Waiting can be the most difficult thing to endure, especially when you wonder if it will ever end. Whether waiting for a bus in the middle of winter or waiting to find out whether you will get that promotion you want, the stress can be overwhelming. The writer of this section of Isaiah knows what this is like. He wrote during the period in which God’s chosen people lived in exile. But he brings comfort and hope. He foresees a time when God will move mountains to prepare a way out of the desert. And God will do so tenderly, for “in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom” (Isaiah 40:11). The author of Second Peter wrote during another difficult time, about one hundred years after Jesus. Christians who believed that the Second Coming was imminent were losing faith. He reassured them that human understanding of time was not like God’s. In fact, our God is a patient God, giving time for people to be brought to repentance. God’s promise finds voice in John the Baptist “crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’” (Mark 1:3). He is coming. We just need patience.
When have you lost patience while waiting? What helps you persevere while you wait?READ MORE
Advent is significantly shorter this year. Last year Advent began on November 27; this year it begins nearly a whole week later. It makes us even more anxious. We have less time to buy presents, write cards, bake cookies, decorate the home, prepare for gathering, and so on. The passage from Mark's Gospel we hear today warns us to be ready, but in a different sense. We are to be prepared, not in the sense of having presents wrapped and the tree trimmed, but prepared to receive Christ into our lives in a special way. The people of Isaiah's time were not prepared. They had turned away from God time and again. The prophet admonishes God's people, himself included, saying, "we have all withered like leaves," an image certainly appropriate to this season (Isaiah 34:5). But the passage closes with the assurance that God can mold us, as a potter works the clay. The Christian community in Corinth allowed this to happen and Saint Paul assures them that God "will keep you firm to the end," molding them, as it were, into a faithful people (1 Corinthians 1:8).
How have you allowed God to mold you? Are you firm in your faithfulness to God?READ MORE
"He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end." This is what we state as our belief, one of the mysteries of our faith to which we give our hearts. We hear God speaking of this through the prophet Ezekiel: "I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats" (34:17). Saint Paul shares his vision of the Second Coming, when Christ hands over all things to his God and Father, death having been destroyed and God finally becoming all in all. Only Matthew describes the scene of the Last Judgment in his Gospel, when our eternal future will depend on how we have cared for others, especially the most vulnerable and most needy: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. Our judgment then will depend on our mercy now.
If the Last Judgment were to happen today, what verdict would I receive?READ MORE
Live in the now! Be present to the present! Saint Paul sums it up: “All of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness...Stay alert and sober” (1Thessalonians 5:5, 6). Faith empowers us to share the light given at Baptism and strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation. Like the strong woman held up at the close of the book of Proverbs whose value is far beyond pearls, let us find our wisdom flowing from a fitting fear of and reverence for the Lord. This week’s parable of the talents distributed among three servants is not to be understood simply in terms of human abilities and gifts we have received, but more fittingly considered as the invaluable distribution of the riches of the gospel in each of our lives. These riches are to be invested in life and in our world for the benefit of all, especially the poor and vulnerable, not hidden away for safekeeping. Let us be good stewards of what has been placed in our care.
How are you investing the gospel so as to be able to make a return to the Lord when you are called upon on the last day?READ MORE
The virtue of wisdom is highly regarded in the Bible. Wisdom is imaged as a woman in today’s first reading, “resplendent and unfading” in the beauty and gifts she brings to those who seek her (6:12). Indeed, she seeks those worthy of her and graciously appears to them. Wisdom prepares us to be watchful and ready for the One who comes at an unexpected hour. Both Saint Paul in the letter to the Thessalonians and Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins call us to trust in the promises of God’s word that Christ will return. Saint Paul supports the Thessalonians who are grieving over the loss of their loved ones, reminding them that they are called to live in hope because Jesus will bring those who have died to life again with him. In the meantime, let us keep a supply of the oil of good works in readiness to greet the Beloved when he comes to take us into the kingdom. To be wise is to be ready for a future life with the Lord.
What are you pursuing in your life? Is it the wisdom of God?READ MORE
God sets high standards for the religious leaders of Israel in the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi (whose name means "messenger") delivers a threatening command to the priests in our first reading. Not only had they turned aside from the Law of Moses, but they were leading the people astray. Jesus makes a similar critique, speaking to his disciples and the crowd telling them to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees, but not to imitate them. Both groups talked a good game but did not follow through in practice. They wanted applause and special recognition, but were not willing to serve the people with humility. Even worse, their teaching laid burdens on them. Notice the difference between these two groups and Saint Paul's tender attitude and affectionate behavior described in his first Letter to the Thessalonians. No wonder this community received his preaching not simply as "a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe" (2:13). Good leaders are humble servants.
What has been your experience of church leaders? Do you pray for your bishop, priests, deacons, and teachers of religion?READ MORE