of my favorite things we did at THE MAX Challenge was to write three goals on a wooden board. The instructor then held up the board, and we each broke it with our palm. I felt powerful as my board snapped on the first try!
  4.  

  5. Do it with others. One of the things that surprised me about THE MAX Challenge was the strong sense of community—people helping people and working together for a common purpose. It reinforces for me the importance of the Christian community and how we are part of something greater than ourselves. We can make changes in our lives through the power of God, the sacramental life, and the support of our sisters and brothers in Christ. We are not “lone rangers.” We are made for communion with God, with nature, and with one another.

 
Take up the challenge to make real change in your life this year for the sake of being fully human, fully alive, and in communion with God and others. Commit to real change, and do it with others. Believe you can break through barriers of old and tired ways, and be transformed into a new creation in Christ!
 
Start today, and if you stumble, let another pick you up and start again on the path to being a better you for God and others.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mark 1:14-17).

After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus enters Galilee proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand and all must live according to God’s will. While proclaiming this Good News, Jesus calls his first four disciples, who are all fishermen. While this may sound normal to us, this was not normal behavior in Jesus’ time. A teacher didn’t seek his disciples, he attracted them. In this case, Jesus reached out first and gathered those who would become his closest followers.

Simon and Andrew immediately dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Without hesitation, they gave up everything they had known to follow the one who had chosen them, the one they put their trust in.

After Simon and Andrew, Jesus called out to James and John. They left behind their father, Zebedee, and followed Jesus. This, too, was not typical behavior; this was against the cultural values of Jewish society in first century Palestine. In those times, one never abandoned a father. Yet, these disciples were compelled to follow Jesus above all else, even if it meant forsaking their home and all they had known and loved.

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

We, as disciples, are called to be with Jesus and to do his will. Knowing that Christ is with us is what gives us strength to do the work that we are both privileged and challenged to do. Some may be called to be missionaries and leave home and family; some may be called to follow Jesus by being home with their families. We are all called to be “fishers of men” and spread the Good News to others.

How is Jesus calling you today? How can you be a “fisher of men” in your daily life?

Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ — which translated means Teacher — ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day” (John 1:35-39).
 
Our role is like the role of John the Baptist — to point out Jesus to others. Once we do, we must let go and allow them to follow Jesus in the way they feel called, not in a way that we choose. Once we have shown them Jesus, it is their task to discern what is it they want to do.
 
Jesus’ question is at the heart of the discernment process of every vocation. He asks those following him, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). He is asking them, “What are the desires of your heart?” and “What do you feel you are being called to do?”
 
The response of the disciples is, “Where are you staying?” (John 1:38). They seem to ask, “Jesus, what are you all about?”
 
Christian vocation in life starts with a relationship with Jesus and his people in the Christian community. It is Jesus who will be able to direct us to what we are truly seeking. He offers the invitation to the disciples and to us: “Come, and you will see” (John 1:39).
 
We are all called to enter into a relationship with Jesus and to model our lives and values after his. Let us enter deeply into this loving relationship.
 
How do you take on the role of John the Baptist and point out Christ to others? How do you continue to grow and develop in your relationship with Jesus?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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Baptism_of_Christ“This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well
pleased’” (Mark 1:7-11).
 
John says there will be a difference between the baptism he offers and the baptism Jesus will offer. The vision Jesus has upon coming up out of the water describes that difference in dramatic fashion. The Spirit descends from heavens “torn open,” rending the boundary that separates heaven and earth. God walking among us in the flesh emphasizes that the Spirit is with us, suffusing all of creation.
 
The word “baptize” literally means to dunk or dip, which means that when we are baptized we are immersed in the Spirit of God. When the heavens are torn open as the Spirit descends, the whole of creation is bathed in divinity.
 
This means that when we are sent forth from Mass “to love and serve the Lord,” or even when we go to work, the gym, or the store we, as Christians, are commissioned to bring the presence of God with us to all we encounter—to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and build a world of peace and justice for all.
 
When in my life have I been aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.
 
Image by Dave Zelenka

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“After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way” (Matthew 2:9-12).
 
How many times in your life have you said to God, “Please give me a sign”? Whether you’re making a difficult decision or trying to find God in the chaos of everyday life, it’s not unusual to ask God for some kind of indication that He’s there. From today’s Gospel, we see that people have been looking for signs for a long time. In their search for the newborn King, the magi followed the star that brought them first to the palace of King Herod and then to the house where “they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matthew 2:11).
 
Throughout the Christmas season, the Scriptures speak of how God has revealed himself to us. Today’s Gospel reading shows that God revealed himself not only to the Jewish people, but also to the Gentiles, which are represented by the magi. God is the God of the whole world, not just the God of a particular set of people.
 
What are the signs today that God is for everyone, loves everyone, and wants everyone to live the reign of God on earth? We are the signs. We are called to be the stars that lead people to God. We bear the Good News to the world. We are all called to be evangelizers and do so by the witness of our lives.
 
In what ways to you serve as a sign that leads others to God? How can you be a better sign to others?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’ The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25-38).
 
Given their modest circumstances, Mary and Joseph must have been especially surprised at the glorious events in the temple. First, Simeon, an old man filled with the Spirit, takes the child in his arms. He, like Mary earlier in Luke’s Gospel, is moved to praise God in song. Then, the old woman Anna, a prophet, likewise celebrates at the sight of Jesus. She cannot contain her enthusiasm and immediately begins spreading the news of the child.
 
Luke’s Gospel is full of instances in which humble people give dramatic expressions of praise in response to an encounter with the divine. This is fitting and gives us comfort, because the inspiring, empowering, life-giving message of the Gospel is for all, no matter how great or small our place in society may be.
 
No one who encounters Jesus in the episodes described in Luke’s Gospel goes away unchanged, and each responds to that encounter. Mary accepts Simeon’s rather ominous prophecy about her future heartache; Joseph agrees to raise a child that is not his own, knowing people will gossip; Simeon accepts his coming death in peace and praise; and Anna sets out to spread the message.
 
For us, the task is the same: to become attentive to the God who is ever beckoning us into relationship and, through this relationship, take steps to become the person God is calling us to be. In our everyday lives, the more we grow in love, the closer we grow to God and each other.
 
When have I recognized God’s presence in ordinary people or situations, and how has that experience affected me?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’” (Luke 1:30-35).

 

“How can this be?” This is a perfectly normal reaction from a person faced with something that does not seem to make sense. Mary, an ordinary, humble, Jewish girl, is visited by an angel who tells her she will conceive a son, though she has no husband, and this child will be the Messiah that her people have longed for. Her reaction— “How can this be?”—is perfectly understandable.

 

It is what follows Mary’s initial reaction that makes her a model disciple. She doesn’t try to bargain with the angel (“Let me just get married first; then I can be the mother of God”) or take charge of the situation (“If this is going to happen, we have some planning to do!”). Rather, her response is one of complete acceptance of God’s will. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

 

Mary’s “yes” with no questions or conditions reveals her discipleship. Her “yes” is also paralleled years later in her son’s acceptance of God’s will on the night before his crucifixion: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

 

Despite any assurances of what the future will hold, Mary places her complete trust in God and does what God asks. This is the model that we are called to emulate. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection do not mean that we will never face suffering or difficulty. God simply promises that he will never abandon us, no matter what we face in life.

 

How is God calling you to be a disciple in your life? What holds you back from accepting what God is asking?

 

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Christ.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said’” (John 1:19-23).
 
In this Gospel passage, the priests, Levites, and Pharisees all ask John the Baptist what many Jews were wondering: “Who are you? … Are you Elijah? … Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:19-21). John denies any special role for himself. He says that he is just pointing toward “the one who is coming after me” (John 1:27).
 
John models the kind of attitude and behavior that all of us as Christians are called to imitate. All that we are meant to do is to direct others towards Christ. We are not to call attention to ourselves or to heighten our own importance. We are meant to reach beyond ourselves to help others live life to the fullest.
 
This selfless love is found amidst the often overwhelming evils in the world. It is found in those whose charity and works for justice help “to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners” (Isaiah 61: 1, which is this Sunday’s first reading).
 
These acts of selfless love illuminate our world as the holiday lights illuminate a December night. May our actions, too, light up the world.
 
Who are the people who have allowed their self-importance to recede so that you were able to grow and develop into the person God is calling you to be? How can you thank or acknowledge them?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’” (Mark 1:6-8).

 

This Gospel opens with the declaration of Jesus as the Son of God and then introduces John the Baptist as the messenger who prepares the way of the Lord. To do so, John called the people to repent, acknowledge their sins, and undergo baptism for forgiveness.

 

Unlike Lent, Advent is not primarily a penitential season. However, Advent does invite us to acknowledge what stands in the way of God’s reign. While John was looking forward to Christ’s first coming, we are looking forward to his coming to us anew each day and to his return in glory at the end of time, when God’s reign will be fulfilled. John’s call is still valid to us – repentance and forgiveness are essential for those who prepare the way of the Lord.

 

What do you need to be forgiven for? Whom do you need to forgive? How can you make forgiveness real in your life this Advent, as a means of preparing the way of the Lord?

 

Our journey through Advent also teaches us a value needed while awaiting the fulfillment of God’s reign – patience. We sometimes want to “get through” Advent and get to Christmas. We are like the child who can’t wait to unwrap the presents lying under the Christmas tree. We naturally want to enjoy the glory of God’s reign here and now, but Advent feeds us the wild honey of joyful expectation, reminding us that the reign of God is already being experienced, but not yet complete.

 

What things try your patience? What might God be telling you about your response to situations that try your patience?

 

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening or at midnight, or at the cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:33-37).

 

Advent is a time for prayerful reflection, a time to be particularly alert to the promptings of God’s grace. The Advent call in the Gospel is to “Be watchful! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33). This is not a call to passively wait for the risen Jesus to come again. This is a call to engage in an active watchfulness by putting your spiritual life in order. It is a challenge to put Christ at the center of your life, over all other pursuits, ambitions, or involvements.

 

Advent is a time for generous good works in which kindness and care for others supersedes self-absorption and concern. Openheartedness creates room for Christ’s vital presence. The distractions of Christmas can often lead to a passive waiting for the coming of Christ. You may find Christmas coming and going with little change in your life. So, “be alert!” and focus on the significance of this holy season.

 

In what ways is God’s grace urging you to a more conscious awareness of the presence of Christ and a deeper relationship with him in this Advent season?

 

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available from the RENEW International online store.

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“’Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me’” (Matthew 25:34-36).

This is the end of Matthew’s apocalypse series ─ a succession of parables in which Jesus talks about the end times. In it, Jesus sets out the standards for final judgment.

“’Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one these least of brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

God’s love and care is for all people. Those who treat others with compassion are blessed and experience the reign of God. By showing love to others, we show love to God. God created all of us and dwells in everyone.

We will be judged based on our acts of kindness to the needy. We are not being asked to donate huge amounts of money or give every free hour to volunteering. We are being asked to share a little of our food with the hungry, to visit the sick, or to sit with a hurting friend. We don’t do these things just to enter the kingdom of heaven. We do these things because Jesus tells us that what we do to the least of our brothers, we do to him.

Do you make it a habit to reach out to help those around you? How does your faith impact the things you do every day?

Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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It was common in the time of Jesus for a master to leave some servants in charge of his affairs when he went on a journey. This master knew his servants well. He entrusted the savvier ones with greater responsibility. But even a less qualified servant might be left with some responsibility – as in the case Jesus describes in one of his parables.

“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had receive the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back’” (Matthew 25: 19-26).

The master was risk taker. He didn’t just allow things to happen; he made them happen. Keeping his talent safe wasn’t good enough. Growth was the only option.

“His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten’” (Matthew 25: 26-28).

In their master’s absence, the successful servants acted just as the master would. For their accomplishments, the master rewarded them with more responsibility. The “wicked” servant did not follow his master’s example. He was punished by having his one talent taken away and then being thrown to the darkness outside.

Once we discover the talents we have been entrusted with, we must show gratitude to God for these gifts by nurturing them and putting them to good use. As members of the Body of Christ, we must use our talents to promote the values of God. When we do, we find our greatest success.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells this parable in the midst of other stories about the end times. As we wait for the second coming of the Son of Man, we must act as Jesus did. If we do so, we can be proud to present these accomplishments to God when we meet him face to face.

What gifts and talents have you discovered in yourself? How might you use them in ways that will build up the Body of Christ?

Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’ His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (John 2:13-22).
 
The Lateran Basilica was dedicated in the fourth century, housed the bishop of Rome (the pope) for centuries, and is still considered the mother church of all churches. Yet it is sometimes difficult for many Catholics to understand the importance of commemorating the dedication of a church. In much the same way, it was difficult for the people in today’s gospel reading to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. The Scripture explains that when Jesus spoke of the destruction of the Temple he was speaking of his own body. If Jesus meant himself when he said “Temple,” what do we mean when we say “Church”?
 
This is a question that has been discussed and debated throughout the history of Christianity. There is a whole discipline, called ecclesiology, dedicated to the question of what “Church” means. This week’s liturgy can help us explore that question. The second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians says that we are God’s building, and it challenges us to recognize ourselves as the temple of our God. In an opening prayer and in the preface for this feast, the Church is described as a temple of “living stones.”
 
In today’s gospel reading, the moneychangers have violated the sanctity of the Temple as the house of worship, and Jesus angrily drives them out. To us, the Gospel says we should rid ourselves of the things that prevent us from being what we are intended to be: a dwelling place for the Spirit, a temple of the Lord.
 
Before the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Christians met in houses to listen to the Scriptures, to pray together, and to “break bread,” an expression commonly used by early Christian communities. These communities were small, and their members were often persecuted for believing that God dwelt within them.
 
With this dedication began the possibility of gathering these small Christian communities together to worship their God as one Church of living stones, a Church of which the foundation stone is Christ.
 
Part of today’s feast is celebrating the freedom to be Christians in public. These readings also call us to the responsibility that comes with that freedom. Do others look at us as living stones? Do we look at ourselves as living stones—as even more a part of the Church than any building could ever be?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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“Jesus told his disciples this parable:’The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry,”Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise ones replied, “No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.” While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But he said in reply, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour'” (Matthew 25: 1-13).
 
Often, we expect or presume that others will take care of something that is or should be our responsibility. The “foolish” virgins did not take care of their responsibilities—to be ready when the bridegroom arrived—nor did they realize the consequences of not being prepared. We, too, must be ready when the time comes or face the consequences. While others may be able to help us out at the last minute or save us from ourselves in many situations, in our faith, we are the only ones who are responsible for and able to develop that aspect of our lives.
 
It may have seemed harsh when the “wise virgins” refused to share their oil, but it was actually a practical or “prudent” choice. Sharing the oil would have meant that all of the torches burned out faster, leaving everyone in the dark. Ten torches are better than five, but five are certainly better than nothing. When it comes to the end of the world, or even the end of your time in the world, there are some things other people will just not be able to do for you.
 
In the midst of our very busy schedules with so many deadlines and commitments, it is easy to become overwhelmed and allow things to slide. This parable reminds us that there is no time like the present to check the condition of our lanterns—our relationship with God.
 
– In what part of my life is the oil running low and how can I keep the flame from burning out?

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FrWallThe human population is evolving into two categories: those who lived before and those who live during the digital age.
 
Those who lived before have at least one disadvantage: they’re more easily forgotten.
 
A case in point arose recently when I did a Google search on Monsignor William Wall.
 
I met Monsignor Wall when I was about twelve years old and was an altar server at my parish church.
 
In those days, we altar servers knelt on the altar step while the celebrant conducted the liturgy with his back to us.
 
The rubrics called for the celebrant to genuflect multiple times during the Mass, and the first time I saw Monsignor Wall genuflect was also the first time I saw khaki pants and sneakers emerge from under the cassock and alb.
 
It was the mid 1950s, and I had never seen a priest arrive for Sunday Mass in anything but black clerical garb.
 
I learned that his mode of dress wasn’t the only thing unconventional about Monsignor Wall.
 
He was a tough customer with a no-nonsense attitude and a blunt vocabulary.
 
He would often pause during Mass to direct a death stare at someone in the church who was disruptive or inattentive.
 
One Sunday he stopped in the middle of his homily and asked the chatty choir members if they thought they could preach better than he could.
 
Another Sunday, he froze during the final blessing with his hand raised in the air and asked the ushers in back of the church, “Will the standing army of Christ please kneel?”
 
More important, he was the founder and overseer of the Mount Carmel Guild in Paterson, where he specialized in helping indigent men who were addicted to alcohol.
 
He dealt directly with these men, gave them tough love, and put them to work.
 
I didn’t understand it at the time, but he was also the first priest I knew whose ministry wasn’t confined to a church or a parish or, for that matter, to Catholics.
 
He was, in fact, the first example I encountered of the kind of ministry Pope Francis has been urging since the first days of his papacy—a ministry that reaches to the outskirts of society to touch the most desolate of our brothers and sisters.
 
Monsignor Wall died many years ago in a tractor accident on a farm he operated as part of the Guild’s program.
 
My Google search on his name produced very few responses and no substantial information about him.
 
He did his work and departed this earth before there was an Internet to capture his biography and preserve it forever.
 
But he lives on in the incalculable impact he had on the lives of men he helped and the example he set for untold others, including me.
 
We observe All Souls Day on November 2, but the Church traditionally dedicates this whole month to commemoration of the faithful departed.
 
There is no more fitting way to carry on that tradition than by remembering in prayer those who have contributed to the spawning and maturing of our Christian faith.
 
Our parents, our teachers, our pastors, our mentors—exemplars like Monsignor Wall—may not have a place in cyberspace, but they have earned one in our memories and our hearts.
 
This post was first published in the Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen where the writer is a permanent deacon.

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