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.
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Today we begin the final period of Advent, the time of the O Antiphons. Each day we will read through the Infancy Narratives (Chapters 1-2) of first Matthew’s gospel and then Luke’s which will take us all the way to Christmas Eve. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s gospel invites us all into the story of Salvation. Here we contemplate the Second Coming of Christ through the lens of his First Coming among us.
At that time,
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” is the central question of faith. Of course, the two disciples of John the Baptist received an answer, and we have too, for the One we await proclaims good news to the poor. When we care for the poor, we care for Him, and then we are blessed indeed. Today’s photo is Christ of the Breadlines (1951) by Fritz Eichenberg.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
If one is paying attention to the liturgies of Advent, they will discover what has been called the church’s best kept secret—Catholic Social Teaching. Father Raymon Brown, one of the great scripture scholars of the modern church, always talked about “an adult Christ at Christmas.” What he meant is that the focus of Advent and Christmas itself is the Second Coming of Christ, when he comes to judge the living and the dead. As the church points out, love God and love neighbor go hand in hand. And as today’s Psalm suggests, if the Lord hears the cry of the poor, then perhaps we need to as well. The picture today is from the Chapter Room at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana.
The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of a man whose eye is true:
I see him, though not now;
I behold him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.
The prophecy of Balaam is one of the more unusual prophetic utterances, especially since it is from the Book of Numbers. But as we come to these final days of Advent, we begin to see how the Scriptures from the liturgy each day help us to see God’s great plan of salvation. Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila joined together in the reform of the church and of their religious communities. He is known for his spiritual poetry and is known as the “Mystical Doctor.” He died on this day in 1591. The photo is of a drawing of the Crucifixion by Saint John.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.
(1 Thes 5:16)
The Third Sunday of Advent has a special name, Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” (from Latin) meaning “Rejoice.” It is the Sunday of Joy. We rejoice because the Lord is near. Traditionally, rose colored vestments were allowed instead of the violet vestments of Advent, and so it was also called “Rose” Sunday. It is significant that the passage from the Prophet Isaiah speaks of good news as justice in action.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
As we continue the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I remember the first time I entered the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the Cherokee Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. The church is seven-sided similar to a Cherokee meeting hut, representing the seven tribes of the Cherokee Nation. But the remarkable stained glass window of Our Lady of Guadalupe commands attention. Underneath Our Lady is a banner that says, “Patroness of Captured Nations and Conquered Peoples.” The other notable is that Cuauhtlatoatzin (Saint Juan Diego) is pictured in the window not as a Chichimeca but as a Cherokee. The artist and the community of the Qualla Boundary know that Our Lady of Guadalupe is their mother too.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
In 1531, the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Cuauhtlatoatzin (baptized as Juan Diego) was the impetus for the evangelization of the Americas. The fruits of this moment live on in the faith of the native peoples of these lands and their descendants. A dear friend (non-Hispanic) once said to me: “This is the only apparition about which I have no doubts.” What the Lady said to Cuauhtlatoatzin was very simple, “I am your loving mother.” But she appeared to him as one like himself and speaking his language. And even now, the Lady of Guadalupe continues to be the loving mother of all the disciples of her Son.