The Servant Leader

Dec. 12, 2011

Weekly Winner

Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of December 12, 2011!

Congratulations to Pat Counselman !

Pat will receive a copy of Great People of the Bible Student Book and Catechist Guide, a $28.90 value.

Bring Salvation History to Life! Parish leaders have been requesting a Catholic Bible study curriculum for middle school students, created specifically to fit their parish schedules. Saint Mary’s Press is pleased to respond to this need with the Great People of the Bible parish curriculum.

The Great People of the Bible curriculum offers:

- A student book that is found in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a supplemental curriculum resource, and the only Bible curriculum for middle school students with this approval

- Twenty-five, one hour sessions designed to fit a typical parish calendar

- A catechist guide that offers easy-to-follow session outlines for the volunteer catechist

- Flexible options for the Catechist to complete student activities in class or use as family learning assignments in the home

- One student book that covers both the Old and New Testament and that supports the ABC’s of biblical literacy

- Engaging student activities, now with expanded background content, based on the ever popular Student Activity Workbooks for Breakthrough! The Bible for Young Catholics

Great People of the Bible
ISBN: 978-0-88489-690-6, paper, 56 pages

Focus on Faith

Christmas Blessings

Christmas Card
Dear Partners in Ministry,

On behalf of the staff of Saint Mary’s Press, I send you well wishes for a blessed Christmas season and New Year. We thank God each day for the gift of your ministry in the lives of young people. As our founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle would say, there is no greater gift than to touch the hearts of the young people entrusted to your care and to open their minds to the Christian spirit. May this season be a time of renewal and gratitude for God’s grace in our lives and in the lives of the young people we serve.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever!
John M. Vitek, president

Make It Happen

December 25: Birth of Jesus of Nazareth: Light of the World
From Day by Day with People of the Bible: Reflections for Teens

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:9)

The time leading up to Christmas is filled with anticipation. All wait in darkness for the coming of the light. Israel waited for the coming of the Messiah. Mary and Joseph waited for the birth of Jesus. We await Christ’s Second Coming. It is no accident that Christmas is celebrated during the winter solstice, when we are moving out of the darkest time of the year toward longer daylight hours. John’s Gospel begins not with a story of the birth of Christ but by acclaiming Jesus as the light of the world, the Word of God living among us.

Consumerism and holiday glitz often obscure the true meaning of Christmas. Rather than worrying about buying or receiving that perfect gift, let us keep in mind that Christ came to make God’s love known to a world lost in the darkness of sin.

How are you making God’s love known?

Jesus, help me let your light shine by giving of myself as you did.

  • To go deeper: Read John 1:1–17.

Break Open the Word

Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2011
Luke 1:26-38

Opening Prayer
God, help us to grow in our faith and, like Mary, say yes to your plan. Give us the courage to believe that saying yes will make a difference in the world. And never let us forget that all things are possible with you. Amen.

Context Connection
On the fourth Sunday of Advent we hear of God's plan to send the long-awaited Messiah into the world. Unlike various books of the Old Testament that merely hint at how God will do this, the Gospel of Luke actually spells out the plan. A girl named Mary, who lives in the insignificant city of Nazareth in the Galilee territory, learns of her role in this plan from the angel Gabriel. Mary, who is still a virgin, is betrothed but not yet married to Joseph. Gabriel says to Mary, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you" (1:28). Mary must have been troubled or afraid by the appearance of the angel; she was in her parent's home and must have wondered, "How did he get in?" Gabriel wishes to waylay her fears, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (1:30). The angel goes on to reveal the reason for God's having sent him, "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus" (1:31), which means "God saves." Jesus "will be called the Son of the Most High" (1:32), and he will sit on the throne of his ancestor King David and rule over the house of Jacob forever.

Mary's response is unbelievably practical; she doesn't get caught up in what the angel says about her son reigning over a kingdom for eternity. Mary asks, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (1:34). The angel explains that through the power of the Holy Spirit she will conceive and "therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God" (1:35). Gabriel helps Mary to accept that this will come to pass by telling her about her cousin Elizabeth who, unable to have children because of her advanced age, now found herself pregnant by the power of God. The angel states, "Nothing will be impossible with God" (1:37).

Relying entirely on God, Mary responds, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (1:38). Mary strives to do God's will even though she doesn't know the full ramifications of saying yes to God. She trusts that God will provide for her. We look to Mary as the first Christian disciple because she surrendered to God's plan for her life. She not only accepted God's call but showed remarkable patience as her life began to change as a result. For this reason, she is indeed favored by God.

Tradition Connection
In Mary, the mother of Jesus, we find the true embodiment of a servant of God, or disciple. In faith Mary was obedient to God's will even when she did not fully understand all the ramifications of responding to God's call. Because of her deep faith and complete obedience, we as Catholics give Mary great honor and respect. Mary's saying yes to God made it possible for Jesus to become human and bring about the redemption of all people. Mary is a person of the greatest significance in salvation history.
The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that "with God nothing will be impossible" and so giving her assent: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."1 Elizabeth greeted her: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."2 It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.3 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 148)

Mary was confident that God was almighty and that through God great things could be accomplished. Because of her Jewish heritage Mary also understood that God used human beings to bring about events that strengthened the faith of others. Mary considered it a great blessing to be chosen by God to be a part of bringing more hope and faith into the world. Because of her faith Mary knew in her soul that with God all things are possible.
Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ's power.4 The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that "nothing will be impossible with God," and was able to magnify the Lord: "For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."5 (Catechism, paragraph 273)

God's loving kindness finds fulfillment in Mary through Jesus Christ, the God made man, whose dwelling among us we refer to as the Incarnation. Under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit God the Father is able to bring to fruition the long promised plan of the redemption of humankind.

"In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father's loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit's power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful"6 (Catechism, paragraph 723).

Wisdom Connection
Luke has good news, fantastic news, to share with the Christian community. Nothing is impossible with God. God used Mary, a young virgin, to bring into the world the promised Messiah, the Son of God. God the Father's intervening in human history changed it forever. Mary is the perfect example of what we Kingdom people must become, responders to God's call. Because Mary was able to say yes in faith, the world was transformed for all time. God is calling, God is calling as you read these words, but are you going to respond? Are you prepared to say yes to God? Within every believer is the potential to be an instrument of the all-powerful God, for whom nothing, nothing, is impossible.

The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

The Lord's Prayer is from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Luke 1:37-38; cf. Genesis 18:14.
2. Luke 1:45.
3. Cf. Luke 1:48.
4. Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13.
5. Luke 1:37,49.
6. Cf. Luke 1:26-38; Romans 4:18-21; Galatians 4:26-28.

Saint Spotlight

Saint John of the Cross

December 14 is the memorial for Saint John of the Cross.

Saint John of the Cross is recognized as a Doctor of the Church. A member of the Carmelite order, Saint John of the Cross began the Discalced reform of the order. Although his reforms were opposed by many of the brothers, they led to the revitalization of the order. Saint John of the Cross was a gifted contemplative and spiritual writer. He is the patron saint of contemplative life and mystical theology.

For more information on Saint John of the Cross, go to