1st Reading – The Book of Wisdom 18: 6-9
The Book of Wisdom, written in the century before the birth of Jesus and in Alexandria (one of the great centers of learning in the ancient world), aimed to strengthen the faith of the Jewish community living in the diaspora. The diaspora were communities outside of the Holy Land through Asia Minor where the Jewish people were more influenced by Hellenistic culture. They seemed to be more progressive and were very important to the early church. In this reading, the author reflects on God’s abiding presence and constant saving action among the people. There is an attitude of watchful readiness, which we will see in the Gospel reading too (Foundations in Faith, p. 176).
With faith comes courage. We have a God that will never disappoint, that will never leave us. We must rely on God like “holy children of the good”. How does that image speak to you? God summons (arouses, beckons, gathers, rallies) us…for God’s glory. How do you find this true in your life?
2nd Reading – Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19
The 11th chapter of this letter is sometimes called ‘the roll call of the heroes of faith.’ Yet, these great figures of salvation history are brought forth, not for their heroism, but for their ‘faith’ which is here closely linked with hope. Faith is taking God at his word when he promises his love and help for the now and for the future. These Old Testament people became examples to early Christians (and to us) for the New Israel – the new wandering people of God – called into God’s kingdom – now and into the future. We are all called to imitate Abraham who “went out, not knowing where he was to go.” He lived trusting himself and his family to God’s promises and love. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu )
The Gospel – Luke 12: 32-48
This gospel is not about an ending…but a beginning. Be prepared…for something wonderful. Be prepared…for God to come into your life. Be prepared…to open the door to Christ, let him in, and to serve him. Are we ready for whatever God wants us to do with our lives? Are we looking for Him, anticipating Him? Are we ready to give Him what He wants and needs – our time, our talent, even, perhaps, our lives? (Hungry, and You Fed Me, p. 206)
“Gird your loins.” The long flowing robes of the east were a hindrance to work; and when a man prepared to work he gathered up his robes under his girdle to leave himself free for activity. We would like God to find us with our work completed. Life for so many of us is filled with loose ends…the things put off and the things not even attempted. Keats wrote,
“When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain.”
There is nothing so fatal as to feel that we have plenty of time (Barclay’s The Gospel of Luke, p. 171-172). What will you do with your time? It matters!
The snow hit last night, so 8:30 AM Mass was a difficult service to make. I’m glad I did wake one hour after Adam had cleared the driveway and walkways of snow. We just made it to Mass to join about 20 other brave drivers… and Al was the sole altar server for Mass. It was the only period of time today where I felt successful as a parent and relaxed enough to enjoy some time for reflection… until now?
Before the snow hit hard, we all enjoyed Jade’s school production of Willy Wonka. The kids went to bed late; yet still, perhaps, “all snug in their beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.” After church, I ran late running Jade to her matinee performance in the school musical. I lost my patience with attempting to write my annual Christmas letter (due to Alejandro’s constant demands to download more Apps and videos). He got shipped to work with Dad at the rink, and I could escape my guilt of using “screens” as a babysitter again. My nightly visions “dancing in my head” are predominantly only of “what I needed to do!” and “ways I was falling short!” Every year it seems those lists grow exponentially. I hope it is just nostalgia that makes me think it was so much easier to put on Christmas when the kids were tots.
Like many others, financial stresses seem to grow these days rather than subside despite the fact that I went back to work once the kids started school. Will I stop questioning my decision to NOT teach but work as an hourly-paid aide so I can be present for my kids after school rather than grading English class compositions? (I’ve always justified this decision as a balance between still wanting to work with kids and Adam’s around-the-clock demands of managing the athletic facilities at Union College, sitting on the Youth Hockey Board, coaching youth and women’s club hockey, working as a referee, staying tuned to ESPN updates, and all the phone calls, texts, emails… With the stress of budgeting bills instead of just paying them off each month, nostalgia for the heedless bliss of two incomes and no kids has regretfully also come into existence.
Then there’s that nagging trait of thinking it’s not good enough, so I just have to strive harder toward perfection. I get home–sometimes bruised or bitten–from working with kindergarteners with social/emotional needs, nearly always emotionally drained. I pride myself in gaining more empathy (rather than disdain or blaming them) for their life situations and reactions to them. Yet, when I arrive home, I’m physically exhausted. Why can’t I find it thrilling to attempt explaining multiplying and dividing mixed numbers with my son? Why is driving across town to take Jade to hockey and walking the dog outside the rink during her practice not filling me with serenity? Why can’t I take pride in buying the precooked meal deal and timing my arrival home with a rare break in Adam’s work schedule so we can all sit together? Since returning to work, I find myself having to predominantly act reactively to what is thrown at me rather than having the time to be proactive. (I took pride in being proactive when I was teaching). I wasn’t the hockey goalie growing up—reactive is not my forté! I was going to live like Thoreau; write a Great American novel or one good poem.
I understand that even in the days of Leave it to Beaver or even The Brady Bunch, working class people couldn’t relate to how rewarding domestic life was supposed to be. Still, there’s this side of me that wants desperately to live like June Cleaver. I know life back then wasn’t so rosy for even the upwardly mobile middle-class; that is, it was closer to Betty Draper from Mad Men… and I am certainly glad to live without all the sexism, infidelity, and alcohol abuse portrayed in that setting. (I think I’d like the clothes though!). But I guess being upset that life isn’t what it’s supposed to be is the whole problem.
Hence, why I wish it was more Advent than Christmas time. Advent is a more reflective time. It’s not getting caught up in “Christmas”, but taking time to reflect on what Christmas should mean… in the abstract not material sense. So the kids are going to be disappointed that they don’t get all the THINGS they want. I’m upset that my house isn’t sparkling clean and orderly as well as decorated to the nines… looking like a gingerbread creation. We can’t get a new car—yet—and we won’t pay the bills off until the tax refund. (Yeah, that instead of the Disney vacation or new furniture.) Adam being upset that the Cardinals didn’t win the World Series is just as trivial as the rest of my supposedly grave concerns.
This is as good as it gets, and maybe that’s pretty good! Being a perfect parent isn’t being perfect. I can’t explain fractions no matter how I try. I couldn’t make better lasagna than Stouffers anyway. We still have a home. I got to see most of my family this year, and we all will see Adam’s side over Christmas. What more could one want for Christmas? Even if my kids don’t get many new clothes or electronics, they are healthy and growing into better people every day. I make a difference in my job… even if it’s not getting kindergarteners to pass a common core test; but rather, they feel better about themselves by learning to deal with disappointment, self-regulate their behavior issues, and become more disciplined students. Adam’s hard work heats the house and puts food on the table. Really, isn’t life about wanting what you have instead of getting what you want? I think if we all just take time to reflect on what makes us truly happy, we won’t get caught up in achieving Christmas before we’ve honestly taken time for Advent.
The meaning of Advent comes from the Latin words, advenire (to come to) & adventus (an arrival), and refers to Christ’s coming into this world. My prayer is for all of us to come to an understanding of what “Christ in the world” means. It means allowing Christ to arrive into our hearts and find the gratitude in what we have. For me, I think making it to Mass this morning helped me reconnect with that concept, especially in seeing the Advent wreath. The first purple candle means: hope. The second purple candle means: faith. The third pink candle means: joy. The fourth and final purple candle means: peace. I hope 2014 finds us striving for hope, faith, joy and peace, no matter what our circumstances or expectations. A Blessed Advent to all!
1st Reading — Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
From Celebration, October 2004:
If scholars are right, Habakkuk might have been a contemporary of Jeremiah. He is probably here lamenting the destruction of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. He is probably also lamenting the corruption that took place in Judah before the fall. Yet, he is told that he must trust in a vision that can yet come to be. With this vision comes an assurance of God’s love and care even though there is destruction and suffering. He was told to write down this vision; in other words to make it permanent. And, it is to be in large, legible letters so that all the people may see it, read it, hold on to it – a public display of faith in the midst of tragedy. This is faith that gives life.
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:
Have you ever met someone with vision? What do we mean when we use that word in that way? Part of the ‘vision thing’ is to be able to see farther down the road than the rest of us. It also means perhaps that this person with vision can see the ‘big picture’ – how things go together and what the focus should be. Most importantly this idea also means a person who has a creative instinct for the future. Tomorrow does not have to be a rerun of yesterday. Visionaries imagine what doesn’t yet exist, but perhaps should. Without such visionary thinking, hope can come to a standstill along with our faith and loving actions.
2nd Reading – 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14
By the time of this writing, many have given their lives for the faith in Christ; others have endured increasing difficulties and hardships. (Some have also fallen away or fallen into heresy –see 1:15, 2:17-18 and 4:9) This writer wants to use the example of Paul’s imprisonment and suffering along with some of perhaps Paul’s own words to encourage others to use their faith to live with courage, power, love and self control. (Celebration, October 2004)
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:
Fear is not the stuff of Christian living; love is. We are realists; we know that life, even the life of a Christian can and will have difficulties. But God provides us a gift of his Spirit that will enable us to act with courage and power and love despite our fears.
Does this reading stir you into flame?
The Gospel – Luke 17: 5-10
This passage sort of starts in the middle of things. Because the lectionary does not include the first part of this chapter, we do not understand why the disciples are asking for an increase in faith. Jesus had just warned them about not causing anyone to sin. In no uncertain terms Jesus tells them it would be better for the one who leads another into sin to have millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea. Quite a vivid picture of the outcome of evil! He then goes on to say that they must be willing to forgive seven times a day. (Seven was the number symbolic of wholeness, completeness) It is no wonder that the poor disciples walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem would ask for a little more faith. But Jesus does not lessen the demands. Even a tiny bit of faith (a mustard seed) will be enough to uproot deeply rooted problems evil and hard-heartedness. (Celebration, October, 2004)
This whole chapter in Luke’s gospel is about “the decisiveness and urgency of discipleship.” We cannot just wait (or even pray) until we have enough faith, for then we may never begin living as the servants we are called to be. A seed is small, but it is filled with potential ‘power’ for growth. Jesus wants to convince us that our faith is like this. We must ‘burst open’ like a planted seed allowing growth and new life to begin.
“We must use what we have.” Jesus then shows us what the faithful disciple looks like – one who not only works the fields, but also serves at table. In fact, as we put this all together we see that serving at table is as great as moving trees – and other more amazing feats of faith! Jesus like many good preachers of his time loved to use hyperbole and humor to get his point across. (Living Liturgy, Cycle C, p.220)
What do you think of the phrase “unprofitable servants”? The Greek adjective that is used here actually means “without need.” Although it is translated here as ‘unprofitable’ it seems to mean more that this servant is without the need for ‘pay.’ He is not motivated by reward or recompense. As servants of an all-merciful and loving God we need to do everything with gratitude that we have been called to serve such a ‘master.’ We are servants that are ‘due nothing,’ because all we have has been given to us with love. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context, liturgy.slu.edu)