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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Second Sunday of Advent

The Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2018
Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37

Having lived in the Kingdom of Jordan for a couple years, I know from experience the geographic landscape of this Gospel passage. The desert road about which John and Isaiah spoke was filled with harsh conditions along its winding path. Deep valleys of parched lands and barren hills made travel treacherous, and the beating sun and piercing sand-wrapped wind delayed the advance on many a traveler. The road back from exile from Babylon (Iraq) to Jerusalem was arduous and life-threatening, but the Lord assured the people that their exile was over, and he promised to make the way home easy for them. The valleys will be raised high, the mountains leveled, and all the faithful can hasten home without any obstacles.

John preached a metanoia, that is a change of attitude about living in right relationship to God and to neighbor. He preached about our need to reform our lives in order to return from our spiritual exile. The baptism he gave was an outward symbol, but our ongoing work is to create a culture of reconciliation that moves us closer to type of life to which each of us is called.

Advent is about finding our way home, to a place of reconciliation, to a place where we are restored as our real selves, as a people who can love freely and live in harmony with others, just as we dreamed as children. We know that life is not as we would choose it to be, but as we gain wisdom, we pause and realize how much we need God to make sense of the chaos around us and within in. We need God to come close, to show us a sign that God is near and hears us. We need God to be born anew for us, and we discover that we need God to die for us – personally. We need that road to be made straight once again and to see the Lord’s hand extended towards us in welcome.

There are areas of my life that are still filled with pain. I have not been the best spouse, friend, colleague, or parent I intended to be. I carry with me disappointments, hurts, and missed opportunities that still bother me, and I keep those past errors alive in my way of proceeding. I don’t word my statements the most loving way and sometimes my heart and ears are closed to the people who love me most, a love that I often don’t deserve. I know I don’t measure up to the person I want to be. I don’t ask often enough for forgiveness, and I still prefer not to forgive. They way home is long, and as the poet Robert Frost writes, “I have miles before I sleep.”
The prophet Baruch says, “take off your robe of mourning… your exile is at an end.” God extends his arms to you to restore you to your glory. The Lord knows the life is difficult, and he wants you to look at your lifetime history of love. Who had loved you – when you did not deserve it, and who have you loved. Consider all the people who you helped to raise up and recall all the unexpected graces you have received from someone else’s goodwill. This is the way we need to spend our Advent. To simply recall the good we have received in this world generates an impulse to return that good knowing it can never be repaid in full.

With this spirit of gratitude, we are naturally impelled to offer ourselves back to the Lord – freely as a gift. We spontaneously share who we are with the one who loves us. We delight in each other: each breath, the beat of our hearts, each memory, every thought that fills our mind. Our task is to return those to the Lord. This offering is what we call prayer, where God gazes upon us in profound respect and admiration, and we are assured grace will be there to guide us and keep us close. Any movement towards love, any movement towards sharing and generosity of heart, is a movement towards God.

My Advent prayer for you is similar to the prayer Paul gave the Philippians. I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your life with Christ. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in your will continue it to completion, until the day we are all restored in God through Christ. This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and forever, and may God spoil you rotten with his love.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Isaiah 35) Here is your God, he comes with vindication. The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared.

Tuesday: (Isaiah 40) Give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.

Wednesday: (Isaiah 40) Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things. Do you not know? Have you not heard?

Thursday: (Genesis 3) After Adam ate of the tree, God called to him, “Where are you?” I heard you were in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.   

Friday (Isaiah 48) I, the Lord, will teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. Hearken to my commandments.

Saturday (Sirach 48) A prophet named Elijah appeared whose words were as a flaming furnace. By the Lord’s word, he shut up the heavens and brought down fire three times.

Monday: (Luke 5) After Jesus healed the man on a stretcher, he forgave his sins. The scribes and Pharisees protested and asked, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies?”

Tuesday: (Matthew 18) If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them is lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?

Wednesday (Matthew 11) Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.

Thursday (Luke 1) The angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin betrothed to Joseph to announce that the Holy Spirit would overpower her and she would conceive a son.  

Friday (Matthew 11) How shall I consider you? I played a dirge for you and you would not mourn; I played a flute for you and you would not dance.

Saturday (Matthew 17) As Jesus came down the mountain, the disciples asked, “Why do they say Elijah must come first?” Elijah has come and will indeed come to restore all things.

Saints of the Week

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.

December 14: John of the Cross, priest and doctor (1542-1591), was a Carmelite who reformed his order with the help of Teresa of Avila. They created the Discalced (without shoes) Carmelite Order that offered a stricter interpretation of their rules. John was opposed by his community and placed in prison for a year. He wrote the classics, "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," and "Living Flame of Love."

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Dec 14, 1979. The death of Riccardo Lombardi, founder of the Better World Movement.
·      Dec 15, 1631. At Naples, during an earthquake and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Jesuits worked to help all classes of people.

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