Advent can easily become a neglected season. We can get so busy with our preparations for Christmas that Advent is quickly behind us. That would be a loss, because it is a great season for lifting our spirits by redirecting our focus from shopping to consider God's promises yet to be fulfilled. Perhaps this year's four full weeks of Advent might help us to slow down and breathe in the joy that comes from expectation. The Advent scriptures call us to live in a state of alertness. Isaiah's vision from eight hundred years before Christ sets before us a welcome vision of peace in a city where God dwells and instructs all nations who live in harmony, where "one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again" (2:4). Paul urgently adds, "It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). Then, most dramatically, "Put on the lord Jesus Christ" (13:14). Finally Jesus advises us to "Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come...Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Matthew 24:42, 44).
Are you ready?
—We Celebrate Worship Resource, Vol. 42, No. 1READ MORE
Today Luke, evangelist and by tradition artist, sends us forth from this Jubilee Year of Mercy with an unforgettable portrait of Christ the King. The setting for Jesus' "royal portrait" is the cross. From this "throne," the crucified "crown prince" welcomes by "executive pardon" the kingdom of mercy's first citizen, a fellow criminal. The "Good Thief" requests neither deliverance nor salvation, or even forgiveness: "Remember me when..." (Luke 23:42). "Today you will be with me," King Jesus promises, "in paradise." (23:43). Paradise, even for non-believers, is an image of creation contentedly in harmony with self, fellow creatures, and Creator. Today, we "good thieves" beg Jesus to remember us. We promise to remember that, although Jesus' kingdom will be fulfilled only when Jesus' returns, that kingdom begins today in the paradise that will flower from this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
We disciples, having been embraced unconditionally and undeservedly by Jesus' mercy, must now go forth to embrace all others, unconditionally, with that same unfailing mercy.READ MORE
As this Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to an end, Jesus' first disciples ask what every age seems to wonder about the end of the world: "Teacher, when will this happen? What sign will there be?" (Luke 21:7). But instead of what we'd like to know, Jesus tells us what we need to know. Don't be terrified by natural disasters, human violence, personal sufferings. Because God's mercy abounds, all is grace. "It will lead to your giving testimony" (21:13).
So Malachi promises "the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Malachi 3:20a); and Jesus describes how we should welcome the end: "Stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand" (Gospel Acclamation, Luke 21:28). Rather than worrying about ourselves and the future's perils, both Jesus' gospel and Pope Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy bid us go forth to spend our lives proclaiming God's promise of boundless mercy, but also translating God's mercy into living deeds of unfailing compassion and enduring comfort.READ MORE
One of the most moving images of Pope Francis' ministry comes from Holy Thursday. Slowly, deliberately, Francis kneels down before prisoners—men, women, young, old, Christian, Muslim—and washes their feet, recalling Jesus admonition to Peter: "If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). On today's Jubilee for Prisoners, whose rights the Church bids us advocate, Jesus declares in the Gospel, "to [God] all are alive" (Luke 20:38). Have we "imprisoned" anyone figuratively, but no less painfully, passing harsh judgment, then refusing our respect, acceptance, even affection? This month of All Saints and All Souls bids us reflect on our eternal destiny and prepare for it. Respect for ourselves and others, souls and bodies, practical care for neighbors and strangers: such witness affirms that we view our present in light of our future, and believe that, even now, in our midst, stands the Lord of life, the living Jesus.
—Peter Scagnelli, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.READ MORE