I went to the grocery store Thursday evening before the winter storm – snow-mageddon – hit. There was urgency in the air amid weather reports and folks in the store looking for bread and milk and meat and cheese, yet there was a camaraderie in the aisles. We were friendly, sharing with one another our concerns about the ice storm, tales of the last time we had an ice storm, and just friendly banter. We were all going out of ourselves, genuinely realizing that we were all in the same situation—we were about to FACE A MOUNTAIN OF ICE and SNOW – or both. It was a wonderful sense of community in the middle of a grocery store….
Now compare and contrast this shopping trip to the chaos and madness of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping. In some places people were injured fighting over products and still others were trampled for a bargain.
Our culture of prosperity and unbridled consumerism has reduced human beings to just one more consumer good to be used and discarded, trampled underfoot – literally – in favor of material goods. “We have created a 'disposable' culture…” (Evangelii Gaudium #53).
It is unfortunate that some people behave like animals to one another. And I apologize to the decent animals out there.
Is it any wonder then that Pope Francis has challenged the world’s rugged consumeristic culture?
Too many Christians are indifferent to the poor in their midst
I find it disturbing how many Christians have reacted negatively to Pope Francis when he is merely challenging us to repent of our greed and envy.
It’s the human heart and mind that must be renewed this Advent Season. We must put on the mind of Christ so that our hearts can become fleshy again, "capable of feeling compassion” for the poor and needy (EG #54).
I have a friend who is a UPS driver. He told me makes a regular stop at this person’s home nearly every day. It is comical, yet sad, he says, because the homeowner just has him put the packages with the others in the garage. The garage is overflowing with a mountain of boxes and most remained unopened. Evidently after the thrill of buying the product, the shopper goes on to buy something even newer, ignoring the previous purchase.
If we look for a mountain of things to satisfy our restless hearts, we experience unhappiness. We may believe the top of the mountain is in materialism or consumerism, but the joy we seek is not obtained through things. It cannot be. True joy comes “from the experience of love we share with God and others” (Archbishop Charles Chaput).
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
The Psalms in the Old Testament give us great insight into those who are able to climb the mountain of God.
“Whosoever acts with justice…; Who does no harm to a neighbor… (Psalm 15)
He is a light in the darkness…. She is generous, merciful, and just. The good man takes pity and lends…open-handed she gives to the poor; His justice stands firm forever.
Meanwhile the wicked sees and is angry; grinds his teeth and wastes away; for the desire of the wicked leads to doom (Psalm 112).
Christ will come again. He is the rightful king—the shoot of Jesse—the babe born n Bethlehem—who will one day return and set things all right.
“Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice… the ruthless and the wicked will no longer harass the people of God. On judgment day, people will have to render an account for every careless word and deed (Matthew 12.36).
But justice and peace shall reign. The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb and there shall be no harm or ruin on the holy mountain of God.”
Christ will restore all of creation to harmony.
And all the animals and humans will live in peace and harmony.
We look forward to that day!
But in the meantime we are the ambassadors of Christ; envoys of the Kingdom because we are climbing the Mountain of God.
We are called to be a people of mercy and tenderness. The gospel call is an invitation for each of us to turn from sin and “consumer gluttony that divides people from each other, that breaks down our families and communities, and that deadens us to the urgent needs of others” (Archbishop Charles Chaput).
To those who came out to John the Baptist, he said: “Bear good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”
Jesus himself says: “A branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine… I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. But the unfruitful branches will be gathered and thrown into the unquenchable fire” (John 15.9-10, 4-6).
We burn things that have ceased to serve their purpose; they no longer have a purpose. If we are in Christ, then we will live our lives on purpose, with a purpose and for a purpose, helping draw others to Christ and the Church.
AND if we are truly changed by the love of Christ, we will want to share that love and hope with others.
Can we imagine if we were to really believe this message of hope? Seriously. People would come for miles, on pilgrimage, to the house of God, be lining up at the front to church, waiting for the doors to open, longing to join us as a welcoming family, yearning to hear the Word of God, hungering to receive the Eucharist!
It’s not at the Wal-Mart, the liquor store, or at Victoria’s-not-so-Secret, and not even at the football game, but right here at our parish!
People will be attracted to the gospel lifestyle. And Jesus calls to us to bear fruit through our lives.
Saint Paul says: “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.”
So besides evangelizing the unchurched, we also need to go out and warm the hearts of our Catholic brothers and sisters whose faith has grown cold; we need to breathe on the dying embers of their faith, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead them back to Christ. When we live our lives in Christ we will attract others to Christ and in the case of those whose light of faith has gone dark, they will be inspired to once again climb the mountain of God in HOPE.
If our lives have been changed by Christ, then our very lives can help change the lives of others!
So if we have encountered the Lord Jesus, what are we waiting for?
We must come down the mountain of the Lord and proclaim this Advent joy! The Lord is alive!
As Saint Paul puts it, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9.16).
“If we have a passion for Christ, then we will also have a passion for his people” (EG #268).
“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place” (Pope Francis) even at the grocery, the mall, or at a ballgame.
Yet as evangelizing believers we “cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings” expecting people to come to us. We must go to them. We have a mission to seek out and save the lost (Pope Francis).
So can we imagine the joy our communities of Christ the King and Holy Spirit will experience over the next year if we can lose ourselves in the very mission of Christ?!
Therefore without hesitation or fear – let us go forth from this place, with Advent Hope, bringing Christ to others.
“Preparing the way of the Lord! Making straight his paths!”
Let us continue to climb, leading others up the Mountain of the Lord!
What are we waiting for?