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Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
BY Tom and April Hoopes
20 is the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C, Cycle II). Friday, Dec. 25 is
Christmas Day, a holy day of obligation.
Dec. 24, 10 p.m., Pope Benedict XVI
celebrates midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Dec. 25, noon, Pope Benedict gives
his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city of Rome and the
world) from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI noted
some fascinating facts about the winter solstice (Dec. 21).
“The Christmas festivity is placed
within and linked to the winter solstice, when, in the northern hemisphere, the
days begin once again to lengthen.
“In this regard, perhaps not
everyone knows that in St. Peter’s Square there is also a meridian; in fact,
the great obelisk casts its shadow in a line that runs along the paving stones
toward the fountain beneath this window, and in these days, the shadow is at
its longest of the year.
“This reminds us of the role of
astronomy in setting the times of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited
in the morning, at noon and in the evening, and clocks were regulated by the
meridian, which in ancient times made it possible to know the ‘exact midday.’
He noted that 2009 is the World Year
of Astronomy, established on the fourth centenary of Galileo’s first
observations by telescope.
He said that some of his
predecessors “studied this science, such as Sylvester II, who taught it,
Gregory XIII, to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X, who knew how to build
Remember the Hoopes’ advice: Forget
all the other Christmas specials from your childhood, and if you must watch
something, watch the two anticommercialization classics: “The Grinch Who Stole
Christmas” (1966) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965).
Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16,
18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
In the first reading, the prophet
Micah sees how blessed Bethlehem is, despite being an unlikely town for the
savior to be born. In the Gospel reading, Elizabeth sees how blessed Mary is,
despite being an unlikely home to the incarnate God. Don’t think your family is
an unlikely family to make a major impact on the world.
Today’s Mass explains why all of
these low expectations are about to be shattered.
himself is always catching us lowering our expectations and then shattering
them. He came to a humble place and in a humble way. But it is precisely this
quiet way that wins us to him.
Today’s readings tell us exactly how
to make Christmas make a difference.
1. Make Christ present to your
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your
face, and we shall be saved,” says the Psalm. Simply by being with us, by
tending to his vine himself, he changes us. We know the difference between
reading a textbook and meeting with a tutor, the difference between a letter
and a visit. Christ coming directly to tend to his vine changes the whole
dynamic between God and man. Spend time with him in prayer as a family to be
2. Learn God’s will.
In the second reading, Paul applies
to Christ the words “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.” Paul explains, “By
this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated.” Christ reveals the path to our
happiness in the will of the Father. Be sure your family knows his will through
the three sources that give it: the Church (read the Catechism), Scripture
(study the Gospels) and through the events of your life (talk to them about
what’s happening and what it means).
3. Do God’s will.
are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be
fulfilled,” Elizabeth says to Mary. Is there some practice that you and your
family know you ought to do, and wish you could get around to doing? Mass
during the week? The daily Rosary? Do it, and stick to it! The rewards will be
The first reading predicts just how
great the rewards will one day be, if enough of us get on board: “His greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.”
and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.