Monday, December 6, 2010

The Second Week of Advent 2010

Second Sunday of Advent
"'Hope' is the thing with feathers—/That perches in the soul—/And sings the tune without the words /And never stops—at all—." Emily Dickinson's definition of hope captures what many of us have a hard time defining. Hope is not blind optimism, nor arrogant certainty, nor wishful thinking. Hope, the theme of today's Gospel, is the knowledge that God would not desert us, that we will endure difficult times to see a better day. Hope gives us the strength to seek peace and demand justice, and to envision the world as God intended it to be. 

(Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
Look for miracles. "We have seen strange things today," the crowd says after seeing Jesus cure an afflicted man. Strange things—miracles, reconciliations, changes of heart—are all around us, but every day we miss them because we're busy looking elsewhere. Make it a habit to find one example of God at work in your life each day.

(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
Acknowledge your sins. Today's Gospel, along with the parable of the prodigal son, shows the lengths God will go to in order to save each of us. It is easy to resent the "troublemaker" who gets all the attention, but that misses the point: We are each the lost sheep, the prodigal son, in need of salvation. God in his mercy is offering us just that. 

(Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)
Seek respite with God. Both readings today promise rest to the weary. And who isn't weary this time of year? You don't have to cut yourself off from the season's busyness to find rest. Grasp moments of quiet meditation wherever you can find them—turn off the radio in your car, or recite the rosary as you clean the house.

(Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
Listen closely. John the Baptist, who heralded Jesus' coming but was ignored and ultimately killed, takes center stage this week. If we saw him on a downtown street today, dressed in rags and preaching with a burning intensity, would we think he was crazy? Or would we listen closely enough to recognize the truth he speaks?

(Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
Ignore labels. Sometimes you can't win: Ascetic John is criticized for his severity, while sociable Jesus is called a glutton and worse. Today you're more likely to hear "conservative" and "liberal" thrown around, but the result is the same. Labels blind us to each other's humanity, and to the role in salvation that each one of us must play. 

(Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:10-13)
Carve out some quiet time. The weekends before Christmas are usually nonstop, with little time left for prayer or reflection. It's impossible to forgo the shopping and the parties, but for every busy hour you spend, try to spend an equal amount of time in the quiet, listening and watching for signs of our Savior's arrival.

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