Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Sunday in Advent

November 27, 2011
Isaiah 63:16-19; 64:2-7; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

          What are you waiting for? The Gospel tells us we are to be watchful while waiting for our time to come. This type of waiting is an actively vigilant one. It consumes energy as we discern the signs and events that signal something is about to happen, but we do not get a clue about what we are to look for. Through our faith, we see this passage as an admonition to be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus who promises to come again at the end of the age.

          Isaiah knows what he was waiting for. As a people in exile, he wants a restored relationship with the Lord God because he recognizes his people's ungrateful ways. He wants to know if God still cares for them. He reasons that God must care because God created us and formed us and gave us freewill to make good or poor choices. The people still choose imprudently and turn away from God and Isaiah reasons that God has every reason to be annoyed with their impetuousness and yet Isaiah cannot believe deep down in his core that God turns his back on them.

          Isaiah sounds a lot like the psalmist who tells God that God has always been faithful as a father would to his child or as a potter would value his clay. Surely this God will not orphan his people because they are ill-informed in their decisions. This awesome God who can do more than any other god can forgive the people's waywardness. "No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen" any god who can do the marvels of the Lord God of Israel.

          The psalmist beckons the shepherd of Israel to "rouse your power and come to save us." Isaiah and his people wait for God to look warmly upon them and come to deliver them from their Babylonian oppressors. They await God's tender outreach that re-establishes good healthy bonds once again. Forgiveness and reconciliation will alleviate their alienation.

          The words of these passages are powerful because we still await God's decision to turn to us with a loving gesture. We still cry out to a God who we need to save us. We feel alienated for a multitude of complex reasons and we are drained of any power that will let God take notice of our soulful suffering. We feel interpersonal and psychic loss all around us. Even the very instrument that is established to mediate God's love for us (that is, the church) finds ways to increase that feeling of alienation. Many lament that they have no place of comfort in which to bring their prayers to a God who they hope still loves them - even if they don't feel it within God's church. They are like the Jews in exile or the early Christians who were kicked out of their very own synagogues. People wait for a sign that God still cares for them and wants to save them.

          What are you waiting for? Perhaps your waiting is expectant and hopeful. Maybe it is anxious and filled with fear. Without a clear expectation, it may be filled with frustration because one cannot see an apparent outcome. What stirs within your heart as you wait in Advent? Trust that stirring. It leads to somewhere, but we have to wait a while longer.

          I think of the Occupy Wall Street movement that continues to evolve. Without any apparent leadership or goals, the people gather and wait. What do they wait for? They wait to be seen and heard - by Wall Street and big banks, by politicians and civic leaders, by the wealthy and middle class, by organized institutions. They want to be seen and heard. Something is amiss and people are speaking out merely by becoming visible to others. We want the same thing from our church.

          We want the same thing from God. Gather. Come together. Share your faith stories of joy and heartache. Come together and acknowledge one another so we are seen and heard. As a community we share ourselves and speak of our needs. We are turned closer towards one another when we learn of one another's needs. We want to be generous to each other. Give each other the gift of being seen and heard. We have to do it when leaders and institutions do not do it. We will see God's mighty power because God will see and hear us and will turn towards us with compassion. Gather together, share your lives, and wait. The God who wants to save us will come soon.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: At the year's start we turn to Isaiah who relates the Lord's vision for Judah and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy mountain where the Lord's house will be established and all nations will stream to it in worship. The Lord shall judge the earth from this vantage point. His justice will offer in a peaceable kingdom in which natural adversaries will live in harmony. Jerusalem will be a strong, fortified city filled with songs of praise. The city shall speak of peace. The unfair, unequal ways of this world will come to an end under his rule. Those is darkness will be led to the light; the blind shall see; those under oppression will be set free. Days of mourning will be over and the Lord will graciously console those who grieve. The teacher will make himself and his wisdom known and every need will be satisfied.

Gospel: A centurion whose servant is sick appeals to Jesus to heal him; he does. He believed in the authority of Jesus. His trusting obedience persuaded Jesus to desire to heal his servant. Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit and thanks his Father for the many blessings he has received from him. Jesus then tells his disciples they are blessed for witnessing many things in his name. He tells his disciples that everyone who calls on his name will not be saved because many hear his words but do not do the will of the Father. Two blind men are healed by Jesus and then follow him on the way. As more signs and wonders are seen by an increasing number of people, Jesus continued to teach in the synagogues. He cured many of diseases and afflictions. As he saw so many people with so many needs, his heart went out to them with pity because they appeared to him as sheep without a shepherd. Therefore, he called together many, select Twelve who would be his closest confidants, and gave them authority over unclean spirits and to make known the nearness of the Kingdom of heaven.

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Andrew, apostle (first century) was a disciple of John the Baptist and the brother of Simon Peter. Both were fishermen from Bethsaida. He became one of the first disciples of Jesus. Little is known of Andrew's preaching after the resurrection. Tradition places him in Greece while Scotland has incredible devotion to the apostle.  

Saturday: Francis Xavier, S.J., priest (1506-1552) was a founding members of the Jesuit Order who was sent to the East Indies and Japan as a missionary. His preaching converted hundreds of thousands of converts to the faith. He died before reaching China. Xavier was a classmate of Peter Faber and Ignatius of Loyola at the University of Paris.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Nov 27, 1680: In Rome the death of Fr. Athanasius Kircher, considered a universal genius, but especially knowledgeable in science and archeology.
·         Nov 28, 1759: Twenty Fathers and 192 Scholastics set sail from the Tagus for exile. Two were to die on the voyage to Genoa and Civita Vecchia.
·         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 Bryant 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.