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Spiritual Reflections

Advent now

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I once heard the comment that a real connoisseur of classical music is someone who can listen to Rossini's William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger. In a similar vein, a real student of Scripture is someone who can listen to an Advent reading from the Hebrew Scriptures and not think of Jesus of Nazareth. During this season we frequently employ readings composed in one context and interpret them in a completely different context. To the biblically unsophisticated, both contexts seem to overlap.

Called to the desert

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If ever there was a more eloquent description of the Messiah and the reign of peace and justice he would establish for all the peoples of the earth, I have not known it. With rich images and even richer prose, Isaiah of Jerusalem (first reading) shares with us the same vision that has filled hearts with hope and joy for almost three millennia (circa 2,800 years).

Focus on the present

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Christians always find it difficult to live their lives of faith in the present, not in the past or the future.

It's easy to reflect on being one of God's followers in the good old days, now that situations and people's response to them have become black and white. What we were then to say and do is now perfectly clear. Or to push everything into a future world in which God will have changed things enough to make our choices easy, a world in which this world's "ifs" will be turned into certainties.

Experiencing resurrection

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At first reading, it may seem that there is little connection between the first reading and the Gospel. The Maccabees text reports on the successive deaths of seven sons and their mother, each of whom died as a martyr for their faith. In the Gospel, the Levirate law governs the conversation between Jesus and some Sadducees. This law provided for the marriage of a widow to her deceased husband's brother to ensure the continuance of the family line (see Deuteronomy 25:5; Genesis 38:8).

Out on a limb

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Earlier this year, news outlets reported that the Internal Revenue Service may have been targeting certain individuals and organizations and subjecting them to unnecessary audits. Given many people's less-than-positive attitude regarding taxation, this news evoked quite a bit of criticism and many a negative remark. But the aversion to taxes is not a new development. Through the centuries, many have commented on this necessary but often unwieldy burden. Will Rogers suggested that the system of taxing people and their property was primordial.

Biblical faith

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After having taught Scripture for almost 50 years, I'm still puzzled by one constant phenomenon: Some people find God's inspired word to be one of the most important aspects of their faith, while others can live their faith very well without it.

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