Thursday, November 29, 2018

Genesis, chapter 22, Verse 12
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear god, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”

This was the last test of Abraham. It was by Abraham’s confidence and humility before God that all the peoples of the earth are blessed for God did not withhold from us his only son Jesus Christ in sacrifice for our sins.

Rabbinical sources record that there were 10 tests of Abraham:[1]

1)      God tells him to leave his homeland to be a stranger in the land of Canaan.

2)      Immediately after his arrival in the Promised Land, he encounters a famine.

3)      The Egyptians capture his beloved wife, Sarah, and bring her to Pharaoh.

4)      Abraham faces incredible odds in the battle of the four and five kings.

5)      He marries Hagar after not being able to have children with Sarah.

6)      God tells him to circumcise himself at an advanced age.

7)      The king of Gerar captures Sarah, intending to take her for himself.

8)      God tells him to send Hagar away after having a child with her.

9)      His son, Ishmael, becomes estranged.

10)  God tells him to sacrifice his dear son Isaac upon an altar.

Sex and Holy Purity[2]

It's impossible to discuss Holy Purity without visiting The Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus taught the multitudes the twelve Beatitudes, He was speaking to all men of all ages on correct moral conduct. In number eight of the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," Christ was teaching of the cleanness of the whole person, not just his heart. The heart represents one's thought, words and deeds. Remember Sister Christine Joseph's morning prayer?

"A man is worth what his heart is worth." Purity of heart is a gift of God and we are to be constant in our vigilance to acquire and keep this purity - whose reward will be the Beatific Vision. Holy purity is a virtue. Jesus placed such an emphasis on purity that He warned us to fight hard without making any concessions. And, if we fall from grace, we begin again. King David suffered the grave crime of adultery. God punished him, he repented his sin and went on to lead a life of holy purity. Jesus warned us to protect the purity of our whole being, especially the 'lust of the eyes' and 'adultery in the heart.' To understand this important teaching, let us look at scripture, Mt. 5: 27-28:

"You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Sinful 'lust of the eyes' and 'adultery in the heart' can take place even within the marriage. In other words, it is morally wrong for spouses to 'use' one another. Pope John Paul II addressed this sorrowful reality during his general audience of October 8, l980:

"Adultery 'in the heart' is committed not only because man 'looks' in this way at a woman who is not his wife, but precisely because he looks at a woman in this way. Even if he looked in this way at the woman who is his wife, he could likewise commit adultery 'in his heart.'"

John Paul is saying that it is possible for a husband to treat his wife as 'nothing but an object for his gratification.' The sinful perversion of sodomy, man with man and woman with woman, is most grievous against 'holy purity.' It was recently reported by the New York Times that in Key West, Florida the densely populated year-round sodomite community celebrates a Fall Fantasy Fest each year. Same-sex rituals are performed in full public display with little or no outcry from local police or towns people. Key West has been referred as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

"Decorum and modesty are younger brothers of purity," said St. Josemaría Escrivá.

When a woman, young or old, dresses immodestly, she not only tempts men to sin against purity, but she incurs the sin of temptress upon her own soul. An immodest woman who reveals her body while she is walking at a public venue (a shopping mall, a sports arena, a concert) could conceivably cause hundreds, perhaps thousands of men to commit the sins of 'lust of the eyes' and 'adultery in the heart' in one hour's time. An immodestly dressed cheerleader, for example, whom the ESPN television camera man captures numerous times for a hundred million male viewers, would certainly be a cause of tremendous spiritual harm for young and adult male viewers nationwide. In addition, the anger and contempt that wives and mothers hold in their hearts for such immodest women, who tempt their sons and husbands, is another sin against purity of heart. Woe to immodest women who invite through the eyes many iniquities into the soul. For such women tempt the beast in men and cause loss of dignity and respect for the whole of womanhood. A certain popular priest, well known to viewers of a Catholic television network, was a college champion swimmer and diver. After entering the priesthood, and as our culture decayed in decorum and modesty, he sadly could no longer frequent swimming pools and the seaside. It became an occasion of sin for him due to the immodestly dressed women in bathing suits designed to publicly expose their bodies. If, today, you invite guests to your swimming pool, it would be well to have modest bathing suits, in all sizes, to maintain the purity of heart at your home. Or better yet, do as a popular Catholic Family land place of retreat in Ohio practices. They have an excellent code of modesty for families swimming at their pool. Everyone wears long loose t-shirts over their swimming attire in and out of the water. God surely is pleased with this wholesome recreation.

Advent wreath and calendar[3]

Advent Wreath

Many Catholics may be surprised to learn that the Advent wreath actually came from Lutherans living in east Germany. Yet though this custom is relatively recent as far as tradition goes, it has rightly earned a place of prominence among our Advent customs. A simple wreath made of evergreen (yew or fir or laurel) is adorned with four candles equidistant from each other. These candles may be of any color: in some European countries they are all white, though in the U.S. they generally correspond to the liturgical colors of the four Sundays of Advent (three purple and one pink or rose). In a dark room, a purple candle is lit on the First Sunday of Advent, another on the Second, the rose candle on the Third Sunday (in commemoration of Gaudete Sunday), and the last purple candle on the Fourth Sunday. Thus, all four candles will be lit for the week before Christmas. There is no formal ceremony for the lighting of the wreath or for the prayers that are said around it; there is not even an official Roman formula for blessing the wreath. Catholic families simply pray together for a holy preparation and a holy Christmas, concluding with a traditional Advent hymn. The symbolism of the Advent wreath is simple but effective. The wreath, with its crown-like character, reminds us of the King, while its circular shape betokens the "fulfillment of time" that both Comings bring about. The candles, on the other hand, represent the prophets whose inspired words pierced the darkness under which mankind groaned while waiting for the Messiah; they also represent the elects' hearts burning for Christ.

Advent Calendar

Another popular Advent custom, also from Germany, creates a similar build-up of anticipation. Advent calendars are colorful pieces of cardboard on which is depicted a many-windowed house. Behind the shutters of each house is a picture or symbol that points to the coming of Christmas. Beginning December 1, the children are allowed to open the shutters of one window per day. Finally, on December 24, the front door of the house is opened, showing the nativity.

Jesse Tree[4]

The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. Even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained-glass windows. The "tree" is usually a branch or sapling and is decorated with various symbols that remind us of the purpose and promises of God from Creation to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesse was the father of King David and God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever. Two centuries after the death of King David, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2) Each Jesse Tree ornament usually consists of a handmade symbol or drawing that represents one of the major stories of the Old Testament along with a brief verse of Scripture from that story.

Jesse Tree Ornaments

If you decide to use one symbol each day during December, there are 24 symbolic ornaments to make for your Jesse Tree, so each family member will need to make several. Making the ornaments is a good project for Sunday afternoons during Advent. To make an ornament, first read the Scripture verses for the day. Then pick out one or two short verses that give the main idea. Copy these verses on the back of the ornament. By this time, you will probably be thinking of various ways to illustrate your Scripture verses. Use lots of creativity in making your ornament! You can use pictures from magazines or old greeting cards. Or draw pictures or symbols yourself. Color them with crayons, pencils, markers or paint. Look around the house for bits and pieces that will make your design beautiful! If you prefer to have a pattern already made, Caryn Talty, at Organic Living for a Healthy Family, has created 26 excellent ornaments which she graciously offers free – both full color and black and white.

Jesse Tree Scriptures (The Symbols Are Only Suggestions)

December 1 Creation: Gen. 1:1-31; 2:1-4 Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth

December 2 Adam and Eve: Gen. 2:7-9, 18-24 Symbols: tree, man, woman

December 3 Fall of Man: Gen. 3:1-7 and 23-24 Symbols: tree, serpent, apple with bite

December 4 Noah: Gen. 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17, 23, 24; 8:1, 6-22 Symbols: ark, animals, dove, rainbow

December 5 Abraham: Gen. 12:1-3 Symbols: torch, sword, mountain

December 6 Isaac: Gen. 22:1-14 Symbols: bundle of wood, altar, ram in bush

December 7 Jacob: Gen. 25:1-34; 28:10-15 Symbols: kettle, ladder

December 8 Joseph: Gen. 37:23-28; 45:3-15 Symbols: bucket, well, silver coins, tunic

December 9 Moses: Ex. 2:1-10 Symbols: baby in basket, river and rushes

December 10 Samuel: 1 Sam. 3:1-18 Symbols: lamp, temple

December 11 Jesse: 1 Sam. 16:1-13 Symbols: crimson robe, shepherd's staff

December 12 David: 1 Sam. 17:12-51 Symbols: slingshot, 6-pointed star

December 13 Solomon: 1 Kings 3:5-14, 16-28 Symbols: scales of justice, temple, two babies and sword

December 14 Joseph: Matt. 1:18-25 Symbols: hammer, saw, chisel, angle

December 15 Mary: Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38 Symbols: lily, crown of stars, pierced heart

December 16 John the Baptist: Mark 1:1-8 Symbols: shell with water, river

On December 17, the Church begins to intensify the preparation for Christmas with the use of the "O" Antiphons during the Liturgy of the Hours. The symbols for the Jesse Tree from December 17 to 23 are based on the "O" Antiphons.
December 17 Jesus is Wisdom: Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus in old Bibles) 24:2; Wisdom 8:1 Symbols: oil lamp, open book

December 18 Jesus is Lord: Ex. 3:2; 20:1 Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets

December 19 Jesus is Flower of Jesse: Isaiah 11:1-3 Symbols: flower, plant with flower

December 20 Jesus is Key of David: Isaiah 22:22 Symbols: key, broken chains

December 21 Jesus is the Radiant Dawn: Psalm 19:6-7 (in older Bibles this will be Psalm 18) Symbols: sun rising or high in sky

December 22 Jesus is King of the Gentiles: Psalm 2:7-8; Ephesians 2:14-20 Symbols: crown, scepter

December 23 Jesus is Emmanuel: Isaiah 7:14; 33:22 Symbols: tablets of stone, chalice and host

December 24 Jesus is Light of the World: John 1:1-14 Symbols: candle, flame, sun

Activity Source: Jesse Tree Kit, A by Betsy Walter, Pauline Books and Media, Boston, MA, 1983

49 Godly Character Traits[5]

As we near the Advent season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:

Attentiveness vs. Unconcern

Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)

2716 Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child. It participates in the "Yes" of the Son become servant and the Fiat of God's lowly handmaid.

Deep calls to deep… (Ps. 42)

The Way[6] Heart

"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."

You are afraid of becoming cold and distant towards everyone. For you want to be so detached! 
There is no need to worry: if you belong to Christ — completely to Christ! — 
from him you will get fire, light and warmth for all men.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood



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