Word Among Us

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse

Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)   A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.    Have you ever seen a Jesse Tree?   It’s an ancient Advent tradition consisting of a carving, painting, or stained-glass window—even an actual tree—that portrays the people, prophecies, and events leading up to the birth of the Messiah.   Jesus is usually at the top.   Many medieval Jesse Trees also included a depiction of Jesse himself...

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Two blind men followed him

Saint Nicholas, Bishop (Optional Memorial)   Two blind men followed him.    Do you see what I see?   According to a popular song, that’s what the wind asks a little lamb on the night Jesus is born.   The wind sees a star dancing in the night sky, celebrating the miracle of Bethlehem.   It’s a scene of excitement and wonder, a heavenly vision that sees something more than just another star. You can almost imagine the blind men in today’s Gospel...

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever

1st Week of Advent   Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. Giving thanks can be tricky during the holidays.   It’s hard to feel grateful when we are stressed or lonely or grieving someone we love.   But today’s responsorial psalm (Psalm 118:1) reminds us why we give thanks:   because God is good.   Because he came as a baby two thousand years ago.   Because he comes into our hearts every time we ask.   Because...

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They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets full

Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)   They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets full. It was time for the Friday food giveaway at a small church in Oroville, California.   But the food bank volunteers had a problem: their supply was low.   Usually they could fill 100 boxes of food for the needy.   But this time they had only enough to make 50 boxes—and the line of hungry people stretched down the...

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From his roots a bud shall blossom

Saint Francis Xavier, Priest (Memorial)   From his roots a bud shall blossom.   Every year around this time, poinsettia growers are engaged in an elaborate regimen aimed at making their plants turn red at just the right time.   By following a precise sequence of exposure to light and darkness, they “force” the poinsettia’s green leaves to turn red.   The plant must be kept in sunlight during the day, then in total darkness at least twelve hours...

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Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline

1st Week of Advent   Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline . . . at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.    Jesus was amazed that this Roman soldier had exhibited such faith in him—more faith, even, than many of his fellow Jews.   And yet, in Jesus’ time, this man would not have been considered worthy to be on the “guest list” for that heavenly banquet.   But that didn’t stop Jesus; he made it clear that he had come to...

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