The Dilemma of Life by Henri Nouwen

Do we desire to be with Christ in the resurrection?  It seems that most of us are not  waiting for this new life but instead are doing everything possible to prolong our mortal lives.   Still, as we grow more deeply into the spiritual life – the life in communion with our risen Lord – we gradually get in touch with our desire to move through the gate of death into the eternal life with Christ.  This is no death wish but a desire for the fulfillment of all desires.  Paul strongly experienced that desire.  He writes:  “Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would be a positive gain. … I am caught in this dilemma:  I want to be gone and to be with Christ, and this is by far the stronger desire – and yet for your sake to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need” (Philippians 1:21-24). This is a dilemma that few of us have, but it lays bare the core of the spiritual struggle.

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God’s Way of Being by Bishop Robert Barron
We know something about the cosmos as a whole that our ancient brothers and sisters didn’t, namely that it is subject to collapse. Ancient peoples thought that the sun and moon were forever; we know that they’re not. Aristotle and Plato thought that nature or matter have always existed and would always exist; we know they came into being at the Big Bang and will go out of being at the Great Crunch. Everything in the cosmos passes—and indeed the cosmos itself passes.

Now attend to this line in Mark’s Gospel: “After that, men will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory” (Mk 13:26). Jesus is hearkening back to the great prophecy in the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel. The prophet speaks there of “one like a Son of Man” who will “come on a cloud” and deliver Israel after a long period of oppression.

Well, this is precisely how the first Christians appreciated Jesus. He was not just one more prophet or teacher. He was the very incarnation of God’s eternal wisdom, God’s love, God’s way of being. And this meant that he was their link to that eternal power that runs through all things, that suffuses all things, that transcends all things, that power which endures even when the plants and planets and the earth itself fade away, that lasts even after our bodies have come and gone.

The whole point of this apocalyptic discourse is not to frighten us, but to give us hope and to tell us where to look. Don’t keep your eyes fixed on the always chaotic and always passing world. Don’t focus solely on the unreliable realm of politics or the fleeting bodily life that we live. Keep your eyes fixed on the Son of Man, who links you to the very power of God. Watch for him, wait for him, and find your peace in him.

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In celebrating the birth of Christ, let us carefully consider what his birth reveals about God. This is a God who comes not to condemn but to give life. Once we begin to grasp this life, then the vision of Isaiah, as remarkable as it seems, cannot hold a candle to the light that will shine from us.

-from The Little Way of Advent

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“Advent is dramatic, full of stories like the Virgin birth, the angel appearing to the dreaming Joseph, the arduous journey to Bethlehem, and many, many more incredible events. These events speak deeply to the human heart: struggle, conflict, restoration, and redemption. What is most striking is that these are real events. They actually took place. They happened. This Arrival is not a cinematic event. It is a historical event.”

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