I was tempted to introduce Advent by offering a comment on the new translation of the Mass texts, but chose to wait until they have been in use for a while. Instead, some thoughts on the season itself.
Most of us Catholics think of Advent as the time when we get ready spiritually for Christmas. That is indeed one of the purposes for the season, and certainly we need to attend to that more often than we do, but it is not the only purpose of this wonderful time. At the beginning of Advent the Church's focus is more on the Second Coming of Christ, than on the First Coming. This Sunday's Gospel (from Mark 13:33-37) Invites us to "Be watchful! Be Alert! You do not know when the time will come." (Mk 13:33)
There is a great deal of sound advice in these words. For one thing they certainly make it clear that anyone who tries to predict the end times doesn't know what they are talking about. But how are we to prepare for the end times, for the coming of the reign of God in its fullness? I believe that the simple answer is to strive every day to be open to the many ways that the Kingdom of God breaks in upon us every day. In Luke 17:20-21 Jesus tells us that "The Kingdom of God is in your midst." What this basically means is that we who believe, insofar as we live the Gospel, carry the reign of God, the Kingdom within us right now. Yes, it won't come about in its fullness until the end times, but even now the peace, justice and love that characterize that Kingdom are in us and around us. This is indeed a big part of the source of Christian hope. It is easy to get bogged down and depressed by the evil in the world, and there is plenty of that. I think that a wonderful discipline for Advent, and Advent type of penance if you will, is to pray every day that our eyes might be opened to see the Kingdom breaking forth around us, and secondly to do our part to help build that Kingdom. We by our own efforts do not hasten the coming of God's reign, but insofar as we cooperate with God's grace to do the things that make the world a more just place in which to live, by helping to overcome divisions between people, by seeing that life is respected in every way and by caring for this planet that we inhabit we cooperate with God's plan to bring about that Kingdom.
As Advent comes to an end and changes focus on December 17, looking to the coming celebration of Jesus' birth, we can truly have a wonderful Christmas if each one of us can say that we spent this Advent season preparing the world for His coming now and in the future and if we strive to let him be born into our own hearts today.
We Franciscans are proud of the fact that St. Francis, near the end of his life, recreated the Nativity scene with live people and animals in the little Village of Greccio in the Rieti Valley of Italy. This wonderful celebration inspired the many Nativity scenes that we all have in our homes today. Interestingly enough however there was no baby in Francis re-enactment. Why? Because Francis, in whom it was said that Christ came alive in his arms, wanted those who were there and who later would hear of this event to see ourselves as the manger in which Christ is born over and over again. May He be born in all of our hearts this year.
Left: Greccio Italy today
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Dancers in costumes of recycled materials I arrived home from Peru, tired but full of joy and gratitude. I was intending to be...
Our friary community has just finished a retreat presented by Ray Bucher, OFM. The theme of the retreat was the spirituality of aging. ...
Today we again broke up into three groups to attend a meeting of Unbound mothers. They make decisions as to how the sponsorship money is do...