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Spiritual Reflections

Use your gifts

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Listening to today's first reading is to know that a prophet's call is almost always the last element inserted into our biblical collection of the prophet's oracles. Only after a lifetime of delivering God's word does the prophet (or the prophet's disciples) receive some insight into what he or she was actually called to do.

Dare to say amen

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In the opening lines of today's Gospel, Luke explains his writing project: He intends to present an "orderly account" of what he has discovered from his research about Jesus. We then skip a few chapters and hear Jesus proclaim his understanding of what he has been called to do.
 

Signs and symbols

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We know legend has it that after Pentecost, Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived out her days with John the Evangelist. We also know that when a Gospel story has lots of detail, scholars suggest that it has its source in personal witnesses. Those two facts invite us to imagine John, the theologian, telling Mary, the practical mother, how he wanted to narrate the story of the wedding at Cana.

With what gifts?

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Eight centuries before the Magi from the east came bearing gifts to present to Jesus, Micah asked, "With what shall I come before the Lord and bow before God most high? Shall I come with holocausts, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my crime?" (Micah 6:6-7). The prophet gave voice to the desperation of his people, who were overwhelmed by their own sinfulness and shame.

Ponder it all

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We celebrate the feast of the Holy Family on the first Sunday after Christmas, Dec. 27, just when some toys are already broken, chocolate Santas sit in the clearance bin and Valentine's decorations begin to appear. As we get back to "normal," the church offers us the ideal of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family whose supposed peaceful, loving life might seem further removed from us than we would want to admit.

Easing the way for others

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Wherever construction or demolition is taking place, there is often a crowd of onlookers whose curiosity has drawn them to the site. They look on, usually silently, as gigantic machines haul debris away while other heavy equipment carries all the supplies that will eventually become a new edifice. They look on as roads are paved and lines are drawn to ensure the safety of future travelers. They look on as bumps are smoothed and sharp curves are rendered less dangerous.

Promises, promises

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In a cold and fallow season of waiting, watching and wondering, it is not surprising to find ourselves reflecting on the past and looking toward the future, taking stock and hoping for something better to come. Advent is the season of promise par excellence. We willingly wait. We anticipate the birth of Jesus and all that symbolizes for us, and we do so in the light of promises extending back to the Hebrew Scriptures and beyond.

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