Reflection for the Second Week of Advent
The Gospel for the second week of Advent firmly places John, the herald of Christ, in history. A modern fad is to consider the Gospel just another mythical story, like Greek or Egyptian mythos. Jesus fulfills the archetype of the hero in such an amazing and supernatural fashion that He must be fictional, so it is claimed. He performs miracles and is resurrected—mythical-sounding things that we know just don’t happen—so it must not be true.
But if we look at the myths of these ancient cultures, we find a big difference. Sure, those cultures may have claimed the myths to have happened, but they don’t tie the stories to historical events and figures. Those ancient cultures would never say that Prometheus was strapped to a rock 800 years before Plato, nor that Osiris was dissected and reconstructed during the reign of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. These myths always happened long ago, in a distant past.
And while the birth of Christ was over 2000 years ago—the distant past to us—the Gospel was written within a generation of the death of Christ. It ties the events of the Gospel to real figures that people alive at that time would have known or even seen. Christ is not just some wish fulfillment in our ethereal imaginations, but a real historical person in a real historical place at a real historical time. The Gospel writer is not trying to deceive his readers into believing a fiction ungrounded in reality; he was making these connections so that his readers could investigate for themselves.
So what if the story seems to follow the hero archetype that we love to hear and has appeared over and over again in every culture throughout the world? If you were God and you were to become incarnate, would you not want your story to be the greatest one ever told, something everyone that you desire to save wanted to hear? So take a seat and open your ears, because God wants to tell you a real story about how far He’ll go to bring you back to Him.
Deacon Dan Weger
Archdiocese of Kansas City
Reflection for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Today, on December 8, the Church all over the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This is a very important day in our Church’s calendar. In fact, the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States of America.
So, what exactly is the Immaculate Conception? It is sometimes thought that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary, but this is not true. The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary in her mother Anne’s womb. On June 12, 1854, Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception as a dogma, declaring that “the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”
Let’s flesh this out a little bit. This dogma declares that the Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin (the deprivation of sanctifying grace that is transmitted to all human beings from Adam and Eve) at the moment of her conception. Pope St. John Paul II states that because she was preserved from all stain of original sin, it entails that she was also free of all personal sins throughout her entire life. Thus, we can say that Mary was completely sinless. This is a grace that no other human person has received and no other human person will receive. It is a unique gift to her! And that’s exactly what it is – a gift. She did not do anything to earn it. In fact, Mary’s Immaculate Conception was the fruit of the redeeming Death and Resurrection of her Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was Mary’s Savior, and because of the redemption that He won on the Cross, Mary was preserved from sin.
But, didn’t Mary’s conception take place before Christ’s death? Yes, it did. But, because God works outside of time, He applied the merits of His redemption before the actual event of the Crucifixion took place. Was it necessary that Mary be preserved from sin, in order to become the dwelling place of the Son of God? No, it wasn’t necessary. But, it surely was the most fitting.
Today, let us express our gratitude to God for blessing His Mother in this profound way, and let us also thank Mary for being a model of purity to us all. Also, let us be grateful for our baptism – the day in which we were freed from original sin. Unlike Mary, we still commit personal sins after our baptism, but there is nothing to despair about. Christ has given us the Sacrament of Confession – the sacrament in which He washes us clean of all of our sins. Let’s frequently take advantage of this beautiful sacrament! The more we avoid sin in our lives and the more we strive to live a holy life, the more we become like Mary.
Deacon Will Summerlin
Diocese of Lafayette
Reflection for the First Week of Advent
This first Sunday of Advent, Jesus describes his coming in glory to his disciples, an event that sounds cataclysmic and awesome at the same time. The whole of creation will be shaken, nations will be in chaos, and people will be so terrified they may die of fright. And what is Jesus’ command to his disciples and to us when we see such signs? To stand up, raise our heads, and prepare not for destruction, but redemption. How can we stand up in the face of something so awesome, so world-changing as the coming of the Son of Man in Glory?
I think what will enable us perhaps to meet Jesus with heads raised high, is that we have already known him, and have allowed him to already transform us. Over and over again, by being vigilant and prayerful, the Son of Man comes into our lives and begins the transformation process in us, sometimes Heaven-shaking and humbling. The hope for each of us is that we come to know and love our Lord every day, and experience him in both the small moments and the great ones.
We naturally prepare for big events by engaging every day with little preparations. Dating happens before marriage, and although total commitment is a big step, a couple prepares themselves for living that commitment. To give my life to ordained ministry at times feels like a moment which is cataclysmic and awesome, but the daily grind of seminary, the growth in the knowledge of God’s love for me, and the confidence in God’s call from years of discernment, all help to prepare me to kneel before my bishop with a joyful spirit.
What will allow us to stand on the day of the Lord, will not be a carefree attitude, nor a soul filled with anxiety. It will be knowing the Lord who keeps his promises, who has cared for us, and has freed us from the chains and burdens of sin and death. Knowing this, we can meet him when he comes: standing tall, heads held high, looking with joy towards our redemption.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Deacon Tyler Raymond
Archdiocese of Dubuque