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Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 4, 2015
(optional memorial of Saint John of Damascene)
On these December days in the northern hemisphere daylight wanes and darkness comes upon us early. But in a few weeks, around the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, light will conquer darkness as each day we get a few more minutes of daylight! Our readings today speak of light and darkness, blindness and sight.  In today’s Gospel, Matthew 9, 27-31, Jesus heals two men who are blind. Even those of us who have physical sight can be spiritually blind unless we open our eyes to the Word of God.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Word made flesh (see John chapter 1).  And Scripture is the Word of God.  Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is revealed to us in the Scriptures, the Word of God! It is imperative that we not only listen to the Word of God, but act on this Word.
Early 18th Century, Bulgarian
Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria
We are in the first week of our new liturgical year.  In our Church we follow a three-year Sunday lectionary cycle.  In this 2016 Liturgical year, which began this past Sunday, we are in Lectionary Cycle C – the Year of Luke.  This is a good time to take stock of how we listen to God’s Word, and how we act on that Word.

There is a wonderful method of praying the Scriptures called “Lectio Divina.”  This involves engaging with the Biblical text in a four-step process: What is a particular Scripture passage saying?; What is the passage saying to me?; What do I want to say to God about this text?; and, How am I going to act on this text in my life?  We are dealing with reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.  In the video below, published July 24, 2013 for World Youth Day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked Father James Martin, SJ, to address youth on the topic of praying with Scripture via the practice of “lectio divina.” 
For Catechetical Sunday 2009, the USCCB also published some articles on Scripture and the practice of lectio divina.  You can download, “Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Art and Practice of Lectio Divina,” here.  And you can download, “Sharing the Word of God at Home,” here.

If you have children, and/or are a catechist/teacher, take some time this Advent to teach these youth the practice of praying with Scripture using lectio divina.

As we mentioned earlier, in this new Liturgical Year we are in Lectionary Cycle C – the Year of Luke.  The video below is a good, brief introduction to the Gospel of Luke.
Loyola Press publishes “Sunday Connection” online, which provides background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday’s Scripture readings.  This is a great resource, as it provides links to the actual readings, background to the readings, and then reflections for families, as well as students. (They even break down the student reflections for grades 1-3, grades 4-6, and grades 7 & 8). Check out this feature here.

Take some time each day during Advent and this entire new Church Year to listen to, and act upon, God’s word, for Jesus, the Word of God, is our light and our salvation!
Feast (optional memorial) of Saint John of Damascene
December 4 is also the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint John Damascene.  You can find out more about this saint by downloading our John Damascene handout on this page.  It is fitting on this feast of Saint John Damascene to pray for the people of Syria.  Here is Prayer for Peace in Syria from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  For a talk about Saint John Damascene given by Pope Benedict XVI on May 6, 2009, click here.  And here you can read the text of Saint John Damascene on Holy Images.  In honor of Saint John Damascene, if you have any icons or icon holy cards, place them prominently in your home today.  All the better if these are Advent images and/or images of Mary!
Click on image above to download our ICF handout on  Saint John Damascene.