Monthly Archives: November 2021

Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter

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November 30th is the Feast of St. Andrew. On the lakeshore in Galilee Jesus called him along with his brother Simon Peter to follow him. We only know a few details about Andrew. What are they?

He’s a fisherman, of course. Andrew is a Greek name. Why would a Jew have a Greek name? The area around the Sea of Galilee was then multi-cultural, and Andrew’s family  came originally from Bethsaida, a trading town in the upper part of the Sea of Galilee with a substantial Greek population. Would that explain it? Wouldn’t they also have spoken some Greek?   Afterwards they located in Capernaum, another trading town along the sea.

If that’s all so, it could explain why later in John’s gospel, Andrew and Philip bring some Greek pilgrims to Jesus before his death in Jerusalem. Jesus rejoices, seeing them as signs that his passion and glorification will draw all nations to him. One can see why the Greek church has Andrew as its chief patron: he introduced them to Jesus.

Bethsaida has been recently excavated.

Bethsaida 393

Bethsaida: Winegrowers house

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Bethsaida: Ruins

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Bethsaida: Ruins

Can we also see Andrew as someone interested in religious questions? He’s described as a disciple of John the Baptist, and John pointed Jesus out to him. Jesus then invited Andrew and another disciple to stay for a day with him. “Come and see.” Afterwards, Andrew “found his brother Simon and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah.’” (John 1,35-41)

I notice too that Andrew bring the little boy with the bread and fish to the attention of Jesus.

For the Greek Church  Andrew is the first of the apostles because he’s the first to follow Jesus; then he calls his brother. Western and eastern Christian churches together celebrate his feast on November 30th.

The letter to the Romans, the first reading for his feast in the Roman Catholic liturgy, stresses there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, and praises messengers who bring God’s word to others. Tradition says Andrews brought the gospel to Greek speaking people. It also claims that Andrew was crucified on the beach at Patras in Greece. Besides Greece, Andrew’s also the patron of Russia and Scotland.

We ask you, O Lord,
that, just as the blessed Apostle Andrew
was for your Church a preacher and pastor,
so he may be for us a constant intercessor before you.

Troparion (Tone 4) (Greek Orthodox)

Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
and brother of the foremost disciple,
entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world
and to our souls great mercy.
Kontakion (Tone 2)

Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
the namesake of courage,
the first-called of the Savior’s disciples
and the brother of Peter.
As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:

“Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!”

Advent, Monday of the 1st Week

“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
    and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2)

The Prophet Isaiah invites us to climb the Lord’s mountain, to enter the house of God, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths. We begin the Advent season.

When Isaiah issued that invitation in 8th century Jerusalem, Assyrian armies were rumbling into Palestine heading for Jerusalem to destroy it. People listening to Isaiah must have said “What’s he talking about? Can’t he see what’s at the door?”

But the prophet insists God will instruct us in his ways that we may walk in his paths. Yes, even now, God is instructing us. And his message is not to hide because the Assyrian armies are coming; save yourselves!  Rather God says get ready for the days that are coming when “ they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks and there will be no wars any more.” God’s peaceable kingdom is coming.

The prophet’s outrageous promises appear in wonderful imagery throughout Advent. There will be a cloud by day and a fire by night over this holy mountain. From a place of fear the mountain becomes a place of delight. Children play around a cobra’s den, the lamb and the lion lie down together, the poor become rich, a great banquet feeds them all. The mountain makes an exodus from fear to delight.

Wonderful imagery for solid institutions today, like churches and nations, that are paralyzed today by fear and confusion. Wonderful imagery for us who, like the shepherds at Bethlehem may stand today fearful in the dark. 

The Assyrians must have had the equivalent of Roman centurions as the backbone of their armies. Military analysts said of them “If you got to them, you got the army.” Powerful men, loyal soldiers, but they could tell their troops “Lay down your swords and spears,” and they would do it.

The Roman centurion in today’s gospel represent those powerful forces. He comes humbly before Jesus:  “Lord, I am not worthy that you should  come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed.” He comes with a faith not found in Israel.

The Messiah touches the proud and the strong, our gospel reminds us. No one. even a centurion, is beyond the reach of his mercy.

Advent is a time of hope, a daring hope that’s not just about surviving. It’s about much more. Jesus Christ instructs us in this time and shows us the path to take. He’s knocking at the door, an Advent prayer reminds us. He invites us to work for the coming of God’s kingdom. He has come to lead us there.

Advent Prayers

How should we pray in Advent? One suggestion: Look at the psalm responses to the scriptural readings during the season.. Here’s one from the Mass for the 1st Sunday:

“ To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Make your ways known to me, O Lord;
   teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my savior,
   and for you I wait all the day. “

Advent’s a teaching time, and God is our teacher and guide. 

The Advent prayers are prayers to make our own. Here’s part of the 1st Preface for Advent:

“We give you thanks, Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord, For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day  may inherit the great promise In which we now dare to hope.”

God’s daring plan calls for daring hope from us.

Here’s part of the 2nd Preface for Advent                                   

“We give you thanks, Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord,For all the oracles of the prophets foretold him, the Virgin Mother longed for himwith love beyond all telling. John the Baptist sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when he came. It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity so that he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.”

We share with the prophets, Mary, and John the Baptist, who rejoiced in the gift they were given, Jesus Christ. 

Collect, Monday, First Week of Advent

Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ your Son, so that, when he comes and knocks, he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise. Who lives and reigns…

Prayer after Communion 

Replenished by the food of spiritual nourishment we humbly beseech you, O Lord, that, through our partaking in this mystery you may teach us to judge wisely the things of earth and to hold firm to the things of heaven.

Prayer after Communion

May these mysteries  in which we have participated, profit us, we pray for even now, as we walk amid passing things you teach us by them to love the things of heavenand to hold fast to what endures. Through Christ our Lord.

Saints of Advent

In the revision of the church calendar after the Second Vatican Council an effort was made to reduce the celebration of saints feast days and emphasize the celebration of the mysteries of Christ in seasons like Advent and Christmas. Why then, are we still celebrating feasts of the saints, for example, St. Francis Xavier (Dec 3), St. John Damascene (Dec 4), St. Nicholas (Dec 6), St. Ambrose (Dec 7) and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (Dec 8)?

The reason is that saints are signs of holiness, and holiness is not found only in biblical times, but in every age. Holy people are not only people of the Bible, they’re found yesterday, today and tomorrow. They reveal God’s plan unfolding in time. Expressing the mystery of Christ in their time and place, saints ask us to do the same in our time and place.

St. Francis Xavier (December 3) in his time fulfilled a message powerfully  proclaimed in Advent, especially by the Prophet Isaiah– God wills his saving message be brought to all nations. He says to us “Portuguese merchants and officials brought me to the Indies in the 16th century. How are you bringing the gospel to all nations today?”

St. John Damascene (December 4) is an 8th century saint of the Eastern church whom the Roman church included in its calendar as a doctor of the church in 1890 during the pontificate of Leo XIII. By recognizing him and his teaching, the Roman church recognized the holiness and teaching of the Orthodox churches. John Damascene is a sign that God works, not just through one church, but through other churches as well. He asks us now: “How do you recognize God’s teaching in churches other than your own?”

John Damascene defended the use of images against those who saw them as impediments to knowing a transcendent God. He validated the work of Michelangelo and Bach and generations of Christian artists. We might not have Christmas creches today without him.

There’s probably not a saint more closely connected to Christmas in the popular mind than St. Nicholas, Santa Claus (December 6). The delightful story of Nicholas throwing pieces of gold into a house where three poor girls are threatened with slavery is a story that mirrors the story of the Incarnation. Jesus, the Word made flesh, a gift of God’s mercy, comes hidden as an infant into our poor world and quietly gives us eternal life, humbly asking nothing in return. 

Nicholas, Santa Claus, asks us to give quietly, humbly, in our time, as Jesus did.

St. Ambrose (December 7) was born in the 4th century into a Christian family and became a lawyer and high official of the Roman government in northern Italy. He was called by popular acclaim to be bishop, though not yet baptized! Eight days after his baptism he was ordained bishop and became one of the great Christian bishops of our church

He immersed himself in the scriptures and preached God’s word. He wrote once to another bishop: “Drink from Christ, so that your voice may be heard…He who reads much and understands much, is filled. He who is full refreshes others.”

One of those Ambrose refreshed with his preaching was St. Augustine, whom he awakened to the beauty of God’s word. He baptized Augustine and his friends and was an example to them. His voice was heard, the voice of Christ.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is remembered in a number of feasts in Advent and she has an important role in Luke’s Gospel which we read towards the end of Advent. She helps us understand so much about the coming of Jesus Christ. Do we need a reason to celebrate her in Advent and Christmas?

Saints are signs of Christ, yesterday, today and forever. They tell us to be signs of Christ in our time.

1st WEEK OF ADVENT: November 29-December 5 Readings and Feasts

The Prophet Isaiah

NOVEMBER 29 Mon Advent Weekday Is 2:1-5/Mt 8:5-1

30 Tue Saint Andrew, Apostle Feast Rom 10:9-18/Mt 4:18-22

DECEMBER 1 Wed Advent Weekday Is 25:6-10a/Mt 15:29-37

2 Thu Advent Weekday Is 26:1-6/Mt 7:21, 24-27 

3 Fri Saint Francis Xavier, Priest Memorial Is 29:17-24/Mt 9:27-31 

4 Sat Advent Weekday [Saint John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church]

Is 30:19-21, 23-26/Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8 

5 SUN SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT Bar 5:1-9/Phil 1:4-6, 8-11/Lk 3:1-6

Our lectionary’s readings for Advent invite us into this beautiful season leading to the Birth of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Isaiah, speaking for the generations before Jesus who waited for his coming, accounts for almost half of Advent’s Old Testament readings. We hear his voice this first week.

Usually Advent opens, either on Sunday or Monday, with Isaiah’s message that all nations will stream to God’s mountain and listen for God’s instruction. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Wars are over; the fragmentation destroying humanity comes to an end. It’s a message of universal salvation. Not only are we as individuals called, but all nations, all creatures, all creation is called. ( Isaiah 2:1-5 ) The reading is also read every Monday during Advent at morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

For Isaiah, the mountain of the Lord, where the Jewish temple stood in Jerusalem, is a place of revelation. All nations will banquet on that mountain (Monday). It’s the rock where people dwell in safety, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together. (Tuesday) There the poor will triumph (Thursday), the blind will see (Friday). The Teacher will come to guide all there.(Saturday) Isaiah’s poetic imagery, embracing all creation in the readings for the 1st week of Advent, is striking in its beauty.

We need to hear God’s promise from Isaiah, especially now, as an antidote for our present fears. We wonder today about the future of our world, weak and fragmented. We’re concerned for ourselves, our future, our personal security. Advent brings the promise God to us all.

The gospels in this first week point to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies in Jesus Christ. The Roman centurion humbly approaching Jesus in Capernaum (Monday) represents all the nations that will come to him. Jesus feeds a multitude on the mountain.(Wednesday) He affirms that his kingdom will be built on rock.(Thursday) He gives sight to blind men. (Friday) He sends his disciples to call the lost sheep. (Saturday) 

Many of our Advent readings are taken from Matthew’s Gospel, which portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol) and working great miracles that benefit all who come. Jesus is the new temple, the new Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us.                        

  www.vhoagland.com

Readings: www.usccb.org

THE ADVENT WREATH

The Advent wreath– a good Advent devotion– originated in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who gathered wreaths of evergreen and lit fires during the cold December darkness as a sign of hope for spring and new light.

Christians kept these popular traditions. By the 16th century Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From there, the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world.

Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens. Each day at home, the candles are lighted, perhaps before the evening meal– one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. A short prayer may accompany the lighting.

Prayers for an Advent Wreath

The day the wreath is lit the leader may say:

Our nights grow longer and our days grow shorter.
We look at this candle and green branches–
and remember God’s promise to our world:
Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come.

Here are the words of Isaiah the prophet:

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;
on those who lived in a land as dark as death
a light has dawned.
You have increased their joy and given them gladness;
We rejoice in your presence.

Let us pray:

O God, we rejoice as we remember the promise of your Son,

Jesus Christ,

His light shines on us,

brightening our way, guiding us by his truth.

May Christ our Savior bring light into the darkness of our world, 

and to us who wait for his coming.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

1st Week

O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,

Desire of all nations.

Savior of all peoples,

Come and dwell with us. Amen.

2nd Week

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,

Joy of every heart,

Come and save your people. Amen.

3rd Week

O Key of David, Jesus Christ,

Open heaven’s gates,

Come and let your people enter. Amen.

4th Week

O Wisdom, Word of God, Jesus Christ,

You know all things,

Come and show us the way to salvation. Amen.

Learn from the Fig Tree

Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, 
but my words will not pass away.”

Luke 21:29-33

The same day we read the terrifying night visions from the Book of Daniel in our lectionary (Daniel 7) Jesus offers a parable about the fig tree and other trees. Learn from them– summer is near.

It’s another way to see the coming of God’s kingdom. It will be like the coming of summer, the earth flowering in abundance, Jesus promises. 

The coming of God’s kingdom will not destroy creation but bring it a surprising summer. 

Clay Feet

As the church year ends we read from the Book of Daniel and the apocalyptic sections of St. Luke’s gospel about the future, the day of the Lord, when the kingdom of God finally comes and humanity and creation itself reach the goal intended by God from the beginning.

But we’re used to normal lives, like that described in Luke’s gospel. Like those in the days of Noah and the days of Lot we prefer “eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building.” (Luke 17, 26-30)

This week’s readings make us uneasy, because they point to a future not normal at all: “wars and insurrections, nation rising against nation, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, awesome sights and mighty signs in the sky”  And there’s persecution besides.(Luke 21, 7-28)  Not easy to accept..

Yes, Jesus promises not a hair of our head will be harmed,  we will have the strength to endure whatever happens, we’ll be able to give testimony,  we will have the wisdom to understand it all. But still,..

Then, there’s Daniel….

The Book of Daniel recalls King Nebuchadnezzar training Daniel and three other young Jewish exiles in Babylon to serve as his advisors. The king has a lot to do and he needs a brain trust to help him see where he’s been and where he’s going. People in charge always need advisors.

Daniel gives Nebuchadnezzar an unexpected picture of the future. His kingdom will come to an end and other empires take its place. Like all great political powers, his empire has clay feet; it will collapse and fall to the ground. The only kingdom that endures is God’s kingdom, a stone hewn from a mountain.

Daniel wasn’t afraid to present the king with reality. Is that what we learn from him? God works through reality, even wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, persecutions. Yet, the kingdom of God will come, no matter what. So don’t be afraid of the future.

Some people may have thought Daniel was dreaming. He was really looking at reality. Some people think faith is dreaming, but it isn’t.

“When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21, 28) Look up with faith.

Do Your Job!

We celebrated the feast of Christ the King last Sunday. It’s hard to think of Christ as King in a world where kings are few. Most governments are governed by ordinary people, not kings. Royal families, where they exist, have mainly ceremonial roles.

Yet, Jesus Christ is king, and what’s more we share in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king. (Catholic Catechism 1546) We’re all priests, prophets and kings by our baptism. “We’re a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart,” (1 Peter 2,5)

How are we kings? Adam, our first parent, may suggest what kind of king we should be. There he is in the illustration from the Book of Genesis above, given kingly powers by God. In the garden, the symbol of the created world, he names the animals and is given care over God’s creation.

Psalms, like Psalm 8 (Saturday Morning, week 2), remind us that’s our role.
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands,
The moon and the stars that you arranged,
What are we that you keep us in mind,,
Mortal as we are that you care for us.

Yet you have made us little less than gods,
With glory and honor you crown us,
You have give us power over the works of your hand,
Put all things under our feet.”

Today’s lectionary readings from Daniel and Luke’s Gospel (Friday) can give the impression that the created world is going to be torn apart and discarded when God’s kingdom comes. But that’s not so. Creation itself awaits the promise of resurrection.

We have been given kingly care over creation. Let’s not forget it. We’re not here to save ourselves. The purpose of our life is not to escape from this world. We’re to care for creation and to make it ready for God’s kingdom.

We need to do our job.