FUTURE FOCUSED

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Many people are not future-oriented. They are focused only on the present moment—concerned only about today, not tomorrow.

 

Such people do not put money away for unexpected expenses and live from paycheck to paycheck. They do not plan for their future retirement. They fail to consider how poor health choices today will affect their enjoyment of life in years to come. They go to work or school each day, but have no long-term career goals in mind that motivate their efforts. They make no attempt to form new relationships, forgetting that current friendships may fail the test of time.

 

As Christians, we are to be interested in more than just the present moment. We are to be concerned about the future, our eternal future. As we profess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12a), Jesus goes up on a mountain and there he begins to instruct his disciples. He begins this “Sermon on the Mount” by teaching them what we now refer to as the “beatitudes.”

 

Those beatitudes are future oriented. They tell us what we need to do today if we hope to be blessed with a future place in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Jesus explicitly refers to that kingdom three separate times in the first verses of his sermon.

 

He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you… be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

 

The other beatitudes also indicate that there will be a blessed future for those who endure suffering in their lives, who are dismissed as unimportant, who work for justice and goodness, who show mercy to the undeserving, who seek to live in accord with God’s law, and who strive to put an end to the violence and hate that darken our world.

 

For those who have no belief in God and reject the notion of eternal life, the beatitudes make little sense. For them, living according to the beatitudes would be like planning for a future retirement that they will never enjoy.

 

Only those who believe in eternal life recognize the wisdom and guidance found in the words of Jesus.

 

Blessed are they who live according to the beatitudes today, for tomorrow the kingdom of heaven will be theirs.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

ALWAYS UP TO DATE

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before COVID, waiting rooms in medical offices had a table or a display rack filled with magazines for patients to read as they waited to be seen by the doctor. Often those magazines were a year or more beyond their date of issue.

 

Wait times could be long and looking through a two-year-old issue of TIME or SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was preferable to watching the clock and wondering if appointment schedules were works of fiction.

 

As the scripture readings are proclaimed at Sunday Mass, we may feel like we are in a waiting room thumbing through articles in outdated magazines until we come to the next part of Mass and our scheduled “appointment” with the Lord in Holy Communion.

 

For example, in this Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3), we listen to a story dealing with events dating back some 2,800 years when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was under the domination of the Assyrians.

 

In the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17), Saint Paul refers to divisions and disunity that were present in the Christian Community at Corinth some 1,950 years ago.

 

Then in the Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23), Matthew recounts the start of the public ministry of Jesus. “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” This Gospel passage is certainly familiar. In fact, as we work our way through the Gospel of Matthew during this current liturgical year, nothing will be new. We will hear passages that we have heard before.

 

However, the scripture readings at Mass are not just old stories. God’s inspired word has something to say to us.

 

For example, Isaiah’s prophecy that the people who walked in darkness and lived in a land of gloom would see a great light, offers a message of hope. It tells us that the doom and gloom in our world caused by sin and immorality, cynicism and pessimism, hopelessness and despair will be overcome by the light that shines forth when we allow Christ to come into our lives. As Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

 

Saint Paul’s plea to the Christians at Corinth that there be no divisions, disunity, and rivalry among them certainly parallels the polarization and suspicion in today’s Church.

 

Some Catholics believe that only people who think like them, pray like them, and vote like them, are truly on the road to salvation. Parishioners sometimes have little faith in the leadership of their pastors and think of them as self-absorbed or ambitious. A recent study reveals that many priests have little faith and trust in their bishops.

 

Paul tells us, as he told the Corinthians, that we must remember that we were baptized into Christ, and Christ is not divided. We need to keep our fundamental unity in mind, a unity we are reminded of each time we receive the Eucharist at Mass and become a “holy communion.”

 

The message of Jesus in the Gospel to repent and embrace the kingdom is always new. Turning away from all that is sinful and selfish and opposed to the Gospel is not a one-time event. It needs to happen daily as we resist temptation and seek to faithfully follow Jesus like Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

 

Unlike magazines in a waiting room, God’s inspired word is constantly current. The readings at Mass always have something to say to us today!

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

ON TRIAL

sunday, January 15, 2023

THe Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In a criminal trial, a prosecuting attorney tries to prove that an accused person has broken the law, while the defense attorney attempts to show that the accused is not guilty.

 

In a civil case, a person seeks to hold an individual or institution liable for some alleged harm or injury, while the person or institution being sued attempts to disprove the allegation.

 

In both criminal and civil trials, each side brings forth evidence, presents testimony and summons witnesses to persuade the jury to rule in its favor.

 

This Sunday’s scripture readings might lead us to imagine a trial in which the Church tries to make the case that Jesus is the Messiah, in contrast to those hostile to Christianity who view Jesus as a mere man whose ideas make little sense in their world.

 

In the Gospel (John 1:29-34), John the Baptist presents the case for Jesus being the Savior and Messiah. As he sees Jesus approaching, John says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

 

John further testifies that he “saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” John then sums up his testimony about Jesus by declaring, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

 

In the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:1-3), Saint Paul speaks of himself as someone chosen by God to testify to the truth about Jesus. He describes himself as “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

 

Then in the First Reading (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6), the Church sees the words spoken about Isaiah as applying to Jesus. “You are my servant….I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

 

During the Christmas season, further testimony was presented about Jesus: the angels of heaven testified to the shepherds that “in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

Those shepherds not only went to Bethlehem, “they made known the message told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed.”

 

By their arrival in Jerusalem and by the gifts they presented to the infant Jesus, the magi gave evidence that this child of Bethlehem was the newborn king of the Jews. He was the Christ.

 

In addition to using this testimony from the Scriptures to make its case for Jesus, the Church calls upon us to stand as witnesses and to testify.

 

As Saint Paul tells us, “You have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” By our lives of holiness and service, we give evidence of our belief that Jesus is Savior and Lord. If we fail to live such lives and fall into sin, we weaken the case for Jesus and unwittingly become witnesses for the opposing side.

 

In our increasingly secular society, Jesus Christ is on trial. The Church proclaims him to be Savior and Lord, the Son of God, while society denies those truths and rejects Christianity.

 

How each person on the jury decides that case depends upon the evidence presented and the testimony given about Jesus. By our words and actions may we serve as powerful witnesses to our Catholic faith so that people will decide the case in favor of Jesus and recognize him as their Savior and Lord.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

TWO REACTIONS

SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 2023

The Epiphany of the Lord


Teachers often assign students a novel or short story, then ask them to write essays answering questions related to what they have read.

 

Imagine for a moment, that a teacher requires his or her students to read this Sunday’s Gospel for the Solemnity of the Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12), then directs them to answer the following questions:

 

1. Why did the magi, who were not Jewish, make the journey from the east to seek out “the newborn king of the Jews?” Why would they be interested in what was occurring in a distant land occupied by the Romans?

 

2. Why did the religious leaders and the people of Jerusalem, who were “greatly troubled” after hearing the magi’s report, not go to Bethlehem to see this newborn king?

 

Those are good questions for us to consider as we celebrate the Epiphany. Often, this feast is only associated with the magi presenting gifts to the infant Jesus. Obviously, the magi had a stronger motivation than just gift giving to make the arduous trip to Bethlehem.

 

The magi must have gone because they believed this child, whose birth was signaled by a shining star, would become more than the king of a distant land under the domination of Rome.

 

They must have also thought that meeting the child would positively change their lives. That certainly happened, for after they saw the infant Jesus, they changed their plans and decided not to return to Herod as he had requested.

 

Perhaps that encounter with the child of Bethlehem also caused them to stop searching the heavens, for they had come in contact with the “light of the world.”

 

The people of Jerusalem were initially excited when they heard the report of the magi, but that excitement and curiosity quickly waned.

 

Perhaps they suspected the news was too good to be true. Or perhaps they thought that the presence of a newborn king would disrupt their lives or bring down the wrath of the occupying Romans.

 

The chief priests and scribes, who informed Herod that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Christ, also showed no inclination to see if those prophecies had been fulfilled.

 

Possibly those religious leaders were jaded after hundreds of years of waiting for the promised Messiah. Or perhaps, like King Herod, they felt the child born in Bethlehem might be a threat to their power and position.

 

Notice the contrast: When a shining star announced the birth of the newborn king of the Jews, the magi made every effort to encounter him. The people of Jerusalem, the chief priests, and the scribes made no such effort.

 

Today, the proclamation of the Gospel that announces that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Light of the World continues to elicit the same opposing reactions.

 

Some people, like the magi, are touched by the message of the Gospel. They seek out Jesus Christ, who is as present in His Church as he was present as an infant in the town of Bethlehem. In the Church, these people listen to his words, share his life, and come to know the truth about themselves and their purpose in life

 

Other people are like the inhabitants of Jerusalem: They just go on with their lives. They reject the message of the Gospel and put no faith in Jesus Christ. They see Christianity as a threat to their values and their understanding of life.

 

The Solemnity of the Epiphany is not about the gifts offered by the magi. It is about the two possible reactions that people can have toward Jesus Christ, whose coming we celebrate this Christmas Season.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

MORE THAN NEW YEAR'S DAY

Sunday, January 1, 2023

SOLEMNITY OF Mary, the Holy MOther of God

This Sunday is January 1, the first day of the new year of 2023.

 

There are other calendars where January 1 is not the first day of the year. For example, the Federal Government marks October 1 as the first day of its Fiscal Year.

 

Academic institutions usually schedule the first day of the School Year in September near Labor Day.

 

The Catholic Church begins its Liturgical Year on the First Sunday of Advent, which was this past November 27.

 

It is a happy circumstance that two calendars intersect on January 1. In addition to being New Year’s Day, the Church’s calendar designates January 1 as one of the great feasts of the Christmas Season: the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

 

The scripture readings for that day relate to the feast and also to New Year’s Day.

 

In the Gospel for that day (Luke 2:16-21), we learn that Mary was a person who reflected on the events in her life. After she and Joseph were visited by the shepherds, we are told, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

 

Mary also must have reflected on everything that had happened to her since she was visited by the angel. Mary had dealt with Joseph’s confusion and then his acceptance of her pregnancy. She had gone to assist her cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting. Mary and Joseph had traveled some 90 miles to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, and it was that town that she had given birth to her firstborn son. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

 

Mary must also have considered what the future would hold for her, for Joseph, and for the infant she was caressing in her arms.

 

Mary’s thinking about her life reminds us of the importance of personal reflection and January 1 is a perfect day for it.

 

Sunday’s First Reading (Numbers 6:22-27), which contains a Jewish prayer of blessing, might help us in our personal reflection.

 

We might ask ourselves how has the Lord blessed us and watched over us in the past year? In what ways has the Lord let his face shine on us and been gracious to us in the past 12 months? How has the Lord shown us unexpected kindness and granted us peace in our lives?

 

January 1 is not only a day to reflect on what has happened in the past and how God has touched our lives; it is also a day to reflect on the year ahead.

 

In Sunday’s Second Reading (Galatians 4:4-7), we are reminded that “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

 

God has made us his adopted sons and daughters not only to show us his love and mercy, but because God has expectations of us.

 

Just as Mary was favored by God because she had a role to play in God’s plan of salvation, so God has favored us and made us his children for we have a part to play in proclaiming the Gospel and bringing his Kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our troubled world.

 

Society celebrates January 1, New Year’s Day with family gatherings, parades, parties, sporting events, and hopes for the future.

 

In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, on January 1, the Church tells us this is also a day of reflection. It is day to think about how God has acted in our lives and a day to consider what God may expect of us in the coming months of 2023.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

BEST WISHES FOR A NEW YEAR

FILLED WITH GOD’S ABUNDANT BLESSINGS!

Merry Christ-Mass

Sunday, December 25, 2022

THe Nativity of the Lord, Christmas DAY

Christmas” is a joyful word. It brings to mind family gatherings, special foods, decorated trees, houses bright with lights, shopping for and exchanging presents, carols and seasonal music, pageants, church services, and holiday parties.

 

That joyful word recalls Santa and his reindeer, excited children, greeting cards, visiting friends and relatives, snow-covered streets and hot chocolate, warm memories of past celebrations, and treasured stories featuring characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Charlie Brown.

 

We use the word “Christmas” as a noun to refer to December 25.  We also use the word as an adjective to describe the things associated with that special holiday. Sometimes the word is even used as a verb as in the song “I’m Christmasing With You.”

 

This December 25, it would be good to also consider the origins of word “Christmas” that we use so freely this time of year.

 

The word has its origin in the eleventh century from the old English term “Cristes Maesse.”

 

“Cristes” comes from the Greek word “Christos,” meaning “anointed” and was used to translate the Hebrew word for “messiah.”

 

The word “Maesse” is from the Latin word “missa” that means Mass.

 

“Cristes Masese,” which later became Christmas, therefore means Christ’s Mass, or the Mass of Christ. It was the name given to the liturgy that celebrates the Nativity of the Lord.

 

Therefore, each time the word “Christmas” is used, people are employing a word of religious origin that references the Mass used to celebrate the birth of Christ, the long-awaited Messiah.

 

The religious meaning of Christmas is found in the very word itself. Perhaps that is why our increasingly secular world is more comfortable with “Happy Holidays” than with “Merry Christmas” which implies a joyful celebration of the Mass of Christ.

 

The fact that the word Christmas is associated with the celebration of the liturgy can also remind us that the Mass itself can be seen as a continuation of Christmas.

 

At the first Christmas, the Son of God who had taken on flesh in the womb of Mary was born into the world. As Saint John tells us in his Gospel that can be used on the Nativity of the Lord (John 1:1-18), “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

 

Each time Mass is celebrated, that Christmas event occurs: The Son of God continues to come among us and like the shepherds and magi of old, we recognize his presence.

Christ comes to us as the bread and wine are consecrated and transformed into his Body and Blood. We acknowledge his “real presence” as we proclaim “Amen” when the minister of Holy Communion says, “The Body of Christ. The Blood of Christ.”

 

Christ, whose infant voice was first heard in the stable of Bethlehem, comes and speaks to us during the Mass. We acknowledge his voice as we respond “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ” after the priest or deacon has proclaimed his words in “The Gospel of the Lord.”

Christ, who showed himself to the little community that came to the stable that first Christmas night, reveals himself to us through the people who come and assemble around the altar for the celebration of Mass. We acknowledge that community to be the Church, to be the Body of Christ.

 

Each time Mass is celebrated, the Son of God comes and reveals himself to us as our Savior and Lord—just as he did that first Christmas.

 

“Christmas” is a truly joyful word, made even more joyful when we recognize its connection to the Mass – to Christ’s Mass!

 

© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

Prayers and Best Wishes for a Joyful Christmas Season,

Filled with the Lord’s Presence and Peace!

CONSEQUENTIAL DECISIONS

Sunday, December 18, 2022

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Decisions have consequences.

 

For example, a husband and wife buy their first home. Even though they will be living near water they ignore the advice to buy flood insurance. They feel it would be foolish to spend some $1,500 in annual premiums to insure their home against flooding that has not occurred for the past 80 years.

 

Another couple in the same situation makes a very different decision. They take the advice of their realtor and purchase flood insurance. They faithfully pay the annual premium, believing it prudent to be prepared for the unexpected.

 

A major flood comes and the homes in the neighborhood are made unlivable. The couple who declined the flood insurance realize they made a terrible decision.

 

The other couple is delighted that they took the advice they were given. Their insurance coverage will provide them with money to restore their home and move forward with their lives.

 

The Old Testament and the New Testament each begin with a story about a couple confronted with a decision and the consequences that flow from their choice.

 

In the first pages of the Old Testament, we read about the first man and woman created by God. They were placed in the Garden of Eden and told by God, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16-17).

 

God gave that first couple a command and the free will to obey or disobey his instructions.

 

Confronted with that choice, they decided to ignore the commandment of God and to do what they thought best.

 

Their decision to disobey God led to dire consequences: They were expelled from Eden and their lives became difficult. Their “original sin” affected them and their children and set loose a flood of consequences that has continued to wash down to this very day.

 

At the start of the New Testament, we learn of another couple, Mary and Joseph, who were also faced with a decision.

 

Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, was asked by God to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. She was told that she would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Mary realized that doing what God requested would likely lead to negative consequences. Her betrothal to Joseph would be nullified, she would be publicly humiliated, and she even risked being stoned for immoral behavior. Yet Mary decided to do as God asked. As she told the messenger from God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

 

That decision by Mary led to Joseph being confronted with a choice. His first reaction was to end his impending marriage and to move on with his life. But as we hear in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 1: 18-24), God gave him other advice.

 

Joseph was told in a dream, “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” Joseph decided to do as God asked, even though he realized his relatives and neighbors would consider him hopelessly naive to believe Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy.

 

The decision of Mary and Joseph to do as God requested led to a wonderful consequence that has positively impacted all humanity: Christ the Savior was born.

 

Our decisions also have consequences. The more our decisions are based on good advice, particularly “Godly” advice, the better the consequences will be for us and for our world.

 

© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

DOUBT

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Third Sunday of Advent

Faith, hope, love, forgiveness, generosity, judgement, heaven, hell, prayer, and discipleship are among the topics we would expect to hear mentioned in a Sunday homily.

 

The Gospel for this Sunday (Matthew 11:2-11), which focuses our attention on John the Baptist, might lead a preacher to consider an unexpected topic: doubt.

 

John the Baptist had announced Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. As we are told, John was “with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God”” (John 1:35). Moved by that testimony, those disciples became followers of Jesus.

 

Yet in Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist appears to be having doubts about Jesus.

 

While he was in prison for condemning the unlawful marriage of King Herod, John received reports about Jesus. John was troubled by what he heard because Jesus was not acting as he expected the Messiah to behave. So, John the Baptist “sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?””

 

Most likely John the Baptist expected the promised Messiah to come with power and glory and to call down the wrath of God on sinners and on the oppressors of Israel.

 

Jesus tried to put John’s doubts to rest by telling his disciples to report to him "what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

 

Whether that account completely resolved the doubts of John the Baptist, we will never know.

 

It is interesting that Jesus ended his report to John by saying, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

 

What John the Baptist experienced in his relationship with Jesus can also happen in our lives.

 

There are times when our relationship with Jesus Christ is strong and unquestioned. Like John the Baptist, we are more than ready to proclaim our belief that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, he is our Savior and Lord, and he is the Messiah.

 

Our faith in Christ guides our lives and informs our decisions. United with our fellow believers, we strive to make Jesus Christ present in our world.

 

But there can also be times when, like John the Baptist, we have our doubts about Jesus Christ.

 

We may begin to doubt when our prayers for suffering family members seem to go unheard.

 

We may start to doubt the Lord when we plead for his help with a personal problem or a health issue, and the situation only worsens.

 

Doubts may enter our mind when we implore the Prince of Peace to calm our troubled world, but wars rage on and innocent people continue to die.

 

Doubts may arise when the Lord, who fed the crowd with a few loaves and fish, seems to ignore the plight of the hungry, the homeless, the poor of our day.

 

We may find ourselves asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

 

At those times we need to remember what Jesus told the disciples sent to him by John the Baptist: “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

 

Our relationship with Jesus Christ needs to be based on our faith in him, not on his meeting our expectations. There is no doubt about that!

 

© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

SENDING CHRISTMAS CARDS?

Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Second Sunday of Advent

During the early part of December, most of us start thinking about Christmas cards and questions come to mind.

 

“Should I send out cards this year now that postage is up to sixty cents?”

 

“Should I forego actual cards and instead send an e-card, or perhaps a text message or a short video greeting?”

 

“Should I mail cards only to those relatives and friends I will not see over the holidays?”

 

“Should I send cards to people from whom I have not received a card for the past few Christmases?”

 

“Should I just wait and only mail cards to those who first send me one?”

 

Once we decide that we will send out Christmas cards, another decision must be made: “What kind of card should I send? Should I send a religious Christmas card, one with a nativity scene or perhaps an image of Mary and the Child Jesus?”

 

“Should I send a more secular card, one with a Christmas tree or perhaps an image of Santa Claus and his reindeer?”

 

We also need to consider the text on each card. Some people would be happy to read, “May Jesus who came as our Savior that first Christmas draw you ever closer to him.” A non-believing friend might be more comfortable with a card that reads, “Happy Holidays.”

 

This Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) presents us with an image that would be appropriate on a Christmas card for believers and non-believers alike. “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”

 

That image on the front of a card, with simply the word PEACE as its text, would be suitable for anyone.

 

For the person without faith, the card presents a charming scene where natural enemies are together in peace. The text offers the hope that such “peace” will be with the recipient and with our troubled world.

 

For the person of faith, such a card has a truly religious meaning. The image of all creatures dwelling together in harmony recalls the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. There all creation was at peace. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).

 

Unfortunately, that peace and harmony came to an end when humanity chose to go its own way rather than God’s way and sin entered the world.

 

The peace that was lost, and that we long for today, will only be restored when humanity follows the way of the Lord.

 

That message was proclaimed by John the Baptist, and even more powerfully by Jesus. As we read in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12), “John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”

 

While repentance is usually understood as turning from sin, we might better understand it as allowing the Spirit of God to guide and direct our lives. As we pray in the Our Father, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

The more people allow God’s Spirit to guide their lives, the more God’s kingdom of peace comes into our world.

 

The perfect Christmas card for all people, believers and non-believers alike, shows the image that beautifully portrays the peace that we all long for in our lives and in our world. “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”

Such a Christmas card is worth sending to everyone.

 

© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

AN UNEXPECTED BEGINNING

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The First Sunday of Advent

Imagine for a moment that you liked reading novels in which you were kept in suspense wondering how the story would end.

 

Would the distraught parents be reunited with their lost child? Would the signals from space herald the arrival of aliens? Would the underrated team win the championship? Would the detective ever find the evidence to clear the defendant?

 

However, imagine you picked up a novel and rather than holding the reader in suspense until the last few pages, the author revealed the conclusion of the story on the first page. Yes, the child is found. The signals are a mistake. The underrated team wins. The defendant is found guilty.

 

This Sunday, the start of the new liturgical year of 2023, we begin a series of Gospel readings that will tell us the story of Jesus from his birth in Bethlehem to his death and resurrection. In the course of those readings, we will hear of his teachings, his miracles, his interaction with the disciples, the response of the crowds, and the hostility of the religious authorities. We will come to know Jesus as the Son of God and as our Savior and Lord.

 

On the First Sunday of Advent, we would expect the story to begin at the beginning, but it begins at the end. In the Gospel Reading for this Sunday (Mathew 24:37-44), Jesus tells us he will return in glory. He will come to usher in the long-awaited Kingdom of God where, as we learn in our First Reading (Isaiah 2:1-5), “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.

 

Jesus warns us not everyone will be judged worthy of a place in that kingdom. As he says, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”

 

Jesus tells us if we wish to be the one taken into the kingdom, we must “stay awake!” Saint Paul in our Second Reading (Romans 13:11-14) proclaims that same message. He tells us “to awake from sleep…throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”

 

The Church does not keep us in suspense. It starts the story of Jesus with the “conclusion” so that we will realize the importance of our being awake and ready to welcome the Lord.

 

As we make our way through the “pages” of the Gospel during this new liturgical year, we need keep that ending in mind. We need to be ready for the return of the Lord “for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

 

© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski