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Contents: Volume 2 - Second Sunday of ADVENT -A- December 8, 2019



Sunday of




1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)





Advent 2A 2019

The Gospel story according to Matthew tells of the message spoken by John the Baptist to repent and prepare the way of the Lord. His message becomes stronger and quite explicit when he meets the often hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, however. He challenges them (and us) to "produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance".

To me, bearing good fruit means acting the way Jesus did which is often not the way we are inclined to act. Our first reading from the Book of Isaiah foretold Jesus's actions, actions that demonstrated that the spirit of the Lord was indeed upon this shoot/root of Jesse. To paraphrase and summarize, he would be/was graced by the many gifts of this Spirit, would/did judge rightly, and would/did promote peace.

Ahh, not easy to summarize nor easy for us to do day by day! We are told that Jesus will separate the wheat and the chaff, the actual doers from the ones who may say, but not do. The Pharisees and Sadducees often made excuses and, often, so do we.

This Advent then is the time to pray and to put into action, specifically and explicitly, what we each will do to prepare the way of the Lord, the Lord whom we profess to follow as Christians. How will we use the gifts bestowed upon us to foster justice and peace? One definitive step is the best beginning.


Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity





Second Sunday of Advent December 8, 2019

Isaiah 11:1-10; Responsorial Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Gospel Acclamation Luke 3:4 & 6; Matthew 3:1-12

The first verse of this Sunday’s gospel comes as sort of shock. "John the Baptist appeared…" He seems to come out of nowhere. We did hear of him but only before he was born and at his circumcision. There is nothing said of his childhood or adolescence. There is nothing about his coming to manhood and how he earned a living before he began preaching. He appears dressed in the same way that the great prophet Elijah was described in the book of the first Kings chapter 1, verse 8. Elijah was the great prophet of the northern kingdom. When his time as prophet was finished he didn’t leave this earth as other prophets did. He was taken up in a fiery chariot from the place where John was preaching and baptizing. It was the belief of pious Jews and a prophecy by the prophet Malachi that Elijah would return in preparation for the coming of the Anointed One, the Messiah. So John by his physical appearance, the place of his preaching, and his message seemed to fit Malachi’s prophecy. It is no wonder that John attracted huge crowds of Jews. Matthew writes his gospel for Jewish Christians who would have understood the prophecy of Malachi and saw in the Baptist the sign of the coming of the Messiah.

From the last prophet in the land till John the Baptist was a period of four hundred years. It seemed to many religious Jews that God had forgotten them. There was a sinking feeling that perhaps the prophecies of a coming Messiah were mere wishful thinking. When John began his fiery preaching calling for repentance and baptizing those who repented as a sign of their change of heart, there was a great stir among leaders – the Pharisees and Sadducees – as well as among ordinary folk. Here was the sign of the Isaiah. This Baptizer was certainly the one preparing the way for the coming of the King. When asked who he is, John responds in the words of Isaiah. He is the one getting the way prepared for the coming of the Lord, the Messiah. Roads in Palestine of the time were not of the quality of our interstate highways. They were more like tracks created by the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims, of beasts of burden and of carts and wagons. Preparing the way for the coming of the Lord was what people did when the King would come to visit their towns and villages. The people would come out and level and smooth the way, removing rocks and debris and tidying up the roadsides. John was about preparing the hearts and minds of the people to receive the Messiah. Even though thousands believed in John’s message, there was not a clear idea among leadership or the people of what the Messiah would be. Therein lies the problem. Like most of us, the Jews were looking for a leader who would free them from the Romans and restore the mythical, glorious kingdom of the great King David.

John’s message was straightforward. "Repent! Change your ways! Make the pathways to your hearts smooth, cleared of junk and throw-aways. Get the crookedness out of your lives. Make straight the pathway for the Lord." Matthew presents John as the one promised by the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was the prophet whose life and work was in the time of great turmoil and destruction. He preached to the people in the time of siege of Jerusalem and its fall by the Babylonians. It was a time of great conflict, of great insecurity, of threats from three empires – the Assyrian, the Egyptian, and the Babylonian. This time of John and of his cousin Jesus was also a time of great turmoil. If we think about our own time and place, we can easily relate to the turmoil of those times. John shouts to us today as in those days nearly two thousand years ago. "Repent and prepare yourselves for the coming of the Lord." The divisiveness and conflicts of daily living of those times are the same as in our time. Our socio-economic-political environment is also in turmoil. Just as in the time of John and Jesus, even our religious culture is in a turmoil resulting from conflict in culture. We certainly need a return of Jesus. And John insists today that we must prepare our hearts and minds to receive him. We must commit – his baptism was a commitment of repentance, a change of life attitudes and efforts – to living in truth. We must clean out selfishness and replace it with charity and hope for a future of faith. That faith is in the person of Jesus. That faith resides in our hearts not in some false sense of practicality and prosperity.

There was a calm in the time of John the Baptist. It was a rigid enforced calm. Palestine was occupied by the Romans whose effective military and violent suppression of dissent kept order. The Pharisees were leaders in the religious life. Religious life had been reduced to blind obedience to exaggerated interpretations of the Law of Moses. The Pharisees interpretations made life difficult for most while it did nothing to improve their spiritual lives. Religious practices had become so ritualized as to have lost touch with the events of daily life. The prophet Malachi shouted at them that God did not want burnt offerings or incense or libations poured on an altar. God wanted the movements of the heart. Religious practices tend to ritualism and overly focused attention on legal requirements.

The Sadducees were the capitalists of the economy. They held the resources of production including the farms and orchards and vineyards. They owned the to produce goods. They controlled the trade routes and the merchant stalls and markets where goods could be bought. Their control made them very wealthy. Their wealth gave them power. The combination created in them an arrogance by which they believed they were better than the laborers and servants who produced their wealth. The condition of the poor was awful and without chances for growth. Clearly a Messiah was needed to set things right.

There was a need for repentance, of looking at life from a different perspective. As we reflect on the readings this weekend, are we able to discover attitudes and efforts in our living that require repentance. What is there that clouds our hearts and our minds from the truth of what our living is? After all, our salvation has been won by the ministry and the death-resurrection-and ascension of Jesus, the living Son of God. Jesus was born, grew up, went through adolescence, learned a trade to support himself and his kinfolk, went into public ministry – healing, teaching, bringing peace, setting straight the arrogance of Pharisees, high priests, Scribes, and Sadducees. That’s all in the past, right? What is there for us to repent of? The Son of God has already appeared and set things right. He now sits at the right hand of God. So what is expected of us?

In our time and place we struggle with truth. Often it’s the loudest, most angry voice we believe. Otherwise it’s what is important to me. We struggle with that question given Jesus, "And who is my neighbor." Again we listen to what attracts us emotionally.

We discount the presence of evil in the world. We deny the presence of evil spirits who try to mislead us, to entice us to actions and attitudes in denial of God’s goodness and care for Creation. When we reflect on the narrative of what Augustine called original sin, we see evil skilled in focusing our attention on a bit of goodness in even the worst action. We become provincial in our moral choices, thinking only of what’s good for me. If the economy is going well in our nation, we choose to overlook that goods we purchase are often brought to us by the theft of resources from third world countries. The powerful and wealthy of our time often prove to be the Sadducees of our time. If our churches are influential in society, we tend to overlook the clericalism that creates an elite class opening the door to abuse of children. If we enjoy ritual pageantry do we overlook the contents of our hearts? If we endorse and support political systems that create winners and losers because they favor our agendas and goals, are we not ignoring the needs of those without resources?

John shouted at the Pharisees and Sadducees, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance!" Our God is the God of the living, of all the living. Our God is the God of life. It is God’s will that no one be left behind. It is a mark of the Kingdom of Heaven that all are welcome.

Christians follow the risen One. Death is overthrown, conquered. God’s justice is simply stated in this way. God insists that each life has what it needs to flourish. This flies in the face of our social, economic, and political culture. The Kingdom of Heaven will come to be – "thy kingdom come" – when God’s justice is established. It is not merely the unborn; it is not merely the child fleeing war, violence or poverty. It is not merely the young or the old. It is every person whose life must flourish. This is more than avoiding murder, suicide, or manslaughter. It means that the resources for life must be available, accessible for all. This Christian demand goes beyond nation, beyond race, beyond creed, beyond language, beyond gender.

This week, then, let us each of us listen to John’s call to repentance. All life, not just the powerful, the wealthy, the middle class or whatever group, is sacred to God. The evil one would have us focus on one aspect of life and despise all other aspects. If we allow ourselves to focus on one aspect only, we will be led into living a culture of death for all other humans. If we allow politicians to use any part of our belief in the wonder of life as a wedge issue to divide us we are in need of repentance. If we allow self-serving motives to encourage us to give power to those who would deny dignity and worth to any human life – unborn or born – then we are in need of repentance.

Perhaps this year of Matthew can be focused on developing a culture of life. Let us hear the Baptist’s cry. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." That kingdom is not driven by power, or wealth, or influence. That kingdom is driven by gratitude for life which leads to committed care and love for all of life – human, animal, and even vegetative. Let us deny the evil one access to our hearts by his distractions. Let us not be misled into believing what evil would have us believe. Let us not disrespect the greatest gift with which the Creator has endowed us, life itself. Let us clear out the cob-webs, the dirt that has gathered on our windows and mirrors and let the light of the coming of the Messiah brighten our living. Let us love the life given us and love each other for the gift they possess.

Carol & Dennis Keller + Charlie






A brand new priest went to the lectern to preach his first homily after ordination. He was as nervous as a kitten. But when he reached the lectern he broke into a broad smile. Someone had left a note for him. 'What's it to be, man? Will you give us heaven or give us hell?' To speak for myself, I like to share the gospel, i.e. good and joyful news from God, news on God's authority, news of hope and news of encouragement. The good news that our God is preparing us for Christ's Second Coming by changing us for the better! The good news of our hope expressed in our response to our Psalm today: ‘Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.’

Of course, the action of God for a better world, for a just and peaceful society, for a new state of paradise where wolf and lamb, calf and lion-cub live together, feed together, and play together, requires our cooperation. John, God’s messenger today, tells us that most of all our cooperation means repentance. To the crowds coming out to see and hear him he keeps on saying, ‘Repent.’ In other words, 'To get ready for the coming of the Messiah, give up your selfishness, your greed, your self-indulgence, your dishonesty, your disloyalty, your anger, your nastiness, and your hostility.’ In a word, ‘clean up your act.’

True repentance, John insists, requires practical results. So he says bluntly: ‘If you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit.’ Repentance, then, is much more than sorrow for our sins, even for the best of motives. Full repentance requires a change of heart and a change of lifestyle. It requires a thoroughgoing turn-around in how we think, feel, value, speak, act and live. For Paul it means specifically: ‘treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ has treated you.’ It involves nothing less, in fact, than taking on the mind and heart of Jesus.

Many of you are mothers and fathers. You know what it's like to prepare for the arrival of a new baby. A room has to be cleaned out of all useless junk. It has to be washed or wiped clean from top to bottom. Usually a new coat of paint has to be applied or new wallpaper. A blind to keep the sun out of Baby's face has to be hung, and pretty curtains put up to decorate the space. A bassinet, a cot, a pram and a stroller, must be provided. Fresh, soft baby clothes must await Baby's arrival. Maybe some soft toys must be added to the scene, and some shapes hung from the ceiling to capture Baby's attention and to keep him/her amused. There is so much to be done.

In ancient times, preparing for the visit of a king to one of his cities or towns was just as demanding. The king would send a courier to tell people to mend the roads, fill in the pot-holes, and level out the bumps, so that the king's journey might be as pleasant and comfortable as possible. It is this image that Matthew uses to describe the mission of John the Baptist. The word of God that comes to him as God’s messenger crying out in the desert, amounts to this: 'The King of Kings is coming. So mend your lives, as thoroughly as you would mend your roads for the visit of your other King.'

For our celebrations of Advent and Christmas, both of our King’s first coming at Christmas and of our hope in his Second Coming at the end of time, you and I have a double task:- 1. To rejoice and give thanks that we do not save ourselves, but that our God is coming to save us, and 2. With the help of our gracious God, to fill in those potholes, level out those bumps, remove those road-blocks, that are hindering God's work of saving, transforming, changing and renewing us.

What might those bumps in the road be? Of some of them, at least, you and I are well aware. But today, I’d like to raise an issue that is deeply dividing, an issue on which up to 78% of people may be opposing the will and way of God. It is an issue about which too many of us are not sufficiently aware, or not sensitive enough to, all the facts. I refer to the desperate situation of people seeking a safe haven in our prosperous country. I’m talking about people fleeing cruel dictatorships, torture and death, persecution and hunger, in their countries of origin. Somehow or other, with all this happening, and with so much emphasis on ‘the integrity of our borders,’ these desperate people have been demonized. They’ve been referred to, not just as ‘illegals,’ not just as ‘queue-jumpers,’ but as ‘low-lifes,’ ‘runaway criminals,’ and worst of all, ‘international vermin.’

This is shocking, appalling, and simply inhuman. Surely to speak and think and act this way is to forget one of the most touching of all the Christmas stories, the Flight into Egypt. Surely this is to forget this story of Jesus and his parents as refugees and asylum seekers, fleeing for their lives from the murderous cruelty of King Herod!

If we are to truly celebrate the birthday of the Saviour of the World, the plight of these fellow human beings pleading ‘Save us’, ‘Protect us’, ‘Take us in‘, ‘Give us a home’, ‘Let us live’, must find without delay a broad, humane, compassionate and generous response!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <>





Year A: 2nd Sunday of Advent.

"Repent for the Kingdom of God is close at hand."

I remember the day, in fact the exact moment, when I learned to pray – really, really hard.

It was when I was about 12 and my family went for a holiday to France. My father drove the car as far as Dover, we got the ferry to Calais and my mother drove from Calais down to Paris – at least that was the plan. And the plan worked just fine right up until we were about twenty minutes down the big motorway from Calais to Paris.

Now, as everyone knows, the key thing to remember about driving on French roads is that you are meant to drive on the Right rather than the Left, as we do in this country. And my mother was tremendously proud of the fact that we had remembered to do just that and we were indeed driving carefully down the right hand side of the road. So, there we were pootling merrily down this French motorway at night when I noticed four things, one after the other.

The first thing I noticed was that French drivers are very friendly people. Every car that passed on the other side of the road, the driver waved at us, every single one. ‘That’s really nice,’ I thought. ‘But how do they know that we are newly-arrived visitors?’ maybe, I thought, it was the English number plates.

The second thing I noticed was that right beside the road that we were on was another road. And this other road was absolutely identical in every respect to the road we were on – same width, same number of lanes, same lights – everything the same – and just going right alongside our road. Very interesting!

And the third thing I noticed was that there was one thing that was different about the other road - all the cars on this other road were going in the same direction that we were – and all the cars on our road were coming the other way... except us. Very interesting! Why would that be?


The fourth thing I noticed was that my throat had gone very tight and my mouth had gone very dry because I had suddenly realised that we were travelling south in the fast lane of the northbound carriageway of the Paris to Calais motorway! Which, even after the time, I thought rather helped to explain all the friendly waves we had been getting.

It was a bad moment, but there was worse to come.

I pointed out these facts to my mother in what I remember being a few brief well-chosen words spoken in a calm well-modulated voice well calculated to avoid inducing panic. My father subsequently described it as an agonising scream of terror. I dispute that. But, Whatever the historical facts, it didn’t matter - panic is what ensued. My mother slammed on the brakes, brought the car skidding and shuddering to a halt and then tried to do a three point turn.

Three point turns were never my mother’s best thing, even at the best of times – and this was not the best of times.

So, in no time at all, the car was stalled, stranded and stationary right across all three lanes of the motorway. And out of the passenger side-window I could see the headlights of a 40-ton truck thundering towards us at speed and now only about fifty yards away. There was no time to do anything more than discover the power of prayer!

Of course, the reason that you get to hear the story is that the lorry just managed to stop this much from the passenger window. I called it six inches (the French called it ten centimetres it didn’t seem the time to argue). My mother got the car going again, we got off the road, parked up on the hard shoulder and then we all had nice a little rest before we went any further.

And in that time of quiet reflection it occurred to me that most often, we are too busy living our lives to have much time to give any consideration to the overall direction of our lives. And generally it is only when we have a sudden experience of the shortness and fragility of life that we suddenly start trying to make sense of it all.

That is the baptism of repentance of John – his baptism is not the water of life, but the water of death – the symbol of our smallness and insignificance before the vast power of the whole created universe - unimaginably vast in its infinity. It is the shock of a sudden and unexpected splash of cold water that wakes us from dreams of our own significance.

In the vast expanse of the universe, we are tiny insignificant specks of dust - the nothingness we symbolize on Ash Wednesday. Our lives are eighty or ninety years. Set against the estimated three thousand million years of the existence of this Universe, that is a brief moment. In truth, there is nothing at all intrinsically significant about what we are, who we are, how we live, or why we live. The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy famously described our entire planet in a single word – ‘harmless’. That is the baptism of John – a true felt understanding of just how little, how insignificant, how nothing we really are, if we take seriously what we now know about the scientific reality of the Universe.

But the Baptism that Jesus is the converse of that – it is the relationship we have with God, the Creator and Sustainer of this entire Universe. And it gives us our place in the world, our place in the whole Cosmos – we are the baptised - anointed - children of the Creator God. That is the only credible source of hope in our feeble and passing world – our only reasonable expectation that the little we have and the little we are can actually mean something worthwhile. It is our only claim to fame that we are baptised into Christ; children of God and heirs, like Him – to the kingdom of heaven. Ultimately, it is the only status, dignity, respect, call it what you will, it is the only thing in this world that is actually worth having.

So, in that dignity, let us stand and profess our Faith.

Paul O'Reilly <>





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