Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 19 & 20

Dec. 19
Optional Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Symbol: Watchtower (dark brown, gray stones)

“I will take my stand to watch, and station myself on the tower, and look forth to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.  And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie.  If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.’” Habakkuk 2: 1-3

The days are growing shorter, and Christmas is fast approaching.  But like the people who awaited the Lord’s first coming, we do not know how long it will be before Christ comes again in glory.  Jesus Himself reminds us in the Gospels that we must watch for Him, and be ready.

How can we be ready for Him to come?  By preparing our hearts, by turning from sin and evil, by making a commitment to obeying His commandments and following His Church in all that she teaches in His name.  Then, like the wise virgins who filled their lamps with oil, we will be ready to greet the Bridegroom and enter into the Heavenly banquet with Him when He comes again.

Dec. 20
Optional Reading: Malachi 3:1-5, 4:1-6
Symbol: Sun of Righteousness

“‘For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root or branch.  But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.’” Malachi 4: 1-2

In this, the last reading of the Old Testament for our Jesse Tree readings, we hear a prophecy that again points as much to Christ’s second coming as to His first.  For, as Christ says, He will come again as the just judge to judge all men, to separate the good from the bad, to cause the good to sit at His right hand while the evil must depart from Him. 

We are given so many chances in our lives on earth to choose good, to turn from evil, to serve God and to refuse to remain in sin.  Yes, we are weak, but we are also not left as orphans; God pours out His grace on us through the sacramental life, and gives us everything we need.

That is why it is not inconsistent with Christian faith to believe that ultimately God may, indeed, allow those who have stubbornly and persistently chosen darkness to remain apart from Him forever, and that state of forever-separation is what we call Hell.  We do not know for certain the fate of any human being, and must pray for all to seek God, to find Him, and to rejoice in Him both in this life and forever in Heaven.  But God will not force our wills; He does not wish us to serve Him and follow Him except by our own free choice.  As this passage from Malachi points out, there will be consequences, possibly grave and dire ones, for those choices.  But if we fear the name of the Lord and follow Him in faith, we need not be afraid that we will lose sight of Him, the sun of righteousness.

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