#ShortNews: Welcome God’s Christmas surprises, Pope tells audience

Pope Francis’ catechesis on Christmas was focused on the idea of “surprises.” While the world insists on exchanging presents, the Holy Father asked, “what gifts and surprises would God want?”

Looking back at the first Christmas, the Pope said it was “full of surprises,” for Mary, for Joseph. From the Angel’s announcement of Mary’s pregnancy, to the Flight into Egypt, that first Christmas “brought unexpected changes” to their lives.

“But it was in the middle of the night of Christmas,” Pope Francis said, “that the biggest surprise of all arrived: The Most High is a little baby.” Christmas, he said, means celebrating the “unprecedented things of God,” or rather, “the unprecedented God.”

Read whole story: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-general-audience-christmas-surprises.html

#ShortNews: Chaldean Catholic patriarch publishes Christmas message

The birth of Jesus Christ represents the birth of a new human being as a son of God: in His lifestyle, works and words. So that, every human being finds in Jesus a perfect example of mankind to follow and achieve the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1/26). Jesus Christ lived, loved, served, and worked as a man “but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves, apart from sin” (Hebrews 4/15).

In spite of the evil that lies in “man”, the Christian person has enough graces to achieve the project of internal renewal (the new birth), by joining the mystery of the Passover of Jesus Christ, in and with which he understands the actual “but rich” meaning of suffering, death and resurrection. Therefore, as Christians we should realize that in practicing every sacrament of the Church, such as the baptism and the Eucharist, etc. we are receiving the great grace of “unity” with Jesus Christ and incorporating to Him: “since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ” (Galatians 3/27). This call requires daily commitment, effort, courage and hard work. Even though, the air we breathe is the joy of the Gospel, and that our strength and consolation are in the Holy Spirit who guides and accompanies us.

Read the full Christmas Message here: https://saint-adday.com/?p=27283

#ShortNews: Pope invites poor people to Christmas lunch

In the spirit of Christmas, Pope Francis is inviting a group of poor people to a lunch offered by the athletes of Italy’s military finance police, said the Office of Papal Charities.

On behalf of Pope Francis, the Office headed by the Pope’s official Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has invited the poor people to the Christmas lunch on December 18 hosted by the Gruppo Sportivo Fiamme Gialle (Yellow Flames Sporting Group) at the sports centre of the Guardia di Finanza (Finance Police), at Castelporziano, close to the seaside.

The lunch, it said, is a witness of charity and fraternity through the language of sport which, by its very nature, fosters inclusion and respect for the dignity of the least. Often, Pope Francis pops in at these get-togethers unannounced, surprising everyone.

Read full story: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-poor-christmas-lunch-fiamme-gialle-finance-police.html

A Walk With Mary As We Prepare For Christmas

We invite you to journey with us over a series of six short biblical reflections, with Mother Mary, in the lead up to Christmas when Jesus was born.

Each reflection contemplates a specific event in Mary’s life, and is accompanied by a graphic and verses to help us in our personal reflection.

Mother Mary is our model of gentleness, humility and meekness. She teaches us to be silent, to pray and to contemplate. She is our Lord’s Mother, and she is our Mother.

May these reflections help us to walk with our gentle Mother, to entrust ourselves to her motherly care, and to inspire us to imitate the virtues of Mary, which are also the virtues of Christ.

And as we learn from Mary, we realise that she brings us closer to herself, and to her Son Jesus.

Part 1: The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel Appears

The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, to tell her that she will bear a Son whom she will name Jesus. Mary was confused, because she did not know how it could be possible, since she was a virgin. She was afraid, because she would be judged and condemned by the Law and people around her.

Yet, Mary believed the angel’s assurance, and trusted that the Lord would see her through the journey, so she replied, “I’m the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word.”

Reflection:

We may not always fully understand why or how things will work out, and we may sometimes worry about the difficulties that we may face in our journey ahead.

Mary shows us that if we trust the Lord, He will see us through the journey. He will dispel our hesitations and fears, and He will give us the courage to say with Mary, “I’m the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word.”

Verses to ponder:

[The angel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail (Mary), full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
(Luke 1:28, RSVCE)

“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.”
(Luke 1:38, GNT)


Above is part of the 1517 painting, “Visitation” by Raphael (Find out more: Wikipedia)

Part 2: The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth

After hearing from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant even in her old age, Mary made an arduous journey through the hills and valleys to visit her cousin.

Elizabeth was already six months pregnant and Mary stayed for three more months, which meant Mary supported Elizabeth during the remainder of her pregnancy.

Reflection:

Mary teaches us that even though we may have our own worries, or we may be busy with our own activities, we can still pay attention to the needs of people around us.

Just as Mary helped Elizabeth in small ways, we can brighten the lives of others by running little errands, by offering a simple smile and greeting, or by just by spending time with them.

Verses to ponder:

“Mary got ready and hurried off to a town in the hill country of Judea. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.”
(Luke 1:39-40, GNT)

“Mary stayed about three months with Elizabeth and then went back home.”
(Luke 1:56, GNT)

Part 3: The Magnificat: Mary praises the Lord

Mary’s well-known song of praise, the Magnificat, is found in Luke 1:46 – 55. These words, “my soul magnifies the Lord,…” were spoken when Mary first met her cousin Elizabeth. [Find out more: Magnificat, Our Catholic Prayers]

In the Magnificat, Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord and said the Almighty had done great things for her. She did not exalt herself but recognised that God was working through his humble servant.

Reflection:

Mary teaches that we should never become proud or exalt ourselves. Rather we must recognise that it is the Lord who has given us good things.

She also teaches that if we are encountering difficulties in life, we can trust in the Lord to lift us up, reminding us to always stay humble and be grateful to God for His kindness towards us.

Verses to ponder:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… ”
(Luke 1:46-47, RSVCE)

“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”
(Luke 1:49, RSVCE)

Part 4: Mary journeys with Joseph to Bethlehem

Since the Emperor had ordered a census to be taken, Mary, now heavily pregnant, has to make the arduous trip with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem for registration.

Reflection:

When we are already burdened by worries, guilt or work, the last thing we want to hear are new edicts that add to our load. Yet Mary teaches us to humble ourselves, forget our ego, and learn to be meek, gentle, submissive and obedient.

Let us not forget that just as God provided Mary with a loving husband, Joseph, on this difficult journey, God will also send people to walk with us through our many trials and tribulations.

Verses to ponder:

“[Joseph] went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant …”
(Luke 2:5, GNT)

Part 5: The Nativity: Mary gives birth to Jesus, Mary our Mother

Mary was about to give birth and she was suffering from labour pains. However, Joseph and Mary could not find a proper room in the inn, and had to settle for a place where the farm animals lived.

When Mary eventually gave birth, she wrapped baby Jesus in cloths and laid him in a manger, which is a trough or container used to hold food for animals.

Reflection:

Mary shows we can be happy in a lowly place like the stable where Jesus was born, and there is no need for worldly riches or pleasures.

The image of Mother Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling cloths also reminds us that she is our loving and gentle Mother, and we are her little children.

Verses to ponder:

“[Mary] 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.”
(Luke 2:7, NABRE)

Part 6: The Angels and the shepherds – Mary silently contemplates

When Jesus was born, angels appeared to shepherds, singing praises to God, and telling them about the birth of the Holy Child. The shepherds went to Bethlehem, and found Joseph, Mary, with baby Jesus lying in the manger.

The shepherds could not hold their joy and told Joseph and Mary what the angels have said.

Mary treasured these words in her heart, and pondered deeply about them.

Reflection:

This is one aspect of Mary that often draws us to her. Mary doesn’t speak much and is prayerful and contemplative. She took note of what happened and pondered about them day and night.

There’s a need for us to stay silent and humble, to pray, ponder and cling to Jesus and Mother Mary, and not get distracted by the many activities around us that may not be relevant.

Verses to ponder:

“[The shepherds] told them what the angel had said about the child.”
(Luke 2:17, GNT)

“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
(Luke 2:19, RSVCE)

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We hope you have enjoyed this 6-part series reflection on Mary this Advent!
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Reflections by Gabriel Liu
OLPS Communications Ministry

Taken from: http://www.olps.sg/walk-mary-we-prepare-christmas-1478#.XBdImrPQ7IU

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Advent Week-4: My spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:47)

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow,” Helen Keller once said. What a remarkable statement coming from a woman who had been blind since infancy! Although Keller couldn’t actually see the sunlight, she knew it was there, and she also knew that it could overcome any shadow in her life.

In today’s Gospel, Mary has fixed her eyes on the source of all light, God the Father. Although Mary could have worried about what her neighbors might think or how she could possibly raise the Son of God, she chose instead to turn her thoughts toward the Lord. And because of this, her heart was filled with praise and rejoicing.

What a beautiful model for all of us to follow! Like Mary, we too can choose to fix our eyes on Jesus and his truth in Scripture. As we reflect on all that God has done for us, the desire to praise him and rejoice in his goodness to us will naturally well up in us. Then we will be able to pray, with Mary, “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Luke 1:49)Read More »

#MoralStory: A Sheep’s Tale

Here’s a story for an all-age Christmas service retelling the events of Luke2:8-20 from the point of view of the sheep!

What a commotion there was out on the Bethlehem hillside that night! Bright lights, heavenly singing and that amazing message! God’s special rescuer had come. Everyone in those days knew that Messiah was coming one day, so these local shepherds realised straightaway that this message was important.

History was coming to a huge turning point. This really was a special moment and they, mere shepherds, were the first to know about it! They would be first with the news – what a scoop! Can you imagine their excitement, amazement and joy? They were just nobodies – in fact more than likely just hired shepherds taking the night shift for someone else – but God had chosen to speak to them. Mind you, I don’t think it was by chance that God chose to go to shepherds first. Shepherds have always been very important to God and a shepherd had of course long been a picture of God’s character.

So off they went to Bethlehem – running, dancing, tumbling and… leaving their sheep! It must have been important. Fancy leaving their livelihood behind – unheard of!

And I wonder what the sheep thought of all this? Let’s use our imagination.

Take these three for example. They look pretty puzzled, don’t they? Let me introduce them to you. They have names. Yes, listen:

30 Megabytes [of Ram]

Potters [Bar]

and Lionel [Blair]Read More »