Gospel reading of the day:
At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
Reflection on the gospel reading: We have entered a season dedicated to gift giving. There is much about the way we celebrate this season that has become perfunctory; we often give out of a sense of obligation without hearts open to the deepest meaning of the season. But when Jesus gave it was because his heart was moved by the situations of the people he encountered. To the mute, he gave speech. To the blind, he gave sight. To the lame, he gave the ability to walk. To the hungry, he gave food. In each case, he had a heart fitted to the needs that were before him, and he gave a gift fitted to the situation.
Saint of the day: John Calabria was born in Verona, Italy on October 8th, 1873, the son of Luigi Foschi and Angela Calabria; he was the youngest of seven brothers. His family lived in poverty; he was in the fourth grade when his father died he and had to interrupt his studies to find work as an apprentice: however, Don Pietro Scapini, Rector of St. Lawrence, who helped him to overcome the entrance exam in high school of the seminary. He resumed his studies after his military service, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Faculty of Theology Seminary, with the intention of becoming a priest. One night he found an abandoned baby and welcomed him into his house, sharing the facilities.
He was ordained a priest on August 11, 1901 and was appointed curate of St. Stephen and confessor of the Seminary. In 1907 he was appointed Rector of San Benedetto del Monte, where he also undertook the care and concern for the soldiers. On November 26, 1907, he founded the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The congregation spread abroad when in 1934, four brothers were sent to India to take care of untouchables. John Calabria died December 4, 1954, was 81 years. He was beatified on April 17, 1988 and canonized on April 18, 1999.
Spiritual reading: For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last. (Frederick Buechner)
Once again as advent begins, we meet up with John the Baptist. He was a stark figure dressed in camel-hair and leather, living in the desert. Obviously he was cantankerous since he was challenging the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers and shouting their need for repentance. He was far out of anybody’s comfort zone in that desert not presenting anything but his words and his baptism. Word of mouth must have been strong because he quickly drew all kind of people to hear him and experience his words. Today, we would go to our computers or TV’s and search out the far out and unusual and never leave the comfort of food and home. Yet, I think the change to today is exactly the challenge Christians have today and have to recognize that as John called out the satisfied comfortable Jews in his day, so we are being called out to get uncomfortable for we have yet to bring about the kingdom of God to our world. Complacency can destroy all most any undertaking, and satisfaction is probably one of the greatest temptations to keep moving on and achieving new heights. Since the Catastrophe of World War II the world has moved as never before with human achievements exponentially expanding everyday.
Certainly God has kept up with this, but have we. Like in the dark ages of the church, are we making judgments based on limited human understanding of things as was done with the limited sciences of the middle ages? Christ is coming, but Christ has come and HE IS HERE in His Spirit. Everyday he challenges us to hear his voice, to see our fellow humans as kindred spirits, caring for them as He Himself did in His time. Face the fact you can never do enough, but don’t find comfort in it. Oftentimes, it is easy to accept the maxim that this is the way it is. It is the nature of human beings to institutionalize and organize and make rules and laws in the name of order and right. However, is it right to impose what we think and don’t often do. How easy is it for prejudice and other emotions to sway our thinking and concerns. These often are things we learned and not absolutes. In fact Jesus taught only one absolute and that was love.
Love is the challenge that really challenges us today. It calls for us to give and then give more. It looks at the person and and their good, how the love of God can be brought to them. That is the challenge and the constant call: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Are we ready for this Advent challenge? It is not new, but it needs to be refreshed for all of us need to be reminded that we get distracted, get into schedules, concerns, work and all kind of things that take up our daily life. Now is the time to get aside and reflect and in a sense disconnect from the daily to our virtual desert and hear the words of John to make ready and renew and prepare and have a really loving unfrazzled Christmas.
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: There is an odd thing that happens to us. The less we pay attention to the story of Jesus, the more familiar the story becomes to us; the more familiar the story becomes, the more we grow bored, and the less inclined we become to keep it in our minds. Generations of prophets and kings waited for what we too easily take for granted, but Advent reminds us of the special blessing we who are baptized have received. As easy as it can be to let attention to Jesus slip from our minds, the truth is that the Father has chosen to open our eyes–yours and mine–to see the very Son whom the Father knows. Advent is medicine against the apathy that breeds familiarity. It comes as a gift to remind us to keep Jesus in mind, because the Father has not given this gift of the revelation of the Son to everyone–but to you and me, and because the Father makes no mistakes, it is important that you and I keep Jesus in our attention. The Father gifts us to know what the Father knows, and this season of Advent is the prism through which we can look at Jesus and the hollow space through which we can hear him call to us. For it is in thinking about Jesus and in meditating on the mystery of who Jesus is that we become renewed and excited to know more.
Saint of the day: Francis Xavier was born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on Apr. 7, 1506. He was sent to the University of Paris in 1525, secured his licentiate in 1528, met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre, founded the Society of Jesus. In 1536 he left Paris to join Ignatius in Venice, from where they all intended to go as missionaries to Palestine (a trip which never materialized). He was ordained there in 1537, went to Rome in 1538, and in 1540, when the pope formally recognized the Society, was ordered, with Fr. Simon Rodriguez, to the Far East as the first Jesuit missionaries.
King John III kept Fr. Simon in Lisbon, but Francis, after a year’s voyage, six months of which were spent at Mozambique where he preached and gave aid to the sick, eventually arrived in Goa, India in 1542 with Fr. Paul of Camerino an Italian, and Francis Mansihas, a Portuguese. There he began preaching to the Indians and attempted to reform his fellow Europeans. He lived among the people to whom he carried the gospel and adopted their customs on his travels. During the next decade he converted tens of thousands to Christianity. He visited the Paravas at the tip of India. near Cape Comorin, Tuticorin (1542), Malacca (1545), the Moluccas near New Guinea and Morotai near the Philippines (1546-47), and Japan (1549- 51). In 1551, India and the East were set up as a separate province and Ignatius made Francis its first provincial. In 1552 he set out for China, landed on the island of Sancian within sight of his goal, but died on December 3 before he reached the mainland. Working against great difficulties; language problems; inadequate funds; and lack of cooperation, often actual resistance, from European officials, Francis Xavier still left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which have now clung to Christianity for centuries. He was canonized in 1622.
Spiritual reading: A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The centurion in today’s gospel has no reasonable claim on Jesus to heal his servant. He is asking for something that violates the laws of nature, and as if this were not already enough to be judged unreasonable, he makes this request as a leader of an occupying army to a carpenter’s son in a backwater of not just the Roman empire but also of Galilee. Advent, however, is the season of unreasonable hopes and expectations. Why should the infinite God of innumerable galaxies, uncountable stars, and unknowable planets choose to become part of creation on our backwater planet, circling an insignificant sun, at the edge of an average galaxy? Why dare we hope that God will do this? How unreasonable is the expectation that God would do such a thing? But the whole Christian story, from a poor son of a virgin and a carpenter, to his ministry in a backwater of the Jewish world, to his healing the servant of his people’s enemy, to the shame of the cross, to the resurrection on the third day is about God’s delight in doing what human beings think absurd. The narrative of the centurion, just like the Advent narrative of God entering human history, is about God’s delight in doing the totally unreasonable and the spectacularly generous.
Saint of the day: Elisa Angela Meneguzzi, who was to become Sister Liduina later in her life, was born on September 12, 1901 in Giarre, near Abano Terme, Padova district. Born into a family of farmers, she developed a life of prayer and study about God. When she was 14, she took jobs to serve wealthy families and work in hotels to support her family.
When she was close to her 25th birthday, she entered religious life in the mother house in Pandova of the Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales. She worked as a laundress, a sacristan, a nurse, and a good friend in a board school for girls. In 1937 she realized her ambition to serve in the missions when her superiors sent her to Dire-Dawa in Ethiopia as a missionary. Dire Dawa was cosmpolitan, with people of different origins, religions, and customs. Deeply prayerful, she serves as a nurse in the Parini Civil Hospital which, after the outbreak of the Second World War, became a military hospital. Liduina served injured soldiers, nursing their physical aches, and training herself to see in each suffering soldier the image of Christ.
She became well known, and people began to seek out her company and blessing. Local people called her “Sister Gudda” (which means, Great). When the bombings raged on the city and hospital, people commonly implored, “Help, Sister Liduina!” Unconcerned by the risks, she carried the wounded to the shelters and then turned around to run to help others. She bent over the dying to suggest an act of contrition and baptized dying children. She served all, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, and religion, living a life of true ecumenism that testified to her belief in the universality of God’s love and embrace.
An incurable disease undermined her health, but she accepted her illness peacefully. She suffered and she lost strength but courageously performed her acts of love among the injured till her last days. At the end she underwent a difficult surgical operation that seemed to go well but resulted in complication that led to death on December 2, 1941. She died at age 40. A doctor who was there said “I’ve never seen someone dying with such joy and bliss.” She was beatified in 2002.
Spiritual reading: All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others. (Danny Thomas)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: As we enter the season of Advent, the gospel invites us to open ourselves to the deepest truths about our lives. The routine nature of what we do, eating, drinking, and even bonding with each other, can blind us to the spiritual nature of our existence. This passage from Matthew’s gospel reminds us that in the midst of all of the regularities which characterize our existence, there is always the possibility of connecting with God. Two men may work together in a field, but one man experiences it as drudgery while the spiritual life of the other man transforms his work into an experience of divinity. Two women may grind meal together, but one of the women suffers it as a monotony while the other one is open to her sense of God’s presence in a way that makes the routine extraordinarily gifted. Advent reminds us that spirituality and the transcendent require that I prepare to see God in all things, and so too, you also must be prepared, for in an hour you do not expect, God will manifest Godself in the everyday of our existence.
Spiritual reading: Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up. (Anne Lamott)
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013-14
Bishop Stephens’ collection of Year A homilies from past year A’s is available online at Amazon.com. It is called Teaching the Church Year.
I have a tree-like plant on my back deck. I have no idea what the name of the plant is, but I bought it two summers ago and was told that it was a not a perennial and that it would have to be thrown out at the end of the season. I never got around to doing more than clipping it down last autumn, however, and was very surprised the next Spring to see blooms on it. It was even nicer this year than it was last! A pleasant surprise!
Our first reading – one of the most beautifully composed of all the prophecies – is something like the story of my plant. The plant could be compared to Jesse who is the main root and stem. Jesse was the father of King David, the first of the Hebrew kings, and for around 400 years the descendants of Jesse were the Kings of Israel. But all of this came to an end, the season’s end one might say, when the Babylonians came and conquered as the first of many nations to enslave the Jewish people. After the winter of the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, it seemed like the root of Jesse would never blossom again. But it does, of course, in Jesus Christ.
The prophet Isaiah describes this re-blossoming of the root of Jesse, and even more, describes the descendant that is to become the King of Israel. From earliest times, this has been seen by Christians as a description of the Christ – Jesus.
In the most beautiful of images Isaiah describes how the Lord God’s spirit will rest on this person and bring wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the lord. Some of you might recognize these as part of what we say the Holy Spirit brings us with the sacrament of Confirmation – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The rest of the description seems to describe Jesus and his teachings so well: He shall not judge by what his eyes see or ears hear; he judges the poor with righteousness, he brings equality to the weak, he speaks with great courage, and puts down the wicked with words rather than with weapons. He is clothed with righteousness and faithfulness.
Then Isaiah does more than describe the inner qualities of the Messiah, but explains “what” the Messiah will do and bring to us. These are images of a non-violent world, a peaceful world, a child’s world, with not hurt or destruction – almost a new Eden.
Finally, he brings out the theme that I mentioned last week that would be an ongoing theme in both the Gospel of Matthew and the readings this year: “The root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the people; the nations shall inquire of him...” (Is. 11:10)
When Jesus tells us to go out to all the world, to evangelize, he is fulfilling what Isaiah says the Messiah will ask us to do so that “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” (Is 11:9) No wonder the early Church saw this as a description of Jesus – a Messiah who was not a typical King, but offered the promise of a new Paradise, a new kingdom. Jesus, the blossom that this root of Jesse produces after it has been pruned, offers so much more than we or the Hebrews could ever have hoped for. Salvation!
The Psalm today re-iterates much of what Isaiah has prophesied, with some of the same imagery. The result in Psalm 72 is also the same – a new Paradise, a new Kingdom where righteousness flourishes and peace abounds, “till the moon is no more” – in other words, till the end of time.
Paul in Romans today picks up Isaiah’s theme of evangelization as well, reminding us that the Hebrew Testament says that we must go out to the Gentiles so that the Gentiles “might glorify God for his mercy.” (Rom 15:9).
When we get to the Gospel we read the first section of Matthew writing about John the Baptist. Like Isaiah, John was seen as a prophet as well. We are told that Isaiah prophesied John himself when he foresaw the voice of one crying out in the wilderness. By today’s standards, John was not a very attractive person. He was a recluse - dirty, rather wild and strange looking. But people were attracted to him because he was a dynamic, if somewhat frightening speaker. He was not afraid to tell off the Pharisees and the Sadducees, even when they were coming to him for baptism. To be baptized by John, a person had to be repentant, they had to confess their sins. John did not feel that the Pharisees or Sadducees were truly repentant, but were hiding behind the laws of Abraham, legalistic, and not caring for others. It reminded me of Pope Francis recently calling the Curia a leprosy on the Vatican! John was rather like that with his “Brood of vipers!”
Then John explains what has to happen to be baptized by him – there has to be sorrow and repentance shown because he himself was not able to forgive. Forgiveness came from inside and from God. Baptism was only the outward sign of it. When this person who is to come after him, this Jesus comes, John says, he will baptize differently – with the Holy spirit and fire! He will be able to see the truth in every person and know who will bear good fruit and who will not. His baptism will open the kingdom of heaven, lost by Adam and Eve, and those who are good fruit will be gathered to enter it.
What does all of this mean for us today? It is more than just a history lesson and a beautiful description of the prophets regrading Jesus, the Messiah. To answer that, I would like to go back to my little deck tree which I pruned and which surprised me by blooming. Advent is a time for pruning, as is Lent. It is a time to look at ourselves and to examine our motives for doing things. We need to prepare the way for Christ to come into the world again through us. We need to prepare for the birth of Jesus as a rebirth for ourselves – to prune away the things that get in the way of new growth. We need to look to the needs of others and, as in Isaiah, answer the questions that the nations, the unbelievers, will inquire of us. We need to live our faith to the fullest and to integrate our Sunday experience in a our daily lives. We need to rekindle our relationship with God, using the gifts the Spirit has given us in Baptism and Confirmation, and by blossoming, showing the world that the kingdom, the new Paradise, the new Eden, is possible – even on earth. It’s a big path to straighten, but well worth it! And how wonderful our Christmas will be as we perhaps recognize the first blossoms of our rekindled relationship with God and with others.
And this is the Good News I wish you today on your Advent journey!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese
Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
As we begin December, the new liturgical year begins and the gospels cycle to the readings of year A, with the gospels switching from Luke to Matthew. At the same time the season of Advent begins as we rapidly approach Christmas. Typically you would think that the beginning of a new year would be a big celebration similar to what we do January first. However, the church calendar singles out the theme of Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. Matthew tells us to be watchful and be prepared as like a thief in the night, we have no idea when Christ will come. The expectation of Christ’s return was expected soon by the early Christians, but as Matthew wrote the wars and other signs of the end such as storms and earthquakes even including the destruction of the temple had happened and still Christ had not come. Christ’s contemporaries were dieing Certainly death was the end and Christ was there to meet them with his Father. Certainly the message to be prepared and ready always was one that is pertinent even to today. All of us face God’s judgment, but the how and when and the mysteries of time and space and the Spiritual is really beyond our comprehension now save for the eyes of faith. Losing a loved one or even facing death itself is terrifying to some and welcome to others depending on their faith and their disposition to God. Hopefully, our earthly life is only a mirror or preparation for a future life. How we are now certainly is going to be what we will be. If we ignore God’s call now, What can we expect for the future. But then, remember that all is not lost. God’s love is never-ending and faithful and is always ready to embrace us. Until the moment we have no more earthly life we can surrender to that love, we can seek forgiveness and still be with Him. The thing is it must be sincere and timely. Procrastination can be dangerous as we could be too late. If we don’t know the day or the hour, why do we wait. When we go to an important event, we go in plenty of time. We prepare and we wait so as to share in all the event’s happenings. Yet, what is more important than our eternal future? What have we done to prepare? If we are living our lives right, then we are prepared and there should be no fear. Only you and your God know your readiness. Only you can judge yourself and only God knows you as well as you know yourself and can judge you also. So today we are reminded to look at ourself and if there is anything we need to change, now is the time and opportunity to do so.
Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013-14
Please consider buying Bishop Ron’s collection of Year A homilies: Teaching the Church Year, available on Amazon.com.
Happy Church New Year! Many of my homilies this year are going to be about a theme that I think is very important and that is certainly part of Matthew’s Gospel, which is the prominent Gospel that we will be reading this year. That theme is the the mandate that we have been given to spread our faith throughout the world. This “evangelizing” is quite different than proselytizing, however. Most Catholics are turned off and even horrified by the attempts of some Christians to attempt to convert. Throughout the year we will come to learn the difference.
As we do each year, however, we begin the year with Advent. In Latin the word “adventus” signifies a coming, much similar to the “coming attractions” that we get when we go see a movie. We don’t see the whole new movie, but we get a taste of what it is to be about in order to prepare ourselves for it, to attract us to it. So it is with the season of Advent. We begin to prepare for an event which, of course, has already happened, but which happens again each year in celebration, so that the Incarnation can be constantly made new and kept in our hearts.
Secondly, we are asked to prepare for that coming attraction. The readings are carefully selected to do just that – they aren’t the whole readings, but snatches of themes and sentiments and truths that help us get ready. If we do our job, if we pay attention, actively get ready, spiritually turn ourselves around, we can best make use of the Advent experience and make Christmas a really new beginning and a fresh start. The hustle and bustle of the season can become more peaceful, and we will tend to think of others more than ourselves.
So, how do we begin? We begin by going up to the house of the Lord. This theme, expressed both in Isaiah and the Psalm set up our journey over the next four weeks. Like a commercial for a new movie, the themes of Advent and Christmas are flashed before us – the establishment of the Lord’s house, the coming of all the nations, the word of the Lord being given to us, peace instead of war, and mostly the image of “light” coming into the world. Both the Psalm and the first reading are filled with these quick images.
But it is in the second reading that the dominant theme of light shines through clearly. St. Paul tells us in Romans that we need to wake from our sleep, that morning light is arriving, and we too need to cast off the night and put on the clothing of light, the armor of light. This is the preparation that we need to make according to Paul. This new clothing is Jesus Christ himself, and so we need to prepare to wear these clothes by living as honorably as we can – and we remember how important honor was to the Hebrew! – we prepare by subduing the things in our life that get in the way of light – constant partying, drunkenness, inordinate sexual pleasures, promiscuity, fighting and jealousy. These things must be purged in order to dress in the clothing of light – the clothing which is Jesus Christ. And it is our job of preparation to get our bodies ready for Jesus’ birth once again.
Even though this is the first of the Church Year, our first reading from Matthew’s Gospel is not from the beginning but is the 24th chapter. The point it is referencing is not the Nativity for which we prepare in Advent, but the second Coming of Christ, and there are similarities, of course, in both. Coming the first time, Jesus still had to do the work and die for us. He has already done that, and we have already been saved. His second Coming also needs preparation, and we can learn from our preparation in Advent, that the same things are required of us throughout life in awaiting Jesus’ coming again.
We recall that the early Christians thought that the coming was going to be very soon. When this Gospel was written, many felt that it could be any day – and they were right – it could be any day, and it still could be.
Similar to Paul’ words – Jesus says that we must stay awake to the possibilities of that Coming. We must keep our bodies prepared to meet Christ, to put on Christ. Nobody knows when this is going to happen. Just as we could die any time and meet our Maker before Christ’s Second coming, we need to be prepared for both eventualities.
So it seems rather clear that Advent is a time when we examine our lives, when we sort out our weaknesses and our sins, and we attempt to cast those aside, ask for forgiveness and begin again. We want to have our bodies ready to take on Jesus at Christmas. We are to “prepare the way of the Lord” as we so often hear in Isaiah and John the Baptist’s words.
Today, also, we have the first ‘evangelizing’ reference when Isaiah says “all the nations shall stream” to the “mountain of the Lord’s house.” The message to go out to all the world and spread the Good News that Christ came for all, is one of the continuing messages of the Gospels. I would like you to begin to think about how your life might be a preview or coming attraction for another person to see. When someone observes your life, sees you in action and in contemplation, do they see you wearing Christ. This is the first step in evangelization – living our faith so that all nations can recognize it. More about that in the weeks to come!
I would also like to suggest that an Advent calendar is a great way to keep focused on the time of Advent and to look forward to Christmas. It is not just for kids, but can be useful for all of us, to daily bring our attention to the fact that we must prepare ourselves and cast off sins and weaknesses. We must try to find something that will help us to keep this in mind. If an Advent calendar doesn’t work – how about we try a simple reading each day. Our parish website can direct us to the National Church CACINA website which has a daily prayer to keep us focused, for example. Then there are Advent programs that we can purchase online – daily meditations, that can help us focus.
Whatever we decide, let us make a New Year’s resolution today to try to find something to center our attention on how we can prepare for the coming of Christ. We’ve just heard the coming attraction for Christmas in our fours readings – now we have to decide whether and how we will get ourselves ready for it.
And this is the Good News that always helps us to see the light of any season!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity diocese of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA.
Gospel reading of the day:
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.
“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The gospel passage that we read today was written at a particular moment in history when a lot was going wrong in the world and especially for the Christian community. Jesus spoke during his ministry about troubles that would come down the road, and Luke believed that the things that Jesus foretold had already come to pass. In recording this passage, Luke is essentially telling us, “See, you can trust Jesus’ word. He foresaw our present impasse, and the things that Jesus said which haven’t yet come true are therefore also reliable.” Every age has troubles. Human suffering from natural and human-made causes is not the unique property of any given time. A sense that the end of the world and Jesus’ return must be imminent has been the experience of Christians across the two millenniums since the Lord’s lifetime among us as a human. But whatever the eschatological dimensions of this passage may suggest about Luke’s day, our own, and the final one, there is a consistent lesson that Christians may draw from this gospel reading, and that is that Jesus’ word is entirely trustworthy, and we do well to rely
on him. We should not fear the future. History must run its course, and we need to live the gospel of love as we wait upon our Lord.
Spiritual reading: Divine action is always new and fresh, it never retraces its steps, but always finds new routes. When we are led by this action, we have no idea where we are going, for the paths we tread cannot be discovered from books or by any of our thoughts. But these paths are always opened in front of us and we are impelled along them. Imagine we are in a strange district at night and are crossing fields unmarked by any path, but we have a guide. He asks no advice nor tells us of his plans. So what can we do except trust him? (Abandonment to Divine Providence by Pére Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J.)