First Advent – a final admonition

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the posts this week we have looked  at the gospel in context and in detail. The reading ends with a final admonishment

34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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Giving Thanks

I am grateful for a day in which we, as a people, pause to give thanks. And who do we have to thank for this holiday? Your answer is likely “The Pilgrims.” You would not be wrong, but then not completely correct, either. Certainly, Thanksgiving and the religious response of giving thanks to God is as old as time. When one considers enduring cultures, one always finds men and women working out their relationship to God. There is almost always a fourfold purpose to our acts of worship: adoration, petition, atonement, thanksgiving. Such worship is part and parcel of life. And yet, there is still a very human need to specially celebrate and offer thanksgiving on key occasions and anniversaries. Since medieval times, we have very detailed records of celebrations marking the end of an epidemic, liberation from sure and certain doom, the signing of a peace treaty, and more. Continue reading

First Advent: redemption

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the previous post we were considering the Lukan usage of the word “sign” – 25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Luke’s use of signs only echoes the prophet Isaiah (13:9-10), Ezekiel (32:7-8), and Joel (2:30-31). Thus, these heavenly signs do not just point forward to the coming, but also backwards as fulfillment of the prophets’ word. Promise and fulfillment is one of the major themes throughout Luke. Just as Luke began with shepherds seeing the sign of a baby in a manger in fulfillment of the angels’ message, so this future coming is certain to occur in fulfillment of the prophets’ messages.

At that fulfillment Luke writes that people will be (a) in dismay, perplexed or (b) die of fright (could also be translated “faint”). These words are unique to Luke. But what is more significant is that there are two groups of listeners: “the people/they” in vv.26,27 and “you” in v.28.  The responses to what happens are quite different. The people faint (or die) from fear and foreboding, but you (the disciples implied) are to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (v. 28) For “you” the terrible signs symbolize the redemption that has come near. What does it symbolize for the “people”?

“Redemption” — this word (apolytrosis) occurs only here in all of the gospels. Although it occurs 7 times in Paul’s letters and twice in Hebrews. A form of this word (lytroomai) occurs in Luke 24:21a: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Another related word (lytrosis) is found occurs twice in Luke: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them” (1:68). “At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38). Continue reading

The Memorial of Andrew-Dung-Lac and Companions

Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans” (Mt 10:17-18)

Today’s readings celebrate the martyrdom of Fr. Andrew-Dung-Lac and Companions. The title of the memorial is a bit misleading – its title follows the tradition of the General Roman Calendar. But in other places and times the name of the celebration is known as a feast dedicated to the Vietnamese Martyrs, the Martyrs of Annam, the Martyrs of Tonkin and Cochinchina, or the Martyrs of Indochina. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Pie

We all have elements of Thanksgiving that are required, mandatory, and just plain ol’ absolutely-has-to-be-there for Thanksgiving to be truly Thanksgiving. Those elements are familial, nostalgic, and our connection to our sense of self and history. As children grow up and marry, having families of their own, the traditions merge and blend, but there is always a connection to one’s childhood present on the table. There are many constants: turkey, ham, mashed sweet potatoes (with or without marshmallow topping), stuffing and the list goes on. And then there are the traditions of dessert. Continue reading

The right nudge

Yesterday’s post In the Background, has lingered with me since I wrote the piece. In that post, when asked when the pandemic would end, Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, replied: “It doesn’t end. We just stop caring. Or we care a lot less. I think for most people, it just fades into the background of their lives.” I wonder what part of my life and experience has faded into the background of life. Continue reading

The wrong goat

As many of you know, I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy – and we are coming to that time of year: the annual Army-Navy Football Classic. Army is having a great year with a 7-3 record and putting lots of points on the board. Navy is 2-8 and ….. it is not one of our best years. But when I was a freshman (aka “plebe” in USNA slang) our record was 1-8, but all was redeemed and made whole with a victory over Army. So, despite our record and the apparent prowess of the Black Knights of the Hudson, hope springs eternal!

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Age of the Gentiles

Here in the last week of the liturgical year (cycle B), the gospel for the day is taken from Luke 21:5-11. The text speaks of the coming destruction of the Temple (vv.5-6), signs of the end (vv.7-11), and then in verses 12 and following describes the persecutions that will follow. But pause at this moment and consider how you understood what was meant when you just read, “signs of the end.” If you are like most people you probably inserted “signs of the end times.” In our age we often take the apocalyptic sense of a reading to mean the end of time, the second coming, and all that has been portrayed in popular culture, movies, books, and even some scriptural commentaries. But Luke simply describes what follows the destruction of the Temple as “the time of Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) Continue reading

First Sunday of Advent – a context

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In yesterday’s post we placed the Sunday gospel in the context of the Advent Season. Today we can find its place in the context of Scripture.This reading is taken from Luke’s gospel just following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus’ confrontation with the authorities in the Temple (which began back at 19:47, the cleansing of the Temple) now shifts to the future tense. Continue reading