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Bible Reflections View Comments

What Does It All Mean?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2014
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The Christmas season ended last Sunday with the Baptism of the Lord. We celebrate the incarnation with a fitting combination of childlike wonder, nostalgia, feasting, and merriment. But the cycle of the church year and the lectionary readings remind us that our faith is more than a commemoration of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. That baby, like all babies, grew quickly. The adult Jesus who appears in today’s Gospel will begin changing people’s expectations and challenging the status quo. If we profess to follow this man, then we better be ready to expect the unexpected.

The most determined new parents soon discover that babies and toddlers can’t be programmed and that domestic chaos will become a way of life for many years. The most organized Type- A managers learn that they have to be able to handle the unexpected calmly and graciously if they’re going to succeed and help the people around them succeed.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus through the eyes of John the Baptist. According to John the Evangelist, the Baptist is the main witness to the divinity and mission of Jesus. John the Baptist was a man with a single mission. He’s calling people to repent of their sins and prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing them as a sign of their being washed clean of sin. He is, as a business or marketing consultant might say, “on message.”

Then Jesus appears and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And yet twice he reflects wonderingly on the fact that he didn’t know Jesus at first. He says, “I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” His idea of who and what the Messiah would be seems to have been upended by the actual appearance of that Messiah.

Sometimes, even for the most focused among us, it can be hard to know how the things that we do day to day fit into a bigger picture. Like someone working a difficult jigsaw puzzle, we get so caught up in how one or two pieces fit together, or we get frustrated when another piece doesn’t seem to fit at all, that we forget to look once more at what we’re trying to achieve in the long run.

Our Scriptures remind us we don’t always have to be certain of every step and every implication of the things that we do. Life is much less an elaborate battle plan than a quest into the unknown for a cause we believe in with all our hearts and minds. It helps if we can take time out to see the big picture, to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Today we begin once again to explore what discipleship means in our life, how we live our faith in our daily lives. Our faith often needs to grow quickly to meet the unexpected challenges of a secular and sometimes hostile world. And sometimes we might feel blindsided by challenges coming from God’s own movements in our lives.

God’s spirit speaks to us in many ways—through the Scriptures, through other people, even through the evening news. We need to be flexible enough to bend when our ideas don’t fit God’s message, but firm enough to hold to that message in the fickle winds of culture. If we’re alert to the signs around us, we will know how to respond.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Mary's Flower - Fleur-de-lis
More countless than the drops in an ocean are the repetitions down the ages of those gracious words: “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.”

St. Ignatius Loyola
The founder of the Society of Jesus is also a patron of all who were educated by the Jesuits.

Anniversary
We continue to fall in love again and again throughout our years together.

Vacation
God is a beacon in our lives; the steady light that always comes around again.

Sympathy
Grace gives us the courage to accept what we cannot change.




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