Archive for December, 2009

Third Sunday of Lent – Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete Sunday is one where we’re called to rejoice. It’s a great reminder that each of us has much to rejoice about. In each of today’s readings, we’re invited to rejoice and to look forward to something good that is ahead for us.

First Reading – Zephaniah (3:14-18a)

The first reading this weekend is from the Prophet Zephaniah who asks us to drastically change our feelings from fear to joy and exultation.  Zephaniah says, “Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!”

Why?  “The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies.” We’re told to be glad because God comes not to judge, but to save and renew.

Even way back then, the Prophet Zephaniah was telling us that, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, Your God,  is in your midst, a mighty savior”. How is that for really good news!!!  Eliminate all fear (this is called faith). Why should we be confident in eliminating our fear?  Because God is absolutely in our midst. Zephaniah goes on to say, “he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love”. Try converting that into an affirmation such as, I am filled each and every day with confidence that God rejoices over me with gladness and renews me with his love!

The Holy Spirit dwells within us and the words of Jesus fill our minds with love, trust and joy.  Christians know that when we have the Holy Spirit with us always and Jesus’ words in our minds, Christ is in our midst living inside of us each and every day! With God dwelling within us, we invite Him into every situation we encounter each and every day.  There is no separating our actions from God.

Second Reading – Philippians (4:4-7)

As I prepare to bring you my thoughts each week, I highlight what I believe to be key words or sentences from each reading.  In this reading, I’ve highlighted every word with the exception of the greeting, Brothers and Sisters. This reading is short and sweet and every word should be savored and internalized so that you can genuinely rejoice in Paul’s words of confidence.

“Rejoice in the Lord always.” Can you imagine doing what Paul is asking us to do?  How great would we truly be if our faith were so strong that we didn’t question God but, instead rejoiced always? Maybe this is one of those short and sweet lines that you and I should meditate on to understand how to live this line on a  minute-by-minute basis?

Paul goes on to say, “Your kindness should be known to all.” Try reflecting on that line for a few minutes.  Is my kindness known by every one who knows me?  Well except for  _____ and ______ and _____, I think that I’m…….. I don’t think that Paul was looking for us to name exceptions when he used the word all. Here’s how I translate that line: Would the people who know me from my community – family, friends, church, gym, etc.- use the word kind when describing me.  If not, I still have significant work to do.

“The Lord is near.” I mentioned that when I talked about Zephaniah. Yes, the Lord is near!  He’s living in every cell of my body and providing me with “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (who) will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” How is that for a promise!  Do you believe it?  What would happen to your life if you did?

I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between listening to scripture, reading scripture and really trying to understand, internalize and live scripture.  In order to understand, learn it and live it, I’ve found that I need to take the time to make the connection between the words and how I’d be as a person if I really thought and acted in this fashion. When I make that transformation, I’m making progress on living a Christ-like life.

“Have no anxiety.” Are you kidding me?  No, Paul is not kidding us and he gives us a solution to our anxiety, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.   Couldn’t Paul please give me some more wiggle room?  He uses words like all and everything.   Why didn’t he use words like most and when you feel like it?  God and Paul have very high expectations for us and that’s a very good thing.  Humans tend to live up to the expectations that they set for themselves or to the expectations that are set for them by mentors whom they trust and love.  Do you see Jesus as a mentor whose words you believe and whose expectations you have the potential to fulfill???????  You and I have tremendous potential.  We just need to change our beliefs.  If I can’t believe God, who can I believe?

Gospel – Luke 3:10-18

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist speaks to us with great clarity, “Share with the person who has none. Stop collecting more than what is prescribed. Do not falsely accuse”.

Points to meditate on:

How am I doing with John’s clearly spoken call to share with the person who has none?  Am I doing this? Can I be a more giving and sharing person?

Do I ever falsely accuse another? Do I repeat unkind words spoken about another?

John goes on to foretell the coming of Christ with his famous proclamation, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.

During advent, Christians can be doing many things:

  • We can prepare ourselves to celebrate the real spirit of Christmas with genuine joy – the birthday of Christ.
  • We can ask ourselves if we’re ready for His return?  If not, how can we become better prepared?
  • We can strive to rejoice in the Lord always.
  • We can remind ourselves that the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit has taken permanent residence within us and is there to guide and assist us at all times. We are never alone.
  • We can also look to the future when Christ returns to earth  with the anticipation and expectation of a child looking forward to Santa Claus.

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Keep God foremost in your mind and be ready at all times – Advent, 2009

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

advent_annunciationThis is the first weekend of advent and today’s readings are reminders for us to stay focused,vigilant and lead each day of our lives preparing for and loving God.

In the first reading, we prepare the way of the Lord and Messiah.

In the second reading, be prepared for Jesus is coming again.

In the Gospel, Jesus is coming back. Are you ready for His return or for you personal meeting upon your departure from your earthly body?

Jeremiah 33:14-16

In this weekend’s first reading from Jeremiah, we’re told God will fulfill His promise and “raise up for David a just shoot”.

Who can we trust today?  We can always trust God because he fulfills His promises.  He had promised David that his throne would be secure for ever. David was promised that Israel’s Messiah would be one of his descendants. Christians believe that Jesus is the “just shoot” Messiah who Jeremiah tells us is coming and who “shall do what is right and just in the land”.

One of the things that we’ve learned over thousands of years is that God does things in His time and on His schedule.  It’s our faith and trust in God that allows us to remain patient on a day to day basis.

In the short term, our faith allows us to remain patient as we’re waiting for our prayers to be answered and fulfilled.

In the long term, it’s that same faith that causes us to love God and trust that we’ll see Jesus either upon our death or when He returns to earth.  Either way, you and I will be ready.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Jesus our Messiah, the just shoot had come to earth and fulfilled God’s promises made to King David.   He gave his disciples very clear instructions for how we should  live our lives on earth to be ready and prepared to meet Jesus again when he retuns.  Christians believe that we’ll either meet Jesus upon our death or upon his return to earth.  We just don’t know which will come first or when either will happen. We’re encouraged to be ready at all times.

In the second reading, Paul is praying for the Thessalonians and reminding them to prepare for Jesus’ return.  It took faith for the Thessalonians to stay focused and prepared for a return by Jesus who had only recently walked the earth and made the promises.

In the reading from Jeremiah, Israel was becoming impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promises made to King David. Impatience with God was a problem thousands of years ago but, God kept his promise. Paul thought that Jesus’ return was imminent 2000 years ago. If Paul was praying for the Thessalonians to “increase and abound in love” and “to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father” in anticipation of Jesus’ return back then, can you imagine how much we need to pray for ourselves and others to stay strong and ready today 2000 years later? Many of us can lose faith in promises made by mortals who we’ve seen, touched and spoken with.  Extreme faith is required for us to believe the promises made by Jesus to his disciples thousands of years before you and I were born!

I love Paul’s second paragraph today.  He’s telling the Thessalonians “how you should conduct yourselves to please God” and you’re doing a really good job BUT, you can do an even better job! You’re capable of more.  You’re capable of better.  Most of us know that about ourselves today.  We may be doing a good job but, we can do an even better job. What would that look like for you?

As a father, I’m always balancing the encouragement of my children for all of the good things that they’re doing with the reminder that they still have so much more potential. Through prayer, we can thank God for all that we are and for all that we have and ask for the strength, power and ability to become even better.  More Christ-like.

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

In today’s gospel, Jesus tell his disciples about his return. As with all of Jesus’ messages, every word counts and there are several messages in this relatively short passage.

Jesus says that “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world”. For people who know that Jesus is returning and who are working on a daily basis to be ready for his return, we will welcome him with open arms when He returns to earth or when we depart our earthly bodies upon our death.

Just as Paul reminded the Thessalonians to prepare themselves, Jesus says, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap”.  We’re reminded to be in excellent physical shape today and every day.  We do not want to become out-of-shape spiritually.

As we prepare for Christmas during the season of advent, this is a special time to assess our readiness for Jesus’ return.  If it were today, would we be be able to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” or would we be ill-prepared?

We know that the process of becoming Christ-like is a daily routine that comes as a result of our prayers for strength, reading of scripture, actions of service and assistance from the Holy Spirit.

Advent is a time to prepare for and celebrate the birth of Christ and to also prepare ourselves to be ready to “see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”.

Keep God foremost in your mind and be ready at all times.

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