O Prince of Peace, prepare the way of our hearts moving us toward your justice.
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).
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.
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.
When I began studying Scripture years ago, I also began giving some scriptural confessional penances. But I'd always first inquire, "Do you have a Bible?"
If there was any hesitancy in the response, I'd relieve the tension by lightheartedly suggesting, "Maybe, as a birthday gift next year, you could buy yourself a Bible. But in the meantime ..."
In today's first reading from 2 Kings, we are told of the healing of Naaman, a Syrian commander in the army of his king, Benhadad II. In the Gospel we become acquainted with the uniquely Lucan narrative of the 10 lepers. All were healed, but only one returned to Jesus to offer worship and thanksgiving.
In her book Preaching from the Pew (Geneva Press, 1998), social worker and author Patricia G. Brown, an elder of Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church, insists that for faith to be authentic, it must "go public."