We are now in Advent the official run up to the feast of Christmas as we begin the Spiritual preparation we light the first purple candle on the Advent Wreath and we pray that we will make good the preparations for the season of Christmas. The message of advent is clear for us, we must continually strive to work for a peaceful and just world, so that Christ may have room in our homes and our hearts. We start our journey to be illuminated by His Words of peace and to allow Him to indicate the path to tread. (cf. Is 2:1-5). Moreover, we must change our conduct abandoning the works of darkness and put on the ‘armor of light’ and to seek only to do God’s work and to abandon the deeds of the flesh. (cf. Rm 13:12-14). Jesus, through the story in the parable, outlines the Christian life style that must not be distracted and indifferent but must be vigilant and recognize even the smallest sign of the Lord’s coming because we don’t know the hour in which He will arrive. (cf. Mt 24:39-44) Saint John Henry Newman reminded us in a homily for the Advent Season: “Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’ We need to take Advent seriously, for the coming of the Lord will be not just a beautiful Christmas, but the actual day of judgment. With joy, let us climb the mountain of the Lord! We believe that Advent is the time of preparation for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus. At the beginning of each church year we are reminded that Jesus the Christ is present as a person to us. When we think that his presence is something so exalted as to be beyond our own experience, we are reminded that he was born in the lowest of places, a common stable. The first visitors were stinky, rough shepherds.
The tragedy of this season is that we have been programmed to believe it’s all about buying things, about gift giving, about phrenetic activity that leaves us exhausted and very happy it’s all over by Christmas night. So then we forget the 12 days of Christmas and dump the tree and the lights and wait for Valentine’s Day. So what are we really waiting for this Advent? is it all the presents and the comings and goings that families and friend’s bring over Christmas or is it the birthday of Jesus the Son of god our saviour who gives the true meaning to our Advent preparations and our Christmas celebrations.
As we begin the new Church year with the season of Advent we stop to reflect what Advent means. As the weather grows colder and the days shorten, the prayers and readings of this time of year inspire us with hope, encouraging us to look forward in joyful expectation to the coming of the ‘Sun of Justice’, Jesus Christ at Christmas. The Scripture readings for Advent tell us that a new day is dawning and the hope of new beginnings should be finding a home in our hearts. “The Voice of John the Baptist tell us Prepare ye a way for the Lord what he is really telling us is `This is the road to take, walk down it”.
Before they were first called “Christians” in Antioch in the first century, the followers of Jesus referred to themselves as “People of the Way.” Sadly, for so many who live in our secular world, Advent has no meaning. Even for Catholics, it is so easy to pass the whole of December in a frantic preparation for Christmas. So many cards to post, presents to buy, preparations to make, meals to be cooked and yet with all the hustle and bustle the Church invites us to spend these 4 weeks in a very different spirit the spirit of hope filled anticipation. Advent from the Latin, Adventus means `coming’. God wants to be with us that is why he sent his Son Jesus into the world. During this time we look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ and we practice that most difficult and necessary of virtues – patience. We also exercise the theological virtue of HOPE – that is the faith-filled trust in God’s promises.
Pondering the marvelous works of God in the Old Testament, we long to see them fulfilled in the wonder of the Incarnation, and we also look forward to the final coming of Christ at the end of time, when those promises will be definitively fulfilled, and God will make all things new. As we stop to think about the deeper meaning of Advent we cannot forget those who are in any kind of need. On World Day of the Poor on November 17th , Pope Francis said that the poor and most vulnerable can be left behind in the frenetic haste and self-centeredness of the modern world. Over these days we are asked to stretch beyond our comfort zones and to take note of the places and people in this world most easily overlooked by us especially in the places where we live. That is why the money we give to those organisations such as saint Vincent DePaul and the Salvation Army are so important at this time of the year as they help so many more people at Christmas.
There are a number of steps for all of us to take to enter into the Advent season.We can all slow down as we go about the daily toil that this time of year brings. Then, when we listen to the Scripture readings, we can begin to quietly pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus.” We might expand that prayer, in quiet moments of our days, “Come into my life, it is still messy so many ways. I believe you love me. Come and fill my heart mind and soul with the peace and the love only you can give.” “Come, Lord, Jesus, come into this house, into my family, into our struggles . Come and heal us, and give us peace in heart mind and spirit. Come into our communities and let us experience, each in our own way, the joy you are offering us.” And, before a single decoration goes up, we have prepared for Christmas’ and its message in the right way that is in a spiritual way. Advent is about letting God come to live in us it is also about letting God’s will be done in in our everyday lives.
It is about being the person that we are called in faith to be caring for and sharing with our families and friends as well as those who are in need wherever they are and there are many people who have little or nothing at all. All of our Advent preparations should lead us to Christmas which is a time for the celebration of the Christ Child Emmanuel who is God with us. So as we go forward may the four weeks of Advent help us to prepare for the birthday of Jesus at Christmas so that we will really understand that Jesus the Son of God Emmanuel God with us really is the reason for the Christmas season.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Christ the King the last Sunday of the Churches year. The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, this is a way of life which leaves God out of a person’s thinking and has us living life as if God did not exist as we all know God does exist and we see this through so many people throughout history right down to ourselves. The readings this Sunday come as a sort of final warning. Malachi pulls no punches. Those who have chosen to live their life harming others will disappear without a trace. Those whose lives are centered on themselves in self-pride that considers no one their equal will face the truth of their lives that is the way they lived them. Our Gospel reading for this Sunday has Jesus on the cross between the two thieves. The cross reveals both the folly of our sin and the toll sin takes on our world where the innocent suffer cruelly at the hands of the powerful.
The cross also reveals God’s profound and undying love for us. Even Jesus’ crucifixion did not turn God away from us. God loves us, even when we do our worst. We have a God who is not indifferent to our suffering, indeed, he has entered into our pain and the horror of death for us. Christ the King does not condemn those who murder him; while he passes a merciful judgment on those who turn to him in sorrow and need. Remember the thief who asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom Jesus told him that he would be with him in paradise. The gospel shows us that all through his life and right up to his death Christ has taken a place with the suffering, poor, sick, the defeated and the outcast who cry out to God. In our midst he stays faithful to us, no matter how far we have attempted to go down the road on our own; or how far life has driven us. At the end of this church year , we are asked to embrace the cross and walk in the victory of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. What began as a humble event with the birth of Jesus in the stable has changed the world.
As we prepare for Christmas during Advent that begins next weekend are we with Jesus and his call to us to be merciful to the people around us in our locality? Do our lives demonstrate the love of God ? We can be sure that nobody there on Good Friday thought they were witnessing the death of a great King. The kind of kingship Jesus spoke about cannot be learned in palaces nor in schools of diplomacy but among the poor and needy and those whom the world has forgotten. For our king is the servant of the poor and we only belong to his court when we become servants of the poor. Let’s not forget the beautiful truths of faith that we have learned, let’s continue to learn more about them, celebrate them, live them, and pass them on. So that when people look at us, they will see that in our daily lives and dealings with those around us “Christ is King to the glory of God our father.”
In November as a Church we pray for the dead in many Churches over the past few days we have held our annual masses for the parishioners who have died in the last year may all of them rest in peace and may their families be consoled by the love of the communities where they are.
As we come to the end of the Liturgical Year we listen to Jesus’s words concerning the end times. The vision of the future in the Gospel Reading for this Sunday doesn’t look very appealing. The bad news is delivered first of all. Jesus imagines a time of terror and trouble and persecution ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. Jesus says, “These things must happen.” Then there will be cosmic upheavals: “the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven”.
After this catalogue of disaster there is the good news. Jesus looks beyond the time of distress to the final time, when the Son of Man will gather the scattered people of God to himself. Jesus sees beyond suffering and persecution to a future of peace with God . God does not call us to be anxious, but he calls us to confidence in the message we hear in the gospel and asks us to proclaim it in our lives so that we will remain in his light. Christ remains our high priest who has offered himself for the forgiveness of our sins. God knows what it is to be human. The Lord calls us to stay awake amidst the distractions of life, so that we will recognize him when he comes again. St. John of the Cross wrote, “When evening comes, you will be examined in love” (Sayings, 60). We prepare for the day of Christ’s coming by first recognizing him in our brothers and sisters and by knowing him in his word and his sacraments. False securities and shallow guarantees will not sustain us in times of strife and testing. God alone must be our hope.
God’s ways must be our ways, so that when our securities and misplaced confidences fail us we can turn our eyes to God’s saving light. Let us keep vigilant and not be anxious for that day when God who is love calls us and looks at us with love and says Your endurance has won you your life.’
In the course of his public ministry Jesus faces a variety of groups and individuals critical of his beliefs and values. In this Sundays Gospel story the Sadducees pit their fundamentalist interpretation of the Law against what they regard as an unorthodox innovation, belief in the resurrection. They attempt to ridicule the resurrection of the dead by recalling the Mosaic Law on marriage. The Sadducees develop an example to the point of absurdity in instancing seven brothers each of whom marries the same woman, but each of whom dies childless. None of the brothers has proved husband in terms of producing an heir: in that case, the Sadducees ask whose wife would the woman be in the resurrection? In his reply Jesus makes it clear that there is no comparison between human life, shared by all, and the resurrection, shared by those who are children of God. Jesus makes the distinction between the people of this age who live a life peculiar to this time, and the just who are resurrected from the dead into a new life in the kingdom of god. Moses called God the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. If the Lord is God of the living, then he will continue to be so to those who have died. Relationship with God does not end in death: to God all people are alive.
Perhaps the Sadducees’ method of argument sound familiar. There are many who belittle people rather than consider if there is any truth to their beliefs. Most of us have experienced this when we profess our faith. Someone says to us “So, you believe in the Trinity, prove it. So you believe in the spiritual, prove it. Your Catholicism, your Christianity, is just child’s stories. Jesus did not back down he knew that he had come to do the will of the Father in doing that He would suffer being scorned by others for his faith. He would be crucified for his faith. Because so many around us do not respect our faith, or respect us as Christians or as Catholics, we are often called to put up with their scorn for the sake of the kingdom of God. Pope St. John Paul told us from the very beginning of his papacy, “Do not be afraid.” We cannot be afraid of what others are thinking about us. We cannot be afraid of what others might say about us. We cannot be afraid of what others might do to us. Our only fear should be the fear that we cave into the world, reject Christ, or push Him aside in any way. With St. Paul, we pray, “May the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father who loves us and gives us everlasting encouragement and hope, fortify our hearts and strengthen us.
Let us pray that Jesus’ compassion and mercy will touch the people of this world that God loves. Let us pray that when that touch is to come from the community of faith, from the Church, from us, that we may respond as Jesus did. Let us pray that all people would see one another as valued human beings, so that people of all races and backgrounds would be respected, so that the peace of the Kingdom of God would transcend all barriers of nations and cultures and unite a fractured, broken world.
We have just celebrated the feast of All Saints on November 1st and then All Souls on November 2nd. Also during the Month of November we offer our prayers and masses for the holy souls remembering our family members our friends and all those we have known in this life who have passed on may all of them rest in the peace of god’s kingdom. This weekend our gospel story tells us about Zachaeus the Tax Collector. The tax collectors in Jesus time were despised because they were seen as enforcing the tax system of a foreign country. It seems that Zacchaeus was a small man who was anxious to see the person that all the fuss was about; personally I think he was looking for something more in the spiritual sense as he climbed up into the branches of the sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus as he passed by. Zacchaeus put his dignity and the prestige of his position on the line when he scrambled up the tree Jesus saw him and he saw his willingness to accept the message of salvation.
The story of Zacchaeus encourages us to seek and find Jesus in our daily lives. Sometimes we need to go and climb up the sycamore tree of faith to a different level to see the Lord as he passes by.All of us have a role to play in the ongoing work of building up the kingdom of God in our own place. Our task is to bring love and care to all the people we encounter whoever they may be. If we ignore people and bring them down to our own sometimes self-centered level we end up being the thorns and weeds that are removed from the harvest and cast into the fire as rubbish. We come to worship in our churches each week to get a better glimpse of Jesus as our Faith is the “tree” we climb. Our hope is that Jesus will give us a clearer view of where he is in the midst of the issues and struggles we face day and daily. We’ll stay in this “tree” where we meet the Lord each Sunday but just for a short while, then we will climb down to return to our daily lives. The final verse in today’s Gospel can help us interpret many other stories about Jesus. His key mission was “to seek out and save what was lost.” Jesus wants to come to the lost and confused parts of our lives.
The parts we cover up and want to forget and there are so many dark places in people’s lives these days for so many reasons. Jesus wants to make a home with us in the very places we have closed up and locked away. He knocks on the door of our hearts and invites us to let him in to change what we have given up on and so many people have given up on Faith and all it entails in recent times. He knocks on the door to bring out into the light the broken and discarded parts of our lives that need healing and Love. In the days ahead may we be like Zacchaeus not afraid to go out into the world climbing the tree to look for Jesus and not be afraid to bring his message to the people of our time and place.