Saturday, 15 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week Three

The Third Sunday of Advent is transitionally referred to as “Gaudete Sunday”. The name comes from the first word spoken in the liturgy for this day, in the Entrance Antiphon: (Gaudete in Latin): Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

There is a similar theme that recurs in Lent, in the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally called “Laetare Sunday” again taken from the first word of the entrance antiphon: (Laetare in Latin) Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.

The first words of the third Sunday of Advent are the words of St. Paul found in the fourth chapter of the Letter to the Philippians, vs. 4-5.

So why Gaudete, why Rejoice? The answer begins in the First Reading, with the words of the prophet Zephaniah.

 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; The Lord, your God, will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. Zephaniah 3:14-18

Israel has been conquered and its people have been living in exile for many years. But now the prophets are telling the people that soon their exile will come to an end, and they will be returning to their homeland. They believed that God was punishing them for their sins by letting their enemies conquer and enslave them. But now, what is this they hear?

Believers of every generation, at various times, have found their hearts and hope shattered; believing they have been abandoned by God, left alone with no hope. So, the Church returns each year in Advent, to address this ancient problem, the Problem of Evil, to gather all who are wounded, to hear once again these words of truth and healing and restoration: “Rejoice, the Lord is near”!

 You will notice that all the serious Christmas stories that we read all have this same theme running through them. In the darkest night, when all seems lost, hope is restored.

Now the true spirit of Advent has a penitential character to it, where we examine our lives to root out our own causes for our downfalls and miseries. Then, the candle of the Advent Wreath, lighted on this day, the Third Sunday of Advent, rose colored, with the name “Joy”, raises up our spirits at the prospect of the new coming of mercy into our lives.

In many ways, our popular culture, with its commercializing of Christmas has interfered with the real spirit of Advent with its rich and beautiful spirituality.

So where does this Gaudete Sunday find you? Are you one who is carrying heavy burdens – be they burdens brought on by your own faults and failures, or has human frailty and the faults of others beset you? If so, the grace offered on this Sunday is meant for you. 

The Grace of Gaudete Sunday is the grace of a clear sense of Presence. I am not alone, the Lord is here, with me now. The Lord comes bearing gifts, the gift is the gift of Hope. What ever the details of my deliverance are to be, will be revealed in the days to come. But first, a broken heart must be healed and given the eyes of hopefulness with which to see - to begin to see how the Lord's plan is to unfold. For me, now, it is to turn my face eastward, to look forward in hope for His coming.

Hear again these words of the prophet:

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, . . . he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love

In the Mountains - William Kurelek
Two Barns - William Kurelek


Saturday, 8 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week Two

Today we light the second Advent Wreath candle. Tradition has named each one. 1. Hope; 2. Peace; 3. Joy; 4. Love. Our First Reading for this Second Sunday of Advent is from the prophet Baruch. He is prophesying to the Jewish exiles who are scattered off into foreign lands. But now the days of exile are numbered, freedom is about to come upon God’s people
 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
These words of consolation from the mouth of the prophet long ago still have deep meaning for us, God’s people today. We too can be exiles but our exile is not a political one but rather a spiritual one. Our enemy, the Great Deceiver, invades the citadel of our life of faith and captures us with the weapons of sin – disarming us of our shield of faith and right living. For some today, their faith is lost completely – they are now under the rule of this deception, this secular age of unbelief.
In today’s gospel the dramatic figure of John the Baptist appears with a call to come back – back to a life of right living, back to faith in God.
 He went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins …
The culture around us is already heavily into Christmas celebrating. But we should not let that overshadow these beautiful and important days of Advent. We should have a two-directional view in Advent, one inward, the other outward. First we look inward, into our own personal life. In what ways has the Deceiver gained influence in my personal life? Think of St. Paul’s beautiful prayer in today's Second Reading; let it be heard as a personal prayer, directed now to us;
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,
Our outward view should be to those around us who are now exiled from their faith. Let us desire to share in the spirit of John the Baptist – to be signs of faith and hope to our brothers and sisters, separated from this life-giving communion with God. Let us fill all the valleys of darkness with the light of faith and good works.

Let us move the mountains of doubt and confusion blocking people from seeing God and his love for them.
Let us straighten the crocked ways of the world with right and just lives lived with courage and integrity.
Let us help others get over the rough times in their lives that make believing near impossible for them.

These things should be our tasks in these Advent days so that: “. . . all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Repeat Series for Advent Based On the Lectio Divina Approach to Prayer

William Kurelek
The Welcome at the 
Country Mission

William Kurelek
The Presentation to the Children

William Kurelek
A Boathouse Man's Excuse

. .

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Advent - 2018 - Week One

Last Advent I posted a series of meditations based on the Lectio Divina method of prayer. I am including these again this Advent. The graphics used in these posts are of the paintings by William Kurelek found in his book, Northern Nativity. 

Repeat Series for Advent Based On the Lectio Divina Approach to Prayer

William Kurelek
The Nightwatchman's Christmas

William Kurelek
A Farm Family's Adoration

William Kurelek
The Holy Family as Indian



Sunday, 25 November 2018

Christ the King Sunday - 2018

No doubt, everyone has faced that dreaded “0-hour”. Usually our first experience with “0-hour” is exam time in school. And finally, the teacher says, “children, put down your pens, time is up”. Some of you may have done so with a confident smile, but the rest of us where in a panic. “Oh no! Why did I not take more time to study? I knew better, but just had to go out and party the night before”.

And so it goes, many, many time through life. Even when you finally become seniors you have to pass that testing to renew your drivers licence.

Well the liturgy, today is meant to be a day of examination; not a final exam however, more like a midterm – thank God. Matthew’s gospel Ch. 25:35, presents us with an image of Judgement Day. We hear Jesus describing how the standard of our accounting is to be measured by the Works of Mercy.
o   “For I was hungry and you gave me food, <> I was thirsty and you gave me drink, <> a stranger and you welcomed me, <> naked and you clothed me, <> ill and you cared for me, <> in prison and you visited me”.
From this the Church has derive the Corporal Works of Mercy and with these we are most familiar. But to these has been added the Spiritual Works of Mercy, also seven in number, compiled from Jesus teachings found throughout the gospels. They are no less important:
o    <> counsel the doubtful <> instruct the ignorant <> admonish the sinner<> comfort the afflicted <> forgive offences willingly <> bear wrongs patiently <> pray for the living and the dead.
In Matthew’s account of the Corporal Works, we see how people are surprised by how they are judged, asking: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?” It is even more surprising when we are held up to the standard of the Spiritual Works. But these are no less important.

Our Holy Father, in Misericordiae Vultus, the Vatican document which announced the Year of Mercy, described the Spiritual Works this way:
o   Our Holy Father writes, “We will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience shown by God, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer.

Holy Father ends with: Let us not forget the words of St. John of the Cross: ‘As we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love,’ on how concretely we showed love to others — both those in need spiritually and those with physical needs”.

Advent begins next Sunday – a new gift of time, a time to prepare, a time to examine our lives, a time to resolve to get down to work in all seriousness.
Yes, there really is a day of accounting – and the standard is the standard of love.


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