Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy New Year!

Be vigilant!   That is our message from today's Gospel.  As we enter the season of Advent, we see more of that Apocalyptic literature that reminds us to be ever ready and watchful for the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It exhorts us to continue working towards that perfection, that holiness of life that comes with following Christ as our example.  It also evokes in our hearts the realization that we all have one thing in common.  We all eventually will die.  We all eventually will face judgement.  These readings are intense, but they are written not to scare us but to encourage.  A prompting to "conduct ourselves in a way pleasing to God."

The last few days I've been binge watching a television show that I find to be very interesting.  I wouldn't recommend it for children or anyone sensitive to harsh language, but the Man in the High Castle definitely shows us a danger of the human condition.  In this alternate reality the Nazi's created the bomb before America did.  This enabled them to not only win the war, but to take over half the country.  The other half seems to have been dominated by the Japanese which I imagine began with Pearl Harbor.  Throughout the series we see what life would truly be like if we didn't have freedom.  If you have ever complained about freedom here in the United States?  Give this show a watch.

Why do I mention this show?  When I watch it I see something about the characters that is very much vigilant.  They have their eyes open.  They are seeking the good of 'society'.  One of the characters is a Nazi commander and he very much seeks the best for the Nazi government.  He is dedicated.  He believes in what he is doing.  He keeps to his 'rule' of conduct at all costs.  In that though, he ignores one thing, his heart.  At one point he turns over his friend, because as he puts it, "There is no room for emotions" in the world.  He has left love behind. 

That is a danger that many people forget.  In their conduct they are trying to be pleasing to God, but God is pleased truly with love.  Our liturgies are important, our devotions too, our prayer and worship should be first and foremost in our lives.  All of it must be tempered with love.  Humanity is bad to stick to one ideology, one way of doing things, to the point of harming others in order to stick to that one way of life.  We aren't like the Nazi's, I agree.   Most of us would blanch at killing in order to purify the human race.  Yet, how many of us stick to our democratic or republican voting points regardless of if love is involved?  How many of us would vote the party line even if it means supporting one of the five non-negotiables?  How many of us decide that one liturgy is better than another? Or one version of music is the 'right' one, even to the point of running someone down to get our way?

Jesus said if we were angry with our brother it was the same as murdering him.  If we are so set in our ways of doing things, and have not love, St. Paul says we are just a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  That is, we are just a loud noise with no effectiveness, pushing people away and harming them instead of soothing them and drawing them closer to Christ.  When we decide at work that our way is the only way to do things, even to the point of not being charitable to that person who wants to try something new, hurting their feelings and gossiping behind their back; aren't we killing them with our words and thoughts?  Jesus condemned empty and hollow tradition.  He said that the Pharisees were like white washed tombs.  On the outside they did all the right things.  On the inside there remained the filth of decay and the bones of dead men.  Are you the same inside as your are outside? or are you wearing a mask? We must change.  We must start with love.  Then and only then, when we do our traditions out of love.. they are a true and pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. 

As we approach Christmas through advent let us do so with love.  Let us invite others into our celebration.  Let us spread the word, declaring "Blessed Advent" or "Happy Advent" to those who wish us a "Happy Holidays."   Then when they ask what Advent is, let us explain our traditions, how that we are journeying towards Christmas to remind us of that grateful expectation that Israel felt as they waited for the long prophesied Savior and Messiah.  Let us build that palatable excitement in our lives until we can sing with the angels, the Saints, and the blessed Virgin Mary:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

His servant and yours,