My friends, here we are once again, beginning a new Church Year. Of all the things that I disagree with concerning our beloved Church, the practice of setting up each Year of Grace, with the beginning of Advent, that does not coincide with our secular beginning and ending of a year, is NOT one of them. In other words, the Church hierarchy got this one right!
Additionally, giving us specific readings for each Sunday of the Church Year to ponder, allowing the Spirit to speak through those readings, is a wonderful thing. And I have to believe that Jesus’ Spirit has a sense of humor, because two people reading the same reading can come up with totally different explanations, as to meaning.
An example to flesh this out: The Scripture passage from John 17, “that they all would be one,” the genesis of our church name, “All Are One,” which means, as you know, that everyone is welcome at our table, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, even religious background—basically, if you want to pray with us, you are welcome! This same Scripture was used against me by the male bishop in Winona at the time of my ordination with Roman Catholic Women Priests, stating, [on that day when we] “all are one,” (meaning, everyone believing what the Catholic hierarchy says is so) we can then move forward, together.
So, let us look at this season of Advent—what it means and what it calls each of us to through the chosen Scriptures. A good thing to consider as we think about the fact that any given Scripture can be used for opposing ideas as in my example above, is that whatever we read in Scripture should call forth the best in us—call us to more, not less.
As we know, Advent is a four-week time of waiting; a time that calls us to, “slow down,” even a bit, and be conscious of our world, its joys and sorrows and consider how our presence in this world brings either joy or sorrow. This request that we adequately prepare for the feast of Christmas, by retreating a bit into, “the basement of our hearts” to steal the title of a piece I have shared with you in the past, comes during one of the busiest times of the year. Now, granted, we do have some control over our “busyness,” but that is another story and homily.
It’s also a matter of deciding what is most important in our lives. I would be one to say, “we can bring the “seemingly” secular into the “seemingly” religious and with the gift of “balance,” find a place for both. Sometimes, we discover how something that seems to be “secular,” can really be quite “a holy thing,” seen through bigger eyes and hearts. Father Ed Hays, in his many writings and artwork did a wonderful job of uniting the two, and calling it all, good.
So, back to today’s scriptures that can have many meanings for us as individuals depending on our focus. In the first reading from Isaiah, the prophet, he says, “God’s home will be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.” He goes on to say, “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks—one nation will not raise sword against another, nor will they train for war again.” So if we were thinking that the prophet is merely saying that “the highest hill around will belong to God,” we would be missing the point. The “highness” has more to do with us—how we live our lives—how we strive to be our best—how we most consistently choose “love” over “hate” or any other negative response in our lives.
For those who have lived through many Advent Seasons, you know that the Scriptures for this season always have a sense of urgency about them –Paul, in his letter to the Romans today, says, “…now is the hour for [us] to wake from sleep.” And from Matthew’s gospel, that urgency continues, “[we] do not know the day [our] Savior is coming.” One final comment as we reflect on “urgency” is that the apostles, including Paul, thought that the Second Coming of Jesus was going to happen sooner, rather than later.
So friends, for all of us these 2,000+ years since Jesus walked the earth, we may doubt that there is any “urgency” in getting our lives in order. And again, we must remember that our striving in this life to be our best, is not simply about “getting ourselves into heaven one day,” but about being the type of person that makes life and our world better. And when did we need the “touch” and actions of Christians in our world more than now?
Perhaps a way to conclude here as we begin this new season of Advent, along with a new Church Year, that really calls us to remember that we have a God, who loves us mightily, “Just the way we are,” to quote a modern-day saint, Fred Rogers, is to ask ourselves where we stand on several current issues. And not only where we stand, but if we have resolved to do something about them.
- If as Isaiah mentions today, “we [can] train for war,” why can’t we then, “train for peace?” Ask yourself if you agree on this one and perhaps share your view with someone who can make a difference—Thursday Morning Post Card Group at Blue Heron, 10 o’clock.
- Why are we as a country so accepting of weapons of mass destruction—rapid-fire, high-capacity guns used to slaughter our country’s people, from young to old? Each of us needs to get serious about this one as only we, each of us, can make the change we want to see.
- This year was the 20th anniversary of the Danube 7, who in 2002 defied Church authority and chose to be ordained, by three, male, and anonymous bishops in good standing with the Church, following their God-given calls, which in other words, means that the ordinations of the Danube 7, just like those of any man, can be traced back to “apostolic succession.” This began the process by which your pastor was ordained in 2008. By then we had moved ahead, and women bishops (3 of the original 7) had been consecrated and things progressed from there.
So, my friends, if that causes you any joy or hope for more inclusion in the Roman Catholic church, perhaps a letter to Bishop Robert Barron, 55 West Sanborn, Winona, speaking of your joy and hope might be appropriate this Advent.
Whether any of the above actions speak to your heart or not, we are still called to do our parts in whatever way we choose—the only choice we don’t have is to do nothing.