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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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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