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Contents: Volume 2 - The 1st SUNDAY of ADVENT - 12-02-18


 

The 1ST

SUNDAY

of

ADVENT

Contents: Volume 2 - First Sunday of Advent December 2 2018

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)


 

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Advent 1 C

I had finally settled down after three weeks of sometimes frantically trying to find alternative transportation from school for my granddaughter while I had vertigo. I had wisely selected Black Friday deals on-line so I could focus on Advent coming up and not commercialized Christmas. I thought I was ready for a peaceful transition to the Advent Season when I went to read this Sunday's readings... but Luke's Gospel proved how foolish I was!

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus reminds us again of the end times when there will be utter dismay and fright. He says "That day will assault everyone". Nonetheless, Jesus still tells us to "stand erect and raise your heads."

Even amongst the holiest people I know, it is hard for me to imagine anyone taking that physical position with a terrifying assault happening! Jesus, once again viewing things with a greater perspective than we have, reminds us that those dreadful happenings are signs that our redemption is at hand. His words are a sure jolt back to perhaps a forgotten reality: we are a people in need of redemption!

Jesus goes on to warn us not to "become drowsy" by inappropriate living or the anxieties of life so that we are surprised when that day comes. Do add to that "complacency", a kind of drowsiness which is what I think is the world's greatest challenge if not "sin" right now. I demonstrated being out-of-focus myself these last few weeks by being caught up more in the "fixing" of challenges than in the realization of the benefits of slowing down and other's generosity when my family needed assistance.

Christmas is about Redemption even though Jesus becomes Incarnate as a welcomed, cuddly infant. Human beings routinely focus on our beautiful liturgies, joyful carols or soft music, candle light, lovingly given and received gifts, and maybe even a cozy fire at Christmas with a pleasant family meal. I think that before we celebrate all of this and the GREATEST GIFT possible, we need to remember why Jesus was born!

The first Sunday of Advent creates a bit of a forced reality check for us before we receive our unmerited Gift. We do need to listen to Jesus and "be vigilant" in order to make conscious choices every day, beginning today. Living intentionally is a sorely needed skill in our world today.

May we repent of the ways that blind us to ourselves. May we seek the truth of our lives and become more aware of our need for Jesus. May we anticipate and embrace the Gift of Jesus, the incarnate One, the Baby who is our Redeemer!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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First Sunday of Advent December 2 2018

Jeremiah 22:14-16; Responsorial Psalm 26; 1st Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Gospel Acclamation Psalm 86:8; Luke 21:25-28 & 34-36

It’s not the waiting that tries our patience. It’s lacking any control over the flow of events in life that irritates us. It’s the inability to influence the actions of persons who provide service that tries our patience. Waiting for a tardy performer at a concert gives us cause to think performer will be a no-show. As my wife Carol insists, "Patience is a virtue; possess it if you can. Seldom found in a woman and never in a man." Of course this is an ongoing contention between us. As a man, I realize just how impatient women can be.

Our season of advent is a time of waiting, a time that tries patience. Adults have been through this season many times in their youth and in their adolescence and young adulthood. As children, advent is a time of great anticipation. Where poverty does not prevail in a family, children speculate about gifts that will be found on Christmas morning. Advent is a time of bright lights, sweets and a visit from St. Nickolas (whose feast day is December 6). Santa Claus finds a place in this season because Christmas is the celebration of God’s gift of his Son for us. As adults we succumb to rushing around, myriads of errands, correspondence to those we love but have little time for, and in general searching for the warmth and joyful atmosphere that Christmas promises us. It’s a time of magic and a welcome distraction from the usual and ordinary of life.

We begin this season of advent as a new liturgical year showcasing the gospel of Luke. Luke’s narrative about the birth of Jesus is the most detailed among the evangelists. He seems to have been a physician. He regularly writes about prayer and frequently describes Jesus at prayer. Jesus retires from the crowds in Luke’s gospel after any great miracle when the crowds want to acclaim him king. This nation, suffering from a cruel and harsh occupation by the Romans, would have embraced the prophecies of a future king who would establish a new kingdom of freedom and prosperity. The reading from the prophet Jeremiah this Sunday speaks of this longed-for king as a shoot springing from the stump of a tree cut down by enemies. That shoot would spring from the root of Jesse. This is the Jesse who was the father of the famous King David. This promised king’s reign would be a reign of security in which the land of Judaea would enjoy safety. The people of Jerusalem would live with security. The city itself is renamed "The Lord our Justice." Anyone who knows the history of the Jews knows this prophecy just didn’t pan out. Jerusalem would repeated be attacked and devastated – even after the ministry of Jesus. Was this promise of Jeremiah – and other prophets – merely a politician’s promise?

Jeremiah lived and prophesized during a period of great unrest in the Middle East. The Assyrian empire was beginning to disintegrate. That empire had captured Jerusalem and installed pagan gods in the temple. What was he thinking when he made the prophecy we hear read this Sunday? Was God playing with him and setting him up to be declared a false prophet, a bearer of false news? After the Assyrians, Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem not just once but twice. The last siege destroyed the walls, pillaged and tore down the grand temple built by Solomon. That Babylonian army slaughtered not only men, women, and children but even the chickens and dogs and cattle found within the walls. Those who survived were exiled to Babylonian cities and made slaves. This was truly a time of great turmoil and hopelessness. Yet, here is Jeremiah promising security and safety. How can we hope for a better future based on this prophet whose words seem without truth?

In the gospel this Sunday Jesus takes on the violence and destruction of history and of the future. He speaks in a literary form we call apocalyptic. That form looks to the future with images of great terror and distress. Jesus says the entire universe will collapse. We depend on the sun for daylight and the moon for light during darkness. We navigate ships and journeys through trackless deserts by reading the stars. Jesus tells his disciples past, present and future that these solid and dependable things will be shaken. All nations will be in dismay. People will die of fright because of what is expected to come. The powers, the movement of the spheres will be shaken. Then it will happen that the Son of Man will come on a great cloud. When all this happens, Jesus tells them and us, "stand tall and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."

In our nation and in many nations around the world, the distress is not experienced first-hand. However, if we have the courage to think about the people of Syria, those in the Ukraine, the people of Congo, the suffering tribes of Afghanistan, the families of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador beset by gangs, corrupt politicians, and death squads, perhaps we’d understand the images Jesus presents. How horrific are the moments of their lives! How threatening footsteps outside their doors! How uncertain and insecure are their efforts to raise their families.

We need not try to go outside our country to see these horrors. We have great suffering within our own nation. Teen-agers in the poverty ghettos of our cities and countryside live in the horror of gang violence. Moms and Dads see their babies and children denied access to health care, to education, and to nourishment necessary for full development of the physical aspects of their brains. Whenever nourishment during the toddler stage of development is inadequate, cognitive and rational capacities of the human brain are limited and that person is condemned to a life time limited by the effects of childhood poverty. Do not the stars, the sun, and the moon shake and fail to shine and guide these lives? Why do we allow these persons to be condemned, held captive, and enslaved by poverty that could be eliminated? Which of us would ever choose to live in such poverty?

Even this terrible environment of violence and poverty fails to frighten many. For them, there is another terror that sneaks into life. Social scientists and psychologists identify the Christmas season as a time of great stress. Even those fortunate to have enough of the goods and services of the world are not immune from these terrors. During the Christmas season, there is a spike in the number of suicides. There is a great loneliness and sense of despair that comes with the season. When the rush and excitement of preparing for the grand feast – civil and religious – of Christmas, there is a huge let-down. In the sudden absence of urgency and frenic activity we come face to face with our self. It has been said, "We have met the enemy and it is us."

In the midst of the terror that arises from the capriciousness of nature and from evil, self-serving intentions of humanity, Jesus tells us to "Stand tall!" Don’t give in to the weapons of fear and terror wielded by those who seek power by terrorizing us. Don’t become victims to their divisive rhetoric and economic efforts to terrorize us into doing their will!

But there is the terror that comes to us when we are not distracted by activity. Jesus instructs us about that. "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life and that the day not catch you by surprise…. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are immanent and to stand before the Son of Man." How can we escape those tribulations that are coming? How can we survive the evils that want to capture us and make us slaves to the will of tyrants? There is a not too subtle hint in the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. How can we survive the devils that surround us? How can we overcome the devil that is in us, the devil of loneliness; the devil that insists we must constantly be active, seek always to win, do battle to conquer competitors, and demand of ourselves always be the victor? Paul writes, "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts…" The antidote to violence, to unbridled competition, to the loneliness that descends on us when we are quiet is the love that Jesus modeled for us.

The practice of prayer in the three great religions descendent from father Abraham – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – all teach a prayer practice of quiet, of thinking through the messages of their scriptures. That quiet is an effort to block out of consciousness prayers of petition, efforts to acquire, and plans to gain influence. It is letting God find a place in our hearts and minds. Even beyond in religions not from Abraham there is the practice of silence, of contemplation, of stepping aside from the ways of ordinary life to come to terms with self.

During this season of advent we have an opportunity to clean our personal house of what is not essential. In so doing we can survive and stand tall when terror comes. It is a time to realize the wonder that we are. The way of this world does little to provide us the opportunity to thrive, to grow, to learn, to be free of the pressures that enslave us. Each person is unique. Each person is given freedom. Many squander their freedom by pursuing what terror, passing pleasures, peer pressure, and the world holds dear. Jesus tells there is more. We’ll find that more in the silence of prayerful connection with the God of our creation and hope. It is with God that we find redemption from the terrors of the night and the arrows that fly by day. May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE CHALLENGE OF ADVENT-CHRISTMAS

We people celebrate important events, such as marriages and birthdays, especially of family members and friends that we know, love and appreciate.

On this first Sunday of Advent we begin our countdown to Christmas, when we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world and our personal Saviour. So what are we meant to do, during our four weeks of preparation for Christmas? (I hope nobody is thinking ‘shop till we drop’, because that’s definitely not the reason for the season).

Advent is a time to stop, look and listen, a time to look back and look forward, a time to take stock of our lives, a time to see ourselves as part of the bigger picture of both the Church and the world, a time to appreciate where we have come from and where we are going, a time to remember that all through the days, months and years of our lives, our God has been with us and beside us, and has kept loving us, no matter what.

More specifically, Advent is a time to hear God speaking to us about ourselves and our record, our Church and our world. It’s a time for letting God remind us in our Advent Readings about becoming the kind of people we are meant to be and deep-down want to be – people of warm love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity and self-control. In responding to God’s Word, we will express sorrow for the ways we may have become pre-occupied and wrapped up in ourselves instead, for the ways we may have become distant from God and others, and for any we may have hurt, neglected or rejected.

Advent is also a time for doing justice, i.e. in the biblical sense, it’s a time for recognising and promoting the dignity of others. In keeping with the Mission Statement of Jesus that he unrolled in the Synagogue of Nazareth, the time has arrived to use our personal, family and church resources to assist poor, 'have-not', malnourished and undernourished people, especially those close by.

We recognise too that this Advent-Christmas season does indeed suggest ‘let's party’! So let’s show outwardly our inner joy for being alive, for having a safe roof over our heads; food on our tables; clothes on our backs; shoes on our feet; money in our wallets or purses; health and strength for our tasks and responsibilities; and for our shared concern to preserve God’s gift of our good and beautiful Earth in a harmonious balance. This Advent-Christmas season is a time for giving thanks for God’s gifts of music to our ears; for movies, books, computers, internet, radio, television, DVDs and videos which inform and entertain us. It’s a time for giving thanks for God’s gifts of family and friends for company, support, fun and laughter; for the treasure of the person of Jesus Christ in our church community to guide and challenge, comfort and encourage us; for the gift of his Mother Mary, Mother of the Church, to inspire us by her total commitment and dedication, and to support us with her prayers. So, in short, Advent also means making time to count all our blessings and give thanks to the One 'from whom all blessings flow'.

In more Christian times, Sunday as a day of rest, relaxation, reflection and prayer, was taken seriously. In our mad, materialist, profit-motive, consumer-driven society, in which having has become more important than being, and style and image more important than substance and sincerity, Sunday has become like any other day. The result is a far more hectic pace of life than any previous generation ever experienced, and more and more people with frazzled nerves, screaming inside them but unable to do anything about it, 'Stop the world, I want to get off!' The result of so much hyper-activity and so much overwork is too much pill-popping, too much drinking and too much drug-taking. The result, in short, is a deteriorating quality of life, with far less time just to be, to stop and think, to look and listen, and to contemplate e.g., the beauty of the ocean, a sunset, or the face of a child. The result is far less time to share and to care, and far less time to savour and appreciate those best things in life that are free!

This Advent-Christmas season is therefore a new gift from God, who is inviting us both as individuals and as a church community to deliberately let go, on the one hand, of all the clutter of useless and unnecessary activities and of things which are crushing or diminishing us, and, on the other hand, to let God re-make us, our values and priorities.

This First Sunday of Advent is actually New Year’s Day of our new Church Year. It is therefore an opportunity, like no other, to deliberately take time out for better care of ourselves, so as to be more available and generous to others. It's a precious opportunity to deliberately re-plenish our inner resources, re-organise our priorities and relationships, and to make time, more time than ever before, for family and friends, and for all those other people for whom our becoming new persons in this new Church Year, will make a difference.

So, dear People of God, what are we going to do about it?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


 

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