Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very "Mercy" Christmas

Inside the Actors Studio is a TV series that has interviewed over Famous actors, directors and writers reminisce about their careers and the philosophy behind their careers.

James Lipton interviews some of today's most talented actors, directors, and writers. In the audience are students and famous alumni of the Actors Studio's master of fine arts program. The interviewees talk about their childhood, how they got started in show business, their early career, and behind-the-scenes trivia. The interview concludes with a standardized questionnaire

One of the most famous interviews was one that went on for over four hours with Steven Spielberg. He too was asked the standardized questions at the end.

  1. What's your favorite word? Yes
  2. What's your least favorite word? No 
  3. What turns you on or excites you? A good story. 
  4. What turns you off? People who don't listen. 
  5. What sound or noise do you love: All my kids when they laugh. I have seven kids when they're all laughing it's a great sound. 
  6. What sound do you hate? When they're all crying at the same time. 
  7. What is your favorite curse word? (Thankfully he said...) Rats 
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A film composer
  9. What profession would you not like to do? Government
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
  11. He thinks turns his head and gets the most sincere look on his face: "Thanks for listening."

The crowd kind of groaned, some oohed and ahhed and Mr. Spielberg realizing this chuckles and puts his hands next to his face like he's just realized he's given them a boring answer possibly putting them to sleep.

But it's not a boring answer.  It's a very profound and beautiful answer.

Imagine God so happy that we actually Listen to what he has to say to us... that we will listen to this savior that is born for us today... that you may even listen to what he wants to speak to your heart right now in this Liturgy... Imagine the Father saying to you... Thanks for listening.


"Do you hear what I hear?"


The nativity was only possible because of chosen people who listened.


The Angel spoke to Zechariah: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”  And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk from that point on all he could do was... Listen.


In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.

Mary listened...  and said: Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”...When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Joseph listened...


When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was listening...
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment, the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Elizabeth listened.

The whole world was to be enrolled... and Joseph listened... taking his pregnant wife on the long journey to the small town of Bethlehem.

Joseph listened even to the rejections of no room for them in the inn and so they ended up in that manger which would become the birthplace of our savior.  

The Shepherds 

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The Shepherds listened.

The Magi

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

The Magi listened.

They all listened and got to hear the newborn baby's sounds. The Son of God heard in a way he had never been heard before.


When Jesus was born what's the first sound Mary and Joseph heard? Was it a cry from their newborn king? Can you imagine the Son of God after waiting for all these millennia, and carried in the womb for nine months can probably make a sound? He cried out and God's voice was heard from the mouth of a child... he cried out...

What was he crying for? I believe it was mercy.

2000 years later Christ now speaks through his Church... through the body of Christ... through you and me.

This year our Holy Father has spoken and named this the Year of Mercy. Listen...

Through the 2,000 years, God has been raising up saints to help us realize his mercy.

The Saint who God has most revealed his mercy to is Faustina.

Listen to the wonder and joy of St. Faustina as she encountered the Christ Child on Christmas Eve in 1937:

When I arrived at Midnight Mass, from the very beginning I steeped myself in deep recollection, during which time I saw the stable of Bethlehem filled with great radiance. The Blessed Virgin, all lost in the deepest of love, was wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes, but Saint Joseph was still asleep. Only after the Mother of God put Jesus in the manger did the light of God awaken Joseph, who also prayed. But after a while, I was left alone with the Infant Jesus who stretched out His little hands to me, and I understood that I was to take Him in my arms. Jesus pressed His head against my heart and gave me to know, by His profound gaze, how good He found it to be next to my heart (Diary, 1442).

Jesus would say to her from the beginning over and over again: "Today, I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart." (Diary 1588)

"You are the secretary of My mercy; I have chosen you for that office in this and the next life" ... to make known to souls the great mercy that I have for them, and to exhort them to trust in the bottomless depth of My mercy".

Right now in our age... what does God want us to hear loud and clear? MERCY

"The God who is beyond all understanding stoops to me under the appearance of a little Child." (151 vision of infant at Eucharist 156)

God sent his only son into this world because he saw how much we were suffering. He saw that we had turned our backs on him and gone astray. He heard our cries for a savior.

And what does he give us when Christ is born? Mercy

God came to us as an infant so that you don't ever have to be afraid to approach him.

If you have been away from the Church for a while... Listen.... Do you hear him calling you back?

Has it been years since you've been to confession, and you've made every excuse and even denied the need for it, but you have yet to hear His words... "I absolve you." Come back to him in the sacrament of Confession and LISTEN... Listen to his mercy.

Listen too for those crying out in need. The church also calls us to BE merciful.

When the holy father opened the holy doors... did you hear the words that he spoke... Listen... no one can be excluded from God's mercy.

Is there anyone that you have hardened your heart to?  Is there anyone that you know you need to forgive but haven't.  Jesus commands us: "Unless you forgive you cannot be forgiven."  This Christmas find it in your heart to show mercy and forgive that person.

We are also called to show mercy through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  These are actions we can perform that extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need.

Corporal Works of Mercy

The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.

  1. feed the hungry
  2. give drink to the thirsty
  3. clothe the naked
  4. shelter the homeless
  5. visit the sick
  6. visit the imprisoned
  7. bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.

  1. counsel the doubtful
  2. instruct the ignorant
  3. admonish sinners
  4. comfort the afflicted
  5. forgive offenses
  6. bear wrongs patiently
  7. pray for the living and the dead

Christ is calling all of us to mercy... Listen

The church is speaking loud and clear.... Listen.

God is calling you right now to his mercy... Listen.

The savior of the world cries out for you as an infant... Listen

Listen to what God is saying right now in your heart... Listen

And if we do, maybe one day we might hear God say, in gratitude and in joy:
“Thanks for listening.”

Have a very "Mercy" Christmas....  and thank YOU for Listening.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Praying with Fr. John G. Vrana

On this edition of Praying with Priests, Father Michael Denk sits down with Father John G. Vrana, S.T.D. (which stands for 'Doctor of Sacred Theology'). Over the years Fr. Vrana has helped many others grow in their prayer life - both as a Spiritual Director for the Seminary as well as the Diaconate Formation Program, and continues to give spiritual direction to many priests, deacons and seminarians. Having spent a life time helping others to pray, today Fr. Michael interviews Fr. Vrana on the formation of his own prayer life.

As a child, the atmosphere of prayer encompassed Fr. John Vrana as far back as he can remember. Predominately it took root in the home, where his parents lived a very devout life of prayer and demonstrated this to their children through icons around the house. Fr. John recalls certain things that stood out. For example, his parents are the only ones that he knew of who kept a 16 inch tall statue of the Sacred Heart with a vigil light in front of it in their home. It didn't take Fr. John long to discover that when the candle was lit, it meant that his parents were praying for something very special. Fr. John also recalls a large painting in their living room that depicted Jesus gazing upon the city of Jerusalem from over a mountain top, an image that has always stuck with him because of the emotion on Jesus' face. The family also kept a large crucifix on the wall next to the kitchen table, which became a constant presence at a regular gathering area for family and guests. Thinking back on his home life, Fr. John recalls that this atmosphere of prayer, "spoke the presence of God."

Outside of the house, the family would always attend Sunday Mass together - it became a "family occasion", through which Fr. John recognized the importance and reverence of the Mass.

Aside from his home life, the atmosphere of prayer was reinforced at school as well. Having attended Catholic elementary school as a child, he recalls having "learned to pray" beginning with his First Holy Communion. During this time, as he learned to pray the rosary, Fr. John developed a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, so much that he recreated the school's May Altar in his room at home. Embracing this new-found devotion, his parents would often take him on trips to the local shrines.

It was around this time, at the age of 5 or 6 that Fr. John was really drawn into the Mass through prayer. Not long after, Fr. John recalls having received his first calling to the priesthood, which he describes as a "gentle invitation". He noticed that once the priest emerged, the entire congregation suddenly would quiet down, "they became focused and paid attention, hanging on to every word". From that experience an awe settled in him. After that moment every time he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would spontaneously (and at a very young age reply), “a priest”. He says, "Other friends wanted to be cowboys, and here I wanted to be a priest." The realization of his calling was there and it never left.

Later on in the 5th grade, Fr. John would experience the Mass from a whole other perspective after becoming an altar server.  Serving gave him a new-found joy of experiencing the Mass and he felt an honor to serve. Then in the 8th grade, Fr. John received a very special invitation to visit the new Borromeo Seminary, which had just opened in Cleveland. "After that experience, the rest is history", he says.

Fr. John entered the seminary in his freshman year of high school, and in that very first year learned that "being a priest is being a man of prayer". In his second year at Borromeo, the seminarians were assigned “field work”, so Fr. John taught theology to the deaf – a challenge but heart warming experience that along with The Second Vatican Council in his last year at the seminary, led to his pursuit of a Doctorate in Theology.

After his ordination, two particular instances stand out to Fr. John which aided in the formation of his prayer life. The first happened when he attended a Cursillo retreat for the first time, which is an evangelization of Catholics to come together and know Jesus and the Church in a personal and less theological way. The intent is for one to grow in their relationship with Jesus through prayer, scripture study, and group discussion during the Cursillo and ongoing support after to keep their experience alive and support one another in their continued development of a life of prayer. For Fr. John the experience was a major factor in his life as it began to open him up to sharing his relationship with Jesus to others.

The second experience which would leave a lasting impression on Fr. John occurred during his first encounter with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. While studying oversees to complete his Doctorate, the seminary he was staying at had what began as a Charismatic Prayer Group, but quickly grew with an outpouring of interest by seminarians and others within the community. From this encounter, seminaries would share experiences with one another about their prayer life and relationship with God that would stay with Fr. John well into his career as Spiritual Director for the Seminary here in Cleveland.

As Spiritual Director for the Seminary and later the Diaconate Formation Program, Fr. John has helped many priests, deacons, and seminarians grow in their prayer lives throughout the years. So for those who may be reading this and are looking for formation in their own prayer life and might not know how to go about it, Fr. John has some advice.

First he says, "Remember as much as you want to pray, God wants you to pray even more. He realizes it's difficult, so don't think too much about it - you don't have to entertain Him, try to make Him feel good, or impress Him. Instead go before Him just as you are; get acquainted with one another. Most importantly, be spontaneous and talk from the heart. Don’t worry too much about the words – sometimes you don’t need words – just know that you are with God and He with you, and your relationship will begin to slowly develop.

Now as Senior Parochial Vicar at St. Michael in Independence, Ohio, Fr. John has a bit more time for prayer. He prefers a quiet meditative prayer before the Trinity, and very often his prayer will center around a mantra from the psalms in the Daily Office. He says, that often a word or phrase from the psalm will elicit an emotion (good, bad, and ugly) which he may be currently experiencing. So he will stop for a moment and reflect on that word or phrase in the presence of God. Fr. John has discovered that through this process of reflection, the product is coming to know the unique love the Trinity has for him, who he is as a person, and where he is at this point in his life.

Above: Fr. John Vrana vesting Fr. Michael Denk on the day of his ordination.

To listen to the entire interview with Fr. John Vrana, please click on the button below.

For More Praying with Priests, visit the archives!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rejoice - This Ending is a Happy One!

A drama teacher was instructing his students about acting. He was trying to get them to realize the idea that they convey the message in their faces. When they are doing different scenes in a play, they have to project whatever that scene is on their face. He used the example of Heaven and Hell. Their faces should look very different if they are talking about Heaven or if they are talking about Hell.

He said to the students, "When you are talking about Heaven, your faces should light up. Your smiles should radiate and your eyes should look to the skies. People should be able to see Heaven on your faces." He said, "When you are talking about Hell, well, your normal faces will do."

The reality is that sometimes we walk around as if we are not living with this joyful anticipation. As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent when the rose candle is lit, we are celebrating this wonderful rejoicing.

The first word that we heard at Mass today and the Latin Mass, is always Gaudete, which means 'Rejoice'. That is how the Mass always begins on Gaudete Sunday. We rejoice. Why we are rejoicing is so near. What we have been longing for and wanting. Heaven – it is so near. It is so close that on this Sunday, we rejoice!

Aristotle lived a few hundred years before Christ. He was the one who made a framework for what it is to tell a story. He said in a story there are three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Think about that. The three parts are: a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Aristotle's time, a beginning was called a protasis. This basically meant an introduction. The epenthesis was the middle -the main action of the story; the third and final part, was the catastrophe. That was the end. The word explains itself.

All stories in that time ended with a catastrophe. Think about somebody dying or some terrible thing happening. That is the final big wow. That is the conclusion. However. that is not our story. That is not the Catholic story or the Christian story. Our story is very different than that. This kind of storytelling prevailed until the First Coming of Christ. During the Renaissance Period, the kind of storytelling that we are a little bit more used to be the new norm.

In the 19th Century, the definitive pyramid came about, which is the rising of action after the catastrophe. All of a sudden the story begins to rise. The rising action for us is the Birth of Christ, the first Advent, that happened two thousand years ago. 

The third part, as you may know, is the climax. That is the epicenter of the story. The pinnacle of the story. The climax for us is The Crucifixion. The passion, death, and Resurrection of our Lord. That is the climax. Christ on the cross, suffering, dying and rising is the third part. You have the beginning, the exposition; the rising of the action, which is the birth; the climax, which is the passion, death and Resurrection; and then the following action. That is the fourth part.

After you have had this climax, you have some time of just getting to enjoy all that has happened. The following action is the part of Salvation history that we are living in now. We have already experienced the climax. Christ has already come, suffered, died and risen. We are now experiencing the effect of that.

The truth is, in Advent, there are three Advents: the Birth of Christ, which they waited for thousands of years; the Second Advent is Christ coming into our hearts now; and the third Advent is the Second Coming. We are in that part now. We are in the following action, the waiting for the Second Coming, the waiting for Christ to come into our hearts.

The following action is very interesting because during that time, if you are a good storyteller, there will be some kind of final suspense. There will be something in which the final outcome is in conflict. There is some kind of doubt about the final outcome. We are living in that final suspense, where there is some conflict in our lives.

Advent is a time for Confession, too. So if you have not been to Confession in awhile, I encourage you to do that. I was hearing confessions the other day. I will not tell you what I heard. But one of the ladies had been away from the church for 20 years, and had not gone to confession. She came back. Usually when people are gone for a long time, I'll say, "Well, what brought you back?" If you think about this following action, this whole conflict or this tension near the end, she said to me - after she thought about it for a second, "I think what brought me back was probably watching too much Fox News." I said, "What do you mean?" And she said, "I've been watching too much Fox News, Father. It is all about ISIS and terrorism. I am afraid to get on a plane. I am afraid to go to big events." She said, "I think the fear of mortality is what brought me back." She is experiencing this reality of this final conflict before the end.

That is where we all are right now. We are in this stage of the following action. We have experienced the pinnacle. We have experienced The Resurrection of Christ. Now we are experiencing the after effects. But the end hasn't happened yet. For Christians, the end does not end in catastrophe. That is not the end of the story. The end for us, as we heard in the Gospel today, is good news. The end is the Good News. The climax, the final coming to an end is actually a French word called “Denouement.” It means an untying of the knot. The tension comes to an end. There is an untying of the knot. That, for us, is the Second Coming. The final end to our story is Christ coming back into this world.

The reality is, for Christians, we already know that happy ending. That is why we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice. We are rejoicing that the end is almost here. We know it does not end in catastrophe. It ends in joy. It ends in Heaven. As we heard in the beginning, (that joke about the drama students) we should be people who walk around and our faces should not show doom and gloom. We should not look like we have been living in Hell. Our faces should radiate this joy and this reality that we await the Good News. This Gaudete Sunday we can rejoice because we know the end of the story IS good news.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Praying with Fr. Jim O'Donnell

Today Fr. Michael sits down with lifelong Clevelander, Fr. Jim O'Donnell as they share an intimate conversation about prayer, and in particular the many different ways in which we all pray - including priests!

Ever since Fr. Jim O'Donnell can remember, every day his mother would gather the family together to pray the rosary, it was his her way of instilling a strong prayer life within her children. Although, Fr. Jim's father, a builder who immigrated to the United States from Ireland, would once tell him as he looked proudly upon Cleveland's iconic Terminal Tower (which he had a hand in building), "Jimmy this building is my prayer, I don't do this work to please some foreman, I do this because of my love for God and that's why I work so hard." From that memory, Fr. Jim recalls having learned that everything we do, we do out of gratitude for God and for all of the blessings we've received from Him. Perhaps this simple example from Fr. Jim's childhood illustrates more than anything the many and diverse ways that we pray, and that we aren't limited to simply one form of prayer.

An early riser, Fr. Jim would attend daily morning mass as a child - not because he had to, "it wasn't a chore he recalls", but because he wanted to. He realizes not all people find it as easy, but thinks one of the reasons why he did is because for him (in a house full of siblings), it was a time of peacefulness and contemplation to get away from the stresses of something that may have been bothering him at the time, like worrying about taking an exam. For Fr. Jim, being in the presence of the Eucharist at Mass made him feel closer to God, and to Jesus -and he says, "I enjoyed that feeling and that experience. Probably more than just a feeling; just something I literally enjoyed doing."

Perhaps then it's no surprise that, Fr. Jim knew he wanted to become a priest at the moment he received the calling during his First Communion. He recalls,  "I thought about being a priest from the time I made my First Communion. I felt a call at that time. I was very imbued early on with this love for Christ and love for the priesthood that it never left me. You know sometimes some people go through that, but by the time they get through high school, that is not something they want to do anymore. But that seed was planted in me May 8, 1937, and it never left me."

Fr. Jim will often refer fondly to "his children", which is usually and understandably a surprise to people that don't know him - but as the years have gone by, Fr. Jim often forgets this and casually speaks of the foster children he has helped raise as if they were his own blood. The idea for a foster program started about 40 years ago. At the time there was a big problem in the inner-city Cleveland neighborhood with children being abused and hurt. It got to a point where the violence and crime in the area began leading the youth down a very dangerous and often irreversible path earlier and earlier into their adolescence. So one day Sister Maggie, a consecrated virgin, asked Fr. Jim if he would be open to taking in some foster children. He recalls, "there were too many of these kids being hurt, and perhaps we can help them in some way. So that’s how it began." Through the years and his work at Little Brothers and Sisters of the Eucharist (formed by Sister Maggie and himself) and the Central City Ministry with the Poor, Fr. Jim and Sister Maggie have helped raise 14 children into adulthood.

Above: Fr. Jim O'Donnell makes his acceptance speech after being inducted into the 2012 Class of the Cleveland International Hall of Fame by Jack Kahl.

To listen to the entire interview with Fr. Jim O'Donnell, please click on the button below.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In Total Darkness, Rescue Is On Its Way!

Five years ago, on August 5, 2010, there was a collapse in a mine in Chili. From that point forward, 33 miners remained in darkness, not knowing if they would ever be saved or if their rescuers would even find them. Five years later, there was a book and a movie written about the event. I do not know if you remember what happened five years ago. All we could see was what was happening from above the mine. As we watched the news, we did not know if they were alive or even if they could be saved.  Rescuers were drilling. The miners were down in the mine for 69 days in darkness until they were rescued. 

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

I will never forget watching the day they were rescued. The first miner was brought up in a cage. We saw a glimpse of one of the 33 who had been down there for all those days. Five years later, a movie has been made about the event. "The 33" is a movie about the 33 miners. For me, what I think is so profound, is that we get to see a glimpse of what it was like from their perspective. What it was like to be in darkness for 69 days! How it was to wait to see if they would even be rescued.

They only had enough water and food to survive for 3 days with provisions for only 30 of the 33 men. So they began to ration food and water. Days and days passed. After three days, they were out of food. They began to question: “Would anyone come to save them?” Then one of the miners, pessimistically said, "Listen, mines have collapsed before. We have a corrupt government. We have a corrupt business that put us down here in the mine in the first place. We are not going to get rescued." To that another piped up, "Our family members are up there. They are not going to give up on us." What the miners didn't know was that their families had created Camp Hope, an effort to instill hope in the government and the entire world to continue efforts to rescue the miners. 

Down there days in the darkness, not knowing -doubt started to creep in. They were not sure if they would be rescued in time, but they believed and trusted that their families would not give up on them.  

Then one night, as they are sleeping, they heard a rumbling and some of the ceiling began to fall. The ground began to shake. They heard the drill coming closer and closer and closer. They were listening with great anticipation, and then the noise passed them, going deeper and deeper, farther and farther away. They realized the drill missed them. Another 3 days passed by, but they realized that people had not given up on finding them alive and were still looking for them! 

30 days passed. They heard from above the drilling. Again, the ground is shaking. It was similar to the Gospel because they were all laying down and sleeping. As the drill got closer and closer, they started to stand up. They stood erect, like we heard in the Gospel. You could see their headlamps all coming together. They were just looking up at the ceiling. All of a sudden, after all of the rumbling, they saw the drill finally break through! There was a spotlight on the drill. As it broke through, the light shattered the darkness. The drill bit came through and stopped once it hit the "protected area" that the miners were in, and they looked back at it with disbelief, the realization setting in that they had been found. The miners spray painted the drill bit red so that the people above would know they were alive, and taped a message on it that read "33 men, well and alive!" I do not know if you remember, but that is the first sign the world had that the miners were down there and they were alive. 

For the miners, once they saw the initial drill bit, once they saw light break through, they knew there were people who were going to rescue them. For me, that is a wonderful image of Christ. That Christ has already broken into our world. He has already brought the light into our world. We know that God will rescue us. 

The reality is, for every Advent, there are actually three Advents that we are remembering and celebrating. The first Advent happened 2,000 years ago. When Jesus came into the world, they had been waiting for millennia, for the Savior to come into the world. That was the First Advent and the First Coming into the world. 

The Second Advent is right now. This Advent Season of the four weeks of Advent, we are waiting for Christ to come into our hearts -- right now -- in a new way. 

The third and final Advent is the Second Coming. That is what we heard about in all the Readings today. These Apocryphal Readings are about the Second Coming when Christ will come into our world with power and glory. At that time, the Heavens and the Earth will shake and those who believe will stand erect because they know their Savior is at hand. That is what we are all awaiting. We have already been given that initial sign. The drill has already come through. Christ has already entered into our world. We know that we are going to be rescued by God. That makes the waiting so much easier because we know we have not been forgotten. The reality is we are still in that “mine”. We are in the “protected area” which is the Church. We still need to be rescued. For each of us, we probably struggle with some darkness, sin, and oppression. Something from which we need to be saved. Christ has already entered into our lives. The promise is that Salvation is on its way. The promise for those of us that believe, waiting and standing erect this Advent season, and looking for Christ in His Second Coming, Redemption is at hand. Our Savior is coming for us. Rescue is on its way.