Thursday, November 29, 2012

The days are coming...

Advent is all about looking forward, about waiting for something great, something awesome – in two different, but related ways.  First, we look forward to the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, of Jesus’ incarnation as God’s Love in the world.  Yet at the same time, we are looking forward to Jesus’ parousia or second coming as well; in fact, the Latin adventus, from which we derive Advent, is a translation of the Greek word parousia.  And as we wait, how are we to prepare?  Our readings this Sunday give us some clues.

First, the prophet Jeremiah announces the future coming of the Messiah:  The days are coming, says the Lord…  when I will raise up for David a just shoot.  Jeremiah hopes for an eternal Davidic dynasty, and we see that promise realized in the person of Jesus – the first coming.  Likewise, in this week’s Gospel, Jesus himself reminds us of the second coming, exhorting the disciples to Be vigilant at all times, and to pray.  The word vigilance again reinforces that sense of wakefulness (the word vigil refers to the wakeful period on the eve of a religious celebration), as Jesus encourages the disciples to stand erect and raise [their] heads in anticipation of his return to earth.

In between, this week’s Psalm as well as the reading from the Letter to the Thessalonians remind us how to live in the meantime:  we must be open to God’s work in our lives, allowing ourselves to be guided by God’s truth, attentive to God’s teaching, keeping his covenant so that we might enjoy full friendship, an intimate relationship, with God (Psalm 25).  Paul’s letter echoes this call to openness, particularly insofar as we are called to love, for one another and for all… so as to strengthen [our] hearts.

So, waiting, we love; loving, we wait… and Advent begins!  O come, o come, Emmanuel!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Crown of Thorns

A Crown of Thorns

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King this week, let us not forget that the notion of kingship was to haunt Jesus as he endured his Passion.  John's Gospel tells us that sometime between his Last Supper with the apostles and the Crucifixion, Roman soldiers mocked Jesus' sovereignty, placing upon his head a Crown of Thorns.  Representing the sin and suffering of humanity carried by Christ to his death on the Cross, thorns date back to the Garden of Eden, springing out of the earth when God cursed Adam and Eve's transgression.  On the Cross, the thorns became "an ironic sign of the contempt the world showed for the King of Kings as he gave up his life for them" (source 1).  Born a King, Christ died a King, as the inscription on the Cross reminds us:  Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Image:  Jesus' Crown of Thorns, preserved at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.  Saint Louis (a king himself, Louis IX) is said to have carried the Crown barefoot through Paris to Notre-Dame, then built the Sainte Chapelle as a reliquary for it and other relics of the Passion.  Today, the faithful may venerate the Crown of Thorns at the Cathedral on Fridays during Lent, and throughout the day on Good Friday.  It is a powerfully moving and awe-inspiring ritual.
For more on the Crown of Thorns and its symbolic origins, see source 1.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Lord is King...

When Jesus Christ, the Anointed, came to earth, the Jewish people were expecting a ruler or messiah who would wrest political control from the Romans and establish himself as King on earth.  Yet Jesus’ idea of kingship is strikingly different.  My kingdom does not belong to this world, he tells Pilate in this Sunday’s Gospel.  His purpose on earth is not to contest the rule of Caesar, but to testify to the truth, that truth being the authority of God to rule our hearts, a truth embodied by God’s Love, a Love unwavering and without limitations.  Reading Christian themes back into the Book of Daniel, we see that God the Ancient One gave Jesus dominion, power, and glory – dominion, moreover, that is without limit and without end: his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away.  Jesus’ kingdom is eternal as God’s Love for humankind is eternal, planted solidly in a world brought out of chaos by a loving God:  Your throne stands firm from of old… (Psalm), the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty (Revelation).

So what is our role in this kingdom?  To love as he loves us:  this is how he has made us into a kingdom, by sharing with us the capacity to love as God loves, to be open to God’s Love as well as to love of other, and to offer that love in abundance to Other.  This is the true Kingdom of God:  it is a truth that transcends mere political struggle and carries us into the eternal, to the very clouds of heaven.  To him be glory and praise forever, thanks be to God!

This reflection is based on Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.
Photo source

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Counting Our Blessings

by Anne Lamott, whose new book, Help Thanks Wow, is out this month.

"No matter how you say it, grace can transform an ordinary meal into a celebration
—of family, love, and gratitude."
Read the rest of this article by clicking here.

A Blessing For your Thanksgiving Table from Mount Carmel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: A Secular Holiday?

Should Thanksgiving be more than a secular holiday?

For a thoughtful reflection on this question,
article (2010) on how our all-American holiday offers us
a moment of grace.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Light and Dark

The purest Light is here
It shines to me through the air
Darkness it separates
New life it creates

God is the light
In Him there’s no night
Darkness is passing
To give all true sight

Soon evening will be gone
We’ll sing a warm, new song
Bright Morning Star will come
Reign here, down from above

God is the Light
In Him there’s no night
Darkness is passing
To give all true sight

God is the Light
In Him there’s no night
Darkness is passing
To give all true sight

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fullness of joys in your presence...

In our times of greatest darkness, do we trust in God?

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples of God’s power over chaos, a power first made manifest in our creation stories, when God imposed order on the waters and on the darkness.  Jesus refers here to the tribulation, when the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; he is speaking of the cataclysm of his own crucifixion, but, as in the story of Creation, order will win out, as Jesus’ resurrection will bring about a new age.  And so it is in our chaotic hearts:  we do not know when our own personal fig tree will bloom, but when it does, we recognize that summer – that is, salvation – is near.  Again, order out of chaos.

How, then, are we to live?  Above all, in relationship:  know that he is near, at the gates.  God seeks relationship with us, always; it’s up to us to choose to be God’s subjects, to be (as the prophet Daniel describes) the wise who shall shine brightly, like the splendor of the firmament… We must choose to live faithful to the covenant, as did the people of Israel in Daniel’s time, allowing God to show us the path to life, fullness of joys in [His] presence (Psalm).  If God resides ever before us, then our hearts will be glad and our soul will rejoice in that intimacy that is God’s love.  Only then can we hope to be made perfect forever (Hebrews) – only if we trust fully in the power of God’s love in our lives, and in its ability to bring order out of chaos.  This is our final victory:  above all, God invites us to Love.

This reflection is based on Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.
Photo credit