Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas

Welcome to this world!

Our Christmas present arrived in Rome, Italy on December 21st at 5:20 PM when Astrid gave birth to Samuele. Father Simone was at her side and Grandma’ Nora is in Rome for this season. We welcome Samuele to this world, weighting 7.4 lbs and measuring 20"!

Alex and Christian are joining Rainer in Miami for Christmas. María José had gone to Santa Fe to spend the holidays with her birth family in Argentina.

Last year the whole family was together. This year, the first time in 37 years for Nora and Rainer to spend Christmas on separate continents, but for a very joyous reason: Samuele, our first grandson!!!

Nuestro regalo de Navidad llegó a Roma el 21 de diciembre a las 17:20, cuando nuestra hija Astrid dio a luz a su primogénito: Samuele. El padre, Simone está al lado de Astrid y la abuela primeriza, Nora ayudando en Roma. Damos la bienvenida a este mundo a Samuele con sus 3.360 kg y 51 cm.

Alex y Christian pasarán la navidad con Rainer en Miami. María José festejará el fin de año con su padre y hermanos en Santa Fe.

El año pasado logramos una Navidad con toda la familia reunida. Esta vez, la primera en 37 años que Nora y Rainer lo festejarán en continentes separados. Gracias a Dios por muy auspicioso motivo: nuestro primer nieto, Samuele!!!

Unser Weih-nachtsgeschenk ist am 21. Dezember um 17:20 in Rom angekommen, als unsere Tochter Astrid ihr erstes Kind auf die Welt brachte,Samuele. Vater Simone war bei Ihr und Neu-grossmutter Nora ist zu Besuch in Rom. Wir will-kommen Samuele mit seinen 3.360 kg und 51 cm in diese Welt.

Alex und Chris-tian sind fuer Weihnacht mit Rainer in Miami. María José ist bei Vater und Ge-schwistern in Santa Fe, Argentinien.

Letztes Jahr wa-ren wir alle zusammen. Die-ses Mal, das Erste in 37 Jahren, feiern Nora und Rainer Weihnachten auf verschiedenen Kontinente, fuer einen wunder-schönen Grund: Samuele, unser erstes Enkelkind!!

Il nostro regalo di Natale è arrivato a Roma il 21 dicembre 17:20, dove Astrid ha dato alla luce Samuele. Il papa’ Simone era accanto a lei ed anche la nonna Nora è a Roma per questo periodo. Diamo a Samuele il benvenuto tra noi, forte dei suoi 3,360 kg e la sua ‘‘autorevole’’ lunghezza: 51 cm!

Alex e Christian si uniscono a Rainer a Miami per il Natale, mentre María José trascorre le feste a Santa Fe in Argentina con la sua famiglia di origine.

Mentre l'anno scorso tutta la famiglia era riunita a Miami, quest'anno per la prima volta in 37 anni Nora e Rainer trascorrono il Natale lontani, ma per un motivo gioioso: la nascita del nostro primo nipote Samuele!!!

With God’s Love and Blessings,

Rainer & Nora

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Feliz Navidad y un Feliz Año Nuevo!

Frohe Weihnachten & einen guten Rutsch!

Buon Natale e un Felice Anno Nuovo!


Joyeux noël & une bonne et heureuse année!

Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

Fijne kerstdagen & een gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Рождеством и счастливого нового года

Feliz Natal e um Feliz Ano Novo!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Dear All,

On this Fourth and last Sunday of Advent the prophet Micah in the First Reading, has been encouraging the people of Israel about their future. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, is believed to have been active between 740 and 700 BCE. The temple will be raised high on a mountain and all nations will see Israel as a holy nation. Israel is a small area and other clans and nations were much stronger at the time. Micah announces that from the little town of Bethlehem, the place of David, the great king who reined Judah and Israel from 1010–970 BCE, will come a special person to be the awaited-for great leader. This person will be of the line of David and as did David, this “one” will bring back all of Israel into the kingdom of Israel. From the smallest shall come forth the revelation of God’s greatness. This “one” shall bring unity peace within and among all nations. Micah’s prophesy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem into the family descendant from King David, is one of the four dozens predictions about the Savior of Israel in the Old Testament. Several scholars have found biblical proof that Jesus, whose incarnate birthday we celebrate on Christmas in just five days, fulfilled al forty eight predictions. Interesting piece of trivia, isn’t it?

The Gospel account this week according to Luke is an intimate encounter between two pregnant women of faith. They both are moved to share their secrets. Mary had dream visit from an angel and trusts what she heard in her soul. Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting at the entrance of the house of the priest Zechariah and trusts what she hears and feels within her body (“the infant –John the Baptist– leaped in her womb”). Elizabeth greets Mary with a tender benediction “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”. Mary is pictured as having received a tremendous gift and promise. The first thing she is moved to do is to check it out with her older cousin whom she learned was pregnant too, after a long barren life. Elizabeth

reads the signs of the times, the “something more” than an ordinary human event -the stirring of the little John in her womb- and proclaims the blessedness that God has bestowed on Mary and the One she carries. So much preparation for the great Gift of God’s impregnating the womb of this world. The mystery of the Incarnation means that God has come to us according to what makes sense to our minds. Through our senses God has come to visit and stay. It does remain more than we can handle and yet God continues to give the Gift into our little hands, our little stables, our little mangers to hold and begin distributing. He came that we might have life and be freed to give it, and Him away in the life-long, life-giving visits we make in the lives of others.

On a very personal note, this week’s liturgical stories, their backgrounds and our very current family reality bring a number of elements together that just keep my head spinning. Our daughter, Astrid, who was born on a 24th of June (the birthday of John the Baptist) is in the final hours of a little boy leaping in her womb. She lives in Italy and right now is in a hospital in Ostia (Eastern municipality of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea Coast) waiting for her first born to come to this world. They will name him Samuele. The Prophet Samuel was the one who in 1010 BCE anointed the shepherd David to King of Israel. Please join us in prayer for Astrid and Samuele in this defining moment and for Simone, the father to-be. May this beautiful Italian family be blessed abundantly by our endless loving God.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/12/fourth-sunday-of-advent.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/1234567/Print-Version-30th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

Dear All,

The Third Sunday of Advent is called Sunday of Joy (Gaudete in Latin). This is a reminder during the preparation season of Advent that there is ample reason for joy, even in the midst of spiritual repentance that John the Baptist calls us to. The Sunday takes its name from the Second Reading, where we continue from last week, to read from the letter that Paul writes out of prison to the Philippians (and to us) about the nearness of the Lord. Appropriate at this time, be it because of two week’s before Christmas or either of the other two encounters with Christ we spoke about last week: at the end of times or in each other in our daily lives. A very practical recommendation on how to deal will all the ‘stuff’ and stress that fills our days in this paragraph from Paul: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”. There is reason for joy, isn’t there? For those of us blessed with faith, we can believe that statement wholeheartedly… and when the ruts are about to take over, be reminded of it, and lift up our fears to God, “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” and relax (=”have no anxiety”). As an additional aide memoire we light the rose candle on the Advent wreath on this Sunday.

The First Reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah, one of the twelve Minor Prophets from the Old Testament, most likely compiled to its present form in the Hebrew Bible around 200 BCE, but referring to a cotemporary of Jeremiah around 640-609

BCE and the Babylonian Captivity. The short book is a catastrophe prophecy affecting Judah and all the nations condemned for corruption springing from pride. Salvation to a humble remnant is promised and today’s passage describes at length the joy Zion, Israel and Jerusalem will have when the Lord has removed the judgment against them and turned away their enemies.

In Luke’s Gospel we encounter a humble, but very pragmatic John the Baptist. He acknowledges and points to the “one mightier than I” coming after him to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Has some very practical advice for his enquiring followers, share excess cloak and food; to tax collectors to stop collecting more than is prescribed and to soldiers not to practice extortion and refrain from false accusations. As we get ourselves ready for the coming of Christ, let us reflect on these practical suggestions and consider which ones need fine-tuning in our own ‘portfolio’.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/12/third-sunday-of-advent.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/1234567/Print-Version-30th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

Dear All,

On this Second Advent, we light another candle, this one for peace on the Advent Wreath. (I wrote about the wreath tradition last year).

The First Reading this week is from the Prophet Baruch a contemporary of Jeremiah, actually his secretary. Baruch’s prophecies, though from the Old Testament are not found in the Hebrew Bible. It was written in Babylon, during the Jewish captivity in the sixth century before Christ Era (BCE) and sent back to Jerusalem to be read at religious gatherings. In this week’s passage the prophet consoles the exiles with a reminder of messianic hope. We can clearly hear the prophet also speaking to those of us today who sometimes understand the mourning and misery much better than the salvation that is possible. His words challenge us to a radical hope and to the possibility of return from our own exiles of discouragement or spiritual alienation. Baruch is one who sees with God’s eyes the hope that is nearing fulfillment. During these hectic times full of anxieties, knowing to be “remembered by God” is a profound image that probably needs time to do its healing work.

The Second Reading is from the ‘letter of joy’ that Paul wrote, ironically from a prison (scholars are not sure if Rome or Ephesus) to the Philippians’ community for whom he holds special love and gratitude. I read it as if written to us today, as a call to greater holiness, to do even more of what we have been doing. The Advent season embodies the inherent tension of the kingdom, which is at hand, but is yet to come in fullness. The final prayer from Paul reminds us, during this often distracting season, about what is truly of value: Love… to increase… in knowledge… of perception to discern what is of value… for the glory and praise of God.

The Gospel according to Luke makes a particular point to situate his narrative about the Good News (i.e. Gospel) in the context of human history. He introduces the ministry of John the Baptist "in the fifteen year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar..."; then he goes on to mention other secular rulers: Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lsyanias; as well as religious authorities of the time: Annas and Caiphas. Yet for those who like to split hairs about historical precision,

Luke has some ambiguity in his ‘time-counting’ about the "fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar." The problem is that the Roman emperor Tiberius shared power with Augustus for two years and we do not know when Luke is beginning his count of the years of Tiberius' reign. Luke is probably smiling to himself about those historians that get hang up by this (what are two years in two thousand years of history?). In any case this is one of the several places in the Bible where we can anchor our believes that Jesus did exist in history, despite several books written in the 20th century to the contrary. To counter these, a Chicago Tribune court reporter, Lee Strobel, wrote several fascinating books about contemporary legalistic proof that Jesus actually walked this earth. Back to Luke…, after such a solemn introduction we expect something momentous about to happen. You would think that this was the announcement of the birth of Jesus. But it isn't (on this 2nd Sunday of Advent)... yet the event that is announced is earthshaking: The Word of the Lord came to John the Baptist who started to proclaim a baptism of repentance and calling people to prepare the way of the Lord. At that specific time and place, God intervened in human history, by inspiring John the Baptist to proclaim his presence. How did he convince John to do this? Was there a bolt of lightning, a vision in sky, a miraculous event? Or did John simply respond to the voice within him telling him to go into action? Given that scripture is void of any sort of marvel, I think it is telling us here, as in many other places that God often works his wonders in whispers (remember Elijah at the cave?).

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/12/second-sunday-of-advent.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

Dear All,

This week we begin a new Liturgical Year. This year it is cycle C as it is designated in the Roman Lectionary. We retell the story about the mysteries of our salvation in history, by following the third Synoptic Gospel, according to Luke. Like in every year we will also read certain passages of the fourth Gospel, according to John, but our featured writer will be the Greek physician and companion of Paul who lived when Jesus walked the earth and writes with the Gentiles as main audience. Of all the authors of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude) he is the only one who is not from Jewish upbringing. He is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

Every new Liturgical Year begins with the season of Advent, a time of anticipation, time of preparation, getting ready. The word has a Latin root, Adventus (= arrival) meaning a time of waiting for the arrival. On the traditional advent wreath we light the first candle which we call of hope during the First Advent Sunday. We remember and commemorate the arrival of Christ over two thousand years ago, as well as preparing ourselves for Christ’s second coming at the end of times. It also invites us to conceive Christ in the Spirit in our own lives here and now, swell pregnant with the holy seed of God’s grace and stir the womb of our complacency. A time for turning and returning, for straightening the crooked paths in our relationships with our fellow men and women (in German the word “Mitmenschen” denotes humans with whom we share our spaces, the world) and our relationship with God. If I focus on this third invitation, this season of advent may convert from a passive period (of remembrance of God’s first incarnation and waiting for the second coming) into an opportunity to become active in the waiting, by welcoming and befriending the vulnerable, the stranger as well as the desert places in myself.

The Prophet Jeremiah, imprisoned by King Zedekiah, utters words of hope to the people of Israel at times of great despair (587 BC the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian invaders) foretelling the coming of a Savior, the Messiah, as a descendant of the house of David. Christian tradition sees Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy. “The Lord our justice” is our hope and salvation.

The apostle Paul, who expected to experience Christ’s second coming during his lifetime, in his letter to the recently converted Thessalonians offers advice about how believers ought to be living their lives in anticipation of such second coming. While Jesus did not come then, nor may be coming during our lifetime, Paul’s advice remains very important, as there is no better time to conduct ourselves in ways pleasing to God.

Luke’s Gospel this week paints a scene with vivid colors of what the last times may bring with a terrible storm raging through the first paragraph. The apocalyptic message turns to a momentary brightening of the sky in the second paragraph, yet clouds close in again in the final paragraph. Luke is not just trying to terrify, but offering hope reminding us we don’t have to be among the ones who panic, but stand erect and raise our heads knowing that redemption is at hand. Christ is not just the babe in the manger, but a cosmic Lord whose glory fills us with awe.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/first-sunday-of-advent.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/1234567/Print-Version-30th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Dear All,

We have arrived at the end of the Liturgical year. The Feast of Christ the King is quite recent in our two millennia old church. It was established in 1925 in an attempt to counter the rise of modern secularism. The word secularism comes for the Latin “Seculum” meaning earthly creation or world. After the First World War there was a growing sense of the power of humanity to rule itself. God did not seem to be in charge. The world in the midst of an identity crisis was experiencing its own authority crisis. The Church promoted this celebration to present the person of Jesus as “king of the universe”. Hitler, in Germany would see himself as dominator of the world only a few years later and we all know how that ended with the tragedy of the Second World War. In today’s secularism we pray to allow Jesus to be our Servant King in the midst of tension with the many little personal tyrants within us urging for their places of power; like ego, fear, revenge, pleasure, as well as many other struggles for supremacy and control. Allowing His lordship into our lives is what the spiritual life is all about.

The First Reading for this Feast is a vision of Daniel written in apocalyptic style (explained in last week’s reflection). Four beasts have been destroyed, that is Babylon (the place of the Jewish captivity around 900 BCE), and the power of God is prepared to be handed over to “a son of man” or a mysterious person who receives true authority and supremacy from the “Ancient One”. Kingship of the known Jewish world had been taken away by kings of foreign origin, but now, the vision is reporting that the Ancient One was returning true heavenly power and glory to a special one, a “son of man” or an anointed for revelation and service of God and God’s people. This will be an everlasting kingdom giving the people of God, including us today, trust and hope.

The Second Reading is from the last Book of the Bible, Revelation also known as the Apocalypse, part of the apocalyptic literature mentioned above. In the introduction of the Book, the visionary John offers grace and peace from God who is, who was and who is to come. Then he exclaims that this grace and peace also comes from Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness, the First Born of the Dead and the Ruler of all the Kings of the earth. What is the meaning and application for us? First of all, Jesus is the Faithful Witness who stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin and proclaimed that He was the Messiah. He stood before the Roman King Pilate, and proclaimed the Truth that He, Jesus, was the King. Revelations was written to encourage the Christians of the ancient Roman Empire to stand

up in front of persecution and give witness to Jesus Christ even if they were putting their lives in danger. It also encourages us to stand for the truth, even when the truth may not be popular or is ridiculed by the some. But more subtle than that, it encourages us to stand up for the truth when our personal advancement may be jeopardized, such as, standing up against unethical business practices within the company we work for, or standing up against the character assassination of someone we work with whose job would then be available for us. I am tempted to ask, “why should I suffer when everybody else is advancing by these ‘normal’ business practices?” Yet the answer is straightforward: There is nothing normal for a person created in the image and likeness of God to reject ones spiritual essence for the sake of “momentary” and monetary gain. The early witnesses were told in Revelation “By patient endurance you will survive.” It is infinitely better for us to suffer the injustice of the world than for us to reject our call to stand as witnesses of the God of Truth. We do have in Jesus, the faithful witness, a model that guides us and gives us strength.

In this week’s Gospel according to John, Jesus tells the Roman King of the Palestine world at the time, “My kingdom does not belong to this world”. When Pontius Pilate insists in getting confirmation, “So are you a king?”; Jesus replies, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." The early community of John had a strong trust in the truth of who Jesus is. The kingdom of God is already here as Jesus lives within and among us now. But we know also that his presence is obscured by the continued presence of evil in the world. Individuals and institutions are quite far from being aligned with the will of God, resulting in an incomplete kingdom. Though we are inclined to think of the kingdom as still to come: a zone beyond the grave, Christ wants to be our king here and now.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/solemnity-of-christ-king.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/1234567/Print-Version-30th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

As we come to the last couple of Sundays of the Liturgical year, we start our annual tour through Apocalyptic Biblical literature. Apocalypse comes from the Greek and denotes a Revelation from God. In recent times it often is being referred to end of times (eschatological) predictions. The apocalyptic writings are full of poetry and metaphors. Interpreting the passages literally would be mistake as much as dismissing them as nothing but poetry. The metaphors tell us the truth that Heaven and Earth as we know it may indeed pass away, but not before a final resolution of good triumphing over evil. Biblical apocalypse was written in times of persecution, to encourage the harassed by telling them that their sufferings were not going unnoticed by God, and that they would prevail in the end. Courage, not fear, was being promoted.

The First Reading from the last chapter of the Book of Daniel is from the Sixth century BCE during the Babylonian captivity, where Daniel, an Israelite became advisor to King Nebuchadnezzar. While not in this week’s passage, there is one expression from the Prophet Daniel that has made it to our times, ‘seeing the writing on the wall’. In the mid 90’s I sang with the Florida Philharmonic Chorus, Leonard Bernstein’s ChiChester Psalms under the direction of the British Maestro James Judd. It was an incredible experience in five venues in South Florida in front of audiences into the thousands. Though in Hebrew the text referring to Daniel seeing the writing on the wall for the evil to be judged combined with unique orchestral music did not seize to give me goose bumps in each of the seven performances. Well, I went off on a tangent here, didn’t I? Back to the main

thought …. the apocalyptic style is encrypted poetry and scholars continue to try to decode the underlying meanings. Daniel reassures the Israelites during their difficult times that God’s kingdom will prevail in the end and makes one of the early references to the Resurrection and Eternal Peace.

The passage from the Gospel according to Mark tells us about the second coming of Christ in a very pictorial way. While early Christians and among them many of the apostles expected it to happen during their life time, we really don’t know when it will happen. The last verse of this week’s passage from Mark, quotes Jesus’ unequivocal statement "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Some have referred the prediction of “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” as a way of foretelling the individual experience we all may have at the end of our own lives rather than focusing on the eternal validity of Jesus’ teachings (“my words will not pass away”).

In essence as we are coming to the end of the liturgical calendar year we remind ourselves about the reality of an end of times, either individually or collectively, in which good does prevail over evil. This is a message of hope, despite all the horrors and atrocities of our times, which are not that different from the horrors of the Babylonian captivity and the persecutions of the early Christians, as well as all the history since then through our days.

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at http://scriptures-my-journey-oflife-andfaith.blogspot.com/2009/11/thirty-third-sunday-in-ordinary-time.html

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to http://www.scribd.com/doc/1234567/Print-Version-30th-Sunday-in-Ordinary-Time