On this 2nd Sunday of Advent, we have John calling for repentance. I imagine if we saw John preaching today, we might be put off a bit. He wore animal skins, didn’t bathe, and existed on locus and honey. When he preached, he didn’t mince words. He was direct and to the point. In today’s reading, he is preaching “repent.” Repent from your sins. This message was being spread by him through the entire region of Judea. Michael Simone, S.J. who teaches in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College says “John’s apocalyptic preaching was popular.
O come, o come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear!...
Sin the beginning of time, people have risen to become kings and to seek dominion over civilization. Some have come close such as Caesar and Hitler. And some kingdoms, like the Roman Empire, lasted for many centuries. These kings and empires jealously protected their power, they sought to become more powerful, and they did not let anyone get in their way. Despite everything, they all had one thing in common: they ultimately passed away and their kingdoms passed with them. The years of plundering, death, and self-glorification simply scattered like dust.
I recall being terrified as a child by any thought or mention of Jesus’ second coming, and much of the language coming out of Revelation. It was too big—often dark, too abstract—somewhat terrifying. I couldn’t help but get swept up in the great unknown of it. Even today I struggle with it, and Mark’s use of “tribulation,” sun “darkened,” moon not showing its “light,” stars “falling from the sky.” It catches my breath.
Where do you hold back in life?
The readings this weekend have made me reflect on that question. I spent a morning to sit with that question and write out where I hold back and why I hold back in my life. I then spent the rest of the day reflecting and praying on if I felt I could push through these. It was a really great exercise on pressing pause during a hectic week and finding out what more I could do with this amazing gift of life. I encourage you to take some time this week to do the same, because all of us do hold back in our life.
My mother recently celebrated a “milestone” birthday. As my siblings and I discussed what to plan for her celebration and how to make her feel special, we knew one thing for certain—what she would want most of all is for all of us (her mother, her husband, her kids, her grandkids) to attend Mass together. So, we confirmed with her a Sunday date and Mass time, and then my siblings and I planned the rest of her celebration to follow Mass.
BACK IN THE day, if you found yourself overwhelmed in the presence of a stranger, unable to take your eyes off and entirely distracted, but were too shy and awkward to do anything, too scared to smile and say “hello,” you could go home and compose a classified ad to be placed in the Chicago Reader in a section in the back called Missed Connections. Yes, Virginia, there really was such a thing. And it went on for pages at a time.
In today's Gospel (Mark 10:35-45), Jesus is closing in on Jerusalem, the destination where he will be crushed by the ruling authorities. Two of his closest followers, James and John, ask him for special seats of honor and positions of power when Jesus finally arrives “in his glory.” Although it’s an undignified request it shouldn’t surprise us. It might also anger us, just as it does Jesus’ other friends, perhaps because we and they didn’t think of asking first.
Today's Gosepl tells the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. After an exchange about the importance of following the commandments, Jesus then looks upon him lovingly and says, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor… then come, follow me.” The story ends with the man going away sad because he had many possessions. Many interpret this passage as speaking about the need to be detached from material wealth or possessions. All well and good!
Today’s Gospel readings, as well as the first reading, deal with divorce. The Gospel also deals with Jesus’ love for children, but let’s look at divorce first. At the time of Jesus, the Jews, following the Law of Moses, were permitted to divorce their wives by writing out a decree of divorce.