The First Sunday of Advent / November 27, 2022
On Sunday, December 1st we begin the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches. Interestingly enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world. The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon. Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.
Paul admonishes us in Romans today:
“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).
” Stay awake !
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .
You must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay lays it out for us: No one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God; it will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky. Thus, speculation regarding the time of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God that which belong to God alone.
He tells us these verses are a warning that we must never become so immersed in time that we forget about eternity or worldly affairs, however necessary, as to completely distract us from God. If our life is in his hands, whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.
And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own. ~ Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.
Now here’s my reflection:
Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ to be watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake
He wants us to know 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 become complacent.
Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues swirling around us.
And thus, we go like lemmings over a cliff.
So tribulations loom: Fear.
Threats . . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast
losing health insurance because we lost our job
corruption on Wall Street and government
Fears about the upcoming election or the possible impeachment ot the president
uncertainties of all kinds.
Stand erect! Face your fears with courage.
Do not fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)
This is 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.
Now here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood “Come. Lord, Maranatha.” Click here.
For all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
As I do every Advent – Christmas, I will be publishing a new blog almost every day. So be sure to look for them and make a retreat for yourself to counter the commercialism of this hectic season.
+ + + + +
Have a wonderful Advent!
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 ~ Revised Edition The Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1975
Wednesday of Fourth Week of Advent
~ The O Antiphon for December 20th
Father Alfred Delp, S.J. aptly wrote two years after I was born about being shaken up, as so many of us feel in our world today, unsettled as we are by political events in our own country, especially this past year with the pandemic with hundreds of thousand of deaths and a contested election and having to spend days on end sheltering in place and the loneliness which that has brought about for so many of us.
Fr. Delp wrote with his hands in shackles in his prison cell in Berlin, just before he was hanged for high treason in 1945, three months before the war ended. His ashes were scattered on the winds; Hitler wanted him forgotten. (His writings were smuggled out of prison.) In a widely published article, The Shaking Reality of Advent, he wrote:
There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.
Where life is firm we need to have a sense of its firmness;
and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation,
we need to know this too and endure it.
We may ask God why he sent us in this time,
why he has sent this whirlwind on the earth,
why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless
and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.
I found Father Delp’s message considerably consoling in the light of what our country and our world situation is in at the moment. He goes on . . . .
Here is the message of Advent:
faced with him who is the Last,
the world will begin to shake.
The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. [ . . . . .]
If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken,
if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap,
then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly.
Remember, that Father Delp was talking about the disastrous times of war-torn Germany in 1945.
God of mercy and compassion,
our times are quite like the days Father Delp was writing about.
We, too, need to be shaken from our complacency.
Even in recent years ~ and this year too ~ hatred and bullying and fear has increased among our people.
We need you, Lord!
Come among us once again and shake us up to the reality of your justice!
And as the O Antiphon shouts:
Free the prisoners of darkness among us ~
The poor, those imprisoned unjustly, those without healthcare, the unemployed, those about to be evicted, the homeless,
the DREAMERS who’ve got a reprieve from being deported,
and migrants all over the world in search of safe harbor.
And so so many more crying out to us, pleading for mercy and our love.
Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!
And now, before you go, here is the beautiful hymn Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J. S. Bach. I suggest you take in the words into your soul as you see them on the screen as you listen to the this short but awesome music. Click here.
hAnd here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click Here.
Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company
O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
~ O Antiphons
Tuesday of the fourth week of Advent
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of these loooong years when most of us have had to spend long days and nights pent up in our homes. 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 Light and Your Love now more than ever.
And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere on Tuesday, December 22 at 10:59 am.
(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs. And actually, it’s because of the winter solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th at the time of the solstice. Remember St. John the Baptist saying, ” I must decrease; he must increase?” Thus, our Christmas celebration comes when the sun is on the ascendancy again, and we shared it with our ~ um ~ pagan sisters and brothers who celebrated it long before we did!)
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.
Advent Day 18 ~ Saturday of the third week of Advent
Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.
During Hanukkah earlier this month we honored our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that appear in the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,
you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.
Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
And my prayer . . .
O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!
You appeared in the burning bush long ago.
I remember this awesome sunrise over the ocean when I lived some years ago on St. Augustine Beach, Florida.
I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim: “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.”
Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.
so we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,
into our homes,
our workplace and marketplace,
and, most especially into our beloved country that so badly needs You right now,
and our waiting world!
Come Lord Jesus!
What are the “O” Antiphons?”
They are one of the most cherished collections of our ancient liturgical chants called the seven “O Antiphons” that are sung each of the seven nights before Christmas at Evening Prayer. They have beautiful chant melodies. I am using some of them interspersed this week before Christmas, like the one above.
If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and recordings of the chant melodies of all seven. (Skip the first half and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the O Antiphons themselves. You will notice little speaker signs next to each one. If you click on those little music notes, it will play for you the actual chant melody for each O Antiphon.
But don’t miss this slide show of O come, O come Emmanuel for your reflection.
And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click Here.
* Adonai is one of the names the Jewish people use for God, meaning “Lord God Almighty.”
Wednesday of the third week of Advent
I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.
As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.
(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.
and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.
That, ongoing dual process ~ “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.
The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.
To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.
The wise person realizes they won’t!
Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .
He was a pretty successful preacher. People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive. People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.
But he didn’t let it go to his head. He realized what his role was. He was just the “advance man.” And was content with that.
He knew who he was. He didn’t let success go to his head. He didn’t want to be the star. Even though many thought he was “The Man.”
The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
My spiritual directors remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.
“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,” as the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.
I was a young, cool, creative priest. I was a rising star. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”
But God had other plans.
Today, I’m just a little guy, content with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.
Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.
And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .
Jesus, You are the light of my life.
Without You I would be nowhere. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s fine with me.
(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)
I want You to be in all my relationships,
in all of my writing,
You help me to be humble, Lord. You cast me down and raised me up again.
You chastise me; You heal me.
With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,
it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.
Not in the ways of this world, with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,
but in knowing You are right here: You are enough for me, Lord.
Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good
as I allow You more and more to increase
and allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.
To be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.
So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.
And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love
And you know what?
There, I found You!
You raised me up! You drew me to Yourself!
You bound up my wounds! You clothed me with LOVE!
What a joy!
And now I’m eager to share Your Love.
To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.
But You want us to love You in return.
Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.
Let me never ever forget that. No matter what.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us. That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us. Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level. We’ll do that in the next week.
Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
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
Tuesday 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.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 , 2021