FAITH ALIVE: Advent week two: Promise, prophecy and return

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
FAITH ALIVE: Advent week two: Promise, prophecy and return
FAITH ALIVE: Advent week two: Promise, prophecy and return


By Catholic News Service

IN A NUTSHELL

The world needs modern-day prophets like Isaiah who continue to declare hope during bleak times and can remind people that God has not forgotten them. God's promise lives on.

Advent is a time of preparation through repentance. We must admit our sinfulness. Yet, it is repentance born out of hope.

We celebrate our Savior's coming to be with us that first Christmas. We also have his promise that he will come again and take us to be with him. God kept the first promise so we can trust him to keep the second.

Now and forever

By Father Herb Weber | Catholic News Service

Promises are part of our lives. As kids we extract promises from parents and friends just as we learn to make promises. Some are simple like the promise to bring a treat. Others demand more commitment like the promise to be there when our friends need us.

The most significant promises that I witness take place at marriage ceremonies. As the officiating minister I ask both the man and the woman if they will repeat after me. Then they say how they promise to be faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor all the days of their lives.

I hear these statements of promise and ask God to help them fulfill them, knowing how hard it sometimes can be.

With the image of the promise between the husband and wife in mind, we can easily focus on a still more significant promise. That is the promise of God to remain faithful to his people. It is a promise that is celebrated during Advent and reflected in the Scripture readings.

Sadly, Advent is always a short period of time between the holiday of Thanksgiving and the Christmas event. It is a period of promise and preparation that is easily overlooked. This year the season is even shorter with only three weeks and a day. That last day, which is both the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, will be lost to many.

Nonetheless, we need this season as a time to meditate on the promise, even if it means finding a way to listen over the din of other voices.

The other day a group, gathered for a banquet, was getting louder and louder. The host tried to get everyone's attention, but no one could hear him. Then someone took a spoon and tapped the side of a wine glass, producing a high pitched ringing sound. The room quieted down.

Like the tap of that glass, Advent comes to us with a cry of the prophets over the noise of people with their own agendas and concerns. Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that their time of service is at an end and their guilt expiated. This is followed by the promise that the glory of the Lord is to be revealed.

That promise was made millennia ago. It was fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled. It is the ultimate promise that should be the center of our attention.

Perhaps the world needs modern-day prophets like Isaiah who continue to declare hope during bleak times and can remind people that God has not forgotten them. God's promise lives on.

For many, Pope Francis has become that sign of hope. As a prophet he stands up to people of power and offers humble service. Instead of searching for fame or acclaim, he reaches out to the poor and cries out for compassion for all people. His voice is like the tap of the wine glass that gets people's attention.

If we look, there are other prophets among us. Earlier this fall an Oklahoma priest was beatified as the first American-born martyr.

Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was living and working with the Tz'utujil people, a group of Mayan indigenous people of Guatemala, when he was killed in the middle of the night by those who opposed his preaching justice for the poor. This took place in 1981, during the 36-year Guatemalan civil war.

Each year when I take a group from my parish to Guatemala on mission, I make a point of visiting the site of Father Rother's death. It is a room in the old rectory that has been converted to a humble and unpretentious shrine. I always stop and kneel in prayer.

Moved by Father Rother's willingness to stay with his people and lead them through turbulence, I always find myself praying for perseverance and courage in ministry. I also pray that I may have a prophetic voice when necessary.

Father Rother, like Pope Francis or any other prophet, did not merely oppose evil. He also offered hope by his willingness to preach that God would not abandon his people. So he would not abandon his people either. That is the promise that we recall during Advent.

There is one other aspect of Advent that we don't want to forget. This holy season is also a time of preparation through repentance. Like those in the crowd who went out to John and were baptized in the Jordan River, we must admit our sinfulness.

Yet this repentance is not simply about all our failings or our lack of faith. Instead, it is a repentance that is discovered in the face of God's promise to overcome sin and to renew humanity. It is repentance born out of hope.

Consequently, Advent becomes a time for promise, prophets and repentance. Through that combination the world is changed now and forever. The nature of any true promise is to withstand time. It is always made in the present with the future in mind.

Father Weber is the founding pastor of St. John XXIII Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Advent tidings of comfort and joy

By Barbara Hosbach |Catholic News Service

I dread the shorter, colder days that coincide with Advent here in the Northeast. It's hard to enjoy a sunset at 4:30 in the afternoon. Fortunately, while the days grow darker, our parish Advent wreath grows brighter with light from an additional candle each week. God's light has a way of shining brighter when life seems darkest.

The Advent readings also brighten my outlook -- especially the prophet Isaiah's encouraging words: "Comfort, give comfort to my people" (Is 40:1). God asked the prophet to reassure the suffering Israelite exiles in Babylon.

Although God allowed his people to experience the consequences of their wrongdoing, he didn't abandon them. He promised to be with the exiles, to nurture them, hold them close and lead them home.

Some years ago, like those Israelites, I felt exiled from all that was familiar to me, including my family and friends. I'd always prided myself on being hardworking, self-sufficient and helpful to others -- or so I thought.

After a car accident, followed by a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, that all changed. I could no longer live up to my own self-image. Who was I if I couldn't work hard? Who'd want me around if I couldn't do things for them?

I found out the hard way that many of the things I thought I did "for others" had been attempts to control, pump up my own ego and earn approval or affection. When my false supports crumbled, I felt useless, miserable and terrified.

Isaiah urged the Israelites to prepare for the Lord by making a straight way in the desert. In my darkest hour, God came into the desert of my heart. Although he allowed me to experience my particular challenges, he didn't abandon me.

When I was ready to be honest and face my false pride, God tenderly led me through my emotional wasteland. He showed me that my abilities are gifts, not to be denied but not to be relied on in place of him. In acknowledging my limitations I'm honoring God instead of my own capabilities.

Isaiah promised that "every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Is 40:4). He didn't say we have to fill in our own valleys or knock down our own mountains.

I'd tried to fill my low self-esteem by struggling to be Wonder Woman. Then I'd knock down my pride by telling myself I wasn't so great. Neither worked.

Through my challenges, God taught me that I don't have to prove anything to be worthy of love. In fact, I'm better able to give and receive love when I'm not trying too hard. My relationships with family and friends are much more relaxed and genuine now.

We all have value simply because God loves us so much that he wants to be with us. Although Isaiah said to prepare by making a straight way for the Lord, Jesus said he is the way (Jn 14:6).

So how do we make a straight way for our Savior? By getting straight with ourselves, by honestly admitting our shortcomings and recognizing how much we need him. It's safe to face this truth because we have the reassurance of God's love for us just as we are.

We celebrate our Savior's coming to be with us that first Christmas. We also have his promise that he will come again and take us to be with him. God kept the first promise so we can trust him to keep the second.

Meanwhile, as we prepare our hearts for Christ's coming this Advent season, let's remember that God is eternal. Eternity doesn't mean an endless extension of time, it means being beyond time.

We can trust the light of God's love to burn within us whenever life is at its darkest -- whether the darkness is outside of us or within our hearts -- because eternity includes right now.

Hosbach is a freelance writer and author of "'Your Faith Has Made You Well': Jesus Heals in the New Testament."

Poems for Advent and Christmas

By Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield | Catholic News Service

Advent I

Humanity in such a tangled snare
… where did this all come from?
A warning rises
A prophet's voice
"WATCH" into the darkness
A people called again to turn an eager, weary head
In a resistant time
To look through the darkness of a Judean night and
Trust that in the darkness of a Virgin's womb
The Creator of Light begins to form.
As Advent begins, watch now and trust that
In your own unfamiliar darkness --
Inadequacy, job loss, depression or distance
There is a taste of the Bethlehem darkness,
Containing a flavor of the Promise
A Savior already forming from the Overshadowed One.
Patience, then.

Advent II

The cruel axe once wielded cut short the tree of Jesse
The wound in the wood leaves an empty, shorn base
The human family suffers a crude cut -- Sin -- we are sapped of possibility.
God, leaving no such scar, reaches down
moving freely
to such an impossible place: the womb of the Virgin becomes sheer fertility.
God has poured himself out … so probe then --
Has the axe, with cruel decisiveness, touched your life
leaving a hollowness you fear to enter?
Step with determination; feel along the empty dark
and you'll come upon the One Poured Out
Who overflows the impossible place
and brush close to a stirring most rare:
Hope in motion.

Advent III

A nightly mission, the operative at last dispatched from the
real to unreal world.
The Angel enters the corridors of sleep where the troubled Joseph swims;
Interrupting one wonder with Another
whispering the long-treasured saving Plan,
prophecy becomes reality as
A seer's vision brims.
Joseph's sleep continues in the wake of the Almighty
At the noiseless morning breaking (or is that sin's back?)
the Angel close to now returned to his haven, glances round
And sees as Joseph stands and stretches
the preview of Another Rising much more final and profound.
Christmas Night
The destination is enclosed by the timber of a stable
as the endurance of pregnancy gives way.
Newborn arms unfold to welcome a kingly quest:
wise men, shepherds, and angels close their trail today.
yet this child's eyes start a search far more severe;
His Mission turns attention beyond the guests humbled, bowing near.
He grasps for a splinter of the manger's
beam.
His mother quickly bends and supplies
substituting her finger to satisfy
a Savior's scream.
One day his insistent reach, undeterred will find
the object of his grasp:
a beam far more sure than this stable
which he will muscle well and wield and be death's slay
His thirst-filled cry complete at last.

Msgr. Bransfield is general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These poems are in his book, "Meeting Jesus Christ, Meditations on the Word," originally published by Pauline Books & Media, and used with permission.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Advent as a season reminds us more intensely of Christ's promises -- that he has goodness planned for our lives and that one day, we will be reunited with him.

"Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God's fidelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises," Pope Francis said during Advent in 2013.

"Fidelity" means faithfulness. It derives from the Latin words "fidelitatem," faithfulness or adherence; "fidelis," trusty or sincere; and "fides," faith.

Is God trusty or sincere? Are we? Do we trust that God is good? That he has good planned for our lives? Or do we doubt and despair?

God "comes to save us and … seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart," Pope Francis said. "He gives us the strength to go forward."

During Advent, we recall God's fidelity to us and strive to renew our fidelity to him.

[[In-content Ad]]

Related Stories

By Catholic News Service

IN A NUTSHELL

The world needs modern-day prophets like Isaiah who continue to declare hope during bleak times and can remind people that God has not forgotten them. God's promise lives on.

Advent is a time of preparation through repentance. We must admit our sinfulness. Yet, it is repentance born out of hope.

We celebrate our Savior's coming to be with us that first Christmas. We also have his promise that he will come again and take us to be with him. God kept the first promise so we can trust him to keep the second.

Now and forever

By Father Herb Weber | Catholic News Service

Promises are part of our lives. As kids we extract promises from parents and friends just as we learn to make promises. Some are simple like the promise to bring a treat. Others demand more commitment like the promise to be there when our friends need us.

The most significant promises that I witness take place at marriage ceremonies. As the officiating minister I ask both the man and the woman if they will repeat after me. Then they say how they promise to be faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor all the days of their lives.

I hear these statements of promise and ask God to help them fulfill them, knowing how hard it sometimes can be.

With the image of the promise between the husband and wife in mind, we can easily focus on a still more significant promise. That is the promise of God to remain faithful to his people. It is a promise that is celebrated during Advent and reflected in the Scripture readings.

Sadly, Advent is always a short period of time between the holiday of Thanksgiving and the Christmas event. It is a period of promise and preparation that is easily overlooked. This year the season is even shorter with only three weeks and a day. That last day, which is both the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, will be lost to many.

Nonetheless, we need this season as a time to meditate on the promise, even if it means finding a way to listen over the din of other voices.

The other day a group, gathered for a banquet, was getting louder and louder. The host tried to get everyone's attention, but no one could hear him. Then someone took a spoon and tapped the side of a wine glass, producing a high pitched ringing sound. The room quieted down.

Like the tap of that glass, Advent comes to us with a cry of the prophets over the noise of people with their own agendas and concerns. Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that their time of service is at an end and their guilt expiated. This is followed by the promise that the glory of the Lord is to be revealed.

That promise was made millennia ago. It was fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled. It is the ultimate promise that should be the center of our attention.

Perhaps the world needs modern-day prophets like Isaiah who continue to declare hope during bleak times and can remind people that God has not forgotten them. God's promise lives on.

For many, Pope Francis has become that sign of hope. As a prophet he stands up to people of power and offers humble service. Instead of searching for fame or acclaim, he reaches out to the poor and cries out for compassion for all people. His voice is like the tap of the wine glass that gets people's attention.

If we look, there are other prophets among us. Earlier this fall an Oklahoma priest was beatified as the first American-born martyr.

Blessed Stanley Francis Rother was living and working with the Tz'utujil people, a group of Mayan indigenous people of Guatemala, when he was killed in the middle of the night by those who opposed his preaching justice for the poor. This took place in 1981, during the 36-year Guatemalan civil war.

Each year when I take a group from my parish to Guatemala on mission, I make a point of visiting the site of Father Rother's death. It is a room in the old rectory that has been converted to a humble and unpretentious shrine. I always stop and kneel in prayer.

Moved by Father Rother's willingness to stay with his people and lead them through turbulence, I always find myself praying for perseverance and courage in ministry. I also pray that I may have a prophetic voice when necessary.

Father Rother, like Pope Francis or any other prophet, did not merely oppose evil. He also offered hope by his willingness to preach that God would not abandon his people. So he would not abandon his people either. That is the promise that we recall during Advent.

There is one other aspect of Advent that we don't want to forget. This holy season is also a time of preparation through repentance. Like those in the crowd who went out to John and were baptized in the Jordan River, we must admit our sinfulness.

Yet this repentance is not simply about all our failings or our lack of faith. Instead, it is a repentance that is discovered in the face of God's promise to overcome sin and to renew humanity. It is repentance born out of hope.

Consequently, Advent becomes a time for promise, prophets and repentance. Through that combination the world is changed now and forever. The nature of any true promise is to withstand time. It is always made in the present with the future in mind.

Father Weber is the founding pastor of St. John XXIII Parish in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Advent tidings of comfort and joy

By Barbara Hosbach |Catholic News Service

I dread the shorter, colder days that coincide with Advent here in the Northeast. It's hard to enjoy a sunset at 4:30 in the afternoon. Fortunately, while the days grow darker, our parish Advent wreath grows brighter with light from an additional candle each week. God's light has a way of shining brighter when life seems darkest.

The Advent readings also brighten my outlook -- especially the prophet Isaiah's encouraging words: "Comfort, give comfort to my people" (Is 40:1). God asked the prophet to reassure the suffering Israelite exiles in Babylon.

Although God allowed his people to experience the consequences of their wrongdoing, he didn't abandon them. He promised to be with the exiles, to nurture them, hold them close and lead them home.

Some years ago, like those Israelites, I felt exiled from all that was familiar to me, including my family and friends. I'd always prided myself on being hardworking, self-sufficient and helpful to others -- or so I thought.

After a car accident, followed by a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, that all changed. I could no longer live up to my own self-image. Who was I if I couldn't work hard? Who'd want me around if I couldn't do things for them?

I found out the hard way that many of the things I thought I did "for others" had been attempts to control, pump up my own ego and earn approval or affection. When my false supports crumbled, I felt useless, miserable and terrified.

Isaiah urged the Israelites to prepare for the Lord by making a straight way in the desert. In my darkest hour, God came into the desert of my heart. Although he allowed me to experience my particular challenges, he didn't abandon me.

When I was ready to be honest and face my false pride, God tenderly led me through my emotional wasteland. He showed me that my abilities are gifts, not to be denied but not to be relied on in place of him. In acknowledging my limitations I'm honoring God instead of my own capabilities.

Isaiah promised that "every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Is 40:4). He didn't say we have to fill in our own valleys or knock down our own mountains.

I'd tried to fill my low self-esteem by struggling to be Wonder Woman. Then I'd knock down my pride by telling myself I wasn't so great. Neither worked.

Through my challenges, God taught me that I don't have to prove anything to be worthy of love. In fact, I'm better able to give and receive love when I'm not trying too hard. My relationships with family and friends are much more relaxed and genuine now.

We all have value simply because God loves us so much that he wants to be with us. Although Isaiah said to prepare by making a straight way for the Lord, Jesus said he is the way (Jn 14:6).

So how do we make a straight way for our Savior? By getting straight with ourselves, by honestly admitting our shortcomings and recognizing how much we need him. It's safe to face this truth because we have the reassurance of God's love for us just as we are.

We celebrate our Savior's coming to be with us that first Christmas. We also have his promise that he will come again and take us to be with him. God kept the first promise so we can trust him to keep the second.

Meanwhile, as we prepare our hearts for Christ's coming this Advent season, let's remember that God is eternal. Eternity doesn't mean an endless extension of time, it means being beyond time.

We can trust the light of God's love to burn within us whenever life is at its darkest -- whether the darkness is outside of us or within our hearts -- because eternity includes right now.

Hosbach is a freelance writer and author of "'Your Faith Has Made You Well': Jesus Heals in the New Testament."

Poems for Advent and Christmas

By Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield | Catholic News Service

Advent I

Humanity in such a tangled snare
… where did this all come from?
A warning rises
A prophet's voice
"WATCH" into the darkness
A people called again to turn an eager, weary head
In a resistant time
To look through the darkness of a Judean night and
Trust that in the darkness of a Virgin's womb
The Creator of Light begins to form.
As Advent begins, watch now and trust that
In your own unfamiliar darkness --
Inadequacy, job loss, depression or distance
There is a taste of the Bethlehem darkness,
Containing a flavor of the Promise
A Savior already forming from the Overshadowed One.
Patience, then.

Advent II

The cruel axe once wielded cut short the tree of Jesse
The wound in the wood leaves an empty, shorn base
The human family suffers a crude cut -- Sin -- we are sapped of possibility.
God, leaving no such scar, reaches down
moving freely
to such an impossible place: the womb of the Virgin becomes sheer fertility.
God has poured himself out … so probe then --
Has the axe, with cruel decisiveness, touched your life
leaving a hollowness you fear to enter?
Step with determination; feel along the empty dark
and you'll come upon the One Poured Out
Who overflows the impossible place
and brush close to a stirring most rare:
Hope in motion.

Advent III

A nightly mission, the operative at last dispatched from the
real to unreal world.
The Angel enters the corridors of sleep where the troubled Joseph swims;
Interrupting one wonder with Another
whispering the long-treasured saving Plan,
prophecy becomes reality as
A seer's vision brims.
Joseph's sleep continues in the wake of the Almighty
At the noiseless morning breaking (or is that sin's back?)
the Angel close to now returned to his haven, glances round
And sees as Joseph stands and stretches
the preview of Another Rising much more final and profound.
Christmas Night
The destination is enclosed by the timber of a stable
as the endurance of pregnancy gives way.
Newborn arms unfold to welcome a kingly quest:
wise men, shepherds, and angels close their trail today.
yet this child's eyes start a search far more severe;
His Mission turns attention beyond the guests humbled, bowing near.
He grasps for a splinter of the manger's
beam.
His mother quickly bends and supplies
substituting her finger to satisfy
a Savior's scream.
One day his insistent reach, undeterred will find
the object of his grasp:
a beam far more sure than this stable
which he will muscle well and wield and be death's slay
His thirst-filled cry complete at last.

Msgr. Bransfield is general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These poems are in his book, "Meeting Jesus Christ, Meditations on the Word," originally published by Pauline Books & Media, and used with permission.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Advent as a season reminds us more intensely of Christ's promises -- that he has goodness planned for our lives and that one day, we will be reunited with him.

"Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God's fidelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises," Pope Francis said during Advent in 2013.

"Fidelity" means faithfulness. It derives from the Latin words "fidelitatem," faithfulness or adherence; "fidelis," trusty or sincere; and "fides," faith.

Is God trusty or sincere? Are we? Do we trust that God is good? That he has good planned for our lives? Or do we doubt and despair?

God "comes to save us and … seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart," Pope Francis said. "He gives us the strength to go forward."

During Advent, we recall God's fidelity to us and strive to renew our fidelity to him.

[[In-content Ad]]
Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


Mercer CYO crowns six champs and reveals award winners in basketball championship
It was Championship Sunday at the Mercer County CYO Center in Trenton Feb. 18 ...

El Vaticano anuncia las fechas de la asamblea sinodal y la formación de grupos de estudio
La segunda asamblea del Sínodo de los Obispos...

El predicador papal comparte reflexiones en las redes sociales durante la Cuaresma
El cardenal acostumbrado a predicar a los pontífices ...

Registration open for March 2 young adult retreat in Toms River
Young adults age 18-39 are invited to ...

‘YOU ARE MINE’
UPDATE: At Rite of Election, Bishop says ‘being Catholic makes a difference’
Emilio Robles credits his fiancée and her family ...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.