27 November 20161 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent - Cycle C Luke 21:15-2, 34-36

A story is told of the photographer taking a picture. He says to the woman, "Smile pretty for the camera." A moment later, "OK, madam, you can resume your usual face." Whether you and I will have a successful Advent these next four weeks will depend on the attitude or face we bring to it today. We must stay awake, as Jesus advises us in this Gospel, and on top of our game. If affirmative, this first week in a fresh Liturgical year might quite literally alter our lives. We would all do well to make our own this season the prayer of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manly Hopkins: "O thou Lord of life, send my roots rain." Scholars trace the season of Advent back to the fifth century. It was placed in the Liturgical calendar of the Church so that we might purge out of ourselves all that is wrong. In a word, we have the opportunity to remake our own selves anew. And we have the luxury of four weeks to do the job in. Become then a twenty-eight day wonder. When you look at yourself and your sometimes monumental flaws, do not become overawed. The Chinese advise us the way to move a mountain is by beginning to carry small stones.

You would do well to bring a pail and a shovel to this Advent. And the Christ advises us in Matthew 17, 20, "If you have faith..., you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there!', and it will move; nothing will prove impossible for you." This new season invites each of us to become all that we can be. The quarry you hunt is yourself. The Greek philosopher Plato, who lived out his life several centuries before Christ, wrote, "The greatest victory in the world is the victory of self-conquest." There is no one who will challenge that wisdom. The most serious coronary disease in the world is not a blockage of the arteries but rather hardness of the heart. If you are not willing to recast yourself into a more attractive Christian this Advent, you do have a serious heart condition.

While God does not require you to be the best in the several weeks ahead, He surely wants you to try your best. This day's Gospel speaks of the "Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." When will He come? Many would-be prophets have given a day, month, and year to that question. As 1000 AD approached, a number of Christians in many countries were convinced that the Second Coming was about to occur. So, they settled all their affairs. Then they just settled back to wait for the Christ. It is reported that some even starved to death. A celebrated evangelist in 1950 promised that the end of the world would come on January 1st, 1957. It will not surprise you to learn that he stopped reminding his followers of that prediction on January 2nd, 1957. Someone has suggested that every day should be considered a day of judgment. Live, said the prophet, as if Jesus died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back at any moment. We must labor in the now and here. The question of the Second Coming we must place on the back burner.

The Teacher will plan His own arrival and set up His own schedule. If you are looking for an Advent program, you might consider the following. These admonitions by an unknown author were sent by a friend. Perhaps she was telling me something. "Smile often. Pray. Tell those that you love that you do. Rediscover old friends. Make new ones. Hope. Grow. Give. Give in. Buy some flowers. Share them. Keep a promise. Laugh often. Reach out. Hug a child. Slow down. See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Trust life. Have faith. Enjoy. Make some mistakes. Learn from them. Explore the unknown. Celebrate your own life. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others." Perhaps the same author has written the prayer we should recite daily this Advent. "Help us this day, O Lord, to serve thee devoutly and the world busily. May we do our work wisely, give help secretly, go to our meal with appetite and dine moderately. May we please our friends duly, go to bed merrily and sleep soundly. All of this for the joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
1 Advent
1st Sunday of Advent: Stay Awake and Hope

This week we begin the Church year with a call to stay awake. Paul tells us in Romans 13, our second reading, that we must wake from our sleep because our salvation is nearer now then when we first believed. Jesus tells us in apocalyptical terms in Matthew 24 that we do not know exactly when the Lord is coming, we just need to be ready for Him. This is Advent, the season of hope. Our hope is that Jesus Christ will come a second time. Our hope is that the Lord’s Second Coming will bring lasting peace. Our hope is that we will all experience this peace, either in this world or, if our lives end before the Second Coming, in the next world. Because we believe, because we have hope, our view of life must be positive, not negative. We are Christian. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that He has begun the wonderful victory of love over hate. We believe that the world as we know it is passing away, is being transformed into the eternal kingdom of God. We cannot allow ourselves to be negative people. It is easy to be negative. It is easy to focus on the immoral aspects of our society and cry out, "the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” The media delights in giving us daily reminders of all that is wrong in the world. But the media doesn’t shoulder all the blame for our negativity.

Many people are negative about everything, whether that be the nation, the world, the future, or even the Church. Perhaps some older people have had so many difficult experiences in their lives, that they allow the negatives to dominate their whole world view. Some younger people do this too. Maybe there are times that we all do this. When we see everything in a negative light, then we are implicitly denying Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Victor. He has won. He is winning. He will win. He has won. He has eliminated eternal death through his own death on the cross. He has defeated the power of hate through the power of His love. He is winning. Young people are focusing their concern on raising children for God rather than worrying about how children will effect their lives. So many of our young families are opting for large families, being more concerned with the love their children reflect then with the financial cost of raising a child. And they really work hard to give the gift of faith to their children. Church is not a "Sunday thing” for them, it is lifestyle. So many of our high school and college people are making conscious decisions for Jesus Christ. Youth conferences, parish youth programs, and college campus ministries are flourishing due to the work of the Holy Spirit and the determination of parishes, colleges and dioceses to provide the best they can for the young. So many of our young men and women are entering seminaries and convents.

They want Jesus, and they want to bring Jesus to others. They want to be heros for Christ. How can we look at these young, and all those who are making daily decisions for the Lord and not realize that Jesus is winning? There is great hope. The world is not going to hell in a handbasket. It is going to heaven with committed Catholics and other Christians leading the way to the Lord. And He will win. We believe with every fiber of our being that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Victor. The dark elements of the world will fade away. Evil will no longer attack us. Jesus Christ will return the world to its original state, the world as God always intended the world to be, a place of loving God and loving neighbor. So does that mean that we should ignore the immorality we are bombarded with? No, we need to stand for that which is right. St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we should have nothing to do with the darkness that envelopes so many. He lists a few of the sinful ways of his times, orgies and drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy. We could add many of the ills of modern society as part of the darkness. Notice, though, that St. Paul’s emphasis is not on others. It is on us. He says that we need to be people of the light. We need to put on the amour of Jesus Christ. Our focus should be on our coming out of darkness and into the light, not on others. Let me make this concrete. People tell horrible stories about other people. There is gossip in the neighborhood, the office, the school. There is bullying in the schools. There is darkness wherever there are people trying to destroy other people.

There are also times that we join in with the darkness. Someone says something about someone, and we add a few nasty comments of our own. Someone is declared to be unworthy of association with the important people in the neighborhood, the office or the school, and we join in by ignoring that person. We can decry the way that some people destroy the lives of other people, but we need to recognize that we are inclined to join them in these sins. St. Paul tells us that we must not be part of the evils of the world. We need to come out of the darkness and, as the first reading says, walk in the light of the Lord. It is easy to point the finger at other people and to declare that the world is in bad shape because of them. It is difficult to point the finger at ourselves. It is easy for me to stand up here as a priest and say, "Because of this person or that group of people, our world is being destroyed.” And it is easy for you to sit there in those seats and agree with me. Maybe you might even applaud because, you think, it is about time that somebody told it as it is and stuck it to those sinners.

That’s easy for you to do, at least as long as you are not the one or part of a group of people who are being assaulted by the priest. It is so much harder to reform our own sins then to point at the sins of others. There is a certain wisdom in the story I know you have many priests tell about the Catholic pastor who was laying into his congregation for what he perceived were their sins. We’ll call him Fr. Smith. "You people with your lies and your promiscuous ways,” Fr. Smith began. Then he got heated up. "You keep this up,” he shouted, "And you are all going to go to hell. Is that what you want? You want to go to hell? Stand up if you want intend to continue your sinful ways and choose hell. Stand up if you want to go to hell.” And, of course, no one got up. But after a few minutes of absolute silence Frank Jones arose from his pew. Now Frank was a kindly old man, even saintly. People often asked him for his advice.

The felt the presence of God in his words. Frank got up. The congregation gasped. Fr. Smith’s jaw dropped. He finally composed himself and said, "Frank Jones, do you want to go to hell?” "No, Father, " Jones said. "Then why did you get up?” "Well, Father, I didn’t think it was right that you be the only one standing.” Whether we are priests or lay people, we have got to be concerned with coming out of the darkness ourselves, not with what we perceive are the sins of others. And we do need to come out of darkness. We need to put up the fight against evil in our own lives. If we do this then we will be ready for our final union with the Lord. We need to stay awake. For the Lord is coming to fulfill our hope and the hope of all people. He is always ready for us.

We need to be ready for Him. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the assurance of what is hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. "Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” Paul adds in our second reading. There is no reason for us to be negative with our world, with others or even with ourselves. We believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. We are people of faith. We are people of hope.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
1 Advent
Resisting Happiness Week 1: Misery or Happiness? (November 27, 2016)

Message: Here's the choice we face: misery or happiness? Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord! Welcome to Advent! You notice I am wearing the color purple. At the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful I will bless the Advent Wreath and the server will light the first candle. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord! During these four weeks of Advent I will focus on the theme of happiness. On one hand it seems like an easy theme - everyone wants to be happy and we want others to be happy. Parents want their children to be happy. A boyfriend or girlfriend wants happiness for the other person. Business people want colleagues and customers to be happy. We desire happiness for others and ourselves. So, on one hand it should be easy to talk about happiness.

On the other hand, there is a problem. I fear talking about happiness because I know exactly what some are thinking: "Easy for you, Father Bloom, to talk about happiness. You don't know all the stress I am under. You don't know my problems." I don't. At least for most of you. Some have shared, perhaps during confession, but even so I can enter other people's anguish only in a limited way. In this series on happiness I don't pretend to offer a solution to problems. I do however want to explore this universal desire. You know, even though a person might not be happy at present we all dream about some moment when we will be. We might think, "Oh, when the Christmas rush is over and we sit down to that wonderful dinner, then I will be happy." Or maybe, "I'll be happy when we've finished dinner and, with beer in hand, I can relax and watch TV." Some people ruin their lives by fantasizing about future happiness: I feel awful right now but I will be happy when I can get high. Or go on a shopping binge. Or rendezvous with some person. In seeking happiness these people create misery for themselves and those closest to them. That's the paradox - the seeming contradiction - in seeking happiness we destroy happiness. In this series we will examine why we resist happiness.

And how we can overcome that resistance. On completing the series I will have a surprise. For today I conclude by telling you about a man who first resisted then chose happiness. He wasn't a Christian but not an atheist either. He struggled mightily with sexual temptations. He used to say this prayer, "God, make me chaste, but not yet!" One day he was alone in a garden and he heard a voice saying, "Tolle et legge." Take and read. He thought maybe it was child outside the garden fence and he tried to think about what children's game they might be playing. The voice became more persistent: Take and read! On a table was a book with St. Paul's letters. He opened to the exact passage we heard today: "Not in orgies and drunkenness not in promiscuity and lust not in rivalry and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." At that moment the young man made a choice: to pray for purity of hear. Temptations did not cease, maybe there was even some fall I don't know, but that day he made a radical choice. It was a choice between misery and happiness.

Maybe you've heard about this man. He went on to become the Church's most influential preacher (after St. Paul): St. Augustine of Hippo. Jesus makes it clear that like Augustine we also face that choice: misery or happiness. "One will be taken and one will be left." Descent into misery or a horizon of happiness that extends to eternity. We will explore that choice during these next weeks of Advent - the strange reality that we have happiness within reach yet we keep resisting. My dream is that one day - maybe this very day - we will say together, Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord! Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent, Classic Sunday, November 27, 2016 Matthew 24:37-44

Gospel Summary
Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot know the day their Lord is coming. They must be prepared because that coming will be at a moment they least expect. He observed that people were totally unconcerned at the time of the flood. As a result the unexpected flood destroyed them. In the same way, he warns, a thief can enter a house if the owner is not prepared to safeguard it. Life Implications Jesus observed our human tendency to live in illusion, out of touch with what's really going on, and as a result we often suffer tragic consequences. Jesus warns us that if we succumb to this tendency we will not be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man, either at our death or at the end of time. Today, as a consequence of the widespread anxiety induced by economic stress and terrorist attacks, we may become victims of yet a different kind of illusion. We can become so occupied with the "war on terrorism” that we will be unprepared for the Lord's coming, and suffer even more tragic consequences as a result. "If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you” (Rev 3:3).

Jesus warns us that there are countless things of this world that can make us forget the one certain reality—the day of the Lord's coming. Immediately following the passage of today's Advent gospel, Matthew places three parables in which Jesus gives us examples of the kinds of people for whom the Lord's coming will not be a happy experience. A wicked servant says to himself, "My master is long delayed,” (Matthew 24: 48) and begins to ill-treat his fellow servants and drink with drunkards. Five foolish virgins, awaiting the coming of the bridegroom, neglect to provide oil for their lamps, and are shut out. A servant out of fear buries the talent that has been entrusted to him instead of doing something creative with it.

As the climax of the three parables, Matthew gives us Jesus' graphic description of what will happen in the final judgment at his coming. The outcome—happy or tragic—depends on how we treat each other here and now, even the least of our brothers and sisters—the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the prisoner. "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me...what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (25:31-46). In Catholic belief, the grace of the Eucharistic liturgy actualizes in us what the gospel proclaims. It would not be good news simply to hear the warning of Jesus about the danger of living in illusion. A warning alone brings more anxiety, not joyful hope. The good news is that today we may receive the gift of the Spirit who enables us to see what's really going on with the eyes of Jesus and to respond to that reality with the courage of Jesus—without illusion and without anxiety. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
1 Advent
First Sunday of Advent

We begin the liturgical year hearing in the Gospel a solemn warning from Christ to his disciples. He warns them severely to get themselves ready; he tells them not to be caught out on the Last Day. He urges them to be prepared and tells them not to be like the people in Noah's day who ignored his advice and went on eating and drinking till they were all washed away in the Great Flood. These words are addressed to his immediate disciples but, of course, they are also addressed to Christians in whichever era that they live, because Christ wants every one of us to be ready for that great Day of Days when he will come in glory ready to judge the living and the dead. We know that the Gospel is not all about warnings. We are perfectly aware that it is packed full of positive teachings urging us to be good and kind and to love our fellow man. The main purpose of the Gospel is to tell us all about Jesus and about how he lived and what he taught. It tells us of his miracles and many other wonders. It gives us heart as we journey through life and it enables us to live in a new and more generous way.

But as we begin this new liturgical year with the season of Advent we are alerted by the Church and told to be on our guard and to prepare ourselves to be ready for the second coming of Christ. The word Advent literally means coming and during this important liturgical season we prepare ourselves for the two great comings of Christ: first for the anniversary of his coming into our world as an infant in Bethlehem and secondly for when he comes as the Great Judge and Lord of all at the end of time. The preparation for both of these comings is exactly the same. We confess our sins and we resolve to become more faithful disciples of Christ. We recommit ourselves to his service and we choose again to embrace his Gospel of love.

Jesus Christ entered our world as a tiny babe on that first Christmas Day. And as his followers we celebrate the anniversary of that great event with immense joy and love in our hearts. And in order to do this well we get ourselves ready during this season of Advent. We give our souls a bit of a spring clean and we put our lives in order so that we are spiritually ready to celebrate this great Christian feast worthily and well. I don't know about you but one of the modern day duties that falls to me during Advent is to choose appropriate gifts for my family members and very close friends. And sometimes it is really quite difficult to decide on exactly the right gift for each particular person. It often requires a great deal of thought and sometimes I find myself having to go to a lot of trouble to find just the right thing. I generally find, however, that the earlier I start the easier it is. This duty is an expression of the deep love that is in our hearts for those closest to us. During the year we might find it difficult to find ways to demonstrate our love for those nearest to us but at Christmas by means of a well-chosen gift we can make up for our lack of demonstrativeness during the previous year. So while the season of Advent has a certain sobriety about it, underneath there is a lot of quiet joy and often great thoughtfulness for those around us whom we love. Advent however starts with a particular focus on the end of the world, on Christ's Second Coming.

As we have seen, the liturgical year begins with a warning. We are told to look out for the Last Day and to be always in the process of getting ourselves ready for that great day when we shall meet the King of Kings and find ourselves standing before his judgement seat. We might think that on that day we will be quaking in our shoes with fear, dreading the possibility of eternal damnation. But if we live our lives as best we can as true Christians then we need have no fear on that final day. The Lord that will be greeting us will be a welcoming Lord, a merciful Lord, a Lord who earnestly wants to invite us to share his Kingdom of Love. Of course, if we have lived a dissolute life, if we have spent our time here on earth living in defiance of the laws of God, if we have been wholly self-centred, or if we have denied our love to others then we really should be quaking in our shoes. By living in such a way we will have demonstrated to God that we are unfit to live in his Kingdom. We will have already made our own choice and all that will be left for God to do is to issue the verdict that we will already have pronounced on ourselves. But this is not what we want. We choose to live lives worthy of God's love; we choose to do the things in this world which will enable us to live with God forever.

And if we have failed on some occasions, or fallen into sin for whatever reason, then we know exactly what we have to do which is to repent and beg pardon from God especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And there is no better time for us to do this than in these few weeks running up to Christmas. So Advent is a season of repentance, it is certainly a season when we take stock of our lives, but most of all it is a season of forgiveness. We began the Liturgy of the Word today with a marvellous reading from the Prophet Isaiah all about the gathering of the nations before the Lord at the end of time. Its words are majestic and Isaiah paints a picture of all the nations gathering together as they go up to God's holy mountain. They go to the Mountain of the Lord quite willingly in order to subject themselves to God's judgement. They stream from all corners of the world and they resolve to live in God's ways and express their decision to live peaceably till the end of their days. What better image could we have of the Christian life than this; that the people of the world come together seeking to live under God's guidance and in conformity with his laws determining to live in peace with each other all their days. Isaiah beautifully concludes with the invitation: ‘O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.' It is an invitation addressed as much to us as it was to those ancient Israelites
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