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Second Sunday of Advent

A Reading with Reflection
from the Gospel of St. Luke
> Click here to read the reflection

First Sunday of Advent

by: Karen R. Brink, OSB, Prioress
> Click here to read the reflection

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

And John was in the wilderness, a vast and howling wasteland, a desert a place where he encountered and struggled with his personal demons, and waited, and waited! John was in the wilderness, a vast and howling wasteland of political and religious rulers where he was barraged with intrigue, dissention and corruption.

With a long arm and tight fist, Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome, controlled every move of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea.  In turn, under the watchful, suspicious gaze of Pontius, Herod, Philip and Lysanias vied for prestige, power and wealth.  In this culture of one-upmanship and cruelty, the common people were grievously oppressed.  They received no help from their religious leaders Annas and Caiaphas who held their lucrative positions of power only by submitting to the will of political rulers who had appointed them.

The Word of God came to John in this desert. The Word of God came into the midst of this messy world defined and divided by both secular and religious powers, the Word of God came into this world very much like the world of our own day!  And in this very top down world, the Word of God came to John, a man without power at the very bottom, one of the anawim, one of those longing for the promised Messiah.

The Word of God came with Spirit, power and the energy of love. John’s heart was filled to overflowing, the Spirit drove him to go and share the word that had been so powerfully entrusted.  Like Moses and the other prophets, John challenges God’s people, of all times and places, to seethe wilderness of their lives and their times not as a place of desolation, but as a place of hope. God calls them and us to leave all that holds us in bondage and head home through the wilderness. God calls them and us to join an exodus out of slavery into God’s promised fresh start. John preaches that the first step on this journey toward freedom is in a baptism of repentance. Luke says

So, John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

As news of this ardent messenger with his fiery call to baptism of repentance spread, can’t you imagine, Annas and Caiaphas; Lysanius. Philip and Herod snickering and sneering and telling Pilate, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this under control:  it’s only fake news!  What is a baptism of repentance anyway”? 

John’s baptism of repentance was a recognition of one’s sinfulness, a desire for forgiveness, a desire for conversion, a deep desire to turn one’s mind and heart to God.  His call to repentance and conversion, resonated with the poor and oppressed of his day and many of the lowly ones followed him.  But what does a baptism of repentance mean for us in our day?  As Benedictines, I think John’s baptism of repentance is akin to our vow of “conversio morum” or fidelity to the monastic way of life. Recently, in Call to Life, we heard:

The purpose of the vow of conversion to the monastic way of life is single-hearted seeking of God. Singleheartedness in living calls the monastic to turn away from all self-centeredness in order to live Gospel values more fully and within this way of life, to hold all her goods in common with her sisters. (CN20)

Baptism of repentance, conversion, the rallying cry of Advent is integral to our Benedictine way of life.  On-going conversion is the stuff of our daily life, our daily examination of conscience.  It is our way of faithful listening to:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

Benedict would say:  Prefer nothing to Christ. Run the way of God’s commandments.  Be faithful.  John reminds us that by the work of Advent conversion…

Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Every mountainof arrogance, our need to control, to protect our space, to be right, to have the last word, must be laid low in order that our hearts may be free  to love more deeply and to serve more generously.  Every hill of fear, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, fear of sickness and death, every fear that holds us in bondage and hinders us from freely loving ourselves, others and God must be torn down.  This is not easy work because often we do not even recognize that arrogance and fear are roadblocks, stumbling blocks in our lives.   So we need to be more attentive, we need to listen with the ear of the heart to God, to self, to others that our false self may be converted and set free

As we loosen the grip of arrogance and fear, truth and humility, prayer and love flow more freely, filling the valleys in our lives, making the winding roads straight for the coming of the Lord who is meek and humble of heart. Since the twelve steps of humility are at the core of Benedictine life and spirituality, this Advent may be a good time to pray and work with Chapter 7 and make wisdom and truth more completely our own. In embracing a life rooted in wisdom and humility, we embrace the one who said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  If we live this Advent with the deep desire to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, then we shall see the salvation of God.  I am confident that the one who began a good work in us by calling us to repentance, to conversion to the monastic way of life, will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Have a blessed and humble Advent.


First Sunday of Advent

What are we waiting for?

In October when I attended the RCRI conference, the keynote speaker, the Cardinal delegate from the Vatican….who was not able to be there in person because of a five hour flight delay, spoke to us via his iPhone from his office in Washington, DC, about the need for personal and pastoral conversion.  My ears perked up when, despite the thick accent with which the presentation was delivered, he spoke  of Pope Francis’ homily on “the tenderness of God.”  And to tell the truth, that phrase has been rolling around in my mind all month and I knew it spoke to me of Advent…but I wasn’t sure how…or why…

Walk with me for a while as I find God’s tenderness as we open the door to our Advent season.
“The days are coming,” Jeremiah tells us  in the first reading, “when I will fulfill the promise I made…”   Imagine waiting for God to fulfill a promise…a faithful God…who keeps promises made…even over a long period of waiting.  God’s tenderness will fulfill the divine promise. 

Our ancestors in the faith had no idea how the promise would be fulfilled…or perhaps they had their own ideas,  just like we do when we WAIT for God to answer our prayer.  While they waited for a powerful, wealthy, strong leader, and we wait for God to come with the “right” response to our prayer…as we know it, God is set down in the midst of the people…many times for us, too, God is set in our midst…in unexpected ways, perhaps as the unexpected “tenderness of God” as Pope Francis reminds us.  Advent is a time for way-finding…a glimpse of our destination…a longing to see the face of God…is that what Benedict had in mind when his Rule calls us, already as novices, to “truly seek God.” 

Longing to see God’s face, to seek God, is perhaps the Advent theme for the ages. What were the Israelites waiting for?  For them it was centuries, until the promise was fulfilled as God had promised.  Our own waiting time is much shorter, and perhaps more complex, because we think we know for what we are waiting…and then hardly recognize “it” when it comes…much like the Jews of Jesus’ time…What…a baby born in a manger?  What…a Messiah from Nazareth?  What… a prophet who eats with tax collectors and other sinners?  What kind of a fulfillment of a promise is that?

For us our waiting may be over before we even know it because the promise has already been fulfilled. 

What…a doctor’s recommendation to cease treatment?  What…my best friend moving to another city? 

What… I didn’t get exactly what I wanted…?

…or did they?…or did we?…or did I?

Advent is a time for way-finding…through the “signs in the moon and the stars, and the roaring seas” as Jesus reminds us in the gospel…but wait…because “your redemption is at hand.”  As Pope Francis notes, “the beauty of feeling loved by God”…isn’t that redemption? 

He goes on to say, “We feel called to pour onto the world the love received by the Lord, to offer it in the Church, in the family, (in our community), in society, to join it in serving and in giving ourselves”…and because we are created in the divine image we are capable of tenderness, too.

So while we wait in faith, and with the psalmist say “I wait for you, O God.  I lift up my soul to my God,” we manage our lives with sincere and practical holiness,  and wait with joyful hope.  Our task is prayer and vigilance as we await the coming of heaven to earth…of welcoming the God who comes into our hearts. 
It's worth the wait!  

We are accustomed to the phrase, “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song”.  Perhaps we are also called to be an Advent people as we sing “O Come, O come Emmanuel.”

Happy waiting…Happy Advent.
Karen R. Brink, OSB, Prioress

 

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