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Advent Preparations

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One of my favorite memories as a child was the two days after Thanksgiving. Of course I was off from school, but this was also the time when the Christmas tree went up and lights were put on the house. There are certain ornaments, even to this day, that my mom leaves for me to put on the tree - mainly the Packer ornaments! For many of us, we are going into "Christmas mode". I'm sure decorations are going up and family events are being planned. These are all wonderful things because as Andy Williams sings, "It's the most wonderful time of year!"

Through all these joys, we have to remember that this is the beginning of the Advent season, not the Christmas season. These next four weeks are a time a preparation, not only to welcome guests into our home, but also Jesus himself into our hearts. In the middle of all the busyness, we must recall why we're doing all of this in the first place. Perhaps this year something won't be as perfect as you'd like. Maybe you didn't have time to make that one extra side dish because you took a break to pray. Maybe there's a few decorations that didn't make it up this year because you came to Mass or Reconciliation instead. I promise you that time spent preparing your heart will make you far happier on Christmas morning than any decoration.

Together, as a family, may we prepare our hearts well this Advent, so that we can join the choir of angels on Christmas morning singing, "Glory to God in the highest!"

We Are All Children of God

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Hindsight is always 20/20. As we look back on history, knowing that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, along with 2,000 years of theological study, the Sadducees can seem a little silly. Yet during Jesus time there was a belief about who the Messiah would be and what he would accomplish. This Jesus didn’t look much like the warrior king that would return Israel to its previous glory. From the Sadducees perspective they needed to discredit this impostor as soon as possible. They devised a plan. They came up with a seemingly impossible and absurd scenario. A woman had married, and before she could have a child, her husband died, so she married her brother-in-law as prescribed by the law. This happened to her not once but seven times. If there were a resurrection how absurd would it be to simultaneously be married to seven men?

How does Jesus respond? He says we are all children of God. There is no need for marriage as a type of estate planning. While that was important in this life it has no meaning in heaven. Instead, we are more like angels and will have eternal life with and in God. In fact to God we have never died. Jesus knows of his upcoming death and resurrection and he also knows that we too, by virtue of our baptism, will rise with him to eternal life. This is the good news! This is the kingdom Jesus has come to create, where everyone has come from God and everyone must return to God. A kingdom of love and mercy vs a kingdom of earthly power and exclusion. A kingdom that somehow exists in our world today but in an imperfect way. It is the kingdom that is tangibly present to us in all the sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist. This, is the resurrection we live for, a life with the Holy Trinity, the communion of Saints and the heavenly host for eternity.

Be-Loved

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I must tell you, the gospel readings for these last two months have been challenging to me. Words that started the month with “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” A couple of weeks ago, the story of the prodigal son, and this week the story of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Most of the remarks from Jesus are directed to his disciples…that’s us. The words of Jesus around discipleship are both hard and easy at the same time.

Hard, because Jesus’ call to give up everything and follow him, means letting go of all the protections we have built up over the years. Protections which mask our shame, imagine our control, and falsify our security.

Easy, because of the realizations of the false, paper protections they are. What does God want from us? In short, he wants our response to the unconditional love he offers, and has been offering since he “knew us in the womb.” Why do we, including myself, find it so hard to believe God will provide?

Instead we struggle, we scheme, we try to make life work, and when it doesn’t, we run to God like injured little children run to their parent. I am sure God doesn’t mind how we come to him, but I also know the peace of really letting God provide, and knowing, even if sporadically, that his love lets us lead the best life possible. We could be distressed by the commands of Jesus by trying to be humble, to be compassionate, to be empathetic. The revelation in these attempts is the word “be”. If you wish to know what it takes to follow God, just remember who we are…his beloved, and stop trying so hard to “do” and instead…be-loved.

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