Offers food for thought
It is an opportunity to reevaluate our journey in light of God’s presence or lack of presence; repent of any ways or actions that have caused us to stray from God; reform our self understanding as beloved children of God; renew our commitment to the covenant and redouble our efforts to live, love, learn and lead in complete freedom.
From a ‘practice of religion’ point of view, Christians can get very unimpressed with the repetition in the Church calendar. Here we go, Advent again… second verse same as the first! But really, attention is on Thanksgiving and the run up to the Christmas and New Years high that leads to a January joy that disappears into a February funk and the daily grind of the weeks until summer vacation.
However, there is an important difference between this year and every Advent that you have ever experienced. The difference is you! You are not the same person you were. Things happened this past year that have never happened before. You went to new places; experienced familiar places in new ways; recovered old friendships; maybe Christ came this past year for someone you love. Maybe God answered particular prayers; maybe you received the grace to overcome old temptations. You’re closer to God now, or maybe, you’ve grown even more cold and indifferent.
This advent is new and different because you are. We all are. That means we should be ready with anticipation to experience the journey of this Advent in a way that allows us to be open to God in new ways. Ways we might not have been ready for, until now, because of this past years journey. God is ready to make it happen, ready for us to be able to love God and our neighbor in new and deeper ways and to experience the freedom for which we are made, like never before.
Speaking of loving neighbors; All of us know people who have never heard any of this, not even one time. They’ve never had the blessed opportunity to make a choice between experiencing communion with God or to just come to church and check their emails or fall asleep.
This Advent, don’t forget to introduce or reintroduce others to the ‘reason for the season’s – greeting… Let's help someone - even just one person - arrive to Christmas this year not just distracted from their troubles, but filled with new meaning for their life.
Today, the last Sunday of the Church year, we celebrate Christ's Kingship and a Kingdom that transcends this world; a celebration which focuses on the pivotal moment of human history when Jesus Christ was crucified and fully revealed boundless mercy and love as the foundations of His Kingdom. We celebrate the one who came to inaugurate among us the Kingdom of God, whose citizens are those who completely surrender and invite Christ to transform them, according to the will of God, into the new creation in Christ.
Christ embodies the whole vision of the Kingdom. A vision which contains our deepest desires for the unseen God and our greatest hopes for perfection. He is the image of the unseen God and man perfected. Through him we are drawn into the divine union which opens to us the mysteries of God and man. Christ, through the cross which is his eternal throne, is the bridge, the ‘Pontifex’ upon which we cross into his kingdom.
It is for each one of us to profess our allegiance to him and to respond daily to His offer to draw us out of darkness into His great light. We, in the same spirit as the repentant criminal who was crucified alongside Christ, are invited to fully acknowledge our guilt and cry out “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”, to be freed from the chains of sin and purged of its consequences within. Although we cannot remain in sin and be fully free, even in our weakness as we waver between the light and the dark, we who have become the Body of Christ the Church are that visible bridge, ‘pontifex’ and mediator between God and the world.
In so doing we are empowered to unceasingly embrace our identity as soldiers of the Church Militant and to follow Christs command to go out into all the world, to proclaim a vision of human life and dignity that challenges the increasingly anti God and anti-human viewpoints and lifestyles of secular society. We may not believe that we can speak truth and life, hope and love, mercy and salvation into the lives of others on such a battlefield, but Jesus promises that He will give us “an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.”
There are people around us whom Jesus wants to save, just as he saved us. We all know someone who needs to hear this message. We are his messengers who "give testimony," of the Good News of Christ's Kingdom. He wants us to tell them the truth by our words and in the way in which we live.
Our mission won’t always be easy, but a solid relationship with Christ will help us face those times when it’s tough for us to do the right thing and when it’s so tempting and easy to take shortcuts. We can count on the grace we receive in the sacraments of encounter with God, to strengthen us to endure the actions of those who will always hate the Gospel message and who find it so threatening they are compelled to silence us at all costs, and to endure the suffering.
If we remain in Him, He remains in us and will give us that abiding interior peace and hope filled joy in answer to our prayer that we would be always free from sin and safe from all distress as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
In our time, just as it was between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, within the universal church there is a lot of division about what is authoritatively the Word of God. There are some sister churches that don’t accept the book of Maccabee’s which gives us today’s first reading, and makes their theology and understanding of heaven, hell and purgatory different from ours. Our own church is the victim of vehemently competing visions of what the scriptures contain about discernable truth of God is as it relates to Marriage, Sexuality, Sacraments, Human dignity and more. Add to that, the even more complicated and aggressive secular world in which we live. It is full of influences that are contrary to even the most commonly and strongly held tenets of the faith and they can affect our understanding of God’s truth, the strength of our faith and the way in which we choose to justify our actions.
What is a disciple of Christ to do? With so much division among theologians, Bishops, Priests, teachers, politicians, doctors, scientists, friends and family… how does a disciple come to a firmness of faith and understanding of truth that, if the time came, they could be like the brothers in the first reading and become martyrs?
How do we take seriously, what St Paul tells us in the Second Reading, not to depend on our own strength, but on God's and to keep our friendship with Christ alive and healthy, because he will never let us fall into error? Obviously, it seems, that a lot of disciples of Christ and former disciples of Christ, have fallen into error even as they prayed for God’s help.
We already know the answer. It may not be the same for each of us and most of us prefer a different one, because we don’t like to admit that it is something in us that causes the problems. However, the test about what we believe and how we live our faith with integrity, will always be same. Christ is himself the sifter of wheat and chaff, truth and error. Just as he was in today’s Gospel. In Christ, the truth became perfectly expressed.
St Irenaeus, Bishop, who was a 2nd century ‘church father’ as a teacher and defender of the faith, said “The glory of God is a person fully alive”. Who is that person? The one who has firmly and completely submitted to God, is a fully alive person.
Part Two: Can be heard by clicking here or by subscribing to the iTunes Podcast for CampusPadre. (Audio files are usually available by the end of day on which the Eucharistic Celebration occurred.)
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.