Fr Bob Writes – December 17, 2017

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1).  Today, the third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing” Sunday.  Since Advent is not a penitential season but a season of hope and expectation, today’s celebration reminds us that we have ample reason to hope in view of our experience of God’s goodness.

The note of joy and hope is especially marked in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Addressed to a people newly released from exile in Babylon, and coming back to Israel to find their cities in ruins, its beloved capital, Jerusalem, and its Temple, gutted, Isaiah proclaims a coming restoration, healing and blessing to them from God.  In the part of this prophecy not quoted in today’s reading, he looks forward to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and all the other cities, and the re-establishment of their status as “favored of the Lord” and a “royal priesthood” (cf Exodus 19:5-6).  God will once more broker a covenant relationship with them, but this time the covenant will be everlasting.They shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs” (Isaiah 61: 7).

The Church understands itself as inheriting Israel’s mantle as a “chosen race, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” and therefore the recipient of God’s blessings.  Jesus himself takes these words from Isaiah’s prophecy and applies them to himself, in his inaugural sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4:18.  We, as followers of Jesus, are now the ones to whom Jesus brings good news, ministers healing to our brokenness because of our sin, and proclaims liberty to us who have been held captive to Satan, and the fear of death and hell our whole lives long (cf Hebrews 2:15).  We have been called by him into a new and everlasting covenant with God by his blood sacrifice on the cross – note the words said by the priest over the chalice at Mass.

And we now are the “Bride” of Christ, following up the second part of Isaiah’s prophecy today. Jesus, who loves us, his Church, as a husband is meant to love his bride, with total unconditional love, is coming back to claim his bride at the end of time and usher into the everlasting marriage home of heaven (Ephesians 5: 25-27).  This is what Advent point us to- not so much his first coming 2000 years ago, but his second coming at the end of all things. He expects to find his bride “sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Let’s try our best not to disappoint him!

Fr Bob Writes – December 10, 2017

“A voice cries in the wilderness…” (Isaiah 40:3).  This verse from our first reading this Sunday is quoted in Matthew 3:3 in reference to John the Baptist preparing the way of Jesus.  We joke that, here in Ottawa, we have two seasons, winter and construction.  (In truth, this now seems to have turned into just one season, construction!).

In Old Testament times, many an army built roads, often referred to as “the king’s highway” , which increased commerce (with accompanying income from taxes and road tolls) and enabled the army to patrol more rapidly in troubled areas.  In Jesus’ time, the Roman armies were the experts, building roads connecting all parts of the empire.  Think of our modern road system here in Canada.  How many valleys have been bridged, how many mountains “leveled” with tunnels, how many narrow ways widened and rough ways made smooth?

We are called to be part of God’s road construction crew, preparing the way for others to draw near to God, and removing the obstacles preventing God drawing nearer to us.

Parish Mission with Fr Francis Donnelly – Dec. 4, 5 & 6

Mark your calendars for our Advent Mission!

Join Fr Bob and Fr. Francis Donnelly for an opportunity to prepare your heart for the coming of the Christ child.  Monday and Wednesday at St Philip (7pm), Tuesday at St Clare (7 pm).  Wednesday will be an evening with reconciliation.  Please join us and bring a friend!  This is a beautiful way to prepare our hearts for Christmas.

Fr Bob Writes – December 3, 2017

Fr Bob writes: Another Advent season opens this weekend.  As usual, the focus for us as Christians should not be celebrating Christ’s first coming as a child 2000 years ago, but his second coming “at a time you do not know or expect.” (Mark 13:33)

When will the Second Coming of Jesus take place?  As the apostles continued staring up to the skies following Jesus’ ascension, angels appeared and told them, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you will return in the same way as you have seen him going up to heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Early Christians believed Jesus’ return would take place within a few years, if not months. That’s why those who joined the first Christian community at Jerusalem sold what they had and put their money in the common pot.  They felt sure that Jesus would return before the money ran out. The passing time was a challenge both to their financial situation and their faith.  If Jesus wasn’t returning, something which the early preaching had led them to believe, how true were the other things they had been taught about him?

That is why Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus who sold a piece of property and put the whole amount in the pot was given the nickname “Barnabas,” meaning “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36-7).  Paul took up a collection for that community during his missionary journeys.  He wanted to support the faith of the Jerusalem community in the return of Jesus.  John Mark wrote his gospel, the first of the four to be written, as a member of Peter’s missionary team.  The teaching of the return of Jesus undoubtedly was part of Peter’s preaching of the message of Jesus Christ.

Twenty-some years after the ascension, however, Christian leaders were wrestling with Jesus’ “delay.”  They thought back to any indications Jesus may have given them.  What they recalled was included in passages such as today’s gospel selection.  We don’t know when Jesus will return, so keep alert, on watch and ready at all times.

Happy Advent!!