First the Fast - Then the Feast
2nd Sunday in Advent
by: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Christmas cards speak about it. Christmas carols sing about it. Even the angels at Bethlehem proclaimed it. “Peace on earth.” “The lion shall lie down with the lamb.” (Is 11). “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever” (Ps 72).
The coming of the Messiah obviously has something to do with the advent of peace.
But we need to examine the biblical notion of peace. For it is not quite the peace that some have in mind. It is not niceness or political correctness. It is not just the absence of armed conflict or “peaceful co-existence.” It is rather right relationship between people that flows from right relationship with God. Pope Paul VI said that “if you want peace, work for justice.” Justice, however, is not just fair laws and political rights, but the interior justice that the bible calls righteousness.
The world is obviously not at peace, because human hearts are not at peace. We are all pulled in opposite directions by competing desires and torn apart by loyalties to different gods.
So before the Prince of Peace can usher in a season of tranquility and refreshment, the forerunner must come with his stern message of warfare. The enemies of peace will not just lie down of their own accord. They must be put down. Peace is a fruit of victory.
The warfare, of course, is not against flesh and blood, but against sin and idolatry, the terrorists that make peace impossible. Hans Urs von Balthasar said it quite well: we must take sides with the truth against ourselves. The Holy Spirit that the messiah offers to us will empower us to live in perfect harmony (Romans 15:6). But he comes not only as light, but as cleansing fire. In the light of the spirit, we must honestly and fearlessly look at our lives and give him permission to burn away the impurities. This may hurt a bit, but His is a refiner’s fire, and His aim is to make us pure gold.
This is why the joyous season of Christmas is preceded by a sober season of purple vestments, the color of repentance. The Greek word in the New Testament translated as “repentance” is “metanoia.” This literally means a change of mind or a transformation of thinking. Repentance starts with an act of the intellect whereby we allow our values to be more influenced by God’s truth than the TV’s babble.
But a change of mind must lead to a change of life. John the Baptist is adamant about the fact that repentance is incomplete without action. “Give some evidence that you mean to reform!” he says to the pious Pharisees and Sadducees who present themselves for baptism. It’s not a question of earning forgiveness by offering sacrifices or doing good works. It’s about accepting the gift of grace and letting that grace bear fruit in action. Every tree that does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Sterile fruit-trees are worthless. A “change of mind” without a change of change of life is no change at all.
The world will not take any time out of the shopping days before Christmas to attend to these things. The true Christian attitude towards holidays is simple . . . first the fast, then the feast. The world’s approach is quite different . . . first the feast, then the hangover.
Let’s do it right. Let’s get everyone in the family to confession this Advent. Daily prayer is a must. Fasting from the din of radio, TV and internet and more time in God’s word can go a long way towards driving out the darkness and burning off the dross in our lives. And try this little Advent custom. In our house, the crèche scene is set up early in Advent but the manger remains empty. We get some bagged straw from the craft shop. As often as anyone does a hidden work of penance or charity, he or she may place a piece of straw in the manger to prepare a comfortable place of rest for the infant King. The goal? To fill the manger by Christmas Eve.
This originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the scripture readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, cycle a (Is 11:1-10; Ps 72, Ro 15: 4-9; Mt 3:1-12). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.
Be a part of the “new springtime” of evangelization! Your tax-deductible gift helps us use TV, radio, and the web to proclaim the message without compromise but in language even the young can understand. Click here to donate now.
Follow Us -
Join us on Facebook
Join us on Twitter
To download and print Advent of Peace, Click Here!
For more Catholic resources to feed your faith, visit the Crossroads Initiative Homepage.
To sign up for our free weekly e-mail with Dr. D'Ambrosio's commentary on the Sunday readings, liturgical feasts, updates on where Dr. D will be speaking, a chance to WIN a FREE CD and MORE, CLICK HERE!
Friendly Defenders Gift Pack - Vols I and II
The Friendly Defenders Catholic Flash Cards VOLs I & II are designed to help you "train up your child" so that they will never stray from God's love and from the Catholic Church our Lord Jesus established. The 50 cards within each packet offer common objections people have to the Catholic faith as well as short, pithy answers to these objections. Questions about God, Jesus, the Bible, the Catholic Church and the Afterlife are covered in Volume 2! Make no mistake, these cards aren't just wonderful gifts for kiddos, but teens and adults alike will flip through them for hours of entertaining education! Order today for special pricing!
Cat Chat -
WOW! This audio series for kids makes for a stocking stuffer that will help keep Christ in Christmas! Cat Chat is a fun, audio show for just for kids! With loveable cartoon characters, faith-filled stories, and creative, upbeat songs, Cat Chat will make your kids learn and love their Faith like never before. It entertains as it inspires!
There are 6 volumes available, try them one at a time or buy all of them at once with a special EASTER bonus CD!
CD Volume 1: Mary Leads Me Closer to Jesus
CD Volume 2: Jesus in My Heart
CD Volume 3: Amazing Angels and Super Saints
CD Volume 4: The Mass Comes Alive
CD Volume 5: A Christmas to Remember!
or the complete set that includes - CD Volume 6: An Extra Special Easter.
Exploring the Catholic Church - DVD
When you have questions about the Catholic Church, where do you turn? This mini-series is one of the best places to begin looking for the answers. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio's presentation style is perfect for seekers and inquirers, new Christians, for RCIA candidates or for Catholics who just want to refresh their faith and practice. An ideal gift for your friends and family - PERFECT gift for anyone for Christmas!
Small Steps for Catholic Moms - Gift Set
This wonderful gift set includes both the Small Steps for Catholic Moms Book and Journal - This book includes thought provoking quotes, prayers and simple actions to take day by day. The journal has ample room to record thoughts, prayers and actions with supplemental material! Great gift idea for Mom for Christmas or to do with your study group through out the year!