Monday of the First Week of Advent
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Acknowledgment: William Barclay/ The New Daily Study Bible /The Gospel of Luke / Westminster / John Knox Press/ Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001