The Third Tuesday of Advent

“When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

In today’s  Gospel Jesus calls out the chief priests and elders for not recognizing John the Baptist for the prophet that he was.  With the 20/20 hindsight of history we know that they won’t recognize Jesus either.

While we wait in anticipation for the coming of the Christ child in less than two weeks the question is whether we’ll recognize Him or not.  It’s easy to see the baby in the manger and say “That’s Him.”  Or to see Him hanging on the cross and say “That’s Him.”  But what about when we see Him in less obvious circumstances.

Henri Nouwen, the famous Catholic writer who died in 1996, wrote a book called Gracias!  A Latin American Journal. Here’s what he wrote about this season we call Advent:

“It is Advent again.  In his sermon this morning, Oscar Uzin said: ‘Be alert, be alert, so that you will be able to recognize your Lord in your husband, your wife, your parents, your children, your friends, your teachers, but also in all that you read in the daily papers.  The Lord is coming, always coming.  Be alert to his coming.  When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life.  Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.”

As a preacher of the Gospel, I wish I could say that I always practice what I preach, especially since I took a vow to do just that.  But you know what?  As I read and reread this quote it occurred to me that I have never really thought about seeing Jesus in my children.  And I’m embarrassed to tell you that.  I’m not somebody who enjoys admitting when I’ve made a mistake.  But I’m telling you because maybe you haven’t either and you might learn something from my mistake.

I suppose it’s because our kids are our flesh and blood, we’re supposed to be older and wiser than they are.  We may see Jesus in a stranger.  But in our own kids?  Not so much.  I suppose it’s the same reason that my kids don’t seem to see me as an ordained member of the Catholic clergy.  They know me too well.  They know all my faults.  I’m just their dad.

So maybe this reflection will cause you to take a new look at your own kids and grandkids.  See them through the same eyes that will draw your attention to the nativity scene in just a few days.  I know I will.  After all, we are Christ for one another.  All of us.

The Second Monday of Advent

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It’s only natural to think of children in these Advent days. For one thing, we’re all waiting for the coming of a child. No, not just a child: the child. The Son of God. That’s what Advent is all about.

It’s also a special time for all children. We see the joy in their little faces as they anticipate the coming of Santa Claus. Watch them as they discover the bright lights and holiday decorations. They’re in awe of the season. Not burdened by jobs, or bills, or a failing economy, all they see is the wonder of the season. We wish we could share that joy and wonder.

It’s ironic that we begin life with that sense of wonder. Then, somewhere along the line, we lose it. We may not realize it at first, but sooner or later we discover that it’s gone. Then we spend the rest of our lives wishing we could get it back.

The cynic will tell us that you can’t get it back. Reality, or at least their version of reality, won’t allow it. Guess what?! You can get it back. Read what Henri Nouwen wrote in Jesus & Mary: Finding our Sacred Center:

“Mary creates a space for us where we can become children as Jesus became a child…It is precisely this childhood that Mary wants us to claim. She who offered an immaculate space for God to take on human flesh wants to offer us a space where we can be reborn as Jesus was born. With the same heart that loved Jesus, she wants to love us. It is a heart that will not make us wonder anxiously whether we are truly loved. It is a heart that has not been marked by the infidelities of the human race and so will never bring wounds to those who seek peace there.”

Or, as Thomas Merton wrote in Seasons of Celebration:

“If we leave (Mary) out of the Sacrament of Advent we shall never fully penetrate its mystery, since we need to go forth to meet our savior on the same Road by which He came to us.”

Stepping back from all the confusion and stress of our daily lives for a few minutes each day and praying the Rosary is one way to get back in touch with our “inner child” and find some of that wonderful peace that we enjoyed as children.

December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy.

It may seem like a step in the wrong direction to consider the horrible events of Pearl Harbor Day. It was truly a day that will live in infamy. But it was also a day that changed the world. It gave our country the resolve to pull together and lead the Allies to victory both in the Pacific and in Europe.

Everything happens for a reason and much of the freedom and prosperity (Even in the midst of a recession, we’re still the most prosperous nation on the planet.) we enjoy today can be traced back to that fateful day nearly seventy years ago today. God can make something good out of even the worst things.

May God bless the men and women, living and dead, who suffered on that day.