Advent Awkwardness: The In-Between Believer

3 Advent A

This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

Mark 1:4 NLT

John the Baptist was an in-between man. He ministered in-between the Old and New Covenants. John preached in-between the fulfillment of messianic prophecy and its immediate fulfillment in Christ. John was like an Old Testament prophet in dress, speech, and food, but he pointed to the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world. John desired no personal recognition or acclamation, but he was considered greatest among the prophets (Matt. 11:11; Mark 1:3).

Like an Old Testament prophet, he prepared national Israel for the coming of the Lord, yet he called individual Israelites to change their hearts and repent. John’s ministry was in-between ages, covenants, and promises. John’s life was in-between the Law and the Gospel. John was an Advent prophet living in anticipation of Christ’s first coming, yet a model for us as we await Jesus’s second coming (Matt. 17:11-13).

We, too, are in-between believers: we wait for the Kingdom of God to appear visibly while living internally under its sway. Like John the Baptist, we are called to exhort others to repentance as we point them to Christ, the sin-bearer. In anticipation, we yearn to see Christ face-to-face at his second coming while living by faith after his first appearing. We live in-between the first and second comings, the manger and the Parousia. Like John, we are Advent prophets, responsible to call the lost to repentance and point them to the coming King, the redeemer of the world.

John appears in the wilderness as a man dedicated to God. First of all he preaches repentance, purification, and the gathering together of the people for the coming of God. In a sense this proclamation summaries the whole of prophecy at the very moment when history is reaching its goal. His mission is to open the door for God, so that Israel is ready to welcome him and to prepare for his hour in history. The important things are first his call to repentance, which continues what all the prophets have said, and second his witness to Christ, which again makes prophecy concrete in the image of the lamb, which is the Lamb of God.

Pope Benedict XVI, Benedictus (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, 2006), 373.

Advent Expectation: Personal Renewal

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Mark 1:3

The season of Advent is one of my favorite times in the Christian calendar. Advent is like New Year’s Eve, the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts to seek God afresh for the coming year. Advent is like a revival, the Holy Spirit examines our deepest longings and speaks to our impure motives and attitudes. Advent is like a prophecy film, we are reminded that Christ is coming again and that this life is not as good as it gets. Advent is the Holy Spirit knocking on the doors of our hearts drawing us to Jesus. The expectation of Advent is the anticipation of Christ changing our hearts: minute by minute, day by day, month by month.

Advent is not an miracle out of the blue such as is offered by the preachers of revolution and the heralds of new ways of salvation. God acts in an entirely human ways with us, leading us step by step and waiting for us. The days of Advent are like a quiet knocking at the door of our smothered souls, inviting us to undertake the risk of stepping forward toward God’s mysterious presence, which alone can make us free.

Pope Benedict XVI, Seek That Which Is Above (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986), 22.

Who Is a Saint on All-Saints Day?

 

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

1 Cor. 1:2 ESV

Who is a saint on All-Saints Day? Let’s break down each term.

Who is a saint? You are, if you have given your life to Christ receiving him both as your Savior and Lord.

What is a saint? A saint is not someone who is perfect, but a sinner who looks to Christ for life-transforming grace in their chronic weaknesses and on-going struggles. Saints are not those who perform adequately in the spiritual life, but are those who most available to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and power. Saints are needy, they know they cannot live the Christian life by their own energy and resources. Biblical saints look constantly to Christ for help. They know their need for Christ. True saints are not the most adequate, but the most desperate for Christ and his love.

What is All-Saints Day? All-Saints Day is celebrated every year on November First, a day set aside to honor those men and women of the past who trusted Christ though want, need, rejection, and persecution.

To be holy does not mean being superior to others: the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

A Restless Heart

Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.

Saint Augustine

A restless heart is a heart that thirsts for love, hungers for meaning, longs for real relationships, and yearns to give and to serve. We all have restless hearts until we encounter the living God. Only in him can our hearts be satisfied in his unconditional love, purpose and meaning given to our ordinary lives, Christ-centered relationships found, and service released through unselfish love.

The restless heart, . . . echoing St. Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of more effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest.

But not only are we restless for God; God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and this is why he set out on the path towards us—to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth.

Pope Benedict XVI, “Solemnity of the Epiphany 2012″ ( L’Osservatore Romano, January 11, 2012)

HT: Ignatius Press

 

Who Is a Saint?

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.

1 Cor. 1:2 ESV

A saint is not someone who is perfect, but a sinner who looks to Christ for life-transforming grace in their chronic weaknesses and on-going struggles. Saints are not those who perform adequately in the spiritual life, but are those who most available to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and power. Saints are needy, they know they cannot live the Christian life in their own power. Biblical saints look constantly to Christ for help. They know their need for Christ. True saints are not the most adequate, but the most desperate for Christ and his love.

To be holy does not mean being superior to others: the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Fully Human & Fully Divine

 

Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, who will be called Emmanuel

Isaiah 7:14

The doctrine of the virgin birth states that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit without a human father. He is both fully human and fully divine in one person and will be so forever. The virgin birth guarantees the divinity of Christ for through the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived.

This ancient promise found an overflowing fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, not only did the virgin conceive but she did so by the power of the Holy Spirit, that is, by the power of God himself. The human being who begins to live in her womb takes flesh from Mary, but his existence comes totally from God.

He is fully man, made from the earth — to use a biblical symbol — but comes from above, from heaven. That Mary conceives while remaining a virgin is essential for knowing Jesus and for our faith, because it shows that the initiative is God’s and above all it reveals who it is that is conceived. As the Gospel says: “For this reason he who will be born will be holy and will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus are reciprocally guaranteed.

Pope Benedict XVI, “The Virginity of Mary and the Divinity of Jesus are Reciprocally Guaranteed”

Advent Prophet: John the Baptist

God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony.

John 1:6–7 NLT

John the Baptist was an in-between man. He ministered in-between the Old and New Covenants. John preached in-between the fulfillment of messianic prophecy and its immediate fulfillment in Christ. John was like an Old Testament prophet in dress, speech, and food, but he pointed to the Lamb of God, the savior of the world. John desired no personal recognition or acclamation.

Like an Old Testament prophet, he prepared national Israel for the coming of the Lord, yet he called individual Israelites to change their hearts and repent. John’s ministry was in-between ages, covenants, and promises. John’s life was in-between the Law and the Gospel. John was an Advent prophet living in anticipation of Christ’s first coming.

We, too, are in-between people: we wait for the Kingdom of God to appear visibly while living internally under its sway. Like John the Baptist, we are called to exhort others to repentance as we point them to Christ, the sin-bearer. In anticipation, we yearn to see Christ face-to-face at his second coming while living by faith after his first appearing. We live in-between the first and second comings, the manger and the Parousia. Like John, we are Advent prophets, responsible to call the lost to repentance and point them to the coming King, the redeemer of the world.

John appears in the wilderness as a man dedicated to God. First of all he preaches repentance, purification, and the gathering together of the people for the coming of God. In a sense this proclamation summaries the whole of prophecy at the very moment when history is reaching its goal. His mission is to open the door for God, so that Israel is ready to welcome him and to prepare for his hour in history. The important things are first his call to repentance, which continues what all the prophets have said, and second his witness to Christ, which again makes prophecy concrete in the image of the lamb, which is the Lamb of God.

Pope Benedict XVI, Benedictus (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, 2006), 373.

Joy that Springs Forth

 

Joy: A Heart Fulfilled in Christ

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Col. 3:16  NKJV

Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knows that we are unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in our lives when we cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence.  Joy is not produced by celebration or emotional highs: supernatural fulfillment is imparted by obedience to God’s commands (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

The loss of joy does not make the world better — and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,), 36-37.

All our life is like a day of celebration for us; we are convinced, in fact, that God is always everywhere. We work while singing, we sail while reciting hymns, we accomplish all other occupations of life while praying.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 A.D.)

HT: Christian History Blog

The Manger and the Cross


We Can See Love Real and in the Flesh

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt 1:20-21 NLT

The manger and the cross are not far removed. We tend to picture the Nativity as a pastorally-pleasing, sweet scene with admiring parents and grateful shepherds. We tend to view Golgotha as a horrid, ugly hill surrounded by hate-filled rejectors of the glorious majesty of God. Of course, truth exists in both these images, but often we fail to recognize that the Cross was planted in Bethlehem.

A Savior was born that day to die for our sins–the shadow of the Cross falls over the baby Jesus as he rests in the manger. Our kinsman redeemer, our sin-bearer, our ransom, our sacrificial Lamb was born that day in Bethlehem. The Cross and the manger meet in Bethlehem-Jesus is born to die for your sins and mine.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

Leo the Great cited in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 31.

In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man’s pride, violence, and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity.

Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Francis’ Role in Christmas,” Dec. 23, 2009.

The whole life of Christ was a continuall Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continuall act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

John Donne, “Christmas Sermon,” Dec 25, 1626

Feast of All Saints

What Is a Saint?

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

1 Cor 1:2 NKJV

According to the Church Calendar, November 1 is All Saints Day. All Saints Day commemorates all who have died in Christ and walked holy and faithfully with him. Special attention is given to their having been living examples of Christlikeness with special praise to God for their availability to the Spirit’s work, gifts, and power.

A saint is not someone who is perfect, but a sinner who looks to Christ for life-transforming grace in their chronic weaknesses and on-going struggles. Saints are not those who perform adequately in the spiritual life, but are those who most available to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and power. Saints are those who are needy and looking constantly to Christ for help.

To be holy does not mean being superior to others: the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger