Saturday, November 28, 2015

Staying Sober While We Wait: Readings for 1st Sunday of Advent

Happy New Year everyone!  We start the liturgical calendar anew this evening, and we are in Year C, which has some of the most creative and stimulating combinations of lectionary readings.

We just concluded the liturgical calendar by reading largely from the prophet Daniel and Our Lord’s eschatological discourse from the Gospel of Luke.  We spent a good deal of time meditating on the second coming of Our Lord, the end of history, and the final judgment.  We now make a smooth segue into Advent, because the first week of this liturgical season is given over to contemplating the second coming, as well.  The second week of Advent will move into the “John the Baptist” stage of the season, where we meditate on John as the introductory and transitional figure between the Old and the New Testaments.

But for now, we are thinking about the return of Christ and the final judgment.  This Sunday’s Readings continue to present to us Jesus as the King, the Son of David and Son of God, who will come to bring human history to its conclusion. We are exhorted to stay sober and alert while awaiting him.

1. Reading 1 Jer 33:14-16:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio
This Sunday is the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and as everyone knows, that means it is the Solemnity of Christ the King!  This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  The last day of the liturgical year will be Saturday, November 28, and Liturgical Year 2016 will begin with the First Sunday of Advent, November 29.

I give thanks to God for many things at this time of year, including the joy of living the liturgical calendar, which is such a consolation and guide for one’s spirituality through the seasons of life and the seasons of the year.  Each liturgical year is like a whole catechesis of the Christian faith, as well as a kind of microcosm of the entire life of the believer, from birth and baptism to final anointing and death.

The Feast of Christ the King emphasizes themes that were very dear to the Mexican Christeros, the Catholics who rebelled against the Mexican government in 1926-29 in order to preserve their freedom of religion.  Thousands died, some after being mocked and tortured.  A personal favorite of mine is the young teen martyr Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, who died shouting “Long live Christ the King!” (Viva Christo Rey!)  

The example of these martyrs remind us that, finally, every human being will face Christ the King, the one who will pass final judgment on all that has been done in this life.  Such is also the them for this Sunday’s readings.

1.  The First Reading is Daniel 7:13-14:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Time Flies: The 33rd Sunday of OT

“Tempus fugit,” the Romans used to say.  “Time flies.”  It’s hard to believe that we are already at the second-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year.

[My brother Tim used to say, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”  But that has nothing to do with anything.]

Where has the year gone?  How can it be so close to the end already?  Yet these feelings are very appropriate for Mass we will celebrate this Sunday, whose readings encourage us to count time carefully, to be aware of its passage, to meditate on our mortality and the passing of all things, and to think soberly of the end and the final judgment. 

The Church gives us the entire month of November to contemplate the Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  We still have about two weeks left, and we should resist letting Advent and Christmas “creep forward” in our thoughts and spirituality, causing us to miss the graces that are meant for us in November. 

1. The Readings look forward to the final judgment.  The First is Daniel 12:1-3:

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Economics of Heaven: The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church calls us to look more deeply at reality, beyond simply conventional wisdom toward the dawning life of the world to come. In the new world, there is a different economic system, one in which self-giving generosity, no matter how meager in the eyes of this age, is able to generate a fantastic return on one’s investment. This dynamic is mysterious present in our first reading that comes from 1 Kings 17:10-16.

First Reading: I Kings 17:10-16
In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.
As he arrived at the entrance of the city,
a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,
"Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink."
She left to get it, and he called out after her,
"Please bring along a bit of bread."
She answered, "As the LORD, your God, lives,
I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar
and a little oil in my jug.
Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,
to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;
when we have eaten it, we shall die."
Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid.
Go and do as you propose.
But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.
Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,
'The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'"
She left and did as Elijah had said.
She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well;
the jar of flour did not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.
In this remarkable story, Elijah demonstrates his divine sanction as a prophet of God, yet in a surprising manner. First, it is surprising in that Elijah’s miracle provides for a rather unexpected beneficiary, a woman from Sidon. Outside of the bounds of Israel, this widow would not have been the natural choice for a miracle to demonstrate Elijah’s prophetic ministry (cf. Luke 4:26).

Faith and Poverty: Readings for 32nd Sunday of OT

In this month of  November we are pondering the Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell) and gearing up for the celebration of Christ the King in two weeks (!).  The falling leaves remind us that our bodies will one day fall to the ground, and our spirits return to God (Eccl. 12:7) to face judgment for the “deeds done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10).  Can anyone face the judgment of God?  Only those who trust completely in him, and we call this trust “faith.”  This Sunday’s Readings give us a powerful lesson in faith.

1.  Our First Reading is from 1 Kings 17:10-16, the story of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Zarephath: