Our world is increasingly holiday focused, not Holy Day focused. The season of Christmas does not begin for the Church until Christmas Day. Father Jim encourages us to celebrate Advent for what it is, a time of preparation.
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
How Will You Observe Advent?
**This is still a rough transcription
Well, it seems almost hard to believe that we’re beginning this Sunday this season of Advent. But then again looking around the stores, it’s not that hard to be reminded, Advent is here. The other day I ran into Santa Claus already. I can’t believe it, in an office that was already holding their annual Christmas party. Something strikes me odd about all that. It seems as though our society always skips Advent and rushes to Christmas. Did you notice that? I think that’s why we miss the best part of the Season which Advent prepares us for. Without the preparation there really isn’t a celebration. If you just rush into the celebration, what are we celebrating anymore? It’s only at best a holiday; certainly not a holy day. And so I’d like to take some time today to prepare us for this great season we’re entering this Sunday in the season of Advent.
Luke is a gospel of joy. We see here, in a certain tone, that the life in the Lord leads to a deep joy in us. This is seen in Mary’s great Magnificat recorded in Luke, “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” We see Jesus praising his father’s. He says, “Father, I praise you, for you revealed to the merest children what you’ve hidden from the wise and the learned; the truth of the Kingdom.” We see the disciples rejoicing at their Ministry that Jesus shared with them the power of the spirit when they came back saying, “Lord, the devil’s falling from the heavens as we proclaim the gospel in your name and heal people in your name.” So we see this Joy being extended from Jesus’ heart to the heart of the whole Christian Community throughout Luke’s account. And finally in the Ascension, which is alone recorded by Luke, the whole Christian community’s caught up in this sense of victory that Jesus has overcome death; the ultimate victory for all time.
So that’s just a very brief description of some of the themes and tone of this great gospel that we will see now through the next year. Luke wrote The Acts of the Apostles as a companion to his gospel. We might think of it as Volume 2, as we see Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel of Luke, and then in Acts we see that same ministry paralleled in the Apostles. That same Spirit allows us to do what Jesus himself did.
Luke begins his gospel with the beautiful prologue that I will read before we get into today’s text. It is a prologue that explains clearly why Luke wrote his gospel. Listen for these several points. First, the gospel is written much later on, probably for Luke in 85 AD; 85 in the Common Era [CE] which is a generation or two after Jesus died. So we call the written gospel the third edition. The first edition, with Jesus preaching himself. The second was the Apostles’ preaching of the teaching of Jesus. The third is finally when evangelists like Luke wrote the account down to preserve it for future generations. Notice when they wrote it down they weren’t writing any kind of biography but rather a certain christology, it is a reflection of the life of Jesus as it impacts our life.
Luke will refer to putting together an orderly account that will help us in our faith and he addresses this entire Gospel and the Acts to someone he refers to as Theophilus, but the name may have referred to a particular person or even more it may have preferred to every one of us. Theos, you know, is Greek for God and Philia is Greek for friend. So we could understand, we are Theophilus. We are the friends of God for which this gospel is being written today. And so Luke says to us since many have undertaken to compile A Narrative of the events that have been fulfilled Among Us just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and Ministers of the word have handed on down to us. I too have decided after investigating everything accurately a new to write it down in an orderly sequence for you most excellent Theophilus so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings that you have received. So with that as an introduction to Luke and his gospel that Me Turn the Page to the gospel itself, in fact, turn several Pages toward the end of the gospel chapter 21 where today’s Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent picks up now, we hear the teaching of Jesus for the last time teaching about the end of time we call these words we heard earlier, but Jesus said to his disciples.
There will be signs in the Sun the moon and the stars on the earth. Nations will be in anguish distraught at the Roaring of the Sea and the waves people will die in Fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the Earth after that people will see the son of man coming in a cloud with great power and Glory when these things begin to happen stand up straight and raise your heads for your Ransom is near at hand.
And I seem a little odd to begin the season of Advent talking and hearing about the end of time but I would remind us that advent means literally odd n you to come and refers to both the first and second coming of Christ first coming of Christ at the birth in Bethlehem, but second coming at the end of time which we always want to remember as Christ is coming to us Luke takes the very traditional terminology in the cosmological terms of apocalyptic literature. Remember apocalyptic mean the end of times speaks in his grandiose signs that appear in the heavens and on the earth and in the seas and these are the signs of The Magnificent dramatic coming of Christ.
I would suggest we would look Beyond these more apocryphal signs. The more practical signs of today. There are signs of the times we can recognize today at this picture painted here in the gospel may not be so much different from what we see in the world today through world events. We see tragedies and difficulties all around us through I think of the war being waged this very day this very hour yet Nick cleansing of entire people. I think of the tragedy in the violence and crime in our own City and all the hardship that we face in our own family and all the difficulties. What do we do when these things visit us? How do we handle tragedy in our life? We listen carefully to these words. Jesus says when these things happen, stand up straight and raise your heads for your Ransom is near at hand or we could understand it for your lord is near at hand.
It seems that Jesus is saying that it is faith that will enable us and Empower us to stand up and face, whatever happens and to deal with it. But how do we strengthen our faith may be that is the question. How do we stand up against these great challenges that seem to overcome us and lay us out. Well Jesus continues in that same gospel be on guard Lester Spirits become bloated with Indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares the great they will suddenly close in on you like a trap. You can almost imagine how things just happened house fragile life is as we talked about and what do we do? How do we deal with that?
Jesus says pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in Prospect and the stands secure before the son of man. How do we Keep On Keepin On In face of such tragedy? I would only say we need to do but Jesus says here pray constantly.
And to hold firm to the word of the Lord that is always a word of hope that it gives us that he will always be with us. How else do we deal with such tragedy? What do we do without faith? What in the world would we do is so important that we then strengthen ourselves in this faith. That is our source of salvation.
I would like to share a book with you that I just finished last night that has really inspired me. It is an account of written by Terry Anderson. Who was as you might recall the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press in Beirut, Lebanon.
Did you know he was a Catholic and in his youth he was an agnostic but later in his adult Yuri founded his faith, which became his salvation for on March the 16th. 1985. Terry Anderson was kidnapped by several armed men in Beirut. And for the next seven years. He was held hostage by them.
Can you imagine seven years as a political prisoner in Beirut? He published this Den of Lions or subtitled Memoirs of seven years where he describes in great detail some of the terrible torture. He had to endure both physically and psychologically beaten-down. They after day year after year to give you just a quick review of what I’m speaking about.
He was imprisoned usually in a very high knees cell filled with mice and spiders and insects suffering intense heat in the desert of Lebanon. He would be moved every couple months sometimes to a dark deep dungeon. We would either freeze to death or suffer from excruciating heat the kept him on the move. So the Central Intelligence Agency of our nation could never catch up with them his hands and feet were always bolted and chained to a wall or he could hardly move. Anyway, he could exercise is take one step or two steps in each Direction so we could somehow keep in shape many times use placed in solitary confinement total isolation and darkness.
The cruelest torture was to be so alone not able to speak to anybody. He said several times you would much rather they be as they often were crowded into as Tiny cell with five of the fellow hostages were they had to actually put their mattress overlapping each other? And of course that wasn’t easy either in other cultures, how do you get along with Five Guys in a small tiny cell naturally getting on each other’s nerves you could imagine they would just go crazy. They were only permitted to go to the bathroom once a day only once a day and only for 10 minutes. It could never take a shower never a bath. You know? He says was absolutely horrible. They called it garbage.
It just seemed like everything the soldiers could do to psychologically tortured them. They did sometimes putting a gun to his head and said we’re going to shoot you now and in cooking the the trigger at had blanks or other times, they would tease them by releasing him from his chains and in Tommy’s go to set him free but only taken to another room then and what he said was a constant roller coaster ride of getting his hopes up being dashed again. It was all going on many many many many times the first year even this one on for seven years hardest thing said was to be separated from his family and friends have no contact the outside world and just dealing with boredom itself and always despair always despair what I appreciated in reading this moving Memoir and documentary of his time was to see how do you survive?
It seems such an inhumane situation we could learn to how to survive this. We can survive our job or our family, you know, we’re thinking of working. We’re all living in close quarters. Have we get along with each other? Well, you know if we could read this and learn the lessons he learned here in this crash course of survival, then we would all do well, huh. So how did Terry Anderson survive? I think if we learned this week of learn to survive and thrive in our own life. He says he learned to pray.
As you might imagine it’s in prayer and turning to God that became his greatest strength every day all through the day and night and something else it was the Holy Bible first thing. He asked as a favor from his soldiers was to give him the Bible as a source of Hope and strength. Let me quote. You just a couple lines I read last night even Terry Anderson says in the night when the Blackness grows. The only thing that will push it away is prayer.
And I still have my red Bible and I read st. Paul frequently see Paul, you know was often in prison facing his dad. He has helped me to learn to accept and to stop struggling and to just wait for whatever God chooses to do with me talk about faith.
He goes on to say sometimes I feel the real joy in prayer a real understanding of what it means to be loved by God, as I am. These times ease the pain of this terrible existence so much that it gives me hope that I can not only stick this out, but perhaps emerge hole and live a better life when it is over.
It’s not a remarkable talk about a miracle. How did this miracle happen prayer and scripture changed his life survive. What I would think I don’t know if I could survive. I mean, can you picture yourself in a situation like that? Hope to God we would never be in a situation like that. But I only bring it up the we could consider our situations in life and say well what must we do to face difficulties and the tragedies the hardships as we all live in a certain cell of loneliness in ourselves, as we all are Shackled by some guilt or trouble from our past as we all feel undernourished in starved somewhat emotionally from the support. We wish we had as we all find difficulty relating even within our own family in among our friends.
As we all Wonder when’s it all going to end?
It isn’t like we’re totally out of this situation either. This is advent brothers and sisters the coming of Christ that we don’t know when it will really be which is our final Ransom, huh our final Redemption our final Liberation. How will it come? We know that comes only to those who believe and how do we believe let me read to you this beautiful poem. He wrote in prison entitled Faith just read you an excerpt of it because this is how Terry Anderson found Freedom even inside his prison cell.
See, where is Faith found not in a book nor in a church nor is a found often or in everyone.
The priest all say faith is a mystery and point to the Saints who prove their faith in Acts of love and sacrifice, but one of us who are not Saints only common human Sinners and one of those of us who in our need and pain cry out to God and go on suffering.
I do not know. I wish I did sometimes I feel all the world’s pain. I only say that once in my own needs. I felt a bright light in a warmth and loving touch that eased my soul and banish the dark doubt and let me go on to the end. It is not a proof. There can be none faith is what you find when you’re all alone and find you are not alone. Isn’t it inspiring would that we would remember that and take that to heart?
Let me end by raising the question. I believe we should always raised at the beginning of the Advent season namely. How will we observe Advent?
How will we observe event? I would suggest reflecting on this gospel and on the powerful testimony of Terry Anderson, and we would first be vigilant in prayer.
To do as the gospel tells us that Jesus says in order to face any tribulation pray. Continually, I would suggest during the Advent we would pay attention to quality time. We spend with Jesus every day and that we were considered especially during Advent that our prayer time is the most important appointments. We have all day long and if it is so important than we give God our best attention.
And bring to God all that’s going on in our life all the we need the strength for our daily bread that feeds our soul.
To also consider the Eucharist as the best prayer Terry Anderson mentioned for year. He was in prison with Father Lawrence. Jenko remember him when he was with him, they would always take time to celebrate the Eucharist the very little bread. They were given they would save some and celebrate. He said it was as though the Lord entered their cell gave me chills the read app also let her time when he said he has father if he could go to confession to him and how they’re just cleansed him and strengthened him greatly
And so again, I would suggest Advent is a time of prayer. So, how can we make it such as holy season? I spending special moments each day in prayer. Also, one of the things they did in prison when father Jenco wasn’t there. They took turns leading the prayer services how we need to pray his family and how that would help us family prays together stays together Rose together. Secondly as you could guess I would suggest that we need to find strength in nourishment in the word of God. I would suggest that during the season of Advent that we would consider. I recommend reading the gospel of st. Luke that we begin this year.
Luke has 24 Chapters at nicely outlined for us to say we could read a chapter a day and take us on they offer. Yeah chapter day six chapters a week will bring us all the way through the season I will do that myself. Would you join me in reading and reflecting on one chapter a day taking us through the Gospel of Luke. I think it will really achieve what the purpose for which the gospel is written. Keep this in mind. When you open the gospel you open the door to Christ’s coming into your heart and into your mind and where you will receive great strength and inspiration. Remember the prey to just as the Holy Spirit inspired Luke and writing the gospel May the Holy Spirit Inspire Us in interpreting and understanding the gospel. So it matters not how much we get through the gospel, huh?
But how much this gospel gets through us?