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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

It’s a Wonderful Life: The Second Sunday in Advent

  It’s a Wonderful Life:
The Second Sunday in Advent
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December 8, 2019
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Our readings present us with the two great Advent figures, Isaiah and John the Baptist, who provide us distinct styles of meeting the Lord. Isaiah uses poetic language to help the people imagine a new day while John speaks directly to religious leaders and issues challenges to correct one’s behavior. Each prepares his generation for the advent of the Lord, but in remarkably different ways.

John the Baptist lets no one off the hook with his confrontational style. John means business because the stakes are high. He wants to make sure that contrition is real and that it is followed by right actions. No one, especially religious leaders, likes to be called a brood of vipers and then be commanded to produce good fruit as evidence of one’s repentance, but it is a shrewd and necessary tactic. No one can wonder where John stands on the issue of salvation, and he makes it clear that he is not to be worshiped, but that God is coming into our midst.

Isaiah gives us a glimpse of Savior who will rule by a counter-cultural type of Justice, that is informed by wisdom, understanding, encouragement, and respect for the matters that belong to God. He brings good news to the poor. What is that news? – That they matter, that their concerns are known to God, that God will set everything right because God can see the good intentions in their hearts, that God will be compassionate to those who suffer. The other part of the news is equally refreshing – those who mistreated others will be punished, those who defrauded, worked toward their own selfish advantage, those who held attitudes of arrogance, privilege, and elitism will be humbled, but everyone will have the opportunity to repent and to set their lives on the right track once again. In this new age of God’s Justice, everyone will be motivated to do their best by turning towards God and reforming their attitudes and actions. This is the age that no one needs to fear because right relations and harmony exists for all people. All is reconciled in this land, and this is what we each deeply want. Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable kingdom is one that we each hold in the crevices of our soul. We believe and know that God’s kingdom is possible. We pray that this kingdom come every time we recite the Lord’s prayer.

Though Isaiah and John differed in style, they each remained optimistic about the age to come. They believed in God’s promise of salvation, that God would not forget us, that God would stay with us in good times and bad. They also knew that we had to prepare our hearts and souls to work towards right relations with God and others. We have to retain their optimism. It is very easy to succumb to the forces of negativity and division, but we must not. There is no reason to stay in places of nothingness and despair, not when we have the Lord in our midst, not when we have each other. Let’s remember Paul’s words in Romans: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another.

Sure, we have problems in the world. Open your mobile phone to read the bad news, but let’s not overlook all the good that is happening in the world on every level. Stay focused on the good. There is far more good than bad in the world. It is possible to believe in Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom. Why? Because God never abandoned us, because God decided to live with us and show us how to live, because Jesus Christ still lives, because we have each other – and we are very likable souls. In the end, it’s a rather wonderful life.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Genesis 3) After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?

Tuesday: (Isaiah 40) Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.

Wednesday: (Isaiah 40) Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing!

Thursday: (Zechariah 2) Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD. Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

Friday (Isaiah 48) I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea.

Saturday (Sirach 48) In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits.

Monday: (Luke 1) The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."

Tuesday: (Matthew 18) "What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not 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 meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Thursday (Luke 1) Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.

Friday (Matthew 11) It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'

Saturday (Matthew 17) "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands."

Saints of the Week

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.

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. 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.
·      Dec 14, 1979. The death of Riccardo Lombardi, founder of the Better World Movement.

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