Prepare the Way

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Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and even though I promised in my last post to continue my thoughts on the mess in Ferguson, I am going to put that off in favor of a reflection. After all it is Sunday, and Advent is one of the two most important seasons in the Liturgical calender.

Advent is when we get ready for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In these times I would propose that many people have forgotten the real reason for Christmas, the reason we celebrate it. Advent is a good time for us to think of this. Instead it has become a time for sales and black Fridays, small business Saturdays and Cyber Mondays. It is about which stores have the best deals on things we might want but don’t really need, things which marketers have convinced us we cannot live without. We deck the halls, the malls, the streets and our homes with plastic Santa Clauses, “Holiday Trees”, blinking lights and music about reindeer with red noses and drunk grandmothers. Maybe there might be the odd manger in a public place, or in one’s home, but there aren’t many.

Advent however is about more than just the birth of Jesus, it is about Christs’ Second Coming, when He will come to save us, the day when the final judgement will be made and He will decide where we will spend eternity. The secular definition of the word advent is the “coming into being or use” almost like a beginning or preparation. We should be preparing for this Second Coming.

We don’t know when this will be, even though many have claimed they know the date, they have all come and gone and we are still here. Jesus told us we “will not know the day or the hour” but we need to look for various signs. Many believe these signs are already here, but whether or not they are, we should be prepared. Today’s Gospel reading tells us to be watchful, to be prepared, to not be sleeping. when the Lord returns.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:33-37)

Preparing doesn’t mean getting the best deal on a new notebook computer, although if you find one you could certainly send it to me. It means to be virtuous and help others, to live the way Christ teaches us.

It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in daylight; not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. – Romans 13:11-12

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Who is Walking Beside You

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It has been awhile since I have written a Sunday Bible Reflection, where I take one of the readings from today’s mass and reflect on it, so let me do that today. And I promise there wont be one mention of either abortion or the state of morality (or immorality) in this post. Well other than the one I statement I just made.

Today’s gospel reading was Luke 24: 13 – 35. This is when Jesus appeared to two of the disciples on  the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked near them and followed them but the two disciples didn’t recognize him. He asked them what was wrong and they were surprised he hadn’t heard of the events which had taken place in Jerusalem.

Now, not being a biblical scholar or a theologian there certainly may be a whole lot more to this reading than what I write here, but here is what it says to me. How often do we walk along a road and not realize Jesus is walking along with us? Me? I tend to forget a lot. We don’t recognize him even when he is with us. In my case for many years I shut him out of my life. I never thought about him, I never talked to him, I never read about him, I just went on my way never giving him a second thought. Fortunately, he never gave up on me, he stayed beside me all the time.

The two disciples must have figured that Jesus was dead, and even though he told them he would return. that he would be resurrected, they must not have believed him. I think, if they had, they would have recognized him. They weren’t expecting him because they didn’t believe and they failed to see him when he was there.

I have been reading a lot of literature from the Jesuits. Their founder was St. Ignatius and he believed in finding God in all places. In his Spiritual Exercises he talks about how
God is with us, every minute of every day, we just need to take the time to look for him.

A few weeks ago I had to bring one of my cars to the shop for its annual inspection sticker. I hadn’t been into this place in several years. When I talked to the person behind the counter I asked him how his daughter was. A few years ago, maybe even ten, his daughter was stricken with spinal meningitis and was paralyzed, I believe from the waste down, she was 17 or 18 at the time. He seemed generally surprised that I would ask him about her and his face lit up with both surprise and joy. Especially when he told me she was due any minute to give birth to her second child. Her story could be a post in itself, but the point here is afterwards I realized two things:

1. I made him very happy.

2. Jesus was with me that day.

I thought about it later and realized how much a simple thing can do so much for someone. It was funny how right after that his whole manner seemed to change, not just to me, but to everyone. I knew Jesus had been walking beside me that day.

But then there are days I forget. Lately I have been stressed about many things. Things are tough at work, the editing gigs are slow in coming, but the bills aren’t, and I have been getting that hopeless feeling again. But then today, when I heard the gospel, I realized that Jesus is always beside me. He is always there for me to lean on when I need to. He has been there for me in the past and I know he will be there again now. I just need to continue to look.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink. When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life