Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18

by Catherine Heinhold
returned Maryknoll lay missioner

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

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Advent is a season of waiting – waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. As people of faith, we believe that God will be faithful. We know from experience, however, that this does not mean we will not encounter difficulty, defeat, and suffering. So what does God’s faithfulness actually mean?

The people in today’s readings find themselves in difficult situations. Ahaz, the king of Judah, under pressure of attack from would-be allies, found himself tempted to rely on an earthly power (Assyria). Isaiah relays the word of the Lord, that Ahaz should trust in God’s faithfulness, and that he may even ask for a sign from the Lord. Ahaz does not want a sign, but God, through Isaiah, gives him one anyway – that a young woman would conceive, bear a son, and name him Emmanuel. Today’s reading ends here, but the story continues: Ahaz refuses to trust in the Lord and instead trusts in Assyria, placing his kingdom under subjugation. So then what happened to God’s promise of faithfulness?

In today’s Gospel reading, Joseph also finds himself in a sticky situation. When Mary’s pregnancy is discovered, he believes that the right thing to do under Mosaic law is to divorce her. He wants to do the right thing, but he does not want Mary to suffer. We can imagine his anguish at the situation. Like Ahaz, Joseph receives a message from God, this time from an angel in a dream who explains the situation and promises that the child to be born will save the people from their sins. Matthew connects this message to the message Isaiah gave to Ahaz – a promise given that in fact has not been broken (despite Ahaz’s lack of faith), and is about to be fulfilled in a new and more complete way. And the promise is this: God with us. Emmanuel. Not God-who-will-fix-every-difficulty-and-prevent-all-suffering-right-now. God who will be with us, who will live with us, who will rejoice with us, who will suffer and die with us. This is God’s solidarity with God’s people…

Click here to read the rest of this reflection on the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns website.

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This reflections was prepared by Catherine Heinhold, a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner, for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Advent reflections series.

Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 11

by Janice McLaughlin, MM
African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 | James 5:7-10 | Matthew 11:2-11

“Be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8)

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Advent is a time to be patient and to stand firm, not losing hope even if the situation looks hopeless – as it does in war-torn countries such as South Sudan. This past week Pax Christi International held a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the theme “Nonviolence in Africa – Creating a Future of Hope.” The participants came from 12 countries on the African continent, all of which have suffered war or violence at some time. Each of the participants is working for peaceful change and has not given up hope in a better future.

Bishop Paride Taban, who attended the conference from South Sudan, is himself a sign of hope. After retiring as bishop of Torit Diocese, he founded a peace village in his country that brings together people from various ethnic groups and political persuasions, showing that people can live together in peace, regardless of their differences.

At 80, he still plays soccer with the youth and spreads the message of nonviolence near and far. “I have always done my best to be a sower of peace and a bridge maker, despite all the violence and evil surrounding me,” he says. Like John the Baptist, he is a prophet preparing the way for the Lord’s coming and proclaiming God’s message of love and peace.

Each one of us, like Bishop Taban and John the Baptist, is called to be a sower of peace and a bridge maker. We may not live in a war zone, but we can find people in our families and in our neighborhoods or work places who need a word of encouragement or a sign of forgiveness. Let us create a future of hope, wherever we are!

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Janice McLaughlin, MM was a participant in the Pax Christi International conference “Nonviolence in Africa: Creating a Future of Hope,” held this past week, 5-9 December, in Johannesburg, South Africa.