A few weeks ago as I pulled out the readings for today in order to begin thinking about this reflection, my mind was not on Lent but on my newly determined New Year’s resolution. As I reflected on 2017 and what I wanted to change going forward, I realized that I spent too much of 2017 angry or appalled by other people’s words and actions. It kept me up at night; it consumed entire conversations with friends and family members and left me angry more often than happy. What a depressing way to live! I was determined to change that for 2018.
Whenever I unpack a particular passage from Scripture, I aim to answer three primary questions: 1) What’s going on here; 2) What does it have to do with us; 3) How should our week be different for having heard it?
What a start to today’s readings. We are dropped into Job’s monologue that paints his current emotional state as one of utter despair and brokenness. He begins, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” He describes his days as coming to an end without hope. And the reading ends with the devastating line, “I shall not see happiness again.”
One thing that many people find surprising about Pope Francis is how often he speaks about the devil. In a world that gives primacy to science and reason, many suppose that the devil is more myth than reality. And yet, how do we make sense of situations in our world marked by an evil presence that cannot simply be explained by our human capacity for evil and the fallen state of our world? Here I can think of events like the Holocaust, slavery and human trafficking, terrorism, or any number of other atrocities which haunt us long after they are over.
The dark and cold days of January remind me that we are now waiting for the next big holiday—the next time to celebrate with family and friends, or to have a few extra days off from work. It’s “ordinary” time. But isn’t it always the case that the most extraordinary moments and things come from the ordinary? It may be the phone call from a friend on a day that was especially trying. It may be the family all gathered around the dinner table on a Saturday night, with no TV and no cell phones.
What's in a name? In today’s Gospel passage by John we have an assortment of names applied to Jesus—“Lamb of God,” “Rabbi” (teacher), and “Messiah” (the Christ). Jesus is in the process of picking the Apostles and each of these names gives us a different view of Jesus depending on whom he was interacting with. None fully described who he was or his mission.
We all love good stories. Think of your favorite movies, favorite books, favorite childhood stories. These stories can be simple tales, or can be stories that point to larger realities. Either way, any story has a way to shape us. Over the past few weeks we heard some of the most common and popular stories that were ever told in the history of humankind. A story about there being no room at the inn and a child being born in a stable. A story about shepherds coming to do him homage and now the magi coming with gifts.
Blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones! Jesus is born and the world is swept out of the darkness and brought into Divine Light. Christmas is a joyous time, a reflective time, a peaceful time. I hope you will enjoy all three of those blessings of the day. We can be joyful because God has come to save us in the person of Jesus Christ. The ancient world was awaiting the Savior. In God’s time, He chose to allow His Son to enter into our time.
On this Third Sunday in Advent, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath. This Sunday in our Advent preparations is traditionally known as “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday.” On this Sunday in Advent the Church shifts its focus from penitential to one of joy. It is a shift from who we are to what happens when we become the kind of people we are capable of becoming. In the midst of our Advent preparations we anticipate Jesus’ coming joyfully.
There's something about the shorter days at this time of year that makes me reflective…
I remember growing up with the family Advent wreath at the center of our big round dinner table. We were seven children, and so each of us got one day of the week to light the candles. (I was the fourth child, so Wednesday was my day.) I loved striking the match and watching the tapers catch fire.