In our modern times there is perhaps no “parade of nations” more famous than the ceremony that begins the modern Olympic Games. All the nations of the world, national flags at the fore, people dressed for the occasion, with a destination in mind. A reminder of what the Prophet Isaiah foretold in this morning’s first reading.
In days to come, The mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
In the gospel we again receive a foretaste of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as the Centurion comes to Jesus. He came because he had heard of Jesus because “from Zion” went forth instructions.
As the psalm refrain says, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” but when we arrive, we can be spectators only, or we can chose to “go forth from Zion” and speak of our Hope in Jesus to a modern Centurion that he or she may join the parade of nations.
Advent is a season of waiting in Hope. As a Christian people we wait on the Nativity of the Christ child. But in our personal lives, sometimes the goal of our waiting is not exactly clear in our minds; yet we wait. I often wait for an idea or at least the seed of an idea of what I might write for this post. There are times I am just waiting for just a quiet spot within the day.
This Advent has been quiet. We are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing – and so parishioners are “safer at home.” All this and I am here in this parish less than 3 months. As a result of all these things and more, the normal ebb and flow of my previous Advents as a priest is quite different this year. There were a million things to do or ensure got done. My previous parish also was responsible as chaplains for a major regional trauma center hospital. Our daily confession lines stretched out to the horizon (or so it seemed some days). There were lots of December weddings and the quiet of Advent seemed to be punctuated by the next phone call, the next meeting, the next …. whatever it was. Run, Father, run….
Many people think that there are four weeks of Advent. Well, only in some years does the Season of Advent last four full weeks. In most years, Advent is a little shorter, depending on which weekday December 25 (Christmas!) happens to be that year. The more precise answer to the question posed above is that there are always four Sundays of Advent, but that the liturgical Season of Advent can be between three and four weeks long. The following table gives the precise dates for the current year, and several past and upcoming years.
The table and information was compiled by Fr. Felix Just, SJ who has an amazing website that you should explore!
As we enter the Season of Advent, it strikes me that “Hope” and “waiting” are even more a part of our lives in these times. In the dark hours before dawn, I muse about waiting and hope in the season of Advent, I was pondering what is higher on my list – waiting for Christmas or waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, herd immunity and the return to normalcy. If I am honest, it is the latter. It feels like we are living in the time of Noah. We are not just waiting for the flood waters of illness to reside, but we are optimistically waiting now that the vaccines are on the horizon.
But while I am optimistic, am I hopeful? I know I am waiting, but am I hopeful? Are you?
Liminality is one of those “$20 words” having to do with being in being an intermediate state, phase, or condition – in other words, betwixt-and-between. The year 2020 is certainly a liminal year living between the pandemic’s start and the all too uncertain end. And such times are replete with stories. There are stories that affect us all; there are one that are personal – but there are always stories.
With winter’s approach and these hard economic times, there will soon be a story in the paper about a family huddled around the gas kitchen stove on a winter’s eve because the electricity bill is unpaid, and power is cut off. Somewhere there is a family huddled in the ER waiting room; their oldest child in an automobile accident, the surgeons coming to say, “We’re doing all we can.” Maybe it’s a loved one in the covid ICU. These are the moments you wish the world would end, at least the world as you now know it.
The Gospel readings for the Second and Third Sundays of Advent always focus on John the Baptist. Since we are again in Lectionary Year A, the two selections are from Matthew 3:1-12 and 11:2-11, respectively. Given that John the Baptist is mentioned in quite a few other passages of Matthew’s Gospel (3:13-15; 4:12; 9:14-17; 11:12-19; 14:1-12; 16:13-14; 17:10-13; 21:23-27, 32), one might ask: Why were these two passages from chapters 3 and 11 chosen?
The short answer: They both deal with John’s role in preparing for Jesus, making them particularly suited for Advent. Continue reading →
Note: Fr. Chuck Dormquast, the diocesan vocation director, is preaching all the Masses this weekend. So, I thought I would post a homily from three years ago. Enjoy.
“To sleep, perchance to dream” such are the words of the great William Shakespeare written for his character Hamlet. It is only in such dreams can we mark the passage of sleep. Short of dreams, we really do not know we are asleep until we wake. We can be aware of the long glide path to sleep – the yawns, the stretching, the telling ourselves “just one more chapter in this book….” Or perchance, our afternoons when we think “I am just resting my eyes.” The thought gives away to the sweet rapture of the most awesome afternoon ever. Perhaps the reverie of our daydreams leave unperturbed the here and now. One short sleep past and we awake and the here-and-now is like our pet dog at the end of the bed or couch waiting for us to get up and fetch them a doggie treat. Continue reading →