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St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Readings

Baruch 5:1-9

Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11

Luke 3:1-6

2nd Sunday of Advent - Dec 5, 2021

Today, St Luke begins this chapter of his Gospel curiously. He puts out a list of names and places that seem irrelevant. Twenty centuries after the fact, we are interested in Jesus, not in tetrarchs and obsolete geography. But these details reveal something crucial about Jesus: he is not an abstract God. He weaves his action and presence into the fabric of ours. He is not a myth. He takes up his stance on the crossroads of everyone’s personal history and addresses us there.

 
Jesus Christ is a God who wants to be involved in our lives; he wants our friendship. The Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI made this same point during an Advent speech in 2006: “In these days the liturgy constantly reminds us that ‘God comes’ to visit his people, to dwell in the midst of men and women and to form with them a communion of love and life: a family”.

In today’s Second Reading, St Paul makes the same point in one of the most memorable, beautiful, and powerful phrases of the entire New Testament: “"There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. “

God doesn't create us and then forget about us, like some kind of divine architect or watchmaker. God gives us the gift of life, and then accompanies us, gently trying to guide us into a deeper and deeper friendship with him, never giving up on us. God knows where we were born, where we grew up, what we have suffered and enjoyed, the wounds in our hearts. Nothing about our lives is indifferent to him because we aren’t indifferent to him. As today’s First Reading puts it, we should rejoice because we are “remembered by God.”
Maybe the most glaring evidence of God's desire to be involved in our lives is the sacrament of the Eucharist. Every Mass, when Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist, is like another Bethlehem, another Christmas. Through the Eucharist, Jesus continues to accompany and nourish his people, staying involved in their lives, even in the most unlikely of places.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen told the story of a group of Catholics who protested when the Communist government in China arrested their bishop. They were put into prison right next to the bishop. Every morning, a four-year-old girl was allowed to visit them and bring each of the twenty prisoners a small loaf of bread. Hidden inside each loaf of bread was a small cloth napkin, and inside each napkin was the Eucharist. In this way, these persecuted Catholics were able to receive Holy Communion each day they were in prison. But they would leave one loaf uneaten and keep it in a corner of the cell. That way, throughout the day, they could pray to our Lord in the Eucharist and adore him there.

When South Vietnam fell to the Communist regime in 1975, the Catholic Archbishop of Saigon, Francis Nguyen van Thuan, was arrested. He spent the next 14 years of his life in various prisons, solitary confinement situations, and reeducation camps, along with other political prisoners, many of whom were Catholics. The communists wanted him to recant his faith, which would be a blow to the Catholic resistance. But even inside the concentration camps, the prisoners were able to smuggle in enough wine and bread for the Archbishop to celebrate Mass in secret.

In one camp the prisoners were forced to sleep in common beds, each one having the right to 50 centimeters. The Archbishop would arrange to have five Catholics with him. After the lights went out at 9:30 p.m., he would curl up in the dark and celebrate Mass for them, by memory, with three drops of wine and one drop of water, in the palm of his hand.

Underneath the mosquito netting they would make little containers from the paper of cigarette boxes to reserve the Blessed Sacrament. So even amidst the hardships of Communist prisons and work camps, Jesus stayed involved – so closely and intimately involved – in his people's lives.
We all believe that God wants to be involved in our lives. And yet, sometimes it feels as if he is pretty far away. Sometimes, in the face of economic difficulties, sickness, and so many other kinds of suffering, it seems hard to find him. But we can actually get better at finding God's hand in all things, even our crosses, if we do three things.

First, we need to have an honest, regular prayer life. Too often we only pray to God when we are in trouble. We need to recommit ourselves to daily, personal prayer, even if it's only for 10 or 15 minutes. If we learn to converse with God every day, we will be much more likely to hear his voice on the terrible days.

Second, we need to take the crucifix seriously. It is no coincidence that the crucifix is the central image of our faith. It is the throne of our King if you remember my Christ the King homily. God chose to save us by sharing in human suffering. We need to look often at the crucifix, and contemplate it, and teach ourselves to remember that suffering is not outside of God's plan of salvation, but an essential part of it.

And third, we need to help others carry their crosses. Evil's favorite tactic is to make us think so much about ourselves that we lose sight of the bigger picture. When we go out of our comfort zone to support, console, and encourage those who are suffering even more than we are, we break the evil's spell.
This week, if each of us chooses just one of those three tactics, I can guarantee that we will all gather again for Mass next week having had a deeper experience of God's involvement in our lives.
And along with that experience will come a bigger share of Advent joy.


Readings

Zephaniah 3:14-18

Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:10-18
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