Advent December

Lord, why do you let us wander and harden our hearts, so that we fear you not? …Would that you might meet us doing right! (Isaiah 63:17, 64:4)

Seems as though the Lord Jesus used the image of the householder traveling abroad, and leaving his servants in charge–He used this image over and over again.

baptist-greco2Two weeks ago, we encountered it in the Parable of the Talents: the master left the country, and gave his servants money to invest. Same image, or one very similar, in the Parable of the Unforgiving Steward, and the Parable of the Dishonest Steward, and of the Wicked Tenants, and of the Master’s Return from a Wedding, and of the Faithful vs. the Unfaithful Servant.

And at Holy Mass this Sunday, in chapter 13 of St. Mark’s gospel: A man travels abroad. Leaves home. Places his servants in charge, each with his own work. And the gatekeeper must watch for the master’s return.

So: Here we find ourselves, together on the earth, with control over things that do not properly belong to us. By right, the goods we have control over, they belong to our divine Master, the Creator. He has entrusted them to us, for temporary service. We exercise power over things in this world–but not ultimate power. A day will come when the true owner, the rightful master of all that we hold in trust–He will appear. He will expect to find things in a certain state.

And if they are not? If He arrives after midnight, and we lay asleep, with empty beer cans scattered all over the floor, and the tv still blaring, and we haven’t made sure the children brushed their teeth, and there are dirty dishes in the sink. If the master comes and finds a mess? As they say, there will be hell to pay. In this case, literally.

So the prayer of Isaiah suits us perfectly. Lord, please don’t let us harden our hearts! Keep them soft and supple, responsive to your influence. Keep us humble and dutiful. So that you might find us doing right, when you return in glory.

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Barren Self-Reliance, Glad Grace-Reliance

Today, God addresses us as follows:

Raise a glad cry, you barren one! (Isaiah 54:1)

Barren one?

At the Last Supper, Peter audaciously declared to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for you.”

He proposed to do this by his own courage, by his own manly vigor. Christ knew better. He knew the measure of Peter’s virility. He refused to accept Peter’s declaration.

As we know, Peter proved to be barren of courage and manliness.

“We saw you with him!” “I do not know the man.” “You are one of his disciples!” “I do not know what you mean.” “You are his friend!” “I do not know him.”

Meanwhile, the crucified thief bravely bore witness to the truth. “O innocent king,” the thief begged, “forgive me my guilt and remember me in your great kingdom to come.”

Christ did accept this. “Raise a glad cry, barren one. You may be languishing on a cross, justly condemned. But you will be with me in paradise this very day.”

Christ spoke these words of consolation to Peter, too. “Tough guy, you turned out to be a barren one, too, didn’t you? …But raise a glad cry, too. You will lay down your life for Me, by the power of my grace, when I say so.”

Self-reliance leaves us bereft and lifeless. Let’s raise a glad cry for the constant help that comes from heaven.

God Answers the Earth’s Question

Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord declared:

I did not establish the earth to be a waste, but designed it to be lived in. (Isaiah 45:18)

These divine words certainly come as a comfort to us. Whether the earth was designed for us or not—this question has perpetually troubled mankind.

On the one hand, earth is a beautiful planet. The sunrises and sunsets frequently dazzle the eye. Resources that help us, feed us, shelter us, and give us a good life—they abound. We can live together here on earth, communicate with each other, co-exist, co-operate, improve the place together.

On the other hand, we mortals have to exercise constant care, industry, and vigilance—or this hardscrabble world will eat us up. Predators of countless kinds lurk in many corners, and some of them, too, are men. The winters here can be brutal. Sicknesses and plagues run rampant. And, after the course of a pilgrim life, be it long or short, the earth swallows us up in death, whether we like it or not.

So: Is this place a home fashioned by heaven for us, or not? We did not make the earth. We long to discover all its secrets, and those of the entire universe. But we humbly acknowledge that we don’t know the half of them. So we are grateful for a heavenly word spoken to us to decide the question.

The greatest secret that the earth has is: Why is it here at all? With all its charms and challenges—that it both delights and confounds—it practically cries out the question itself: Why do I exist? In and of myself, says the world, I don’t make sense! What’s the reason for me?

It is certainly nice for us to know the reason. God made the earth for us to live in. He designed it for us.

When He Himself walked it, His pilgrim life was short and full of aching sorrows. But He intends to return and set His feet here again, never to depart anymore.

When everything is said and done–when we have been purified of all our sins, and Christ’s glory fills the earth forever–then we will live here in eternal peace, delighting in all that is good, freed from everything bad.

Thank you, Lord, for explaining this to us.

The Bridegroom Comes

Here is a Christmas homily for you:

My heart overflows with noble words.
To the king I must speak the song I have made…

You are the fairest of the children of men…
Gird your sword upon your thigh…
Ride on in triumph for the cause of truth
and goodness and right…
A scepter of justice is the scepter of your kingdom.
Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil.

God has anointed you with the oil of gladness…
Your robes are fragrant with aloes and myrrh.
From the ivory palace you are greeted with music.
On your right stands the queen in gold.

Anyone recognize this hymn to Christ? Where are the real Scripture scholars? It is the 45th Psalm.

We priests read the Psalms every day. We use a special prayerbook. It is one of our duties to pray the Psalms everyday.

In our prayerbook, after each of the Psalms, there is a prayer to help us understand the meaning of the Psalm.

In the prayer after Psalm 45, we pray: “When you took on flesh, Lord Jesus, you made a marriage of mankind with God.”

A marriage of mankind with God.

The prophet Isaiah referred to this marvelous marriage. The prophet declares to us: “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Isaiah 62:5).

Continue reading “The Bridegroom Comes”

Are you OR aren’t you?

The Council Fathers and Mothers?

Isaiah 45:18: Thus says the LORD…the designer and maker of the earth, who established it, not creating it to be a waste, but designing it to be lived in.

…Turning the earth into a wasteland is certainly a sin.

On the other hand, “environmentalism” has become an ersatz religion.

And the religion is having a big and strange meeting just in time for Christmas.

How better to celebrate the season, whatever anyone wants to call it, than to hurry off to Copenhagen to bail out the world and solemnize the doctrines of environmentalism, the newly emerging world religion…Hence Copenhagen, which the environmentalists envision as their version of Vatican II. (Wesley Pruden)

…Perhaps you’re wondering why you don’t read more about the Washington Wizards here.

The reason is that Tom Knott’s grim assessment of the season is painfully true…

…One lovely day on a lush hillside near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth raised a man from the dead. The news of this created quite a stir.

Nain in Galilee
Meanwhile, St. John the Baptist was languishing in a dungeon in a remote military fortress, east of the Dead Sea.

St. John’s disciples, always jealous of his prerogatives, visited their teacher and told him about the latest wonder that the Nazorene had worked in Galilee.

Now, St. John knew that Jesus is the Christ. The Baptist knew this before he was even born, when he leapt in his own mother’s womb at the approach of the newly pregnant Blessed Mother.

St. John was a clever, fatherly teacher. He wanted his disciples to realize for themselves what he himself knew. So the Baptist sent them off to Christ with a question.

The gospels do not report anything about the disciples ever coming back with the answer–because it was never about St. John getting an answer. It was about formulating the perfect question, so that the truth could be revealed.

Ruins of Herod's Machaerus
Ask Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Are you the Christ or not?

Either He is, or He isn’t. Questions like, “Are you a great holy man and a teacher of righteousness?” or “Do you coexist and tolerate all people?” do not really get to the heart of the matter.

Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
(Luke 7:22)

In other words: I can be as subtle as your teacher can be. He and I know the truth. Now you do, too. Messiah is here.