IT’S THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN!
You may have been told these words at one time or another.
It may have been that you were telling someone about something quite unusual, or unexpected.
You were describing a situation, or an event, that the person listening to you could hardly imagine having happened.
He, or she, spontaneously exclaimed: “But, it’s the world upside down!”
This expression came to my mind as I read the text of the gospel for this 2nd Sunday of ADVENT (Lk.3:1-6).
It is an echo of a text from the prophet Isaiah (40:3-5) where, indeed, everything is turned upside down:
“The mountains brought low, the valleys filled in, the winding ways straightened and the rough roads made smooth.”
But the beginning of the text is saying: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”
So, it seems that we have something to do with… turning things upside down!
Could it mean that…
Our pride should become a truthful look at ourselves,
our selfishness should be replaced with concern for others,
our dishonesty should be straightened up into honest dealings with people,
and, yes, all our other crooked ways should be transformed into genuine attitudes according to what the Lord expects from us?…
And the change might bring people around us to whisper: ‘Incredible, unbelievable! It’s the world upside down!’
They would be truly astonished at the Spirit obviously at work – if only we allow him to fashion us into the people we are meant to be…
In Catholic churches, the most popular colours for the Advent candles are violet and rose, corresponding with the colors of the liturgical vestments for the Sundays of Advent. In the Western church, Violet is the historic liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent: Violet is the traditional color of penitential seasons. Rose is the color for the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word meaning « to rejoice »—also from the first line of the traditional entrance prayer for the Mass of the third Sunday of Advent.
In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is in keeping with the liturgical seasons; blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent.
Other variations of the Advent wreath add a white candle in the centre to symbolize Christmas, sometimes known as the « Christ candle. » It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. White is the traditional festal colour in the Western church.
In some Protestant churches, the candles represent hope, peace, love and joy. Often the third candle, representing love, is a different color than the other three, representing the importance of love as the greatest of all the qualities that abide eternally. (Wikipedia)
The United Nations is committed to fighting against slavery and considers bonded labour, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and trafficking people as modern forms of slavery.
Some sources say that more than one million children are trafficked each year for cheap labour or sexual exploitation.
These types of slavery are global problems and go against article four of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”.
Today, marks the opening in Paris of the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP). Some 195 delegations are to be present with 150 heads of state expected to attend.
According to the organizing committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.
Pope Francis published an encyclical called Laudato si’ intended, in part, to influence the conference. The encyclical calls for action against climate change.
The International Trade Union Confederation has called for the goal to be « zero carbon, zero poverty », and the general secretary Sharan Burrow has repeated that there are « no jobs on a dead planet ». (Wikipedia and others)
When walking on the streets, I observe people around. Even on the move, some are busy keying in a texto! Others are hurrying, running to catch a bus or rushing to meet a deadline. Sad to say, many people are walking with stooped shoulders and sad faces. Their steps seem heavy, and their hearts even more so!… They move with their heads down seeming overwhelmed with negative feelings of all kinds.
As I read the gospel for this 1st Sunday of Advent (Lk.21:25-28,34-36), I thought of those people when I read the words: « Hold your heads high » (v.28). There is no denying that life can be hard at times – difficulties of all kinds keep coming at us: sickness, financial problems, strained relationships with the people we live and work with. Add to that the bitter regrets, dashed hopes, guilty feelings, lack of incentive, broken promises from those we love, and your list and mine could go on…
We really don’t feel like ‘lifting our heads high’ in such situations. We would be more inclined to bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich! How can we hold our heads high? We don’t feel the energy even to attempt doing that…
But the second part of verse 28 opens up a new perspective when it assures us: « Because your liberation is near at hand. »
People talk much of liberty, but liberation? Yet, is it not what we most need, all of us? Being freed from our fears and regrets, our obsessions, our tensions and frustrations – all that prevents us from being as God meant us to be. All too often, we find ourselves in a land of slavery – a slavery we may have grown accustomed to. This is what ADVENT is about: it is a time when we allow Someone to take over as he tells us: « I am coming, I am already here to free you from what is not your true self. » And it is the time to allow him to do so . . .
Paris, Bamako, violence and terror: we wonder, we worry…
Awful, terrible, inhuman – we lack words to describe the reality. France, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine… The litany could go on and on… Yes, we wonder, we worry and… and we search for answers.
The gospel does not speak of terrorism but on this Tuesday of the 34th week of the liturgical year, the message we read (Lk.21:5-11) describes situations of violence and terror and yet we are told: « Do not be frightened. »
We wonder, we worry and… we pray:
Lord, in our world so many things happen every day;
the news bulletins bombard us with events
such as those we hear about in today’s gospel –
wars, earthquakes, plagues and famine.
We listen to facts and statistics that impress on us
a vivid picture of what is taking place.
Somehow, we get used to this kind of news,
but sometimes we feel uneasy, upset, anxious.
We need to hear anew your message: « Do not be frightened. »
We ask you: Help us to put our trust in your words
and not to be shaken by anything that may happen. AMEN.