Reflections for the Week
Prepare the Way
John the Baptist is sent as a witness, to announce publicly that the long-awaited Messiah has arrived. Now the Lord has come. But it’s still possible to miss him. The people are so impressed by the preaching that they
wonder if John himself could be the Messiah. But John will have none of it. No, he’s simply a voice. “And my message,” he says, is “prepare a way for the Lord.” In fact, he tells them, “the one to whom I bear witness - he’s so great that I wouldn’t be fit to undo his sandal straps - he’s actually standing among you.” So near and yet so far. So, we must be prepared for his presence.
It is because preparation is so important that each year the Church calls upon us to celebrate Christ’s birth by setting aside these weeks leading up to Christmas - the Season of Advent. Here, our second reading is especially helpful. St Paul is writing to a little Christian community in Northern Greece. The big question for them is: when is Christ going to come at the end of time? Paul does not respond to their question: he simply offers them a three-fold programme. It’s a programme we might make our own in these days before Christmas: “Always be joyful; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks.”
“Always be joyful” - this Sunday is traditionally associated with joy. But then Christianity itself is associated with joy. Not a bubbly, hollow joy, but a deep-down quiet joy; a joy that cannot be dislodged; the joy of possessing the good news of the Gospel; of knowing that God loves us, that he is always with us and for us; the joy which overflows in our dealings with others, in ways as small as a smile of welcome or a word of forgiveness.
It’s a joy closely associated with prayer; and Paul’s second piece of advice is “Pray constantly.” Prayer is spending time with the one we love, being open to him, becoming aware of his presence. How can we grow in his friendship without such precious moments of intimacy? How can we prepare for Christmas without spending a little time each day in prayer? Last Christmas I received a card which contained the simple words: “O the wonder of it all!” I do not believe that we will capture, or be captured by, the wonder of Christmas unless we pray.
And just as prayer gives rise to joy, so also it leads to gratitude. Paul says: “For all things give thanks.” We of all people should be incurably grateful: we know that everything is a sheer gift from God. Paul bids us to be thankful in all circumstances; and what more appropriate circumstances than these final days of Advent when we await God’s gift of his Son on Christmas Day.
To be always joyful, to pray constantly, to give thanks in all circumstances - that is the way to prepare for the coming of the King of kings, whether it be his coming in lowliness at Christmas, his coming in power at the end of time, or his coming in the Mass under the humble guise of bread and wine.
The Living Word Majellan Publications
Catechesis on the Eucharist Part 4
It’s very important to turn to the fundamentals, to rediscover what is essential, through what one touches and sees in the celebration of the Sacraments. The question of the Apostle St Thomas (Cf. John 20:25), to be able to see and touch the wounds of the nails in Jesus’ body is the desire to be able in some way to “touch” God to believe him. What St Thomas asks the Lord is what we are all in need of: to see him, and touch him to be able to recognise him. The Sacraments come to meet this human need. The Sacraments, and the Eucharistic Celebration particularly, are signs of God’s love, the privileged ways for us to encounter him. Thus, I would like to rediscover, together with you, the beauty that is hidden in the Eucharistic Celebration and that, once revealed, gives full meaning to each one’s life. To understand the beauty of the Eucharistic Celebration, I want to begin with a very simple aspect: the Mass is prayer, rather, it’s the prayer par excellence, the highest, the most sublime and, at the same time, the most “concrete.” In fact, it’s the encounter of love with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s an encounter with the Lord.
However, first we must answer a question. What is prayer really? It is first of all dialogue, personal relationship with God. And man was created as being in personal relationship with God, who finds his fulfilment only in the encounter with his Creator. The journey of life is towards the definitive encounter with the Lord. The Book of
Genesis affirms that man was created in the image and likeness of God, who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit, a perfect relationship of love, which is unity. From this we are able to understand that all of us have been created to enter into a perfect relationship of love, in a continuous giving and receiving of ourselves to thus be able to find the fullness of our being.
Pope Francis [for the full version - https://zenit.org] (Continued next week)
Fr Bill's Thoughts