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Father Michael

Pastor's Letter 20191201 - 1 December 2019 - A Wake-Up Call

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1 December 2019

A Message from Father † Michael


First Sunday of Advent

Today’s Theme:  “A Wake-up Call”

Scripture Note

The chief function of Advent is to prepare us for Christmas. However, to understand Christmas, we have to start at the beginning— with the history of salvation.

People in all cultures, throughout all of recorded history, have attempted to discern what is called “God’s Plan” for the human race.  For the Jewish people, the whole of the Old Testament, or, as the people of Jesus’ time called it, “Holy Scripture,” can be understood as a chronology of events and a history of thought concerning “God’s Plan.”  If you happened to be part of the group called the “chosen race,” in any particular part of this history, you likely would have seen yourself favored by “God’s Plan.”  Those who were not “chosen,” in contrast, were seen as “outcasts,” “barbarians,” “wanton people,” etc.  Of course, the absolute truth of the matter is still one of conjecture, from an empirical, rational or scientific point of view.  However, we know that virtually nothing concerning the metaphysical realm of religion is completely discernible using empirical means.  One’s belief system is contained within a paradigm of “faith,” and as such, cannot be subjected to such qualifications.

That brings us to our study of The New Testament, (or, “The Sequel,” as some of my Jewish friends would term it,) and the teachings of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. For Christians, God’s Plan for salvation is centered in Christ, and realized through Him.

Advent looks back at the promise of His first coming, when that plan was announced in Holy Scripture. It also looks forward to His second coming, when that plan will reach its completefulfillment. And, of course, it celebrates His actual coming, in time, with the feast of Christmas.

The First Readings we hear during our Advent Sundays (from Isaiah,) are concerned with the messiah and the messianic times. Isaiah kept the hopes of the people alive in very dark times. In today’s Reading we have the theme of universal peace and salvation (Isaiah 2:1-5.)

The Gospel and the Second Reading deal with the Lord’s second coming, which the first Christians believed was imminent (Matthew 24:7-14; Romans 13:11-14.) Both Readings convey a sense of urgency through phrases such as “Wake Up!” “Stay Awake!” and “Stand Ready!”

A Wake-Up Call

Paul’s letters addressed the immanency of the End Times (The "Parousiasupposed by many to occur during their lifetime,) with determination. Throughout literature, it has been common for harbingers of “the inevitable” to infuse their writings with immediacy to spur their readers to action.  Paul‘s intention was to discriminate between mere wakefulness and awareness—to alert the people to the importance of “taking themselves to task” for their moral well being; to prepare for their eventual entry into eternity.  For most people, some sort of shock, or at least a jolt of some kind, is necessary for that to take place.

Usually, most of us awaken from sleep in joyful anticipation; feeling good that we are alive, and thankful to God for the gift of a new day.  It is another chance to embark upon some new task we have started or begin something we have been postponing, or repair some damage or neglect in our lives.  Other times we may be apathetic about our waking, greeting the new day without enthusiasm.  Life may seem monotonous or empty for us.  Perhaps we might be unemployed, or recently retired, and we have nothing to which we can look forward.  Some of us have even known times when we fear the approach of morning.  Perhaps we awaken tearfully,  approaching the dawn with apathy or dread.  Then we may face daily tasks in a half-hearted manner, going into the day with a very severe handicap.

No one has a perfect life—we all have difficulties to face.  But what matter is what we make of these challenges.  When they seem insurmountable, we should try to change our attitude about them.  We know complaining does no good, and some circumstances really are beyond our control. However, our conduct is completely within our power, and makes the difference in our response to any particular situation.

Advent issues a spiritual wake-up call, and has true power to influence our thinking.  Unless we are spiritually awake we are only “half living!”  In this respect, some people could be seen as little more than “sleepwalkers”—with eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear.  Their minds are narrow and closed; their hearts are hardened.  To be awake spiritually means to be open, receptive, vigilant and active.  Spirituality is about seeing, hearing and understanding beyond our circumstances.  We must, necessarily, reflect and have the will to be wide- awake, not wile away our time in drowsiness.  It means we must be attentive to the truths our faith teaches us and others; and to “living in love....”

We have two choices: We can be a “watcher,” or a “sleeper.”  Sleepers have easy lives...but waste their lives.  Although it is much more challenging to be a watcher, it's also infinitely more rewarding.  Watchers are awake, alert, concerned, active, interested and caring.  In a word, to be a watcher is to be “responsible.”

Jesus urges us to stay awake; to be on our guard; to be on the watch.  We have nothing to fear, and everything to gain from answering Advent’s wake-up call.

On this first Sunday of a new liturgical year, we realize another year has come and gone and we need to get on with our work.  We must seize the day, not deferring or neglecting it — for we shall pass through this world but once; therefore any good that we can do, to and for any human being should be done NOW.

Towards the Mountain

Isaiah’s was a bold dream: he foresaw a time of universal peace in which people would come from all nations to God’s holy mountain and no longer harm one another.  There would be no more war or preparing for war.  Filled with the knowledge of the Lord, people would walk in His ways.  It would be splendid, and some believed it would happen at the first coming of the Christ.  Others believed it would be realized only at His second coming, at the end of time.  Still others, even today, dismiss whole concept as mere daydreaming.  But there were, and are, many who believe in it and pursue it.  Even though the vision may only be an improbable goal in a troubled world, nevertheless the dream can shape our lives.  The important thing is not to give up the quest or the search--the important thing is “the goal.”

Today, humanity is at a crossroads. Technology has given us great power and brought material progress and economic wealth, enabling us to do practically anything--except bring people together in love, and thus make our world a happier and more peaceful place.

When the Cold War ended, the world took a gigantic step towards peace.  Nonetheless, wherever we go we see divisions among people, in families, communities, cities, countries.  Our faith teaches us to believe God sent His only Son into the world to reconcile people with Him and with one another.  Therefore, each of us can play a part in breaking down barriers and making peace.  We can do this by welcoming others and seeking reconciliation with anyone with whom we have quarreled or fallen out. The work of reconciliation begins with a simple gesture, demanding those who do not normally speak to one another begin to do so. Practicing any kind of “apartheid,” or keeping one’s distance, only exacerbates differences.

But we can’t do it without faith in God’s Plan. It can happen by walking in the way of truth, as our Blessed Lord has taught us. God did not leave mankind alone—He sent is beloved Son to inaugurate the new world (the Kingdom of God,) and to accompany us on our journey towards God’s Holy Mountain, which, in the final analysis, means eternal life.



“At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God's own love and concern.” 
 Mother Teresa, Love: A Fruit Always in Season

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.docxGuide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.mp3

Edited by Father Michael

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