Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze
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Second Sunday of Advent
December 7, 2014
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8


The readings of Advent deepen this week as we contemplate what God is initiating for us in anticipation for our Lord’s arrival. All good things in our life start with our metanoia - our change of heart, our change of attitude. We are given this sacred time to figure out who we are as we stand before God and then to conform our ways to match the way God wants us to be. We urge patience with ourselves as fundamental changes gradually take place over time and the world aligns with our new insights and discoveries.

The Israelites that have been exiled to Babylon for many years are finally told God is forgiving them. Their punishment is ended and they can come home to God’s embrace. They have sufficiently recognized the error of their ways and conformed their behavior to include God’s presence as a central reality in their lives. They can come home and God says that Isaiah the prophet must speak forgiving words tenderly to them so they know it is true. To anyone who is sufficiently blanketed by their guilt, the only words that will coax one out of isolating shame are words of tenderness. Tenderness shows a desire for intimacy.

In our complex contemporary world, we do not know how to talk about our sinfulness. The mere mention of the word confuses us because we are often at a loss to describe when behavior is proper or poor. Our definition of behavior is situational and is often in relation to the way another person has wronged us. We justify ourselves, and by doing so, we place ourselves in God’s role as judge. Without a proper definition, we hold a web of negative feelings and we cannot articulate a vocabulary that describes how we feel as a collection of these emotions. We strive for integrity, and throughout the day others who impose their poor behavior upon us beat us down. Life confounds us at times and we long for a day when the vision is clearer and when we know where we stand.
In this complicated moral world where definitions are ambiguous, God wants to speak to you tenderly regardless of what you have done. Once you lift your eyes from your guilt, you will see that God will do anything possible to let you know you are wanted back home. Come. Return home. God will make straight in the wasteland a highway for you where every valley shall be filled in and every mountain and hill made low. God wants you to know that your pathway home will be made easy and you will see the glory of the Lord every step of the journey. Most notably, you will see it is the loving eyes of friends and family who not only forgive you and accept you, but also are rejoicing because you are with them once again. On this journey, we must be the ones who speak tenderly to others to welcome them back onto the path that leads to the power of Christ.

Mark’s Gospel gives us an image of the prophetically wild John the Baptist who is a curiosity to many. I suggest that we be a curious image to others in the mold of the Baptist, but I suggest we see ourselves, rather than a radical counter-cultural warrior prophet, as a gentle friend of the Bridegroom, the best friend who will lovingly always stand up for Jesus and the church. The Baptist is the one who pointed others to Jesus of Nazareth. He listened to the sins of others and disposed of them in the Jordan River – never holding onto them, watching them flow swiftly out of their lives. Our poor behavior, shame, and guilt are of the past. We have to look toward the new persons we are called to be. The Baptist tightly held onto the new persons they became after they chose the new life offered to them – a life flowing with promise and purpose, a life where the opposing virtues of kindness and truth, justice and peace meet with serene harmony, a life where one’s dignity and honor is honored. Isaiah, John, and Pope Francis speak tenderly to the people and today many people are gratefully listening and holding onto the comforting words of our Pope. Let us put down our propensity to fight and learn to speak tenderly and joyfully to others.

Paul reminds us that the Lord is patient with us and does not wish that any of us should perish. We have to choose what sort of person we want to be. Dream a little and then see the assistance you have along the way. Let the illusions you hold about yourself to die so you can behold the tremendously marvelous person God sees in you – your true self. Forgive yourself, even in others do not forgive you, and then forgive others. We do our most important work by leveling those mountains and raising up those valleys for others to meet their God and to come back home. Lead everyone home. Let them know the church and God wants them to come. Speak tenderly to them so they know you personally want them to come home. Together, we will stand on top of that high mountain nestled in God’s embrace and shout to the world: Behold. Behold. Behold our God! Our God cares for us and we are glad.  

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Genesis 3 – Immaculate Conception) After Adam ate of the tree, God called and asked, “Where are you?” I hid because I am naked. Who told you that you were naked? The women whom you put here with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 40) Comfort, give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end.
Wednesday: (Isaiah 40) Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. Lift up your eyes and see who has created these things.
Thursday: (Isaiah 41) I will help you, says the Lord. I will turn the desert into a marshland that all may see and know, observe and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this.
Friday: (Zechariah 2) Rejoice, O daughter Zion. I am coming to dwell among you.
Saturday: (Sirach 48) In those days, the prophet Elijah appeared. His words were as a flaming furnace. You were destined in a time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord.

Gospel: 
Monday: (Luke 1) The angel Gabriel visited Mary in Nazareth to announce that she will become the mother of a child through the overpowering of the Holy Spirit. He will bear a son and shall name him Jesus.
Tuesday: (Matthew 18) God is like a man with one hundred sheep who, when one of them goes astray, will leave the 99 in search of the one lost one. God will rejoice that the one has returned.
Wednesday: (Matthew 11) Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.
Thursday: (Matthew 11) Among those born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. He is Elijah.
Friday: (Luke 1) Behold, you will conceive in your womb and shall bear a son. Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.      
Saturday: (Matthew 17) Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? He will restore all things. Elijah has already come (John the Baptist) and the Son of Man will suffer at the hands of those who do not recognize him.

Saints of the Week

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.

December 9: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548) was a poor, simple, indigenous man who was visited by Mary in 1531. She instructed him to build a church at Guadalupe near Mexico City. During another visit, she told him to present flowers to the bishop. When he did, the flowers fell from his cape to reveal an image of Mary that is still revered today.

December 12: The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated to remember the four apparitions to Juan Diego in 1531 near Mexico City shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. Mary appeared as a native Mexican princess and her image is imprinted on a cloak that was presented to the bishop.

December 13: Lucy, martyr (d. 304), was born into a noble Sicilian family and killed during the Diocletian persecution. In the Middle Ages, people with eye trouble invoked her aid because her name means "light." Scandinavia today still honors Lucy in a great festival of light on this day.


This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Dec. 9, 1741: At Paris, Fr. Charles Poree died. He was a famous master of rhetoric. Nineteen of his pupils were admitted into the French Academy, including Voltaire, who, in spite of his impiety, always felt an affectionate regard for his old master.
·      Dec 10, 1548. The general of the Dominicans wrote in defense of the Society of Jesus upon seeing it attacked in Spain by Melchior Cano and others.
·      Dec 11, 1686. At Rome, Fr. Charles de Noyelle, a Belgian, died as the 12th general of the Society.
·      Dec 12, 1661. In the College of Clermont, Paris, Fr. James Caret publicly defended the doctrine of papal infallibility, causing great excitement among the Gallicans and Jansenists.
·      Dec 13, 1545. The opening of the Council of Trent to which Frs. Laynez and Salmeron were sent as papal theologians and Fr. Claude LeJay as theologian of Cardinal Otho Truchses.