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Contents: Volume 2 - 2nd Sunday - ADVENT – B –
December 10, 2017


 

The 2nd

Sunday

Advent

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Advent 2 B

Our readings this second Sunday of Advent bring both comfort and challenge into our daily agenda. Our first reading from the Book of Isaiah tells us of the Lord's compassion and future promise: God's got this! The Gospel reading according to Mark reminds us to repent before the future is upon us, however!

I think it is the second reading that asks the impelling question, though. It askes, "what sort of persons ought you to be?" Now, that is an excellent question and one that should give us pause amidst the scurrying about that we do these weeks before Christmas. The answer, of course, is people who do now what Jesus did then.

What about each of us though? In my little corner of the world, finding or rather making the time to investigate such a life-changing question is challenging. Although I am "retired" from the outside world of work, I am still the "glue" in a multi-generational family where my husband still works full time and two adult children both have health challenges; one lives with us along with her very active and inquisitive 9 year old.

I must ask myself, what sort of a person should I be with each of them? What about family and close friends with whom I do not live but with whom I have frequent contact (mostly by phone or text) ? What about those whom I routinely meet each day? How about strangers?

More people on the list could be added and I could just keep changing hats so to speak, but.... at the top of the list should be God! My relationship with God really tells who I am and who I am becoming as I strive to be who I ought to be. In a sense, I am becoming who I really am and that person is shaped by my relationship with God.

Now that sounds too esoteric, complicated, and not very practical. I am a practical person so, I tell myself, I need to translate that into everyday words and actions. Perhaps a more helpful question might be what sort of person do these people think I am? My own words and actions are the evidence. Is that the kind of person I ought to be?

As we prepare the Lord's way, let us be sure that the Lord has a clear path into our lives. All of what we do and say should center on the Lord and be directed by the Lord. Checking things out with the Lord AFTER we have planned them is not the same! The Lord comes first. Can we be the sort of persons who will change that around this Advent so that it will become a better lifetime habit? Time will tell... and so will our words and actions.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Second Sunday of Advent – A – December 10, 2017

What a wonderful reading as we enter this second week of Advent! "Comfort! Comfort my people says the Lord"

It's always a temptation to sing along with the song from Handel's Messiah when I read these words! Pity my neighbours!

Judah has been freed from exile in Babylon and is returning to Jerusalem. The author of "Isaiah" tells them that God's grace exceeds by far even their sins and suffering. Think how it must feel to be herded like cattle as prisoners to a foreign land, possessing only the clothes on your back and maybe a small bundle of possessions you were able to bring with you. Your home is destroyed, land given to others, religious and ethnic identity despised. (If you have trouble imagining this just watch the news today) Then, after decades, a new king gains power, and Cyrus the Great allows the exiles to return home.

Returning home is no easy matter. It's walking from present day Iran to Israel. Have you ever tried to walk on a sand dune where the ground continually shifts under your feet? Have you walked over mountains and through valleys inhabited by robbers just waiting for a traveller to fall into their trap? Have you wondered if there would be enough food and water for the journey, and prayed no one became sick or disabled? The returning exiles need comfort indeed, and lots of it.

Repentance means "returning home". Mark begins his good news with John's call to repent, and the proclamation of God's kingdom revealed in Jesus and witnessed to by John. The path home is made easier, even pleasant, because of Jesus who is the Way, leading us over mountains and through the valleys and dark places. He is like a shepherd who feeds his flock, leads us to good food and clear water, carries those who are tired and cares for those who are weak.

Jesus gives us the Divine Spirit with the grace to be loving, peaceful, truthful, people of integrity, to be followers of Jesus' Way and citizens of God's kingdom. Why live in exile in a space that is not home, that is not friendly to your spirit?

Why remain in exile from yourself?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Second Sunday of Advent December 10 2017

Isaiah 40:1-5 & 9-11; Responsorial Psalm 85; 2nd Peter 3:8-14; Gospel Acclamation Luke 3:4 & 6; Mark 1:1-8

In our first reading from Isaiah, the prophet speaks to the Jews while they are in captivity in the cities of the Babylonian Empire. Unless we are recent immigrants escaping violence of war and crime or from tyrannical governance we’ll not be sympathetic to these Jews. Unless we spent time incarcerated as punishment for crimes we will have difficulty understanding what it’s like to be in chains. In order to take Isaiah’s words to heart we’ve got to discover our own personal slavery, understand what it is that holds us captive. While we may not have been held captive against our wills, there is another form of captivity over which we have some control.

Most of us at one time or other experience being trapped in a situation or a relationship. We may be trapped in a difficult marriage, we may be battered in a dysfunctional family, or perhaps we’re trapped in a career, a job which we hate but can’t find an escape route. If we are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or perhaps a self-destructive sexuality; if we find ourselves a constant victim of our anger or suffer from a self-image that keeps us from taking our place in family, at work, or in society; if we are trapped in a terrible need to be the center of everything; if we must constantly boast or even lie to make ourselves appear better than we are – if any of these personal conditions are true, then we are truly captives, slaves without the ability to choose, to decide, or to live a free and fulfilling life. There is no redemption in such demeaning captivity. We are more in slavery than were the Jews in Babylon. If we are so competitive that we cannot appreciate the work of others, if we mistake domination for love, if we drive ourselves to exhaustion collecting the toys offered by Madison Avenue advertising then we are in desperate need of liberation. We are worse off than the Hebrew Tribes in Egypt forced to manufacture brick without straw: we are beaten and scourged by the rapacious and hateful taskmasters of Babylon. Who can claim they are free of such chains that hold them captive? What keeps us from being free?

Slavery takes many forms. The most pernicious form is not imposed from outside but springs from within. It erupts from within our spirits and clouds thinking, movements of hearts, and plays havoc with emotions. Because it comes from within we coddle it, we pamper it, we feed it, and we nourish it till it ruins our relationships and makes our lives without joy and without the wonder of self-giving love. What is there that makes us small in our own eyes; what is there in our way of living and relating to others that makes us arrogant, or shriveled up into nothingness? What prevents us from reaching our potential?

If we examine ourselves objectively we’ll discover there is much that binds us, controls us, and makes our lives miserable. It is to the seekers that God commissions Isaiah. God instructs Isaiah to "comfort, comfort my people." When we come to recognize and admit what binds us, makes us less than God has created us to be, then it is that we welcome the words God speaks to Isaiah. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated."

The longing of the human heart in this first reading is true in every human life. All religions of humankind acknowledge this. There is within our psyches a driving desire that can only be satisfied in one of two ways. The first is the way of the world. In the way of the world we spend our time, our energies, our affections in conquering, in accumulating, and in making creating a self-image of importance. Success on this way provides only a temporary, fleeting satisfaction and creates a need for more. It is a hamster wheel, spinning incessantly and moving us nowhere.

The second way is the way that imitates the life of God. The Way of God is the only way that leads to the fulfillment of the urge, the desire that is hard-wired into our persons. The difficulty with the Way of God is that it is counterintuitive. It is about loving others just as much as we love ourselves. This trail head is buried under brush, weeds, and junk of the way of the world. The path is hardly discernible. Many walk right by it and miss it, never finding the way to personal happiness and fulfillment. In this way the human spirit is overwhelmed with an understanding that God loves us without hesitation, without judgment, and without any – any – conditions.

In answer to the obscurity of the pathway of God Isaiah shouts at the top of his voice. "A voice cries out; in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." In these few words the intensity and energy of this season of longing is captured. In these powerful and hope filled words the prophet points out the way of God leading us to fulfillment. All the cracks and crevices of our lives are filled and made smooth. The Glory of God is the presence of God within our lives and his incomprehensible love God has for us. This is the Good News, the gospel.

Think of Isaiah’s words as the revelations of the Ghosts of Christmas present, Christmas past, and Christmas to come in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. In this time of advent, this time of the coming of the Lord, we reflect on how we are, what chains, like those Marley carried in his death, clang in our lives, crushing our spirits. We look to the past and the mistakes we’ve made, the relationships we’ve botched. We see how miserable we’ve been and how hopeless was and is our future if we continue on our present path. In the vision of Christmas yet to come, we foresee what our lives lead us to when we fail to change. Then comes Christmas this year, seen not as a lonely holiday of discarded wrapping paper, of gifts not sought, of gifts not received, of gifts not appreciated. Instead we begin to see Christmas but as a point of light, a newness of our lives. It is Scrooge waking up only to discover he’s not missed Christmas. He is pictured as a delighted man aware of everyone around him and happy with the brightness of this new day. His repentance has made him a changed man on a new trajectory, filled with appreciation of life itself and the those who populate it.

In every human life there are occasions of great stress. During those times we come face to face with our addictions, our inadequacies, and our need for change. Our life’s trajectory is interrupted and where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and where we’re headed are called into question. This is not the time to fall into despair, but to look to the light coming to us. If we listen we hear the voice crying out.

There is a sadness this time of year that goes along with the bright lights and tinsel. The common way of dealing with this sadness is to bury it with frenic activity, getting things done, getting everything ready. The sadness comes in part (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) from the shortness of daylight. In this shortness of daylight, darkness seems to have conquered light. These are crabby days. However, on the twenty-first day of December that daylight once again begins to overcome the darkness. By the twenty-fifth observers note the slight lengthening of daylight and hope is reborn.

There is darkness in human life. Not only are there violent episodes that murder and discard persons on the garbage heap. There are also those who would hold us captive and force us to bow our heads to their egos, their misleading and lying statements, and their need for power. The darkness of our spirits is worse than any of these. When difficulties and darkness threaten us what is usual and customary appears inadequate and insufficient. Then we hear the voice crying out. It is Isaiah as the voice crying out; but it is also John the Baptist in the desert crying out for repentance and a washing for the Kingdom of God is at hand. The cry is for repentance, for a change of heart, for a new vision of the meaning and purpose of life. It is a cry that cuts to our hearts telling us the misery we’ve endured is at an end. There is hope that the Lord is coming to light the way.

Repentance comes only when we understand how we’ve missed the mark. Every craftsman sets for themselves a mark on their work bench. That is how craftsmen and women know their work is accurate. So it is with every person who comes into the world, so it is with every child conceived. God’s wish for us is that we achieve fullness of the possibilities of our person. Who we are is terribly important to God. So important, in fact, that God took on our form as a man, exactly like us in all things except sin. Jesus met all marks on the bench. His is the pathway for us.

God doesn’t need uniformity. If we observe nature we’ll soon recognize that God loves diversity, embraces possibilities. God wants us to be what we can be. We are each uniquely different and are offered many possibilities to achieve personal fullness. But there is something about us that keeps us from achieving that.

The hope of advent is that we use this time to examine our lives and what we’ve become, the ghosts of Christmas Past and of Christmas Present. Just like Scrooge, we have four weeks, four visits from the Spirit to discover where we are and what we might become. Now is the acceptable time to listen to the voice crying out in the desert: now is the time to hear the Baptist’s cry and repent of those avenues we’ve gone down that lead us away from the source of our being, our Father. If we discover our need for change of heart, then on Christmas morn we’ll discover a light to lead us, an ascending star that directs us to Bethlehem. And amazingly, it will be a child who comes as one of us. This child is born in apparent poverty but, by his coming and growing life, he is the hope of all humankind. As the Father thundered on the mountain top, "This is my beloved son, Listen to Him!"

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PREPARING THE WAY OF THE LORD: 2ND SUNDAY ADVENT B

A brand new priest went to the lectern to preach his first homily after ordination. He was as nervous as a kitten. But when he reached the lectern he broke into a broad smile. Someone had left a note for him. 'What's it to be, man? Will you give us heaven or hell?' Well, I like to give the gospel, i.e. good news from God, news on God's authority, news of hope and encouragement. The news that our God is with us and is changing us for the better, to get us ready for the Second Coming of Jesus!

Of course, for God to be present to us and influence our choices requires our cooperation. John the Baptizer, God’s main messenger to us today, tells us what this includes. It includes repentance, first and foremost. This is more than true sorrow for our sins. True repentance requires change, an about-face in the ways we think about ourselves and in how we relate to other people. True repentance, in fact, requires a thorough-going change in the ways we think, feel, value, speak, act and live. It involves nothing less than taking on the mind and heart of Jesus. True repentance, John also says, demands outward signs of inward change. So he tells his hearers to show their repentance by getting their sins washed away in the River Jordan, and to get a life, a new life, a new and better way of living.

So, preparing the way of the Lord requires our cooperation with the action of God in us. Unlike me, many of you are mothers and fathers. You know what it's like to prepare for the arrival of a new baby. A room has to be cleaned out of all useless junk. It has to be washed or wiped clean from top to bottom. Usually a new coat of paint has to be applied or new wall-paper. A blind to keep the sun out of Baby's face has to be hung, and pretty curtains put up to decorate the space. A bassinette, a cot, a pram and a stroller, must all be nearby. Fresh, soft baby clothes must greet Baby's arrival. Maybe some soft toys must be added, and some shapes hung from the ceiling to capture Baby's attention and to amuse him or her. There are simply so many things to do.

In ancient times, preparing for the visit of a king to one of his cities or towns would be just as demanding. The king would send a courier to the citizens to tell them to mend their roads, fill in the pot-holes and smooth out the bumps, so that the king's journey in his chariot might be as pleasant and trouble-free as possible.

It’s this image that Mark uses to describe the mission of John the Baptist. To the hundreds of people flocking to him on the banks of the River Jordan from both town and country he says: 'The King is coming, so mend your lives, and mend them now.'

So today, as the days draw closer to our celebration of Christ's first coming into the world at Bethlehem and to that day when he will come to earth again at the end of time, we have a double task: - 1. to rejoice and give thanks that we do not save ourselves, but that Jesus, the Son of God is coming to save us, and 2. With the help of his powerful presence to us, his powerful grace, to fill in those potholes, level out those bumps, and remove those road-blocks, that are getting in the way of God's work of saving, transforming, changing and renewing us for the better.

What are those road-blocks, those obstacles to hearing and heeding the messenger of God crying out to us today: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight?’ In your case, surely you know what they are. In my case, I know what they are.

So, let our holy communion with Jesus Christ today be a prayer, a heart-felt prayer for that day of days when he will come fully and finally into our lives, a prayer that echoes the one we are praying together today in our Responsorial Psalm: ‘Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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