Borrowed this intro for Advent from my brother’s last letter.
Advent means ‘the arrival’ and liturgically we understand this to refer to the arrival of Jesus at the first Christmas. Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical church year. This is Year B which features Mark’s gospel.
Originally, Advent was a time of preparation for January 6th (the feast of Epiphany) related to the visit of the wise men from the East. These wise men only appear in Matthew, so we won’t hear about them in Year B. Often they are called kings and usually people refer to them as the ‘three’ wise men, but Matthew doesn’t tell us how many ‘wise men’ (or astrologers) from the East followed a star and came to Bethlehem.
Epiphany is an important feast because it celebrates Jesus as the universal Lord. The men from the East signified that people from ‘east and west’ had come to pay homage to Jesus, the ultimate revealer of God’s love and fellowship. The period of advent used to start on December 17th and it was a festival period of prayers and activities celebrating that Jesus had arrived, rather than it being a preparation period during which we wait for Jesus to arrive.
In 274CE the Emperor Aurelian inaugurated the Roman feast of the ‘Unconquered Sun’, which celebrated the beginning of the sun’s return at the Winter Solstice. December 25th became the day to celebrate this feast, and we know that in 336CE Christians celebrated the birth of ‘unconquered Son’, Christ, on this day. In time December 25th became the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth and Advent became a four-week season of preparation for the feast. Christmas was a celebration of hope; when the promise of peace and justice would come about.
Christmas in the Middle Ages became sentimental and more focused on the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. In the 13th century, St Francis introduced the crib, so Christmas became associated with Bethlehem, the stable, the star, shepherds, angels, three kings from the East etc. Christmas became a popular feast, and took priority over Epiphany. Advent became a penitential period of preparation, like Lent before Easter. St Nicholas, who cared for the poor, became Santa Claus the gift giver. The feast of the Unconquered Son and the feast of the Lord of all creation became the feast of the baby Jesus in the manger. Instead of looking forward to the time when evil would be overcome, and working to bring this about, people looked back to the innocence of Bethlehem
The Advent wreath and Christmas tree were introduced in Germany in the 16th century. Their symbolism was that they were evergreens and they did not die, despite the cold. The emphasis was on waiting, not for the Messiah to bring about the reign of peace, but for him to be born…again! We pretended Jesus had not been born before and this led to Christmas becoming a time for children, although it was in fact really serious adult business! Jesus came to show the way to peace and fellowship; to overcome evil.
Christmas is meant to make a difference to the poor. It is not meant to be a commercial bonanza or an orgy of spending! We know that many people hunt around for an item to justify ‘giving a gift’ and yet most gift giving excludes the less fortunate who should be the focus of the Christmas spirit. The spending starts many weeks before Christmas as we have seen in recent weeks. and this challenges how we live Advent.
We associate Christmas now with shopping sales, Christmas cards with dogs, cats and snow images. Carols like ’frosty the snowman’ have no relevance to a Christian Christmas. We erect Christmas trees and have family get-togethers with all the traditions we have inherited. These have become meaningful for us, but how do we recapture the deeper meaning?
One thing that can help is to introduce some religious symbols into our home and family, such as the Advent Wreath & candles, the Jesse tree and ‘real’ Carols. We can encourage children and grandchildren to be aware of community needs and suggesting family gifts for the poor (hampers etc).
At an adult spiritual level Advent is a time of expectancy for what’s possible in our life here & now. ‘Be Alert’, ‘Be on Guard’ are good spiritual warnings. It is seems obvious that we should decide what we are doing with our life. Too many people spend their lives either living in the past or the future, as Eckhart Tolle advises, “Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place”.
Jesus was concerned about getting the inside right and about living in the present. Jesus cautions, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose themselves” (Mark 8:36) and he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will look after itself; each day has enough problems of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
We can find ourselves wasting a lot of energy reliving things that have already happened, or being anxious about what might happen.
Tolle suggests, “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence”
The modern media invades every aspect of our lives. Advertisers are taught how to get our attention, and to put tunes and images in our minds that won’t go away. These messages get to us through radio in the car, TV at home, an Mp3 player or smartphone when we are out walking. We can shop in stores or online every day of the week, night and day. Shopping has become a religion and advertisements are the sermons! The ads always try to tell us that we need to have more (this or that) stuff to make us happier. Tolle advises, “Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within”
We have to make a decision to be contemplative: losing ourselves in the wonder, awe and magnificence of life; getting knocked off our feet; having to catch our breath; sighing from the heart. It is felt in our body. It is never far away, but it is possible to become dulled to it. It is up to us to find the moments and take the opportunities, especially when Christmas events become overwhelming.
Advent is a time when we might re-examine our priorities. It could be a time to make a determined effort to live the present moments God gives us. We don’t need the past for our identity, or the future for our fulfilment.
We celebrate the liturgical coming of Jesus at Christmas, but God is not coming. God is already here! We are not waiting for life to begin. Life is happening! Advent reminds us, beginning with this Sunday’s gospel reading that it is time to be alert and look around us. We need to be on guard (taking notice)
Scripture reflection: Second Sunday of Advent Year B, 10 December 2023. – ‘Prepare a way for the Lord’
Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his company.
First reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial psalm: Ps 84(85):9-14
Second reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
Link to readings – click here
Advent is a sacred time of longing and preparation for the Lord; a time for waking up to listen to the Spirit calling deep within us. The words of Isaiah (First Reading) bring to this Sunday’s liturgy a cry of consolation for a people desperate for peace. As we make a straight path to welcome the Lord into our lives, he gathers us up into his arms like a shepherd tenderly holding his lambs.
Our world is thirsting for this peace now, the deep peace that only Christ can bring. The Psalm is a prayer that speaks to the longing and yearning that is within us all. Christ is not slow to respond to our desire for this peace. Peter’s letter (Second Reading) to the early Christian community teaches that the Lord wants no one to be lost: he desires for all to be gathered unto himself. Since we do not know the time of the Lord’s return, our prayerful preparations will draw us nearer to the peace that he promises.
The Gospel of Mark that we follow throughout this coming year begins the revelation of the Good News with that same call of the prophet Isaiah that began our readings: ‘Prepare a way for the Lord’. John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness, calls us to repentance and renewal. He baptises with water, but tells of the time when we will be made new by the Holy Spirit.
Let us continue our Advent journey together, praying for this same spirit of renewal and preparation. Let us pray too for peace in our hearts, in our communities and especially in the Holy Land.
Passionist Institute 2023 Holy Spirit Province 2023 Zoom Institute: ‘Sailing together’
The theme of the 2023 Provincial Chapter was ’Setting the Sails’. We want to move forward now ’Sailing Together’ focusing on the message of inclusive community that is respectful of cultural diversity.
Reminder: 5 Aims and Goals
- share & celebrate life & faith
- support one another (especially in need)
- reaching out to & include others
- build community/extended family
- show and give example to children
These trends of ‘Lonliness’ are here in New Zealand and through Passionist Family Groups we could do more to extend our reach to those who are isolated. Let work together to explore way where we could move to a wider audience and support fellow New Zealanders of all races and creed.
Any ideas or thought please send then to; Paul Traynor email@example.com
These were shared from Brian Traynor letter no 197:
Homily for a priest
Some years ago in the United States, a group of seminarians were on retreat. They were due to be ordained deacons later in the year. As part of the retreat, the seminary rector arranged for the seminarians to undertake a three kilometre walk following a direct route, to a church in the city where they were to spend 30 minutes in prayer, before returning home the same way. They were asked to walk alone and not talk with one another until they had returned.
After they arrived home, the rector invited into the room where they were gathered, ten people, and he asked the seminarians if they recognised any of them. None of them did.
He then explained that he had asked these people to take up positions along the route the students took to the church and back. Some had been dressed as beggars. One had lay down on the pavement. Some asked for help. Not one of the students even stopped to acknowledge them!
After the helpers had left the room, much to the seminarian’s surprise, the rector announced that their ordinations to diaconate were to be delayed four months. He said there was no point in them being ordained for service if they could not recognise or respond to people in need. More importantly, he did not want them to think that making a retreat or visiting a church was holy, but responding to people’s needs was not!
The vocation of a Passionist priest is a response to a call from God. It is not a vocation that many people take up and it does carry serious responsibilities and duties, but it is not a superior vocation to anyone else’s baptismal vocation. We each must listen to how God calls us. Perhaps it is best expressed in Jesus’ words, “To whom much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48).
Sometimes people want to put a priest on a pedestal, but what good can a priest do up on a pedestal? All he can do is talk, and if he is talking from up there, he’ll be talking down to people, not as equals and probably not about what they need to hear.
People need a priest who does not see himself as separated from above or superior to other people
They need a priest who recognises that God is the giver and source of his gifts and his calling.
They need a priest who is holy, not just because he prays, but because he loves people and wants to help them.
There is a Zen saying. “I saw a holy man walking across the water. But then I saw a holier man building a bridge so others could cross”
People need a priest who will understand their story, their struggles and their suffering.
They need a priest who will inspire and challenge them to live their life more faithfully and courageously.
They need a priest who preaches a message of compassion and the total mercy of God; not empty or nice words, but a belief that comes from his heart.
They need a priest who practices what he preaches
They need a priest who laughs
They need a priest who is moved to tears.
They need a priest who can draw people together, a peace-maker, a gentle reconciler.
They need a priest who is passionate about the message of Jesus and equally passionate in his own life and ministry to being like Jesus.
We heard Jesus’ challenging words in today’s gospel: “If anyone wishes to come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wishes to find life must be prepared to give it away.”
There is a story told about the famous musical composer Amadeus Mozart playing the piano at one of earliest concerts when he was a young boy. At the end of his recital he burst into tears as the people were madly applauding. When his father asked him why he was crying Mozart said, “They are only applauding for me; they were not listening to the music”.
The priest is a messenger and should not get in the way of the message or see himself as more important than the message. It is important that people are not distracted form the message by the message-giver. The people should be led to listen to the song in his heart and the rhythm of the music he creates bringing healing hope, love, mercy and peace.
“Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you preach.”
(From the rite of Ordination)
Essentially, readers check out people instead of books and then spend time exploring their stories.
Watch a TED Talk on the Human Library here: https://vimeo.com/82688803
Pease remember in your thoughts and prayer:
- Please keep Preston Epplett in your prayer and his family. Preston is due to have major back surgery on Dec 8 in Wellington Hospital.
- Keep Rosie and John Crawford who are recovering from a bad bout of Covid and all others suffering the ill effects of zcovid.
- We pray for a quick recover for Sarah Peacock who had a fall and broke bones and lef to a hip replacement . She has been support by husband John and their PFG
- Please keep Debbi Davidson’s husband Bryan in your prayer after Debbi died on 1st November. Also, please keep the children and grandchildren and friends in your thoughts and prayer.
- Please keep Charlie and Maggi in your thoughts and prayer as they support their daughter and partner
- Please keep Anja van de Wettering in your prayers as she has shared she is expecting.
- Please keep David Victoria and baby in your prayers. There has been some positive progress and it now looks as if this baby will make it to full term. Vicky is 6 months pregnant. Still wait and see.
- Please keep a friend in mind who is in very early stages of pregnancy but has had a few miscarriages so, things are touch and go.
- Please keep Robert van de Pas in your prayers – he continues to struggle with pain etc from Chronic Pancreatitis.
- Keep in mind all those who are struggling with various aspects of mental health.
- Please keep Richard and Sue Gibbs in your prayers -He is showing good signs of improvement
- Please keep in mind a son of a friend of mine who has just been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Please remember Martin van der Wetering in your prayers as his health still is causing him grief and discomfort.
- Please remember Phil Drew a former Passionist along with his wife Anne and family
- Please keep in your prayers those who continue to deal with the after effects of droughts on the horn of Africa. Also weather effects on other countries across the planet
- Please keep Bob Buckley in your prayers-
- Keep in prayer the people of Ukraine
- Keep people in Gaza and Israel in your prayer – these acts from both sides have had a horrible effect on the innocent as always.
- Please keep Nick and Leah and daughter Heidi Darbyshire along with Paul and Linda in your thoughts and prayer.
- Please pray for Dot and Neill Wilson (Invercargill) – their son-in-law Mark married to Dot’s daughter Anita has been diagnosed with aggressive brain tumour, Please keep in mind their daughter Bailey and son Taylor.
- Remember Pat and Rod Carson
- Aidan son of Josie and Phil McIntyre –his parents are his caregivers.
- Your own intentions
Pun-based dad jokes
- Did you hear about the cold dinner? It was chili.
- Why did the deer go to the dentist? It had buck teeth.
- Why can’t you trust a balloon? It’s full of hot air
- A cheese factory exploded in France. Da brie is everywhere!
- Not sure if you have noticed, but I love bad puns. That’s just how eye roll.
- Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because it wasn’t peeling well.
- Where does a sheep go to get a haircut? The baa baa shop.
- What did the mama cow say to the baby cow? It’s pasture bed time.
- Why should you never use a dull pencil? Because it’s pointless.
- Why did the cookie go to the doctor? It was feeling crumby.
- Where did the cat go after losing its tail? The retail store.
- Why don’t eggs tell jokes? They’d crack each other up.
- What kind of sandals do frogs wear? Open-toad.
- What do you call a herd of sheep falling down a hill? A lambslide.
- How do you organize a space party? You planet.
- How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? Ten tickles.