It was to be a relaxing lazy Saturday morning of visiting with a dear friend from graduate school days. I awoke early, dressed, started a pot of coffee, grabbed my keys and headed out to the store to get some milk and breakfast rolls. When getting off the elevator, I suddenly felt the bunch of keys in my hand lighten, then a "clink" of metal upon metal, followed by a remote "thunk-swish" as a ring of three keys - my CTU office keys - separated from my larger key ring - plummeting through the two-inch opening in the elevator doorway, to the base of the elevator shaft!
In the liturgical cycle of the lectionary, Advent 2012 inaugurates a year of reflections on the word as interpreted through the lens of the gospel of Luke. It is this gospel with its rich narratives that sits squarely at the heart of the Christian imagination regarding the coming feast of Christmas. The majority of the imagery we associate with the birth of Jesus as represented in arts, crafts, literature, music and a variety of popular practices and performances draws from engagements with Lucan texts.
With this Sunday we begin the season of Advent, one of the most beautiful periods of the Church's liturgical year. With the sounds of Christmas carols surrounding us in malls and on the radio, we can easily assume that Advent is meant solely to prepare us for the great feast of Christmas (so get shopping!). While that is true, it is not the complete story. Advent, in fact, is meant to remind us of three great "arrivals" (the literal meaning of the Latin word "adventus"): 1. The coming of Christ two thousand years ago in Bethlehem; 2. The coming of Christ at the end of time; and 3.
There's something about royalty that fascinates us. When one's life is a constant struggle, to believe in a powerful king who could, with a penstroke, or a wave of his hand, make everything go well for the little ones, fuels hope and gives a reason to keep plodding on. It is not surprising, then, that Christians would think of Jesus as such a king, or of God in royal terms. Today's feast has a double edge to it, as is brought out in the readings.
Back in the late sixties there was a film and a hit song entitled, "What's it about, Alfie?" I can't remember much about the plot of the movie, but I do remember the melody of the song. The basic idea was that Alfie, the main character, led a dissolute and purposeless life and after a series of relationships went bad, he had to ask himself: "What's it all about?"
We come to the last Sundays of this Liturgical Year. The readings we are given to hear today are full of reflection on who God is and who we are. God is and remains a saving God! And we are reminded of our vulnerability, and called to give of ourselves from that vulnerable place instead of "at the top of our game."
Every morning when I wake up, I make a list of things I need to do that day. The list begins with the most urgent item that I need to accomplish. When you have a lot on your plate, you have to learn to prioritize by doing what is most important. Today's readings from Scripture invite us to rededicate ourselves to a total commitment to love God and neighbors as a top priority in our life.
In today's Gospel, Jesus' departure from Jericho was interrupted by the persistent cry of a blind beggar. Given that many in that day considered blindness a punishment for some sin the person (or perhaps his parents) had committed, this disruption was not only inconvenient, it seemed downright offensive. Thus, many in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to keep silent. Yet, there is something unique about the cries of this blind man. He asserts a hope-filled faith; and calls Jesus the "Son of David" the name synonymous for the long-awaited Messiah. Still there is some tenuousness to the cry in that the man asks for "pity" - hardly a bold demand, as such! Jesus notices this, stops, and gives the directive, "Call him." Some in the crowd then make an effort to ensure that Bartimaeus realized that Jesus had called him, and they encouraged him to respond: "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." And Bartimaeus responds with great enthusiasm! He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
I must confess, the opening verse of this Sunday's readings was a source of great discomfort for me. At the end of September a dear friend and mentor died, too young, after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. In light of Robert's courageous struggle to live faithfully, I found Isaiah's words extremely disconcerting: "The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity" (53:10). What kind of God takes pleasure in enervating a loyal disciple? The perennial question of Job resounds across generations of readers/hearers before the text---why do bad things happen to good people? What makes this fair?