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Pastor's Letter 20191208 - 8 December 2019 - Prepare a Way for the Lord


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8 December 2019

A Message from Father † Michael

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Second Sunday of Advent

Today’s Theme:  “Prepare a Way for the Lord”

Scripture Note

Isaiah (8th Century B.C.) foretells that even though a family tree of Jesse (King David’s father) has been reduced to a mere “stump” nevertheless, from that stump a new shoot would spring—a true king, filled with the Spirit and endowed with all the virtues of His ancestors. Our First Reading today tells of the coming Messiah and the kind of justice and peace He would bring (Isaiah 11:1-10.) The new King/Messiah would be a champion of the poor and restore paradisiac peace.

Meanwhile Paul (ca. 56-58 A.D.,) writing from Corinth, in Greece, to the Romans, in a letter that has long held pride of place, being the longest and most systematic unfolding of the apostle’s thought, expounds the righteousness of God, Who saves all who believe, and reflects an universal outlook, with special implications for Israel’s relation to the Church. Yet, like all his letters, Romans also arose from a specific situation. Our Second Reading talks about the importance of hope, and how we should treat others in the same friendly way Christ has treated us (Romans 15:4-9.) Paul sees Jesus as the one through Whom God fulfilled his promises.

Thereafter, Matthew introduces John the Baptist as the herald (also foretold by Isaiah,) of the long-awaited Messiah, and the one who prepared the people to receive Him. Matthew sees Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament promises.

Vision of a New World

Astronauts were the first human beings to see the earth from “outside.” Gazing down on the earth from space, they realized as never before

that we are one family, with “spaceship Earth’ as our common home. Sultan bin Salman al- Saud, (payload specialist, on the international astronaut space shuttle crew: Discovery-1985,)remarked, “The first day in space, we all pointed to our own countries. The second day, we pointed to our continents. By the third day, we were award of only one earth.”

The ancient prophets of the Bible had the same kind of high and wide vision, one of how things could be. However, when one reads a history book or even just a daily news account, sometimes we might be ashamed to be human! We read of wars, wars, and more wars—so many dead—so many tears—so many fears. Our world is drenched in blood. We might despair and lose all hope!

And as for the “wolf and the lamb” living together, often two neighbors, or even two members of the same family have serious “fallings out” and refuse to talk to one another! It might seem visions of peace and harmony among all peoples are but mere fairy tales....

But our faith teaches us they are not. Rather, they correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point mankind’s ultimate goal. These visions nurture our souls and our hearts, offering us hope and courage when we are to give up on life. They fuel our deepest aspirations, and give us the energy to overcome great obstacles and painful setbacks.

Prophets lived in the real world and were just as dismayed by its horrors and injustices as we are; yet they had a dream of a new world free from injustice and war. Through their faith they were able to rise above their dismay. What saved them from despair was their messianic vision and sense of the human capacity for penitence. History is not a blind alley—there is always a way out—through repentance.

The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all people live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realization in our daily lives. Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises. Every time we forgive a neighbor; make a child smile; show compassion to a suffering person; care for animals; prevent pollution; and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations; we are making the vision a reality.

We need to keep the vision before us, so it will give us new energy to live it out, right where we are. Instead of encouraging us to escape from real life, this beautiful dream summons us to get involved. We must open our hearts to the aspiration cherished by the prophets: a world rid of evil by human effort through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had a word for the new world. He called it “The Kingdom of God.” He inaugurated it and wants his followers to build it...on earth.

Ordinary people help spread that Kingdom by being kind, truthful, honest, just, etc. Even though it is a mêlée that we will never completely win, the struggle is good for us, as it awakens everything that is best and precious within us. Isaiah’s vision lives on in our midst as a task for today and a promise for tomorrow.

A Place Called “Hope”

Advent, at its essence, is a season that puts us in mind of a better existence. If all things and people were perfect, we would have no desires that weren’t fulfilled. It is required precisely because we live in an imperfect world that hope is necessary. With every election cycle we continually invest our hopes in flawed politicians to help us initiate new eras of peace and justice. Even though we are regularly distraught when we discover they have promised things that can’t be delivered, nonetheless, we “hope for the best.”

Hope is a vital part of life. We spend our lives longing, waiting, hoping for one thing or another. It is impossible to live when one is completely without hope. Hope is as important for our soul as bread is for our body.

Hope doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting for things to happen; rather it spurs us into action. We work hard to achieve our goals precisely

because we have hope, believing our efforts will be worthwhile and will make a difference in our lives and those of our loved ones. Our strength and commitment depends, in great extent, on the degree and quality of our hope.

Hope is not the same as optimism. In fact, hope and optimism are radically different. Optimism is the expectation things will get better, whatever the situation. Hope is the trust that the future will develop as a result of the collective choices made by human beings for the greater good. The “person of hope” lives in the present moment, with the knowledge and trust that the human spirit is indefatigable, and will not be subdued by evil forces. Hope springs from the faith that our Creator has given each one of us talents and abilities along with the free will to choose wisely among all our options. In Jesus’ teaching we are given reason to believe that God is the anchor for our lives.

All great leaders were people of hope. They felt no need to know how the future would look. They just tried to do what was right in the present, and trusted that would be sufficient to promote a better future. Dissident, poet, playwright, and former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, once said:

I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning.”

Cynicism is the enemy of hope. Many refuse to accept hope into their hearts, saying, “Things will never change. It’s no good.” Cynicism comes easy, requiring nothing from us—no trust; no effort; no love.

It is the task of Christians to keep hope alive and set an example. We must not depend only on results but on the rightness and truth of the work itself. Meanwhile, we live in a place called hope—in which hope enables us to keep one foot in the world as it is, and the other in the world as it should be.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

May God Richly Bless You!

 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  (Colossians 3:12)

 

Make Straight in the Desert a Highway.docx

Make Straight in the Desert a Highway.mp3

Edited by Father Michael
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