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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category


Isaiah 9Peculiarly God’s Own

Friday, July 1, 2018

We are accustomed to hearing this beautiful anthem at Advent and so these words feel odd to us in the northern hemisphere who experience Christmas in the cold and dark.  We are accustomed to frosty, long nights rather than warm, short ones when we think about God’s coming to live among us.   The people who walked in darkness cry out for light.  Isaiah’s people are lonely and afraid as they try to ride out the terms of their exile.  Today’s words must have felt astonishing to them, yet welcome.  These people who were accustomed to neglect and abuse must have felt a fluttering image come into focus of the life they had been promised.  The words we read in Isaiah today may even have taken them back to earlier words of promise in Deuteronomy that we heard in the first reading at Mass today (Deuteronomy 7:6-11): Moses said to the people: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.  It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.  It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn to your fathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you . . .”    This small nation, these insignificant people are lifted up and redeemed by a God-hero.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

These words from today’s second reading (1 John 4:7-16) confirm our best hope: In this way the love of God was revealed to us: he sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son as expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God loves us, so we also must love one another.   We who are oppressed or lost, we who are abandoned are redeemed  and brought back by a Wonder-Counselor.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

We hear welcome words from Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30): Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light”.   This oppressed people, these burdened people are healed and transformed by a Prince of Peace.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Prince of Peace . . . and yet this one is meek and humble and willing to take on so much that is not his to take.  This is the God who walks among us as one of us.  This is the one who can exert all power over all things and all people yet he stoops to us in humility and meekness . . . because this is how much he loves us.  Amazing . . . and wonderful . . . that we are peculiarly God’s own. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 1, 2011.

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Leviticus 24:1-9The Sanctuary Light and the Showbread

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jesus as the Light of the World is a familiar theme to Christians which is celebrated during the Advent season.   In the Jerusalem Temple the sanctuary light served as a symbol of the presence of Yahweh and so it was important that the oil be clear – this purity ensured the burning of the lamp.  The Showbread was prepared with a particular recipe and laid out in a special fashion with frankincense; it was eaten only by the Temple priests.  Both the bread and the light served to remind the Israelites of their perpetual covenant with Yahweh.

In his homily this morning Bishop Newman referred to the habit we humans have of taking and saving photographs as we try to capture particular moments in our lives.  The custom of making scrapbooks or yearbooks to commemorate events is something we do as we conserve for later recall the goodness of certain moments or periods in our lives.  The Bishop suggested that we would do well to make spiritual scrapbooks of our lives that would serve to remind us of the goodness of God; and he asked that we reflect on today’s Psalm (103) in an intentional way: The Lord is kind and merciful . . . O, my soul, forget not all his benefits . . . he heals all ills . . . he redeems life from destruction . . . he is slow to anger and abounding in kindness . . . he does not always chide . . . he does not keep wrath forever . . . he does not requite us with our crimes . . . he crowns us with kindness and compassion.  Reading this litany of God’s goodness reminds us of Paul’s anthem to love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind . . .

Light and Eucharist – both serve as Jesus’ constant presence to us.  When we enter the church today, we find the sanctuary light burning faithfully to represent the presence of the Eucharistic bread of Christ himself.  Many religious rites call for the use of incense.  Our Judeo-Christian culture brings us these signs of God’s presence and of the presence of his eternal covenant promise to us.  We need to keep these multi-sensory symbols in mind as pages of our spiritual scrapbook.  In this way, we may find it easier to be and do good as God is and does good.  We may be able to curb our anger and be more comfortable with treating others kindly and compassionately.  We may be better able to cease judging and chiding others for their faults and crimes.

By remembering in this special way that God is Light and Sustenance, we crown others with kindness and compassion even as our loving and eternal God crowns us.  And so we pray: Good and kind God, As the Sanctuary Light and the Showbread reminded the Israelites of your fidelity and promise, let today’s sanctuary light and the Eucharistic bread remind us that . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is your kindness toward those who love you.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/edfu/photos

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Matthew 22:41-46: Messiah

Bartolomé Murillo: The Adoration of the Shepherds

Christmas Day, December 25, 2017

Being a teacher, Jesus asks his listeners a question to see if they have fully understood the enormity of his message; and when it is clear they have not . . . he calls forth the very principal on which they stand to show them where they err.  He truly is a master.  He uses what we say and do to mirror back to us the echo of what we declare.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT: From the beginning of time, God has acted to reverse the loneliness which represents the consummate curse to the human race – an experience analogous to hell.  Even this master defers to his creator, God, in all the important decisions of his life.  He responds to the call of love which washes away the fears of loneliness, anxiety, betrayal, failure and abandonment.  This master obeys the voice within that calls him to act in and for love.  If Christ does this, if this is what it means to be Messiah, then how can we believe that we know a better way to exist?  How do we dare to defy God?

From today’s MAGNIFICAT reflection by Mother Elvira Petrozzi:  If you are able to be an instrument in the hands of God, if you have trust, love, and the patience to accept His plans for you, He restores to you what you have given, one hundred times over . . . Those who trust in him will not remain imprisoned in their little plans.  I have seen young people who built a cage with their own hands and then fell into desperation because of it.

Christ built no cages; he opened doors and windows.  Christ did not succumb to the siren song of Satan to be like gods.  Christ obeyed the voice of his vocation.

I am reminded of a favorite verse from Jeremiah: For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for your woe! (29:11)

This is what it means to be Messiah.  Obeying God for love of God rather than out of fear or laziness.  Loving God for the passion we feel for God rather than from a sense of duty or response to a whim.  Committing ourselves to the Messiah even as the Messiah commits himself to God, this is what we believe.  This is what we follow.  Enormous plans for our joy, rather than little plans for woe.  Awesome plans for a serenity that comes from doing what is good and right and beautiful . . . even though there may be pain in the interim.  For . . .

It is in the doing that we redeem and are redeemed.

It is in the acting that we declare and are declared.

It is in the obeying that we love and are loved. 

This we know.  This we believe.

Let us rise up and follow the Messiah born to us this night. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 12.2 (2009). Print.  

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 12, 2009.

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Tobit: Prayers for Death . . . and Birth

Juan de Valdés Leal: The Archangel Rafael

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

God hears the pleas of two desperate people in two distant places, and he sends his special messenger Raphael to guide Tobiah in the healing of Sarah and Tobit.  Tobiah is first the faithful son and later the courageous and abiding spouse.  Sarah sees no reason for her existence based on a series of marriages that fail because a demon has become enamored of her. She becomes separate from everyone in her intense and desperate grief.  Tobit, a good main who is faithful to his Jewish beliefs, has also become separate his blindness. Yearning for the light, he seeks death rather than continue in the darkness.  He, like Sarah, feels alone; they both search for the reason that God has visited punishment upon them when they know themselves to be innocent of doing wrong.  They stand judged by others because Old Testament thinking saw misfortune as a punishment for sin.  Some of us may from time to time feel like this man and woman.

Yesterday in chapter three, we read that Tobit and Sarah’s desperation has reached such depths that each, in distant privacy, prays for release from this world.  As they pray for death, their prayers rise to God intertwining like spirals of incense.  God hears these petitions and sends Raphael to accompany the faithful Tobiah in his journey to knit together these wounded souls.  God intervenes when we sometimes least expect it . . . and in very surprising and confounding ways.

Rembrandt: The Angel Rafael Leaving Tobit and his Family

The journey that Tobiah takes is a long and complicated one.  Yet he accepts his father’s request, finds a traveling companion (Raphael in disguise) and perseveres faithfully without fully understanding how his actions will result in anything good.  He continues, he obeys, he listens for and answers the call.  This is how we must live.  It is how we must act.  This is how we find consolation and healing. It is how we encounter God.  This is how we become wounded healers.  This is God’s plan.

So after reflection with the story of Tobit, we pray.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred . . . and that we are sacred healers.

Sometimes we must fall into the abyss in order to find God’s abiding presence . . . and our own divinity.

Sometimes we must cry out from our aloneness in order to understand that true and deep hope is also bold and outrageous . . . and that God’s best hope lies in us.

Sometimes we must be victim to our darkest fears in order to lay aside our anxieties . . . for then we see them as prison bars that separate us from God.

Sometimes we must be blind in order to see.

Sometimes we must feel unloved in order to be loved and to love truly and deeply.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred. And in that spot, in that distant place that is actually dep within, we will find our consolation, our birth in Christ.  Amen.

For a beautiful rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5mdybeyLVc

Adapted from a reflection written during Advent 2007. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, the Messiah arrives.

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Eustache Le Sueur: Christ Healing a Blind Man

Isaiah 40: Seek Consolation

Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

The End of the Exile

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.  Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven; she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.  The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken . . .  Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule.  Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up on his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are young . . .

From time to time we reflect on the ideas of exile and doom . . .  today’s dawn brings consolation.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens in his palm?  Who has poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 

After the darkness . . . comes the light . . . more revealing and more wonderful than we have ever imagined.

Do you not know?  Hath it not been heard?  Hath it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?  . . .  And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal?  saith the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high, and see the one who has created these things . . . not one of them was missing.

The holy ones who wait and watch and witness . . . will receive their comfort . . . a consolation more intense and enduring than they have ever dreamed.

Youths shall faint and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity.  But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Last Christmas Day we read and reflected upon the beginning of Romans 11 in which St. Paul brings to us, God’s Remnant, the message of our creator’s Providence and Fidelity.  He reminds us that God understands the human condition and that he sends us his grace to overcome our fears and the darkness.  God also understands rupture and the deepest places of the heart that suffer from the pain of disconnection and separation . . . and God wants to heal this . . . to call us back . . . to gather us in his arms.  God wants to give us his Consolation.  God is the Forgiving Father of the Prodigal Son story.  We may be either the Straying Child who has spent his gifts carelessly, or the Remaining Child who is jealous and bitter at the Father’s generosity toward those who return.  Or perhaps we have found a place where we can numb ourselves . . . remain aloof . . . protect ourselves from the suffering and undergoing of life that we are meant to experience.  Or maybe we are Children of the Light . . . who struggle with self . . . who rise to the undergoing . . . who falter and stumble but who turn to God always as the first and last source and sustenance.  Most likely we are all of these . . . and we do well when we reflect that our true Consolation rests in openness to reconciliation with God and with others.  We do well to rely on God’s Providence and Fidelity and meditate on this idea, as we do on Christmas Day each year, that we are to be God to one another.

So on this Sunday of joy amidst darkness and waiting we, like God, are to abide with those who have broken faith with us.  We are to remain faithful, remain present but without participating in any dysfunction.  We are to be hopeful, to be open to the potential of something greater which God sends through his grace rather than our works.  We are to abide without fear, because God is with us, especially in our moments of deepest terror.  And we are to remain merciful, imitating Christ, because God always comes to his remnant, to those who wait, and hope and seek.

For a musical version of Isaiah 40, visit James Block’s recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgsdhQzVfSQ 

From a reflection written on Christmas Day 2007.

 

 

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Ecclesiastes 1: Seek Trust

Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur: Solomon Before the Ark of the Covenant

Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017

Vanity

This book was written not by Solomon as claimed, but by a writer who actually identifies himself “as a subject (4:13, 8:2, 9:14-16, 10:16-17 and 20), noting conditions of oppression (4:13), injustice (4:8, 5:8), and social upheaval (10:6-7).  The language . . . is a late form of biblical Hebrew, coming closest of any Old Testament book to post-biblical Mishnaic Hebrew.  The presence of Persian loan-words requires a date well after Israel’s release from exile in 539 B.C.E.  Fragments of the book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran community date to the mid-second century B.C.E.  Most scholars date the book’s composition between 300 and 200 B.C.E.”  (Meeks 986)  The Mishnah is a collection of oral literature of the early Hebrew people who appear to us as the first portion of the Torah.

We find the theme of this book laid out clearly in the first chapter: All is vanity that does not come from God.  It does not take any time at all for us to put this reading into the context of our own lives.  What does take some time is to determine what to do with this self-knowledge.

We have entered the season of Advent – an exciting, mysterious time in the liturgical calendar that we associate with a feeling of expectation – a time of promises and fulfillment.  We in the northern hemisphere also associate this time of year with the coming on of darkness and cold; while in the southern hemisphere, Advent is experienced as a time of lengthening days and rising temperatures.  I often think that the later is more apt.  Warmth, light, ease of days, promise . . . Christ.  The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that all else besides a life that acts in this promise is futile.  As followers of Christ, our example of living in hope is paramount for ourselves, for our community, and for the greater world.  We enact Christ when we put aside the vanity that we are all, and take on the understanding that The Promise is all.

As we move through this day and begin this week after spending a day or days of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth, we will want to pause to examine our spiritual bounty as well.  Just as we examine our relationships with family and friends, we will also want to examine our relationship with the Creator, the Redeemer and the Comforter.  We will want to unfold the miracle of this love so great that it overcomes all trials and injustices.  We will want to allow ourselves to step into that which is not in vain.  We will want to remember, we will want to trust, we will want to believe, we will want to hope.

We already know that there is nothing new under the sun . . . and so what we hope to experience is that which is new . . . that which is not in vain . . . and that which is worthy of every ounce of strength we have in body, mind and soul.

Like the audience of Ecclesiastes, we who have returned from exile will want to reunite in intimacy with our God and so we might try to spend more time this season with this book of wisdom, parsing out its verses to complement our days.  In this way, we might hope to be full of God’s wisdom rather than our own, we might hope to live in God’s love rather than our own, and we might hope to be Christ rather than an empty vanity of vanities.

To celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent, we join voices with this traditional hymn, O Come, O come, Emmanuel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4 

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  

A Favorite from November 30, 2009.

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The Nativity of Jesus

Isaiah 9:6: Seek Wholeness

First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017

For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In this special time of year we may well want to consider where and how to find the wholeness we seek; and we need do nothing more than remember God’s gift of self in the form of a vulnerable child.

We can easily imagine how easy it is to reject the idea that an infant might be a Wonderful Counselor and yet Jesus reminded us that we will want to be innocent as children if we want to enter the New Kingdom. How might we surrender to God’s care of us this week?

It is equally impossible to think of the child as Mighty God when we see him in swaddling clothes in a poor stable because there is no room for him in a proper inn or home. How might we rely on God’s strength in us this week?

An Everlasting Father has the power to save, to renew and transform. Again, we wonder how a child might rescue us from a strange and conflicted world. How might we trust in God this week as we unburden ourselves to the Creator?

As Prince of Peace Jesus brings healing and consolation. Yet again, we marvel at these simple gifts that are freely given. How might we seek wholeness this week as we reveal our worries and woes, our pain and suffering to this small yet marvelous child?

Each day this week, we reflect on the concept of Wholeness in God, in Christ and in the Spirit as we enter this first dark week of the Advent Season.

To watch the London Symphony Orchestra from Handel’s Messiah, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS3vpAWW2Zc

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Matthew 3: Seek Newness

Sunday, November 26, 2017

As we prepare for the Advent season . . .

In becoming human, Jesus shows us that our humanity is not an obstacle to our communion with God, but rather the only path to our divine destiny . . . If my heart is not begging, “Come, Lord Jesus” in my ordinary life today, then I cannot pretend I would have recognized him when he first came, and I cannot expect truly to welcome him at is glorious return.  That is why the church gives us this season of Advent, to recognize the longing in our hearts for a salvation which we cannot give ourselves, but for which we can beg today and for ever, “Come, Lord Jesus”.  Fr. Richard Veras, November 28, 2010, THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION (17)

What is this newness that is ours in our humanity?

What is this divinity we have been gifted as part of our destiny?

What is this fulfillment of salvation that we cannot give ourselves?

Today our Noontime takes us to the proclamation of the new kingdom, the baptism of Jesus, and God’s announcement that he is well pleased with the beloved son.

Today we have the opportunity to think about our own place in the divine plan as a human creature.

We have the opportunity to open ourselves to the newness of the season and the cyclic beginning again of a calendar year.

We have the opportunity to make ourselves ready – as Jesus made himself ready – for the days ahead.

Let us heed the words we hear in today’s Gospel . . . So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:44) .

We will want to receive this newness that brings hope – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to be open to this healing that mends mortal wounds – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to experience this divinity that manifests in the obstacles of our humanity Come, Lord Jesus. 

And we will want to be awake and ready for the salvation with which we have been graced, the peace and serenity that are our heritage – Come, Lord Jesus . . . and fulfill this longing in our hearts . . .

Written on November 28, 2010.

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Matthew 19:13-14: People Like These

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This week we explore how to put our love on the line just as the Creator does by abiding with us, just as Jesus does as he shows us The Way, and just as the Spirit does as she comforts and remains in us.

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left. (MSG)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as innocent as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Creator to unharden our hearts so that we might be people like these.

Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (GNT)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as trusting as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask Jesus to inspire us with his own example of trust in the Creator so that we might be people like these.

Then children were brought to him so that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them, but the talmidim rebuked the people bringing them. However, Yeshua said, “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (CJB)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as loving as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Spirit to fill us with the hope and love of Advent so that we might be people like these.

When we explore various translations of these verses, we discover God’s that in God’s plan there is an absolute necessity for each of us to rely on the Creator, Christ and Spirit just as these children we see today.

 

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