Third Sunday of Advent – A Reflection

 

Third Sunday of Advent 2015Zephaniah 3: 14-18a

Philippians 4: 4-7

Luke 3: 10-18

 

 

“Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”  (Zephaniah 3)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4; 4-7)

 

We are in the third week of the penitential season of the Advent; the time of preparation for day of Christmas, to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into this world.  It is a time of expectation; anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at the end of time.  The third candle on the Advent wreath is pink; most priests celebrated Mass this day, wearing pink rose colored vestments.  It is the Church telling us that the time of preparation, of more intensive prayer, of reflecting on Scripture, of ascetic practices are almost at end.

Truth be told, it is hard to live a penitential lifestyle during the days leading up to Christmas.  The somber liturgical purple colors are overwhelmed by the bright colors of red, white, and green.  The bright Christmas lights decorating our city streets, the stores, and our office spaces; yes, even our homes; tell us Christmas is here!  During a time when we are asked to curb our desires, we are encouraged to consume more and more.  Whether it is buying lots of Christmas gifts, or the eating of Christmas candy and pastries, we are told the celebrations start now.

Yet, sometimes I think we are being feed a false message by the merchants, the politicians, and city fathers.  We see in the news of tragic events, the murder of innocents, both at home and abroad; and we experience fear.  We see, and hear, the messages of hate, whether spoken by terrorists, or our politicians, filling the airwaves and the internet.  Many of us are feeling the burden of an uncertain economy, feeling the anxieties of making ends meet, of keeping shelter over our heads.  And we have our own inner anxieties, which keep us up at night.  The “Christmas Season,” only adds to the anxieties.

It is at this moment, we need to hear the booming voice of St. Paul, saying to us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!” We are not an abandoned people; Emmanuel!  “God is with us!”  The Son of God came into this world to free us from fear; from sin and death!  Jesus Christ has come to give us his Spirit, to cleanse us with fire, to energize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  He invites us to enter into an intimate relationship with God, through Scripture, through prayer, and receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  If we are able to do that, strive to do that, St. Paul promises that our anxieties and our fears will have no power over us: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

So we have one more week before Christmas Day, a week to enter again into a time of true preparation to celebrate that wondrous day!  To prepare our minds, our hearts, our souls to hear, really hear, the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.

Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Lent – 2015

Noah and the rainbow

Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (10)
1 Peter 3: 18-22
Mark 1: 12-15
The story of Noah and the Ark has in many ways become a child’s fairy tale. Most depictions of the story are like a cartoon, showing friendly animals, lining up two by two, to enter the Ark. We see Noah and his family, smiling as they welcome the creatures coming towards them. Yet, like most of our modern fairy tales, the origin of the story of the Ark; the deeper meaning of the story, can be grim and frightening.

We see God, looking out at the humanity that inhabits His world and seeing only evil and corruption. Like a potter, unhappy with the pottery he has made, God intends to destroy His creation, wipe the slate clean. Yet, God is a creator, not a destroyer. While He intends to wipe out the evil, He sees the good that still exists, exists in Noah and his family. So God saves a remnant of humanity, and insures their survival. And in Noah and his family, humanity is reborn, life begins again. And the Creator promises never to destroy all humanity again, and the rainbow is the sign of that promise. He will seek another way to save His people from the power of sin.

And that way is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, through His death and resurrection, freed all humanity, past, present, and those yet to come from the power, and the consequences of sin. And with that freedom, with the fulfillment of the promise the Father made to His creation, the “kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is the Good News that Jesus is calling us to accept and believe. To believe that God does love this world, loves us; loves us so much He gave us His Son to save us, to heal us. That kind of love calls for a response from us, and that response is to change our lives, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, to live the Gospel!

The season of Lent is meant to be a time of preparation, a time of reflection, a time of conversion. A reflection on what our lives have been, and to see, in light of the Gospel, what needs to be changed. And we prepare our hearts to be open to experience the joy, and wonder of Easter morning, to celebrate the love of God

First Sunday of Advent – 2014; A Reflection

1st Advent

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
Mark 13: 33-37
We are entering the Advent season, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Of course, the department stores, electronics stores, the online shopping sites, have declared that now is the Christmas season. “So buy now, now, NOW; while prices are low, low, LOW!” And even those who do understand the meaning of this Advent season, they focus more on the preparation to remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as a human child. We tend to forget that Advent is a time to also reflect on the Second Coming of Christ, at the end of time. Many of us, I think, have the attitude that the Second Coming will not happen in our lifetimes. This is fueled by scientific speculation that the Universe has billions of years left in it’s life, that Earth itself, has millions, if not billions years of life left in it. So we become complacent, we are like the college student who slacks off most of the academic year, figuring he can cram in his studies and be ready for his final examination.

Then today’s Gospel can be an alarm for us. For Jesus is grabbing us by the shoulders; shaking us and saying: “Watch!” He is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that we do not know the day or the hour of his coming again, his coming in glory and power. So we need to live every day, every hour, and every second, in expectation of Christ’s Second Coming! And our hearts and souls must to ready, every day, every hour, and every second, to greet Him when He comes. We must strive daily, to read, reflect on, and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must live in expectation of encountering Christ daily, through God’s Creation, through His Word, in each other, and especially thorugh the Eucharist. We must work to make our hearts open to the Presence of our Living God..

This requires work, this requires preparation; it will mean a lifetime of work. God is with us, ready to form us in a beautiful creation; as long as we do not harden our hearts against Him. This is what the season Advent is to help us understand, to help us begin anew the work of conversion, to prepare and watch for the coming of the Lord.