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Bible Reflections View Comments

Advent Peace, Advent Promise
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012
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When I was a child, Advent was a big part of my family’s seasonal celebrations. An Advent calendar and a Jesse Tree hung on the wall. The Advent wreath occupied the center of the dining room table and every evening we knelt around the table and took turns reciting the Advent novena, beginning on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) and ending on Christmas Eve.

My next encounter with Advent was when I was a stressed and overwhelmed graduate student. I was home early for Christmas and let myself be persuaded to go to an Advent reconciliation service that ended up changing my life.

Ever since then, Advent has always been a time of darkness and quiet, the calm before the bustle of the Christmas holidays. But it is also a time of much-needed rest, even solitude, time to sort out priorities and seek healing for life’s inevitable stress.

Advent is a time of resting and waiting. My favorite images betray my upper Midwestern roots: early winter sunsets, deep blue tinged with lavender, fallow fields marked with a dusting of snow, bare trees etched black against the sky.

During Advent we recall both the beginning of Jesus’s time on this earth and his return in glory. Our readings remind us that we who have been baptized into the life and death of Jesus have nothing to fear from the end of time.

This is not to say we have the luxury of waiting passively for the Second Coming, secure—even complacent—in the confidence that Jesus was born, died on the cross and saved us, and all we have to do is wait until he comes to take us home.

The promise of the Second Coming contains an insistent challenge. The Gospels show us the way to work for the fullness of the kingdom. Though Jesus tells us that our “ransom is near at hand,” he does not tell us to stop what we’re doing and wait. Rather, our confidence in salvation comes about only if we are on guard against “indulgence and worldly cares.”

Jeremiah tells us the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill the promise made to his people. The prophet is filled with the love of God’s Word, with the power and promise of the message he’s called to proclaim.

Speaking to a people in exile, a people longing for the day when they would return to their home, Jeremiah knows how much they need to hear the message of God’s love and enduring care for them.

Paul praises the Thessalonians for the growth that has taken place in their lives, for the abundance of love in their community. Then he challenges them to make still greater progress, to continue to grow. But growth is never easy. No matter how often we move forward and grow into new ways of being, it still hurts to leave behind the familiar, to face the unknown, to try something new.

We are called to constant conversion by the promise of Jesus, who is already among us, and the promise of the kingdom, which is not yet fully here. If we are frightened by the signs of which Jesus speaks and the horrors of the evening news, perhaps we need to look again at our own lives and into our own hearts to see if we are doing what we can to bring about the kingdom of God and so prepare ourselves to stand up straight before the Lord.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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