Dare to Dream Holy Dreams
This post is a collection of my notes that are the foundation of a homily given 11:00 AM Mass, Sunday, December 1st, 2019. A meandering homily I admit. I usually type my homilies so they gain a certain continuity and focus but I didn’t this week. It showed. Yet a few were touched and asked my notes. So, here we go….
Greetings on this the First Sunday of Advent
Readings: IS 2:1-5; PS 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; ROM 13:11-14; MT 24:37-44
The Church reads nearly the entirety of the four Gospels in a cycle of readings spanning a three year period. Each Church year ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King, last week, and begins anew with the First Sunday of Advent. So with the beginning of the new Church year, Happy New Year 2020!
- Advent – Cycle A – Gospel Matthew (privileged to be first among the Gospels as it is the most referenced by the Early Fathers)
- Advent – Cycle B – Gospel Mark (with a Luke and John reading. Mark gets short shrift)
- Advent – Cycle C – Gospel Luke
(By the way the Gospel of John is used every year in seasonal context and is just as fully covered).
Yet in all three cycles the readings are preceded by the Lesson of the Fig Tree.
Lesson of the Fig Tree
Learn from the fig tree, Jesus said. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things (signs Jesus performs), know that he is near (the Lord himself), at the gates (ready to enter).
Learn from the fig tree, Jesus said. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates.
Jesus is referring to himself, of course, containing very deep theology here. The branch of David has become tender (alive) and has sprouted leaves. The second Sunday of Advent we will read about ‘a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse’.
So in our current reading Jesus says therefore, stay awake! (MT 24:42) one must ask the question stay awake or be alert to what?
In a minute, we’ll see.
Dreaming Holy Dreams
The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah (1st Isaiah).
Pardon the digression here. When we read Isaiah we should pay careful attention to a few things.
Isaiah had dreams that are Holy, divine dreams. And written for us are the contents of these visions which bring the first alert.
Literalists Be Alert
There has been a theory that when writing sacred scripture it was believed that Moses and the prophets were is some sort of holy trance. Pen to paper (so to speak) the writer would write or dictate the exact words of the Lord upon parchment precisely as dictated to them by God.
It is better said that the writings of Isaiah are the writing of a person open to the voice of the Divine or, to borrow from the CCC, engaging in contemplation, study and gaining a grasp of the spiritual realities one is experiencing. Isaiah allowed the divine to penetrate him and share with him the hopes of humanity and the purpose of the Lord in our creation: Holy Presence and Holy Peace.
Isaiah dreamed holy and divine dreams. He contemplated the divine purpose in the world as a whole, the nation of Israel and for the individual person.
Here we quote Isaiah as he prophesizes Peace. Divine peace. Peace on Earth and Good will toward all.
He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
We share Isaiah’s dream. In the first coming of Jesus the Christ he shares with us the same divine dream (prophecy) about his Second Coming.
This peace is not yet fully realized.
In our reading today Jesus also looks beyond his ‘today’ except that today we are given the lesson of the fig tree to listen and be alert.
Alert to What?
Do you dream holy dreams?
Do you wonder of the purpose and presence of the Divine?
I often ask people during sessions: Do you dream? If so, of what do you dream?
During Advent we are invited into the dream of Isaiah. This is not wishful thinking. It is the dream given to him because he was open to the voice of the divine.
Days of Noah
Jesus warns about our tendency to fail to dream focused instead of the ordinary good of God (the natural blessings).
In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
These are a people who won’t dream divine dreams. Instead they concentrate on the natural good as the only good.
It is a grave error that causes them to ‘be carried away’.
Contrast: In a modern Jewish Midrash, Noah’s wife, Naaham (one whose actions are pleasing to God) was busy too, collecting every seed and bulb so that the plants of the earth will also be saved from the flood (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso).
See how she dreamed divine dreams?
Literalists be Alert
Literalists struggle with complex, compound written communication.
The popular yet erroneous theory of Rapture is a good example.
Here Jesus refers to the two men in the field and the two women at the mill. One each is taken and the other remains.
This is a figure of speech to delineate those who listen and act upon divine inspiration and those who do not as reflected in the final judgment after the Second Coming. Otherwise, Literalists, you would be forced to conclude that 50% of all men and 50% of all women are condemned.
Alert to What?
One must ask the question, do I ignore my spiritual self. If I am body, soul and spirit then am I tending to my spiritual needs?
During Advent we are invited to tend to and make sure we are alert to the needs of our spirit.
Do I pray?
How do I pray and for what?
Paul gives a Contrast
St Paul always is good at providing contrast. He implores and begs us to cast of the works of darkness (things we do).
He is kind to list a few things in case we are in denial:
Ooops. OK, I spotted a few I need to attend to….
He says instead our goal should be to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
Jesus is both the strength for and the final end of such a life.
Alert to What?
What do I do that is a work of darkness?
What desires of the flesh do I hold tighter than the freedom of holiness?
When in the hospital the other day, and doing a bit of whining, the nurse looked at me and said,
Once a man, twice a child.
Master of the House
You are the Master of your own house. You decide what you think, do and hope for because you have the natural divine gift of free will.
The integrity of your house is our own responsibility.
Aided by the Church and being open to divine dreams we can envision a day of peace for ourselves and others.
Then your house will not be destroyed in the final judgment but preserved in the divine presence.
Maranatha, come Lord, now and forever.
Help us dream holy dreams!
Alert to What?
Do I realize I am in control? I am not a fleckless idiot. I am empowered to be and act in the image and called to the likeness of God.
Do I know how to allow the Divine to help me gain the armor of Light?
Do I know how to allow the Divine to help be cast of works of darkness?
Thank you for getting this far!
May your Advent journey be like Cycle A’s scriptural journey.
Let us dream holy dreams.
Here is a link to a grid analysis for the readings of Advent Cycles A, B and C: Three Year Cycle – Four Week Advent
Peace be with you,