GRACE REQUIRED

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in ordinary Time

At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions. Some resolve to lose weight, to exercise more, and to watch what they eat. Others resolve to put family responsibilities before their careers. Others promise to limit the hours given to their digital devices and to use that newfound time to get involved in charitable activities.

 

But after a few months, many people forget those resolutions. Not because they no longer want to do what they decided, but because they lack the strength and willpower required. They find things just too hard.

 

As people of faith, we make resolutions related to our spiritual life. We resolve to pray every day, to read the Bible, to faithfully attend Sunday Mass, to get involved in parish ministries, to become better Christians.

 

But again, despite our good intentions, we often give up. We find it hard to remain faithful to our resolutions.

 

However, when it comes to improving our spiritual lives, it is not our work and effort that are required but rather God’s grace and power. We see that in the three readings proclaimed this coming Sunday.

 

In Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8), Isaiah becomes God’s prophet not because of what he does, not because he studies the scriptures, not because he develops oratorical skills, but because of what God does. God sends an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips, thereby purifying him and filling him with the grace and power needed to deliver God’s word.

 

The same is true in our Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Paul says that he went from being a persecutor to a preacher of the Gospel, not because he had a change of heart but because God dramatically entered his life and turned it around.

 

Paul recognized it was God’s grace working in him that made the difference. As he said, “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 

That life-changing touch of the Lord is also seen in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 5:1-11). Peter becomes a disciple not because he decides that being a follower of Jesus is better than smelling of fish for the rest of his life, but because Jesus enters his boat, and enters his life.

 

Peter acknowledges his unworthiness before Jesus. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Yet Jesus persists in reaching out, in changing Peter. "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."

 

Isaiah, Paul, and Peter grew spiritually, they grew in their relationship with God, not because of what they resolved to do – but because God entered their lives. They were touched by the grace of God. The same is true for us.

 

It is the grace and power of God that changes us for the better, that causes us to grow in holiness, and that makes us the Christians we are meant to be.

 

If we could change ourselves, we would have no need of a Savior. No, like Isaiah, Paul, and Peter we are changed by the grace and action of God.

 

The more we consciously put ourselves in the presence of God by devoting time to personal prayer, by reading the scriptures, by faithfully attending Sunday Mass, by receiving the Sacraments, and by participating in the life of the Church, the more we are touched by the grace of God and we are changed.

 

Good resolutions and personal effort might improve our everyday lives, but our spiritual lives are improved by the action of God. As Saint Paul put it “by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

 

CASTING US

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Imagine for a moment that a movie producer was making a contemporary version of the Gospel passage that we hear this Sunday (Luke 4:21-30) about Jesus preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth.

 

Obviously, the casting director would need to choose an actor to play Jesus and a number of people to portray the residents of Nazareth listening to his words.

 

In such a contemporary version of that Gospel passage, you and I would be perfect candidates to play the people of Nazareth.

 

Those people had known Jesus for years. In fact, some had known him since he was brought to town as a child by Mary and Joseph.

 

We too have known Jesus for years. We were most likely introduced to him by our parents and grandparents. We learned about him in Catholic school or in programs of religious education. We grew in our understanding of him as we prepared for First Penance, First Communion, and Confirmation. And we continue to learn about him and spend time with him when we come to Sunday Mass.

 

Like the people of Nazareth, we think we know Jesus.

 

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims that the passage from Isaiah about the anointed one of God applies to him. When the residents of Nazareth hear his claim, they find it too much to take. They ask, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" 

 

What Jesus was saying about himself did not fit what they believed about him, so they reject him. They even go so far as to try and throw him off a cliff.

 

We can be like those people. During our years of knowing him, we have put together our personal understanding of Jesus. We have given him qualities and traits that fit our needs. We have chosen certain words of his to remember and challenging ones to forget. When we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” we usually mean, “What would Jesus do if he were me?”

 

When the Church, through its teaching and preaching, presents us with a Jesus who does not match our image, we do what the people of Nazareth attempted to do. We try to push him away.

 

When we do that, we miss growing in our understanding of who Jesus truly is. And as he did in the Gospel, Jesus goes on his way. He gradually fades out of our lives.

 

We also see that happening in our secular society that regards Jesus as only a non-judgmental teacher preaching prosperity and success and not as Savior and Lord. Perhaps that may explain why Christianity is declining in North America and Europe. Jesus has walked on from those who refuse to acknowledge who he is.

 

A casting director looking for extras to play the people of Nazareth would not have far to look. Today, there are more people than ever who do not understand who Jesus truly is.

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

NEW THINKING

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


What did Jesus see as his main mission in life?

 

Was it to free humanity from the power of sin? Was it to bring healing and hope to the suffering? Was it to usher in the kingdom of God? Was it to confront the hypocrisy and injustice of his day? Was it to make God’s love visible by his words and actions? Was it to invite people to follow him? Was it to start the Church?

 

Certainly, those are all good answers.

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21), Jesus himself gives us the answer to that question. He tells us his principal mission in life.

 

Luke wrote that during a service in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus took the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and found a certain passage. After reading it he said, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

 

Jesus applied what he read to himself. In doing so he told us his primary mission. It was “to bring glad tidings to the poor …. to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

 

Three of those four actions had to do with preaching.

 

This reveals that the primary mission of Jesus was to preach, it was to proclaim a new way of thinking about God, a new way of thinking about ourselves, and a new way of thinking about our relationship with others and with the world.

 

For Jesus knew that how we think affects how we act. It determines our behavior.

 

That preaching mission of Jesus, which continues each time the scriptures are proclaimed and each time the Church announces the Good News of the Gospel, is more needed in our day than ever.

 

For we live in a society that promotes a way of thinking very different from that of Jesus.

 

Society tells us to think of morality as something we determine for ourselves.

 

Society tells us to think that the more things we possess, the greater our wealth, the happier we become.

 

Society tells us to think about pornography as just a form of harmless entertainment.

 

Society tells us to think about marriage as a temporary relationship between any two people.

 

Society tells us to think of gender as fluid and changeable.

 

Society tells us to think of abortion as a form of health care.

 

Society tells us to think of religion as something for the uneducated and ignorant.

 

Society tells us to think of heaven, hell, and eternal life as myths concocted by those afraid of dying.

 

When we think in those ways, our behavior becomes sinful and selfish. We move into the darkness. We lose our dignity as children of God.

 

The main mission of Jesus was to proclaim a new way of thinking about God, about ourselves, and about life. If we think as Jesus taught, our behavior changes for the better and God’s kingdom comes into our lives and into our world.

 

Jesus came to preach a new way of thinking that would lead to a new way of living. That was his main mission in life.

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

ON THE GUEST LIST

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The second Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you plan a party, there are certain things you have to do.

 

You need to pick a date and time for the event.

 

You need to select a venue.

 

You need to choose the food and the drinks you will be serving.

 

You need to decide if there will be music and if so, will you hire a DJ or a live band?

 

And you need to make out a guest list. That decision is the most important of all. The right mix of people is the critical ingredient for any successful party.

 

You can have beer and burgers in your garage and if you have invited happy, friendly people, the party will likely be terrific. But the opposite can also be true. You can have gourmet food, fine wine, outstanding music, and an amazing venue, but if you have unhappy, nasty, critical people among your guests, the event can turn out to be a disaster.

 

Guests can make or break a party.

 

If you were planning a party, and Jesus was still walking this earth, would you put him on your guest list?

 

Certainly, we have no problem meeting Jesus in church or when we speak to him in prayer, but would we want Jesus among our guests at a birthday party, a bachelor party, a wedding reception, an anniversary celebration, a sweet sixteen party, or a Super Bowl bash?

 

Would Jesus add life and energy to the party, or would he make people feel uncomfortable? Would people feel they had to watch their language, talk only about religious things, limit themselves to drinking soda or maybe just one glass of wine, and monitor the kind of music that was played?

 

Would our guests feel on edge, feel that Jesus was watching them, judging them, worried that he might strike up a conversation and question them about their lives?

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 2:1-11), we hear about a wedding reception in the town of Cana in Galilee. Mary was there and “Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.” Obviously, the newlyweds and their parents had no problem inviting Jesus to the party.

 

If Jesus had been someone who made parties somber, stuffy affairs he would not have been invited. We also read that the party might have ended when the wine unexpectedly ran out, but Jesus kept the celebration going by changing gallons of water into choice wine.

 

On a theological level, that first miracle recorded in the Gospel of John reveals that Jesus himself is the “choice wine” that comes into the world to bring humanity into a new relationship with God.

 

On a human level, that miracle tells us that inviting Jesus into our lives brings true joy. If we do not appreciate that, the problem is not with Jesus, it is with us.

 

It means we do not understand the joy that comes with living as the Gospel teaches. A joy that Pope Francis beautifully pointed out in 2013 in his exhortation entitled, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

 

It may also mean that we are engaged in some kind of behavior that contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

 

The couple at Cana would tell us, if you want a great party, if you want a great life, put Jesus on your guest list. After all, we’ve been talking about their party in Cana for 2,000 years.

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

LOOKING FOR "LIKES"

sunday, January 13, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

Imagine having a Facebook page without any likes.

 

Imagine having a Twitter account without any followers.

 

Imagine posting photos on Instagram that are never viewed.

 

Imagine having a YouTube Channel that no one watches.

 

Imagine only receiving emails and text messages from companies trying to sell you something.

 

Anyone in that situation would certainly feel out of place in our day where being noticed, being seen, being recognized, seems to validate a person’s existence. Even being noticed for the wrong reasons, is better than not being noticed at all!

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22) we meet two people who did not seem to care about being noticed.

 

By his preaching, John the Baptist certainly attracted the attention of the crowds. We are told “at that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Matthew 3:5-6).

 

But rather than rejoicing in that attention, John did all he could to deflect interest away from himself.

 

As John told the people, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”

 

John the Baptist was not interested in gaining “followers” and “likes.” Instead he was interested in alerting people to the one whose coming they were awaiting, the coming of the Christ, the coming of the Messiah.

 

When that Messiah came, he did not come in a dramatic way that caught the attention of the world. While this Christmas season, which ends this Sunday, has focused our attention on singing angels, awe-struck shepherds, a shining star in the heavens, and searching magi, we need to realize most people took no notice of the Messiah born in Bethlehem. He hardly made a showing on the “social media” of his day.

 

While we might imagine that changed on the day of his baptism, that was not the case.

 

Luke tells us that Jesus simply was baptized along with other people who came to John at the Jordan River. There was no dramatic spectacle.

 

In Luke’s account the coming of the Spirit and the words of the Father come when Jesus is at prayer. “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying … the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven.”

 

While the Gospel of John indicates that John the Baptist saw the dove, Matthew says these events were seen only by Jesus. Certainly, if these events were witnessed by all present, there would have been a dramatic reaction.

 

As Jesus begins his public ministry, he does so in a humble, unassuming, prayerful way. And that is how Jesus acts throughout the Gospels. He is not an attention seeker looking for praise and adulation. He is not concerned with impressing the public with miracles. He is not interested in media attention and increasing the number of his admirers.

 

No, like John the Baptist, Jesus was dedicated only to doing the will of his Father. We might say Jesus was only interested in getting his Father’s “thumbs up.”

 

As baptized members of God’s Church, that also is the “like” we need to seek. We need to be Christians who hear the Father say, "You are my beloved … with you I am well pleased."

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

DARKNESS REQUIRED

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

This weekend in many churches across the country, selected members of the congregation will act out the scene described in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12) for the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

 

Dressed in robes and wearing crowns on their heads, they will move in procession up the aisle of the church. Then they will reverently place the gifts they are carrying before the figure of the infant Jesus located in the parish’s nativity scene.

 

Afterwards, many preachers will urge listeners to consider what gifts they can bring to the Lord.

 

However, Matthew’s story about the coming of the magi is not just a heart-warming story about exotic visitors bringing gifts to a little baby boy or a call to personal generosity.

 

Matthew is using that event to teach us about Jesus and to challenge us spiritually.

 

The magi, who were described as coming “from the east,” were Gentiles. They were not members of the Chosen People, as were the shepherds who had come earlier to see the “newborn king of the Jews.” This king was able to draw Jews and Gentiles to himself. He was the savior of all people, even those people that others might judge beyond saving.

 

While the magi sought this newborn king, the chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem made no move to search him out. Knowing predictions about the birth place of the coming Messiah did not motivate them to join the quest of the magi. Those religious leaders were happy with their power and position, happy with the status quo. Like most people, they had learned to deal with things as they were. Who knew what turmoil this child might cause?

 

Matthew described the gifts that were presented not to show the wealth of the givers, but to show who the recipient was. The gift of gold represented the royal status of the child. The frankincense represented his divinity; while the myrrh, used in burials, predicted, his saving death.

 

But there is something else in Sunday’s Gospel that particularly relates to us today. In order to see the star that led them to the “newborn king,” the magi had to be comfortable with darkness. Stars cannot be seen in daylight, and stars are equally invisible in places flooded with artificial light.

 

For us to find the Lord and to grow in our relationship with him we also need to be comfortable in the dark. We need to shut off, or at least tone down, the competing lights that keep us from seeing the true light of the world.

 

In our day and age, much of that competing light comes from the glowing screens of smart phones and tablets, from computer monitors and television sets, from the flashing images of video games, and from bright alerts from social networks. Those lights steal our attention away from the “true light.” They also keep us focused on what is before our faces rather than on what is beyond and above us.

 

To recognize the presence of the Lord, we need to be comfortable in the “darkness” that comes when we step away from the bright, flashing distractions that our culture puts before us.

If the magi had lived in a world like ours, the light from their digital devices might have overtaken the darkness required to see the star that was shining above them.

 

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

GROWING IN UNDERSTANDING

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

I don't understand my kids. They sometimes make such stupid decisions.

 

I can't figure out my parents. I'm 16 years old and they treat me like I’m still a child.

 

I don't understand my husband. Every evening he comes home angry from work and when I ask him what's the matter, he says everything is OK.

 

I can't figure out my wife. Just because I tell her that I want to relax and watch a football game rather than visit her mother on Sunday afternoon, she gets mad at me.

 

We sometimes find it hard to understand people, that includes the people in our own families. We should not find that surprising, even the members of the Holy Family had difficulty understanding one another.

 

As we read in this Sunday's Gospel (Luke 2:41-52), Mary and Joseph take their son Jesus to Jerusalem for the yearly celebration of Passover. But this time, rather than leaving with his parents, Jesus stays behind.

 

When Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not with their group of fellow travelers, they return to Jerusalem looking for him. There they find him in the temple having a discussion with religious experts who are “astounded at his understanding and his answers”

 

Mary and Joseph are upset that Jesus had stayed behind. As Mary asks, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Mary and Joseph could not comprehend the behavior of Jesus.

 

Jesus for his part could not understand why his parents were upset. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

 

Here we have parents who could not understand the behavior of their son, and a son who could not understand the reason for his parent’s concern.

 

The Gospel passage ends with the words, “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

 

We might say that Jesus grew in his understanding of himself and obviously in his understanding of his obligations as a son. As we are told “he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

 

Mary for her part, grew in her understanding of her son. We certainly have evidence of that at the marriage feast of Cana. There Mary sees the dilemma of a newly married couple and she asks Jesus to handle the situation. Mary had obviously come to an appreciation of the power of her son.

 

This Sunday’s reading reminds us that growing in our understanding and appreciation of the members of our family is a continuing and a challenging process. One that takes patience and love.

 

This Sunday’s Gospel also reminds us that just as Mary and Joseph had to grow in their understanding of Jesus, so do we. It takes time, prayer, study and effort to truly understand Jesus, the Son of Mary and the Son of God, and to appreciate the implications that come with having a relationship with him.

 

If, as we know, it takes deliberate time and effort to understand the members of our own families, the same is true when it comes to understanding Jesus, our brother. It takes dedicated time and effort

 

© 2018 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

 

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah where she entered the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth.

 

Those words found in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45), tell us that after being informed that Elizabeth her kinswoman was with child, Mary immediately set out to visit her.

 

While we may imagine Mary quickly going a few miles to the home of her relatives, that was not the case.

 

The distance Mary had to travel to see Elizabeth and Zechariah was some 90 miles. Such a journey on foot would have taken several days. It would be like walking from New York City to Philadelphia.

 

But Mary made that arduous journey because she wanted to assist Elizabeth during the final months of her pregnancy. Undoubtedly, Mary also wanted to tell Elizabeth the amazing news she had received from the angel Gabriel.

 

As she walked along, no other person greeted Mary with the words Elizabeth used when she saw her. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” For them, Mary was just another nameless traveler walking the dusty roads leading from Nazareth.

 

In our day that is still the case. So many people view Mary only as someone who traveled through history some 2,000 years ago and they consider the fruit of her womb as just another religious leader, a teacher, a philosopher, or a mythical figure from the past.

 

But we see things differently. Touched by that same Holy Spirit that came upon Elizabeth and allowed her to see the truth about Mary, we too recognize Mary’s special role in the story of salvation. In fact, we address her with the very words of Elizabeth each time we pray the Hail Mary. We say, “Blessed are you among woman.”

 

That same Holy Spirit has also given us the faith to proclaim the child of Mary’s womb as our Savior and Lord.

 

As the season of Christmas is about to begin, we might ask ourselves a question similar to the one that Elizabeth asked herself when Mary arrived at her door. “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

 

We might ask, “How does it happen that the child of Mary should come into our lives?”

 

© 2018 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

 

Best Wishes for a Joyous Christmas, Filled with God’s Presence and Peace!

NEEDED ENCOURAGEMENT

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Third Sunday of Advent

When a football team is scoring one touchdown after another, its fans go wild. They enthusiastically cheer on their team. The better the team does, the louder the cheering in the stadium.

 

But a football team is most in need of enthusiastic fans not when it is doing well but when there are fumbles, interceptions, and penalties. It is then the players most need to hear their fans cheering them, encouraging them not to give up.

 

A football team or any group of people needs encouragement and support the most when things are going badly. That is also true for the Church.

 

At the present time the Catholic Church is doing poorly. Its sinful fumbles are all too apparent. Some members of the clergy have sexually abused minors and vulnerable adults. Some bishops have not reacted as they should have. There have been cover-ups and a failure to confront sin in the Church.

 

Today, the Church is hearing little cheering. There is the silence of pain, disbelief, and disappointment. But this is precisely the time the Church needs support and encouragement.

 

In this Sunday's first reading (Zephaniah 3:14-18), we hear how God encouraged the Jewish people after they had fallen into sin and idolatry. Through the prophet Zephaniah, God offered his people a vision of hope at time when they were in darkness.

 

Zephaniah announced, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”

 

Those words might be seen as the words God is speaking to his Church today. Fear not, O Church, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst ... he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.

 

Another message of encouragement and advice from the heavens, is also heard in Sunday’s Second Reading (Philippians 4:4-7). Through the words that Paul wrote to the Philippians, the Church is told, “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

Words of encouragement are also found in the title traditionally given to this Third Sunday of Advent. It is called “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoicing Sunday” because we are certain the Lord is near.

 

In the midst of the Church’s difficulties, the Lord tells us not to lose hope, but to rejoice that he has not abandoned his Church. He is near.

 

In addition, the Word of God tells us to be sure we are faithfully living as members of God’s Church.

 

In the Gospel (Luke 3:10-18), we learn that when people ask John the Baptist what they should do in response to his message of repentance, he tells them to be the good people God expected them to be. Soldiers should be fair. Tax collectors should be honest. Those blessed by God should be generous.

 

That advice is also the Lord’s message to us. It encourages us – clergy and laity alike – to be certain that we are living as the good, holy, authentic Christians we promised to be at our baptism.

 

This Sunday, the scriptures proclaim a message of encouragement from the Lord – a message that the Church especially needs to hear in our day.

 

Like any team, the Church most needs to hear encouraging words, not when it is doing well, but when it is doing poorly.

 

© 2018 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

WHEN AND WHERE

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Second Sunday of Advent

When we watch a film or read a book that is said to be based on actual events, we need to know when and where those events took place.

 

Occasionally, the time and place are revealed in the very title of the book or film. For example, the movie “Pearl Harbor” is obviously set in Hawaii during December of 1941, while the film “Gettysburg” takes place in Pennsylvania during the Civil War.

 

Sometimes the title gives no indication of the setting. Instead a date and a location flash on the screen as a film begins or that information is found within the first pages of a book.

 

We can also learn the time and place by watching or reading descriptions of the scenery, the clothing, the modes of transportation, the mannerisms, and the style of speech. Obviously, men wearing top hats and women riding in carriages speak of 19th Century England, while polyester clothing and disco music bring to mind Manhattan in the 1970s.

 

Knowing the time and place helps us to understand and appreciate a story.

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 3:1-6), Saint Luke begins his account of John the Baptist by giving us the time and place of his ministry.

 

Luke tells us the names of those holding power and the names of those serving as high priests. That information lets us know that the ministry of John the Baptist began around the year 28 AD. Besides giving us the time, Luke gives us the place. He tells us, “John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan.”

 

Luke gives us those details to make it clear that he is telling us about a real person, actual places, and true events. He describes how God acted in the life of John the Baptist.

 

The other Gospel passages associated with Advent show us how God acted in the life of Joseph the Carpenter and the life of Mary of Nazareth to prepare the way for his Son.

 

In knowing the time and place we can better appreciate the story of salvation, we can better appreciate how God acted in the lives of people.

 

This Advent Season would be an appropriate time for each of us to look at our own lives and to identify the times and the places where God has touched us. And God most certainly has, otherwise we would not be people of faith.

 

The God, whose coming was announced by John the Baptist and who will come again in glory, continues to come to his people. To appreciate that continuing “advent” of God, we need to recognize the times and places where God has touched us. Knowing those details will help us to better understand the story of God’s personal relationship with us.

 

© 2018 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

HOW LONG?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The First Sunday of Advent

How long is Advent? That is an appropriate question to ask as we begin the Advent season that marks the beginning of the new liturgical year of 2019.

 

How long is Advent? 

 

The obvious answer is Advent is about four weeks long. It begins with the fourth Sunday before December 25 and continues until Christmas Eve. The four candles of the Advent Wreath certainly bring the length of the season to mind.

 

But if we consider the fuller meaning of Advent, then the answer, four weeks, is not complete.

 

The Church tells us that Advent is not just a season that prepares us to celebrate the coming of the Son of God at Bethlehem. It is also a season that reminds us to be prepared for Christ’s second coming “with power and great glory.”

 

We might say we are living not just through the Advent that leads to Christmas, but through the Advent that leads to the return of the Son of Man.

 

Since the Ascension of the Lord, more than 100,000 Sundays have gone by and Jesus has not yet returned. That is a tremendous number of candles in heaven’s “Advent Wreath.” But who knows how many more candles are yet to be lighted until we come to the Sunday that will lead to Christ’s return?

 

In Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21:25-28, 34-38), Jesus speaks of the signs that will mark his Second Coming, his Second Advent. He says, “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. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

 

But such signs of catastrophe and chaos have been taking place throughout history. And are perhaps even more evident in our troubled world with its natural disasters, endless wars, and growing polarization.

 

Those signs tell us to be aware of the Lord’s presence amid the turmoil of life and to be ready to stand before him when he makes his ultimate return in glory. We do that, as Saint Paul tells us in our Second Reading, by conducting ourselves in ways pleasing to God.

 

Advent calls us to be prepared for the celebration of Christmas.

 

But even more importantly, Advent reminds us to look for the Lord as he shows himself in our world and to look forward to his return in glory.

 

Advent is not just a matter of counting off four Sundays, it is a matter of making sure we are not so caught up with the cares of life that we are unprepared for the return of the Lord.

 

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength …. to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

© 2018 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski

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