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Listing December - 2009
(Due to time constraints our thought for today is a repeat from this day last year....back to normal tomorrow!)

‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I would do my part. Yet what can I give him – give him my heart.’ ~from In the Bleak Mid Winter'

What is your favourite Christmas carol? In a poll carried out recently by the BBC some of the world’s leading choir masters and choral experts chose ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’. It came well ahead of well known carols such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. It was written by Christiana Rosetti in 1872. As a Christmas carol it is rich in depth and meaning. The simple beauty of its content is also challenging. From the depth of winter, cold and darkness the invitation is to move into warmth and welcome. The carol takes us into the heart of the crib but also to the heart of whatever is going on in our lives. There God is to be found. At the heart of the bleak mid winter there is great hope.
'The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light. On those who lived in a land as dark as death, a light has dawned.' ~Isaiah 9:1

Today is a hugely significant day. It's a day that has fascinated people for thousands of years. Before science gave us proper explanations on the way our planet tilts and changes its axis with the seasons, people feared the dark days of winter and that the world was going to end. But as time evolved people began to understand that today marked a turning point. Darkness would loose its firm grip to give way to increasing light. Today has also huge spiritual significance. Every single one of us has our dark corners. On our own such darkness could overwhelm us. We need support, love, companionship, friendship, hope and light to guide us on our daily journey. At Christmas we mark the birth of Jesus who was the greatest and inspiring light. Christmas can be summed up in many ways but the invitation is to invite Jesus into our own struggles and darkness. Today Dec 21st reminds us that in the depths of darkness there is great hope. Christmas is a celebration of this hope. Without it we have absolutely nothing.
The following reflection is by Fr.Tom Cahill

Importance of Being Little
Size matters, even when it’s small. Take, for example, the Galápagos islands. They’re not small nor a problem but the mosquitoes brought there by chartered flights and tourist boats are. Getting its name from the Spanish for ‘small fly’, the mosquito is a real and present danger to the islands’ unique species. Many mosquitoes carry deadly diseases such as avian malaria or West Nile fever. They could endanger even the Galápagos tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions and Darwin’s famous finches.

But small things can do much good too. Take, for example, bacteria. A controversial scientist trying to sequence the human genome (containing 3 billion DNA base pairs) claimed last August that by the end of this year artificial life would be produced in the lab. For some time now he has been trying to produce bacteria that would change coal into natural gas, and algae that would absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into hydrocarbon fuels. Small things can indeed have an enormous impact.

Today’s First Reading (Micah 5:1-4) knows the value of small things too, for it foretells the impact that the emergence of a ruler of Israel from one of Judah’s little clans (5:2) will have. Repeatedly God chooses the small and insignificant in the world’s eyes for very important missions. Advent is a reminder that we, who for the most part are small and insignificant in the world’s eyes, have been chosen for mission too. When at Christmas we celebrate that ‘ruler’s’ birth let us be aware that in a very real sense we celebrate our own – our birth into greatness.
‘The best gift that anyone can give others at Christmas or indeed any other time, is good example. It is more important than any good advice and more helpful than any material gift, no matter how valuable. ~Bernard McGuckian

Today Saturday will be one of the busiest shopping days of the year in many of our towns and cities. Despite the economic downturn, many are still anxious to buy gifts this Christmas for loved ones, while cautiously watching a limited budget. But the best Christmas gift, no matter how practical or useful can never replace the gift of good example. Good example is not for a chosen few but is something we all can have a decent go at. It is certainly not a call to perfection but an invitation to lead the way by doing one’s best this Christmas time. Good example will often express itself in small gestures, like a smile, a hug, a word of thanks, a word of forgiveness or a word of encouragement. We can only do what we can, but we should never underestimate the power of good example. We ask God to help us choose the best options in how to lead by good example.
‘By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The skies seem to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.’ ~Thomas Merton

The scripture readings that have been selected during Advent and Christmas are full of meaning and symbolism. While they were written many years ago they still bring with them a meaning and relevance to the complex world we live in. These scripture readings talk about darkness, turmoil, confusion, despair, fear, depression, loneliness, pain, abandonment and uncertainty. But from all of this emerges light, hope, peace, certainty, healing, comfort, energy, new beginnings, relevance and meaning. These scripture readings are not fairytales or make believe stories. They are real and relevant. They also remind us just how important Christmas is on our own spiritual journey.
A woman celebrating her 104th birthday was being interviewed by a reporter. “What’s the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked. “For one thing there’s very little peer pressure!” the woman replied. ~From The Capuchin

We’re all aware of peer pressure. It’s a force that can be subtle to very powerful. With young people there is pressure to be ‘cool’ but it’s not just confined to young people. We all are under its influence. Subtle advertising and glossy magazines put us under pressure to buy stuff we don’t want. This is at its strongest coming up to Christmas. On a spiritual level we can safely say that peer pressure is a much lesser force than it was in the past. For many years there was a pressure and an expectation to go with the flow when it came to all things spiritual. If you didn’t go with this expectation you were made feel guilty. Today there is great freedom in choosing a spirituality that works for us. We can also choose from a wealth of tradition that has been handed on to us. The menu is wide and most importantly there is no peer pressure. We are lucky and privileged to know that God’s menu is inclusive, free and abundantly generous with all sorts of blessings.
Many of the emails that come through the feedback ask whether there is copyright on the Thought For Today. The simple answer is no. You are free and welcome to use it or part of it in a parish newsletter, school assembly etc. It is good and important to share good news with as many as possible. The only exception is if the material were to be used for financial gain. In return and in particular with parish newsletters it might be nice to print the link to the website Again this will give others a chance to link in with the website. Many thanks....James
Today is traditionally called Gaudette or Joyful Sunday. With that in mind the following reflection by Fr.Bill Cosgrave is appropriate.

Everyone wants to be happy and many are, thank God. It has been said that happiness is an inside job. Positively this means that our happiness comes from ourselves. We make ourselves happy or unhappy. How is this? By the attitudes and outlook we adopt, by the expectations we set for ourselves, by the quality of our relationships and by the level of maturity as persons we have attained.

To become truly happy, a positive attitude to and feeling about oneself is basic. You need to feel positive about yourself, that is, be happy to be yourself. This involves good self-esteem so that one appreciates and loves oneself as one is. This is clearly an inside job, something you can only do yourself.

Being realistic about oneself is also essential. This means recognising and accepting oneself, one's talents and abilities, one's social class, one's limitations and faults. Vital here is also avoiding comparison to others. Be gentle with yourself, while doing one's best to improve and grow as a person.

Finally taking responsibility for oneself and one's actions is required for true happiness. Don't be given to blaming others for your faults, mistakes and misfortunes. They are yours, take responsibility for them, while trying to lessen and avoid them in the future. Appreciate your talents and achievements and be grateful for them. Count your blessings. This is clearly an inside job. Only you can do it.
‘Giving opens the way for receiving’ ~Author Unknown

The arrival of a postcard more than 20 years after it was posted made the headlines during the week. The card arrived at the home of Dinny O’Regan’s home in Cork and was posted by Dinny’s then teenage daughters who had been on a sun holiday in Tenerife. It had a simple message saying they had made plenty of friends, with mighty weather and lying on the beach in the sun. Why or how it took 20 years to get to its destination remains a mystery. But behind the mystery lies an important message on the importance of keeping in touch. We all like to hear from family and friends. It’s nice to be remembered. Text messages now replace postcards but the tradition of sending Christmas cards is alive and well. The cynic will say it’s a waste of time and that it’s hypocritical sending a card to someone just because they always send you one. But every card tells a story. You have been remembered, a prayer has possibly been said for you, a friendship door is still kept open and the card is a gentle reminder of the important things in life. Hopefully your Christmas cards will not take 20 years to get to you!
‘We will spend most of eternity thanking God for those prayers of ours that God didn’t answer!’ ~C.S Lewis

It seems that many of our prayers are never answered. We have asked for genuine requests and much of them have been heartfelt. But on many occasions we find that the door is seemingly closed. We are encouraged by the words of Jesus, “Ask and you shall receive”. But there are times when all our requests have been ignored and we do at times feel let down, hurt and even abandoned. Spiritual writers will answer by saying our prayers aren’t answered because we asked for the wrong thing. They will also say that our prayer was answered but at a deeper level and only with time will be begin to understand that it was answered. But every prayer is a genuine attempt in making a connection with our loving God. Every time we pray we receive God’s blessings. Even when our prayer seems shallow or desperate God extends a multitude of blessings. So in that sense prayer is not wasted, pointless or a meaningless exercise. As we journey towards Christmas our prayers are important and significant.
‘Perfection is the ability to incorporate imperfection. There’s no other way to live. You either incorporate imperfection or you fall into denial. That’s how the Spirit moves in or out of our lives.’ ~Richard Rohr

In a Navajo rug there is always an imperfection woven into the rug. The pattern is perfect and then there’s one part of it that clearly looks like a mistake. But this is part of the plan, part of the Eastern mind that there is no such thing as perfection. It’s a mindset that Jesus would have been much closer to and one that he often worked out of. In the western world we have built everything up around perfection especially looks, fashion and accessories. Christmas has been set up around perfection. The mindset is that if you have a perfect Christmas then you’ll be perfectly happy. This is false and so wide of the mark. It just can’t happen. When we embrace all the imperfections in our lives and get on with the task of doing our best, then life and Christmas can take on much more meaning.
Celebrate You…

You are worth celebrating. You are worth everything. You are unique. In the whole world there is only one you. There is only one person with your talents, with your experience and with your gifts. No one can take your place. God created only one you and you are precious in God’s sight. You have immense potential to love, to care, to create, to grow, if you believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter what you have been, the wrong you’ve done, the mistakes you’ve made, the people you’ve hurt. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You’re okay. You are loved in spite of everything. So love yourself and nourish the seeds within you. Celebrate you. Begin now. Start anew. Today is the most important day. You are you and that is all you need to be. Today is a gift given freely. That is the miracle called God who loves you. So celebrate the miracle and celebrate you!
‘Mary is not alive in statues and pictures but in the real and powerful change that can be brought in the world when God’s preferences and God’s choices are taken seriously.’ ~Denis McBride

Today is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th) and it is a recognition of Mary’s lack of flaws and weaknesses. In fact she had none. Surely this feast is a putdown? How can we live up to Mary? Where do we even begin? The purpose of today's feast day is to mark Mary out as someone special as the mother of Jesus but it doesn’t mark her out as removed or distant from us. Like us she experienced the fragility of life and experienced many unexpected and difficult moments in her life. But at all times she put her trust in God. This is the challenge for us. Where would the world be if everyone just thought of themselves independent of others and of God? Today’s feast day traditionally marks the countdown to Christmas but it’s also a day to ask Mary’s many blessings on each of us.
There are two Reflections to mark the feast of St.Nicholas which is today (Dec 6th) and the other a brief insight into Advent and John the Baptist

Yes, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love, generosity and devotion exist. How dreary our world if there were no Santa Claus. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.’ ~Francis Church

Today is the feast of St.Nicholas. He came from a wealthy family and decided to give all his money to the poor. He always did so quietly and without fuss. He would drop some gold coins down the chimney of those who were really poor. People wondered who the generous donor was. One day someone found out it was Nicholas. His name and fame began to spread to many countries and so Santa Claus as we know him today came into being. We give gifts at Christmas because we know deep within that its good to express our love for those who are special and important to us. Thanks to Nicholas, Santa is alive and well. Our world would be such a darker place without his inspiring presence.
Reflection 2

The following reflection has been written by Fr.Tom Cahill
John the Baptist went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah: A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all shall see the salvation of God. ~Luke 3:3-6

John the Baptist couldn’t have put it better! Truly what Advent announces is a ‘many-splendored thing’: God’s splendour shining through simplicity, God’s power bursting through weakness. Conceived out of wedlock, born out of home, rejected by society, killed by the ‘law’, Jesus became a man on the margins. Do we want to cheer at the birth of a marginalised man? Do we want to listen to what he says? Do we not prefer the hollow chant of ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ and the glint of tacky tinsel? Could that be why we’ve handed Christmas over to kids?
A morning prayer……

Thank you O Lord, for loving me. You are with me always. I thank you for the gift of being alive this morning. I thank you for the sleep which has refreshed me. I thank you for the chance to begin life all over again. Lord, this day is full of promise and opportunity. Help me to waste none of it. This day is full of mystery and the unknown. Help me to face it without fear or anxiety. Help me to be fully alive to it all. During this day may I become a more thoughtful person, a more prayerful person, a more generous and kindly person. Help me not to be turned in on myself but to be sensitive and helpful to others. Let me do nothing today that will hurt anyone, but if I do, help me to get back on track again. I ask you to bless me throughout this day in all I hope to do. Later on when evening and night comes, may I look back on this day without regrets. May I be grateful for all my blessings. I make this prayer in your name. Amen


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