Rejoice always; the Lord's approach is near!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Rejoice always; the Lord's approach is near!
Saturday, December 06, 2014
Reading 1: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years
and a thousand years like one day.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,”
but he is patient with you,
not wishing that any should perish
but that all should come to repentance....
But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Friday, November 28, 2014
Comments on the Mass readings for the day.
Reading 1: ISAIAH 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7
...There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Responsorial: PSALM 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
...May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
...Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Reading 2: 1 CORINTHIANS 1:3-9
...in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end.
Gospel: MARK 13:33-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
Beginning at the end of the meditation: remember that this season of Advent is the season to take the longer view of things. That is to say, beyond the jumble of our daily business we are invited to hope in the coming of Christ in its double sense--the immanent sense of the arrival of the baby Jesus present in our hearts and family hearths at Christmas and the transcendent sense of the Second Coming of the Risen Lord, King of Heaven and Earth, at the end of time. This much is true always and everywhere.
But for many reasons we are not guided by what is true. Our days are full: of distractions that compete for time and attention, and misplaced priorities whose result is often the loss of healthy self-direction and focus. We should never forget that Scripture is true for all. Isaiah is speaking about us and to us when he complains that "there is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you." We are often looking elsewhere, leading lives that are subject to the morally ambiguous rules of the world because we have lost the habit of looking beyond the world. God does not have to work very hard to "hide his face" from us, because we no longer seek his face.
Our motives don't have to be evil; but, failing to trust in the invitation of God, we endanger our will to use fully the strengths given to us at Baptism, through the Sacraments and by our life as the Church. The Apostle Paul makes it a point to remind his hearers to remember the help God extends to us through the Body of Christ: "you were enriched in every way,with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift." When we are too self-absorbed, we fall short of the goodness of God that can otherwise shine in our charity, our use of our talents, and in our clarity about the mission of our lives. We're drifters.
Of course, Jesus well knows the inner and outer natures of his followers. He knows we are drifters. Hence, “Be watchful! Be alert! What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’" This command transcends whatever work we do as servants of the Master. Clergy or lay, entrepreneur or wage-worker, knowledge-worker or heavy-lifter, it's all the same as long as we exercise vigilant attention for the return of the Lord. That means we are on our best behavior, exercising concern for the preparedness of the whole estate. If a fellow worker is struggling, we don't say "That's your department." And last of all do we ignore or stray from our charge and give in to the world's disorder. We can all see the contrasting approaches in our daily experience.
On "Black Friday" we saw video depicting a discount store melee over who would buy the last big-screen TV. The teenager who filmed the incident understood perfectly well the silliness of the adults losing all sense of focus and composure. Just a couple of miles away a significant line of contemporary Hobbits waited patiently for two hours, socializing or reading, sharing donuts and coffee. Granted--I was at a bookstore. But the demographics of the population in that part of town are not so different, so we can't blame it on class. How to wait, and how to live while we wait, and what to wait for, are the questions. "Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. ...Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved."
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
...trying to read Scott Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before. A well-stated thought:
Achamian fully understood the geometry of Nautzera's world. It had once been his own. For Nautzera, there was no present, only the clamor of a harrowing past and the threat of a corresponding future. For Nautzera, the present had receded to a point, had become the precarious fulcrum whereby history leveraged destiny. A mere formality.
I know people like that!
Monday, April 07, 2014
"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, look like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
- Pope Benedict XVI
Monday, December 23, 2013
"Again I saw under the sun that the race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts; for a time of misfortune comes to all alike. Human beings no more know their own time than fish taken in the fatal net or birds trapped in the snare; like these, mortals are caught when an evil time suddenly falls upon them." (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)
"Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod."
"Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee."
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand….
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Isaiah 35: 5--
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened…
Psalm 146: 7--
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Three of the four readings from the Third Sunday of Advent make their centerpiece a powerful metaphor in literature and religion, blindness. For our purposes, the healing of blindness is one of the amazements of God's promised reformation of the cosmic order. All manner of healing will take place: from the restoration of our wounded bodies as we live to the raising to new life of our mortal bodies at the end of time, to the restoring of nature itself, a new heavens and new earth.
The first basis of faith is to find a way to be open to the literal value of the hope of Salvation working in the world, God-with-us one hundred percent. Christians do not believe that their story is a metaphor, not even a good one. The essential mystery of the Incarnation, affirmed in each Sunday’s recitation of the Creed, is that God showed up and walked among us, doing every last little thing that we have to do to get through a human life, however long or short, and transported our human nature to Heaven. True, Jesus did not sin. But sin is by definition something that none of us HAS to do, so Jesus’ not sinning is not a disqualification from his dual nature as True God and True Man. The story of Salvation is, as Tolkein and Lewis would put it, a fact--the one True Story.
John the Baptist, from his prison cell, expresses a doubt: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Momentarily, at least, he seems blinded and needing to look for some assurance from Jesus. This Gospel reading is from a portion of Matthew that is full of quarreling. There is uncertainty, resistance and the beginnings of dissonance as his followers and other parties begin to awaken to the implications of His call. Jesus is about change, metanoia, “motion of mind and heart.” As much as we might hope to see the truth about our need for renewal, doing so may be uncomfortable.
The extreme, even exaggerated case of quacking before truth is alluded to in the Gospel passage. John’s plea comes from the prison cell where he has been placed for his humiliating criticism of Herod the Tetrarch, a petty despot of shameless concupiscence who had adopted the worst behaviors of the Greco-Roman aristocracy and recognized no boundaries of filiation in the exercise of his lust. John had, as we know, called Herod out for his public adultery with his brother’s wife. John was imprisoned--probably in the vain hope that he would recant his accusation. Ultimately John would be killed when Herod was backed into a corner by his equally impudent paramour who used her daughter to beguile the drooling Herod into handing over John’s head. In the test of real manly character here, John wins hands down. No one is more blind to the truth of his own acts than Herod. His continued blindness when faced with Jesus, who would also be brought to his seat of judgment, is foreshadowed here, also.
We have to hope that we can avoid being Herod. The first step out of blindness is to affirm that God works in us and with us. Our job is to form ourselves, our wills, our relationships, and our world according to the messianic vision in its fulness. Jesus reminds John about these messianic signs. The readings of all the weeks of Advent provide us with images of what God wants for us, and will bring to fruition in us if we allow God’s grace and power to work.
But we have to know ourselves and we have to know God by knowing God-with-us. St. Augustine, author of the first self-conscious spiritual autobiography in Christian history, wrote a poem-prayer whose first line is “Domine Iesu, noverim me, noverim te,” “Lord Jesus, let me know myself, let me know you.” The only way to get it right is to see ourselves in all honesty as we are, and as we are illuminated by God’s “kindly light.” This is frightening to many, of course, for we all have a little bit of the stupid, gullible Herod in us. Truth intimidates us. At the same time, the Gospel truth is that we are the beings that God reaches for and suffers to save.
The mission of Jesus is to bring to reality the prophetic vision of our restoration to wholeness within Creation and at the same time to guide us to wholeness of soul. Our danger is that we will dismiss the literal reality of God’s full self-disclosure through the human Jesus because we hesitate to meet the life of God that exists within our own person. Perhaps this realization is part of what led John to ask his question--can this be true? Isn’t it easier to wait? Won’t we be let down if we commit with the fullness of our hearts and souls to the Kingdom that is at hand? Having already made his very complete and dramatic witness, John experiences that sour note. We don’t hear the rest of John’s story except second-hand, so we don’t know if he hears and accepts Jesus’ answer before his untimely death. It’s up to us to answer for ourselves.
The dramatic element in this story is Jesus’ challenge to John the Baptist: Open your eyes in order to believe. The truth has arrived. We must, as the wise elder James offers, “be patient” with ourselves, yet “make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” In so doing, we also prepare to greet the Christ-child, who would be with us, grow with us, walk with us and love us with all of God’s being.
A blessed third week of Advent!