December 10 – News of Comfort

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December 10 – News of Comfort

In a time of preparation, much of it having to do with material things, it is good to hear the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, / says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). In a time of such stress and rush, when our usual burdens are augmented by piles of Christmas preparations, we can choose to slow down, take some time to heal, and appreciate the enormous gift we are about to receive. Christ, the Son of God, has become one of us, and knows our human limitations. Yet God, even now, is freeing us from the burdens that our inattentiveness to our God and to our deepest inner longings have heaped upon us. The Lord comes, not as a king with mighty armies, but as a shepherd leading the flocks with care and tenderness. Isaiah prophesies good news: our oppression is over, our sins forgiven. The savior we have awaited is coming, not the first time, but in the end times, as our salvation.

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December 3 – God Has a Different Plan

We begin the season of Advent with a heartfelt call for our own repentance. We remember God’s faithful love for us, and call upon God to help us to turn back. For “behold, you are angry, and we are sinful” (Isaiah 64:4). In the first reading and in the psalm, we recall God’s promises and lament our unfaithfulness and our guilt. We call upon God’s might and power in order to save us. With Isaiah, we ask God to “rend the heavens and come down, / with the mountains quaking before you” (Isaiah 63:19). Yes, God is faithful to us, because we are the work of God’s hands. God is the potter, we are the clay. And yet, our concept of how God will come to save us is rooted in our own expectations of a warrior God who crushes mountains and thunders into our lives with great noise and glory. But God has a different plan: the Incarnation.

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November 26 – Christ, King of All

On this, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. By concluding the year with this feast we are proclaiming our faith that Jesus Christ is the one and only king over all seasons, all peoples, and all of creation. At the end of time as we know it, Christ’s work of restoring all things to unity and harmony with their Creator God will be completed. This Sunday, when we claim Christ as both our Shepherd and our King, we recognize our own calling to participate in Christ’s saving work by caring for those whom Jesus calls “the least ones” (Matthew 25:45).

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November 19 – Sharing Our Gifts

Autumn is the season for harvesting and sharing the fruits of our labors. This week’s scriptures use images of the harvest, family life, pregnancy, and investment to describe the abundant harvest in the reign of God. We discover that sharing the gifts we have been given brings eternal rewards for everyone. In the Gospel parable a master entrusts his possessions to three servants before going on a journey. Each is given some talents. What they do with those talents determines what the master will do with them when he returns. How about us? What are we doing with our talents? How will our Master treat us when he returns?

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November 12 – Wisdom

We consider wisdom today. The first reading from the book of Wisdom presents this precious gift as a feminine spirit, a very desirable virtue sought by many and graciously present to all who seek her. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate wisdom in a practical, measurable way. The wise will conserve their resources, use them prudently, and mark the passing of time. The foolish, on the other hand, not planning ahead, will be in the dark. Both of these readings tell us how accessible wisdom is to all who simply and honestly seek it. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians are not about wisdom, but describe one result of true wisdom: To the wise person of faith even death holds no terror. Our faith in Jesus’ resurrection tells us we will all one day rise to new life in Christ.
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November 5 – The Greatest Among Us

Whom do you admire? Is it the President of the United States or a movie star or a billionaire? These are people whom the world exalts as great. Like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, they have places of honor wherever they go. Would you like to follow in their footsteps? The scriptures for today offer different examples for us to follow. Jesus tells us that the greatest among us are the servants. These are the people we are to honor and imitate. We are called to be like Paul, who worked hard to serve the needs of his communities, and Jesus, who gave his life in service to the world.

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October 29 – Balance

Today’s scriptures emphasize the fundamental link between love of God and love of our neighbors, especially those who are most in need. Love of God should compel us to love the people whom God cherishes. Conversely, work for justice and charity for those in need should be rooted in our love of God. That connection and balance, however, isn’t always easy to maintain in our lives. Even in religious orders we find that some Christians are more oriented toward contemplation and prayer, while others are more active in reaching out to those who are oppressed. Today Jesus reminds us of the necessity for both in the life of faith.
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October 22 – Power Struggle

Power struggles occur on every level of society, from the world stage to relationships at work, to our own homes. We struggle for position in the hierarchy of power: Who has power over whom? How do they wield it? What is the source of that power? What is the healthy response?
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading the Pharisees engage Jesus in a power struggle over whether Jews should show tribute to Caesar by paying taxes. Jesus’ response puts this and every struggle for power into perspective. In harmony with the words of Isaiah and Paul, Jesus teaches us that God is the ultimate source of all power—the power of earthly rulers, the Pharisees, Jesus, the Church, and the power within ourselves.

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October 15 – The Heavenly Banquet

The mountain of the Lord described in today’s first reading is a place where there is no more hunger, no more weeping, and no more division of any kind. We need to pause and ponder these images every now and then, especially given the fact that we live in such a fractured world. The responsorial psalm continues to paint a picture of a place where only goodness and kindness flourish. These readings describe the heavenly banquet, to which God calls each of us through baptism and continues to call us throughout our lives. Let us “RSVP” to God’s invitation and live our lives consistent with gospel values so that one day we will be welcomed to the table of the kingdom.
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Today’s readings focus our attention on vineyards. Isaiah’s song concerning his friend’s vineyard begins with inspiring and poetic images of an idyllic vineyard where the choicest harvest is expected. Instead, the vineyard yields wild grapes, which causes the owner to abandon it. The psalmist cries out to God, asking that God once again take care of the vineyard, which is the house of Israel. The parable told in today’s Gospel offers a stern warning that those who commit treachery in the hopes of attaining personal wealth will be “put . . . to a wretched death” (Matthew 21:41). Jesus warns his listeners not to act like the murderous tenants in the vineyard. Instead he exhorts them to produce the kind of fruit that will lead them to the kingdom of God.
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