04 December 20162 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: Not by Appearances I love dressing up for Sunday Mass, and I love seeing so many in our parish who dress up for Church. People are very interesting. Everyone has his or her own look. Consider me. I have my own look. And it takes a lot of time for me to get this look. The washing, the primping, the Just for Men, the combing; it takes a lot of time. Then there's the picking out the right outfit for the day. "Let's see what should I go with today, black, or black, or my favorite, black?” A teenager once asked me why priests wear black. I told him, "school colors.” Anyway, having primped and chosen my wardrobe, my day starts with me making the proper appearance as a priest. I hope you appreciate it. Because God, certainly, does not care. "Not by appearance shall he judge,” we just heard in the first reading from Isaiah. He is not impressed by our coiffure, our wardrobe, or even our demeanor. He doesn't care if someone has a pietistic attitude that makes you wonder if he or she is a model for a plastic sculpture of a saint.

He doesn't care if someone does not appear different than any one else. He doesn't care. There was no missing the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came before John the Baptist in today's Gospel. Both groups had distinctive garb to demonstrate their holiness. John, reflecting God's attitude, was not impressed. He called them a "Brood of Vipers.” Definitely not impressed. Nor does God care what anyone says about someone else. You know, "She is really a saint,” or "He is such a loser.” No, God doesn't judge by hearsay either, according to Isaiah. So, how does God judge? And why was John so negative regarding the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be baptized? According to Isaiah, God judges by actions. He judges by justice. The way people live, the way they treat others is what matters. He judges by justice. The biblical concept of justice is deeper than the legal connotation of justice. In the Bible, justice is the correct relationship with the Lord. Evidence of this relationship is seen in every action of a just person's life. We call a person a "Godly Man or a Godly Woman” because the love of God is seen in the way he or she treats others. The Godly Man is a Just Man. The Godly Woman is a Just Woman. That's why John was furious with the Pharisees and Sadducees. There was nothing godly about these self styled paradigms of holiness.

They were more concerned that others respected them than they were about how they treated others. They looked down at people as though they were dirt. But they were the ones whose bellies were in the dirt. So, John called them by their just name, Brood of Vipers. If they wanted to prove John wrong, they could. He told them they could. What they needed to do was produce good fruit as evidence of their commitment to God, of their repentance. That's why John didn't kick them out. He baptized them too. Have you mastered proper, plastic, pietism? Can you get your heads tilted at the proper slant so that all around you will expect you to be swooped up into heaven at any moment? I hope not. That is not what this Kingdom that John proclaimed is all about. What the Kingdom of God is about is wisdom and understanding, and counsel and courage and reverence for the Presence of God. The cardinal virtues are first found here in the reading from Isaiah. Each virtue speaks about seeing God in others and in the world and acting according to that vision. Each virtue leads us to make justice the band around our waists. Imagine what a beautiful world we would live in if people were truly godly. It would be a world where there was no hatred, or fear, or war, or suffering. Isaiah became quite poetic when he considered this world: the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the baby goat, (kid actually), the calf and the lion shall browse together and the lion won't have veal for lunch. The cow and the bear will get along. And children would no longer die. The baby will play in the cobra's den and not be bitten. The child will put his hand in the adder's lair and not be hurt. "There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain,” the song we love to sing for Advent comes from here, Isaiah 11. The ideal is upon us. The Kingdom of God is transforming the world. And we can be part of this transformation. We can change the world by being godly people. We can change the world by being people of justice and love. The manner that we treat others has far deeper implications than our relationship to this or that individual. When we are kind to someone, we are making the Kingdom a reality in that person's life. When we treat someone with justice, we are providing the world with an experience of God's presence.

For example, let say that a retired person's adult children have been rather unapproachable during the year. They have not bothered about the family. Their own lives were too important and too busy to call to Mom or Dad. Now they want to come to visit for Christmas. Mom and Dad may feel that they have a right to treat them coldly, but if, instead, they are kind and loving, forgetting their absence in past and enjoying their presence, than those children will know what it is like to be welcomed back home not just by their parents, but by God. They will have an experience of the Kingdom of God in the justice of their Godly parents. Maybe it's not the children of a retired person, but a brother or sister who has hurt a sibling and now wants to be warm and friendly for Christmas. Perhaps, they did the same thing last year and the year before, then restored hostilities shortly after the tree came down. It makes no difference. No one can hold a grudge and be a Christian. The conquest of the Kingdom is more important than the rationale for an argument.

When people are genuinely welcoming, when people are warm, then they are godly people working to transform the world, one person, one grudge at a time. Perhaps it's the Teen in school who has invented new ways to be nasty to others. He or she is the least popular person in the class, a distinction he or she has earned by saying things about others, by making others' lives difficult, by just plain being mean. Shock him or her. Give this Teen a Christmas card and truly wish that he or she has a beautiful Christmas. You will be giving the Teen a great Christmas present, an experience of God. You and I need to do this and similar actions, because we have the blessing of being called into the Kingdom of God. Not by appearances does the Lord judge, but by justice, and kindness, and the determination to let the presence of God prepare others to enter His Kingdom. This is justice. And this justice will transform the world. That is our Advent Hope.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Advent
Resisting Happiness Week 2: Tourist or Pilgrim? (December 4, 2016)

Message: Let's not live like tourists getting upset when things don't go our way. Let's become pilgrims. Today we have the second homily in our Advent series on Resisting Happiness. We have seen that God made us for happiness, but we resist. We turn from things that would lead to real happiness and go for things that bring some kind of immediate satisfacion but wind up creating misery for ourselves and those close to us. To make the point I used fairly obvious examples like drugs, alcohol, illicit affairs. St. Paul talks about more subtle traps: factions, rivalries, party spirit, bursts of anger. Those things bring a kind of immediate pleasure, but then long term sadness. Still they can a grip on a person and make him resist real happiness. This series asks how we can overcome resistance to happiness.

Our readings today describe something of great importance - having a goal. Not simply drifting but having a goal that matters. Isaiah describes the "day" that awaits us - the day of reconciliation, healing and justice. Jesus tells us that ultimate justice will happen as his kingdom arrives. For that reason we pray, "Thy kingdom come." If we have a goal - Jesus' kingdom - then life changes. It become a pilgrimage - a journey to a goal. That's what I propose for this homily: that our lives become a pilgrimage. You know, there's a big difference between a pilgrim and tourist. In his book "Resisting Happiness" Matthew Kelly says, "Tourists want everything to go exactly as they have planned and imagined it...Tourists get upset if there are delays. They demand prompt attention and service to their every need and desire. They focus on themselves, often shoving past others to get where they want to go. Tourists go sightseeing. Tourists count the cost. "Pilgrims are very different. They look for signs. If a flight gets delayed or cancelled they ask, 'What is God trying to say to me?'...Pilgrims are aware of the needs of others. Pilgrims go looking for meaning. Pilgrims count their blessings."

When our World Youth Day group went to Poland, our bus broke down stranding us at a service station with no working bathrooms. As it turned out we celebrated an open air Mass and it bound us together in a beautiful way. We did a fair amount of preparation to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, but Auschwitz was not our goal. Our goal was to recognize the radical need for God that we share with every human. That only in Jesus, his kingdom, will we have have reconciliation, healing and justice. Let's not live like tourists getting upset when things don't go our way. Let's become pilgrims. Like St. Paul to ask the "God of endurance' to give us what we need to continue on. I'd like to conclude with "A Pilgrim's Prayer" by Thomas Merton. I put the whole prayer in the bulletin. Here is key part: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.... You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. ************

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.... Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you, does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem lost in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Advent
Second Sunday of Advent, Classic Matthew 3:1-12

Gospel Summary
Today we hear once again the impatient voice of John the Baptist urging us to change so that we may be worthy to receive the Lord as he continues to come into our world. Crooked ways must be made straight; bad habits need to be corrected; conversion must continue. This message comes straight from God and that is why John proclaims it in the desert—a place that has always been associated with divine mystery and freedom. (See how this is portrayed in the relationship between Ahab and Elijah: 1 Kings 18:7ff.) Human control has no place in the symbolic wilderness of divine freedom. John wears the garments that identify him with the great prophet Elijah. Just as Elijah challenged the sinful King Ahab, so does John demand a break with a past of sinful human control to make room for a future where God's will is honored and obeyed. This will not be easy. And so John uses very strong language to scold those who are not interested in change that goes deeper than appearances. True conversion and true readiness for the coming of Jesus requires a conversion that touches our hearts and our deepest values. Life Implications God very much wants to come to us.

We also want to receive him. However, it is usually only on our own terms. We wish to remain attached to habits and attitudes, which are unworthy of us and hurtful to others. Like Saint Augustine, we are inclined to say, "Change me, Lord…but not yet.” Such hesitation is most unfortunate because an unqualified reception of the Lord can provide far more happiness and peace than all the objects of our sinful attachments. What is called for is repentance and we must be careful not to confuse that with remorse. Remorse is simply a temporary regret about our unworthy behavior. It usually lasts a very short time and then we return to our old habits. By contrast, repentance means that we have found something better and more promising than our sinfulness.

This discovery is the love and goodness of God. If we could only realize how much God loves us, we would be able to resist every temptation. We make this discovery primarily through earnest prayer and a deep yearning to become better persons. Today's gospel urges us to make room in our hearts for the love of God, not as a theoretical fact or on someone else's word, but in our own experience. The Eucharist reminds us every Sunday that God loves us and has given his only Son to die for us. This means that we are very precious in God's sight. This also means that God is more than ready to enter our hearts and to lead us to true repentance. We are asked to put aside selfish and defensive behavior so that God's love can give us the freedom to be what God wants us to be—confident and responsible human beings. In this regard, we are reminded of the words of the Book of Revelation: "Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (3:20). This readiness of the Lord to become our best friend is true at all times, but never more so than in the season of Advent. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Advent
Second Sunday of Advent
Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

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 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 in his message, we find that the people respect him for his integrity and they flock to receive Baptism at his hands.

The ordinary people recognise that John's message is an authentic one and that it comes from God. Although John 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 in his instruction of the people to follow him John places himself at the very forefront of the disciples of Jesus. 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 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 is also suffered a martyr's death. In this he is like 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 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 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.

So 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. Pope Francis recently concluded the Year of Mercy; but, in a way, such a year can never truly end because God shows his mercy continually, in all times and seasons. God is always ready to forgive; but on our part we too need to be ever more aware of our need for mercy and reconciliation. Particularly at this time of year forgiveness is something that we should seek out in a sacramental way.
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