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In our Gospel today, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus was in the southern part of Palestine, near the Jordan River when he heard that John been arrested. So he made a decision: he left the Province of Judea and his hometown of Nazareth and he moved to a city in Galilee called Capernaum. That city was to become his home, his base of operations for the next three years, and those three years that followed that decision were going to be the most influential years ever spent by a human being: they would change history dramatically forever. So how did that happen? How did Jesus go from being a young 30 year old man, barely known outside of his home town, who had never drawn particular attention to himself of done anything extraordinary, to this? I ask the question because if we think over the last three years of our lives, I would bet that we would say that we were quite busy, we did many things, but did they change history, even a little? Or perhaps more realistically, did they change the lives of at least some people for the better? If our answer is no, or at least not very much, what were we doing?

The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all speak about Jesus’ decision as the birth of a new light for the people: the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. I suppose we too would like to think our lives are, or have been, a light for people around us. But this decision of Jesus just didn’t happen: his decision to begin his public ministry, and the way he spent his next three years, wasn’t automatic. One all important thing preceded those three years, and was the cause of it. Do you know what that was? If you go back to the Gospels and read what Jesus did before this decision, you will see it. First, He had just finished forty days of prayer in the desert; second, He had been baptised by John, where he also was praying. And before that? Before that Jesus spent about 30 years of his life in the longest retreat ever recorded, with Mary and Joseph, learning how to pray, read the scriptures, and understand Himself and what He was supposed to do in the world.

We spend most of our lives as very busy people; perhaps some of us have even been quite successful, made a lot of money, or have a certain status. But if we ever want to really do something that will become a light for the world, I am convinced that will come about only if make our decisions after doing just what Jesus did: pray. It certainly worked for Jesus, and if even Jesus had to do so, how much more must this be for us? So I think that a very good resolution for this New Year would be to schedule in a retreat, and the longer the better. And don’t make excuses, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert at prayer, or know how to pray like some saintly mystic: just give yourself some time to try. There is no better investment of our time if we want to do something important with our lives that really would help our loved ones and the world around us.

H. James Towey is in his sixth year as president of Ave Maria University (AMU). His career has included previous service as a college president, senior advisor to the President of the United States, key aide to a Congressional leader, member of the cabinet of Florida’s governor, founder of a national non-profit organization, and legal counsel to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. During his tenure as AMU’s second president, Mr. Towey has ushered in record enrollment, over $50 million in fundraising and 19 new majors.

Mr. Towey served as Assistant to the President of the United States. He was a member of President George W. Bush’s senior staff and attended meetings of his Cabinet. As director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2002 to 2006, Mr. Towey tracked billions of dollars in federal grants that were awarded annually to faith-based charities serving the poor. In 1985 Mr. Towey became personal friends with Mother Teresa and served as her legal counsel in the United States during the last 12 years of her life. He was a full-time volunteer for her for two years, living with her order of priests in their seminary in Tijuana, Mexico, and caring for the dying in her home for people with AIDS in Washington. Mr. Towey was a member of the official delegations sent by the President of the United States for both Mother Teresa’s funeral in Calcutta in 1997, and her beatification at St. Peter’s Basilica in 2003.

He has received many honors, including the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and six honorary doctorate degrees. He and his wife Mary have five children and reside in the town of Ave Maria, Florida.
Here is a summary of 7 lessons on gratitude. Of all the biblical numbers you should be grateful I didn’t choose 144,000.
1) Gratitude should never be silent. We all know what it feels like when they say thank you. And when they don’t! “Unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.” No doubt the other 9 lepers were super grateful to Jesus. They just didn’t tell him! And didn’t get saved!
2) Gratitude comes from looking and realizing your blessings. The leper looked down. He was a leper and now he is not! Our problem may be that we don’t often realize our blessings. So many gifts of God we have always just had. Just look at all the problems you don’t have! 
3) Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends. As a priest, I’ve had plenty of chances to enter into the challenges people face. With social media even more. There are many byproducts of serving and accompanying the poor, but a primary byproduct for me is to help me see how blessed I am. And see how happy other people can be with so little. 
4) Gratitude is an echo chamber…A good thing happens which is great but once you thank and share it, it is like an echo. The opposite of gratitude is bitterness and it is like sound deadening material. Bitterness allows pain to live longer. Gratitude allows the joys to live longer. 
5) Gratitude is like fertilizer – it makes all kind of other virtues grow. Gratitude generates generosity and attracts people that have a positive spirit. On the other side, ungrateful complainers have the ability (more like a liability) to find, grow, and create burdens. Not showing gratitude can kill are relationship. Spreading a lot of gratitude around will make them flourish!
6) Gratitude is a filter. It sifts out the good and leaves aside the bad. Like our ear picks up all the noises but we only listen to what interests us. A grateful soul focuses on the good, the uplifting, the graces. So filter out the bad, skim it off the top, throw it in the trash and enjoy the long lasting concentrate of goodness. 
7) Finally, gratitude always increases opportunity. When I have my gratitude goggles on I can see opportunities that I missed when I’m not in a feeling of gratitude.

So if you made it to the end of the article. THANK YOU! And pick one of these lessons to put into practice!

James T. Hackett is presently a Partner in Riverstone Holdings LLC, one of the largest private energy investment firms. Mr. Hackett is the retired Executive Chairman of the Board and former CEO of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. Before joining Anadarko, Mr. Hackett served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Devon Energy Corporation following its merger with Ocean Energy where he served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, itself a result of a merger in 1999 with Seagull Energy Corporation, where he was Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. He joined Seagull from Duke Energy where he led its Energy Services Division as President. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice President of Pan Energy when the company merged with Duke Power to create Duke Energy. His energy experience includes positions in engineering, finance and marketing with NGC Corp., Burlington Resources and Amoco Oil Co. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and National Petroleum Council. Mr. Hackett is a director of Enterprise Products Partners L.P., National Oilwell Varco (Fortune 500 companies), and Sierra Oil & Gas. He is a Former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Mr. Hackett is a Board member (and former Chairman) of the Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University (where he served as an adjunct professor for six years). He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois as well as a Master of Business Administration and a Master in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. He and his wife, Maureen, have four children.

Leader of BakerHostetler’s Federal Policy team, the Honorable Michael Ferguson served for nearly a decade in Congress and held leadership roles on key policy initiatives, from healthcare to financial services, with an eye toward advocating for legislative solutions that removed regulatory roadblocks to innovation. As vice chairman of the House’s principal healthcare subcommittee, he led key policy reforms, including the creation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and pharmaceutical and medical device user fee reauthorizations. He also participated in several financial services investigations and helped lead passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other financial industry reforms following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After retiring from Congress, Mike founded Ferguson Strategies, a government affairs and public policy consulting firm that served a range of clients, including Fortune 500 companies and start-up firms. Appointed by Governor Chris Christie and unanimously confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate, Mike is chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority. Mike played a pivotal role in shepherding the passage of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit in 2003 as the vice chairman of the House’s Health Subcommittee, part of the Energy and Commerce Committee. While on the Financial Services Committee, held leadership roles in the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Authored and shepherded passage of the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006, which champions pioneering healthcare policies that improve treatment options for patients.

Mr. Trennert is the Managing Partner of Strategas Research Partners LLC and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the firm’s broker-dealer subsidiary, Strategas Securities, LLC. In addition, as Chief Investment Strategist, Mr. Trennert is known as one of Wall Street’s top thought leaders on the subject of markets and economic policy. His research pieces are read by leading institutional investors and corporate executives across the globe. In 2006, Mr. Trennert co-founded Strategas, which originally began with just five employees. Today, the firm employs over fifty research analysts, institutional salesmen, and sales traders at its offices in New York, Washington D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. Prior to founding Strategas, Jason was the Chief Investment Strategist and a Senior Managing Director at International Strategy & Investment (ISI) Group where he built and oversaw two of that Firm’s most popular research efforts, its Company Surveys and Investment Strategy groups. Widely quoted in the domestic and foreign press, Jason is a regular guest host on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene. He is the author of the popular investment book, New Markets, New Strategies, published in 2005 by McGraw Hill.  His most recent book, My Side of the Street, was published by St. Martin’s in May 2015. He was the Treasurer of La Scuola d’Italia where he established and headed its investment committee, is a member of the Board of Governors of The Columbus Citizens Foundation, and a member of the investment committee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Jason has an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a  BS in International Economics from Georgetown University.
Dear friends in Christ,

  Jesus says “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  We might rightly think: “But how can this be true? Doesn’t Jesus say in other parts of the Gospel “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”? What are we to think about this “peace”, when at one moment Jesus praises it, and in another he says that He has come to smash it to pieces?

  Jesus Himself gives us a hint about how to solve this in one of his sayings in the Gospel according to John. There Jesus says to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”   Jesus says that the peace that he is to bring to us is not what the world considers peace.

  Indeed, there are two different kinds of peace. One kind is the peace of ceasing to combat against the most profound of all our battles over the earth: our battle against sin. Jesus came to destroy sin and its consequences, and He fights against it with all his strength and love. Surely this is what He was talking about in our Gospel today. In our struggle against sin, we too must be willing to sacrifice even our most intimate ties to others if these become an opportunity for sin to enter our lives. An everyday example of this is how much parents have to struggle to educate their children to choose the good path in their lives, even when this causes tension that the children will not always immediately understand. Another example is how courageous Catholic politicians must be to uphold Christian morality today… How much easier it would be to just “make peace” with everyone, and slowly let our families and our nation literally fall apart. This is the peace “as the world gives it”, and we must never make a pact with it.

  But the other kind of peace is the peace which Jesus offers: it is the peace that comes to us when we never betray our consciences, when we at least try to be faithful to God and our neighbour in every instance of our lives. Though on the surface this effort might cause us much trouble and anxiety,      in the depths of our hearts we know that it is the only way for a good and honest person to be true to himself, to his loved ones, and to God. Shakespeare said this in one brief sentence: “If I lose my honor, I lose myself.”

  We as Christians should always strive to fight against the peace that pacts with everything that destroys what is good in us, no matter how much it is in vogue, and strive for that peace which Jesus gives when we try to live the Gospel with all our hearts.

God bless you and your families,

Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.
Dear friends in Christ,

  Have you ever noticed that the “Our Father” is made up of seven petitions? The version of the “Our Father” in our Gospel this Sunday is from St. Luke, but the more complete form and the one we habitually use comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew. In that version, the first three petitions are about God and heaven (1. hallowed by thy name, 2. thy kingdom come, 3.thy will be done); the last three petitions are about us and our earth (1. forgive us our trespasses, 2. lead us not into temptation, 3. deliver us from evil).

  But what about the petition in the middle: “give us this day our daily bread”? The adjective before “bread” that we often translate as “daily” is in the original Greek ẻπιούσιος, which literally means: super-essential, or “more than essential”, and which can be translated as “the bread which is more than enough for today”, or “the bread for today and tomorrow”!  This petition “in the middle” is just in the right place: it bridges heaven and earth because Jesus tells us to ask at the same time for our “daily bread”, the essential for every day, but also for something more, “more than essential”. We ask for our earthly bread, but we also ask for our heavenly bread, the Eucharist, which is Jesus himself, the Bread of Life.

  Jesus knows that in our lives we humans are kind of walking a tight rope: we need earthly food, we all know that. But we also know that this is not enough: we aren’t like animals that just live the present moment. We also need another kind of food that gives us security, hope, happiness. Jesus gives us that in the gift of himself in the Eucharist.

  May our presence and our participation at Sunday Mass become more and more important for us as we say: “give us this day our daily bread”.

God bless you and your families, Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.
Dear friends in Christ,

  Sometimes it might seem as though our Catholic faith is built upon contradictions. Here we are in the middle of Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy” (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016), in which we often hear the Pope asking us to forgive almost “no matter what”. He says: “Mercy, this is the name of God”. And that is very good. But what then are we to make of Jesus’ statement in our Gospel that for the irresponsible “servant” one unexpected day the servant’s master will arrive and he “will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful”?

  I think the answer is not very complicated. God is always merciful, and the person who asks God forgiveness in this life will never be refused. But God also knows that, like any good mother or father, true mercy doesn’t mean to let everything slide. The child who has not been taught discipline, educated, and encouraged might think his parents were merciful towards him, but he will soon find out that their negligence has dealt him a bad deal: he doesn’t have “what it takes” to succeed in life, and what he thought was a fun-loving adolescence turns out to be a useless one. Parents who are merciful like that are not merciful at all: perhaps through timidity, or laziness, or superficiality, they have failed in one of the most important task that the “Master” has given to them.

  True mercy towards others is always patient and understanding, but it is also demanding. It should demand the best of us, because that is what will make us most happy. Being demanding is usually not easy, but true mercy, like love, doesn’t consider if it is hard or easy; it always looks out for what is best for the other.

  When Jesus says that to whom much has been given much will be asked, but to those who have been given little, little will be asked. He is saying no more than each one of us must try to live up to the vocation and the circumstances God has given us. True mercy teaches us to be compassionate with each other’s failings, but also to spur on those with whom we live to be the best that they can be. In other words, to not be afraid to work for the true happiness of all.

God bless you and your families, Fr. Bruce Wren, L.C.
Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College discuss the history of ISIS in the Middle East and how this impacts the United States.

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