December can be a very busy month as we dive into the preparations for our cultural celebration of Christmas. From the perspective of our faith, Advent is a time to reflect more on how we are doing at preparing ourselves for the second coming of Christ (either at our own death or at His second coming, whichever happens first). Yes, we are preparing to celebrate His first coming in Bethlehem, but we are invited to reflect on how we are living each day so as to bring about His Kingdom of Justice and Peace. It is what Paul articulates in our second reading: it is now the hour to awake from sleep.
Paul tells us what we should avoid: orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry and jealousy. Notice: all of those involve selfishness. But what should we do? Paul says it clearly with “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, we need to live our lives and relate to others as Jesus did.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to be prepared, for we do not know when the Master is coming. We are given the season of Advent as an invitation to reflect on how are we living in preparation for his second coming, as we wait to celebrate His first coming. If we are doing our best to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, live as He lived, we have nothing to worry about: we will be prepared. And living as Jesus lived is the opposite of selfishness: it is being able to think of others.
May you have a blessed Advent.
Church sign of the week: Kindness reaches wounds that only compassion can heal.
This weekend we end the liturgical year with the celebration of the feast of Christ the King. The year started with Advent and Christmas. Then we had a few weeks of “ordinary” time before we entered Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. After those celebrations, we returned to “ordinary” time, during which we learned from Jesus’ words and example how we are to live as His disciples. Ordinary time ends with this celebration, telling us we will be kings or queens in the way that truly matters, if we live as Jesus did.
Royalty is not a part of our democratic culture, so it might be a challenge to understand this feast. If you saw any part of the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, you will know that pomp and power and wealth are an essential part of being a king or queen. A king or queen rules over all.
But look at Jesus: he was born in a stable to culturally insignificant parents. As an adult, he lived as a nomad, with no home or steady job. He associated with outcasts and the lowest class of citizens. Ultimately, the earthly powers executed Him. His life was the opposite of that of an earthly king.
And who did he have clashes with? Earthly kings (Herod) and the powerful religious leaders (the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes). Why? Because His way of being king threatened their earthly concept of authority and leadership. Christ the King modeled for us that being a true leader means to be humble, to be of service to others, to reach out to the most vulnerable, and to bring love and
harmony to the world.
That is exactly what Pope Francis has been trying to call the Church back to when he says that the Church should be a field hospital, that clerics should be servant leaders, and that we need to be on the margins of society.
Let us ask our King, who died for us, to help us grow as humble servants to others, especially those most in need.
Church sign of the week: Leadership is action, not position.
A Letter from Fr. Paul -
Our readings this weekend deal with the age-old question of what happens when we die. Is there life after death or is it simply all over? It was only a couple hundred years before Christ that belief in an afterlife began to grow among the Jews. At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees did not believe in life after death; the Pharisees did. The question to Jesus was a trap: whatever He answered, one side would be alienated and angry.
Jesus’ answer is very clear: God is a God of the living, not the dead. The words used by Moses when he talked about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph clearly indicated the present, that they were still living. The point is God has a relationship with us, a relationship that started when He created us, and NOTHING will break it. No matter how far we stray, He is waiting for us to turn to Him again, like the Prodigal Father. And that relationship does not stop with death. As we hear in the preface for the funeral Mass: for the faithful, life is changed, not ended.
What will it be like? No one knows. But Jesus is telling us that it is something new and different, not just an extension of this life. The relationship with God that started when He created us will have reached its fullness.
As we approach the end of another Church year, let us thank God who is always “in relationship” with us, no matter what we do, and pray for each other that we may be ever more attentive to strengthening that relationship, so vital to our happiness and
well-being. God bless.
Church sign of the week: You can’t enter heaven until Jesus enters you.