Saturday, December 3, 2016

Second Week of Advent
from Immersed in Christ

Appreciating and Accepting Jesus as “Son of David” — who gives a guiding goal to all human endeavor

December 4, 2016

Jesus Gives Meaning to Life


Where do I think the world is going? Do I feel empowered to affect it? What role do I think Jesus plays in the transformation of society?

The Entrance Antiphon is a summons to hope: “The Lord will come to save all nations.” Does my “heart exult” to hear this?


The Opening Prayer reminds us that God is a God of both “power” (he can bring about changes in the world) and “mercy”(he wants to).

“God of mercy” reminds us that to “have mercy” means to “come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship.” Because we are “in Christ” we are God’s family: children of the Father, brothers and sisters of one another. When people grow into such awareness of this relationship that all power on earth is used with mercy, we will all live together as one family in a world of justice and peace.

The Alternate Opening Prayer tells us the renewal of society has begun: “The day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world.” Christians believe it is happening now. It began with Jesus. The “reign of God” is at hand. Advent alerts us to this.

But there is opposition, both in our own hearts and in others. So we enter Advent with a prayer that the “lure of greed” will not keep us from God’s joy and “the darkness will not blind us” to his truth and wisdom.

The call of the King:

The Responsorial Psalm gives us the theme of the readings: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” It all begins with Jesus. This is our guiding goal.

Isaiah 11: 1-10 announced the birth of Jesus as the beginning of renewal: “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse” (King David’s father). Jesus, as the promised “Son of David” (2Samuel 7: 11-17), will establish the reign of God on earth.

But Jesus will not rule like the governments we know. The “spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” — not a spirit of violence and domination, or of short-sighted focus on only one nation’s prosperity and security. His will be a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and courage, of knowledge enlightened by reverence for all that is sacred. “Not by appearance shall he judge,” or be swayed by the prejudices and pressures of the powerful. He will “decide aright for the land’s afflicted.” He will bring justice and mercy to the world.

The result will be the reign of God on earth: “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface for the feast of Christ the King). The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, and there shall be “no harm or ruin on all God’s holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea.”

“Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” But to bring this about we have to rally to Jesus — gather with him, learn from him and work with him according to his spirit: the spirit described above. He is “set up as a signal for the nations.” Advent is a summons to answer his call.

New root, new fruit:

Matthew 3:1-12 is a call to reform our lives from the roots up. This is the necessary condition for the renewal of society. The call to accept and follow Jesus is a call to re-structure our lives. John the Baptizer begins his preaching with the word “repent,” which is a poor English translation of the Greek metanoiete. In Scripture, to “repent” means to change one’s mind, to change one’s direction in life. It is always a joyful word in Scripture, because it is always coupled with God’s promise to give us a “new heart and a new spirit,” and so bring us into the fullness of life (see Ezekiel 11:19, 18:31).

John calls us, not just to “repent” of recognized sins, but to go to the root of all our sins and change that: “The ax is lying at the root of the trees.” If we change the root, all the fruit will change. The call to accept the reign of God is a call to give God “root and fruit.”

The “good fruit” we are called to bear is not just acceptable human behavior. It is the fruit of grace, the life of God within us, and we can only give it by the power of the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts. John was able to offer people a baptism that was a human gesture of repentance, of willingness to change. But he said this was just a preliminary: “The one coming after me is mightier than I…. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus will bring about changes in us beyond our power to “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And, working through us, he will bring into being on earth a kingdom of justice, love and peace equally beyond our power to ask or imagine. “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”

But the condition for this is a conversion on our part that is “radical,” that touches the roots of our existence.

We return to the question: “In what do I seek fulfillment? Where do I expect to find happiness?” The answer gives direction to my life. The overall or ultimate goal I am aiming at is the deep root of every choice I make. What I choose to do springs from what I see as leading to a preferred and possible fulfillment. So I need to know consciously what “fulfillment’ means for me.

One element of fulfillment is certainly the assurance that our lives are counting for something on earth; that our time here is not being wasted but is producing something of value.

What is more valuable than to work with Jesus Christ to bring about the reign of God on earth?

The kind of world that human efforts could never produce is promised and possible. Jesus has come to bring it about. This is the message of Advent: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand! “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”

To work with Jesus to bring this about can be the guiding goal of my life — if I choose to make it that. This week poses the question.

Trust and praise:

Romans 15: 4-9 tells us that if we accept the truth of Scripture and carry it out in action, we grow in hope. This is a hope based on instruction that addresses our intellects, encouragement that addresses our wills, and perseverance in living the Gospel that gives confirmation through experience. “Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Paul is telling the early Christians, who were divided over issues of law-observance, that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:10), and so they should not be “quarreling over opinions” (14:1), but “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (14:19). By keeping focused on what Jesus came to do, and by living in peace with each other, we will encourage each other to believe in God’s promises and in Jesus as fulfilling them.

But for us all to become aware of the Good News we have to celebrate it. Otherwise instruction can remain pure theory and Christian witness can go unnoticed. When Jesus came to “confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,” an important element in the process was that the Gentiles should “glorify God for his mercy.” That is why each of us must join the Psalmist in saying, “I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name."

So that people might be aware that they believe and appreciate the Good News, Scripture insists on celebration: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people,” and “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, let all the peoples praise him.”

Paul repeats Isaiah’s prophecy: "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope." And he concludes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the spirit of Advent!


If I make it the goal of my life to help Jesus establish the reign of God on earth, how could this affect my home life? Social life? School or professional life? What changes can I dream of that are “far more than all we can ask or imagine”?


Write out the goal of your life. Can you see the connection between it and the major choices you have made in your family, social and professional life?


December 5, 2016
MONDAY, Advent week two:

We Work In The Now, But We Wait For The Then.

The Responsorial Psalm is our song of support as we work for change: “Our God will come to save us!” (Psalm 85).

To take on a task as daunting as the renovation of human society all over the world, we need something to encourage us! And we find it in Isaiah 35: 1-10: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: ‘Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…. He comes to save you.’ ”

People can’t see the truth? “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened.” People won’t listen? “The ears of the deaf will be cleared.” People are just unable or unwilling to act or respond? “Then will the lame leap like a stag; the tongue of the mute will sing.”

To find courage we must believe in what God can do. And when we don’t see visible results we look ahead, to the “end times,” when Christ’s victory will be complete. The fact is that, sooner or later, if we persevere in working to establish the reign of God on earth, “The desert and the parched land will exult…. Streams will burst forth in the desert…. And those whom the Lord has ransomed will… enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” We work to make it happen now, but we wait for it to happen in God’s time. What we know for certain is, “Our God will come to save us!” That is a certain fact.

It is true that at times the world seems paralyzed. In Luke 5: 17-26 Jesus tells us why. When some men brought to him a man so paralyzed he could do nothing but lie on a mat, the first thing Jesus said to him was, “My friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

Jesus was making a point. Sins don’t cause physical paralysis. But sin is the source of moral paralysis. If society seems unable to break out of established patterns of exploitation, violence and deceit, this inflexibility is the inertia of sin.

Jesus can cure that. He healed the paralyzed man to prove it: “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

When the man did get up and walk, the crowd was “full of awe,” and they “gave praise to God…. ‘We have seen incredible things today!’”

Advent is a time to think about what Jesus can do, what we can do working with him, and to come to some decisions about that.

“Our God will come to save us!” Are we ready to go with him?

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Use Jesus. When discouraged, say, “Our God will come to save us!” And keep going.


December 6, 2016
TUESDAY, Advent week two:
The Strength Of Invincible Weakness

The Responsorial Psalm tells us what to rely on in seeking to change the world: “The Lord our God comes in strength” (Isaiah 40).

When Isaiah 40: 1-11 tells us “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed….” he uses the language of power. God “rules by his strong arm.” But God doesn’t use “strong-arm” tactics. Rather, “like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs… leading the ewes with care.”

In the Old Testament deeds of evident power revealed the “glory of the Lord”: impressive signs and military victories over enemies. But in Jesus Christ the New Testament reveals the “glory of the Lord” in a very different way.

When the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace….” (Luke 2:14), it was because Jesus was born as a weak infant in a poor stable in Bethlehem.

In Jesus the power of God is revealed in weakness. When “the Lord our God comes in strength,” it is the strength of vulnerability, gentleness, and love. This is the strength that overcomes sin, transforms hearts and renews the face of the earth. This is the strength we must trust in.

This strength seeks, not only to change people by changing the environment, but primarily to change the environment by changing people. The “reign of God” exists only in the measure that our hearts freely surrender to him.

To work with Jesus, then, in establishing the “reign of God,” we must focus above all on loving, nurturing, forgiving and forming human persons. Changing people, winning their hearts, is what it’s all about. For this the only power that succeeds is the power of truth and love.

In Matthew 18: 12-14 we see how Jesus exercises his power. As the Good Shepherd, he goes in search of the lost sheep, puts it on his shoulders, and brings it home. And he tells us that this is what God wills: “It is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.”

We are called to find meaning in life, the highest meaning and value there is, in doing what Jesus did: caring for his sheep. For this we don’t need great talents, training, money, connections, or special circumstances. We just have to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ and let him love every person on earth through us.

This is the way that “The Lord our God comes in strength.” Does this give you confidence?

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Imitate Jesus. Decide now to find your fulfillment in showing love to every person you meet.

December 7, 2016
WEDNESDAY, Advent week two:

We Can Do What Christ Does

The Responsorial Psalm gives us an answer to discouragement: “O bless the Lord, my soul!” (Psalm 103).

Discouragement is the greatest obstacle we have to overcome in seeking fulfillment in life. After all, to be totally fulfilled, to live life “to the full,” is to be like God. And Isaiah 40: 25-31 quotes God asking: “To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal?”

And yet, Jesus said that the goal of his life was just this: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

To be “full” is to be filled to our capacity, whatever that is. Since the human mind can know God exists, we can never be totally satisfied until we know God as he is — which is beyond human nature. We, alone among creatures, have a desire for something we cannot attain. There is something in us that is open — and longing — for a fulfillment that nothing in us can achieve. Yet Jesus came to give “life to the full.” And he said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

That is why it is in Jesus alone that we can find “life to the full.” By being incorporated into him at Baptism, we share in his divine life. “In Christ” we are “sons in the Son,” children of God who share in God’s own divine nature and life. “In Christ” we know God by sharing in God’s own act of knowing himself.

“In Christ” we can also do what Christ does. “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do….” “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing “ (John 14:12, 15:5). This is why Paul said, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “O bless the Lord, my soul!”

In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus draws the conclusion: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To succeed, let Jesus work with you, in you and through you. When you feel down, “Lift up your eyes on high…. The Lord does not faint nor grow weary…. They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings.” When you feel discouraged remind yourself, “Jesus Christ is acting with me, in me, and through me! O bless the Lord, my soul!”

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Work with Jesus. Keep saying the WIT prayer all day: “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me. Let me think with your thoughts and speak with your words and act as your body on earth.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Does Your Soul “Magnify The Lord”?

Appreciating God “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”

Does the fact of the Immaculate Conception of Mary say anything to you about your own life? What is there in this feast that you feel like celebrating?

The Entrance Antiphon quotes Isaiah 61:10: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Are these words just for Mary, or can we all say them?

Paul VI calls this feast is “a joint celebration” of three things: “of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, of the basic preparation for the coming of the Savior (Isaiah 11:1, 10), and of the happy beginning of the Church without spot or wrinkle.” This is a challenge to faith: can you really see yourself as “perfect” in heaven? Do you believe no trace of any sin you ever committed will remain? That you will be as totally free of sin and all its consequences as the Blessed Virgin Mary? That everyone there — in fact, the whole redeemed human race — will be “without spot or wrinkle,” totally without “blemish” or “blame”? Is that something to exult in?[1]

The Introductory Rites at Mass call us to “rejoice in the Lord” for all he is and has done, but especially for the Good News. We would not understand the Good News nearly as well if it were not for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This feast clarifies what the end result of Christ’s coming will be for us.

The Opening Prayer tells us God let Mary “share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring... and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.” The power to preserve is the power to restore. The Preface calls her “our pattern of holiness,” God’s “sign of favor to the Church in its beginning and the promise of its perfection as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty.” What Mary was from the beginning of her life, we will be at the end of ours. The Preface for the feast of the Assumption, sees in Mary “the “pattern of the Church in its perfection,” and sees that perfection realized already in the beginning. So it cries out to God in praise, “She is a “sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.” That is what we celebrate

The first reading from Genesis 3:9-20 shows us ‘the beginning and the pattern” of the human race in its sinfulness. The sad story of Adam and Eve’s unfaithfulness to God has been repeated countless times in human history and is still being repeated every day. Adam and Eve just weren’t grateful enough for what they had. And they weren’t conscious enough — although perfectly cognizant — of where it came from. They actually thought for a moment that they could enhance their being by acting in opposition to Being Itself. They thought they could have more by trying to be independent of the One from whom everything comes. That they could make the gift of life better in separation from the Giver.

We ourselves do it all the time. What is sin but the same stupidity? And what will protect us against it?

Suppose you had been created as an adult. One minute you didn’t exist; the next you are looking at God, who makes himself visible to you and explains that he has just created you. And has created everything else you see, just for your benefit and pleasure. How would you feel about God?

How would you feel then about everything you experienced? The beauty of plants and stars and planets, of animals, trees and birds. The taste of fresh fruits, vegetables, gourmet cuisine and candy. The sounds of surf and storm and silence. The fragrance of flowers, food and fresh air. The feel of rocks and trees and earth, of cool air and warm bodies. The joy of intellectual insights and aesthetic appreciation, of discovery and daring choices. You would know, you would be conscious, that God invented and designed all these things, was giving them existence right now so that you could use and enjoy them.

And giving you existence too. Creation is not a one-time act. It is ongoing. If God stops saying “Be-e-e-e-e...” we would just cease to exist. Turn into nothingness. God is in us and in everything we see: “breathing out” existence. If you were always conscious of that, how would you feel about God?

Wouldn’t you walk around in a constant state of admiration, appreciation and praise? Could you even consider sinning against him if you were still in the glow of having been brought into existence by him? Of being held in existence by his continuing desire? What can keep us in that glow?

Praise. Constant praise. Praise all day long. Praise upon waking. Praise for everything you experience and find yourself able to do. Praise for everything he is revealing and has revealed of himself. The Responsorial (Psalm 98) sums it all up: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.” He has. So do.

The dimensions of praise:
Ephesians 1:3-12 expands our understanding of what we have to praise God for. “In Christ,” Paul says, God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” And he spells out the main ones:

• to be chosen;
• to be holy and blameless in his sight;
• to be full of love;
• to be his children: sons and daughters “in the Son”;
• to receive his glorious grace freely bestowed on us in the Beloved;
• to be redeemed through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins;
• to know the mystery of his plan to “gather up all things in him”;
• to be destined to live for the praise of his glory.

This is our inheritance.

Advent would be a good time to think about each one of these — calmly, reflectively, prayerfully. Asking what each one means and has meant to you.

During Mass, be quietly alert to how many of these blessings are echoed. Listen for them especially during the Introductory Rites. Let them inspire and guide you, as they are designed to do, to “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

A New Start
Luke 1:26-38 is the new Genesis story. There is a woman: Mary. And an angel speaks to her, as one did to Eve in the garden. She is at first “troubled” or “perplexed” by his words, as we can presume Eve was at first by the suggestion of the serpent. The angel’s words contain a promise, as the words of Satan did. Mary believed in the promise, as Eve believed in the promise made to her. Both accepted to do what they were urged to do. What was the difference between them?

Mary was listening to good; Eve to evil. What Eve was urged to do was disobedience; God had forbidden it. What Mary was urged to do was obedience; God was asking it. Eve acted in pride, wanting to be “like God.” Mary acted in humility, wanting only to serve God. Because of Eve’s “Yes,” the human race was deprived of grace, the gift of being like God. Because of Mary’s “Yes,” all who echoed her would become like God in a way beyond imagination: by sharing in the divine life of God himself. Because of the fruit Eve took, until the end of time the “fruit of her womb” would be cursed with suffering and sin. Because of the fruit Mary gave, in the “fullness of time” all who accepted the “fruit of her womb” would be “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”

What was the difference between these two women? It was in the words they listened to. Mary listened to the words of God. Eve listened to the words of Satan.

So before we take our first breath as Christians, at the very beginning of the ritual of Baptism, we are asked to declare the voice we will follow:

“Do you reject Satan?... And all his empty promises?”

Do you reject sin and the “glamor of evil,” the empty promises of this world, the seductive and deceptive values found in every human culture? Do you “refuse to be mastered by sin,” so as to “live in the freedom of God’s children?”

“Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?”

Do you believe in the words and in the Word of God? Do you choose to follow his voice?

Every Eucharist announces to us again the Good News of Christ’s coming. Every Eucharist leads us in hymns and prayers of praise. Every Eucharist invites us to believe in the promise of our redemption, and to let the words spoken to us be made flesh in action. Every Eucharist says to us, “If you hear and do, blessed is the fruit of your life.”

 “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Do I believe that Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the preview and promise of an “immaculate conclusion” to my life? Does this encourage me to “refuse to be mastered by sin,” and to strive for the “perfection of love?”

Examine your heart to see if you have “settled for less” in your spiritual life. Seek now to grow into the perfection you are promised in heaven.

December 8, 2016 ( extra)
THURSDAY, Advent week two:

The Secret Of Success Is Surrender

The Responsorial Psalm gives the secret of fulfillment: “The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger and rich in compassion” (Psalm 145).

There is in all of us a lust for power and achievement. We want to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5) by breaking all resistance to our goals, our will. And anger can energize us for this. But this is not God’s way: “The Lord is… merciful; slow to anger….”

St. Thomas Aquinas said that God gave us the emotion of anger for self-defense — not just against aggressors, but against our own apathy and fear. Anger energizes us to overcome obstacles. But anger and force are two different things. Force and violence are not God’s way.

Fear also drives us to violence. But Isaiah 41: 13-20 gives us the answer to fear: “I am the Lord, your God…. Fear not, I will help you.”

If we refuse to rely on power and force — or to place our trust in any human resources (see Matthew 10: 9-10; Luke 1:34-35) — God promises to help us in such a way “that all may see and know… that the hand of the Lord has done this” — not our power. This builds hope.

It is true that God has chosen to rely on us. We can do nothing without God, and God will do very little without us. He chose to use human beings to save the world, beginning with the Word made flesh in Mary, and continuing through Jesus risen and living in us, his body on earth.

But we have a problem: we don’t feel holy enough to do the work of God. We look at Mary and the great saints, and feel like just walking off the field: we are out of our league.

 Matthew 11: 11-15 relates to this. People in Jesus’ day were awed by the austerity of John the Baptizer. Jesus took nothing away from what they saw in John: “History has not known a man born of woman greater than John….” But he added something they did not see: “Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

The key to greatness is not human success, but surrender to God living and acting within us by grace. Mary’s greatest achievement was to say, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me….” (Luke 1:38). Mary is the greatest in the kingdom of God because she was “full of grace”; that is, fully surrendered to whatever God wanted to do in her.

The greatest fulfillment is not to achieve goals by force fueled by anger. It is to be surrendered to God. That is the secret of fulfillment.

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Surrender to Jesus. Keep saying all day long, especially when you feel discouragement, fear or anger, ““I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
December 9, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016
FRIDAY, Advent week two:

“I, the Lord your God, teach you”

The Responsorial Psalm sets us on the path to fulfillment: “Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life” (Psalm 1).

Why is the world in such bad shape? Why, after two thousand years of Christianity, is there still so much poverty and violence, so much hatred and division on earth? Why is there so much indifference to the need of those who are crushed by poverty, enslaved by drugs, alcohol and addiction to money and power?

It is not God’s fault. He tells us in Isaiah 48: 17-19, “I, the Lord your God, teach you what is for your good and lead you on the way you should go.” God teaches and leads; we just won’t listen and follow.

But if we would, everything would change. We have God’s word for it: “If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your success like the waves of the sea.”

Is it the Church’s fault that the world in such bad shape? Is it because priests and parents fail to “teach us what is for our good,” and we fail to “lead each other on the way we should go?” Are the parishes the problem? The schools? Families?

We can answer in every age: “All of the above,” because people are never perfect; all of us fall short.

But the most basic problem is that too often we refuse to accept what we are given, no matter how well it is presented. Matthew 11: 16-19 tells us people had this problem with Jesus himself. People rejected him because he didn’t live the austere life John the Baptizer did. But they didn’t accept John either, because they said his life was too austere! “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

When we say something to people they don’t want to hear, we can’t win! But those who listen to Jesus — and to what the Church is really saying — will come into the fullness of life. And the world will be renewed: “Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.”

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Respond to Jesus. During Advent, listen with a new attention to the readings at Mass. Each Sunday make one decision in response to what you hear. Find one concrete way to live it out in action.

December 10, 2016
SATURDAY, Advent week two:

The Turning Point Is The Starting Point

The Responsorial Psalm gives us the starting point of fulfillment: “Lord, make us turn to you” (Psalm 80).

Sirach 48: 1-11 tells us this was the role of the prophet Elijah: “to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.”

This was also John the Baptizer’s role: “He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of… the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1: 16-17).

Jesus said that for those who were “willing to accept it,” John the Baptizer was “Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14). But the “spirit and power” of John (and of Jesus) was very different from Elijah’s.

Elijah killed his enemies (1Kings 18:40; 2Kings 1:10). But Matthew 17: 10-13 tells us God let both John and Jesus be killed by theirs: “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” So If we want to seek fulfillment in working with Jesus to establish the reign of God on earth, we have to convert — “turn” — to the way John and Jesus did it. When we pray, “Lord, make us turn to you,” we need to know that we are asking to accept the way of nonviolence, the way of vulnerability, gentleness and love. To “turn the hearts” of the world back to God, we have to be willing to speak truth and be made fun of, to minister with love and be rejected, to help others carry their cross and then be put on it to die in their place. The only way to save the world is to “endure evil with love” — to accept whatever people do to us and “love back.”

If we seek fulfillment in working with Jesus for the renewal of society — striving to bring about changes in family and social life, in business and politics, in the Church — we need to know that we will find fulfillment only in “emptying” ourselves as Jesus did: “who… did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

This is the spirit of Jesus. This is what we are asking for when we pray, “Lord, make us turn to you.” This is the only way to fulfillment.

Initiative: If you seek fulfillment, seek it where it can be found. Work with Jesus. Resolve to work for changes — at home, at school or work, at church — but only if you are willing to love back when you are attacked or rejected for doing it.

[1] Devotion to Mary (Marialis Cultus), 1974, no. 3. See Ephesians 5:27; 2Peter 3:14; 1Timothy 6:14.

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