Advent Day 4 ~ Our God becomes flesh

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

IToday, let’s reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation ~ the Christmas portion of our faith. (Again if you don’t accept this as an article of faith, then just consider it as a beautiful story; it still has power and it still can have tremendous meaning for you.)

St. John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus saves us as man.  If you look at the word “Incarnation” you’ll recognize the word  “carnal” ~ meat, flesh.  Our God became flesh.

“He emptied himself of his equality with God and became as humans are” (Philippians 2). The Father sent his Son into our world to identify with us. To become one of us and with us.

God likes us ~ the human race! In Jesus, a marriage is made between God and the human race. 

But this article of our Christian faith often doesn’t dawn on folks. Many think he was just play-acting ~ pretending to be human.

I offer this passage  (excerpted) from St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop and doctor of the church in the fourth century from the Advent Office of Readings:

He [Jesus] takes to himself all that is human, except sin; i.e. unfaithfulness).

He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.

“Spirit gave divinity, flesh receives it.

He who makes me rich is made poor;

he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity.

He who was full is made empty;

he is emptied for a brief space of glory, that I may share in his fullness.”

We need God to become one of us and with us.

To help us like and love ourselves.

To realize that Love and Beauty and all good things are our destiny.

To invite us to our future instead of destroying ourselves.

If only we believed.

If only we believed.

(Please take a moment to read over this a couple of times to get the full import of what St. Gregory is saying in his poetry.)

And if you’re new to this Advent blog,  or would like a refresher, I recommend reading Welcome to Advent.Click here.  Please read this! I just re-read myself and you know what? It even motivated me to do this Advent even better! So I encourage ya to read it; it’s been updated too.   (And once again, don’t forget to click on the < back arrow on the top left-hand corner of your browser so you can come right back to this page!)

Take time today to allow this story of God’s love affair with the human race to touch you, embrace you, heal your heart and transform your life as it has mine.   

The season of Advent is about preparing our hearts once again for a deeper experience of Christ at Christmas. Here’s a wonderful hymn that supports today’s theme: “Let all mortal men keep silence. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 3 ~ Swords to plowshares ~ Guns to roses (And Hanukkah Day 3)

The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peac
The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peace

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Dear Friends,

There’s a powerful sentence in Isaiah that has been quoted by statesmen seeking disarmament throughout the Twentieth Century . . . .

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks

nor will they train for war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4.

All of my adult life my writing and my prayer has been against war —

Viet Nam / the Balkans / the Gulf  War / Iraq / and now this never-ending war in Afghanistan.  I, for one am thankful President Biden finally brought it to an end, even though it was distressful and chaotic.

Pope Paul VI, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly made an impassioned plea:

“No more war! Never again war!”

Pope John Paul II said the Iraq war was a defeat for humanity.

And Dwight David Eisenhower, the great general of Word War II and President of the U.S. said: “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.” 

Pope Francis in his New Year’s message at the beginning of this year wrote: 

Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial

Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. Our world is paradoxically marked by “a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.

Advent is a time to wish for peace ~ pray for peace ~ work for peace.

The Christmas story is about peace.  One of the titles of Jesus is “Prince of Peace” as you see in this image on this side altar in the Anglican National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

But we become cynical about peace.

Many of us have our private little wars that we engage in every day with a sibling or a friend or co-worker.

Let’s “Practice peacefulness”, as a friend put it to me once.  Let’s stop the gossiping, giving people a chance. Try  to be kinder to the folks you interact with today.

The legend of St. Christopher carrying a child across a stream on a stormy night invites us to greet every human person as if they were Christ himself.

Think thoughts of peace.  Be peace.  At least try it today, the third day of Advent.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace,

peace for his people and his friends.

and those who turn to him in their hearts.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

Justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

The Lord will make us prosper

and the earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

Psalm 85

And if you’re new to this Advent blog, or want to refresh your understanding of the season, I recommend reading >> Welcome to Advent to get a sense of why we spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help us deepen our spirituality. It can work whether you are a Catholic or just interested in your spirituality.  (In order to return to this page, you’ll need to use the back arrow <  on the top left-hand corner of your browser.)

Before you go here’s a great music video from people gathered from around the world ~ “Let there be peace on earth”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. 

And here are today’s Mass readings; it’s the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. (Wish everybody you know whose name is Andrew a “happy name day!”   Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 2 ~ The lesson of the shadows (Hanukkah Day 2)

                       image bob traupman 2007 / St. Augustine Beach, Florida

MONDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT

I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.

I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.

And so I now  pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.

Teach me to  stop and be confronted, to be changed,  by them.

This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me
about You and Your great love for me.

Editors note:  This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.                                                                                                           

I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.                                                                                                                                     I wonder what they were saying?  

I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.

It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.

Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.

If we deny they are there, we’re in trouble.

If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it, we become whole. 

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them: Click here. 

But since our Jewish sisters and brothers are already beginning their eight-day holiday celebration of Hanukkah, if you don’t know about the origins of that feast in Maccabees or the customs around it for their children you might want to take a peak at one of the following videos  . . .

The Miracle of Chanukah click here.

Hanukkah, Traditions Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

                                         

WATCH OUT! Be care-ful! Stand erect!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT ~ November 28, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads                                                                                                        because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

     (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36)

It’s kinda funny. We begin our liturgical year by thinking about The End ~the end of history. Our Gospel today isn’t very comforting; in fact it’s pretty scary ~he’s putting all that stuff before you!

Our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay, whom I’ve referenced from time to time, points out that there are two main points for us to take away from today’s lesson:

First, this Gospel’s talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The Stoics regarded history as circular. They held that every 3,000 years or so the world was consumed by a great conflagration , then it started all over again. That meant that history was going nowhere.

There are a lot of folks out there who want to tell us when that’s gonna happen. And even where to show up. You’ve seen the billboards and the TV preachers stomping out their predictions. But . . .

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mk 3:32).  Not even Jesus. Think about that. Jesus himself doesn’t know when it’s going to happen–only the Father.

So, when it will be and what it will be like are not ours to know. The major lesson of this first Sunday of Advent is that history is going somewhere. History has a goal and that goal is Jesus Christ who will be the Lord of all.

Second, today’s Gospel stresses the need to be on the watch. But we are not only to be vigilant for our bodily safety but, as Barclay points out, we must live our lives in ‘a permanent state of expectation’.

I’d like to note here that today’s Gospel passage is the last one in Luke before the account of the Passion of the Lord (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

THE LITURGICAL YEAR has three cycles. This year we’re in Cycle C and we’ll be proclaiming and listening to the Gospel of Luke all year. (We just finished listening to the Gospel of Mark in Cycle B.)

Here are some notes about the Gospel of Luke from William Barclay that I found rewarding for my own use.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE has been called the loveliest book in the world. It would not be far wrong to say that the third gospel was the best life of Christ ever written.

Luke was a Gentile—the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. He was a doctor by profession and that fact may have given him the “wide sympathy he possessed.”

As a trusted companion of St. Paul he must have known all the great figures of the early Church and you can be sure that he had them tell their stories to him. For two years he was Paul’s companion in imprisonment in Caesarea where he had a great opportunity for study and research.

The book was written to a man called Theophilus. He is called most excellent Theophilus.—the normal title for a high official in the Roman government. Luke wrote it to tell an earnest inquirer about Jesus.

A Gospel for the Gentiles

Theophilus was a Gentile as was Luke himself. Unlike Matthew, he is not interested in the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. He seldom quotes the Old Testament at all. He never uses the term Rabbi of Jesus but always a Greek word meaning Master.

Because of this, Barclay suggests, Luke is the easiest of all the gospels to read. He was writing, not for Jews, but for people very much like ourselves. (pp.1-2)

The Gospel of Prayer

At all the great moments of his life, Luke shows Jesus at prayer. He prayed at his baptism (3:21); before he chose the Twelve (6:12); before his first prediction of his death (9:18); at the transfiguration (9:28); and upon the Cross (23:46). Only Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for Peter in his hour of testing (22:32). Only he tells us the prayer parables of the friend at midnight (11: 5-13) and the unjust judge (18:1-6).

To Luke, again according Barclay, “the unclosed door of prayer was one of the most precious in all the world. (p.4)

The Gospel of Women

In Palestine the place of women was low. In the Jewish morning prayer, a man thanks God that he was not made “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”

But Luke elevates the place of women in his narrative. The story of Jesus’ birth is told from Mary’s point of view. In Luke, we read of Elizabeth, of Anna, of the widow of Nain, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It is Luke who splashes lavish strokes upon his portrait canvases of Martha and Mary and Mary Magdalene. (pp. 4-5)

The Gospel of Praise

In Luke the phrase praising God occurs more often than all the New Testament put together. This praise reaches it peak in the three great hymns that the Church has sung throughout all her generations—the Magnificat (146:55), the Benedictus (1:68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32.)

Again friend Barclay waxes eloquently, “there’s a radiance in Luke’s gospel which is a lovely thing, as if a sheen of heaven had touched the things of earth. (p.5.)

The Universal Gospel

All the barriers are down: For Luke, Jesus Christ is for all people without distinction.

(This is the same message, by the way, as our present Pope who repeats over and over again.) 

(1) The kingdom of heaven is not shut for Samaritans. Luke alone tells the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-7). The one grateful leper is a Samaritan. (17:11-19) John can record that the Jews have not dealings with Samaritans but Luke refuses to shut the door on anyone. (p.5)

(How does that play against the background on the American agenda today?)

(2) Luke shows Jesus speaking of approval of Gentiles whom orthodox Jews would consider unclean. He shows Jesus citing the widow of Zarepeth and Naaman the Syrian as shining examples (4:25:-7). The Roman centurion is praised for the greatness of his faith (7:9) And these great words of Jesus:

People will come from east and west, north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. (13:29).   (p.6)

(3) Luke demonstrates a great interest in the poor. He alone tells the story of the rich man and the poor man (16:19-31). In Matthew (5:3), the saying of Jesus is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But Luke simply states, “Blessed are you who are poor” (6:20).

Barclay here: “Luke’s gospel has been called ‘the gospel of the underdog’. His heart runs out to everyone for whom life is an unequal struggle.

Perhaps Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would care to read our friend St. Luke and I’m certain President Joe Biden has.

(4) Most of all, Luke shows Jesus as a friend of outcasts and sinners. He alone tells of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oil and bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (7:36-50); of Zachaeus, the despised tax collector (19:1-10); and he alone has the immortal story of the prodigal son and the loving father (15: 11-32).

All four gospel writers quote from Isaiah 40 when they give the message of John the Baptist, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’; but only Luke continues the quotation to its triumphant conclusion . . . .

‘And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Isaiah 40 3-5) (Luke 3:4,6).

Luke of all the gospel writers sees no limits to the love of God.

As I’ve prepared this commentary, I look forward to studying and praying over the texts of Luke, and proclaiming his Gospel as the Lord allows me during the coming year, in a way that I’ve never done before. Will you join me? 

Before you go,here is a section of Handel’s Messiah that fits this theme, “And who will abide the day of His coming?” Click here.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings–Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Acknowledgment:   William Barclay/ The New Daily Study Bible /The Gospel of Luke / Westminster / John Knox Press/ Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Giving Thanks in trying times ~ How will you give thanks this year?

New blog post for Thanksgiving Day 2021

Will we take time out on Thanksgiving Day to make it truly a day of Thanksgiving this year? What do you have to be thankful for?

Let’s start with this: President James Madison in 1815 was the one who created the tradition of setting aside a day for the people of the United States to Give Thanks to the Creator for the goodness of our land. It would be good for us to reflect on what the original intent this day was to be as, with so many things in our country we have forgotten who and what we are.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. [ . . . ] And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.

Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-ninth.

JAMES MADISON.

Two items come to mind as I approach this Thanksgiving Day. First, how did we get so far from a President encouraging us to go to our churches to pray on Thanksgiving Day to our secular society declaring it anathema for any kind of mention of God in public speech at all.

Then there’s this: How many families turn off the football games for a moment and actually pause at the Thanksgiving table to have family members reflect on what they’re thankful for and to offer thanks for them?

How ‘bout your family? What are your traditions around the Thanksgiving table? Do you pray? (If you don’t have a ritual of sorts, perhaps you can start one. Take a few minutes and ask folks to write one thing they’re thankful for; then mix them up and have others share them instead of rushing into eating. (At the bottom of this post I’ve added an article by a guest columnist in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.”)

How many of us are really thoughtful about what we have to be thankful for this year as we approach the day. Especially about where our country is this year. We’ve all been through two years of suffering and worry and–near hell actually–dealing with this Pandemic for the past two years. Some of us have been very sick. Some of us have watched loved one die of Covid. Yet still others have been in denial and and have refused to take the vaccine and have protested others taking it.

As I look over the past year, I see so much suffering there is in our country and throughout the world. I have a sensitive heart, I’m thinking of all those folks particularly.

We’ve been through major hurricanes, as well as, winter storms, and devastating wild fires in the California. And on top of that, we’re dealing with climate deniers who are making it more difficult for those particularly for us to do what must be done to prepare for the future. As Pope Francis has pointed out, it’s the poor who are hurt the most by Climate Change. And we’ve seen that dramatically in the sufferings of the poor in these natural disasters.

And my heart aches for so many migrants and refugees throughout the world—some of whom are stateless. Then there’s the senseless and insane issue of gun violence.

Are we at prayer as we approach Thanksgiving Day?

Are we truly thankful for what we have in this country?

+ Freedom of Speech. Some don’t want others to have that these days.

+ Freedom of the Press. + Freedom of Assembly. For the right to protest / the right to organize / the right for unions to meet.

+ The possibility of work. But not all have it or enough of it or at a living wage.

+ The possibility of a decent education. But again, not all are able to afford it.

+ The possibility of decent health care. Again, who can get it and who cannot?

Is America the bright beacon of a hill it once was? Do other countries look up to us as they once did? As I think about these questions a day before Thanksgiving 2021.  Do I feel as proud to be an American as I used to be? I want to be, but it’s hard. I know I have to do my part as a citizen and I try; I participated in helping in the last election.

I feel rather embarrassed for us at times.

These days seem to me more like ancient Israel when they had lost their way and were unfaithful to God.

And yet—and yet, all through my own life’s struggles, I’ve learned to continue to pick myself up and sing: “I’ll go on and praise Him; I’ll go on . . . “

And so, dear friends, so will we! If. . . If we thank God for the gifts He gives us day in and day out, day in and day out. And Praise Him—No. . . Matter. . .  What!

Dear God,

We are living in difficult times.

We do not know what lies ahead of us.

Some of us look forward with confidence;

others are fraught with fear.

But let us remember that if we look to you, O God,

You will be our Strength and even our Joy.

Please be with us in our land today

and bless us.

Bless our President and elected officials

that they would serve all of the people of this land. 

And so, we give you thanks this day for all of the blessings

You have showered upon our country and each of us.

Please bless us most of all with peace among nations

and peace here at home.b To You be all Glory and Honor and Thanksgiving. Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s the great hymn “Now thank we all our God,” Click here. It’ll give you goosebumps.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And please pray along with the lyrics as you listen! 

And here’s the link to the New York Times article, “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.” Click here.”