Good morning my brothers and sisters in Christ. May the grace of God be at work in each and everyone of you as we enter the Season of Advent. To some, today's celebration of the First Sunday of Advent is a reminder that there is less than one month before the arrival of Christmas. To others, it means that the rush is on to put twinkling lights around the house, to buy what is needed for the Christmas pastry cooking, to shop for presents. And to others yet, it means to make peace with relatives so all may enjoy a wonderful family Christmas as Christ intended it to be.
According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, Advent means three things:
(1) It means to prepare ourselves to be worthy of celebrating the Christmas anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love.
(2) It means that through the Sacrament of Holy Communion and through grace, we are to prepare our souls as fitting abodes for the coming of the Redeemer.
(3) It means to prepare ourselves for the final coming of the Lord as our Judge, either at death or at the end of the world, whichever may come first.
Today three readings from the Holy Bible prepare us to be spiritually uplifted according to these three goals of the Season of Advent.
During the First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we heard that during the days of the Old Testament, the Lord God repeated the promises that He had made to Abraham and to His descendants. [Gen. 22:15-18] To Abraham and his offspring, God had promised to bless them, that they would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And they shall possess the gate of their enemies and by his offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves.
Over and above this, God was now promising that a righteous Branch would spring up from the descendants of king David, the righteous One executing justice and righteousness in the land. While the Jewish people of those days took these words as meaning the coming of a King and a worldly kingdom, that was not what God was referring to. He was referring to a spiritual Kingdom in which Christ, the offspring, [Gal. 3:16] would be the Firstfruit of many to follow. [1 Cor. 15:20, 23] God was speaking of the spiritual Kingdom that was promised to Abraham, he who was to become the spiritual father of all those who live by faith. [Rom. 4:13-8] God was speaking of the Mystical Body of Christ.
For just as the Father has life in Himself, He was going to grant the Son also to have life in Himself. [Jn. 5:26] Through the mystery of the incarnation, He the Father who is the Righteous One [Rom. 10:3] was going to give all authority [Jn. 5:27; 1 Pet. 3:22] to His Son, the Righteous One who was being called to execute justice and righteousness in the land. Through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, we as the living saints of the Holy Catholic Church receive our righteousness. As such, "the Lord is our righteousness." [Jer. 33:16]
Today's Gospel Reading echoes the fulfillment of the promises of God the Father through the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the Reading appears to contain prophecies of days that are ahead of us, such is not the case. Today's passage from the Gospel of Luke was taken from Chapter 21, verses 25 to 28 and 34 to 36. One particular verse of importance was omitted, that being Luke 21:32, where it states, "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all things have taken place."
Jesus stated that all the signs mentioned during today's Gospel Reading were to be fulfilled before the passing away of the generation that lived in His days. As such, the signs that He was giving to His followers have to be perceived as representative of the ending of the age of the Old Testament and the beginning of the new age, when the New Covenant was made during the Last Supper.
As Saint John states it, "But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." [Jn. 21:25] While the Holy Bible does not tell us everything that happened after the Resurrection of Jesus, there is sufficient information provided in other passages to tell us that these things have come to pass.
When a reference is made in the Holy Bible to "the powers of the heavens will be shaken." tradition tells us that this is a reference between the great battle between Archangel Michael and Satan, at which time Satan was casted out of Heaven. [Lk. 10:18; Rev. 12:7-10]
On the subject that "Christ redeemed us," [Rom. 3:24; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7] that truth is made known to us through the teachings of the Catholic Church and our ongoing profession of faith.
Regarding seeing the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, when Jesus called Nathanael as a follower, He told him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." [Jn. 1:51] We can only accept as truth that this came to pass as Jesus promised to Nathanael because Jesus is the truth. God cannot lie. [Tit. 1:2;] No falsehood is found in Him. [Heb. 6:18]
Today's Gospel Reading tells us to be on our guard so our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, so the day of the Lord will not catch us unexpectedly, as in a trap. No one knows when he will die! No one knows when he will appear before the Lord God to be judged for his worldly behaviour! As such, no one can prepare himself as one prepares himself to go on a holiday.
Therefore, Divine wisdom tells us that we should always be prepared! We should immediately be prepared in case the Lord calls us tonight during our sleep. Before our bedtime tonight, if anything needs to be done, it must be completed. For there may be no tomorrow.
Today's Second Reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians gives us sound advise as to how we should prepare ourselves. Which ever comes first, that we depart from this world before the final return of the Lord Jesus or He gloriously returns with His saints on the last day, either way, we should abound in love for one another and for all. Our love should not be limited to our friends, but also for our enemies. Our love should not be limited towards those we are talking to, but also towards those we are not talking to. Our love should not be limited to those we can forgive, but also towards those we have difficulty forgiving. "For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get." [Mt. 7:2]
To be fully prepared, we must have holy hearts so we will be blameless before our God and Father. To achieve this goal, we must walk with the sanctifying Holy Spirit who disciplines us to increase our holiness. We must maintain pure minds at all time. We must receive the Sacrament of Confession to maintain our ongoing righteousness by the grace of God. We must receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, so we will qualify to inherit the eternal Heavenly Kingdom as children of God. We must do all what is humanly possible to continually remain in communion with God on a daily basis.
Not knowing when the coming of the Lord shall be for each and everyone of us, we must persevere in our living faith. Indebted to Christ for our redemption, we cannot allow ourselves to take a break from our living faith. For a shipwreck in our faith by allowing our human nature to take over our spiritual commitment could cost us our blessed hope among the saints and angels in the continuous presence of the Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we received the gift of a new heart and a new spirit, over and above the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us in our spiritual lives. During the coming week, let us embrace a spiritual attitude so the Season of Advent may become something special for us. May Advent be a true moment of preparation for each and everyone of us in the expectation of the coming of Jesus at Christmas, at death, or at the last coming of the Lord, which ever may come first.
My prayers are with each and everyone of you as you personally strive to achieve this holy objective for the glory of God.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
"Lord Jesus, may I never lose sight of the signs of your presence in my life and the signs of your action in the world today. Free me from spiritual dullness, indifference, and every distraction that would keep me from you. May I never tire of listening to your word, seeking you in prayer, and longing for your return in glory."
Heavenly Father, I gladly spend a few minutes with you, to be close to you, because you know how much I need your presence and grace in my life. You deserve to be the center of my thoughts and desires; but often I let myself be taken up by the anxieties of daily life. Sorry Lord, but at least here I am right now, hungry for you alone. Today, Lord, I accompany the whole Church as we begin the Advent Season and begin to prepare for your coming to earth as a baby on Christmas morning.
Lord, help me during this Advent Season, which begins today, to see that the priority in my life is preparing myself and those around me for a truly “spiritual” Christmas. I know it is a busy time of year. Help me remain focused on what is essential -- you being born into our hearts.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
With this Sunday’s Mass, the liturgical year draws to a close. Starting the next week, the priest will be in purple, the Gloria will be gone, and we will be into the advent season, where we prepare our hearts, and the hearts of the Church, for the birth of Our Lord. While the liturgy will never “end” so long as we are on this earth, the Church wants us to ponder several things at the conclusion of this season of Pentecost. In today’s challenging environment, it would do us well to reflect upon them.
The first thing worth reflecting upon is the permanence of God’s word. The Catholic Church of 2015 is a deeply divided Church. There’s no point saying otherwise, we have to accept that reality. Our leadership does not trust each other, and as a result (among other things), there is a lack of trust between Catholics in the lay and ordained state. This lack of trust goes from the person in the pews all the way up to the Bishop of Rome. So deep is this division, we’ve lost the ability to talk to each other about even the simplest of things.
In today’s Gospel, Christ gives His people words of comfort. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word will not pass away.” Though we find ourselves in a factional Church, those factions will pass away. While we ourselves might be part of this or that faction, that does not define us as a Catholic. Christ’s word is available to us all, and it will always be available to us. It will be available to us no matter whom the pope is, no matter which reform movement is big in the Church at the time, or how much we like whoever our current Bishop is. Not only is that word available to us all, all Catholics must strive to be faithful to it. Even if we cannot speak to each other, we must never forget we are all striving to adhere to the same Christ. We may fundamentally disagree about how to do so, and that disagreement matters. But that struggle to adhere to His word should help us to at least have compassion towards others.
The second lesson the Church wishes us to learn can be found in the Epistle, where St. Paul advocates “longsuffering in joy.” To suffer is hard for us Catholics today. To do so joyfully? I think that’s one thing missing from all circles of the church today. Where was the joy in the discussions surrounding the Synod? Where was joy in everything from the pope’s words down to the news article about the synod you read?
We Catholics often have a false concept of longsuffering with joy. Often, we equate it to a putting our head in the sand approach to things. Sometimes, we stress that we should ignore all the negative, and only focus on the positive. To acknowledge such challenges is said to place the faith of Catholics at risk through scandal. While these views are popular, they are wrong.
To practice longsuffering in joy means you have to acknowledge the suffering part. That means that while you shouldn’t despair, you have to look at the world and Church as it exists. The joy part comes not from the crisis in the Church, but in the fact that, at this moment in salvation history, God placed you here to combat that crisis. We might not have the mind of a St. Augustine, or the austerity of a St. Francis, or the holiness of St. Terese. Yet if we give ourselves over to God, we might be given those gifts. Every little thing we do not only contributes to our own holiness or sin, but contributes to solving the crisis, or prolonging it. The solution to this crisis will not come from some grand papal reform or from an educated elite, but from every Catholic, from the bottom to the top, embracing their vocation and mission.
To assist us in embracing that vocation, the Collect calls us to “seek more earnestly the fruit of this divine work”, that work being the Eucharist. We traditionalist are viewed as liturgical snobs, and sometimes, sure, the shoe fits. Yet if traditionalism had a “mission” it would be this part of the Collect. We seek to draw Catholics of all stripes and vocations closer to the divine work of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Without the mercies provided by the Mass and the Eucharist, nothing else is possible. At Mass, we worship in the same faith, the same creed, and are given the same grace. Any lasting reform of the Church has gone hand in hand with a reform of the liturgy.
Sometimes that involves the modification of certain practices. More often, it involves the faithful Catholic drawing deeper from the wellspring of graces that is the liturgy. That’s what I’ve tried to do here at Catholic Exchange the last year. I’ve invited you, the reader (most of you who aren’t even familiar with the Latin Mass) to draw deeply from our shared tradition. I’ve asked you to consider how the liturgy forms us for such important practices such as penance and evangelization. I’ve based my understanding of the liturgy in that it asks us to follow the precepts of Christ, and those precepts, while occasionally difficult, are realistic. Not only are they realistic, they can change your life for the better, and that of the whole world. As we conclude this series that is what I hope readers will call to mind. Wherever you worship, the liturgy can change your life. And if you are seeking something more, I believe the Extraordinary Form can provide whatever you are seeking. If I can help you in that journey, I will.
Good morning everyone! Welcome to all the members of our faith community and the visitors who have joined us today to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.
Today's Feast is a very special one. Although Christ has always been recognized as the King of kings, it was not until Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of "Christ the King" in 1925 that it finally receive official recognition in the Holy Catholic Church. In other words, it has only been nearly 80 years since Catholics have been meeting annually to officially recognize Christ as King.
This is very important because the last time that God was officially recognized as King among the people was 3,046 years ago, or 2,971 years before the institution of this special Feast. For nearly 3,000 years, the world did not "officially" recognize God as its King.
Some of you may wonder what happened 3,046 years ago. At that time, God's people approached Samuel and asked him to appoint a king over them. [1 Sam. 8:3, 5] The people wanted a king like the surrounding pagan nations so they would have someone to lead them during their battles. This greatly offended God who knew the hearts of the people, that they were rejecting Him as King over them. [1 Sam. 8:7] And so it was, in 1043 B.C., Saul was anointed as the king of God's people.
The injustice that was done to God was finally corrected 78 years ago when the Lord Jesus, in who the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily, [Col. 1:19, 2:9] was 'officially' reinstated as the rightful King of the Catholic Church.
Now that Christ the King has been officially elevated to His rightful position above all His creation, one may wonder, where is His Kingdom?
Speaking to His followers, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power." [Mk. 9:1] Speaking to Nathanael, Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." [Jn. 1:51] Based on the Sacred Words of Jesus that are perfect truth, the Kingdom of God arrived during the first century.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that after Jesus resurrected and appeared to His disciples, "He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father." [Acts 1:4] The disciples were to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on Pentecost Day. There are every indication in the Holy Scriptures that this moment is when the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God officially descended on earth.
In the Book of Revelation, John says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God, they will be his people, and God himself will be with them.'" [Rev. 21:1-3]
This particular passage is not a reference to the future, but rather to the past. Why? Because of the reference of God dwelling among His people. Who dwells in the Blessed Tabernacle in every Catholic Church around the world? Christ the King! Who do we receive during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Christ the King! God is now dwelling among His people as the rightful King. His Kingdom has arrived on earth as promised.
Another proof that the aforementioned passage is of the past is from the passage that is found in today's Second Reading. It says, "Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will lament. So it is to be. Amen." Every eye will see Him, even THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM. Those who pierced Christ the King are the Roman soldiers who crucified Him! Surely, this cannot be a reference to the future as some allege regarding the Second Coming and the future Kingdom of God.
While some await for a false hope, a visible Kingdom of God on earth, Jesus never said that His Kingdom would be visible. He said, "The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is among you." [Lk. 17:20-1] The Kingdom of God cannot be observed! It cannot be seen! It is invisible because it is of the spiritual world that coexists with our world.
During today's Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus say, "My kingdom is not from this world." [Jn. 18:36]
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we await a false hope, the Second Coming of Christ to rule on earth for 1,000 years as some believe, or if we await for the physical descent of the Kingdom of God on earth, how can we truly appreciate the mystery of the Mystical Body of Christ when through such belief we are clearly rejecting the physical presence of God and His Kingdom on earth? With such a belief, are we not counting ourselves among our separated brothers and sisters who are awaiting a false hope?
Christ the King is here today with us! His Kingdom has arrived and we as baptized children have received our new creation of the godly seed, [1 Jn. 3:9] this gift making us members of the Kingdom of God on earth. Through our new creation, we are now able to worship God in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. [Jn. 4:23-4]
During today's First Reading, we heard, "To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all people, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed." [Dan. 7:14]
The present Kingdom of God on earth, spiritual in nature, invisible to the naked eye, is one that shall never be destroyed. The dominion of Christ the King is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away.
During the coming week, let us assess our beliefs. Are they in harmony with the teachings of Jesus? Are they based on sound Catholic doctrine that has been handed down by apostolic succession? Are they based on Biblical truths? Are we wholeheartedly partaking in the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth through our Baptism as we should be? Are we accepting with inner joy and peace that Christ the King is presently ruling over us? Or are we looking for a false Christ and a false Kingdom? Many are being deceived and their deception is hurting the Body of Christ. As living stones, we must support one another, correct one another if we err from the truth, and be united in one Lord, one truth, one baptism, one Christ, one Spirit and one Holy Catholic Church. May the grace of God be with you this week.