03 December 20171 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent - Cycle B - Mark 13:33-37

A dramatic picture appeared in a newspaper. It was a young man dead from a drug overdose in his cherry red Corvette. The car was parked beside a parking meter that read "TIME EXPIRED." But so, too, is my clock expiring. So is yours. No wonder Jesus says today, "Stay awake." An auto decal reads: "Jesus is coming back. Look busy." Today's Gospel affirms He will return for each of us. Rod McKuen's ballad sets the theme for today's Gospel. "We've all grown older. Come see where we have been, out here rusting in the rain." In a twenty four hour period, I learned of the sudden death in separate incidents of three friends. Each was younger than I. This fresh Advent I am reminded vividly I do not know "when the Master of the house is coming."

Their death tells us that we all live "in the shadow of eternity." The disciple asked, "How do we prepare for death?" The hermit replied simply, "By living." Somehow these next four weeks, we must learn to live as if the Christ was crucified yesterday, rose this early morning, and will return for us at any hour. Would that we could in this fresh liturgical year come to remember today's first reading that God is the potter and we are but the clay! To paraphrase a Time magazine article, Advent is the season in which we Christians preside over the reinvention of ourselves. We strive to climb out of our deepest problems by reimagining our Christian lives. It should be, as Thomas Merton advises, "the beginning of the end in us of all that is not Christ."

The Church wisely gives us these next four weeks to let us know Jesus is not enchanted with us. Yet, even a quick self-examination tells us that we are unhappy with our own situations. Each of us is shot through with potentialities which we have been fearful to actualize to this point at least. Change and growth frighten everyone. Yet, John Powell advises us, "There is an old Christian tradition that God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing for others, a special act of love to bestow." Were a scientist to warn us that an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale was fast approaching, we would take every precaution imaginable. Yet, unhappily, the Master's prediction that He shall return does not move us to make even accidental changes in our lives. But, given the on target correctness of the prophecies of His first arrival told in Micheas 5:2-6 and Isaiah 9: 6-7, one would think we would be smart enough to act accordingly. Should we decide not to do so, we can hardly fault the Early Warning System God has today put in place in Mark's Gospel. "Be on your guard..." Many think they're too old to renew themselves. Knowing that, Glen Van Ekeren put together statistics. George Burns won an Oscar at 80. Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel at 71. At 96, George Bernard Shaw broke his leg when he fell out of a tree he was trimming.

Grandma Moses began painting at 80. Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine chapel. Albert Schweitzer was performing surgery at 89. Casey Stengel was managing the Mets at 74. Do you still think you're too old? Yesterday we are told is a memory. Tomorrow but a dream. Now is the only time on which eternity depends. A story comes to us from Eastern mysticism that we might want to make our own this Advent. "Abbot, what has God's wisdom taught you? Did you become divine?" "Not at all." Did you become a saint?" "No, as you can clearly see." "What then, O Abbot?" "I became awake!" The Abbot might have been reading today's Gospel "Be on your guard, stay awake..."

Charles Lindberg flew across the Atlantic Ocean solo and nonstop in 1927 from New York to Paris in 33 hours and 30 minutes. To get himself ready for the ordeal, he often refused to go to bed. When asked why, he replied, "Just practicing to stay awake all night." This is the attitude that Christ would have us bring to this opening day of Advent. "Stay awake. You don't know the day nor the hour when I will come for you." Here are suggestions to start your reformation from the Providence Visitor, "Become a volunteer at a local hospital. Help a friend with a project he or she is working on. Offer comfort to someone unhappy. Stand up for someone being treated unfairly. Reconcile with someone you have quarreled with. Wish people you meet a good day and help make it so." 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent: Hope in the CCU Waiting Room

An essential part of the ministry of a parish priest is to care for people in hospitals. I want to begin today by speaking about one of the rooms in the hospital, the critical care waiting room. This is the room where family and friends wait while the doctors care for their loved ones who have suffered a devastating stroke, a serious heart attack, a horrible car accident or some other catastrophic event. I hope you have never had occasion to be in that waiting room, but if you have, you know that it is a place very different from any other place in the world.

The people who wait there are bound together like no other people in the world. Family members and friends can't do enough for each other. No one is proud. No one stands on ceremony or protocol. Petty disputes and hurts are nowhere to be found. Perhaps there are several patients whose family and friends are waiting in that room. These complete strangers feel bound in their shared hope for their loved ones. Class and race melt away. Each person in that room is a parent or spouse or child or close friend of the suffering one first. He or she is a white, black or Asian, a blue collar or white collar worker second. Everyone in the waiting room pulls for each other. If one family receives good news, there is hope and joy for all. If another family hears sad news, everyone in the room feels their grief. In the critical care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish.

The entire universe is focused on the doctor's next report. All eyes continually glance at the door. The critical care waiting room is a place of hoping. It is a place of anticipating, a place of expecting. It is a place of Advent. We live in this waiting room. We keep an eye out for the doctor, the Divine Healer, to come. We hope to experience his good news. We long for him to say, "the patient, your loved one, is fine. He or she is going to recover, is going to live.” Who is this Loved One about whom we are so concerned? The Loved One is not another person. The Loved One is that part of each of us and all of us that is right when all else seems wrong. The Loved One is that which is good when all else seems malicious. The Loved One is that within us that is spiritual in a materialistic world. The Loved One is our sharing in the Life of Jesus Christ himself. The Loved One is our soul. But the Loved One is in critical care. Evil forces are trying to destroy this presence. We sit in the waiting room of life, longing for the Divine Doctor to come and tell us that the presence of the Lord is well and strong within us and among us. We call out, "Come! Rend the heavens and come! We are the clay. You are the potter.

Mold us back into your own. Come!" And so we watch. We watch for the Divine Healer to come and lead us into His Love. We watch for the times, more than we could imagine, when God extends His Love to us. We watch for the times when we can serve His Love by serving others. We watch for the opportunities to unite ourselves closer to His Love through prayer and sacrifice. We wait. We watch. We watch for opportunities to grow. Advent, the time of watching, reminds us that our entire lives must be a watching for ways that we can grow more spiritual, grow closer to Christ. We have to watch. If we don't prepare for Christ's coming, if we don't live our lives in such a way that we are always open to His Presence, then we will be caught napping. Perhaps the end of our personal world will come before the end of the universe. It makes no difference. We have to be prepared for Christ.

We have to watch. We sit in the critical care waiting room of life longing to live with the Loved One. We need the Lord. We need Him in our lives to make sense of life. Without Him, our lives are chaos. Without the Lord our lives are a mad dashing about from place to place, person to person, doing for the sake of doing, wandering aimlessly only because everyone else is wandering aimlessly. But with the Lord, sin, chaos, is conquered. With the Lord, everything falls into place. Even the most difficult experiences of our lives, even suffering and death have meaning when they become an expression and renewal of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

We long for our Lord's Presence. If we deny this need, this necessity for God to be in our lives, then we chance becoming useless shells, Christians on the outside, but not much on the inside. But if we fight off our inclination to embrace chaos, if we fight off being overwhelmed by the fluff of the world and allow our need for Christ to transform our lives, then we can be what he created us to be, images of His Love on earth. We can be whole. We can be Christians. Advent is the season of hope. The promise of the prophets will be fulfilled.

The Messiah will come to return the world to God's original plan. Our thirst for the Messiah will be quenched by the celebration of his birth and life within our own lives. We wait. We watch. We prepare to celebrate. To the extent that we do this well, to the extent that our lives are a celebration of the presence of Christ in the world, to that extent, our entire lives are a celebration of Christmas.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
1 Advent
God's Thirst, Our Thirst Week 1: Misery and Magnificence
(December 3, 2017)

Bottom line: We have a misery and a magnificence which makes us thirst for God, that is, to pray. Prayer should lead us to reach out bowed down. At the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful I will bless the Advent Wreath and light the first candle representing the First Sunday of Advent. During Advent I will focus on prayer as thirst: God's thirst for us and our thirst for God. This thirst corresponds to our human condition. A seventeenth century scientist named Blaise Pascal summed up our predicament. * Here's what he said: "Christianity is strange.

It bids man recognize that he is vile, even abominable, and bids him desire to be like God." You can see human wretchedness in the first reading. Isaiah says we have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are polluted rages, our guilt carries us away like the wind. This vileness applies not only to people caught in public scandals, but also to each of us. I mean, how is it we see readily recognize the abominations of others? We are wretched race. Along with wretchedness the readings describe our greatness. Paul speaks about the grace given by Christ Jesus. He has enriched us with discourse, knowledge, spiritual gifts. In Jesus we actually become irreproachable - not because of our good deeds, but because of our union with him. So we find ourselves stretched between extremes: wretchedness and glory, misery and magnificence. What should we do?

Two things: First, recognize that the very fact we know our wretchedness shows our greatness. A lion shows no remorse about attacking the defenseless - but we do (at least sometimes). You would not feel bad about what you did if you lacked a moral sense, God's soft voice speaking inside you. So that's the first thing - the more down you feel the higher God is calling you. The second thing is what Jesus tells us in today's Gospel: Be watchful! Be alert! As we will hear in a couple of weeks, "pray without ceasing." Jesus alone can resolve our inner contradiction. As Pascal observes, "Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we humble ourselves without despair." God thirsts for souls. In Jesus God has humbled himself to lift us up.

As we learned in recent weeks, God wants a partnership with us. He gives us gifts and wants us to make a return - to use those gifts to lift up Jesus and to lift up others. During Advent we see how God wants us to help those who carry heavy burdens. We have the example of John the Baptist and also the Virgin Mary. As Our Lady of Guadalupe she came to a humble dispirited man.

Above all we have the example of Jesus: born in stable, adored by shepherds. They were lower class working people but it's significant that they had an occupation that required being watchful, being alert. John, Mary, Jesus himself illustrate God reaching out to the lowly. That includes you and me. We have a misery and a greatness which make us thirst for God, that is, to pray. Prayer should lead us to reach out to those bowed down. Next weekend we will have a testimony about how Catholic Charities serves those in difficult situations. Today we have a witness about Stewardship and the work of our St. Vincent de Paul Society. Please give your full attention to ___________________________. ********** *He invented the first computer, but don't hold that against him. :)

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent, Modern Isaiah 63: 16B – 17, 19B;
64: 2 – 7, I Corinthians 1:3 – 9, Mark 13; 33 – 37

We begin Advent with the same message that we heard a couple of weeks ago near the end of the church year. This Gospel sums it up with two words, "watchful and alert.” We don't know when the Lord is coming so watch and be ready to greet and welcome him. In our human experiences how we are watchful and alert is determined in part by the one we are waiting for. If we are waiting for a person who acts like a tyrant, is never satisfied and always highly critical, then we stay alert and watch so as to be prepared for the unpleasant experience that we anticipate at his arrival. If the one we are waiting for is a person of reason and fairness we anticipate his arrival by doing our best.

What does it mean to you when Jesus tells us to be watchful and alert? If we perceive Jesus as a judge who holds every fault against us, somewhat like Santa Claus who is making his list, we can be filled with anxiety and fear about his Return in Glory. If, however, we see Jesus as the Divine Physician who longs to heal us so much that he died on the cross so that we could be spared eternal punishment. This image can fill us with humility, contrition and gratitude for his healing as we await his glorious return. The readings today call us to be watchful and alert by allowing God into our lives so as to help us with the ongoing conversion that brings us closer to the Lord each day.

Isaiah uses a beautiful image to get across our relationship with God. He calls God, "Father” and describes our relationship as one in which; "we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” God gently fashions us and molds us with his own hands. He smooths away the rough edges and carefully molds us into his image and likeness. We each have rough edges and we can have the attitude that it is better to hide them from God and escape his wrath, then to let him see them. Of course we cannot hide anything from God. When we freely confess these we invite the hand of God to touch us and fashion us and heal us. Saint Paul begins the First Letter to the Corinthians with the warm greeting and encouragement over all the good things the Lord is doing for them. It's a greeting that we should receive for all our efforts to be faithful.

In his letter he continues to instruct them and to also correct them. It is Paul's way of helping the Corinthians to be watchful and alert. It is also the church's way today to help us. We need the continued opportunities of growth and conversion so as to be watchful and alert. As we begin Advent we have the choice of how we wait for the Lord. We can be sitting in the courtroom waiting to be judged and sentenced, or we can be waiting in the doctor's office waiting for the physician to treat and heal us. Both of these require one to be alert and watch. Hopefully we will approach Advent waiting for the Divine Physician. This involves knowing ourselves well enough that we are honest about our need to visit the doctor's office, rather than pretending that there is nothing wrong, or we can take care of it ourselves. Be alert and watchful of those parts of our lives that need the healing touch of Jesus and expectantly wait for his coming. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent

Today we begin the new Liturgical Year and the Season of Advent in preparation for the great feast of Christmas. Advent is a penitential time, though not so severe as Lent, and this is why there are no flowers in the Church and our music is a little more sober. We also refrain from using the Gloria during the mass as another way of distinguishing the season. Often people undertake some fasting in Advent and in some Christian countries people try to avoid meat at this time. Christians often observe a 'fast before the feast' which makes the feasting all the more welcome when it finally arrives. You will see that the colour of the priest's vestments is now purple, reminding us of the purple worn in Lent.

You might notice that the shade of purple worn in Advent is slightly different and a bit lighter than that of Lent, and it could more properly be called violet. This is to reflect the fact that the emphasis is not so much on penance but more on expectant waiting. One of the dangers of modern society is that one season blends into another. Prior to the nineteen-eighties the food available in most shops was seasonal, but today we can easily obtain foods from different parts of the world at any time of the year. For example, asparagus was in previous generations only obtainable in Britain from St George's Day, 23rd April, through to Midsummer's Day on 21st June. But now we can get asparagus from Peru or other countries at any time of the year and we no longer think of it as an early summer treat. I expect that asparagus might even end up on a few people’s Christmas menus.

Although this availability of foodstuffs throughout the year is intended to enhance our lives, it actually makes life blander and means that we are increasingly losing touch with the differences the seasons ought to bring to our lives. Our lives can quite definitely be enriched by experiencing the differences that come with winter, spring, summer and autumn. If we stick to the example of the food we eat, we can consume the earthier vegetables such as swede, beetroot and leeks in the winter months and then move on to things like beans, courgettes and peaches in the summer months. By eating foods in the correct season, we will be more in touch with nature and will have a good balance of light and shade in our lives and we will be able to enjoy the differences each season brings. And this is not to speak of the harm to the environment caused by transporting a vast quantity of food across the globe. This Church understands these things very well and it has its own sequence of liturgical seasons each with their different emphases, and by this means it is able to lead us through the important events of the life of Christ each year. The Liturgical Year highlights the differences of each season with its fasts and feasts, with its times of joy and sorrow, with its times of penance and, as with the season of Advent, its times of expectation.

There are other differences too, and an important one of these is that in each of the three years of the liturgical cycle we adopt the viewpoint of one of the authors of the Synoptic Gospels. Last year we worked our way through St Matthew's Gospel and this year we see the life of Christ from the perspective of St Luke. Each of these writers has their own particular accent and sees the significance of certain moments in the life of Christ from a different angle. Again, this is a great enrichment for us all. The great theme of the Season of Advent is expectation. This expectation has two aspects. First, of course, we are anticipating the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas.

And secondly, we look forward to and await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. So, with the one we have an eye on the past and with the other an eye on the future. These two expectations are inter-related and as we prepare for Christmas we find that we are doing precisely the sort of things that will help to prepare ourselves to meet Christ on that great Day of Days at the end of time. In today's Gospel Christ tells us to stay awake because we never know when that time will come. And of course, the time he is referring to is the Last Day when Christ will come in all his glory to judge the heavens and the earth. We looked at the Gospel account of the Day of Judgement last week when we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King and by being reminded of its vital importance today on this First Sunday of the Liturgical Year we see a certain continuity in the liturgy as we move from one year to another When Jesus says to us, 'Stay awake,' he does not mean that we should literally go without sleep. He is giving us a metaphor and reminding us to be alert and to put our lives in order because we can never know when the Day of the Lord will come. There is always a danger of complacency in the Christian life. It is one of the human weaknesses that the Devil knows very well he can exploit.

The book entitled The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis is to be highly recommended. It is a fictional account of a series of letters from a senior to a junior devil. In it the senior devil tells his junior that if all other temptations fail the junior devil should tell his victim that there is no hurry. This will lead the victim into a false sense of security and give the junior devil more time to tempt him and so gradually and inevitably lead him away from the Lord. We fallible human beings often feel that we can carry on with our faults and human weaknesses and that we can repent on some future date.

Unfortunately, that day of repentance quite often never comes. We grow accustomed to our sins and before we know it we discover that they have become deeply ingrained habits that, ultimately, we find we cannot change. For a long-term smoker to give up tobacco requires a herculean effort and often they have many false starts. It is the same with us when we find we have fallen into a deeply ingrained habit of sin. When we eventually wake up and realise the consequences of our sinfulness we find it very difficult to overcome this obstacle to our faith. However, Advent is a good time for reconciliation. It is a good time to repent of our sins, perhaps firstly so that we can celebrate Christmas in good conscience, but also so that we can prepare ourselves for that much greater encounter with the Lord of Life on that crucial day when we will meet him face to face.

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