Third Sunday of Advent: Cover art and column

Dec. 17, 2017 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Mystery of Christ,

This Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday,” which means “Rejoicing.” We are now more than half way to Christmas. Notice the pink candle is lit on the Advent wreath. Half way to the celebration of the Incarnation helps us to rejoice in the fact that God is already here, but not yet. God is working in our midst, yet we wait for the fullness of his presence in heaven. God has been born among us, yet we wait for his return. In these great moments of paradox, we rejoice in the beauty of God’s eternal actions within our lives.

The second reading during Mass today is 1Thesolonians 5:16-24. This text proclaims, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Do not quench the Spirit.” Our sense of rejoicing is a call to action and prayer. We are invited to fall in love with God ever more in the Advent season. This love is not naïve or without a lot of work. We fall in love with God in our relationship with Divine hope for our world. This means that we examine deeply our need for God’s action, for healing and hope, for integrity and justice, for a real relationship with the Holy Spirit that is far deeper than just living out the rules of religion and calling it God.

We are to model our lives of prayer for our children and for people who do not believe in God. Our prayer is to become a beacon of hope for our world, for outcasts and refugees, for people living outside and people who cannot speak up for themselves, for people lost in despair. Our prayer is to be a light in the darkness, kindness in the midst of oppression, healing when the world is exhausted from its own efforts. Most importantly, our prayer is to lead us into beauty and awe.

People will be drawn to us when we live out such a prayer. Beauty itself is contagious; it is a source of wonder for the world. This prayer leads us into living a life of rejoicing and a new reliance on the Holy Spirit. Let us make sure we discover such beauty during these Advent days of searching and longing, days of hope and relying ever new on God’s wondrous presence and healing for our world.

This past year weighs heavily upon us with natural disasters and mass shootings. These are burdens heavy on our hearts this Advent season. These texts call us to become people of hope and steady prayer, allowing God to use us for good and to help us witness to the beauty of life. We pray that our lives may find rejoicing in God and that our families may not resist the hope God is pouring out to us in our daily lives.

Let’s us follow the example of John the Baptist, who pointed his life, his soul and his purpose into the direction of the coming of Christ Jesus. We rest in the beauty of Jesus manifest in our hearts.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent 2017

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John the Baptist: Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

John, I ache to stand with you in the wilderness of my own life. My body craves to be washed in the waters you pour over me waiting for the real waters of the Spirit. Not for me to make a home in Jesus but to allow Jesus to make a home in me. I hear your call today and Isaiah’s challenge but my heart is not ready to give up on my own authority, power and self-sufficiency and my inability to pay attention and to listen, to really listen. I capture a hint of Jesus, the Savior at the end of your finger, when I give in to his shepherd’s tenderness, when I finally rest and quit hiding, when I let go and stop trying build up, when I quit resisting and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. John, I follow your finger pointing toward the cross, your deep desire for us all to repent, your deep awareness that only your cousin brings us salvation. Today, guide me with your commanding voice, your selflessness, your un-attachments, your pure attention, your dissatisfaction to worldly goods, and your precious view of Jesus, our Savior.

On the Margins: Mark 1:1-8

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017

LISTEN NOW: CLICK HERE

Gospel   MK 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2017

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Immaculate Conception. Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC, 2017 

Gospel  Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Second Sunday of Advent, 2017

Dec. 10, 2017 Bulletin Cover

Second Sunday of Advent. Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

Dear Followers of the Christ,

We proclaim the gospel from the beginning today, Mark 1:1-8. We hear on this Second Sunday of Advent urgency from John the Baptist, to prepare a path for Christ Jesus. John is not suited to untie the sandal strap of Jesus, yet his voice echoes down the generations to help us prepare our hearts for his coming again.

Advent unsettles us. It is designed to help us untie the bonds of our earthly desires and help us focus on the real message of Christ Jesus in his second coming at the end of time. Our temptation in the Advent season is to domesticate this message. We can’t tame John or Christ’s desire for us, to save his people. We are so used to making Advent a time of serene nostalgia or sappy sentimentality. Advent is a radical grace that pierces through our stubborn ways and ignites a vigor and hope for our own lives and the world. Advent gets us off the couch and into the world bearing within our lives a new way of seeing our salvation.

We do not hear in these beginning weeks of Advent about waiting for a baby to be born or to build a cozy fire and sip eggnog. Instead, we are to witness how the world is in need of such a hope that frees people from injustice, war, violence and hunger. Advent rouses within the hearts of the faithful a time to reach down within our own convictions and live a more authentic life.

Advent shakes us out of our complacency. The texts and scriptures are meant to help us let go our earthly attachments, our addictions to violence, hatred and shootings, our inner addictions to drugs and our convictions that we always possesses the correct answers even to the most complicated answers. What we are waiting for is a radical conversion to hope, love and harmony among every people and nation. This begins with us holding up to the Light of Christ the darkness we possess within our lives, the lack of faith we have, and the hope that we can surrender all earthly life into the glory of God’s eternal presence.

We hear from Isaiah, the paradoxes that we face and the hope for our world when faith makes a home within us. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain will be made low and the rugged land will be made plain. We hold within our lives the potential to change the world when faith is restored within our hearts and hope is lived every day, no matter the obstacles or barriers. As Isaiah says, “Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed.”

I encourage you to take stock of your life in this holy season. Ponder again, the salvation and love you wish to possess from God and reflect on how you will live this wonder well beyond the Christmas Season.

Blessings to you in these Advent days,

Fr. Ron

Article from Give Us This Day, published by Liturgical Press

From Give Us This Day, published by Liturgical Press for December 7, 2017

The Paradox and the Promise

When I proclaim the Advent Gospels during Mass, I hold on to the book for dear life. I do so because I am profoundly aware of the paradoxes and precarious paths the Gospels take us in this unique season of longing. The Word is rock and surety. However, we all must become vulnerable as infants and trusting as apprentices in these Advent days.

As I open my mouth to fill the Church with the Holy Word, I witness the widower sitting alone in the front pew months after his wife’s death. With his cane at his side, he aches for a sure-footed future for his children and grandchildren. I see a wide-shouldered, high school hero who wept uncontrollably at his mother’s funeral last week. I notice a recently sober woman, heavy red lipstick covering her quivering lips. Her tears reveal her search for Jesus in her newly found humility.

Advent reveals our search for Jesus. We all receive the Word, sometimes with deflecting hearts and hardened attitudes. Jesus invites us to be humble enough to accept the rock-like nature of love, forgiveness, and peace. This is the promise of Jesus, the paradox that forms our lives. We are to become humble believers in Advent. When we follow out of our need and longing, we are certain to find our way to the manger again, where hope for our lives becomes a sure thing.

Fr. Ronald Raab

Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC, is pastor of the Tri-Community Catholic Parish in Colorado Springs. He formerly served as associate pastor at Saint Andre Bessette Church in Old Town, Portland, Oregon. Learn more at http://www.ronaldraab.com.

 

First Sunday of Advent, 2017

Reflection based on today’s scriptures for the First Sunday of Advent, 2017

Advent charms our restlessness

Challenging us to begin again

As breathless clay in the hands of a potter

An apocalyptic summons to calm our volatile egos

To rest in the mud and miracle of creation

 

Watch and wait

In all that is not perfectly whole or loved or finished

Tangled half-truths and corrupted injustice

For a new presence of divine peace

Spaces in our darkened world where light

Shall reflect the beauty of our Creator’s imagination

 

This year I wait for Jesus among mangled hope

Walking amid shattered glass from boarded up store fronts

Stepping over cardboard huts along the street

Leaning up against the survivors of hurricanes and fires

Watching for tenderness not blame

 

With all my heart I believe

Jesus will be born in Puerto Rico this year

Amid dark-outs and lack of fresh water

Hidden in the empty schoolhouses

Seeking shelter under the rumble of roofless homes

 

Jesus will be born somewhere in the sex scandals

Where relationships of power finally give way

To humble awareness that we cannot control or demean people

Somewhere deflated egos will make a home for real love

 

Jesus will be born in vast divides this year

In inflamed discussions about hospitality of immigrants

Or buried in the concrete pilings of border crossing walls

He will paint red and blue into a hue of hope

For skin shades of brown and white and black

 

Jesus will be born this year along the freeway of human trafficking

Where our journeys will lead us into caring for our children

Jesus will be born this year in the controversies of guns

As we grieve innocent people from unimaginable violence

 

Jesus will be born among our leaders and bishops and among the hopeless

Holding together the challenges and paradoxes and arguments

Whether or not love should be our most valuable friend

Where hope is dried under the nails of the potter’s hands

 

On the Margins: Mark 13:33-37

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017

LISTEN NOW: CLICK HERE

Gospel   MK 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

World AIDS Day: A poem from a series, “Mothering AIDS”

Mothering AIDS: Snippets from my encounters and conversations with mothers who stood by the suffering of their sons in the complexities of AIDS in the first twenty years of my priesthood. I wrote this poem recently as the first in a series. 

 At the screen door

We meet at the dirty screen door

Her face in shadow

Her fragile hand reaches for the loose doorknob from the inside

She seems taller because I stand a step down on the front porch

Sweat dripping down my back from the summer sun and

Nerves because another mother

Invites me over the threshold to sit aside a son’s deathbed

 

Still desiring the best for him

The priest’s last call

The pills exhausted and the chemo done

The oil is on the thumb of the man who

Opens the door to heaven within her heart at least

 

From her whispering invitation I slowly

Creep the narrow bedroom path amid silent machines

Strangers in this quiet room creating more fear than remedy

I open up my prayers and my heart in the darkened space

His empty eyes look through me

 

I sing a lullaby of faith

My heart resting in his

Connecting his silence and his song of unspoken truth

Feeling the eternal shore wash up against his bed

 

I touch him

Laying my hand on his forehead bearing open sores

With oil and prayer deeper than the silence

Blessing him in his fear that I will condemn him

More distracting than the pain beating against his breath

His worry that no holy man would touch his truth

The real man

 

His mother and I give him away and birth him again

We amble back to the threshold

She tells me I am the only person to touch her dying son

She rests those grateful words and her face on my chest

Then pushes open the worn out screen door

Toward the warm light

 

Click here: LEARN MORE about World AIDS Day

 

First Sunday of Advent: Cover art and column

Dec. 3, 2017 Bulletin Cover

“Waiting for the Light” Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Messiah,

Why does Advent begin with such a challenging call from Mark’s gospel, “Be watchful! Be Alert!” We begin with a call to cultivate a deep desire for God. This desire today will help us celebrate Christmas, the Incarnation of God. This desire for God is richly traditional and ever new.

Take a look around our world today. We face so many issues that divide us, both within the Church and in the world around us. We discover our call and challenge to watch and wake up from the very issues that need our attention. God calls us into union and communion. This means that nothing within our lives is separate from God. God wants us to raise a fuss about how we live with disunity and hardness of heart.

We take seriously the value of all human life because God surrendered to us. Jesus was born in humbleness and insecurity. Image that. The All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, the God of All the Universe, broke open the heavens to manifest love upon the earth, being born along the margins of his culture. It is our challenge then to make sure we support the dignity of all human beings no matter their culture, where they have immigrated from or what language their children speak. We support with the basics of life, food, shelter, love and mercy, because those are the very things that Jesus did not have when he came among us!

In the sacred liturgy, we start the story of Jesus all over again. This means we start with the longing of the people of Israel for the Messiah. We start with the longing of our own hearts. Let me say that there are three aspects of this longing. We place ourselves in the PAST because of the history of salvation, being united with the longing of our ancestors. We also long for the FUTURE because we await the final return of Jesus Christ in the end of time. We also long for the PRESENT moment in which God changes our hearts and the hearts of the people of the world. This last longing or waiting for God is the most difficult. It is not easy for us to take a step back from our prejudice, our political views and our obsessive nature about always being correct, and confront the reality of our humble nature and to place our lives in God alone. This is the role of our individual prayer and our communal prayer. Our lives are waiting and longing for the Mystery of God manifest in our decisions, choices and family lives.

We need to be a watchful people. That means we need to have one eye on the world’s poverty, injustice and dissatisfaction, turmoil and hopelessness and one eye open waiting for God to come to us and change our hearts and satisfy our needs. Advent begins the deep longing within our hearts for the conversion of our lives and of the Church. Advent does not begin with just sentiment and nostalgia, but a new awareness of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Blessings in these Advent days,

Fr. Ron