Monday, December 3, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

A bit late getting things posted.  Am trying to complete the talks for three days of recollection I am giving in Baltimore.  Talk number four is not cooperating.  Nor is my energy level.  It will come before Saturday morning.  But, I'd like to be done by now.    

After the homily some photos taken on Thanksgiving morning. 


Jer 33:14-16
Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1Thes 3:12-4:2
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Advent is not a time of waiting for.  It is a time of coming to.  Specifically it is a time of Christ Jesus coming to, and coming into, our universe, our world, and, if invited, coming into our individual lives.  Advent is a time of hope.  It is a time of hope in the promise that we hear for the first time in Exodus,

"You shall be my people
and I will be your God."

It is a time of hope in the promise of the parousia.  Advent is the translation of the Greek word parousia, that means presence, and even more specifically means "arrival."

We hear the promise reiterated in the first reading from Jeremiah:  "The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah."  Despite that promise of safety and security for Judah, those to whom God made the promise turned away again and again, forgetting all that He had done for them, ignoring the promise placing faith only in their own selves.  How very like us today.

Today’s reading from Luke's Gospel is quite a contrast to the exquisite opening chapters of Luke that gave us prayers that are recited daily in the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office:

The Benedictus:

"Blessed be the Lord,
the God of Israel;
he has come to his people
and set them free. . . "

The Magnificat

"My soul proclaims
the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices
in God my Savior . . . "

And the Nunc dimitiis:

Lord now you let your servant go in peace
your word has been fulfilled . . ."

And of course it is from the Luke's Gospel that we will soon hear, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed . . . "

What are we to make of the apocalyptic words we just heard?  How do we interpret these passages that could have been taken from the Book of Revelation?  What is Jesus saying to us?  Context is important.  This particular passage of Luke comes from the last half of Chapter 21.  Chapter 22 begins the narrative of the Last Supper. 

Jesus isn't saying anything new here.  He isn't saying anything that He hasn't already said many times.  He hints at the parousia, the return of the Son of Man, an event that will occur at an unknown time.  And He cautions, as He did many times, against being caught unawares, of not being prepared.  The imagery is vivid and even frightening.  Signs in the heavens.  Turmoil upon the earth.  Dying of fright.  And the Son of Man coming on a cloud.  But we do not, we cannot, and we will not know when, a fact that has not stopped doomsday preachers and others, from precise calculations of the timing, and sometimes even the exact location,of the parousia. 

Remember the insanity a dozen years ago when the "new millennium" began?  Remember the prognostications?  Many of them were beyond bizarre, as were the individuals making them.  People hung onto the words of self-appointed evangelists and interpreters who were nothing more than amateur soothsayers of the Chicken Little School of Divination spreading alarm, and perhaps reaping a little profit—profit with an ‘f’ not a ‘ph’.  On their part the rapturists expected to be taken up bodily from a hilltop or other location.  It was major craziness to be sure.  A rule of thumb is, the more specific the prediction as to the time, place, and other details of the parousia, the more worthy it is of either derision or, if you are so inclined, hysterical, fall-on-the-floor-and-roll-around laughter. 

Paul prescribes the antidote to scanning the heavens for the signs of the parousia.  That antidote is obvious in the second reading.  Increase your love for others.  Be blameless in holiness.  Conduct yourselves in the way of the Lord. 

Throughout the world the Society of Jesus is reflecting and praying over a number of documents that emerged from a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya over this past summer.  Fr. General Nicolas shared the following.  A bishop in Japan noted:  Eastern spirituality is a spirituality of the Tao, or, The Way.  Western Catholicism always speaks of "the truth.”  But Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Fr. General concluded, "We need all three." 

As we begin this holy season and gaze at the single candle in the Advent wreathe, a wreathe that will be fully lit before we have time to catch our breaths, we are called to sing in gratitude with the psalmist:

"Your way, O Lord, make known to me
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me. . .
All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant. . .”

I left Weston around 11 AM on Thanksgiving to drive to Marblehead, traveling on 1A along the coast rather than the ever dreadful 128/I-95.  As I did last year, I stopped in both Lynn and Swampscott along the water to take photos.  The sun was brilliant, causing a lot of glare reflecting off the water.  This is where computer processing came in handy.  Some of the photos below are "befores" and others are "afters"  

The first is a close-up of autumn leaves against a clear blue sky. 
Now a before and after.  The couple was standing along the railing in Lynn.  I was using the tripod and about 256 mm of telephoto but shooting into the bright reflection of the noon sun off the water.  The after was pushed as far as it could go, converting it to black and white and pushing the contrast as far as possible to erase the background.  I like the graphic result. 

Two guys were going surfing in wet suits.  The top photo is unprocessed.  The second is the same thing with the saturation of the water enhanced.  

The next two are the same guys.  Photos were taken a few seconds apart.  One is untouched and the other is converted to black and white with heightened contrast.  The glare was fierce but a number of mouse clicks and voila! 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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