This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
Fourth Sunday before Advent
With love at the centre
The scribe in this story seems to be asking a “let’s get back to basics” sort of question. He’s been listening to Jesus responding to questions designed to trap him into saying something blasphemous to Jews or challenging to the Roman authorities His question sounds straight forward and genuine: “which commandment is the first of all?”. He speaks for those of us who get lost and confused in debates about theology, doctrine and liturgy. He speaks for those of us who want to say “never mind about all that, what’s really important? What is it we really need to know and understand?”
Jesus’ reply is also straight forward and clear: “Love your God, the only God, with every fibre of your being and love others as you love yourself”. Simple. But is it? Matthew’s version adds the words “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. The law and prophets informed all Jewish life and if they can be summed up in these two commandments then the whole of their lives, and ours, must be shaped and lived out with love at the centre.
As the scribe so wisely says, we can make burnt-offerings and sacrifices – observe diligently all the rituals of our faith – but without love of God and neighbour flowing through us the kingdom of God will remain a distant dream, not the dwelling place in which we live and move and have our being.
Lord Jesus, you show us what it means to live out the love of God. Fill our hearts with love for you and for our neighbour so that, through us, your kingdom may draw nearer both to us and to those whom we serve.
Third Sunday before Advent
A risky call
We’re fishermen from fishermen’s families. The rhythm of our lives is governed by the sun and the moon, the seasons, the tides and the winds. We work when we’re most likely to haul in a good catch. At quieter times we mend nets and repair boats. It’s all relatively safe – we know there are dangers: unexpected storms and hidden under-currents but in this world can life ever be completely risk free?
So why are we suddenly restless, dis-satisfied, unable to settle to the daily routine? This man Jesus has overturned our lives as quickly as our boats could be overturned in a sudden storm. He’s from this neighbourhood but he’s different, as if he came from a foreign land, and he talks about the kingdom of God as if that were his home, where he belongs. He proclaims good news and somehow you know that it really is good news, not something that will end in disappointment if you believe it.
What is it about him that has stirred us up so that here we are out on the road alongside him, our safe predictable lives left behind as we set off into who knows what? It’s hard to put into words but when he calls you the tide turns, your life changes and you will never be the same again.
Lord Jesus, you made no promises of security when you called fishermen to follow you. Give us the courage to take risks in our lives in order to follow you more closely and to work with you to proclaim the good news of God.
Second Sunday before Advent
If you’re walking along a narrow pathway with large puddles and mud on one side and a sheer drop on to rocks on the other you need to keep your eyes focused on that path whatever the distractions or temptations to look elsewhere.
Perhaps Jesus is saying something like that to the disciples, and to us, about the end of time. We are called to follow the path in the footsteps of Jesus and we need to stay focused on that path no matter what is going on around us. There always have been wars and rumours of wars, nations have always risen against each other, earthquakes and famines have always shattered the lives of millions of people down the centuries. We can’t ignore them, much as we may like to, and the path we’re called to tread is one of peace, healing and love. Our focus is to be on the people who need to hear the proclamation of God’s good news and on what part we can play in that proclamation and the working out of God’s purposes. If we are distracted from that focus and take our eyes off that path in order to try and interpret the signs and predict the coming of the end times we are risking being led into dangerous ground. The message is to keep focused on the path of love, for God is love and everything else is but a misleading distraction.
Lord Jesus, help us to keep focused on the path that leads closer to you. Call us back from the temptations and distractions around us. Walk alongside us as we seek to do your will and fill us with your love for our suffering brothers and sisters.
Christ the King
Moment of decision
Pilate, this is your moment. This is the moment that will define your life and give you a place in the minds of all who know the story of the man who stands before you. You could be the one who listens to his voice, who sees the truth of who he is and who stands firm in his refusal to allow innocence to be executed. You question him about his identity and where he comes from. As he talks about his kingdom do you not see the majesty and authority that radiate from him even though he has already been humiliated and assaulted? You stand in judgment over a man of destiny from a world that is far removed from your world of power, oppression and cruelty. You could listen to his voice and know that you hear the truth. You could acknowledge his kingship and free him, a decision that would also free you in ways you cannot imagine.
Pilate, this is your moment, your decision. The tragedy is that we know the choice you are going to make.
We too have our moment. The moment when we stand before Christ the King and make a decision for ourselves about who he is to us.
Lord Jesus, Christ the King. all honour and glory belong to you. Help us to worship you as our Lord of majesty and truth. In this world hold us in the love and protection of your kingdom where you live and reign in the glory of God the Father.