Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Link to Mass Readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/121910.shtml

What if we received everything we wanted?

Sometimes I think we ask for success, or love, or responsibility, and don’t know what it is we’re asking for. Sometimes we ask for a miracle, and when it comes we don’t know how to deal with a Power that can make it happen. God is powerful, and Christmas reminds us of that.

In the first reading, King Ahaz of Judah is about to be overrun by his enemies. God sends Isaiah to tell him this will not come to pass, and tells Ahaz to ask for a sign that he might be assured of what God has promised. But Ahaz is afraid, and says “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” What he means, is that he is afraid to acknowledge God.

It is the same when Jesus was born. The world was in the grip of sin, and crying out to God for deliverance. Israel was waiting for the messiah, and God delivered him. God gave John the Baptist to proclaim him, and had Jesus fulfill all the prophecies that spoke of him coming. But when Jesus came, he was rejected. The world was comfortable in their sin, and afraid to accept Jesus and what he represented; holiness and the kingdom of God established on earth.

But this is the power of God, that Jesus came. We asked for salvation, and here He is in all His power and glory. The readings this Sunday remind us of the power and inevitability of God. Next week we will celebrate the arrival of God on earth, foreshadowing the victory over death and the final return of the King of Heaven. By the promise of His birth, we know Jesus will come again.

The victory is here, and the celebration almost upon us. Now is the time for the obedience of faith, for us who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us of our obligation: we have called for Him, and He is here! Let us love Him with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength, and all our minds.

Third Sunday in Advent

Link to the Mass Readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/121210.shtml

“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.”

“Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you!”

“The Lord God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets captives free.”

“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

God is coming, and bringing salvation with Him. The readings today are full of the joy of what His coming means; and not just the birth of Christ, but the final coming. When Jesus comes in the end, when the dead are resurrected, then we shall see the new Heaven and earth. The eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the death will be cleared; the lame will leap like a stag, and the tongue of the mute will sing.

While God will do all these things, they are also signs and symbols for an experience we have no words for. When God comes at the end of days, He will bring holy perfection. But those sterile words have no depth to describe the wonder at hand. We can only say that the world then, will be like a healthy body when compared to the sinful body of the world now. And it will be beautiful.

Today we should feel that. Not just the hope that He is coming, but the joy of what that means. The promise fulfilled, and justice established. Jesus is coming to do away with our suffering, and will raise those who are suffering up to new heights. So let us be patient, like the farmer waits for a precious fruit, and remain firm in what believe. Because the Lord is coming.

As we progress through Advent, and become closer and closer to Christmas, we remember that we become closer and closer to Second Coming. We will not have to wait forever, because He is on His way.

Second Sunday in Advent

Link to Mass Readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/120510.shtml

Christmas is inherently a sad time. There is a lot of effort during the commercial Christmas season to make everything happy and giddy simply because it’s Christmas. Nobody bothers to explain why it should be so happy, and as a result, it’s exhausting. Nothing is worse than someone telling you to be happy and not giving you a reason for it.

But it’s happy because the root of Christmas is in its sorrow. We celebrate Christmas during the darkest time of the year, when nature is at its ebb. While we celebrate family, many people will be alone; We proclaim “peace on earth, goodwill towards men” but crime increases. And when Christ was born, the world was enslaved to sin and desperately in need of a savior. There is a reason “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is sung so mournfully.

But Christmas is a joyful time because we are given hope. In Advent we prepare for the coming of the Savior, who John the Baptist and the prophecies of Isaiah promise us is coming. And because God kept His promise with Christ’s birth, we believe God will come again. This is the hope that brings us joy: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee O Israel!”

It sounds obvious. But in Advent we remember that Christ is a light in the darkness, He is our hope against sin and death. We prepare ourselves to receive His coming, and have hope. Hope that He will fix us, that He will be what we are searching for, that God will be faithful.

It is easy to lose faith. But Paul tells us “that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” This is the time to remember that. The Christmas spirit is the faithful reminding each other not to despair, that God is coming for His people. We remind each other that God remembers us in our pain, that He is faithful. We show each other love at this time of year especially because God once did, and we remember that God is good.

Take the time to read the passage from Isaiah for today. This is what God has promised, and it will come to pass.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Sunday in Advent

Link to Mass Readings: http://www.usccb.org/nab/112810.shtml

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. This is the beginning of the Church’s calendar year, and a time specially dedicated to preparing for the arrival of Christ. It is also a time dedicated to new life. Converts wishing to enter the Church are formally accepted as catechumens (one receiving instruction from a catechist), and take their place alongside their new brothers and sisters.

We emphasize new life this time of year to prepare for Christ’s coming. Liturgically, this is symbolized by our preparation in Advent for Christ’s birth Christmas morning. But in our own lives, we emphasize new life to prepare for Christ’s coming at the end of days.

All Christian life is a call to repentance, so that Christ might recognize us as His own when He comes again. The readings today emphasize that our repentance and new life must begin now. There is no time, for our salvation is even nearer now than when we first believed.

Advent is a time to remind us that He is coming. These four weeks count down to Christmas like the days of the world count down to the Resurrection. We have no time to waste on lust or drunkenness, promiscuity or jealousy. If we were told we had to change our lives by Christmas, would we have enough time? If we only had tomorrow, what then? We do not know the day or the hour, and Advent reminds us that we need to be mindful that he is coming, whether we are ready or not. We must be prepared!

The new life we are called to live begins in the Church, in church. “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Here is where Jesus should find us, not only because He calls us here, but because it is where holy love and friendship are found. Advent also reminds us that Jesus came for our salvation, and His birth that we prepare for marks hope for us. We should go rejoicing to the house of the Lord; because of Him the nations will sue for peace, neither raise the sword against one another nor train for war again.

“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord, / Because of my brothers and friends/ I will say, “Peace by within you!”/ Because of the house of the Lord, our God,/ I will pray for your good.

God is the inspiration for every good thing within us, and it is His hands that heal us, His grace that blesses us. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord, to prepare for His arrival!