Monday, January 1, 2018

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

(Number 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

In the gospel today, we see three groups of people receiving the good news of Jesus’ birth.  First, the shepherds, who have heard from the angels that a savior is born, act on the message.  They go to Bethlehem to see the child who is their Lord and King.  They also tell others of what has taken place to fulfill the angelic call to evangelize.  Hopefully we are responding in the same ways – giving homage to Jesus, the savior, and telling others of how he has benefitted us.

The second group encountered in the passage is the people said to be “amazed” at what the shepherds tell them.  Unfortunately, these hearers of the good news fail to respond in a significant way.  Rather, like many witnesses of miracles later in the gospel, they dismiss the good news as only something “interesting.”  These resisters represent the millions who celebrate Christmas with tinsel and brightly-wrapped presents but avoid the deeper meaning of the feast. 

The third group is really just one person.  Mary has already acted decisively on the good news announced to her also by an angel.  The passage today says that she reflects in her heart on the events taking place.  Thus, Mary becomes the model Christian in whom the word of God has taken firm root and whose fruit is abundant.  We find people like Mary taking time daily to reflect on the Word of God and then living out what that Word teaches.  

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

(I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)

One of America’s favorite movies is all about Christmas.  The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” ends with a Christmas scene, but that is almost incidental to its Christmas theme.  More importantly, the movie relates the message of this season.  It reiterates what today’s gospel and certainly the works under the title of “John” teach so clearly.  The Word of God came as light in darkness, as good in the midst of evil.  The darkness tried its best to quench the light, but it was finally chased away.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of George Bailey who from childhood cared about others.  Things go well for George through early adulthood.  Then the forces of darkness attack.  They leave George completely disillusioned.  He wants to kill himself and is saved only with help from on high.  George is like us at our best.  We want to do good, but darkness – usually, in our cases, selfishness – blinds our good intentions.  We turn inward thinking exclusively about what seems good for us.  We reject relying on God and continuing to care about others.

Today’s first reading assures us that the light has indeed come to the world.  The gospel passage names Jesus as that light which dispels the darkness.  If he is to defeat the darkness that surrounds us – our selfishness -- we must stay close to him.  We do this by following his commands which are simple and not burdensome.  We must love God above all and love our neighbor like we love ourselves.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

(I John 1:5-2:2; Matthew 2:13-18)

Gospel analysts easily show that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have different sources for their accounts of Jesus’ birth.  Where Matthew situates Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem well before Jesus’ birth, Luke has them journeying there from Nazareth.  Where Matthew tells of the magi coming to adore the Lord, Luke pictures shepherds.  And where Matthew writes of the Holy Family in flight to Egypt after the birth, Luke has them going up to the Temple in Jerusalem.  However, these seemingly divergent details should not provoke doubt.  In essential matters the two evangelists coincide.

First and foremost, Jesus is born to Mary, who remains a virgin, and to Joseph, who gives him a name and a lineage.  Secondly, Jesus is born in Bethlehem and then goes to live in Nazareth.  Finally and significantly, both infancy accounts include a reference to the passion that Jesus will eventually endure.  In today’s gospel the reference is more direct and ominous. The Jewish king Herod searches for the infant Jesus in order to kill him.  Jewish leaders will also conspire in the crucifixion. The oblique reference to the passion in Luke comes in the midst of Simeon’s prophecy.  He says that Jesus will be “a sign that will be contradicted.”

The Church takes up this connection between the birth and death of Jesus by celebrating the Feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen, on the day following Christmas.  In conformity to this tradition we should temper our jubilation at Christmas.  We must keep in mind that the mystery of the Incarnation is but the first step in Jesus’ complete sacrifice of himself to deliver us from sin and death. Also, the suffering of the innocent martyrs remembered today should remind us to be ready to suffer with Jesus so that we might rise with him to glory.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Feast of Saint John, apostle and evangelist

(I John 1:1-4; John 20:1a.2-8)

At year’s end people in the United States turn to Time magazine for the unofficial “Person of the Year.”  They believe that history is determined more by distinctive human beings than by ideas or by events.  Whether a political personality, a religious leader or, as the case this year, a group of individuals, the Person of the Year has contributed significantly to positive human development.  Christians have the same intuition as it celebrates Christmas.  We recognize that God has saved the world not by a spiritual force but by sending His Son as a human.  Today’s readings span the extension of the Savior’s earthly sojourn.

The first reading relates that the Son of God had a human body.  People heard his voice, saw his face, and touched his flesh.  He was born, like the rest of us, of a human mother and experienced the same kinds of joy and frustration.  The gospel assumes that he died and also, as a sign of his successful mission, that he triumphed over death with his resurrection.  Now, the readings intimate, we just have to follow in his way to the same resurrected life.

Both readings are said to be written by St. John.  Scholars debate who he was and whether he was one individual.  The arguments are peripheral.  What is essential is his message.  Once again, he proclaimed that the Son of God came to earth as a human being.  His obedience to his Father’s will was so perfect that the Father grants to those who associate with him a share in his eternal glory.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-martyr


(Acts 6:8-10.7:54-59; Matthew 10:17-22)

This year as we celebrate Christmas with the usual flair, we should keep in mind the people of Venezuela.  They are undergoing extremely difficult times.  The poor in the countryside are dying of starvation despite the fact that Venezuela is rich with oil.  In its desire to control all the goods of the country, the Venezuelan government has refused capitalist economic reform.  The result has been disaster.  Many professionals have left the country in droves and the economy has been on a downward spiral for years.  The poor stay behind to suffer.  There is a parallel here with today’s feast.

There is no reason to place the martyrdom of St. Stephen on the day after Christmas other than to remind Christians of the death the new-born savior will endure.  His crucifixion seems like another case of evil crushing virtue.  But his resurrection unleashes the Holy Spirit to enlighten human hearts.  The first reading tells how Stephen spoke the truth to the promoters of Judaism.  Refusing to hear it, they finally murdered its source.  But Stephen’s death starts Paul on a path to conversion and apostleship.  The persecution which Stephen’s martyrdom sparked likewise moves Christians out of Jerusalem to evangelize the world.  Virtue is vindicated and evil is on the run.

Things should turn around in Venezuela soon.  Certainly people of goodwill should not stand idly by while a government allows its nation’s children to die of hunger.  We pray today that reform in Venezuela happens as soon as possible.  We also live attesting to others about Jesus as Stephen, Paul, and all the apostles did.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Nativity of our Lord (mass at dawn)

(Isaiah 62:11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20)

Nativity of our Lord (mass at dawn)

(Isaiah 62:11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20)

African-American spiritual singers have taken up where today’s gospel begins.  Like the angels in Bethlehem, they exhort listeners to “go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.” We, like the shepherds after seeing the infant Jesus, are to make known the message that has been told us - salvation in Jesus’ name.

As the Letter to Titus read today expresses, he has saved all of us through the bath of rebirth.  This experience is nothing less than incorporation into his body, the Church.  We are reborn in ever new, ever strong flesh to love the invisible God in our neighbors.  Doing so brings the unimaginable joy of eternal life with our heavenly Father.

Often enough African-Americans who have weathered many years faithful to the Savior demonstrate the spirit of this rebirth.  I remember the elderly women who washed clothes in our house of formation.  They were almost always upbeat and gracious.  More importantly, they were dependable for prayers to see us through the trials of introspection and scrutiny.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

(I Samuel 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56)

One is hard-pressed to find a relationship between the reading and the gospel today.  It might be asked: “What does the account of Hannah’s delivering her son into the Lord’s service have in common with Mary’s praise of the Lord?”  The answer may be found in a more extensive reading of the First Book of Samuel.  After dedicating her son to the Lord, Hannah utters a discourse much like Mary’s hymn of praise to God in the gospel.  Hannah too tells of the mighty being humbled, the well-fed searching for bread, and the poor being lifted up.

Nevertheless, Mary goes further than her Old Testament counterpart in praising the Lord.  She anticipates the preaching of her son by saying how God has already blessed her, His “lowly servant.” In Luke’s gospel Jesus continually reiterates the message of the world’s order being turned upside down with the coming of the Kingdom.  He tells of the wealthy being humbled and the poor being elevated, oppressors being silenced while the suffering are relieved.  Mary says something similar but pertinent to her situation.  God has shown favor to her by making her the bearer of His son.  Furthermore, he is rescuing Israel by sending His Son as the nation’s savior.

Mary is doing the work of a preacher who brings to life God’s word in present circumstances.  It is not enough for a homilist to retell the gospel; he or she must apply it to contemporary times if listeners are to find hope in meeting present challenges.  Similarly, we should share with others how we have found Christ’s message resonating in our lives.  For example, the marginalized are being given priority when refugee families are assisted in finding housing and work in our communities. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45)

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”  If we don’t pray this prayer every day, we are likely missing out on many blessings.  The Spirit’s thrust is vividly seen in today’s gospel.

In the previous passage Mary received the Holy Spirit.  She was overshadowed by God’s life-giving love to accept His Son in her womb.  She also was moved to visit her relative Elizabeth who may need assistance with her improbable pregnancy.  When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s door, the Spirit acts visibly again.  The elderly woman blesses her visitor while the fetus within her jumps for joy.  The blessing not only gives Mary due praise, it also bestows on her a new identity.  She is “the mother of (our) Lord.”

The Spirit is palpably active among us at Christmas.  It inspires us to remember the many blessings we have received through the years.  It moves us to reflect on the mystery of God’s love being retold once again.  It sends us out to those in need.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

(Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38)

A lovely collect prayer was said to be used in the Byzantine mass on Christmas.  Directed to Jesus, the prayer asks the Savior what the people might give him for his birth.  The prayer then suggests the perfect gift -- a mother, a pure and holy mother.  Today’s gospel reading shows the fittingness of that gift.

The gospel contrasts Mary to Zechariah to whom the same angel announced the birth of a son.   Where Zechariah is incredulous about the announcement, Mary only shows interest.  Because Zechariah’s wife is beyond child-bearing years, he requests a sign to assure the credibility of the angel’s statement.  Mary only asks how her even more miraculous virgin-birth could take place probably because she needs to know what she has to do to make it happen.  Wonderfully she is given a sign verifying what the angel has told her.  Her relative Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, is bearing a son in her old age.  Then Mary makes explicit her submission to God’s will. “…I am the handmaiden of the Lord,” she tells the angel, “Be it done to me according to your word.”

Mary is indeed our representative gift to the Christ-child.  We strive to be like her in both sinlessness and devotion.  We set our sights on following God’s will in all that we say and do.  Especially when this road turns uphill, we pray to Him for assistance.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

(Judges 13:2-7.24-25a; Luke 1:5-25)

We feel for couples who want to have children but remain barren.  Often they seem to be the most virtuous of people – she, gentle and caring; he, responsible and understanding.  Raising offspring like themselves would not only fulfill the couple’s desire but would also give hope to their neighbors for a nobler society.  Why, we ask, does God not grant them their continual prayer for a family?

Children, however, are not human property but belong to God.  They are born to serve His design for a more just creation.  In both readings today God grants the barren couples a son to further His purpose of preparing for the coming of Christ.  Manoah and his wife will give birth to Samson who will defeat the enemies of the Israelites among whom Jesus will be born.  Zechariah and Elizabeth will give birth to John who will announce that the Lord is at hand.  Does God take pity on these pious couples because they pray to Him?

Yes, we can be sure of that.  But we should not see their having children as God’s only answer to their prayers.  It is wiser to see Jesus as God’s response to all our prayers whether for children, a new job, or healing of disease.  He is the gift which makes life worthwhile.  He is our personal savior, who will yank us beyond death into eternal life.  He is also the model of justice and prudence which guide all earth’s peoples to peaceful coexistence.  Finally, he is the goal of the evolving universe who will bring heaven and earth together in harmony.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

(Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-25)

The elderly person had become wise.  She wanted to confess again the worst sins of her life along with a few current venial ones.  She mentioned the sins specifically and by number.  She knew that her time was limited -- perhaps months, not likely many years.  She was preparing to meet the Lord.  The gospel today tells us that accepting people like her is exactly Jesus’ mission.

In the first reading Jeremiah says that God will establish a righteous king who will call Israel from their exile.  The prophet has Babylon in mind, but the name of that city should be taken as a metaphor for all iniquity and sin.  Jeremiah is saying that the king will bring justification to God’s people for their sins so that they may re-enter the Promised Land.  Matthew in turn describes the son of Mary, whom Joseph shall raise, as that righteous king.  The son will have a royal lineage through Joseph.  His very name Jesus meaning the Lord Saves will reveal his mission of saving his subjects from the deadliness of their sins.

We celebrate Jesus’s birth to remind ourselves that he has come to take away our sins.  This is not a matter of “one size fits all.”  We must recognize the wrong that we have done and ask God’s mercy.  But this is all that we do along with having a firm intention not to sin again.  He will do the rest for us.  As king Jesus has the power to make our eternal glory a reality.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday of the Second Week in Advent

(Isaiah 48:17-19; Matthew 11:16-19)

Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance.  It literally means a change of mind.  Of course, metanoia is the great theme of Lent.  Nevertheless, both readings today convey the idea.

The reading from Isaiah promises abundance if the people would only follow the Lord’s commandments.   God will give them plenty, it says, but they have to obey His law.  Jesus sounds exasperated because the people always find a way to avoid the ways of righteousness.  His reference to John the Baptist’s ascetic lifestyle should be heard as a metaphor for John’s preaching “fire and brimstone.”  But the people ignored John anyway.  Jesus has presented the call to repentance in an opposing way.  His “eating and drinking” should be taken as proclaiming God’s goodness to those who turn to Him.  By suggesting God’s graciousness, Jesus echoes Isaiah in the first reading.  The people, however, still do not care.

The Christmas season serves as a testing ground for our repentance.  As everyone knows, it is the most materialistic time of the year.  If we have repented of the world’s ways, we will not desire to either receive or give luxurious gifts.  Our aim will be to welcome the Lord by showing kindness and joy to all.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Memorial of St. John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

(Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15)

We want to believe that every bad experience we have will work out for the good.  If we suffer chronic pain, we want to believe that our trial builds up a spiritual depository of grace to help others.  If we have setbacks in our careers, we want to believe that we are being taught patience.  If a loved one dies, we want to believe that the person is better off with God.  But sometimes such tenets of faith seem illusory.  Sometimes it seems that we are just kidding ourselves.  Today’s patron saint, John of the Cross, coined the phrase “dark night of the soul” to describe this dismal condition of soul.

Some of the Jews in Babylon no doubt experienced exile as a “dark night.”  They could no longer live the law without being derided by their native neighbors.  One psalm shows them being bullied to sing happy songs from Israel.  Perhaps John the Baptist had a like disillusionment.  Imprisoned, he may have seen his own days coming to an abrupt end.  So he sent his disciples to Jesus asking if he might possibly be the prophet whom he was supposed to foreshadow.  It was a last ditch effort to make sense of his ascetic and now doomed public life. In today’s gospel Jesus gives part of his answer to John’s query.

He says that it is odd that God’s Kingdom of love suffers so much violence.  Nevertheless, he indicates, the tide has turned with his coming.  Those who know him have already experienced God’s mercy.  John and the rest of us in our lowest moments have to hold on and trust.  This is what Advent hope is all about.  In the year’s darkest days (in the Northern Hemisphere) we do not yield to the cold night but hang on and wait for God’s glory to shine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

(Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30)

Most of the people who started Christmas shopping early probably feel fatigued these days.  There are so many people to please and so many options to consider that shoppers are bound to grow weary.  Purchasing gifts on-line has eased the burden.  Of course, buying gifts cards is a simple way out of the hustle.  Jesus in the gospel today proposes another solution.

He tells the people not to worry.  Their concerns about pleasing one another, even about procuring the necessities of life will be taken care of by relying on him.  “Take my yoke upon you,” he says, “and learn from me.”  His yoke is the law of love – to love God above all and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  Sharing joy with both God and neighbor – and not trying to ingratiate oneself with others by bestowing gifts – results in a peaceful heart.

Christmas shopping has become a mania that jeopardizes the meaning of Christmas.  Black Friday has come to garner more interest than Good Friday.  But Jesus did not come to supplement our wardrobes, much less to jumpstart the economy.  He came to free us from selfishness which inhibits our going out to others in joy. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Zechariah 1:14-17; Luke 1:39-47)

When Pope Francis travels abroad, he usually goes to the poorest countries or spends much time in the poorest parts of the country he is visiting.  Last week he went to Myanmar and Bangladesh, two of the most problematic nations on earth.  Next month when he visits Peru, Francis will travel to the remote Amazon region where the indigenous are struggling for survival.  He evidently chooses to visit marginalized populations for the same reason that the Lord goes to Jerusalem in today’s first reading.

Zion or Jerusalem at the time of the prophet Zechariah is a shadow of what it was in the days of David and Solomon.  The city was destroyed by the Babylonians and now is trying to rebuild itself without much success.  But God is coming to aid the effort.  He will make the city once again a place of international significance.  People from all over the world will travel there to give praise to the same God.

We can understand the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a similar way.  She is God’s special envoy dispatched to the indigenous of Mexico.  They have been defeated by the Spanish and find themselves being diminished by plague and subjugation. Mary’s semblance as well as her dress is much like their own.  They can feel the pride of blessing with her gracious presence.  Undoubtedly they feel much like Elizabeth in the gospel proclaiming, “’And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’”  Mary’s response provides the reason.  God takes pity on the poor and lifts up the lowly.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

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

Once a man invited family and friends to his home for a party.  No liquor was served, but a hearty meal was eaten.  Prayers were also said in thanksgiving.  The party celebrated the man’s sobriety.  Fifteen years to the day he had given up drinking.

Of course, drinking is not bad in itself.  Nor can alcoholics be blamed for every drink they take.  As Alcoholics Anonymous teaches, compulsive drinking is a disease that diminishes moral responsibility.  But at some point alcoholics must account for their actions while intoxicated.  When they repeatedly do careless work and act abusively at home after drinking, they must either stop or recognize their sin.  Then their abstaining from drink becomes the source of complete healing.

In the gospel Jesus forgives the sin of the paralytic as the first step toward total healing.  As Jesus suggests, his saving of the man’s soul is a greater claim to his being the Messiah than his healing of the man’s lameness. But to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah in the first reading, Jesus makes the lame man “leap like a stag.”

Jesus comes to save all of us from our sins.  He brings forgiveness when we repent our wrongdoing.  As we turn away from our vices – whether obvious ones like drinking too much or more subtle ones like looking at others as objects of desire – Jesus will provide us the grace to live gracious and loving lives.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Genesis 3:9-15.20; Ephesians 1:3-6.11-12; Luke 1:26-38)

Sin has been in the news a lot lately.  Not just the crimes that typically make the headlines, but the kinds that most people think of when they hear the word.  A Hollywood producer has been accused of multiple sex offenses, so have politicians, and entertainers.  One hopes that the revelations will lead to a widespread cleanup in the media as well as in people’s personal lives.  Today’s feast could serve as a prescription for the reform.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception looks forward to Christ’s saving work on behalf of all humankind.  The first reading intimates the problem.  Adam and Eve’s sin unleashed on the world a tempest of sexual desire that has never abated.  The couple pants for and, at the same time, is ready to betray one another.  Their descendants through the ages will inherit these conflicting passions.  But the hope for peace is not extinguished.  God sends His angel to Mary whom He has prepared to mother a savior.  Her willingness to accept the responsibility sets in motion the world’s redemption.  Mary’s son Jesus will atone for sin so that humans can, as noted in the second reading, become “holy and without blemish.”

For our part we must keep sexual desires properly directed.  This means strict control of Internet sites and general avoidance of lust.  More than that, we call on Christ to cleanse our eyes to see every person as a sister or brother.  He remains are last, best hope.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church

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

St. Ambrose was the Roman governor of the region around Milan before he became bishop of the city.  Although he had not even been baptized when elected bishop, he did have a fine sense of theology.  At least, he knew that the teaching of the Arians was mistaken.  The Arians believed that Christ was not God.  Such an idea not only runs contrary to much of the New Testament, it also compromises the efficacy of Baptism.  Ambrose was quickly baptized and ordained priest and bishop.  He continued to defend the teaching of the  Council of Nicea and the Church of Rome that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word of God, equal with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Today’s first reading speaks of  a strong city that keeps faith.  Milan under the tutelage of St. Ambrose exemplifies this kind of city.  The gospel  compares Jesus’ words with a house built on rock.  By teaching Trinitarian doctrine, Ambrose was able to strengthen the foundation of biblical faith in his people.

The crisis produced by the Arian heresy is associated with the great feast that we are now anticipating.  On the twenty-fifth of the month we will celebrate the birth of the God-human.  It is nothing other than a mystery which invokes our attention and meditation.  Considering St. Ambrose, a great defender of the doctrine, should help us be more attentive to its meaning for us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2017

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37)

Last week Pope Francis met with local leaders of the Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian faith traditions in Myanmar. Each leader had an opportunity to express his hopes for the dialogue.  Pope Francis said that the meeting demonstrated unity in diversity and that the diverse traditions should learn from one another.  He added that all are brothers with the same Father.  The meeting reflects the hope of today’s first reading and its fulfilment in the second.

The vision of the prophet Isaiah of a heavenly banquet features the coming together of all peoples.  It remarks that the veils that prevent both individuals and nations from seeing the goodness of others are now lifted.  Everyone can enjoy the richness of foods from other cultures.  Jesus fulfills this vision.  He heals different types of debilities.  He feeds all present, who likely include non-Jewish Greeks.  The fact that there are seven baskets of left-overs indicates that the food is plentiful and everyone is content.

Advent reminds us that Jesus is close-by.  He is bringing us together with other kinds of people and will satisfy all our just desires.  To have full advantage of Jesus’ offer we need to recognize our need for him.  Then we must turn to others, whatever their faith or nation, as brothers and sisters. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week in Advent

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

A woman once described how she could no longer watch nature films on television.  Viewing the drama of a killer whale chasing a smaller whale and her calf left her permanently disgusted.  She said that the film crew followed the predator stalking mother and calf for hundreds of miles.  Then it recorded the killer whale separating the two before making its kill.  The visual experience was so jarring that the woman now dreads the sight of animals preying on one another.

We may think that original sin has caused alienation between humans and God and among other humans, but the transgression has even wider effect.  The sin of Adam and Eve is said to have imperiled relationships among animals as well and, really, among all beings of creation.  For this reason Paul writes the church in Rome, “...creation waits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). 

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah strikingly illustrates how the alienation is about to end.  A ruler shall come from the line of King David who will restore original justice.  He will cast out evil and lift up the oppressed.  His actions will teach everyone fear of the Lord, the lack of which characterizes the present state of universal victimization.  Proof of the new reign of justice will be found when the most vicious of animals fraternize with the most defenseless.  We see this prophecy’s fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  As today's gospel indicates, he brings knowledge of God the Father to all who care to listen.  He humbles the arrogant and lifts up the lowly.  With his expected return in glory soon, peace will reign everywhere.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Advent

(Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 8:5-11)

At the end of World War II the British air force almost completely destroyed a German city.  There was, however, a Catholic church with a tall steeple still standing.  The pastor of the church looking from the steeple saw a single bomber flying near. He thought that the plane would target the church and quickly evacuated the premises.  Sure enough, the church was bombed but the priest saved his life.

War is terrible.  It destroys the spirit as well as the body. It is dismissive to physical structures, no matter their value or significance.  For this reason Isaiah in today’s first readings looks toward war’s end.  He foresees the time when peace will reign perpetually on the earth.  Then, all nations will come to Jerusalem to learn God’s righteous ways.  To hasten the coming of that time, Isaiah says, Jews have to walk in God’s ways today.

During Advent we Christians take to heart Isaiah’s message.  We express aloud our yearning for lasting peace and strive to purify our lives of hatred.  But we realize that eternal peace is not in the end our doing.  We have a part to play for sure, but Christ is the one who is to transform our world.  He will turn the tables on the hostile and promote clean-hearted.  We raise our heads along with our hopes for his coming.