We tend to hear Isaiah's prediction of the birth of "Emmanuel" as a wondrous announcement, the astounding prediction of a birth to take place 700 years after it was spoken. Indeed, it is a marvelous quote, but in its original context, it had nothing at all to do with Jesus. In reality, the birth announcement was made as a serious warning to a wicked king. Facing the danger of an invasion, King Ahaz had chosen to rely on the military might of Assyria to protect him, and in the process, he abandoned his fidelity to the God of his ancestors.
Advent reflection: The angel promised Mary the Holy Spirit, then left her. Mary was left alone. How did she cope?
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.
Advent reflection: For a few minutes on a subway train, the riders became a little community, led and guided by the innocence of a child.
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).
Advent: Many find themselves in a tug of war as the church calls them to embrace Advent and the culture rushes pell-mell to Christmas.
Spiritual Reflections: Advent is a way of life, lived in watchfulness for the God who comes not just at Christmas, but every day, in wonderful and sometimes distressing disguises.
Today's solemnity brings up a touchy subject: Jesus' kingship. Some of the other Gospel readings proclaimed on this day actually tell us not to celebrate this feast, at least not in the manner we do.
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.
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).