Prayers of the Faithful: Third Sunday of Advent 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2018

Let us pray to use our possessions wisely and that we may learn to serve others by sharing our earthly goods during this Advent season. Let us live and love in deep gratitude.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that Pope Francis and our bishops may live and teach with integrity this Advent. For our Universal Church as we learn gratitude in the midst of struggle, conflict and uncertainty.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us rejoice in the Lord and work for justice in this season of preparation. We pray for the end of racism, violence, hunger and discrimination. We pray that peace will guard our hearts.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us be confident and unafraid in prayer as we raise our families and model hope to those we love. We pray for the wellbeing of our children and our grandchildren, especially our loved ones far from home.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us live with no anxiety or worry even in the midst of our grief. We pray that consolation may find a home within us no matter our loss. We pray that our emptiness may lead us to joy in Christ Jesus.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our loved ones and strangers who have journeyed through death to a new presence with Christ Jesus. We pray for all who have died…

We pray to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Third Sunday of Advent: Cover art and column

Dec. 16, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in Miracles,

John the Baptist is back in action this week in Luke 3:10- 18. On this Third Sunday of Advent, John is in the desert to baptize. John is very clear about how to prepare for the Savior. Whoever has two cloaks should give one to a person who has none. Whoever is collecting more than the required amount of taxes should cut it out. We should not practice extortion and we should not falsely accuse anyone. We should be satisfied with our wage. I love the fact that John calls people into direct service as we wait for our own salvation. Salvation rests in how we treat one another. This message is often far from our daily lives. John rocks this message of hope!

Remember that Luke as a gospel writer always speaks on behalf of the poor. John is in the thick of things as he admits that he is not worthy to loosen the thongs of his cousin’s sandals. He prepares us with unbelievable images of salvation and the clearing of sin and division in the world. John has a strong and vigorous voice in his longing for mercy and forgiveness by God. Luke puts into the mouth of John these incredible words of justice and peace for people on earth. This is the real preparation for Christmas.

This Third Week of Advent has traditionally been called, “Gaudete Sunday.” This means that we are more than half way to Christmas and our lives and hearts are called to rejoice!

Rejoice! This is quite the promise John is longing for in the middle of the hot desert. He understands that in the life of Jesus and his presence and ministry, lays the golden revelation of salvation. Rejoicing is key to our lives as we enter such a mystery. We are almost there, but not yet. However, we understand that what we wait for is the coming of the Kingdom in the end of time. We wait for more than the baby, since we already did that many years ago. Salvation is in our hearts waiting to bear fruit in our day and age.

The reading from Philippians 4:4-7 gives us this message of hope. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near….” I hope that we all hear that God’s presence and his gift of redemption are truly for us even when we think we are knee deep in the weeds. We are called to rely on God even when our marriages are on the rocks and our children don’t seem to care about us anymore. We are called to fill our hearts with gratitude even on the days when we don’t get our way or when the Church is filled with controversy and darkness. Rejoicing comes to us when we give over our very lives to God in Advent.

John boldly expresses that Jesus’ winnowing fan will clear the threshing floor. John tells us that there is nothing in our hearts that will not be made clean and refreshed. I thank God for John’s voice in our lives. Gosh, let’s rejoice above all!

Advent peace,

Fr. Ron

Isaiah the Prophet: Reflection and painting

 

IMG_0949 (2)

“Isaiah the Prophet” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 

Reading 1 Is 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

The Prophet Isaiah offers us hope and challenge in Advent. The four weeks of Advent become a school of prayer and prophesy if we learn to listen with our full hearts and attention. Isaiah is our master teacher, our mentor in Advent.

Isaiah shows us that our lives and our world will wither and fade but not the glory of God within us. God is our surety and hope for all life. In fact, God will run toward us to find us in ways we least expect. God will gather us into his fold and heal us. God will hold our tired bodies and give us comfort. God will lead us when we stray.

Today, we need to lean into the mystery of our prophets. The prophets shed light and hope in the midst of our sex scandals and institutional darkness. We are called and invited to cleanse our souls. We are challenged to trust in God and yet we cling to our self-righteousness. We have abandoned our children. We resist communion with our enemies. We are quick to divide and to take sides. We point our fingers in blame. Only God can show us the way through this incredible darkness.

God promises to reach out to the lost and today we are all lost. Today, hope is at hand if we believe that God is calling us more deeply into integrity, justice and peace. In this Advent, the Church calls out to our ancestors for help and direction. Let us trust the words of Isaiah, “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

Second Sunday of Advent: Prayers of the Faithful

Second Sunday of Advent

Let us pray that God will continue the good work of our commitments within the Church, especially our dedicated prayer and loving service. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that our deserts of violence become valleys of peace, that hopelessness may be transformed into joy, that sarcasm may turn to shouts of praise in this Advent season. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that we may listen to John the Baptist and receive the challenge to walk in the glow of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Let us discover our treasure of integrity here on earth. We pray to the Lord.

Let us sort through our false purpose and hypocrisy this Advent. That genuine compassion may flow from our mouths like honey toward our enemies as well as our loved ones. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for children who feel they do not belong within their families, for our children with disabilities, for our grandchildren struggling to find adequate employment, and for our children trapped in addictions. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people suffocating in grief and loss. We remember our dead who have journeyed home to heaven. We pray to the Lord.

Fragments from the Word: The Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018 (audio)

Listen to an audio version or read the text as a reflection on the gospel, Luke 3: 1-6, for the Second Sunday of Advent, 2018.

LISTEN NOW: CLICK HERE

Clear our throats

John the Baptist’s voice,

Stronger than an Alaskan earthquake,

Mightier than a California blaze,

Bolder than a Texas border-wall,

Reverberates beyond generations.

 

His clear intonation and pure eloquence,

Transmitting from ancient prophets,

With rawness from the lonely desert,

Opens our ears to prepare for the savior from blue heaven.

 

His life remains unencumbered,

Since he hears what he speaks,

That all the earth shall be healed and forgiven,

Where hills will be made low and valleys filled in,

And those who torment and divide,

Shall hang their heads in repentance.

 

Our deaf hearts will shout along with John

That Love is mightier than our pain,

When our healed voices speak for the weak,

When our prophetic sentences strung together

Become a safety net for the forgotten.

 

We herald words as prophets,

To people evacuated from storm and fire,

To foster children lost in bureaucratic systems,

To sisters separated between arguing countries,

Then the voice of the prophet

Shall be shelter stronger than cardboard.

 

So we clear our throats waiting for the day,

When our Advent longing shall bear fruit,

And our voices ring from the earth in praise.

The Second Sunday of Advent: Bulletin cover photo. My weekly column.

Dec. 9, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Cover photo of our Lady of Guadalupe from Sacred Heart Church by John Goddard. 

CLICK HERE FOR full bulletin

Dear Believers in the Messiah,

John the Baptist is my favorite personality in the gospel next to his cousin Jesus. I am drawn to John because he knows entirely who he is in the story of the Christ. Even when he was in the womb, he danced in recognition that he was in the presence of the Savior. How can you beat that? John grew up close to the earth and close to the realization that the world needs salvation. He spent his life pointing into the direction of Christ Jesus and calling people to ready their lives for his promise of salvation.

Today’s gospel, Luke 3:1-6, breaks through the silence of the desert so we may listen to the strong and bold words of John the Baptist. Again, the gospel is not about a cozy, domestic longing for the baby Jesus. Somehow we are afraid to look at Christmas differently from the warm fires of family life. Christmas is not about domestic bliss, rather it is about the realization that the Word of God moves mountains, changes the directions of streams and makes winding roads straight. In other words, there is nothing in our lives that cannot be redeemed, loved and forgiven. This is the journey for us, to open wide our hearts even when we are filled with fear. We seek the glory of God becoming flesh within the world.

John is in the desert in today’s gospel. The wasteland is an important image in the gospels. Here’s why. The coming of Christ reestablishes the full presence of God. This abundant love is viewed in the original image of life in the Garden of Eden. In other words, the desert, which is devoid of lush green and flowing water, will become the second garden of life in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. So John shakes us all up by saying that we must be prepared for something new to happen in the desert. Valleys will be filled in and rough roads made smooth. Lush green will become our home, an image of eternal life.

This image of desert is also about the human heart. There will be no sin or anxiety that will not be forgiven or made new in Christ Jesus. John has quite the task in Advent. He is bold, earthy, strong and sure in his declaration that every human heart must wait for God. We all experience this dry wasteland at some point in our lives. We all know how sin, division and heartache can shrink or decay the potential of life. Our hearts in Advent are laid bare for love to enter them to make them whole.

Our prayer during the Advent season must be inclusive and expansive. We are to pray for all the ways our hearts become withered and small. We are to take the voice of the weak seriously and to walk among the bewildered and the poor with unbelievable hope.

May the blessings of the season fill our weakness and break open our desperate hearts.

Advent Peace,

Fr. Ron

First Sunday of Advent: Prayers of the Faithful

Prayers of the Faithful

First Sunday of Advent

Let us pray for vigilance in Advent, that we may bring optimism to our desperate poor and to people who remain drowsy with fear. Let us all remain awake and watchful. We pray to the Lord.

Let us see with new eyes in Advent, that our leaders within the Church may come to terms with our hurting children who have been abused by power and secrecy. We pray to the Lord.

Let us imagine a new world this Advent where we cease our violent words against one another, where we realize the consequences of hatred in our families and in our neighborhoods and within our politics and religion. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people who are ill during this Advent. That we may seek to help our sick in mind and body, that we may respect the dignity of those who cannot heal themselves. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people suffocating from the anxieties of daily life, that fear may be replaced with joy in our search for Jesus-made-flesh. Let us lay down our burdens of regret and restlessness in our new liturgical year. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to lift up our souls to the Lord in Advent. That we may carry the needs of those who grieve, that our dead may find eternal rest in friendship with the Lord. We pray to the Lord.