8 December 20192 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Advent
Second Sunday of Advent - A Cycle - Matthew 3:1-12

A millionaire announced to Mark Twain, "Before I die, I will go to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read aloud the Ten Commandments." Twain observed, "I have a better idea. You could stay home and keep them."

I introduce this homily on sin with an illustration from a layman precisely because many people do not like priests speaking on sin. Many Catholics no longer buy into the concept of personal sin.

We live our lives in an era which has dry cleaned sin away. How else can one explain that so few of us go to Confession?

Eg, a university professor was arrested for collecting his mother's social security for six years after her death. He didn't understand what was wrong.

Nowadays you must feel guilty about feeling guilty. If you send people on a guilt trip, God help you! No one else will. You will be called a killjoy.

There is one serious problem in this scenario. Jesus and His main man, John the Baptist, speak more often of sin than of love. There are more references to sin in the New Testament than to love.

A novelist says love means you never have to say you're sorry. John the Baptist replies "Rubbish." Why else would John the Disturber have come in from the desert "proclaiming a baptism of repentance that led to forgiveness of sin?" The Gospels tell us people bought his message hook, line, and sinker, repented of their sins, and were baptized.

Today John the Baptist might well be out of a job. He might be locked up for upsetting people's peace of mind and forced to take antidepressant pills.

Young people are being deprived of education in morals by those who should know better - namely, myself, their parents, and teachers.

What message are we sending boys and girls when we allow public school teachers to demonstrate putting condoms on cucumbers and then present studies of the homosexual lifestyle? They advise students with an ear-to-ear grin to practice safe sex whatever that is.

A Catholic professor in a private college told freshmen that in ethics there is no right or wrong, only points of view. Can you imagine what John the Baptist would have to say to him? Infinitely worse, what he would say to us who tolerate this nonsense?

To airbrush sin away is to turn religion into cherry vanilla ice cream. To bury sin with socio-economic buzz words is to sell Christ out. It makes John the Baptist retch.

Good manners demand that for slight offenses we must say to God, "Excuse me." For serious offenses we must say, "Pardon me." The place to find that pardon is on our knees in the confessional. It is only when we say,"I have sinned!" that God can say, "I forgive you." (Joseph Felix)

When Peter denied Christ, he did not say he blew his cool.

He did not blame his defection on bad toilet training. Matthew's Gospel tells us "he went out and began to weep bitterly." Today, if he was caught weeping, he would be forced to take a holiday.

Judas took responsibility for his betrayal of Christ. He did not say, "Hey, give me a break. It's only my first betrayal."

The prodigal son confessed his sins saying, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you." Check it out in Luke 15:21.

The Gospel of Matthew advises us the first command Jesus spoke to a live audience was a stark one worder, "Repent!"

Christ must have taken his repentance cue from John because today's Gospel tells us the first thing the Baptizer said after walking out of the desert was not "Have a nice day!" but "Repent!" God wants us to be like John the Baptizer. He wants us to be a voice and not a whisper, a burning light and not a dying bulb.

Most of us resemble medieval oil paintings. We are covered with years of dust and grime. Confession is the only way out for us.

Some say that when God made John the Baptist, He threw the mold away. This Advent we should pick up our flashlights, find that mold, and squeeze ourselves into it.

To become a contemporary John the Baptizer would be a wonderful gift to present the Infant that we shall shortly salute. Good people are in short supply in our culture.

In this season, we celebrate not what we are nor what we were but what we could be and want to be. (AU)

Do you get the feeling that Confession should be way up there on your must-do list this Advent?

John the Baptist says to us today, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up space."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
2 Advent
Second Sunday of Advent: Preparing for Christmas
(Please note that the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is transferred to Monday, December 9th, this year and is not a holy day of obligation.)

Last year I decided to put up my Christmas decorations in my house........on December 26th.  That didn't work.  So, this year I decided to get to them early.  I bought a tree on Monday, let it sit in water until Thursday and then performed the most exquisite example on how not to decorate a tree on Thursday.  I'm really bad at that, but then again, its better than nothing.  So, I'm ahead of last year.  A bit.

We all spend a lot of time getting ready for Christmas.  There's the gifts, the cards, the decorating, the cooking, the visits to Santa, the children's pageants.  Why do we do all this?  "Well, everyone else is doing it," you might say.  "We can't be the only house on the block without Christmas lights."  There's some truth to that.  After all we want to join those who are celebrating the birth of Jesus. The gifts are meant to be an expression of our joy in God's gift of His Son, for He so loved the world. The cards might seem insignificant, but they are really important.  Perhaps there might be someone we drop a card to whose life will brighten when they hear from us.  And as far as the children are concerned, we want them to be full of joy on Christmas and we need to spend time reminding them why this is a day of joy. The music specific to the Christmas season is important too.  The carols get us in the mood to celebrate as they remind us what we are celebrating.

So, there is an importance to all our Christmas preparations.  It would be sad, though, if we didn't do the most important preparation: preparing our souls to celebrate the coming of Jesus as one of us.

Maybe we take this granted.  After all, we are all concerned Catholics.  We wouldn't be here in Church if we weren't.  But we do have to be careful that having so much to do in a short time we just presume that spiritually we'll be ready for Christmas.

Think about the Pharisees and the Sadducees who came to John for Baptism in today's Gospel.  John is pretty rough on them.  He calls them a brood of vipers. They are going through the motions of accepting his baptism of repentance, but they are not sincere.  Perhaps they, as always, were concerned with putting on a show of piety.  He tells them to prove that they want a change in the world by producing good fruit.  He warns them that it is not enough to say that they are children of Abraham.  They have to live as God's people.

The real preparation for Christmas that you and I need to make is our determination to turn from evil and sin and hatred and turn to celebrate the One who brings peace and love to the world.  We have penance services and increased times for reconciliation to help us turn from sin.  We have special charitable opportunities like the Advent Giving Tree and Project Thanks to help us foster love. 

We do have to be careful that with all the Advent preparation we make, we don't make the mistake of Befana in a folktale of the Epiphany.  Let me read it to you in poetic form:

            Befana the housewife, scrubbing her pane,
            Saw three old sages ride down the lane,
            Saw three gray travelers pass her door,
            Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior.

            "Where journey you, sirs?" she asked of them.
            Balthazar answered, "To Bethlehem,

            "For we have news of a marvelous thing,
            Born in a stable is Christ the King."

            "Give him my welcome,"
            Then Gaspar smiled,
            "Come with us mistress to greet the child."

            "O happily, happily would I fare,
            "Were my dusting through,
            and I polished the stair."

            Old Melchior leaned on his saddle horn,
            "Then send but a gift to the small Newborn."

            "O gladly, gladly, I'd send him one,
            "Were the hearthstone swept
            and my weaving done.

            "As soon as I've baked my bread,
            "I'll fetch him a pillow for his head,
            "And a coverlet too," Befana said.

            "When the rooms are aired and the linen dry,
            ‘I'll look to the babe,"
            But the three rode by.

            She worked for a day, and a night and a day,
            Then, gifts in her hand, she took up her way.
            But she never found where the Christ Child lay.

            And still she wanders at Christmastide.
            Houseless, whose house was all her pride.

            Whose heart was tardy, whose gifts were late,
            Wanders and knocks at every gate.
            Crying, "Good people, let the bells begin.
            "Put off your toiling and let love in."

"Put off your toiling and let love in."  This is what Christmas is about: letting love in.  We are going through a difficult time in the world and in our country.  There are,  sadly people who think that in certain circumstances bigotry and hatred are acceptable.  Right wing groups like the KKK are convinced that they are being good Americans if they hate others.  Those in Middle East terrorist groups express their hatred in many horrible ways.  Those affected by terrorists think they have a right not only to hate those who attack them but also anyone of the terrorists' faith.  More than that, some people think they have a right to hate all people from the Mideast.  I was talking to a lady recently who was a Catholic rom Iraq.  She told me how difficult it was for her to love when she is continually abused with hateful remarks from people so bigoted that they don't even notice the persecution Iraqi Catholics suffer.  It is amazing how hatred and ignorance work hand in hand.  Some people who hate act as though they are good Christians.  They are not.   True followers of Jesus Christ respond to His call to make the Lord's love real in the world.

The world need true Christians now more than ever.  The world needs us to celebrate Love Become One of Us, with our determination to end the antagonism and hatred by removing hatred from our own lives.

The preparations we are making for Christmas are important, but nothing is more important than our efforts to Let Love In. 

Let love into our lives.  Let Love into our world.  This is the best way, the true way, the only way that we can celebrate the Child.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Advent
Walking with the Afflicted

Bottom line: Asking Mary's intercession to walk with the afflicted and lowly, I now ask you to give your full attention to our CCS witness speaker.

This year the Second Sunday of Advent falls on December 8, the traditional day of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Sometimes people confuse the Immaculate Conception of Mary with the Virginal Conception of Jesus. Let me sum up the difference:

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary is his mother but he has no human father. Joseph is his guardian or foster father. Mary has a human father called Joachim and a human mother, Ann. Her conception was natural. However:

While Jesus is without sin by virtue of being God, Mary is without original sin by virtue of "prevenient grace". Like us Mary is saved by Jesus.

What the Israelites said about Judith applies to Mary:
"You are the glory of Jerusalem!
You are the great pride of Israel!
You are the great boast of our nation! " (Judith 15:9)

Even though Mary is highly exalted, she doesn't seem to spend much time with the rich and famous. She identifies with the lowly and afflicted. In her canticle she declares:
"He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty." Luke 1: 51-53

Like Mary we want to identify with the lowly. Not in some political way as if by our power we could bring about the Kingdom of God. Instead we want to walk with the afflicted - practice what Pope Francis calls "accompaniment". In our parish we do it through our St. Vincent de Paul. This Sunday we have commissioning of our St. Vincet de Paul members.

Also on the Second Sunday of Advent we have an annual presentation on Catholic Community Services. On our behalf CCS reaches out to underserved in Snohomish County and throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Before introducing our CCS speaker let's recall the verse from today's Psalm:
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.

Asking Mary's intercession to walk with the afflicted and lowly, I now ask you to give your full attention to our CCS witness speaker:_________________________. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Advent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Advent
Second Sunday of Advent

In the middle two Sundays of Advent we hear a lot about John the Baptist. He is a very important figure in the Bible and in the history of our salvation since he uniquely bridges both the Old and New Testaments. It is not difficult to regard John the Baptist as the very last of the Old Testament Prophets and the picture painted of him in the extract from the Gospel we are presented with today certainly makes him look and sound like one of those prophets of old.

He is very much a man in the model of Ezekiel or Daniel or one of the other rather striking figures we encounter in the Old Testament. John is presented to us as an out of the ordinary kind of person, someone who lives at the very extremes of society but who like the other prophets comes with a very strong and forthright message of repentance urging the people to return to the proper observance of the laws of God.

All the trappings, such as his garment of camel hair and his diet of locusts and wild honey, mark John out as a most extraordinary person. And, although he comes across as rather severe as he proclaims his message, we find that the people respect him for his integrity and they flock to receive Baptism at his hands. The ordinary people clearly recognise that John's message is an authentic one and that it comes from God.

Although John the Baptist is presented to us much in the same way as the other Old Testament Prophets, we need to realise that he is above all the forerunner of all the New Testament witnesses to Christ. In a real sense he is, apart from Mary, one of the very first followers of Jesus.

We are not sure precisely how much of the actual content of Jesus message John accepts or is even aware of. But this is not so important because his role is to clearly point to Jesus as the Messiah, the one who was foretold. In his pointing out of Jesus and by his instruction to the people to follow Jesus John places himself at the very forefront of the disciples of Christ.

John's remarks in the text before us addressed to the Jewish leaders are quite scathing. He calls the Pharisees and Sadducees a 'brood of vipers' because they come to him for Baptism without truly repenting of their sins. He has no truck with these hypocrites and his language towards them is excoriating. He warns them that the Day of Judgement is coming and that on that day they will be answerable for their sins. John seems to equate this Day of Judgement with the actual coming of the Messiah who he says will winnow the wheat from the chaff.

John also suffered a martyr's death. In this he is like many of the Old Testament Prophets, six of whom were martyred including some of the most important; among them being Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. This theme of martyrdom is, of course, also a hallmark of the New Testament followers of Jesus, for example we know that all of the Apostles died a martyr's death except John.

When we hear of John's martyrdom at the hands of King Herod we are not surprised. Now that his role of being a forerunner of the Messiah is complete John the Baptist is able to leave the stage wearing the crown of martyrdom. In a way it is fitting that John dies a martyr's death since in this he is able to share the same fate as his master Jesus.

It is worth looking at the first reading today since it is a beautiful and rather poetic prediction of the coming of the Messiah taken from the Book of Isaiah. It opens with the line: 'A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse.' You will all know that Jesse is the father of King David and you will be equally aware that the Messiah is foretold to come from David's house and line.

During this season in homes with children you will sometimes find Jesse Trees. These usually show pictures of the various ancestors of Jesus beginning with Jesse and sometimes showing also the various symbols associated with Jesus or other figures from the Old Testament.

Jesse trees can be pasted on to cardboard or made into mobiles or be in the form of pictures hung from a tree branch. They are good reminders of the origins of Jesus and help us to keep in touch with the themes of Advent. They are an excellent activity for children with inquiring minds since they can lead to good conversations about precisely who Jesus is and what he came to achieve.

The prophecy of Isaiah tells us about where the Messiah will spring from and he gives us also a picture of just the kind of Messiah that he will be. This picture is quite different from the one ordinarily held by the Jews of the time who thought that the Messiah would be a conquering hero who would ensure their victory over all the other races.

Actually, what Isaiah presents to us is a Messiah who will usher in a time of peace and harmony. He predicts that in the age to come all those who are presently enemies will live in friendship and peace will flourish. The 'wolf living with the lamb' and the 'calf and the lion cub feeding together' are very apt representations of the various nations of the world living together amicably.

So according to the Prophet Isaiah, the Messiah is not a warlike figure but rather one who comes to restore justice and to establish peace and tranquillity in the world. In order for us to become part of this new world we would need to seek the forgiveness of our own sins.

You can see the link here with John's Baptism of repentance, because sorrow for sin is the necessary pre-requisite for peace. Sin has caused division in the human family and it needs to be rooted out. It is only when we have openly acknowledged our sins and expressed true remorse for them that we can live peaceably with others.

In Churches throughout the world people will be coming in large numbers during the season of Advent to confess their sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They do this in order to be able to celebrate Christmas in a truly spiritual way with their consciences cleansed of sin. But also they confess their sins because they so much want to be part of the Kingdom of God, their deepest desire is to belong to this wonderful new realm ushered in by the Messiah. 
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