What Really Matters

12-09-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

The darkness of winter light and the bitter cold of this season are growing more and more each day. In many ways, our life gets harder this season. Also sometimes life gets a little weary for one and all so that the readings at Mass this weekend are most welcome. They announce ‘good news.’ They will lighten the burden and keep us going forward.

The Prophet Baruch was the secretarial aide to the great prophet Jeremiah. He, in fact, composed some of the passages in the Book of Jeremiah. Strangely it is thought that he did not write the Book of Baruch. This book is probably the work of another scribe, but it contains the teachings and viewpoints of both Baruch and Jeremiah. Its final form was done some four centuries after the two prophets’ time on earth. By that time, the Hebrew people had returned from exile, prosperity had returned, Jerusalem had been wonderfully restored and all of life was good again. The theme of today’s reading makes sense for it is the “justice from God,” and God’s care and also the coming of God’s even more universal salvation: “God will show all the earth your splendor” (Baruch 5:3).

In contrast to Baruch, in the second reading, Paul speaks of the holy people. He is quite sure that they are rooted in Christ. He rejoices for them, even though he writes from prison, because of their faith. He nobly assures them that their care for one another will prepare them well for the coming of the Lord.

Our Gospel passage addresses that great coming, that grand entrance. In fact, we learn universal forgiveness and salvation are coming for one and all. As winter starts to wear us down, this is very great news to “buoy us up.”

All our readings announce the themes of universal salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Our faith, indeed, turns on these. Jesus spends his entire ministry announcing these truths and inviting us to make them our mission. However, we often resist. Strangely we find universal salvation too inclusive, forgiveness too hard and too simple. We prefer to believe that not everyone is “worthy,” and so we resist.

For most of us punishment is easy to believe in. We see it all around us. It is so logical, rests upon the ethics of reprisal and retribution, and is our all-purpose solution to the pain of being hurt. But forgiveness and all-inclusive redemption? These make no sense to us. We say we believe in them, yet our actions belie our words. People who truly believe in forgiveness and all-inclusive redemption believe that the love of God animates us and purifies us. They believe that the crooked is made straight, the rough made smooth, the high made low, and the low uplifted. Justice and mercy are their companions. Our scriptures as we begin the New Church Year in preparation for the Birth of Jesus help remind us about what really matters and what is really true.

Our Church Building & Project: Our contractors have told us that we will have our main space upstairs and downstairs back for Christmas. The addition will not be ready. So, the 5 or so days before Christmas we will be cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. If the contractor’s words are accurate, then we will have the organ re-installed for Christmas. We are awaiting the removal of two stained glass windows where the addition is so that they may be backlit. This is initially a dirty and dusty enterprise. When this is done, we can start putting things back and cleaning up. I appreciate your patience and cooperation.

Father Brian