God became man, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so that we might become “sharers of the divine nature”; so that man “might become a son of God”; so that God, “made man, might make men gods”; “so that we might become God” (CCC 460).
“At the heart of the divine act of creation,” said the International Theological Commission, “is the divine desire to make room for created persons in the communion of the uncreated Persons of the Blessed Trinity through adoptive participation in Christ.”
It seems to happen earlier each year. No sooner is Halloween over and the stores are filled with Christmas music and decorations. In a way you can’t blame the merchants of our country, seeing that 80% of their annual sales take place during the last two months of the year. They refuse to pass by any opportunity to tell us what they have, what we want and what we really need to buy. There are Christmas sales, Christmas hours, Christmas specials. We are besieged by opportunities to expand our Christmas shopping list. What began as a simple feast to celebrate the birth of Jesus has become a consumer engine that drives our economy. It is no wonder that the spiritual meaning of Christmas, the voice of John the Baptist crying “Prepare the way of the Lord,” is drowned out by the noise of commercial jingles and the ring of well-oiled cash registers.
If St. Luke were writing today instead of some 2,000 year ago, he might have begun this way: In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump; when John Roberts was chief justice of the Supreme Court; when Charlie Baker was the governor of Massachusetts; during the pontificate of Pope Francis; when Sean O’Malley was Archbishop of Boston; and Austin Fleming was still the Catholic pastor in Concord: the Word of God came to some guy named John, an unemployed televangelist, who was often found preaching on Boston Common, near Park Street Station.
How many times in your life have you ever desired to be called? Maybe you waited upon a favorable response after a hopeful job interview? Perhaps you have auditioned for a play or school musical or tried out for an athletic team, and you waited on pins and needles for that affirming call from a director or coach, “You’re in!” What excitement you felt when you received the call from someone who affirmed your worth!
This Sunday, too, is moment of joy and gladness. You are invited to receive a wonderful call. Advent is about the coming of Jesus as our Savior. He calls to us…
What are the animals inhabiting the stable of my heart? Truth be told, any person who would say, “I have no animals. My stable is completely clean,” either does not know his or her own heart, is a fool or a liar or maybe a combination of all three. Honestly, what are the animals in the stable of our hearts?
We can even get quite creative in this examination. The ox of passion might be the passion of lust but it also might be the passion of anger, control or narcissism. The ass of prejudice might be prejudice against the one who is different, the stranger….
We are in the heart of the gift purchasing season. I know some of you finished your Christmas shopping, but the rest of us, probably most of us, still have a long way to go. Now, it occurs to me that there are various categories of gifts that we buy. First of all, we buy gifts for those people whom we love deeply and whom we want to express this love to on Christmas. People in our immediate families certainly fit into this category, as well as those who have enriched our lives with their presence. Then there are those people whom we don’t see all that much but who we care enough about to want to give them a token of our love…
The Covid Virus and its variants have certainly changed our lives and changed the direction of what would have been our future. Furthermore, it has erected new barriers and
established divisions where they did not exist before.
There have always been national and international divisions – Some people have always been divided politically and socio-economically – There have always been religious believers and non-believers – But now we have vaxxers and anti-vaxxers – And, in many cases, they are openly hostile to one another!
Sadly, many people feel more estranged and isolated now, than they ever were before. We can actually feel that we are exiled from what life should be for us! Fortunately, the scriptures for today show us a way through this malaise. They also provide us with hope for the future and for the here and now.
Have you ever felt unworthy or even intimidated when you are in the company of far more distinguished personages? Well, I have. I cringe whenever I hear the bio-data of others being read out. My list pales in comparison. I’m almost always tempted to crawl back into my little hole of anonymity and believe that no one would notice my absence in the room.
St Luke’s introduction of the ministry of St John the Baptist in today’s gospel may have a similar impact. He prefaces the ministry of the Baptist by listing down….
There may be doubts as to the dating and the authorship of the book called Baruch, but the reality it addresses is clear. Jerusalem has fallen, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The book is written in exile, sent from the far kingdom of Babylon. It is a call for repentance, a reflection on true wisdom, and a promise. Despite circumstances of deprivation and desperation, Baruch is a labor of hope….
Ah, how time flies; it’s already the 2nd Sunday of Advent! However, it’s not too late to sound a warning: Never lose sight of the Gospel message of this Advent time. But what does this strange warning mean? Well, that’s the reflection I propose to you in this post.
You can’t think of Advent without the following words resonating in your ears: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.”
Almost by habit we know what that entails. When an important visitor is coming we want to put things in order before he arrives. Similarly, as good Catholics we know what we should be doing during Advent. Probably we are working on….
Friends, a couple years ago, there was a poll conducted in Great Britain that revealed that the majority of people there feel that Jesus was not a real, historical figure, but rather more of a mythic character. There are all kinds of spiritual systems that trade in mythic language bearing spiritual truths—but that’s not what Christianity is.
In our Gospel for today, Luke invokes the most significant cultural and political players of that time and place; but then, just as he did in the Christmas story, he pulls the rug out from under us. The word of God, the definitive guide to life, came not to one of the major players in their palaces, but to this isolated oddball, this mad prophet wearing animal skins and eating locusts. And this oddball prophet, who speaks the word of God, is ushering in a whole new way of ordering one’s life.
Christianity is not a mythic system. It is an historical religion that makes very concrete historical claims, and the first Christians were intensely interested in the historicity of what they were describing and preaching about. We see an example of this in St. Luke’s Gospel today. The evangelist tell us that something actually happened in history, something so strange, unexpected, and rare that it changed everything.
The prophecy of Baruch finds its fulfillment in the revelation of Christ, who brings the troubled history of God’s people to its fulfillment and reveals God’s eternal purpose for Jerusalem, the Temple, the Messiah and for Israel itself.
In our first reading for this week, we hear the prophet Baruch predicting the return of the children of Israel to Zion. God will level the mountains and fill in the valleys so as to make a highway for them. In the Gospel, John the Baptist announces a similar preparation for a similar return, but this time it is the return of Israel from the exile of sin and death, facilitated by the coming of the Messiah.
Everything in nature, culture, and the cosmos is passing away. Nothing here below finally lasts. Though certainly sobering, this is not, ultimately, bad news, for it orients us toward the one power that does last: the steadfast love of God. In the Gospel for today, the Word of God comes not to the mighty and powerful of the world, but to John who is living a life of renunciation and prayer in the desert. How important this message is for the setting of our priorities.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, shares thoughts on preaching pro-life on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C. He discusses the peace of justice and encourages us to celebrate Advent by working for justice.
God has “begun a good work” in each of us (2nd Reading) when he called us, through faith and baptism, to live in Christ and to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Advent is meant to accomplish growth in this fruit in our lives. By that growth, we then work together to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Gospel), whom the First Reading makes clear is a God of Justice. “Every valley shall be filled” – the valleys where people languish because their rights are trampled, their dignity forgotten, and their lives thrown onto the outskirts of society. “Every mountain and hill shall be made low” – the mountains of pride whereby we think our own choices determine what is right and wrong, rather than submitting our choices to the truth that became visible when Christ was born.
This is a time of year when prayers and thoughts of “peace on earth” come naturally into our lives. The first reading speaks of “the peace of justice.” Peace does not simply mean that wars stop. Peace means that nobody is so victimized that a war is the only way to defend them. Peace comes only when justice is restored.
The Advent journey of God’s people is a journey of fighting for the God-given rights of every human being – from the unborn child to the prisoner on death row. Getting engaged in the work of justice, in the light of Christ, is the way to celebrate Advent and prepare the world for Christmas.
Celebrant: Having heard God’s word, we now present our needs before Him with confidence.
That the Church throughout the world may faithfully and joyfully call upon all nations to prepare the way of the Lord, we pray to the Lord…
That governments may be inspired by the words of the prophets to promote justice, mercy, and peace, we pray to the Lord…
That the Church may bring about effective repentance from the sin of abortion, and the gift healing to those wounded by it, we pray to the Lord…
That the sick and the lonely may enjoy the consolation of the presence and love of family, friends, and the wider Christian community, we pray to the Lord…
That those who have died may be filled with the joy of seeing Jesus face to face, we pray to the Lord…
Father, as you hear and answer our prayers,
give us grace to long for the coming of Your Son,
and to prepare a world ready for Him,
who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
The pain of abortion – from one who knows…
“When I found out I was pregnant, I was so scared and felt like I didn’t know where to turn. I felt like I had no other choice. After I had my abortion I felt relief at first. But after 7 years of denial it finally hit me. I was so scared when I found out what an abortion really [is]. I was so angry at my family and boyfriend (now husband). I felt like nobody was there for me. I was angry at the clinic personnel for saying everything would be fine. I found Project Rachel and they helped me start to grieve [for] my child. So many women feel that if they had more support and truth during their crisis pregnancy many lives would have been saved.” Help is available: Call 1-800-712-HELP.
John invites us to repentance so that our rough edges — our weaknesses and sinful inclinations — will be made smooth. If we repent and change for the better, then God’s grace will be able to work wonders in us.
There is a big difference between a person who has hope and a person who has lost hope. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Viktor Frankl describes these two kinds of people among the prisoners in Hitler’s concentration camps.
Advent is the time to go home – literally and figuratively. For many Filipinos who are living away from home, this is a time for family reunions. This is the time to renew familial bonds. This is a time of reconciliation and forgiveness. This is also the time to go back to the “home of the Father.” God is waiting for us. God is a forgiving God and it gives Him joy to see us back in the family.
Advent is a real rehearsal for Christ’s Second Coming, unlike a theatrical rehearsal in which the actors prepare for the performance. In a theatrical rehearsal, each actor is still who he is; he’s just playing a role, and he’s rehearsing to play it well, while remaining who he really is. But Advent rehearsal involves a real change of heart, an ever-deepening conversion.
In the spiritual order a child may grow apart from his parents’ faith for various reasons. It is not determined instinctively as in physical nature. We decide freely how we grow as children–in God’s grace or not. Regardless, our children remain our children and God’s, like marriage ‘for better or for worse’. But by necessity of nature and by God’s decree we complete his plan and purpose as fathers and mothers ordained long before Creation. Note in the creation story of Genesis, God said “it is not good for man to be alone” after he had first created man. Was God remiss in his remark, “it is not good for man to be alone”, or was God drawing our attention to the two, male and female, becoming one in order to bear children.
LIFEISSUES.NET WEBSITE PUBLISHES ARTICLES DIRECTLY RELATED TO ISSUES RAISED IN EVANGELIUM VITAE, AND RELATED HOMILIES BY FR. AL CARIÑO, O.M.I., FR. TONY PUEYO, AND OTHERS.
“Advent, this ‘getting ready’ season, can so easily become a season that is all about doing. Mostly, we get ready by working really hard,” begins Amy Starr Redwine pastor of Richmond’s First Presbyterian Church. She continues, “So what a relief to come to worship on the second Sunday of Advent and hear the promise of peace…” However, in today’s passage from Luke 3:1-6 (7-14), the words of the “fiery preacher” John the Baptist don’t sound peaceful at all. So why this passage and these words on this Sunday? Redwine explains that John the Baptist’s words remind us that the “true work of Christmas” is not in doing, but in not doing, in letting go and making “room in our minds and hearts and souls to encounter God in a whole new way.”
Where God’s Word comes and where it doesn’t is a clear statement about divine politics.
The priest in his temple, the governor in his palace, the emperor in the heart of imperial Rome–each one thought he was the center of his own little human world.
That the Word of God comes to John in the wilderness proves that these other fellows are wrong in their presumptions. They are not the center, and the real world is immensely more than they imagine, and their power is at best derived, relative, secondary, but on other days entirely bogus and laughable. Somebody else is in charge. Always has been, always will be.
The world of emperor, governor, high priest is shown to be fragile, ready to collapse. The Word of God blazes bright in the starkness of the desert, illuminating all the flaws and cracks of empire, city, and temple. The just and righteous God, who loves this world too much to let it fall into utter ruin, judges all human arrangements, all human politics, and, inevitably, finds them wanting.
Question: What do the following dates have in common?
• July 4, 1776
• October 29, 1929
• December 7, 1941
• November 22, 1963
• January 28, 1986
Answer: Each points to a specific time in which something historic took place. The signing of the Declaration of Independence, the stock market crash, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, the day the space shuttle, Challenger, blew up are all moments frozen in time.
In just the same way, Luke wants us to know that the Word of God came to John at a specific moment in time: “It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius …” And this is important, because it makes it perfectly clear the gospel of Jesus Christ is no fairy tale, myth or legend.
In other words, he didn’t say, “Once upon a time …” or, in the words of Star Wars, “Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away …” He said, “It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee … etc.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a historic fact. He died for you and for me, and he rose from the grave that we might receive the promise of eternal life. As that reality sinks in, we, too, are able to say something to the effect:
“I was living in Hope, Arkansas. George Bush was in his second term in The White House. Mike Huckabee was Governor. The Razorbacks were 10 and 3 and on their way to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando … when I heard the voice of God calling my name.”
Then there are those soaring words of Isaiah, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” The picture is drawn from the massive engineering efforts of ancient Babylon. Straight new roads, not those old roads that are content to follow the terrain. It is the difference in going from Warren to Buffalo up Route 60 to I-90 instead of going all the way up Route 62. For the ancients, this was a theological statement – nothing must be allowed to impede or delay the coming of God.
What a message for us at Advent! “Let every heart/Prepare him room” we sing. Perhaps we would do well to say let every heart get out the bulldozers and backhoes, the rock crushers and road graders:
* There are mountains that need to come down – mountains of racism, sexism, ageism, and any other “-ism” that blocks our way to healthy relationships with one another and with our Lord.
* There are valleys to be filled – valleys of depression, despair, loneliness, grief, pain, any of which can keep us from the rich relationship the Savior offers and that keep us from enjoying the fellowship of the faith.
* There are crooked places to be made straight – yes, there is perversity, even among those we might never imagine; fine exteriors mask rotten interiors of abuse, neglect, immorality, even violence.
* There are rough places to be made smooth – rough places that have come because of oppression and injustice.
There is work to do! Bring on the heavy equipment!
For some reason we think that, if God were to come into our world in a new way, it’d be somewhere like St. Peter’s in Rome, or St. Patrick’s in New York, or Westminster Abbey in London – one of the big cathedrals. For the Jews, it’d be Jerusalem. For the Muslims, it’d be Mecca. For the Hindus, it’d be the Ganges River. You get the picture.
In fact, there’s an old joke in which one of the Cardinals tells the Pope, “Your holiness, I have good news and bad news.” The Pope says, “What is it, my son?” The Cardinal replies, “The good news is the Lord has come!” The Pope exclaims, “Why, that’s wonderful! What could be the bad news in that?” The Cardinal says, “He’s calling collect from Salt Lake City.”
Somehow, we have a hard time believing that, if God were to reveal himself to the world in a new way, it’d be here in our little village of Hope, Arkansas. We think that, just because we live in a small town, or go to a small church, or belong to a common, ordinary family, we don’t matter; that, if God were to come, he’d come somewhere other than here.
But just look at the witness of the scripture: Luke says, “…the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” That’s where God is likely to appear: In the most unlikely places, places that are adorned only by the splendor of God’s majesty. Just as God came to John in the wilderness, so also might God just come to us, in this place.
Well, if you’re keeping notes, we’ve answered the when and where of God’s coming. Let’s ask, “Who?” To whom might we expect the Word of God to come?
Again, we have a hard time believing that it could be one of us. We think that, if God came into our world today, he’d reveal himself to some recognizable figure of authority, someone we all respect, someone deserving of the honor … which is to say, not someone like you or me.
St. Paul is not just being sentimental in his letter to the Philippians for he is reminding them and us that we are safe in God’s hands. He is encouraging believers as they walk often difficult paths. Paul remembers fondly their love and support for him. When he was in prison and others deserted him, they did not. Paul is sure that they will grow in faith and love and be found blameless in the day of Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is God’s promise to be with us and make us what he intended us to be. Theology talks about God’s work in sanctifying us as conforming us to the image of His Son. As we grow in faith and hope and love, we become more like Jesus. As we love and encourage each other, as St. Paul was doing to the Philippian Christians, we too are strengthened in our life’s journey until we are found blameless in the day of Jesus Christ. God will bring us to completion—in the Greek, the word is also translated perfection which really means we will be just what God intended us to be.
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