We are half way through Advent. As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, we are invited to rejoice and reflect upon what God has done and is doing in our lives. Traditionally, Advent (like Lent) was a penitential season, although not as severe in its practices. As a way of preparing for the Lord, we are invited to alter our behaviors and curb our sinful tendencies through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
In the spirit of the season, we share our blessings through the Adopt-A-Family and the Giving Tree projects. We are encouraged to attend Mass more frequently, perhaps going to one of the daily Masses in addition to one on Sunday. There are several opportunities for confession, including a communal penance service on Thursday, December 17th at 7 PM. Moreover, we should make fasting and abstinence a part of our weekly routine as well.
However, on this day, the Church pauses from that penitential tone and rejoices because the Lord is near to us. The readings speak of rejoicing in the Lord always. The Gospel reading from Luke calls to mind the ministry of John the Baptizer. The challenge which he gave to the people of his day is also given to us. In all that we do, we should keep the Lord first and foremost in our minds and hearts and make it a priority to be Christ for others.
On December 12th we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her image, imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego, shows Mary as a pregnant woman. She was filled with the presence of the Lord (both literally and figuratively) and her mission was to help us to also be filled with the presence of God. This is a beautiful image for us on this Third Sunday of Advent. We are invited to rejoice because God is near to us and we are called to make him present by our very lives.
As you continue to prepare for the season, take some time to rejoice in the Lord and give thanks for all of the blessings you have received over the past year. Make Christ a priority and like Mary become the vessel of bringing Christ to others.
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, but we also remember the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. St. Nick was the inspiration for Santa Claus who is known by many different names around the world. These individuals give out of love. But ultimately it is God who is the model for all those who give without counting the cost. Despite our unworthiness, God still gave us the supreme gift of his Son Jesus Christ. In turn, Jesus gave us his life so that we might have life eternal. Moreover, Jesus continues to give us nourishment through the Eucharist. To assist us in our daily activities, the Holy Spirit is given to us as our Advocate and guide.
In the second reading, we hear echoes of an oft-quoted saying: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” At every ordination ceremony, the bishop says, “May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to completion.” In other words, the work we do is not ours, but God’s. We are mere instruments of God’s direction. However, this does not mean that we are pawns or that God will manipulate us.
Since we have been endowed with free will and intellect, we can cooperate with God or reject God. When we put ourselves at the disposal of the Lord, great things can happen. When we ignore God’s commands or try to do things on our own in opposition to God’s will, we sometimes run into trouble. But even so, God still loves us and calls us to conversion. Unlike Santa who makes a list and checks it twice, God knows who’s been naughty or nice, but STILL LOVES THEM ANYWAY. As the psalmist says, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
In these beginning days of the Advent season, we are invited to prepare a place for the Lord to dwell in our hearts and lives. As God has given to us, so too are we called to give to one another.
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. We begin a new cycle of readings in which the Gospel reading comes primarily from Luke’s Gospel. Not much is known about Luke; however, likely the same person wrote the Gospel bearing his name as well as the Acts of the Apostles. In some senses then, the Acts may be considered “part 2” of the Gospel.
Once again we hear the call to be attentive to the signs of the times. More importantly however, we are invited to “be vigilant at all times and pray.” Too often we ignore what is going on around us and sometimes fail to pray for God’s strength to withstand difficulties. Yet, Paul reminds us to always conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God.
As we make our way in life, waiting becomes more difficult. We get tired of being vigilant and in the process may become lazy or indifferent to following the Lord. The whole season of Advent is about waiting with hopefulness. However, sometimes this becomes increasingly difficult and sometimes painful. In our society of instantaneous communication, we don’t like to wait. We want an immediate response. We like things to be smooth and seamless.
However, God does not work on our schedule. God does things in his own time and way. We may feel that something should be done in this fashion, in this timeframe. But God often has other ideas. In this season of Advent, we are encouraged to put on the mind of God—to think like God would think—and learn to love one another more deeply.
As we anticipate the coming holy days, let each of us determine how we are going to love God and our neighbor better. Let us make our conduct be worthy as followers of Christ. May each one of us be open with joyful anticipation to meet the Lord whenever he comes.
Today is the last Sunday of the Church year. It is dedicated to Christ, King of the Universe. However, the Gospel reading we hear is the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus just prior to the crucifixion. Jesus is about to be executed— hardly a “kingly” place to be. Yet, in the face of death, Jesus reveals what true leadership is all about.
A leader preaches truth. A leader points to the truth. A leader lives the truth. In this day and age, the truth is often obfuscated: A white woman passes as black, a man who has never served in the military dresses up in uniform so he can be hailed as a hero, and a man claims to be a woman and is proclaimed “Woman of the Year” by a fashion magazine. A real leader cuts through the malarkey and says what is true, what is real, what is holy.
The feast of Christ our King is a reminder for us to always preach truth and justice, even when (and I would add especially when) the world is doing otherwise. One doesn’t need to be nasty or vindictive; rather, one needs to speak boldly and decisively. Too often however, we are worried about hurting someone’s feelings if we point out the error of their argument or their ways. The prophets throughout history from Esther to Dorothy Day to Martin Luther King to Francis were never afraid to speak the truth. It was always risky: In some cases, they were ostracized, in other cases their preaching lead to their death. Yet, God was always with them.
Today’s readings challenge us to put Christ first in our lives and to always live the truth. Pray that during this coming Church year you may be up for the challenge and go boldly where others have gone before. May each of us follow in the footsteps of Christ our King and become living witnesses of truth, justice, and love.
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” These words come from the Gospel acclamation antiphon. The readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time are a reminder that we are called to be vigilant and observant of the signs of the times. We may be cognizant of the weather or the changing of the seasons, but how aware are we of the presence of God in our lives?
These last days of the Church year are an invitation to draw closer to the Lord. It always amazes me how some people can be aware of every movement of a popular athlete or movie star or singing sensation, yet they have no idea about to function in daily life. They can remember when so-and-so had his first hit album debut, but cannot remember their sibling’s favorite color or birthday. More importantly many of these same people have no clue about their faith life. They may become thrilled when a popular actor visits a sick child in the hospital, but they will not even phone their aging grandparent who lives alone.
These latter days challenge us to examine how we live our lives as participating Christians. That is, do we truly live the Gospel today and let God be concerned with tomorrow? There are some preachers who continually preach about the end times claiming that “the end is near.” They are like Henny Penny worrying about the sky falling, yet fail to see the fallen and broken people around them. Jesus states very clearly that no one – NO ONE – knows when the end times will occur. In the meantime we need to make the best of today.
As you prepare for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Advent Season ask yourself, “What am I doing now to prepare for the Lord’s arrival? Am I living each day as if it were to be my last?”