Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Sunday in Advent

December 2, 2012
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

            Pay attention to the quality of waiting you experience in Advent this year. With nearly a month-long season, too many people are not immediately focused on the events of the incarnation. This waiting is remote and distant. The season is only in seedling form and few can see the growth that happens in young sprouts, but this is what we are asked to contemplate. The reading from Jeremiah says that in the days to come a just shoot from David, the mightiest king in Israel’s consciousness, will be raised up. In other words, forces are happening that the people cannot obviously see. They are exciting and are filled with promise. We have to increase our trust as we wait.

            Jeremiah lets us know that a new time will begin. The new leader, who is to come, will rule with a merciful justice. Internal and external divisions cease. Internally, people joyfully live the commandments. They live without fear of being defrauded, or abused, or manipulated. They trust the good-will motives of their friends and neighbors. Harmony and right relationships exist because people are respecting and honoring others’ boundaries.  Arguments and power struggles are resolved easily because people put aside their self-interests. They no longer defend themselves against others who impose their will upon them. Externally, the nation experiences safety and the lack of threat from hostile forces. Bordering nations set treaties that establish commerce and exchanges of ideas. Nations work together with nations to care for the less fortunate ones in their lands. Wisdom is able to flow forth from the land because the people have sufficiently understood the ways God wants them to live. This is a new age that we yearn for still.

            In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to be vigilant because they will see many troubling events that can shake their faith and sow the seeds of doubt. Jesus is telling his disciples that consequences exist for those who fail to heed the prophet’s words, but the disciples are the ones who can confidently stand erect and raise their heads high because they know the inner story. This is the day of vindication. This is the time when God’s victory is finally consummated. It is not a time to fear, but to hold onto their inner joy.

            Proof of their trust is made evident through their patient waiting. The timing is sure to catch some by surprise so one ought to have right relationships established with everyone. Most, if not all, of us have some un-reconciled relationship that troubles us. Jesus asks for us to find a way to bring an atoned closure to these conflicts. The anxieties of the day consume a great deal of energy and take us away from the important work we are called to do: promote the kingdom of God here on earth. When we fret over words someone spoke to us or we try to think of the right words to say back to our offender to get an advantage, we fail to comprehend the larger goal. If our actions are not in line with our ultimate goal in life, seek help to get yourself on the right track.

            St. Paul inspires us to live rightly – in such a way that we are prepared to be at peace when the end times come. Especially in our troubled relationships, we dare to ask ourselves, “Am I increasing love in this interaction?” and “Am I even bothering to try to love?” If I am not, I have to learn new actions. I have to chart a new course for myself if I am to be an effective disciple. It’s all about love, and loving another person is much more difficult to do than we think because we have to place their concerns above our own. Reconciling with others is not about dissecting ‘who’ went wrong ‘when,’ it is about charting a new course for the relationship for the future. It means acknowledging the hurts we face and not dwelling unnecessarily on them. It means building upon the good will and affection that was once there and can be restored with concerted effort.

            When we have success in skillfully negotiating the tasks required to “strengthen our hearts,” we instantly become joyful. We learn that living out of integrity is the much healthier path to take. We find our strength! Our strength is that we are capable of loving others above ourselves. We become known by it. We are nourished by it. We know that our Christ is the one who is accomplishing it in us and through us and we marvel at it.

            It makes our waiting easier. We know that we will be known and welcomed home by Jesus with a warm, inviting smile. We know that the One who started this good work in us is helping us bring it to completion. We know, that despite the distance, he is not far away. In fact, he is intimately involved in all our actions. We can feel how proud he is with us when we miraculously say or do the right thing in a relationship to bring about healing. He is very proud of how we continue to evolve because we bother to love another person fully and vulnerably. His heart touches ours so that we wait and think about that time when we will have fuller union with him. We will yearn and desire him with warmth and intimacy the way that he desires and years for us. This is great waiting. Happy Advent!

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The prophecy in Isaiah reveals that Zion, the mountain of the Lord’s house, will be raised above all other mountains. People will stream to it to worship the God of Jacob, and the word of the Lord will instruct all people. Peace will reign over the world as instruments of violence are made into instruments of peace. On the Day of the Lord, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, and he shall judge the world with merciful justice. Enemies will coexist and the Gentiles will seek out the root of Jesse, a signal for the nations. No harm or ruin will exist on this holy mountain. The veil over all peoples will be lifted and everyone will look to God and rejoice in what God has done for the world. Songs will be sun in the land. Jerusalem will be a strong city and God’s judgment will humble those in high places and lift up the lowly. When everyone sees the work of God’s hands, they will keep his name holy. Everyone will be in awe of the God of Israel. ~ In the Immaculate Conception, the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace is retold. The woman’s name was Eve for she became the mother of all the living.

Gospel: When Jesus enters Capernaum, a centurion asks him to cure his paralyzed servant who is near death. His faith is strong enough that Jesus does not even have to come into his home to cure the servant. He places great trust in the powers of Jesus as a man who knows obedience. Jesus turns to his Father in heaven and thanks him for revealing his truth to the simple ones and hiding them from the wise. At the Sea of Galilee, the crowds brought those who were ill or needing cures to Jesus. His heart goes out to them and he asks his disciples to feed the thousands gathered around him. Jesus tells his disciples that not everyone who calls upon the Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus claims that he will not know some on them. Those whom he knows well will enter the kingdom. As Jesus passes by on his way to Jerusalem, two blind men call out to him to get their sight back. Their eyes are opened because of their faith.

Saints of the Week

December 3: Francis Xavier, S.J., priest (1506-1552) was a founding member (one of seven) 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.

December 6: Nicholas, bishop (d. 350), lived in southwest Turkey and was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution. He attended the Council of Nicaea in 324. Since there are many stories of his good deeds, generous charity, and remarkable pastoral care, his character became the foundation for the image of Santa Claus.

December 7: Ambrose, bishop and doctor (339-397) was a Roman governor who fairly mediated an episcopal election in Milan. He was then acclaimed their bishop even though he was not baptized. He baptized Augustine in 386 and is doctor of the church because of his preaching, teaching and influential ways of being a pastor.

December 8: The Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated today, which is nine months before her birth in September. The Immaculate Conception prepares her to become the mother of the Lord. Scripture tells of the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Mary's assent to be open to God's plan makes our salvation possible.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Dec. 6, 1618: In Naples, the Jesuits were blamed for proposing to the Viceroy that a solemn feast should be held in honor of the Immaculate Conception and that priests should make a public pledge defend the doctrine. This was regarded as a novelty not to be encouraged.
·      Dec. 7, 1649: Charles Garnier was martyred in Etarita, Canada, as a missionary to the Petun Indians, among whom he died during an Iroquois attack.
·      Dec. 8, 1984: Walter Ciszek, prisoner in Russia from 1939 to 1963, died.