Tag Archives: Prophets

Lamp for a Dark Place

Spring Lake even

The sky over the boardwalk at Spring Lake, New Jersey, is sometimes swept with colors before nightfall. Then, a lamp becomes the only light till dawn.


“I came into the world as light,” Jesus says in today’s gospel” so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.( John 12:44-50)


The sun will rise again and the great Sun will also rise again, Augustine says in one of his sermons. Then  “lamps will no longer be needed. When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself. Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.”

Darkness is temporary; we are meant for light.

“I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers. What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled.

“Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness. It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed. Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

“I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.”

Lamps in the Light

Fourth Week of Lent, Thursday

Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47 

He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me… For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me.

John 5:35-36, 46

The children of Moshe Rabbeinu (“Moses our Teacher”) had difficulty accepting the Messianic claim of Jesus of Nazareth. Wonders and signs failed to convince; teachings in the synagogue alienated. Mysterious references to his invisible, inaudible Father “who testified on my behalf” eluded not only his adversaries but even his friends (John 5:37; 14:9).

The tablets of the Ten Commandments were akin to the tree of life for Israel, guarded in the ark of the covenant by two cherubim as at the gates of Eden (Exodus 25:18-22). The word of God, living and active, fed the Israelites in the desert of exile as a refreshing, spiritual drink. Yet Jesus called into question the confidence of those who prided themselves as faithful keepers of the law shaped by the divine word.

…and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.

John 5:38

Jesus’ lamentation was devastating, for to be void of the word of God meant death and destruction.

You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.

John 5:39-40

The first statement may also be read as an imperative: “Search the scriptures, because you think that you have eternal life through them.”1 Moving from the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) to the man, Jesus, required a gigantic leap of faith. 

The awe-inspiring, wholly transcendent God of Mount Sinai spoke to Moses “face to face” from between the two cherubim over the ark in the tent of meeting (Numbers 7:89). The ark represented the ultimate manifestation of God’s physical presence on earth (shekinah). For a man to claim to be God in the flesh was the height of blasphemy.

Jesus, a Jew among Jews, understood the trauma and dissonance surrounding his person and work. Thus he appealed to the testimony of John the Baptist, his Forerunner, and especially to Moses, Israel’s foundational teacher and lawgiver. The appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus at the Transfiguration ratified his status as the true Messiah and Son of God.

The following poem is a reflection on Jesus’ appeal to his witnesses in John 5:31-47.

The lamp of the law given to Moses2 
Illumined prophets, priests and kings.
Pharaoh’s rival esteemed Christ’s reproaches
More than Egyptian glitterings.3

Elijah’s word burned like a blazing torch, 
Calling fire down from the heavens.4 
John prepared the way for the fan to scorch,5 
The Lamb’s lamp waking to penance.6

Dim was the lamp in the Light of the Word
Born in the beginning with God.7 
Hearts filled with the word recognize the Word,
Acknowledging the love of God.8

He who has seen me has seen the Father9 
Though his form is invisible.10 
Alone I am not, but from my Father—
His charaktér made visible.11

Moses, Elijah and I are aflame—
Lamps in the triple Light of God.12 
The Torah and Prophets proclaim
That I AM WHO I AM, your God.

-GMC


References

1 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to John 5:39

2 Psalm 119:105.

3 Hebrews 11:26.

4 Sirach 48:1, 3.

5 Luke 3:17.

6 John 1:29; 5:35.

7 John 1:6-9; 1:1-2.

8 Inverse of John 5:38, 42.

9 John 14:9.

10 John 5:37; 1:18; 6:46.

11 Charaktér from Hebrews 1:3: image, stamp, or imprint. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of charaktér.

12 Transfiguration of Jesus: Mark 9:1-8; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36. Triple Light refers to the epiphany of the Holy Trinity.

My Father’s House

Duccio, The Last Supper, Maestá altarpiece (1311)

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:1-6

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

John 14:1

One of the disciples was about to betray Jesus (John 13:21-30). Another was forewarned that he would deny him thrice before cockcrow (John 13:38). The disciples had reasons to feel uneasy. Yet immediately after these predictions, Jesus exhorted them to stand firm in faith. 

“Believe in God; believe also in me,” an alternative translation reads. Pisteuete (believe) can be read in either the indicative or imperative moods.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 

John 14:2

“My Father’s house” evoked a world of images and ideas that shaped the character of Israel from ancient times. Psalm 122 celebrates a pilgrim’s journey to “the house of the LORD,” Jerusalem, which means “foundation of peace (shalom).”  

I rejoiced when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Psalm 122:1; LXX

The same word for house, oikia, is used in John’s Gospel and in the Greek translation of the Psalm. Shalom, shalom, shalom—the Psalm resounds thrice (verses 6-8). The house of the LORD is a city of peace, an assembly of praise, and a citadel of justice.

There are many mansions or dwelling places (moné) in the house of the LORD, room enough for all. The Son of Man who had “nowhere to lay his head” on earth, poorer than foxes and birds, threw open the doors to his Father’s house of plenty.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.

John 14:3

Jesus will ultimately triumph over death; the grave cannot hold him prisoner. Christ will “come again” and live forever with his disciples. A little later, Jesus locates the Father’s dwelling (moné) in the hearts of believers:

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

John 14:23

Dwelling in the Father’s house, and being indwelt by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are expressions of supreme union between God and his children.

“Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

John 14:4-5

Why did Jesus expect his disciples to “know the way”? Perhaps the tradition of the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets should have clued them in.

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11; LXX

Way (Hebrew derek and Greek hodos) is a central idea in Mosaic law and liturgy. “Walking” (halak) in the way of the LORD is an idiom for living righteously in the sight of God.

Be careful, therefore, to do as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, not turning aside to the right or to the left, but following exactly the way that the LORD, your God, commanded you that you may live and prosper, and may have long life in the land which you are to possess.

Deuteronomy 5:32-33; LXX

If Thomas’ question had been directed to Moses, he would have been guided in the word, law, life, and truth handed down from Mount Sinai (Psalm 119).

The new Moses responded:

I am the way and the truth and the life.

John 14:6

The way, the truth, and the life of the Mosaic law has become flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Way, the Truth, and the Life is a person revealing the face of God the Father.

No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

-GMC

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

Mary temple

Mary, Presented in the Temple: Giotto

The Presentation of Mary, November 21,  is an ecumenical feast that originated early on in the church of Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem tradition claims Mary was born there near the temple where her father Joachim provided lambs for the temple sacrifices. He and his wife Ann, old and childless, were blessed with a daughter whom they presented in the temple as a little child. The tradition is honored by Christian churches of the east and west.

The church of St. Ann in Jerusalem, situated today next to the ancient temple site, is built on the place where Mary was born, tradition says. Other places, like Nazareth and a city nearby, Sepphoris, also claim to be her birthplace.

st.ann basilica

Church of St. Ann, Jerusalem

The Jerusalem tradition has some support in Luke’s gospel, which says that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, a temple priest. Was Mary’s family connected to the temple?

Luke links Mary a number of times to the temple. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph go there “when the days were completed for their purification,” (Luke 2,22) Luke also says they brought Jesus as a child to the temple to celebrate the feasts. Jesus calls the temple familiarly “my Father’s house.”

The apocryphal  gospel of James suggests Mary was presented in the temple as a little girl and suggests she lived there until her arranged marriage to Joseph. The four gospels seem to place Mary in Nazareth, far from the temple, for most of her life. That’s where the angel speaks to her.    

Can we say that for Mary the temple where prophets and wisdom can be found  signifies God’s presence. Like Jesus she loved that holy place, but like him she believed the temple of God can be found everywhere, in Nazareth, Bethlehem, even on Calvary.(cf. John 4, 22-26) “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul would say later to the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 3, 16) 

St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, had a great devotion to this mystery and dedicated his first retreat on Monte Argentario in Italy to the Presentation of Mary. Three hundred years ago today, he received the habit of a hermit from Bishop Gatinara in northern Italy, and a few days later entered upon a 40 day retreat where he experienced the presence of God. He named the first retreat of his congregation after the mystery of Mary’s Presentation and returned to that retreat each year, when he could, to pray there during her feast.

Please pray for the Passionists, the community he founded, that we may find God’s presence today and gain wisdom from Mary, the Mother of God.

Cosmic Temple, Cosmic Christ

Christ Pantocrator, Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Licensed by Andrew Shiva under CC BY-SA 4.0.

28th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)

Luke 11:47-54

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1).

The curtains of the cosmic drama open with these words of Genesis, rolling out a lush garden of primordial integration when the whole of creation pulsated with divine light and energy. Ancient Hebrew cosmogony linked the ideas of cosmos and temple: 

“The heavens are my throne, the earth, my footstool. What house can you build for me? Where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)

Before the Jerusalem Temple came to be, the Earth was the temple of God. Before the Hebrews came to be, Abel offered pleasing sacrifices to the Lord on the integrated altar-temple of his heart and the Earth, the dwelling place of God (Genesis 4:4). 

Cain dissociated the altar from the temple, his heart from the Earth, and committed fratricide (Genesis 4:8). 

Stabbed in the heart by Cain’s assault, the Earth opened her mouth and swallowed the body and blood of Abel, the first prophet (Genesis 4:10-11).

The Lord said: “Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets whom your fathers killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and Apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!” (Luke 11:47-51)

Instead of cleansing their hearts and acquiring the holy spirit of the prophets, the children of the murderers silenced the voice of God with whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27), a respectable cover-up for their own violence. Jesus saw right through the tomb builders and unmasked their hypocrisy. 

We have an analogy in modern times: How well do we in America and around the world uphold the ideals of the heroes and heroines whom we honor? Do we pay homage to Abraham Lincoln but fail to examine our own hearts and that of our nation for racial bias? Do we laud Thomas Jefferson’s words that “all men are created equal,” but settle for institutional injustices? 

The prophets deserve to be honored. Jesus never sanctioned the destruction of their memorials. However, he challenged the tomb builders to go beyond paying external homage to conforming their own hearts to the spirit of the honored. 

From Abel to Zechariah, the voice of God was stamped out between the altar (thusiastérion) and the temple or “house” (oikos). The altar was “the meeting place between God and the true worshiper”—the human heart, ultimately, not just a manmade structure. “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13). 

In the yawning gulf between the altar and the temple, the heart and the Earth, fratricide after fratricide darkened the soil of our original clay with bloodshed. 

Christ, the high priest of his temple, would eventually be killed like all the prophets on the altar of the Cross in his kenotic obedience. Yet the Son of God is more than a prophet and a priest. His cosmic Body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit (John 2:20-21). Adoption by the Father through Christ, by baptism into his death, makes each person a temple of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19). 

The Earth could not hold the Body and Blood of Christ in a tomb as she did Abel to Zechariah. On the third day, the Son of God rose and renewed the whole universe, deifying her and pulling her into the love of the Trinity.

A change of heart was not forthcoming from Jesus’ antagonists, however. They were righteous in their own eyes, and honoring the tombs of the righteous confirmed their righteousness. Jesus joined the voices of the prophets and decried their hypocrisy, precipitating their schemes.

Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say (Luke 11:52-54). 

-GMC

The Law Made Flesh

Fra Angelico: The Crucifixion (detail), ca.1437-46
Source: Wikimedia Commons

10th week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

1 Kings 18:20-39, Psalm 25, Matthew 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

In the legalistic society Jesus grew up in, he witnessed the meticulous ways in which people carried out their ritual purifications, food laws, and Sabbath regulations. The heart and soul of these minute rules was love, Jesus pointed out earlier to the wise scribe (Mark 12:28-34). He had no battle to pick about words and letters in the law. Such scholarly disputations were a hindrance to his simple yet inexhaustibly profound message from the Father’s heart: the only-begotten Son of God is the Law made flesh.

All of the sacrifices of the Old Law were nailed to the Cross in Jesus Christ. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not live. Seen in the light of the Trinity, Jesus showed us that the way to authentic personhood and communion is self-emptying. By detaching from ego and its illusory, finite possessions both material and spiritual (“mine”), persons are released into the infinity of the Triune Love (“all mine are thine, and thine are mine”).

Spiritual eyes open slowly and gradually, over centuries and generations, as humanity crawls from babyhood to adulthood as one man. In the dramatic episode of Elijah’s glorious defeat of the prophets of Baal, the lukewarm children of Israel returned to their God. However, zeal and fanaticism led Elijah to kill his opponents. With the heat of Jezebel’s threat on his neck to take his life in return, he fell into depression under a broom tree, begging the Lord to let him die. He was not fully aware of the reason for his slump, but it probably came from his excessive zeal.

No prophet ever died for his enemies but Jesus Christ. All of the arrows, violence, scorn, beatings, and hatred of the scattered children of Adam were hurled upon the Cross. And Jesus said, “I thirst.” He thirsts for our love and unity. He thirsts for our ultimate happiness which can only be obtained by dropping our arrows and emptying our hands. We are one, he told his disciples at the Last Supper. If you hurt one of the least of my brethren, you hurt me, he told Saul (later Paul) on the road to Damascus. 

In the childhood of humankind, the line between good and evil was drawn outside in the world of material extension. “Us” versus “Them,” “friends” versus “enemies,” “I” versus “You.” The line between good and evil, however, is found within the human heart, the true altar of sacrifice. The message of the Beatitudes is conquer yourself. The battle with sin and evil is within. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is replaced by, “Love your enemies.”

Stories abound from the desert fathers and mothers about the discovery of God’s universal love for all without discrimination, a realization obtained only after a great interior battle and purification.

Let us pray with the Psalmist, “Teach me your paths, my God, and guide me in your truth” (Psalm 25:4b, 5a). 

-GMC

The Greatest Commandment

Shema Yisrael at the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem
(Licensed by Rabanus Flavus under CC-BY-SA-3.0)

9th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

Mark 12:28-34

Most of the encounters between Jesus and the teachers of the Law in the Gospels were confrontational and combative, but in this passage we meet an unusually thoughtful and spiritually mature son of Israel. 

One of the scribes who had been listening to Jesus asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The first part of Jesus’ response was familiar to every Jew from the cradle—the Shema (Hear!) began every synagogue service and was the pillar of Judaism. Found in Deuteronomy (6:4-9; 11:13-21) and Numbers (15:37-41), over time the command to “bind them” to the hand, between the eyes, and on doorposts and gates was taken literally and evolved into the phylacteries which Jesus condemned (Matthew 23:5). 

The second part came from Leviticus 19:18. All of the minute rules and regulations of Jewish law were summed up in these two precepts—love of God and love of neighbor, or simply, love, for the two are inseparable.

The scribe found a kindred spirit in Jesus and spontaneously responded: “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This remarkable scholar probably spent a lot of time meditating on the essence of the Law contained in Prophets like Samuel: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the Lord’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). In passages like these, the highest wisdom of Judaism is contained. All external works and sacrifices find their fulfillment in the inner temple of the heart.

The scribe received a tremendous gift that day in hearing from Love Incarnate himself, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” 

Jesus’ face, body, hands, voice and entire demeanor radiated wisdom and kindness. People listening to him were captivated: “And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

-GMC

The Word Made Flesh

Questions about Jesus Christ didn’t end with Mary and Joseph who brought him into the world and raised him in Nazareth. They continue. The birth of Jesus has consequences not settled in a day.

The 3rd century Roman theologian Hippolytus faced questions about Jesus Christ asked in his time– similar in many ways to what some ask today.

Why pay attention to Jesus Christ at all?

In Hippolytus’ day some believed there was a supermarket of revelations about God, a pantheon of divine beings, all acceptably true. The Roman empire tolerated many beliefs and systems, as long as they did not threaten the empire and its institutions.

Hippolytus called Jesus Christ the unique Word of God. “He is the Word who made the universe, the Savior you sent to redeem us.” Words of Hippolytus found in our 2nd Eucharistic Prayer.

Addressing the Jews, the Roman theologian claimed  the prophets spoke “dimly” about God’s Word. Now the Word made flesh speaks clearly through his humanity, and so listen to Jesus Christ.

To the gentile world, Hippolytus also spoke about the Word, Creator and Redeemer. Yet, like today, his world was awash in various philosophies and beliefs. What’s his message among so many?

We turn away quickly from the Christmas story today, too quickly, and return to the “real world.”  Practical concerns have to be dealt with. Yet, how can they be dealt with if we neglect the great fundamental truths that anchor everything.

So speak out, Hippolytus and those like you, even if you’re not heard. Truth must be told, and told insistently.

25th Sunday C: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

Listen to the homily here:

As our young people begin school we pray for them, but let’s not forget to pray for good teachers for them. When I entered my community, The Passionists, in 1950, I was fortunate to have a teacher who went on to become one of the leading figures in the environmental movement. His name was Father Thomas Berry. You can find information about him on Wikipedia. He died in 2009.

I remember the first day he came into class with a stack of booklets in his hands. “We have to know what’s going on today in the world,” he said, “and so we’re going to study The Communist Manifesto.”

Now remember, this was 1950. Senator Joe McCarthy had begun a witch-hunt to root out Communist sympathizers and I think The Communist Manifesto was on the church’s list of forbidden books. We studied it.

Fr. Tom never mentioned Joe Mc Carthy or the threats of a Communist takeover in Europe or what was happening then in China. No, he was interested in where the Communist Manifesto came from. Beyond Karl Marx and Lenin, he traced it back to the Jewish prophets and their demands for justice for the poor and human rights. Probably the prophet with the strongest voice against injustice to the poor was the prophet we hear in our first reading today: the Prophet Amos.

Amos was sheepbreeder, he bred sheep in northern Israel about 700 years before Christ. In those days Israel prospering and so were the countries around her, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, yet prosperity came at a cost. They were getting everything they wanted–at least, the elite of those societies were getting everything they wanted– and more often than not it was at the expense of the poor.

You can hear Amos’ indictment, not only the people of Israel, but her neighbors as well, for trampling on the needy and destroying the poor of the land.

“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

Amos was an ordinary sheep herder, but he knew what was going on, and he wasn’t afraid to say what he saw. A prophet calls out everyone, kings, rulers, political people, priests, religious leaders, business people, anyone who’s cashing in on the needy and the poor of the land.

The Lord won’t forget what you have done, he tells them.

God won’t forget what you have done. Notice, the prophet doesn’t appeal to economics and say it’s not good economics to neglect the poor and have a society of “have’s and have nots.” The prophet doesn’t appeal to politics and say a fractured society isn’t good for a community; it will lead to or to violence, riots, internal instability. The prophet doesn’t appeal to human good feeling and say that being good to the poor will help you feel better about yourself. No.

A prophet like Amos sees the world through God’s eyes and God’s values. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Saints like Mother Theresa do the same thing. They see the world through God’s eyes and God’s values.

That’s why we need to listen to prophets and saints. They help us see things, even the complicated things, right.

1st Sunday of Advent: C Waiting for the Birth of a Child

Audio homily here:

We’re beginning the season of Advent, a season to get ready for the feast of Christmas and the birth of a Child. For four weeks we will light a candle reminding us of the Light to come. We will hear the Old Testament prophets who spoke of his coming, and John the Baptist and his mother Mary who welcomed him when he came.

But today’s readings seem to be getting us ready for the end of the world. And they are. How else can we read what Jesus says in Luke’s gospel?

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Sounds like a nightmare. And it is.

Now, a nightmare’s the last thing we want as we prepare for Christmas and the birth of a Child.
Why read scary things today that seem to echo today’s grim headlines about terrorism, planes shot down, people killed for no reason at all, climate change? We want normal lives. Like the people from the days of Noah whom Jesus describes, we’re looking for good, safe lives “eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building” (Luke 17, 26-30) and seeing the birth of children. We’re looking for a peaceful world.

How shall we understand these readings that seem to describe, not only the reality of our world today, but a world in turmoil and falling apart? Is Jesus telling us, as we listen to them, that God is with us, not only when life is ordinary and good, but also when life holds wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and persecutions. God’s with us at all times, no matter what. God’s kingdom will come, no matter what. So don’t be afraid when you see signs like these, Jesus says. “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21,28)

Not a hair of our heads will be harmed; we will have the strength to endure whatever happens, we will have the wisdom to keep going, Jesus says.

At the same time, we’re told in the gospel not to live lives of denial or lives of escape. We can’t live unthinking lives, lives of “carousing and drunkenness.” Lives swallowed up by “the anxieties of daily life.“

In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us to live each day as best we can and take up the cross we have to bear each day as best we can. He gives himself to us as an example. As a Child born in Bethlehem, he lived under threats of death and eventually faced death; he lived most of his days in ordinary Nazareth and brief days when he was recognized for powerful deeds. Live each day as it comes, he says, not swallowed up by “the anxieties of daily life,” trapped by small concerns. Live each day as you’re given it; God is there in the ordinary day.

We’re in Advent, getting reading for the birth of a Child, a powerful Child who holds in his hands our future and the future of our world. This same Child is with us each day. We welcome him as the Lord who lives with us each day. The Child we welcome at Christmas is also the Son of Man who will come on the clouds of heaven on the last day, bringing God’s kingdom and judging the living and the dead. He is our Savior and Lord.