Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

(Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26)

Many people will be taking a flight home for Christmas.  Most of the travelers will feel peace penetrating their souls as their plane approaches their city.  They will experience a shadow of the salvation which the prophet Isaiah describes in today’s first reading.

The passage does not identify either the starting or the terminal point of the journey.  From what is known of the Old Testament, however, the journey probably ends in Jerusalem, the heavenly home.  In the Temple there people make peace with God.  They not only experience relief from the burden of their sins but also consolation from being surrounded by others who believe as they do.  The passage exhorts the strengthening of the weak so that they might complete the journey.  In the gospel Jesus is shown to do just that.  But he doesn’t just heal the paralytic; he forgives his sins so that the man may feel God’s peace instantly.

Advent should be a busy time.  However, we must take care not to busy ourselves with vain pursuits. We should be preparing for the coming of the Lord by strengthening one another’s faith.  Perhaps this may be done by finding a suitable gift for family members and friends.   But it is surely done when we assist those in great need.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 29:17-24, Matthew 9:27-31)

The Feast of St. Cajetan is celebrated with grand fanfare in Argentina.  In a video message three years ago Pope Francis expressed his longing to be there on the occasion.  He also encouraged the people to assist the poor like St. Cajetan did.  He told them that when they give alms, they should not just toss the coin to the poor person but put the coin in the poor person’s hand.  In today’s gospel Jesus restores the sight of the blind with a similar physical touch.

In curing the blind men Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading. The visionary speaks of the time when the tyrant will be overcome and the deprived will be made whole.  He probably has in mind the king of Assyria who was threatening the kingdom of Judah.  But the image can be universalized to mean all rulers who terrorize people.  The prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus who has conquered death to become the just sovereign of all.  Jesus also restores fullness to those with defects.  Very often in the gospels he works such wonders through physical contact.

We are now preparing for the truly awesome feast of Christmas.  If we do it well, we will take time to contemplate why God took on human flesh.  Was it not to show His love by becoming one of us?  Did he not wish to share the frustration we often have at home, at work, and even among friends?  More than feeling our pain, however, Jesus has come to relieve it as we hear today.  He is doing it for each of us as we lift a hand to help one another.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 26:1-6; Matthew 7:21.24-27)

Although we think of Advent as a time of waiting, it is an active period.  We should be more like parents waiting for their first child to be born than like commuters queuing for a bus.  We want to be busy preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming at the end of time.  We should avoid complaining about what is taking him so long to arrive.

The readings today give a sense of what we are to do.  Isaiah speaks of a nation that is just.  We are to make laws and build up communities to assure that the rights of all are fulfilled.  In the gospel Jesus admonishes his followers to base their lives on the Sermon on the Mount which concludes with this passage.  We are to carry out his righteousness by conforming our hearts to his selfless will.

One obstacle to the Advent project is Christmas itself.  Rather than concerning ourselves with improving society, we too often get caught up in vain pursuits.  Shopping that overindulges, partying that is done to excess, fantasizing about superfluous “needs” may all prevent us from being ready for Christ when he arrives as savior and judge. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Feast of St. Andrew, apostle

(Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22)

According to the Gospel of John, Andrew was Jesus’ first disciple.  Today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew does not give a hint of that.  Witness the world’s fascination with being “number one.”  College football, for one example, has a system of double-postseason games to definitively say who the best team is.  The gospel has concerns that are completely otherwise.

Preaching the word of God, as Paul indicates in the reading from Romans, is a chief hallmark of the gospel.  People are to do so not out of an ideology to convince others to see things as they do.  Rather they should preach to give hearers the joy of knowing Jesus.  Even at the cost of their own lives, they are to proclaim how God’s love has radically come to the world in Jesus.

Although there is no historical record of his execution, it is presumed that Andrew died a martyr.  He followed Jesus who told his disciples that they had to take up their crosses after him.  Plenty of Christians suffer martyrdom today, but after all we are likely to die in bed.  Let us do so, however, after giving testimony to Jesus by lives of patient understanding and consistent care.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24)

A woman writes of her faith as the glue that holds her life together.  She says that when her seven-year-old was hit by a car, she stormed heaven that his life might be spared. Her son’s life was spared, and she remains imminently grateful.  Jesus almost sings with similar gratitude in the gospel today.
The setting is Jesus’ welcoming back the seventy-two disciples he sent on a missionary expedition.  He is delighted that they witnessed wonders like demons being repulsed in his name. He breaks into praise of God who provided such powerful testimony that they, like the woman who stormed heaven, may trust completely.

During Advent we raise our expectations to see the wonders of God.  We must look beyond the goodwill of Christmas which is short-lived and really meager.  We dare to find in the vision of the first reading from Isaiah our hope.  We believe that the time is coming when enemies will live in peace together.  The adversaries we have in mind are not bears and cows but Palestinians and Jews, Muslims and Christians.  We redouble our efforts and prayers in this special season for a world of lasting peace.