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.
Sunday IV Advent—O ADONAI (O LORD), December 18
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." (Mt 1:18-24)
God is with us . . . that’s the great mystery we celebrate. Through the unfolding of history and in the messiness of human lives, God comes to be one with us so that we can be one with each other and one with God forever or as the ancient Fathers and Mothers of the church have taught us: The Son of God became the Son of Man so that women and men could become the dear children of God.
Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Advent—O Wisdom, December 17
Salmon [was] the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. (Mt 1:1-17)
We come to the second and final part of Advent, the time of the O’s (the O Antiphons): “O Wisdom of God come teach us the path of knowledge!” One of my favorite gospel readings is the genealogy of the Lord in Matthew’s gospel. The Rahab mentioned is not the Rahab, the “Harlot of Jericho” from the Book of Joshua, but just the name alone brings to mind that other Rahab of the sordid reputation. (It’s like the name Jezebel in the South: the name is used but NEVER for little girls). Ruth, a foreigner, is one the great, great grandmothers of the Lord, and then poor Bathsheba couldn’t even be mentioned. She’s just “the wife of Uriah,” whom David had murdered after the king had slept with his wife. A somewhat interesting family history for the Lord . . . in many ways a lot like our own!
Friday, Week III, Advent
Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. Let not the foreigner say, when he would join himself to the LORD, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, Loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants– Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Is 56:1-3a, 6-8)
A house of prayer for all peoples . . . what a vision for Advent . . . what a vision for the church, where everyone can come and be joyful. For the Lord does not exclude anyone from God’s people. Maybe good Pope Saint John XXIII had this passage in mind when he said, "I never met a person I couldn't pray with."
Thursday, Week III, Advent
For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; But with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer. Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you. (Is 54:1-10)
My love shall never leave you . . . that is the enduring love of our God. In a world where division and violence seem to hold sway, Advent proclaims God’s undying love for us in Christ whose coming we await with joyful hope.
Saint John of the Cross, presbyter & doctor of the church, December 14
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. (Is 456c,-8, 18, 21c-25)
The Responsorial Psalm invites us to pray: Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior. The work of justice is God’s work. We are called to share in bringing creation to its fulfillment. Advent prepares us to welcome the coming of the Just One as we celebrate his birth among us. We proclaim what we have seen and heard: that in Christ kindness and truth have met, justice and peace have kissed. Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) taught the church that emotions can bring us to God through prayer and contemplation. He referred to God as “Amado mío” (My Beloved).
Saint Lucy, virgin & martyr, December 13
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.” (Mt 21:28-32)
If the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God . . . then there’s hope for the rest of us! Saint Lucy’s feast became very popular in the northern countries before the calendar reform in 1582. Her feast, December 13, had become the winter solstice due to calendar drift. That’s why the feast for this young virgin martyr of the early church was filled with lighted candles . . . even today!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12
God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. 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. (Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab)
In the year 1531, during the horrors of La Conquista (the Conquest), God gave a sign of favor to the indigenous peoples of the so-called “New World.” The Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous man on the hill of Tepeyac, outside of what would become Mexico City. The Lady spoke in his own language and told him "I am your loving Mother.” In the 10 years following the apparitions, over 11 million indigenous were baptized. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the “patroness of conquered nations and captive peoples.” With more than 20 million visitors yearly, the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited Catholic shrine of in the world.