In the readings of this Sunday, it is all about hope and joy. That is why the Church calls it Sunday Gaudete. The words comes from the Introit for Gaudete Sunday, which is taken from Phillipians 4:4-5: Gaudete in Domino semper, or "rejoice in the Lord always." On Gaudete Sunday, having passed the midpoint of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The change in color provides worshippers with encouragement to continue their spiritual preparation for Christmas.
The readings also shine out that joy and hope. It refers to Israel as a joyful bride coming to the bridegroom for the oriental wedding. St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, continues this theme of hope and joy, in his vision of the Early Christian Communities. In St. John’s Gospel we find that joy as well, but it is a responsible joy, when a person heeds to the call that God has for his or her life. Isaiah tells us that the anointed brings good news to the oppressed. This is what Jesus takes to himself and his purpose in life. This should be the case in every Christian as matter a fact. We that are in Christ need to share in that responsibility as well. We are called today for that spiritual joy in which we are waiting for the coming of the Lord. In that way we enter into communion with the creator God. But it also should show the willingness to be co-workers for the kingdom of God. We need to realize the goals that God has for the world. In these challenging times we need more than ever be Gods hands and feet, ears and lips, in the world.
We need also be joyful for the blessings that God bestowed on us. There are many examples of how God worked and still works in our lives. In this time of Advent, we are called to help those in need. If we do so we truly share in mission of Christ. Just like Jesus did, we too must show our commitment to people that live on the margins of society. We should not be afraid of the pain and suffering of the people on the margins but come through and touch them with the “Good News” of Christ’s Gospel. Authentic joy is not only to be found in our personal life but also in our care for our neglected neighbors. The two can go hand in hand with our own lifestyle. This is the commission for everyone that builds their life on Jesus. Just like a child we need to seek for answers that really matter for the rest of our lives. We will never possess the total truth, but it is a lifelong quest. The tells us God is truth — and God always transcends our small lives. We will never being able to grasp God fully with our hearts and minds. But still, we have to keep on searching for that highest goal. It brings us closer to God and others.
We have to keep asking ourselves Who and what drives us in our lives and how we position ourselves in front of that. We need to ask ourselves about our own identity and keep on reaching higher. The religious authorities ask John about his identity and why he does what he does. He is clear who he is not, namely the Christ. He did not claim any titles for himself or put himself in a position that was not his. He was humble and referred to the coming Christ. Later on, in the same Gospel he will refer to himself as “friend of the bridegroom” who rejoices when hearing the bridegroom’s voice. Today John himself is a very important voice. Namely, the voice crying in the wilderness. He is the preparer of the way of the Lord. His job was to open people’s eyes to the person standing among them. If people ask us about who we are, we always need to refer to the One that transcends us. What people say about us is not important. What God says about us is much more important. John the Baptist can be of great help to us. He articulates for us who each one of us is in the eyes of God. He calls us to be who God is calling us to be. We are preparers of the way as well. We are not the light. We know there is much darkness inside of us that needs to be overcome. However, like John, we are a witness to the Light which is Christ the Lord. Even though not perfect, we are, called to be a witness to Christ.
John the Baptist says:’ “there stands among you, the one who is coming after me and i am not worthy to untie his sandals.” Jesus Christ stands among us but is unknown to many. We need to do more to make him know to people, through our own lives. We need to be a witness of the “light that shines in the darkness. John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness. He invited people into a relationship with God and that is what we need to do. We need to spread faith in Christ, both in word and deed. We need to be the medium through which God can communicate to this broken world. When we realize our calling to be witnesses to the light, it changes our own lives as well. Advent is a good time to reclaim our true identity and be a witness to the light of Christ. Only in that way Jesus can be born again….in the manger of our hearts. Amen
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope!” (Jeremiah 29:11)
When life gives us trial, uncertainties or struggles we often are overwhelmed by fear and doubt. The only way out of these feelings is to address them with courage, faith, trust and confidence and lie it before God. If we accept the unknown path ahead of us and ask the Lord for guidance all will be well. Instead of doing that we often doubt and challenge God and ask for signs. We go about the wrong way and don’t see the grace he has in store for us.
Without these clear signs we often push aside which comes our way. We think these things are not coming from God. We ask God for signs that we want in order to trust him. We twist it around. We don’t trust God, unless he gives us signs to prove it. In that way we put limitations on God and on ourselves. We impose our will on him, rather than the other way around. It is not so much our lack of faith as it is our fear of self-giving. We lack the desire to come close to God and let his spirit strengthen us. We can come before the throne of Grace and let him know our fears and insecurities. He will make us stronger. He knows that we are not perfect. We should not be afraid to come before the Lord because of our human weaknesses. He knows them all and can help us to overcome them.
We need to learn to trust God unconditionally. He will make us stronger and to higher forms of courage and strength, mercy and compassion. If we trust God and let him lead us, He will show us His unfailing love and grace. We only have to open our hearts to him. He will perfect us and mold us in the way he wants us to be. Our confidence and trust in Him will grow stronger. If we have faith in God, we will accomplish God’s will for our lives and find true joy. When we feel overwhelmed by anxiety and worries, we should turn to God and give Him our worries. We need to give him the chance prove His faithfulness. Then He will show us what He has in store for us. Amen.
“Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go”. (Isaiah 48)
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s kingdom is for the ones that are open for Gods word and are willing to be teached by God. In Jesus God came to us to teach us the truth about himself. It is a joyful teaching that comes to us. Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is good news and it produces true joy and spiritual freedom to those who listen. On the contrary it contains a warning for those who don’t. People can be pretty stubborn and often think they know better, even better than God. They message of John the Baptist and Jesus was often met with resistance. In many occasions people didn’t want to listen. There you can see a spiritual blindness that needs to be healed. They frustrated in fact God’s plan for them, at least for a while, because they had closed their hearts. They did not want to hear the message from neither John and Jesus.
What can make us spiritually blind? Our generation, like in Jesus’ days, can also be one of indifference. We seem to be indifferent to other people, the world and also to the things of God. Indifference makes us deaf for God’s voice and the Gospel message. We try to follow God but we do also things that contrary to the Gospel. We try to do our best with falling and getting up again. Only when we are humble we can hear God speak to us and find favor His grace. The Gospel also reminds of the way we act in our relationships with others. We are often like children. We seem to find fault in everything and are blind to the good things in the other person. Negativity and division can build up but tears down. It is like Jesus says: “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.” That comes forth out of a weak ego. If people don’t compliment or praise us we get upset with them, like a child.
God tells us through Isaiah that he wants us to grow into what He has intended us to be. He wants us to mature and be loving and kind people. He wants us to build up each other and encourage each other. We should bear fruit and be imitators of Jesus Christ himself. God can mold our character of if we let him. But we need to listen what he wants to tell us. He does so through the scriptures but also in prayer if we let him speak. We can only receive his message for us if we are humble and open our hearts. We have to step away from our attachment to the world and live in the spirit. We need to live with the Gospel message active in our hearts. We need to grow spiritually and live with God every second of our journey through life. It is only then that we can experience the transforming power of God. Let us pray that God may guide our hearts and minds to live according to his will and bear much fruit. Amen.
I am the LORD, your God,who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41).
As long as we are in the world there will be trials in all kinds of ways. Whether it a worldwide pandemic or any other kind of suffering and troubles like sickness, lost of love ones, famines, wars and so on. Trials come in a wide array of shapes. They are inevitable while living in an imperfect world and we cannot do anything about it. Because of these uncertain things we can become anxious and fearful. But God tells us in scripture over and over again not to be fearful. For one, it does not solve the problems in the world. And two, God will take care of you.
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Fear not, I will help you.” We should keep our faith in God and should trust Him always. We need to stay focused on God and know that his power has no limits. We need to walk with the joy of Christ and know that God has a plan for our lives. When trial comes our way, we should be confident that God works it out for the good of us. Instead of letting fear take over we need to take it as it comes, how hard this might be. God is always with us, even in our suffering and pain, therefore we should not despair. We can be consoled by the fact that God is with us and he will pull us through it.
God tells us today: “Fear not, I will help you”. The Lord tells us that we can rest in comfort as he stays awake. He has plans to get you through the storm. God’s comfort and consolation will guide us. We have to keep on trusting and hoping in the Lord and he will work it out.
Nothing can shake you if you keep on putting your faith and trust in God. Though we might experience great trials and losses, but with trust in the Lord, we will live in serenity and peace. So let us “rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel”. It will open up for us new perspectives and new ways. And when we look back we can say with the prophet Isaiah that: “the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Let us pray to our Heavenly Father to give us the grace to trust in him always and to follow his Christ without holding back. That he might reveal us the way to go in life. Amen.
Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-29).
We are all weary and burdened at times but we can be sure that the Lord takes it away and gives rest for our souls. The Gospel tells: “come to me that are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest”. To which burdens does Jesus refer in the Gospel? In my opinion he refers to the every day things in life that can be a burden for us. The worries about our loved ones, our jobs, people around us getting sick or financial worries.
Sometimes worries can keep us from falling asleep, or stay asleep, at night. It causes us sleepless nights in a literally way. The troubles that burden us are too heavy to carry. We toss and turn in bed because of the burdens that push heavy on our minds and hearts. We become tired, anxious and fearful.
Yet, looking back on other situations in our live we know that things will be fine, as it was before. Things fell in place, maybe not as we wanted them to be, but as God wanted them to be. We realize that worrying about a lot of things was useless and didn’t bring a solution. My mom always says: “worrying won’t help you, because if it is meant to be you cannot change a thing about it. And if they don’t happen you worried for nothing”. We have to learn that worrying does not change the outcome. When we are burdened, we are burdened by what is confronting us. We become so focused on ourselves instead of our dependence on God. When we bring our burdens before God in prayer, our perspective changes. Jesus can help us with carry our burdens of life. He is kind, meek and gentle. He will carry the burdens that weigh us down. In Him we have a place of light and refreshment where we can unload our burdens and refreshment for our souls. But to receive it we need to spend time with Jesus in prayer and sacrament. In the Holy Eucharist he comes to us in a very special way. When we receive Him we are called to become bread to others. We can do that in being generous, kind and gentle in all our ways.
Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden to a life of joy and glory. The yoke which Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of grace. The question is whether we will trust in God’s love and submit to his will for our life. We pray that the Lord may set our hearts on fire with love for Him and always submit to his will.
“We ask Him to give us grace and free us from our burdens and our narrow minded vision for our life. That He may show us the way of joy, love and grace. Amen.
Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” —Luke 1:38
Sometimes it is hard for us to respond to difficult situations with acceptance. But Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel shows us it is not impossible. To obtain that attitude we have to believe that Gods will for us is good and acceptable. We need to lay down our will and submit to Him every day again. If we want to have a grace-filled life we need to do like Mary? The angel Gabriel salutes Mary as “full of grace”. To become the mother of the Savior, Mary was enriched by God to fulfill that calling. Faith and obedience is the key to unlock the grace of God’s kingdom in our lives. It will not always be easy to fulfill the purpose he has for our lives. But God’s Spirit will be always with us to strengthen us.
In the Book of Genesis we see the consequences of the disobedience from the first human beings. They felt the consequences immediately in the separation from the God who loved them. But God didn’t stop loving them and promised a Redeemer that would save the world. Gods thoughts are always higher than our thoughts. We should not put limitations on God. If we look at scripture than we can see Gods plan unfolding in the events that leading up to the Incarnation of his Messiah. Mary’s positive response to the divine message is an example set for us to follow. Mary believed God’s promises even when they seemed impossible. Because she trusted in God she was full of grace. She was willing to do God’s will, even if it would lead to difficult and complicated circumstances.
God gives us also his grace to say “yes” to his will. We only have to trust in him and let him lead us. He wants us to to respond with the willingness and obedience from Mary. When God asks something he also gives the grace and strength. We can say yes or resist and go our own way but that will not bring true joy. Only Gods ways bring true joy. Today we ask God to help us to live a grace-filled life and be obedient and trust him as Mary did. We ask for the grace and strength to always say yes to his Divine will. Amen.
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. (Isaiah 35)
Monday – Second week of Advent
In the time of Jesus there was not one kind of thinking when it comes to the expected Messiah. Since the exile in Babylon, Jews hoped for a restoration of the kingdom of Israel they experienced under king David. That hope was more focused on a change of history than a specific person that would arrive as their savior. That is the reason it was so hard for the people in Jesus’ days to see whether he was the chosen one for the Messianic age. The way he talked and acted made them curious. His working of working of miracles and healing the sick could suggested that he was God’s chosen one. But when he was told people that their sins were forgiven, it shocked them and in their opinion inconsistent with the messiah. His reputation made them curious but his way of acting made them upset. It did not fulfill their expectations. We know of course better but for them was it hard to understand. Obviously their expectation was too low. They put restrictions on what God is able to do. Many Saints and mystic thinkers throughout history witness that we tend to limit God if we hold him to our limited expectations. Our vision is always a limited one.
God sees the big picture, while we only see partly. That was what happened with the people that Jesus e, wonderful to say, he had so much more to offer that even death could not stop him. When we preparing for Jesus coming in the season of Advent we also need to widen our expectation of what God can do. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the human heart what God has in store for those who love him.” Spend time in prayer to tell Him your expectations. But don’t forget to listen to what he has to tell you about the things He has in mind! As we work at building up our faith in Advent, we need a better understanding of how we can be heralds for the Lord, by widen our expectation. We need to get more in touch with how we can be heralds of the Good News. Isaiah tells us already the Good News: “The Lord has ransomed us”! We all need all this reminder when we go out and fulfill our calling. It’s God that strengthens us through Jesus. He who strengthens the hands that are feeble and the knees that are weak. By humbling ourselves and submit to Gods will, we reach the power of Christ. Then he will speak to us these words: “your sins have been forgiven.” With that Word, we are healed and all the good things as prophesied become true for us. Amen.
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent and we are called to prepare the way of the Lord. Our bishop referred in his pastoral letter for Advent that we need to prepare the way of the Lord, especially in these challenging times with a world wide pandemic going on and all the restrictions that come with it. Just like John the Baptist does in today’s Gospel reading as predicted in the prophesy of Isaiah in the first reading. He prepared the minds of people for the age of the Messiah. He was the herald of the good news and points out to the coming of Christ: “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the holy spirit”. Jesus found his first disciples among the disciples of John the Baptist. John taught the value of self-control and of prayer. He teached them to listen to listen to that quiet inner voice within their hearts….Gods voice.
The high point of John’s short ministry was baptizing Jesus an pointing out to him. He encouraged his own followers to join the Jesus movement, which some of them did. It was through the Baptist that Andrew and his brother Peter, and Philip and Nathanael became apostles. We are also called to be like the Baptist. Each one of us can help others to come to Christ. If we are committed we can bring others to faith. But this works only if we lead by example. There is no better way of preaching the Gospel than through the example we set. We probably know the phrase: Preach the Gospel, and Since It's Necessary, Use Words. I love that phrase that is contributed to Francis of Assisi. In all kinds of way we have the possibility to influence others in their journey of faith.The words that we speak and the actions that we do shows other people how people of faith live their lives. We can help others to share our values. If we don’t live the Gospel we confirm what their suspected: that this world is a selfish place!
We need to show the world that being people of faith is visible in the way we are towards other. To fulfill the commission of Jesus “love one another, as I have loved you” and “go and preach the Gospel to all creation”. In practical sense: “feed the hungry, clothe the naked” and so forth. Bring people to Christ and maybe it brings some to ordained ministry. The future of our church depends on it. If enough people open their hearts to God’s work, like John the Baptist and the first disciples, then news ways will be found to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Isaiah speaks about power of the Lord in a different way as we are used to in this world. God is like a shepherd feeding his flock. He gathers them in his arms and gently leads them. This is a very tender power, a life-force of faithful and enduring love, a love that gathers and nurtures and reassures. This is the God whom John the Baptist invites us to rediscover this Advent.
It is the God that comes to us in Jesus Christ. John the Baptist points to him as “he that is mightier than i”. Jesus is the powerful one, in the sense that Isaiah defines power. He gives full expression to God’s tender love. He is the “Pastor Bonus”, the Good Shepherd. He that brings healing to the broken, strength to the weak and rest to the weary. It is this grown up Jesus, the risen Lord, coming to us in that baby in the manger, that we celebrate with Christmas. John the Baptist calls us this Advent to prepare the way for that Jesus. The Good Shepherd in whom mercy and faithfulness have met, justice and peace have embraced, as the psalms tell us. This is the God One we seek this Advent, this is the One the world needs more than ever. Only he can give a greater depth to all our other encounters and only his kingdom will ultimately create a better world. Amen.
"Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9).
In this time of Advent we look in hopeful expectation for the Coming of the Lord. We are blessed if we wait for the Lord, to speak with the words of Psalm 147. God inscribes in our hearts the new covenant that he has made with mankind. Jesus came to save us from our sins, our bondage to the world and our self-made illusions. He taught us that Gods grace is always bigger than any wrong doings we did. God is a loving God that loves every single one of his children and wants everyone to be saved.
In bringing Jesus to us he wants us to focus on his merciful love. He is merciful and we are called to witness of that merciful love in the way we live our lives. We need to follow the merciful teachings of Jesus. We are to live his teachings of compassion for the afflicted and those that are fallen. We are called to embody the new covenant that we have in Christ. Jesus came so we may have live in abundance. We are ca;;led to be merciful to those that have sinned against us. We have to live the Gospel, which literally means Good News.
In chapter 9 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus teaches us what that means. Jesus shows us how we should bring His gospel to the world. We need to go and proclaim that ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ We need to cure the sick, raise those that have fallen and fight any affliction and injustice. Without that all our worship is meaningless. He calls us to be merciful to all those around us and give ourselves in love and service. He wants us to bring His Gospel to all creation with joy and not with a heavy heart. The Gospel means God News so we can and should bring it with a smile and with joy.
Let us be reminded that whenever we ask the Lord to take care of us and His Church and protect what His right hand has planted, He responds to us and says, “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred”. That is how our attitude should be towards those that “trespassed” against us, as Our Lord’s prayer teaches us. We should extend our forgiveness no matter how difficult it is. If we do not bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, who will? So let us go with joy and love and bring people back in the sheepfold of our Good Shepherd. Let us pray: “Heavenly Father give us the grace and strength to be faithful followers of your
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone (Isaiah 29)
We are on our way in the season of Advent to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Christ. An important question is whom we put our trust in during our journey through life. Many elevate themselves as the God of their life. Or they put their trust in other false gods like celebrities, politicians or sportstars. The bottomline is there is no Messiah out there that can save us. Neither we ourself or any other human being. Only Jesus Christ is able to save us, even from our self-created illusions. The apostle Paul bore witness to a trust that is exactly the opposite of that misplaced self-confidence. He put his trust solely in Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, the true God of love and mercy. Similar in the scripture verse from Isaiah. He tells us clearly where we find our joy and who is able to save us…God himself only! “The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone”.
God touches us through Jesus. Jesus is the fullness of God’s mercy and the power of his kingdom. He has the power to save us from destruction and illusions. Jesus always brought God’s mercy to those that were seeking for it. God gives mercy to the humble and lowly in heart. Faith is a gift freely given by God to help us to know Him. For faith to be effective it must be linked with trust and obedience. It needs to be an active submission to God and a follow his will. Our Lord wants us to live in the confident expectation that he will fulfill his promises to us and bring us into his kingdom. And this kingdom is opposite from the “kingdoms” of this world, with it’s false promises. The kingdom of God is one of righteousness, peace, and joy. If we want to know the peace and joy of God’s kingdom, we need to reject the “false kingdoms” of the world? We need to embrace Gods kingdom and not embracing the selfish philosophies of the world. That has proven to be self-destructive. Human kind has since the beginning of time proven not been able to overcome the temptation of selfishness, strive for power and elevate themselves over others. We need to turn back to God and His Messiah, Jesus Christ. Only through Christ God can heal this world and bring his kingdom of Love and Peace! Amen.