The entirety of this Sunday's second reading might be seen as so much boilerplate, throwaway lines that a writer used at the commencement of his letter, something like a formal salutation. But in point of fact, almost the whole of Christianity is contained in these lines, if we have but the eyes to see. So take out your Bibles today and revisit the beginning of 1 Corinthians. It will tell you pretty much everything essential that you need to know about yourself and your mission.
There are three words that jump out at me from our Gospel reading for today's feast: "haste," "astonished" and "treasured." Each one says something important about the spiritual life. When we know what God wants for us, we should act without hesitation; we should "go in haste." When God breaks into our natural world, we should be astonished. And then, like Mary, we should learn to treasure God's revelation in our minds and hearts.
Our Gospel for Christmas day is, of course, one of the most famous texts in the entire Bible: the Prologue to the Gospel of John. In many ways, it is the entire Gospel, indeed the entire Bible, in miniature. This scripture alludes to a feast day called "Christmas", a name that has rarely been reflected upon, at least in my lifetime. The day is Christmas, because it signals Christ’s Mass. The only fitting way to celebrate is to go to the Mass!
As the Advent season comes to its climax, we are reminded that all of time and history comes to a kind of fulfillment in the Messiah. All of the strands of history are gathered together in him. To use the language of St. Paul, all of space and time is recapitulated in Christ. This Sunday our three readings show a pattern in history that spans seven centuries and calls out to us now two thousand years later: It's all about Jesus.
Our Gospel for this weekend is taken from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, where John the Baptist has been arrested and wonders from his jail cell whether Jesus “is the one or should we look for another?" When this inquiry is conveyed to Jesus, the Lord does not respond theoretically, but rather by pointing to things that are happening, namely, God's grace is making people whole again. “Go tell John what you see and hear".
This week's readings take us to chapter 11 of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah looks back to the garden of Eden and the world in right alignment with God, and then looks forward to the Messiah who will set right what has gone wrong in God's world. Sin interrupts right order, justice, and goodness. The righteous king will restore justice when he rules on his holy mountain.
This week we enter into the great season of Advent. Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah describes how every nation streams towards God's holy mountain. As you enter the Advent season, think about this holy mountain. Is the mountain of the Lord higher than every other mountain for you? Do you stream toward it with your whole being?
We celebrate, as the very last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King. Think perhaps of the way that a king would come last in a great formal procession: so this feast comes as the culminating moment of the Church year.What I should like to do in this sermon is to explore three dimensions of Christ’s kingship, one inspired by each of our three readings for today so that we might marvel at the sublimity of what a strange and surprising king he is.
I’m pretty sure that in thirty years of priesthood I've never preached on this Sunday's short second reading from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, and I realize now, as I peruse it, what a little gem it is! Isn’t it fascinating that St. Paul, precisely in the context of a letter to his church on spiritual matters, endeavors to speak of work? When we do authentic work—of whatever kind—we participate in God’s ongoing creation and providence. Don’t follow the instinct to secularize work; but rather see your daily labor, however humble, as part of God’s plan to bring you to joy.
The story conveyed in our first reading from the second book of Maccabees is one that resonates up and down the ages, one that still stirs our hearts today. It's the story of a martyr's death. We can talk about heaven; we can speculate about it. We can write learned treatises about it, and we can hope for it. But up and down the centuries, it is the martyrs from the ancient Maccabees to the Christians slain by ISIS that most vividly witness to the promise of heaven. They literally bet their lives on it.