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.
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. (Is 35:1-10)
Roses in December . . . tonight in many parishes the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe will begin. Over 300 years before Lourdes and Fatima, in 1531, la Morenita appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on the Hill of Tepeyac in what is now Mexico City. The message: “I am your loving Mother.” That message continues to resound in the hearts of all people of faith.
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated . . . Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. (Is 40:1-5, 9-11)
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. (Mk 1:1-8)
The message of Advent is not one of threat, rather of comfort: that God comes to shepherd us with care. In this second year of the Sunday lectionary cycle, except for the remainder of Advent and the Season of Easter, during the Liturgies of Ordinary Time and Lent, we will be hearing the Gospel of Mark. My mom’s favorite preparation for Christmas was to attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah. She loved to sing along with the chorus!
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." (Mt 9:35-10:1, 6-8)
Probably one of the most unusual and unexpected ”laborers for the harvest” is Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548), who received the visits and the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December 1531. The humble Chichimec peasant was chosen by the “Señora of Tepeyac” to be the first Guadalupano. Her image left on his tilma can still be seen in the Basilica in México City.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. (Eph 1:3-6, 11-12)
Like Mary, we too have been chosen in Christ . . . according to God’s gracious favor. And like Mary, we too respond with humble faith, “Let it be done to us according to your word.”
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. (Mt 7:21, 24-27)
Tonight we celebrate the Little Candles that light the way for the Virgin Mary, whose feast day is December 8th. She brings us her Son, Christ, the Lord, to be born in us. Saint Ambrose (339-397) brought Christ to birth in Saint Augustine (354-430).
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples, A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. (Is 25:6-10)
The Advent visions of the prophet Isaiah continue with the banquet of the Kingdom which is for all peoples, no one left out. The challenge is to be as open to others as God’s arms are for us all. Saint NIcholas (270-343) was an early church bishop who was committed to protecting children and all those in need.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. (Is 11:1-10)
The image of the Peaceable Kingdom invites us to dare to dream and to work for the reconciliation of humanity with itself and then with all creation. Come, Lord Jesus, come, do not delay!