These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." (Mt 24:37-44)
Advent means the “coming.” It’s original focus is the Second Coming of the Lord, which is why the Lord reminds us to “stay awake” and “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Nowadays, in the commercial world, Advent has simply become the holiday shopping season. In the church, we still hear the ancient prophecies and the longing for the coming of the Savior and we continue to pray: Come, Lord Jesus, come do not delay!
“Behold, I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:1-7)
We come to the last day of the liturgical year, and we conclude our continuous reading of the Book of Revelation. Tomorrow Advent begins. As Mary accepted God’s will for her life, she invites us to say with her, “Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 20:1-4, 11-21:2)
A new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem . . . and a brand-new us! What a vision—that God wants us to live NOW! Today is also Black Friday and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Lk 17:11-19)
How important it is to give thanks. In the story of the lepers, all 10 were healed, but only one was save, the one who returned to give thanks. The very center of our faith is the Eucharist—when we celebrate the meal that Jesus left us to remember him. Eucharist is the Greek word that means “to give thanks.” We give thanks for all that Jesus did to save us. And on this Thanksgiving Day I give thanks to God for all of you, my family and my friends, and especially for those who have gone ahead of us to the Kingdom.
The ones (who had won the victory) were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:1-4)
The Book of Revelation is filled with hymns and reflects the musical legacy of the early church. These wonderful hymns remind us that whether we can sing or not, all of us can make a joyful noise before the Lord.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven who also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came from the altar, who was in charge of the fire, and cried out in a loud voice
to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and cut the clusters from the earth’s vines, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it into the great wine press of God’s fury. (Rev 14:14-19)
Today’s reading gave rise to the phrase, “the grapes of wrath,” a phrase used very effectively in the Civil War anthem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and in the title of John Steinbeck’s famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath. At times we forget that God is not mocked, that there will be a judgment, not just the judgment of history, but a divine judgment, and we will have to answer for “what we have done, and what we have failed to do.” Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of church musicians. Today is the 59th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing what seemed to be a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. (Rev 14:1-3, 4b-5)
Music is essential to worship. The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a part of early Christian legend. In many Latin American countries there is the custom of the presentation of children at 3 years of age. Today’s music is the Ave María by my late friend and harpist, Donna Germano.