In today’s readings, St. Peter warns of the day of the
Lord’s return, when “the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the
elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it
will be found out.” Although it may seem that the Lord has long delayed His
coming, Peter tells us that this delay is meant to give us all the chance to
come to repentance, that none should perish.
We are promised infinite mercy but not infinite time to
turn back to the Lord. Now is the time to repent and trust in God’s mercy. The
baptism of the Holy Spirit that John speaks of in the Gospel is a baptism of
cleansing fire. Not even the heavens and the earth will stand against this fire,
and yet those who clothe themselves in holiness and love will live eternally in
the coming kingdom, “a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness
St. Faustina, in her spiritual testament “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” also speaks of
the time of mercy. Through the Divine Mercy messages, Jesus warns that the “day
of My justice is near…” but He also promises, “…before I come as the just
judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy.” This message, like the many
messages of scripture that call us to repentance, should be known, treasured,
and acted on.
During Advent, don’t hesitate to turn to God’s mercy in the
Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let your hearts be filled with love and mercy for
one another in imitation of Christ, so that neither fire nor ice nor even the
end of time can destroy the peace and joy God desires to give to His people.
“Watch, therefore; you do
not know when the Lord of the house is coming.”
well past “Black Friday” and into December, with the First Sunday of Advent marking
the shortening time until Christmas. Does anyone else feel unprepared? There may be a few
people out there with their Christmas shopping and decorating finished, cards
written, and gifts wrapped, but I’m willing to bet that there are many others,
like me, who have just looked with great surprise at the new page on the
calendar and are now feeling just a little panicky.
We often get so
wrapped up in the bustle of Christmas preparations that we forget about the
“little Lent” of the Advent season. Baking goodies and shopping does little to
remind us to prepare our hearts and souls for the most important part of Christmas,
the coming of the Lord. The Church in her wisdom keeps the readings focused on
this kind of preparation. We should each try to put aside a little time, maybe
in the quiet of an early morning or before falling off to sleep at night, to pray
with the Church during Advent and prepare spiritually for the coming Christmas
Follow along with
the daily readings using a prayer book if you have one. Online resources abound,
including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website (www.usccb.org)
with links to daily readings and the complete Bible. Many Catholic families
celebrate Advent with traditions like the Jesse Tree, lighting the candles of
an Advent wreath each Sunday, or decorating a Nativity scene.
There are some
wonderful Saints to celebrate in December, too. Our Blessed Mother is
celebrated on Dec. 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, with
special Masses and prayers. Our Lady as the Immaculate Conception is the Patroness of the United States, so this is a perfect opportunity to pray for our nation. On Dec. 12th, the appearance of Our Lady
of Guadalupe is remembered. This image of Our Lady is honored as the special Patroness of the Americas, the unborn, and of Mexico. If you’ve never gotten up before dawn to attend the
Spanish Mass at St. Joseph’s in Kennewick or St. Patrick's in Pasco, and to listen to “Las
Mañanitas,” the lovely morning serenades to La Virgen María, it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss. The love
for Our Lady is evident, with no translation needed. With a little
effort, these old traditions can renew light of faith in this dark month as we
await the arrival of our newborn King.
"I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly." ~Ez 34:12, 15-16
contain both hope and warning. The Lord Himself promises to gather His people,
like a shepherd watching over his flock. He promises that those who have served
Him will enter into the kingdom of heaven, and that every kindness they have
shown to their brothers and sisters will be recognized as done to Him. But
there is another side to His promise. Jesus also promises that those who have
failed to care for others will be punished severely. This isn’t quite what we
expect of Jesus, but there it is in the readings: “Depart from me, you
accursed, into the eternal fire…”
So we will have
to account for everything. When I think of that, I sometimes wonder if I will
be sent to the left or the right, because I know there have been times I have
served Jesus but also many times I have failed. I can’t count on myself to win
heaven, although I must do all I can to serve the Lord. I must give Him my
heart each morning and ask His pardon for my failings each night. Above all, I
must trust in the mercy of Jesus.
Praise God, our
King is merciful. In these difficult
times, when our world often does seem so cloudy and dark, Jesus comes like the
Good Shepherd to begin to gather us in. Just as Jesus came and drew me back when
I was lost out there in the shadows, I trust Him find those who are still
wandering, still lost - the strayed, the injured, and the sick. Jesus will
provide what we lack, if we just turn to Him with repentance and trust.
us so much that He died for us and opened the Way to heaven. Let us do our best
to follow Him, to serve Him by caring for the least of our brothers, and never
fail to trust in Jesus, so that someday, we may hear that beautiful invitation,
“Come, you who are blessed of my Father, and inherit the kingdom…”
But yes! Invent my life.
Light a passionate fire, a thing of blazing gold, and let me laugh in your joy,
my laughing God, and leap in your rising, my Dancer!
Katherine De Vinck, A Book of Uncommon Prayer
The Lord has
entrusted each of us with certain gifts. Each gift is specially intended for
the recipient, just as the Master in today’s Gospel entrusts each servant with
a different amount. Some of us, not trusting ourselves to use the gifts God
chose for us, may be tempted to hide our “talents” instead of using them.
ago, I returned to the Church after a long absence. There I found the infinite
mercy of God waiting for me, and I soon began to desire to share the truth and
beauty of the Catholic faith with others who had left the Church. I began
teaching as a volunteer catechist, but wanted to learn more. It took ten years
attending community college and a distance university part time to complete my
Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Theology. I then set out to put my “gifts” to
use in Catholic education or parish work, but my shiny new credentials failed
to win me the job I envisioned. So I continued with family responsibilities and
odd jobs that ranged from caregiving for an elderly priest to flower arranging,
while volunteering in various ministries, writing articles, and teaching an
occasional class. The Lord’s plans for me seemed different than my own, and I
often had to remind myself to trust in His will.
But I don’t worry
too much about my failures, because our Lord is not a demanding Lord, but a
generous and merciful Father. Like the Master in today’s parable, God desires
our love and trust more than our success. So, when the day comes for me to
account for the use of my gifts, I will offer the Lord my empty hands, a heart
full of love and gratitude, and maybe just a few pennies of “interest,”
trusting it will be enough.
Don’t hesitate to
trust in God to receive the offering of your life, lived in faith and love, as an
acceptable return on His investment.
“We do not want you
to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so
that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that
Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who
have fallen asleep.” -1 Thes 4:13-14
Another day, another news report, another attack on
Christians. This time, at a sleepy little backroad Baptist Church in Texas,
defenseless families - women, children and elderly - were mercilessly shot down
in cold blood by a self-proclaimed atheist. Yesterday, the day before, and for
more days and years now than we care to remember, Christians in Iraq, in
Africa, and where ever ISIS has spread have suffered the satanic attacks of
those who hate Christians. Whether at a parish church in France, a Christmas
Mass in Egypt, or a children's school in Pakistan, these violent and vile
attacks on Christians occur because they are Christians. The perpetrators often
demand, at the point of a gun, that the victims renounce their faith, and when
they refuse, they are executed. Yet somehow, Christians, and especially
Catholics, are told so often by the news media and the world that they are the
“haters”, the bigots, the guilty ones, that many have come to believe it
themselves. Somehow, the media narrative is more concerned with gun control, Islamophobia,
racism, or anything but the true cause: demonic hatred of Jesus Christ and His
As followers of the crucified Lord, Catholics can expect
persecution and even martyrdom, but we should also stand ready to defend our
Christian faith to the very end. We should know our own history, not the
convoluted stuff of black legends, but the whole truth. We should be aware that
the Catholic Church founded the first hospitals, universities, and orphanages,
and is one of the world’s largest charitable organizations. We should study the
teachings of the Church, which are based in love and truth, always recognizing
the dignity of the human person, while standing against behaviors that cause
harm to the soul. We should be proud that Catholics have historically withstood
persecution by atheist, pagan, communist, secularist, and even Protestant-led
governments, and have responded with love and faith, giving witness to their
persecuted Lord, and in the end, perhaps even converting the hearts of their
So do not be discouraged when you see persecution, but keep
the light of Christ burning in your heart. Fill your lamps with the oil of
faith, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, courage, and love. Speak the truth in
love, even when it’s unpopular, and never hesitate to defend the Name of Jesus.
Stay awake. Be ready.
“The greatest among you must
be your servant.” Mt 23:11
In today’s Gospel,
Jesus instructs His followers to observe all that the scribes and Pharisees
teach, because they have been given the authority of the “chair of Moses” even
though many of these religious leaders do not practice what they preach.
In the Catholic
Church, the pope and the Magisterium hold the “seat” of authority, and even at
the darkest times in history - even when popes may not have practiced what they
preached - that divine gift of authority has never been revoked by the Lord. Those
in authority who have been unfaithful will have to answer to God, but we can
trust that the teachings of Jesus have been preserved in the Church from the very
beginning of Christianity.
This past week,
Protestant Christians celebrated Martin Luther’s break from the Catholic Church
500 years ago. Yet Luther’s path of protest and separation led to the division
of Christianity, and the eventual shattering of Protestants into countless
denominations, all dictating their own conflicting versions of scriptural
authority. At the same time, the Catholic Church was working to reform herself,
while remaining under the authority of the pope. New religious orders like the
Jesuits sprang up, while the Franciscans, the Carmelites and many others
launched reforms, all evangelizing in Europe and beyond with new fervor,
drawing converts and reinvigorating Catholicism. While the Protestant Church
quickly began to divide and fragment, the Catholic Church grew, reaching across
the ocean to the millions of native people in the Americas who became fervent
Catholics within that same century.
Praise God for
His gift of authority, given to the Church and the Holy Father! As Paul says in
today’s second reading, “… For this reason we too give thanks to God
unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received
not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in
you who believe” (1 Thes 2:13).
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your mind.” Mt. 22:37
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is challenged by yet another group of doubting Pharisees to identify the “greatest commandment.” Jesus replies with an Old Testament passage which is well known to the Hebrews as the Shema prayer: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5) The Jews recited this prayer morning and night, wrote it on their doorposts, wore it on their foreheads, and taught it to their children.
Jesus continues His answer with the second great commandment, showing us the way to make our love for God into a reality. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment also appears in many places in the Old Testament, one of which is heard in today’s first reading from the book of Exodus (22:20-26). In this passage, the Lord commands His people to offer kindness and help to the stranger, the orphan and widow, the poor and the most vulnerable.
By following God’s commandments with love and generosity, we touch the hand and heart of God. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to respond to God’s call to love our neighbor. Is there someone in your life that needs your love, help, and acceptance? Do you know someone who is poor, alone, abandoned, or suffering? In what way can you reach out to that person, for love of Christ?
We no longer wear the words of the Shema on our foreheads, but Jesus has written these commandments on our hearts. Christians know that Jesus is present in every encounter with our neighbor. As Mother Teresa once said, we must seek “… the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening… Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”