My first review of the readings left me questioning the direction to take with this reflection. It is clear that the readings together give a message of hope but it is equally clear that we are being called on our behavior. We have the message in front of us: change our behaviors that are unacceptable in the face of God.
The combination of so many recent global tragedies coupled with the readings has heightened my awareness of my need for readiness. Paul is clear in the first reading as to what is expected of us and what we can expect. No secrets here - just the truth. It reminds me of the bumper sticker to "Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long, and the pay is low, but the retirement benefits are out of this world." I have to ask myself, if I know this and believe it, why have I not fully embraced it in every aspect of my life. Why do I still allow trivial aspects of life to take on such importance and distract me from what should be the center of my existence? I suppose it is the "human nature" thing. We know the right foods to eat, the right activities, but somehow, not all of us integrate them consistently into our life styles. The invitation has been extended; it is ours for the taking.
The idea of hope is obvious throughout the responsorial psalm. The concept of hope is synonymous with belief. For it is our belief in the goodness and mercy of the Lord that allows us to hope at all. It is not a matter of hoping for what we deserve. If that were the case, there would be little for us. Rather it is not what we deserve, the significance lies in the Grace we receive. Our blessings are real. The whole concept of prospering is closely tied to who we are in the face of the Lord. We are applauded for not walking the way of sinners and, instead, instilled with hope for the future.
The gospel presents a different view than we are used to hearing. Talk of division and being against each other instead of peace - certainly not our usual message in the teachings of Christ. We will embrace the Word and Truth in a variety of ways that will result in disagreement and division. Our preparedness and openness will vary even within families as we strive to seek the Lord and our salvation. The key is our quest for salvation and the need to keep that as our focus regardless of what else may be happening or what others may think or feel.
The readings call us to prepare for what is to come. We are just two months away from the coming of our Lord and Savior. We will soon embrace Advent and rejoice in the birth of the Lord. While our rejoicing is genuine, are we ready for the rest? Are we ready to be at odds with others, even those we love? The question I ask myself repeatedly: am I ready? As we look to the celebration of the birth of Christ, are we ready for a second coming? I am buoyed by the sense of hope so evident in the responsorial psalm. Yet, the hope has stipulations; we must turn our lives over to God and trust. We are not the ones in control, although we certainly make our own choices. Paul reminds us that we are "slaves" to many things in life. Things that lead us away from God, instead, he urges us to be "slaves," that is, give up our sense of control, to God. Give ourselves to God and feel the hope in our lives.
This reflection on these readings truly led me to question my own readiness and want to discuss it with my husband. Have I done what I need to do? Do I live daily what I know I should? Have I asked for the forgiveness I need and kept my heart open to receive it? It is evident that we will not rack up a list of accomplishments that will assure eternal life. We certainly want to extend goodness and kindness to our fellow travelers here on earth. It is the Grace of God; however, that is our ticket.
My husband and I discussed how we could prepare more together. We know we want to walk together in this light of the Lord, to experience salvation together, and prepare for the future. The recipe seems simple enough with no hidden steps or ingredients. The best is yet to come . . .
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