Advent hope for us and our country
By Bob Traupman
Arise -- December 2008 (Vol. XX / No. 4)
_________________________________

Editors note: This was written a year ago with a few slight revisions. It is still
appropriate today.

May we reflect on how these traditional Advent themes speak to the present
crisis in our country: Being prepared and vigilant for whatever might come;
purifying and cleansing ourselves by entering the refiner’s fire; always remaining
hopeful that God will bring us out of our darkness into his wonderful light; opening
the eyes of our faith to recognize Emmanuel who is always God with us.

First Reflection: “You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the
Son of Man will come.” Matt 24: 37-44 / First Sunday of Advent
On the first day of our new liturgical year we are always reminded to be
vigilant; to be prepared for any eventuality in life on a daily basis because we
never know what the next moment will bring. We could have a heart attack or an
auto accident. We could lose our income. Be prepared.

Our national debt is so high that a day of reckoning is surely coming. Be
prepared. Many middle class Americans are one paycheck away from financial
disaster. We have so pampered our children that they will be ill-prepared to deal
with such hardship. And yet we continue to keep running up our credit card debts. A
day of reckoning is coming. Be prepared.

If we don’t learn to live with our enemies, we will end up in World War III,
which will be nuclear free-for-all, with the assurance that all of our daughters and
sons will go to war and we just might destroy a third of the planet. Be prepared.
Lord Jesus, you call us to be always vigilant, to be so reflective of our lives that we are
always prepared for whatever life will bring. Help us to teach our children this essential
lesson of life: To take nothing in life for granted and be prepared for whatever life will
bring.

Second Reflection: “At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region
around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the
Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins."
Matthew 3:1-12 / Second Sunday of Advent
In this Scripture we note that it was a powerful time of grace and conversion
when Jesus entered the world. People were ready and willing to acknowledge their
sins and change their lives.

Another important Scripture about conversion is appropriate for our times:
“Lo, I am sending my messenger before me. . . But who will endure the day of
his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire
or the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying [silver] and he will purify the
sons of Levi, refining them like gold and silver that they may offer due sacrifices
to the Lord.” Malachi 3:1-5.

Every human being will stand before God for each one's particular judgment.
Each of us must think about that day and what the Lord will see in us. No thought,
no word, no deed of ours will be hidden from God. Each of us must claim our souls.
Our nation must also enter the refiner’s fire. Who among us will abide the day
of his coming? Will I? Will you? Will George Bush? Barack Obama? The pastor
of your parish? Our bishops? Islamic extremists?

There is nothing like suffering and hardship to cleanse and purify us. It takes
us back to the essentials of life. When everything is going well we tend to take
home, job, spouse, children, health for granted. We take God for granted too.
When everything is going well we may feel we don’t need God so much. We may
stop thanking him. Stop acknowledging that everything we have is God’s gift. We
may succumb to the illusion of self-reliance that we no longer need God that much.
We have a tendency to resign God to the periphery of our lives. I notice this on
Sunday mornings when so many of us only half-heartedly enter into praise and
thanksgiving. So what we need right now in our country is a good dose of hardship
to bring us to our knees, to make us stop and think, to get and our lives back on track.
Right after 9/11 I wrote in Arise, “our nation is being given the opportunity to
undergo such a purifying and cleansing process as well.” But we did not take that
opportunity. We have a tendency to blame others. This is the time to look into
ourselves.

As we move forward to transform our country in this season of hope 2008 – 2009,
I think our first task is to reach across lines that separate us and build bonds of love
instead of walls of division in our own country and in relation to our enemies. We
must reach out to our neighbors who are at risk in this economic crisis. But there is
hope as we prepare for a new season of American government. But each of us must do
our part. The work of entering the refiner’s fire in our own lives still needs to be
done. Most people I talk to agree that our nation is in crisis, but few seem to ask God
what each of us needs to do in the face of it. The question is will we see this Advent
as an opportunity for us to change our own lives for the better. I continue to insist:
the transformation of our country depends on our own personal renewal.
In the church, hardly anyone goes to confession these days, except in those
parishes where there is excellent preaching about the need for ongoing conversion
and transformation of our lives. So, as I always do, I invite you to look at your own
complicity with sin and make a good confession to purify your hearts for the coming
celebration of Christmas.

The closer Jesus allows me to come to him the more I realize that I need his
grace and mercy on a daily basis to keep loving and hopeful in an uncaring world.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on us for our refusal OF love, our refusal TO love, our
refusal to grow and our refusal to give thanks. Help us never to accept the status quo of
our lives or our nation. Help us realize that truly leading a Christian life means a
willingness to enter a path of ongoing conversion of heart, always willing to change our
lives from hate to love, from self-centeredness to compassion, from materialism to simplicity
of life. Help us realize that, again and again, we must come back to your love. May we ready
our hearts to receive you anew this Christmas and every day of the year.

Third reflection: From darkness to light.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has
come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See the darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
(Isaiah 60:1-6)

There has always been much darkness in the world. There is gloom and fear
and worry and uncertainty in many people’s lives as we come into Christmas 2008.
But on one starry night two thousand years ago THE LIGHT entered the world. And
we have become children of the light. We must believe in the light and say NO to
darkness wherever it presents itself.

We need to transform our negative thoughts into positive energy; we need to
always and everywhere resist the darkness of consumerism and violence that
invades our living rooms and our hateful words to our spouse or our children; we need
to refuse to hate no matter what and overcome our fears and prejudices with
understanding; we need to turn our cynicism and despair into hope; we need to say
NO to the culture of death from abortion to war to capital punishment and YES to
life; we need to turn away from a war economy to investing in renewable energy
technologies and invest in the development of the peoples of the earth; we need to
face the decay and decline in our country and see it as a wonderful opportunity to
restore America’s greatness.

Yes, we need to believe that Jesus is still our Light; that, as we turn toward
that light, that our whole world will be transformed into light.

The message of Christmas can challenge us to see the beauty and wonder
around us. The wonder is my darkness is being transformed. I see beauty everywhere
from the long shadows cast by the orange afternoon light to the many moods of the
ocean as Shivvy and I hit the beach at sunrise last year in St. Augustine. Here in
Lauderdale the foam of the ocean is replaced by the constant spectacle of myriad
cloud formations sailing across the blue ocean above. The great live oaks and
twisted scrub oak of north Florida are replaced by hundreds of varieties of palm
trees and tropical flowers.

So I call you to prayer and conversion this Advent. Be not discouraged about
your life. The Light can penetrate your darkest hour. Get out of the fast lane. slow
down your life; live a simpler life. Be transformed by the beauty and wonder
around you. Open your eyes and those of your children to notice that Emmanuel is
indeed God with us still. Curb your cynicism and believe once again in the miracle
of Christmas, every day of the year.

Let God transform your life as our Lord and our Lady are doing for me. And
pray daily for the transformation of our beloved country. Have a wonderful
Christmas.

The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we have seen his glory:
the glory of an only Son coming from the Father,
filled with enduring love. (John 1:1-18)
   

  © Copyright 2004 -2008.  Bob Traupman.  All righs reserved.   
 2999 NW 48th A4enue / Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33313
954-533-4478 / spiritseven@comcast.net / www.spirit7.com
blog: www.bobtraupman.wordpress.com


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