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Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

November 29, 2009

Happy New Year! We might expect joyful, celebratory readings on this first day of the new liturgical year; instead we get a sliver of hope in the midst of great tension. Jeremiah is speaking to a distraught people in Israel and Judah who will face such severe calamities that even their beloved Jerusalem, their sure stronghold, is threatened to be laid to waste. Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that all the signs around them will be confusing and difficult to understand. Such high levels of disorder will abound that some will die of anxiety and all of us, even the most assured ones among us, will be assaulted of the Day of the Lord.

Are today’s times confusing enough for you? Our world offers overwhelming challenges to us as competing philosophies of life tempt us in al sort of directions. Even the surety of our Catholic faith is gone and we sometimes feel that part of our church is at times adrift without a rudder. Politicians are publicly opening a dialogue with bishops over positions in health care reform; educated, reflective Catholics hold dissenting opinions with their bishops over same-sex marriages; the fight between pro-life and pro-choice believers takes such hard-line stances that dialogue is no longer possible; the closing or merging of parishes leave people feeling rootless. Some in the church would rather have those who disagree with them outright leave. Reading the signs of the times with certitude is nearly impossible today.

Within these complicated social positions, many in the church are no longer able to be hospitable to one another, or to show a caring mercy, or a patient solidarity that tries to be enriched by the other through true listening that leads to understanding. We would be at ease if we only examined our tradition and returned to fundamental Christian values. Gone are the days when Christians were once known as a curious people for their remarkable hospitality because they would show mercy to anyone who called upon the name of the Lord. A Roman official once remarked to a church father, “See how much they love one another.”

Under all this mess is Jeremiah’s prophecy that God will raise up a shoot that new life from the house of David and that this Messiah will rule the world with God’s merciful justice. Jesus assures us that in the midst of the swirling chaos, you will be able to detect his still voice; therefore you must pray constantly to know his voice so that you recognize him when you stand before him on that final day. If we read between the lines, God is steadfast and faithful to us and is always present for us. God has come, is coming, and will always come for us. Let us watch our hope in God grow this year.

Quote for the Week

The beginning of Advent is not complete without our singing “O Come , O Come, Emmanuel,” so I am listing out the first stanza of the lyrics below.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

In this new year, we quickly turn to the Advent prophet Isaiah as he speaks his prophecy about the peaceable kingdom and the advent of the Messiah. On the Lord’s mountain, God will wipe away our tears and God will somehow manage to save us. A song will break out in the land of Judah and all will serve the Lord forever because of his goodness to us. The dawning of this new Kingdom of heaven will set all believers in awe and wonder. The people will realize just how much God suffers with them and desires to lead them to freedom.

In the Gospels, Luke reminds us that God will give grace and understanding to the simple ones who trust in him. Then Matthew shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy by showing that the lame walk and the blind see. Signs and wonders point to Jesus’ life and ministry ushering in God’s peaceable kingdom. The one who listens to Jesus’ words and accepts them can gain entrance into this new family. The blind men illustrate their coming to sight as entrance into this new realm. Jesus then sends out his disciples to the lost sheep of Israel to tell them about this new reality.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Andrew, apostle, was a fisherman like his brother Simon Peter. Andrew was one of the first two apostles called by Jesus in John’s Gospel. He may have preached in Greece, but he is better known for the cross of St. Andrew that represents Scotland on the flag of the United Kingdom.

Thursday: Francis Xavier, priest, was one of the seven founding Jesuits who was sent to the Indies and Japan as a missionary by Ignatius of Loyola. He converted and baptized hundreds of thousands to the faith and established foreign missions. He is venerated across the world and is one of the best known Jesuits.

Friday: John of Damascus, doctor, is a doctor of the church for his writings that summarized the early doctrinal positions of Christian theology. He is the last of the Greek Fathers of the Church.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Nov 29, 1773: The Jesuits of White Russia requested the Empress Catherine to allow the Letter of Suppression to be published, as it had been all over Europe. She bade them lay aside their scruples, promising to obtain the Papal sanction for their remaining in status quo.
• Nov 30, 1642: The birth of Br Andrea Pozzo at Trent, who was called to Rome in 1681 to paint the flat ceiling of the church of San Ignazio so that it would look as though there were a dome above. There had been a plan for a dome but there was not money to build it. His work is still on view.
• Dec. 1, 1581: At Tyburn in London, Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant were martyred.
• Dec. 2, 1552: On the island of Sancian off the coast of China, Francis Xavier died.
• Dec. 3, 1563: At the Council of Trent, the Institute of the Society was approved.
• Dec. 4, 1870: The Roman College, appropriated by the Piedmontese government, was reopened as a Lyceum. The monogram of the Society over the main entrance was effaced.
• Dec. 5, 1584: By his bull Omnipotentis Dei, Pope Gregory XIII gave the title of Primaria to Our Lady's Sodality established in the Roman College in 1564, and empowered it to aggregate other similar sodalities.

An Advent Prayer

All-powerful God, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light that he brings to the dark areas of our world. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

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