And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere today, Wednesday, December 21 at 4:47 pm-est.(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs.)
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime. I’ve talked to several friends who spoke to me about their loneliness in during the holidays
Some of us can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel much Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like diving into the bottom of a bottle.
This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to our friends and pray for them.
Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.
Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.
And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.
And so, may we pray:
There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Your birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.
And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.
Lord Jesus, come! We need Your Lightand Your Love now more than ever.
And before you go, here’s Handel’s “His Yoke is Easy” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love
Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
Isaiah is so amazing. He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.
At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.
I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:
God gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
– Isaiah 40:30-31.
So many of us become discouraged by life, especially after months and months of sheltering in place because of this pandemic. Many of us may lose our job or have been told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family.
We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed.
In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ~ ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will! As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never ceases to raise me up again.
And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings.
The Advent season provides many texts to comfort us and offer us hope. God knows we need hope in our land today! and throughout the world.
I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.
You have renewed my strength again and again.
Please allow our young people to soar as if on eagle’s wings,
and our older folk to be borne up on the wings of Your love, Lord.
Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to renew my priestly service to You, Lord,
as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.
Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will – for all of us! Amen.
Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
Here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. It’s the lovely feast of St. John of the Cross. Click here.
(Below, I’ll provide you a link if you’d like to know some more about this lovely poet and co-founder of the reformed Carmelite Order alongside St. Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century.)
St.John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of all Spanish literature. Read more.
“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Isaiah 40:3
This image was taken on I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville one misty December Sunday morning about 2 AM. I was living in St. Augustine at the time (2006).
On my way home from “Father Bob’s night out,” I was so taken by the magic of the vista before me I had to pull off and capture it on my Canon Power Shot.
For me, even the Interstate can be a place for reflection. . .
I was thinking of John the Baptist’s message that also appeared in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) gospel:
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”
And this was what I wrote back then, inspired by that moment on the side of a highway at 2 AM on a magical, mystical Sunday morning.
Where are we going, Lord?
Every day we’re on a journey that will not be complete until we meet You.
In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?
Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wasteland I sometimes think America is today, Lord?
John’s message was one of repentance.
When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant to clear a way for the coming of God into our hearts and souls.
Are we getting rid of the roadblocks that stop us from making progress. Our addictions. Our resentments. Our selfishness?
If we don’t make an effort to do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.
In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?
What are we doing, Lord? Reallydoing with our lives?
Where is our life’s journey taking us?
What is life really all about?
I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.
I realized that was a special moment for me; a moment I seized.
Or rather seized me.
Thank you, Lord.
On Monday morning many commuters would return to their frenzied ~ furied ~ hurried ~ harried ~unaware ~ unreflected lives going to and fro and not knowing really where they’re going or what they were doing or why.
Time for You to change, dear friend? Time for a change?
Now before you go, here’s another video from Godspell: Where are You Going? Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. (The First reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose; try reading it aloud.)Click here.
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Nicholas. We’ll explore the real St. Nicholas–the man and the legend.
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.
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.
In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. We’re more than half-way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.
This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled. some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .
Today’s first reading from Isaiah 61:1-2.10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of this third Advent Sunday:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.
Now to today’s Gospel story. . .
Once again, I’d like to offer a simple commentary to help us understand the scripture a little. For the last two weeks we’ve heard the stories of St. Mark’s accounts of John the Baptist; today we hear from St. John. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian Scripture scholar says that a characteristic of a Fourth Gospel is that the emissaries of the Jews come to cross-question John. The word Jews occurs in this gospel over seventy times and the Jews are always in opposition; they are the ones who have set themselves against Jesus.
The agents who came to interview John were composed of two kinds of people. First, the priests and the Levites, Their interest was natural. As we said a week ago, John was the son of Zachariah, who was a priest. And the Hebraic priesthood was passed on from father to son; thus, John the Baptist was also a priest.
The whole thing shows how suspicious orthodoxy is of anything new. John didn’t conform to the normal ideas of a priest or a preacher. (The same thing happens in the Church with stuff that’s new.)
So they went out to ask him questions. “Who are you? “I am not the Christ—the Messiah”, he said. “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
Second, there were the emissaries of the Pharisees. It may well be that behind them was the Sanhedrin—the Hebrew High Court, who were to scrutinize anyone who was suspected of being a false prophet.
There are two parts to our commentary here: What seemed strange to the Pharisees was that John was asking Jews to be washed while that was only required of Gentiles as they became Jews.
The second is this: “To untie the straps of sandals was slaves work. Barclay notes there was a Rabbinic saying that a disciple might do for a master anything that a servant did except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service even for a disciple to render, So John said in effect, “One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.”
John’s function was simply to prepare the way. He was the great example of the man prepare to obliterate himself in order that Jesus, is Lord and Savior—and ours might be seen. God give us the grace to forget ourselves and to remember only Christ
John was simply the signpost, pointing the way toward Christ. He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death to simply be the messenger.
My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . . .
O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.
I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,
my refusal to serve, the meagreness in the way I do serve.
You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,
to wait for him to do new things.
Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;
I ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.
COME LORD JESUS!
To get you in a joyful mood I have a surprise for you: Here’s Andre Rieu with a grand orchestra and singers performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers, enter full screen and prepare to be goosebumped!
And here are all the of the Readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like those as well. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 1 Revised Edition Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 75-80.
THE FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE (and Hanukkah Day 2)
Today,we honor our sister and brothers in Mexico as they celebrate the appearance of the Mother of Jesus to a poor peasant native Mexican nearly five hundred years ago.
Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central America who rejoice in this feast day; indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the world’s poor.
Half way down is an interpretation of the symbolism of the image that of the woman who appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak. That’s truly amazing. Be sure to check it out. It converted a whole culture.
Here’s the charming story; it’s well worth the read:
An elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin (“Juan Diego” in Spanish) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City, 481 years ago. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. He asked that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho.
That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by millions of pilgrims from all over the world.
Significantly, Mary appeared not as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired European Madonna but as a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired “Tonantzin,” the revered Indian Mother, and she spoke to Juan Diego not in cultured Castillian but in his own Nahuatal language. She spoke in the language of the powerless, disenfranchised, and despised Indians.She was then and is today, “La Morenita” – the Brown One. Her message to the bishop was that God’s church should be built out on the fringes of society, amidst the poor and the downtrodden. The vision challenged the powerful conquerors, the Spaniards of Mexico City, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to the periphery; to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in Tepeyac – among the poor and the despised, away from the center of power and culture and education and the arts.
Guadalupe is a “vision” story and, like all such stories, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. More precisely, it tells us how God wants to be among us. St. Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be or whom we should listen to should come as no surprise to us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. In that respect, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe is a restatement of Jesus’ mission: That God is in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, sick, stranger, and suffering. The challenge for us is to heed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the message of Christ’s Gospel, and reach out to those who belong to the margins of our society. – Source: The Manila Bulletin online.
O God, Father of mercies,
who placed your people under the singular protection
of your Son’s most holy Mother,
grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe
may seek with ever more lively faith
the progress of peoples in the way of justice and peace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The official prayer for the Feast
(May we lift up in prayer today those in our country ~ and certain media outlets ~ who have been known to demean the Mexican peoples that they would be uplifted by the Virgin’s message. And may we who celebrate this glorious feast today and attend holy Mass and pray for those who demean and cause hatred toward brown and black people everywhere. It truly IS the VISION message that Our Lady came to give us nearly five hundred years ago through a simple Mexican native man, overruling the Spanish Conquistadors and the Bishops: GOD PREFERS THE POOR!
Now here’s an explanation of the image . . .
The image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph
that was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.
1. THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2. HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT MOON
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl,
the feathered serpent moon-god.
3. THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshiped.
She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4. THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5. THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died on the cross for all mankind.
6. THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7. THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.
10. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellations in the sky on December 12, 1531. All who have scientifically examined the image of Our Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique and so inexplicable in human terms that the image can only be supernatural!
Now in search of a song to help celebrate the feast, the one I found was “Mananitas Guadalupe,” which means “break of day.” You’ll find them still at night, watching and waiting. Be patient. The Videographer will soon take you inside the church to witness something amazing for us gringos. Enjoy.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. CLICK HERE.
And here are today’s Mass readings. if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The emergence of John the Baptist, Scripture scholar William Barclay states, was like “the sudden sounding of the Voice of God.” Why? Because the prophets of Israel had been silent for four hundred years and the Jewish people were sadly conscious of that fact. And in today’s gospel, we find large crowds of people coming to hear John preach and to stand in line to be baptized by him.
He gave people hope and challenged people to do what they ought to do; to be what they could be in a time when the world was crazy and mixed up, very similar to our own time. But he also denounced evil wherever he found it, in the state, in among the religious leaders, among the crowd.
The baptist was a wiry character, living on the edge of the desert; he wore a shirt of camel’s hair in the hot sun, which would have been quite uncomfortable according to our standards. The scriptures record that he also wore a leather belt around his waist and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey. (Locusts are like grasshoppers.) Have you ever had a chocolate-covered grasshopper? Actually they’re not bad. Kind of crunchy, very nutritious, with lots of protein.
People were beginning to think great things about John. Large crowds came to hear him.
His message:“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”
(Yeah, I know. You’ve heard that a zillion times before by street corner prophets.)
In our respectable Sunday assemblies, he would probably be looked upon with scorn; he was certainly not the kind of guy we would expect to be the Advance Man for the Son of God. But that’s what he was. (And we better pay attention to his message because it is critical for our own times.)
He spoke fearlessly, unafraid of what the hypocritical religious leaders might do to him. Eventually Herod had him imprisoned and Herodias, his wife, demanded his head on a platter.
John was a prophet . . .
Presbyterian Scripture scholar William Barclay offers this commentary on this gospel passage.
The Baptist’s message summoned his people to righteousness. He pointed beyond himself. It was the Jewish belief that Elijah would return before the Messiah would come, and he would be the herald of the coming King (Malachi 4:5). So, they saw him as the new Elijah.
Then he makes this interesting observation: In ancient times in the East, the roads were bad. Ordinary roads were no more than tracks. But Solomon built a causeway of black basalt stone that lead to Jerusalem for pilgrims. They were built by the king and for the king and called “the king’s highway.”
A voice crying out in the wilderness
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Johnwas preparing the way for the king. The preacher, the teacher with the prophetic voice, points not to himself but to God.
He said he was not fit to carry the sandals of the one who was to come. Carrying sandals was the duty of a slave. John’s whole attitude was self-obliteration. “He must increase; I must decrease,” John the evangelist would have him say.
Then John warned the Pharisees. he called them “a brood of vipers!” trying to flee the wrath to come. Barclay suggests John was thinking of the possibility of fire in the desert. A river of flame could sweep across the desert and snakes and scorpions and other creatures could be sent scurrying for their lives. (He called the Pharisees “A brood of Vipers.” Jesus said, ” do not think you can say ‘ you have Abraham as your father.” And it was Jewish thought that the children of Abraham were safe from the “Wrath to come” simply by being Jews. But they were hedging their bets by coming to John for baptism!
Then came the promise. He said that “One would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The word for spirit for the Jews was ruah, meaning breath; also meaning wind and, thus, power, because wind drives ships. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of power. The Spirit brought truth to God’s people.
And as for the fire, it connotes illumination, warmth, purification. But there is also a threat. The winnowing fan on the treshing floor will separate the wheat from the chaff. In Christianity, there is no escape from the eternal choice.
In John. there is the basic demand: “REPENT!” And that is the basic demand of Jesus himself, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).The Jewish word for repentance is itself interesting teshuba, from the verb shub, which means simply “to turn.”Repentance is a turning away from evil and a turning towards God. In Greek, the word is metanoia, and also means to turn around. Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “God allows U-turns.” Repentance is always available. No case is hopeless for repentance; no one is beyond repentance. The Rabbis said, “Let not a man say, ‘Because I have sinned, no repair is possible for me’ but let him trust in God, and God will receive him.(Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 pp. 43-58.)
And so, the Christmas message is that Love has entered the world.
As we enter this second week of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:
How can I prepare the way for the Lord (or Love) ?
By being our own messenger of Jesus (or Love)
at home, at the office, in my neighborhood,
in our country, in our politics,
in our world ~ during this coming week.
God’s message to us in the Christmas story is Love.
That’s why he was born, entering our world as a vulnerable baby.
And that’s why he died – vulnerable / bound / nailed –
because the Father wanted us to have evidence that he loved us.
And in turn, his message is . . .
Love one another as I have loved you.
Try it. Be a messenger yourself this week in some little way.
Now, listen and watch Prepare the Way of the Lord from Godspell. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen .Click here.(Get a chuckle out of Jesus’ 1973 ‘Fro.)
The First Sunday of Advent 2020 ~ November 29, 2020
Be Watchful! Be Alert! You don’t know when . . .
It’s kinda interesting. Advent begins at The End instead of The Beginning. The End of Age and the end of our lives. This blog and today’s readings would have us think about these things.
At a certain point in life, the deep desires and cravings of our heart reach a point of eruption in us. Yet at the same time comes the awareness that we cannot bring about what we want—we don’t have inside us what’s needed to fulfill and satisfy our longings. And so, with our infinite yearnings we turn to the Infinite and cry, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Our experience of helplessness before our boundless human need moves us to ask for fellowship with God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The nature of our desire assures us as we enter into Advent that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord of the house is coming” “Be watchful! Be Alert!” (the December 2017 Magnificat liturgical magazine)
And so, the Church begins a New Year this Sunday as we turn from the Cycle A readings of the Gospel of Matthew to the Cycle B readings of the Gospel of Mark—the shortest of them all. And as tradition has it, we begin with “the End”—a warning of what is to come. The Gospel is from 13:33-37—just before Mark’s account of the Passion.
“Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (13:33).
Be Watchful: Jesus will urge this again during his agony in Gethsemane.
A Fifth Century writer: If each person is ignorant of their own day of judgment, they will contend to be baptized at their final breath, as a result of which they will enter eternity bereft of good works—saved by faith but unable to manifest its works. [ . . .] Jesus adds all but saying, “The reason I did not tell you the day is so that, not knowing you might watch and pray and keep awake, showing that if people knew when they were going to die, all would be virtuous only at that hour.”
Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (13:35).
The Lord may come in the evening as he does at the Last Supper. He may come at midnight as he does in the garden of Gethsemane when he was handed over by his betrayer. He may come when the cock crows—the time Peter denies him. Or he may come in the morning: the time of the Resurrection.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (13:36).
Mary Healy: “Jesus warns that he may come suddenly and find them sleeping—which is just what happened during the agony in Gethsemane (Mk 14:3-41). To be asleep signifies spiritual laziness and self-indulgence (Rom 11:8); to be awake is to be alive in faith (Rom 13:11; Eph 5:14).
St. Augustine: “It is clear that God takes no pleasure in condemning. His desire is to save, and he bears patiently with evil people in order to make them good. Do you despise him and think his judgment a matter of no account because he is good to you, because he is long-suffering and bears with you patiently, because he delays the day of reckoning and does not destroy you out of hand?”
“What I say to you, I say to all: ’Watch!’” (13:37).
The Scripture-scholar William Barclay would summarize this by saying Jesus’ words here tell us a couple of things about the doctrine of the Second Coming.
~ It tells us it contains a fact we forget or disregard at our peril.
~ it tells us that the imagery in which it is clothed is the imagery of Jesus’ own time and that to speculate on it is useless, when Jesus himself was content not to know. The one thing of which we can be sure is that history is going somewhere; there is a consummation to come.
~ It tells us that of all things to forget God and to become immersed in earth is most foolish. The wise person is one who never forgets that the need to be ready when the summons comes. If we live in that memory, the end will not be terror, but eternal joy.
The first reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose . . .
You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,with the mountains quaking before you,while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. (Isaiah 63)
Yes, we should be . . . prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake knowing what’s happening . . . but so many of us are asleep, Lord. We tend to not recognize the signs of the times. We often dull our senses; stay in our own little worlds, choosing not to care.
We’re often complacent, Lord. Many don’t want to be bothered pondering or praying about the real issues. We’re into Cyber Monday bargains and wowed by the latest iphone.
But deep down we’re fearful and anxious, caused by threats . . . of Covid 19, of losing our job having a lump in our breast losing health insurance because of Congress’ latest whim.Global warming / gun violence / corruption in our government China/ Iran / ISIS / cyber war.
“Stand erect,” the Gospel says.
Face your fears with courage. Don’t fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.) That’s what Advent faith is all about . . . Being vigilant. Being prepared for anything life throws at us. Standing proudly humble or humbly proud ~ no matter what.
That’s the kind of faith in life ~ in You, my God, that I seek. I want it. I ask you for it. Today I consent to it. Amen. So be it!
+ + + + + There will be fresh blog posts (God willin’ n’ the creek don’t rise) almost every day of Advent till Christmas.
Why not make this Christmas season a special one for you ~ a meaningful one?
Now before you go, here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood Click here. enter full screen and turn up your speakers. (But before you do that, notice that there is a < arrow of some sort on the top left-hand corner of your browser. Be sure to click on that once you’ve viewed the first video, so that it will bring you back to this page so you can view today’s readings on the link below it.)