Sunday, December 24, 2017

God At Work

December 24, 2017 –– 4th Sunday of Advent
2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16 / Psalm 89 / Romans 16: 25–27 / Luke 1:26–38
God At Work

Today’s readings tell us that God has come into our world in some definite and incredible ways. The Creator God of all-that-is wants to be involved in our lives.

The Scriptures give us pictures through stories which show something of what that means. One of the extended Old Testament stories is about David, the boy-shepherd who became the model-king of Israel. King David is a wonderful example of great faith mixed with human weakness. There were times when the power of God working though him was nothing short of incredible; yet David was human enough that the power of sin sometimes clouded his faith so that he made some terrible decisions. But God gave David a huge promise: I will make your name great…. will establish a house for you…. will establish the throne of [your son’s] kingdom forever (2Sam 7: 9, 11, 13). It was one of the ways God himself was at work to come into our world.

When we come to the Gospel story we know the story end from the beginning. We can take it for granted: the angel Gabriel was sent from God… to a virgin… named Mary. The angel’s message was the fulfillment of God’s promise to David, but the glory of the kingdom was not visible. 
And for all the honor that Mary has since received from the Church, nothing would have seemed special about Mary at the time. If we could have looked in the window that day we would have seen what appeared to be a nobody––a poor young woman seemingly in the process of doing what most young women did: she was betrothed to a man named Joseph.

And it got worse: you will conceive in your womb and bear a son….  Not only is Mary seemingly a poor nobody, her life is about to marked with scandal. Mary was going to have a child and she was not yet married. These stories define who we are as Christians.

We need to take care with the story not to “put it on a shelf” ––something to be taken out once a year and allowed to take us to a nostalgic place of warm fuzzies about a baby surrounded by animals and shepherds and even angels. If we do that, we can miss two important things. First, we can think of this as a "once upon a time" story and lose the impact of what is true and real.

If that happens, we will miss an even more important thing (at least on a personal level): the story includes us! The God who entered our world in such a miraculous way wants to work supernaturally in each of us. That’s not to say that we are going to be as substantial in God’s work as David. Certainly none of us will have the stature in God’s plan as Mary.

But…. We are each invited to believe that just as God was at work personally in David and Mary (and many others in the ongoing biblical story), God wants to be at work in each of our lives to fulfill his purpose for coming into our world. The story that God is writing is not limited to the events we read in the Bible. Those long-ago stories happened so we can be part of what God is doing even today. God sent his Son to be the eternal King of the Kingdom prefigured by David because he wants us to be part of that Kingdom. God sent Jesus to be conceived in the womb of Mary and called holy, the Son of God, because he wants Jesus to be “conceived” in each one of us so that we can be HOLY.

What are you expecting God to do in your life because he sent his Son? It seems the world at large hardly expects to see Christians living from day to day any differently from anyone else.  Maybe we think our sins disqualify us from God using us. If that idea comes into your mind, think of David. Maybe we think we are too insignificant––as Mary would have appeared to be. But the story is true and our Faith is true: on this fourth Sunday of Advent we live our days in the presence of the God who, through the angel, told Mary: nothing will be impossible for God.

What does God want to do in you? One way to find out is to tell the Lord from your heart exactly what Mary said: May it be done to me according to your word. If we do that, we will discover God at work in each of our lives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Wednesday: December 13, 2017 –– 2nd Week in Advent
Isaiah 40: 25–31 / Psalm 103 / Matthew 11: 28–30

Except for people limited by an innocence of either age or mental capacity, I think it can be assumed that everyone is aware of some worry, threat, pain, or limitation that seems too big or unjust or hopeless. It is the nature of this world that things go wrong.

It is often wondered why, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, that he doesn’t “fix” everything and leave us all happy. Actually, God has promised to do just that––but not yet.

Why? I believe one reason is that God wants us to feel the effects of sin (disregard of his “Manufacturer’s Instructions”––a good way to understand his Commandments). The option of disregarding God is necessary for love. God wants us to love him, and love cannot be forced (or it’s not love). God could have made us as programmed robots, but there can be no relationship with a machine. Again, he wants us to love him as he loves us.

So God gives us the choice of disregarding and disobeying him. Yet, in love, he allows us to receive the repercussions of that disobedience. He allows us to hurt each other and to be hurt by a universe that was broken when we chose evil (disobedience). Why is disobedience evil? Because God is the epitome of goodness, and when we choose to turn from goodness the result is bad. Again, God lets us feel the bad in the hope that we will turn and run to him.

And this is what God wants (but remember, it’s our choice––the nature of love). Yet when we take the tiniest step toward God, we find that he has already taken incredible steps toward us. He comes to us. That is the message of Christmas. He takes our death and gives us his life. That is the message of the Cross and the Resurrection.

So every day, we have a choice. We can focus on hard circumstances and listen to the world’s (the devil’s) lie that mere nice circumstances will fix everything. We can think it’s up to us; that we humans can fix the world by ourselves (but we are too far too limited in perspective and ability). OR…. we can believe that God has promised to fix everything (in his time) and begin to live now as if God is truly real and here.

That is the invitation from Jesus in this Gospel. It’s not a promise to give an immediate fix to everything, but a promise that if we come to him he will be with us. The Psalm tells us how that can be: we can come to Jesus for rest because, even though he is God, he gives us forgiveness instead of judgment. And if we truly believe that, it changes how we live in this world. Instead of feeling beaten down, Isaiah says that God will lift us up even as we live in a hard world.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Let’s ask for the grace to believe that today…. and every day.

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