RENEW International - Home   RENEW International - Blog   RENEW International - Shop   RENEW International - Donate   RENEW International - Request Info


“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet…’ Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’ 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 2:1-5; 7-12).
Who are these magi? They are searchers. They are observers of the night sky and the forces of nature. They are not afraid to get up and follow their instincts and hunches about where the divine is calling them.
Most people assume that the star leads the magi directly to Bethlehem and to Jesus, but it doesn’t. The rising of the star leads them to Micah 5:1 and 2 Samuel 5:2, Scripture that speaks of Jesus’ coming. This small detail is extremely important. The Gentile magi must immerse themselves in the atmosphere of Jerusalem and the history of Israel found there, or they will never find the King of the Jews.
So the magi sojourn in Jerusalem where they are enlightened. The star is no longer simply an object in the night sky but the star that “shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Now the star is a true guide to Jesus. They pay homage and offer gifts.
But not everyone sees Jesus as worthy of homage and gifts. Some will see the King of the Jews who will proclaim the kingdom of God as threatening the “kingdoms” that are already here. There is no room for another kingdom, especially one calling for an end to violence and greed and one promoting the justice and reconciliation of the Torah or Law. So while the magi do homage, others plot murder.
This same choice lies before stargazers and Bible readers today. It is not about stars or about words on a page. It is about hearts open to the future that God wants for us, or hearts hardened around limited self-interests. The magi chose. How do we choose?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


newborn_baby“So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke2: 16-19).
It is not unusual that new mothers, sometimes immediately or sometimes when they regain some strength and the opportunity to reflect a bit, will treasure and ponder the wonder of the new life brought into the world.
Mary hears from the shepherds their tale—a story of angels and heavenly song and prophecy. The birth of this child, they say, is good news not only for her and
Joseph but also “for all the people” (Luke 2:10). What a message to treasure and ponder!
The ultimate destiny and meaning of Mary’s infant child will become more clear to her. Like many mothers, she treasures this child and ponders on what
is still to come.
We honor Mary as the Mother of God. But in some ways her greatest “honor” is that she is the first disciple of her son. Her response to the angel Gabriel, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), is the decision of a disciple choosing to obey and follow. As disciple, she has a unique role to play.
She is to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Mother of Emmanuel, the Mother of God. Her “yes” sets her on the way to becoming mother. She is disciple first, then mother.
She treasures her choosing that has taken flesh in her son, Jesus. And she ponders what it may mean to follow and obey this same son. Perhaps we share Mary’s moment. We treasure the wonder of God’s love revealed in the birth of her son.
And we, too, ponder what it means to follow and be changed by such a love.
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


birth-of-jesus-1150128_1280“When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them” (Luke 2: 15-20). (Mass at dawn)
Considering the nature of the events in St. Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus, we would expect from the witnesses exactly the reaction that Luke described: they were “amazed.”
But within the same few lines of Luke’s story there is a tantalizing counterpoint to that amazement: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Do we, in the twenty-first century, have the same reactions to the birth of Jesus as those who were present at the time? Are we amazed, and do we reflect on these things in our hearts?
This is not a folk tale adorned with details calculated to charm us. This is the account of a transformative event in human history, an event in which divine life and human life intersected in a uniquely intimate way. This was God, so full of love for the creatures he made in his own likeness that he himself took on human form. This was God taking on himself the whole of the human experience, excepting sin, so that men and women would be restored to their proper relationship to God through the ministry, sacrifice, and glorification of Jesus. If we believe this, how can we not be amazed?
The birth of Jesus was in its immediate circumstances a very personal event—this particular child born to these particular parents under difficult economic, social, and political conditions. We can easily relate to the story of Jesus’ birth because we understand on the one hand fear and confusion, and we understand on the other hand the joy of parenthood and the irresistible attraction of a newborn child. For Joseph and Mary, the effects of these competing emotions must have been unsettling and exhausting. But Mary, as she often did, set an example for us in her reaction to the Nativity itself and the framework in which it occurred: she reflected on these things in her heart.
The Christmas season at times seems to be designed to prevent us from doing any such thing, but for most of us, the pressures of the holiday season are as nothing compared to what Mary confronted. And still, she reflected on these things in her heart. The birth of Jesus began the unfolding of the mystery through which each of us has been offered salvation from the consequences of sin and death. If we believe this, how can we not reflect on it at Christmas and on every day of our lives?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


adventGood and Gracious God,
you have given us a gift in the life and love of your Son.
Help us to follow your call in our lives,
granting us the grace to live by Jesus’ example
in all we say and do.
We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
From Advent Awakenings, Year A: Trust the Lord.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Water_WineWhen I was a member of St. Joseph’s parish in High Bridge, New Jersey, the church was so crowded at one Easter Sunday Mass that the pastor invited standees to take seats in the sanctuary.
The only people to accept the invitation were a woman and her teenaged daughter.
After Mass, the woman remarked to me that she was delighted, because she had never witnessed the liturgy at such close range, and she noticed many details that had escaped her up to then.
Among those details was part of the ritual in which the celebrant or the deacon pours a little water into the chalice of wine before the consecration.
The woman noticed that the deacon, in this case, said something inaudible while he was pouring that drop of water.
She was referring to this prayer: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”
I don’t know why we are instructed in the Roman Missal to say that prayer quietly, but the prayer and the ritual itself refer to a fact that is central to our faith, a fact that we celebrate in an especially solemn way on Christmas.
On that holy day, we celebrate the moment in time in which God, while retaining his divine nature, took on human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so that Jesus was fully God and fully human.
In the symbolism of the ritual we’re discussing, the wine represents the divine nature of Jesus, and the water represents his human nature; once the wine and water have mingled they cannot be separated, and so it is with the divine and human natures of Christ.
And there’s more.
While we acknowledge in that prayer that Christ is both divine and human, we also pray that we who are human may share in his divinity.
That idea can be found in Scripture—for example in the Second Letter of Peter in which the author writes that Jesus “has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire’’ (2 Peter 1:4).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite explicit about this, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote: “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods’’ (Catechism, paragraph 460).
Through the grace of the sacraments, through Scripture, through prayer, and through acts of justice and mercy, we spend our lives being formed more and more in the image of the one who was born in our image, to the delight of angels and shepherds.
As the prayer over the wine and water says, God “humbled himself” when he assumed human form, but he also beckoned us sons and daughters to realize the full potential of our humanity, to become fit company for him.
We achieve the full transformation when God welcomes us into communion with him for eternity—into heaven, as we say—a destiny that, because of original sin, was unimaginable before the Nativity.
We hear it each year in the carol: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, then he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”
This post first appeared in The Catholic Spirit, Diocsese of Metuchen.
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Page 20 of 53« First...10...1819202122...304050...Last »
Home / Request Information / Site Map / Contact Us / Shop Online
Why Catholic? / ¿Por qué ser católico? / ARISE Together in Christ / Longing for the Holy
Campus RENEW / Theology on Tap / RENEW Worldwide