Stand Erect and Raise Your Heads
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 21: 29-33 - 1 December 2023
(Internet Image from The 20 Best Ideas for Advent Candle Lighting Readings)
The reading may be found at - https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120123.cfm
Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
(Gospel Antiphon, Luke 21:28)
The Gospel antiphon is that verse which is usually chanted or spoken at Mass before the Gospel is proclaimed. We should pay attention to it! It is the initial gospel proclamation designed to wake us up, draw us in. It introduces us to the Word, who is speaking to us, and is typically an appeal for conversion. In Greek this is called the “kerygma.” The kerygma is more than the teaching itself; it is the very heart of the Gospel proclaimed and introduces us to the rest that follows. Therefore, the Gospel antiphon rightly calls us to increased devotion, understanding, and love. It should ignite within the faithful a profound joy that overwhelms the heart, mind, and soul!
Christian joy finds its source in the soul’s witness to Christ acting extraordinarily within the ordinary and in our realization of, and exhilaration at, the joy of eternal life which frees us from fear and the oppression of sin. In the words of St Paul, “for freedom Christ set us free” (Galatians 5:1 NABRE).
In this world, there is suffering which has its roots in fear, sin, and evil. It is the fear of suffering that most arouses in us a depression, hopelessness, frustration, anger, and inevitably, a deep longing and unending restlessness for a physical happiness which often leads to sinful or evil acts. Yet, happiness can only be found in Jesus. We cannot allow fear to smother our joy in Christ, which must intentionally underlie and anchor our soul in every waking moment. Stand erect and raise your heads! For we do not fear the end of time but already live for and in the kingdom of God. Our redemption is accomplished, and we joyfully anticipate the passing of all that holds us back from heaven. As our Lord promised,
…in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Luke 21:31–33 NABRE)
This is the deep and abiding joy that fed the Saints and Martyrs for millennia. Dwelling on our salvation, with faith and wonder, we must shed ourselves of fear of the unknown, and unknowable, which surrounds us. For, if we do not stand tall with heads raised, the effects of sin, evil, and fear weigh us down. Fear, like huge boulders on our backs, push us toward the earth and with heads bent forcefully down, we cannot look up. It is the joy of our redemption that shatters the weight of fear and allows us to look through the signs of our times into an eternity in heaven.
G.K. Chesterton wrote,
Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. … Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. (G.K. Chesterton Orthodoxy).
Let the joy of your redemption and your citizenship in heaven pervade everything you do and spillover onto everyone you meet!
Advent approaches! In every Parish and home, we should be preparing our Advent wreaths. As we near the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord, the ultimate display of God’s love for us, may our sense of joy grow with the lighting of each candle of the Advent wreath. For it is in the light of these candles that slowly, we see the wreath that signifies our eternal life in both its leaf and with its circle, grow ever brighter, ever more distinct. In this, fear melts away and an enduring joy abounds. So many in this season speak of joy but become weighed down with the world and its “have-to’s.” Allow Jesus to lift the weight and in this coming season of Advent, invite joy, the Holy Spirit, to invade your mind, heart, and soul. Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is accomplished!
Do not run away, Adam, for God is with us! Do not be afraid, O human being, do not take fright at the sound of God’s name, for God is with us! He is with us in the likeness of flesh, with us for our welfare. (St. Bernard of Clairvaux Sermon 2)
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!
Admin. (n.d.). The 20 Best Ideas for Advent Candle Lighting Readings. ALLTOPCOLLECTIONS.com. https://hqproductreviews.com/
Bernard of Clairvaux. Sermons for Advent and the Christmas Season. Ed. John Leinenweber. Trans. Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, and Conrad Greenia. Vol. 51. Athens, OH; Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications; Liturgical Press, 2008. Print. Cistercian Fathers Series.
Chesterton, G. K. The G. K. Chesterton Collection [50 Books]. Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.