Christmas Reflection: The Alarming Message of the Bethlehem Angels

The Alarming Message of the Bethlehem Angels

Luke tells us that on Christmas night an angel appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their sheep.  Don’t get sentimental about angels, imagining them to be sweet and unthreatening.  Instead, keep in mind that the typical reaction to the sudden manifestation of a higher being from another dimension is, quite properly, fear.  Indeed, the Christmas messenger says to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid,” which implies that they were!

The angel announces the Good News of Christ’s birth, and then we are told that “there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God ….”  If one angel is terrifying, imagine what a multitude of them is like.  The Greek word that is translated as “host” is stratias, which means army.  Our words “strategy” and “strategic” are derived from it.  The most powerful man in the world at that time was Caesar Augustus, and his power was grounded in the fact that he had the biggest and best-trained army.  The rather subtle and subversive point that Saint Luke is making is this:  the newborn baby of Bethlehem has an even bigger and more frightening army.  Mind you, this angelic army doesn’t fight with the weapons of the world, but it can indeed overwhelm anything that is in the world.

–  Reverend Robert Barron

Bishop Robert Barron is the Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles; he is the founder of Word on Fire (www.wordonfire.org).

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds (1639), by Govert Flinck, Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (2:1-14)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest/ and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds, Bernardino Luini (1480/1490-1532).

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Blessed Are We: Christ’s Mass is Christmas

Today, Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord, and look forward to the joys of Christmas Day, I offer Christmas wishes to my fellow Catholics: active, passive, and fallen-away:

Here’s hoping you’ll find time for Mass tonight – this celebration of Christ’s Mass (Christmas) – even and especially if you haven’t been in awhile.  I’m sure there’ll be a few options for your schedule; and never despair at returning to the God who loves you.  Know, as a member of God’s family, among the Communion of Saints, there are those praying for you more often than you’ll ever know.

Tonight, let the Christ-child, whom we celebrate in a very special way this season, and especially tonight, and Christmas Day, have a place in the Inn of your Heart.  Make room for the infant Jesus there.

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Saint Pope John Paul II called the Eucharist the “Source and Summit of the Christian faith.”  This is because the Eucharist refreshes the soul of everyone who thirsts for Him.  Through your baptismal (Catholic) faith you have a seat at this table in a very special way.  The Eucharist is food for the soul.  It is the Manna come down from Heaven – the food granted to God’s people for the Christian journey.

My prayer for you, Catholic brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, is that throughout your life, despite the noise of this Secular Age in which we live, you will hear Christ’s Eucharistic call for you – his loving invitation to let him journey with you each day of your life; to join him at his Communion table, to receive Him as food for your journey and, in this Eucharistic celebration at every Mass, you will invite the Christ-child to change and transform you, so, like St. Paul, it will no longer be I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Such is the transformative, sacramental power of the Eucharist.  And it this arrival of the baby born of a Virgin, born to be the King of Kings, the long-awaited Messiah foretold through the ages by the Jewish prophets, whom we celebrate on this Christmas Day.  It is He whom we celebrate at this Christ’s Mass and at every Mass celebrated every hour, of every day, on every nation of the Earth.

It is through our life’s journey that we are meant to truly discover who God has created us to be.  We are called for mission; and we, Catholics, are very fortunate, for we truly are blessed – we who have been called to the Supper of the Lamb.

Trust always in God’s plans for you.  Live out your mission in and through your baptismal faith.

Merry Christmas.  Peace be with you – always.

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For more information please visit https://www.catholicscomehome.org .

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Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Advent Reflections:  The Witness of John the Baptist

The Witness of John the Baptist

The entire existence of the Forerunner of Jesus was nourished by his relationship with God, particularly the period he spent in desert regions (cf. Lk 1:80). The desert regions are places of temptation but also where man acquires a sense of his own poverty, because once deprived of material support and security, he understands that the only steadfast reference point is God himself. John the Baptist, however, is not only a man of prayer, in permanent contact with God, but also a guide in this relationship. The Evangelist Luke, recalling the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father, notes that the request was formulated by the disciples in these words: Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his own disciples (cf. Lk 11:1)….

Celebrating the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist reminds us too, Christians of this time, that with love for Christ, for his words and for the Truth, we cannot stoop to compromises. The Truth is Truth; there are no compromises. Christian life demands, so to speak, the “martyrdom” of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to let Christ grow within us and let him be the One who guides our thought and our actions. However, this can happen in our life only if we have a solid relationship with God. Prayer is not time wasted, it does not take away time from our activities, even apostolic activities, but exactly the opposite is true: only if we are able to have a faithful, constant, and trusting life of prayer will God himself give us the ability and strength to live happily and serenely, to surmount difficulties, and to witness courageously to him. Saint John the Baptist, intercede for us, that we may be ever able to preserve the primacy of God in our life.

Pope Benedict XVI

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Saint Jean-Baptiste, by French painter Alexandre Cabanel (1849)


The third Sunday and week of Advent

Christ’s coming is Good News to those who are aware of their emptiness and need.  For them it is a cause for rejoicing.  It spells loss, however, for those who are full of themselves, their own importance, and their possessions.  (Magnificat, Dec 16, 2017)

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,/ to heal the broken­hearted, / To proclaim liberty to the captives/ and release to the prisoners. (Is 61:1)

Psalm 146:5-10

He is happy who is helped by Jacob’s God,

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

who alone made heaven and earth,

the seas and all they contain.

It is he who keeps faith for ever,

who is just to those who are oppressed.

It is he who gives bread to the hungry,

the Lord, who sets prisoners free,

the Lord who gives sight to the blind,

who raises up those who are bowed down,

the Lord, who protects the stranger

and upholds the widow and orphan.

It is the Lord who loves the just

but thwarts the path of the wicked.

The Lord will reign for ever,

Zion’s God, from age to age.

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Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph. So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.



Advent Reflections:  The Tradition of the Christmas Crib

The Tradition of the Christmas Crib

Following a beautiful and firmly-rooted tradition, many families set up their crib immediately after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, as if to relive with Mary those days full of trepidation that preceded the Birth of Jesus.  Putting up the crib at home can be a simple but effective way of presenting faith, to pass it on to one’s children.  The crib helps us contemplate the mystery of God’s love that was revealed in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem Grotto.  Saint Francis of Assisi was so taken by the mystery of the Incarnation that he wanted to present it anew at Greccio in the living nativity scene, thus beginning an old, popular tradition that still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed, the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who though he was rich he made himself poor for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it, and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the angel’s words: Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and women of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.

Pope Benedict XVI

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The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622


The first Sunday and week of Advent

In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine. It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves: How is the state of my soul? Am I prepared for the coming of Christ? As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves? Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting. As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9). Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).

So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year: “Watch!” And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph. So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.



Advent Reflections:  A sermon by St. Anselm

A sermon by St. Anselm

O Virgin, by whose blessing all nature is blessed!

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night – everything that is subject to the power or use of man – rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendour by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Saviour of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself.

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On the Lord’s right stands the queen in gold of Ophir (cf Ps 45:9-10).

Mary is the House of Gold, the resplendent temple prepared by God as a fit dwelling place for his Son.  By her faith, more precious than gold itself, she furnished her heart to receive him in pure love.

The Virgin Mary, chosen Mother of the Redeemer, is robed in the splendor of her stainless innocence, clothed with the beauty of Christ, and prepared to receive him in her womb.

– MAGNIFICAT, Dec 8, 2017





The first Sunday and week of Advent

In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine.  It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves:  How is the state of my soul?  Am I prepared for the coming of Christ?  As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves?  Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting.  As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9).  Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).  So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year:  “Watch!”  And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph.  So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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Advent Reflections:  A letter of St. Ambrose

A letter of St. Ambrose

You win the people over with the grace of your words

You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbour of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voices.

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice. Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.
He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others. So Scripture says: If the clouds are full, they will pour rain upon the earth.

Therefore, let your words be rivers, clean and limpid, so that in your exhortations you may charm the ears of your people. And by the grace of your words win them over to follow your leadership. Let your sermons be full of understanding. Solomon says: The weapons of the understanding are the lips of the wise; and in another place he says: Let your lips be bound with wisdom. That is, let the meaning of your words shine forth, let understanding blaze out. See that your addresses and expositions do not need to invoke the authority of others, but let your words be their own defence. Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.

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Prepare our hearts, Lord, by the power of your grace. / When Christ comes, / may he find us worthy / to receive from his hand the bread of / heaven / at the feast of eternal life.

Saint Ambrose proclaimed the coming of Christ, the long-awaited Savior, in troubled times not so different from our own. When others were abandoning the true faith for falsified concepts of Christ, Ambrose remained steadfast and taught his people fidelity by preaching, writing, and creating inspiring hymns still sung today.
– MAGNIFICAT, Dec 7, 2017

Ambrose worked tirelessly to defend orthodox doctrine, especially against the pervasive Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Christ.  St. Ambrose was the saint who introduced Lectio Divina, the practice of prayerfully meditating on the Sacred Scriptures, into the Latin Church.  This informed his eloquent writing, preaching, and teaching, earning him the nickname “honey-tongued doctor.”  Ambrose was the bishop who converted and baptized St. Augustine of Hippo.  He is one of the four original Doctors of the Church.


The first Sunday and week of Advent
In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine.  It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves:  How is the state of my soul?  Am I prepared for the coming of Christ?  As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves?  Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting.  As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9).  Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).  So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year:  “Watch!”  And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph.  So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

Advent Reflections:  A sermon by St. Bernard

A sermon by St. Bernard

Let the word of the Lord come to us

We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold: the third coming is between the other two and it is not visible in the way they are. At his first coming the Lord was seen on earth and lived among men, who saw him and hated him. At his last coming All flesh shall see the salvation of our God, and They shall look on him whom they have pierced. In the middle, the hidden coming, only the chosen see him, and they see him within themselves; and so their souls are saved. The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.

This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.

If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him. Elsewhere I have read: Whoever fears the Lord does good things. – but I think that what was said about whoever loves him was more important: that whoever loves him will keep his words. Where are these words to be kept? In the heart certainly, as the Prophet says I have hidden your sayings in my heart so that I do not sin against you. Keep the word of God in that way: Blessed are those who keep it. Let it penetrate deep into the core of your soul and then flow out again in your feelings and the way you behave; because if you feed your soul well it will grow and rejoice. Do not forget to eat your bread, or your heart will dry up. Remember, and your soul will grow fat and sleek.

If you keep God’s word like this, there is no doubt that it will keep you, for the Son will come to you with the Father: the great Prophet will come, who will renew Jerusalem, and he is the one who makes all things new. For this is what this coming will do: just as we have been shaped in the earthly image, so will we be shaped in the heavenly image. Just as the old Adam was poured into the whole man and took possession of him, so in turn will our whole humanity be taken over by Christ, who created all things, has redeemed all things, and will glorify all things.

Prepare our hearts, Lord, by the power of your grace. / When Christ comes, / may he find us worthy / to receive from his hand the bread of / heaven / at the feast of eternal life.

Sometimes, in the middle of the busy satisfactions of everyday life, we might be tempted to wonder whether or not we really want Christ to come and transform the world as we know it. Then we remember the harsh realities of sickness, hunger, suffering, and death.  Who does not long then for the everlasting riches of God’s house, given to us through the mercy of Christ our Shepherd and Savior?  – Magnificat, Dec 6, 2017

St. Bernard reminds us, in this sermon, that God’s invitation is an open one, inviting us in and through his son, Jesus Christ. We must only allow our hearts to be open to receive, and it is the Holy Spirit who will act through this act of our desire to be a guest in the household of God.


St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard de Clairvaux, (born 1090, probably Fontaine-les-Dijon, near Dijon, Burgundy [France]–died August 20, 1153, Clairvaux, Champagne; canonized January 18, 1174; feast day August 20), Cistercian monk and mystic, the founder and abbot of the abbey of Clairvaux and one of the most influential churchmen of his time.  Source:  www.britannica.com

The first Sunday and week of Advent

In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine.  It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves:  How is the state of my soul?  Am I prepared for the coming of Christ?  As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves?  Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting.  As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9).  Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).  So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year:  “Watch!”  And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph.  So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.


Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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