Saturday, November 30, 2013

Matthew 24:37-44 - 1st. Sunday in Advent - "Advenio"

Black Friday is not the beginning of Christmas.  Despite the secular world trying to convince us that the ‘reason-for-the-season is this hysterical frenzy of consumerism: with love measured in the number of gifts given and received.  If we mean to keep Christ-in-Christmas, we must act truly as Christians, disciples of Jesus, practitioners of the faith in which we all profess.

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. It too, is not the beginning of Christmas.

Advent is a time of anticipation of things to come.  It is a time for preparation, a time for reflection, a time for repentance, and a time for renewal.  Advent – from the Latin word ‘advenio’ - meaning - “to come to” – gives reference to the three comings of Jesus:
  • First, Jesus coming into the world – Emmanuel - God with us – God born into flesh, born into the human condition – becoming like us – in all but sin, because he loves us so much.
  • Second, Jesus coming into our lives – through grace and the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: helping us to live as faithful disciples and bringing us to His promise of Salvation
  • Third, Jesus coming again – the end time, when the Good Shepherd returns to gather all his flock; bringing all the faithful into the peace of God’s kingdom and life eternal

This third coming of Jesus is our concern on this First Sunday in Advent, in the Gospel of Mathew.  Jesus is giving us a warning of the fulfillment of his promise to someday return, “when we least expect it.”  He tells us that no one knows when the Son of Man is coming.  He warns us to be prepared – always - for this unexpected event.  We are reminded that we should live our lives like the virgins awaiting the coming of the bridegroom. We should be looking out for the Lord; keeping our lamps lit and ourselves in readiness - to go out and meet him when he comes.  Our watchword is to be: “Always Faithful, Always Vigilant” to the Word of God and His promise to return to bring the faithful into His heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus advises us to be like Noah, listening to God and doing the Lord’s work: Diligently preparing for the flood while the world carries on its business. The world ridiculed and ignored Noah, but his faith was his strength, his comfort and his safety. Noah lived in the presence of God and was prepared for His coming promise. 

Paul reminds us to not let the distractions of the world take us away from our salvation.  We can almost hear the excitement in his voice as he encourages us to hold on to our faith - for the Lord is coming – at any moment – to bring us into the promise of God’s kingdom.  Do not give in to the desires of the flesh or the darkness of this world, but - put on the armor of light; put on Christ and live in His Light.

In Isaiah, we hear of the glory of God’s Kingdom, where all shall live in harmony in the house of the Lord.  Joy and peace will reign.  Swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and no one will train for war anymore.  This is God’s promise: to live in the peace of His heavenly Kingdom – in His Light – in His love – forever and ever

Each Advent season we are reminded to prepare – not for the future, but for the now.  We are to make ourselves ready to meet the Lord when he comes – at every moment:
  • Reflect on the Lord and His promise of salvation and life eternal,
  • Repent our sins: fast and prepare our hearts to love as we are loved,
  • Renew our baptismal promises: put on our robes of white and hold our lighted candles high.

Overcome the distractions of this world.  Do not become desensitized to the spirit within ourselves and indifferent to the world around us.  Live as brothers and sisters, children of God, caring for and loving one another.  Live in the Lord, Jesus!  Put on Christ!  Preach the Good News and Love as we are loved – always. Prepare: for we know not when the Son of Man will come. ~Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Monday, November 25, 2013

Luke 23: 35-43 Christ the King - "Jesus, remember me. . ."

There are few proclaimed kings in the world today who can claim a royal lineage, though there are plenty of people who act as though they are royalty – ‘lording’ it over others while serving their needs before the people.

We also have the royalty ‘du jour’ - media celebrities; who claim our attention during their 15 minutes of fame, but none of them is royalty in any real sense.  None of them live as real royalty should live – as servants to the people; putting the needs of others before their own needs.  Caring for those in most need, ensuring: the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sorrowful are comforted, the sick are healed,
the poor are heard, the sinful forgiven, and all - are loved.

These are the marks of true kingship. This is royalty at its best. This is the Kingship of Christ – who leads us - through service and sacrifice – who places us – God’s beloved - before all else – a king who loves us so much that he gave his life - to free us from our captivity to sin; bringing us into the light , peace and joy of life everlasting in His heavenly kingdom.

Christ is King: betrayed and denied; saving us from sin and destruction, healing our wounds, drawing us into his embrace.
Christ is a King: scorned and mocked; caring for the least and the forgotten, without counting cost
Christ is King: ridiculed and condemned; giving us life, leading us to God, the Father
Christ is King: who – even at the point of death - in his pain and suffering - reached out to a repentant sinner; healing – forgiving - delivering him up into everlasting life

Our salvation is beyond the human condition – our kings and leaders cannot save – they cannot free us from sin – they cannot bring us everlasting peace and joy – they cannot give us life eternal. They cannot love us – with the love that feeds the true desire of our heart

We cannot cry out to them in our anguish and pain – “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” because their kingdom, - their power, - their glory - is not everlasting and their rule is subject to decay and death – they are just as we, human: weak – frail - limited - finite

We cannot call them ‘Abba’ - Father – or turn to them in our darkest moments – or share with them our burdens and sorrows – or cry out to them in our pain and suffering – or receive true forgiveness from them for our sins. 
Our real needs are beyond their abilities to bring true healing, - true peace, - true forgiveness and true love.

Only Jesus, the Christ is King!
  • A king unlike any king the world has ever seen 
  • A king who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey
  • A king who called the lowly and powerless - friends and companions
  • A king who lived in poverty and homelessness; sharing our human condition
  • A king who healed the sick, cured the lame and gave sight to the blind
  • A king who brought the Good News to the poor

Jesus is the King who resisted temptation, rejecting all the riches and power of this world
  • The king who was jeered by the people and denied by his friends
  • The king who suffered degradation, humiliation and violence
  • The king whose cross of shame – became his throne of victory; victory over death -- to reign triumphant – King forever and ever 

Jesus Christ is the King of whom we can ask – in our sin and sorrow, “Jesus, remember me!” Bring me into your kingdom.

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, November 10, 2013

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 20:27-38 - "Children of the Resurrection"

“(What) eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and (what) has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9

We are a people of hope.  We are a people of the resurrection.  We believe in a life eternal in heaven; a life everlasting, a life with God, - the Father who loves us, who cares for us in this life and who desires us to be with him in the new life to come: forever and ever. This is the God of the eternal; the God of the everlasting, the God of the resurrection.

In today’s Gospel we encounter the Sadducees, a people who do not believe in the resurrection.  Their beliefs were informed only by the written Torah where there was no mention of a life beyond this world.  They were a people who lived in the present, with no hope of a future life. 

In many ways the beliefs of the Sadducees were somewhat like the beliefs of the secular - humanist world of today.  In this world it is people who come before God and momentary pleasure and profit is of prime concern with no thought to the future: the eternal, the everlasting.  They are a people without hope.  Their god is a finite god, a god only of this world; with no promise of an everlasting life in the glory of heaven. 

The Sadducees’ strict interpretation of the Torah did not include the oral tradition of the Pharisees, who did believe in a resurrection and who lived in hope and belief in an eternal life, as witnessed in the First Reading.

The seven brothers and their mother had an enduring faith in God that gave them strength and courage to undergo torture and death at the hands of their enemy – an enemy who tried to turn them away from God.  Each was a formidable witness to the power of hope; hope in God, a God who promises a life everlasting and who keeps His promise to those who love Him.

The Sadducees, in an attempt to trap Jesus into affirming their belief that there was no life beyond this world, use the example of the woman married to seven brothers to prove their point.  While their example has a basis in Jewish society for providing the continuity of family, it is rooted in their present world, confined by what is read and seen - nothing more.

Jesus tells them that only in this world do people marry and have family, “. . . but those who are considered worthy. . .” those who believe in the resurrection, - believe in a life beyond the present, - beyond the body, - beyond the confines and understandings of this world. 
“They are like the angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” 
‘Those who are considered worthy’ are a people of hope – a people who love God above all and hope and believe in His promise of a life eternal.

To have such hope: such strength of belief - is found only in our close and constant relationship with God. 
It is born out of our life in prayer;
a life of love and devotion,
a life of listening to God’s call in our hearts,
To a life of building a loving relationship with God and an abiding belief in His promise that leads us - through resurrection - to eternal life. 

God calls to each of us to live in His love in this world.  Through His ‘grace we are strengthened and have good hope for our eternal comfort.’  He calls us to live joyfully in this hope and believe in His promise of life everlasting through the resurrection.  For our God is love. In His love he has shown us the fruit of His promise, Jesus Christ.

Through Jesus, God calls us to be with Him forever in a new life – like the angels, as children of God, children of the resurrection. 
What that life is:
we cannot see,
we cannot hear
nor can we imagine,
But we live in hope – hope in the resurrection and the peace and joy and glory and love of God in heaven ~ Amen.


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, November 3, 2013

31st Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 19:1-10 - "We are Zacchaeus"

The story of Zacchaeus is our story.  Whether we are aware of it or not, God is always calling to us; speaking to us in our hearts, drawing us into an ever closer relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ.  “For you (God) love all things that exist and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you hated it.” So it is with Zacchaeus, a beloved child of God, being called into a closer relationship with God through his encounter with Jesus.

A key to an understanding of the story of Zacchaeus can be found in today’s First Reading from the Book of Wisdom. “But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.”

“You overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.” God’s mercy and love begins before we repent. His forgiveness is not conditional upon our repentance. He clears the pathway for our repentance by His love.

Zacchaeus was considered by the people to be a public sinner.  As a tax collector, a collaborator with the Roman oppressors, he was judged to be a traitor to the people. While Zacchaeus was a rich man, because he had others doing is bidding and subject to his direction, he was an outcast among his own people. I would think that the Romans only thought well of him when he paid the tribute they demanded.  All in all, Zacchaeus was a lonely man with few friends and they would only be people like him – tax collectors - public sinners, outcasts from society – shunned by all the people.

Now, we have heard the story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus on a road in Jericho:
  • How he was eager to see Jesus,
  • How he climbed a tree because he was so short,
  • How Jesus stopped and called Zacchaeus to come down and
  • How Jesus told him that he must stay at his house.

Do we see how God was working on Zacchaeus through all this, even before Jesus came to Jericho – when word of Jesus reached Zacchaeus’ hearing and touched his heart?

Something stirred in Zacchaeus’ heart to want to see Jesus even at the risk of scorn and abuse from the people in the crowded street.  The call to see this Jesus of whom he had heard so much, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, was so strong that Zacchaeus made the effort, dressed in his fine clothes, to climb a tree, a most undignified activity for a rich man and most likely not a young man, to do.  Zacchaeus makes an extraordinary effort to see Jesus.  He may not have realized that it was God’s calling out to him in his heart that made him go to such a great effort. 

Jesus calls Zacchaeus out of the tree – to come down from his isolated perch.  “Zacchaeus hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” Jesus manifests God’s call to Zacchaeus. He calls him to not delay, but to hurry and allow God to dwell within him.  God has overlooked the sins of Zacchaeus; telling him that he must stay within his house – dwell within his heart.

Zacchaeus is forgiven his sins even before he repents - not on condition of his repentance.  He is moved by God’s love and mercy that he vows to give to the poor and repay four-fold to anyone who claims to have been defrauded by him, - not just for this one time, but for all time going forward. 

Jesus declares that salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus; this son of Abraham, for this sinner has now heeded the call of God, amended his life and returned to live in God’s love forever.  The story of Zacchaeus is our story.

  • We are Zacchaeus – for God is calling to us constantly, in our hearts – drawing us into an encounter with Jesus where we too are forgiven before we repent because God loves us and overlooks our sins: We are His creation which is always good
  • We are Zacchaeus when, we go to Jesus, hurrying to join Him and allow Him to stay in our house and change our lives
  • We are Zacchaeus when we repent our sins; vowing to amend our life - to live in right relationship with one another, caring, loving and receiving one another as we are embraced by God.
For the Son of Man came to seek out sinners; revealing God’s merciful love, opening the pathway to salvation for all the lost sheep of His flock, so we may return home to dwell with Him forever and ever ~ Amen.
Deacon Don Ron