Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Like it or not, our Gospel for this Second Sunday of Advent challenges us with two profoundly counter-cultural realities in our time and place: prophecy and repentance. As we continue our spiritual preparation to celebrate the birth of the Messiah two-thousand years ago, and to welcome him anew into our hearts and into our world—now, and at the close of the age—holy Church asks us to hear and to heed the fundamental message of the prophets of God throughout salvation history. For, regardless of the historical circumstances, every prophet has sounded one clear and consistent message over the ages: The “people of God” have fallen short of the glory God intends for them, and they must remedy matters by “repenting,” by “changing the direction from which they are seeking their happiness.” Whether it’s by the Hebrew word “teshuvah” or the Greek word “metanoia,” the biblical call to repentance always requires a radical “change of mind and heart,” a turn-around, and reformation of life.
It should come as no surprise, then, that prophets themselves are usually even less popular than their message. And very often, they find themselves either expelled from their community or murdered by the “Powers and Principalities” of this world, as Saint Paul refers to them. It was true for the prophets of the Hebrew Bible; it was true for the prophets of Jesus’ own time; and, regrettably, it will be true for the prophets of today and of every era. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah and the focus of today’s Gospel, suffered beheading at the command of Herod Antipas—Rome’s puppet ruler of the Galilee—after which John’s head was presented on a silver platter to Antipas’ wicked stepdaughter Salome. According to the Gospels, the news of John’s judicial murder shook Jesus to his very core—and for obvious reasons. His execution was the prologue to Jesus’ own Passion and Death. Continue reading →
An old man was asked, ‘How can I find God?’ He said, ‘In fasting, in watching, in labours, in devotion, and above all, in discernment. I tell you, many have injured their bodies without discernment and have gone away from us having achieved nothing. Our mouths smell bad through fasting, we know the Scriptures by heart, we can recite all the psalms of David, but we have not that which God seeks: charity and humility.’
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Well, here we are this morning, at both the beginning of a new Church year and our first liturgy together as a brand new congregation. I can’t speak for you, but for me, the First Sunday of Advent has always been my personal “New Year’s Day.” And it is even more so this year because today, our formerly two parishes are now (finally) one.
Now, in the bad-old-days of political incorrectness, when we marked recorded history with the designations “B.C.” or “Before Christ” and “Anno Domino” or “In the Year of Our Lord,” this First Sunday of Advent would have been the first day of the two-thousand and sixteenth “Year of our Lord.” And while Jews and Muslims—our sisters and brothers in the Abrahamic faith—still proudly keep their own religious calendars and mark their years according to their own reckoning, we “thoroughly modern” Christians have foresworn our legacy and now carefully avoid offense with the bland designation “CE” for the “Common Era.” And perhaps, after centuries of anti-Judaism, Eurocentrism, and Christian supersessionism, we Christians are right to observe this small courtesy toward our Jewish and Muslim neighbors and fellow believers in the one “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Blessed be He—especially in these fraught times. Continue reading →
Today’s scripture readings tell of two pitfalls in the spiritual life. The first, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, is a lack of generosity. Paul writes: “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.” Today’s passage is part of a letter in which Paul encourages the Corinthians to contribute to a donation for the poor in Jerusalem. If the Corinthians give grudgingly (or reluctantly, or with a tight fist) Paul says that they will receive the same in return. “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.” A lack of generosity pinches on and constricts our spiritual life. Continue reading →