29 November 2015

1st Advent, 2015

Readings Here

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  Today, we begin a time of reflection and waiting.  We take the time to prepare to celebrate one of the major Feasts of the Christian life.  Very soon, (but not yet) Christmas will be upon us and the Church will rejoice at the great gift of God Among Us.  But in spite of what the Christmas lights may tell us, Christmas is not yet here.  Instead, today's Gospel takes us to a place that is dark and frightening.  Luke speaks of danger, and violence, of death and destruction, and I, well, I sit here in front of the TV and briefly entertain thoughts of the end of the world!  But as frightening as these thoughts may seem, and as scary as the new may be, there is one phrase in the Gospel that makes me stop and think:  "when these signs begin to happen, 
stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."  If you stop to think about it, this is a powerful message.  It reminds me that while there may be death and destruction happening all around the world, I am not to cower in the face of these, instead, I am to stand erect and with head held high.  I am to take the stance of someone who has been liberated from the oppression of fear.  And this is the key in today's Gospel, as people of faith, we are not to fear, instead, we are to recognize our dignity as beloved children of God and we are to stand in the light of God's love.  The problem with this, however, is that somehow, somewhere along  the way, we have taken this phrase to mean that we are to become some bad-ass, red, white and blue, gun toting Christian rebel who is ready to burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic and shootem up.  Or at least stand my ground as I let everyone else know how wrong their way of life is.  The reality is far from either or those scenarios, but the root of it is clear.  We are not to arm ourselves and be the militant church that busts doors down for Jesus, instead, we are to be the militant church that embraced the non-violent and non-aggressive love of Christ.  We are to truly take the example of Jesus and the mission of Christ, and love, after all, as Mother Teresa once said, the opposite of love isn't hate, it is fear.  We are not to be fearful people who need to get rid of the competition for the sake of making ourselves feel safe.  Instead, we are to be people of radical love, a love that is deeply rooted in Christ.  There can be no exceptions, because unfortunately, up until now, we've been pretty good at making excuses for our militarized faith.  We are not a faith based on hatred and judgement, and yet, we've managed to bottle Jesus up for our own convenience.  We have relegated God to the Home Goods aisles at our local retail stores and placed next to our fancy boots in our closets.  God is far beyond any material limitation we can place on him, and exactly when we start to believe that we know God's will, is when we should start prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit and our faith communities.  God is not violent, and God's love does not compel us to violence, ever.  And so we prepare, we enter the journey toward the light recognizing that darkness will never win, because the light and love of God is far greater than fear itself.  I was once told by a priest professor of mine that I was too simplistic, if that is true, so be it.  I just can't believe that the love of God is as complex and convaluted as we so often make it out to be.  For now, blessed Advent.  Know that you are in my prayers.  You are beautiful.  You are loved. and I love you.  As always, Fr. Rick

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