18 November 20181 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
1 Advent
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 13:24-32

In 1981, a man left $57,000 in his will to Jesus. It was for His own use when He returned at the Second Coming. The money was to be invested at the highest interest in the meantime. Does anyone really think that Jesus will be shopping at a posh department store for a new seamless robe and sandals upon His return? Does anyone feel money is what He shall require from us at the Parousia? Is this what the Nazarene is all about? Christ is more interested in the way we conduct our lives this moment rather than tomorrow. He is more eager to see us improve life for others today than He is to remove us from it. Andrew Greeley has some wise thoughts on this point. The Second Coming, the New Age, the New Epoch, he says, can and should be happening throughout this day and week. I saw the Second Coming at a Soup Kitchen where I worked. A white woman volunteer gave a black man soup, pasta, and coffee. As he was leaving, he thanked her. Then she noticed the bad condition of his shoes. She told him to wait. From the clothing closet, she brought several pair. The woman got down on her knees and fitted each pair. Finally, she found his fit. In this forty minute encounter, Jesus in His Second Coming was present. I was watching Him washing His apostles' feet all over again. I witnessed the New Age today at a fast-food restaurant.

A busload of children treated their waitress with kindness. "Please" and "thank you" were more plentiful than hamburgers and cokes. They cleaned their table. They left a generous tip and a happy waitress. There was no doubt but that the Lord was present. I see the New Epoch every time one of you gives me $100 and asks me to give it to a family having a difficult time. If one looks sharp enough, you can see a smile on Christ's face. I observed the New Order yesterday. I was lost and could not find the correct road. I asked directions of a young man. Though he was in as much a hurry as I, he U-turned and told me to follow him for several miles. Then he put my car on the correct road. Can you not hear Jesus applaud as I tell you this story? I heard of the Second Coming yesterday. A mother told me of her return from a long journey. On her kitchen table, she found a dozen carnations waiting to greet her. The benefactor was her teen son. That day she saw Christ in her boy. I saw the New Epoch last week. A priest had heard that hostiles in a parish were gleefully giving another priest, whom he hardly knew, a hard time. He phoned. "May I buy you a good lunch?" The trip cost him not only the restaurant bill but also a round trip of 140 miles, and over half a tank of gas.

Was not the Nazarene riding with him that day? You, I am sure, can fill in the blanks and tell me of the times when you saw the Second Coming this past week. And hopefully you were the cause of it. If negative, just as hopefully you will bring it about tomorrow. We ask Jesus, "How do we prepare for dying?" He responds, "By living."
As Greeley says, the answer to the "when?" of the Second Coming can be readily given. The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness. A man helped Mother Teresa in Calcutta. He was swept off his feet as he watched the small giant wash sick bodies. He said to her, "I want to remain here permanently with you." The woman, whose wrinkled face showed thousands of miles of wear, said with a smile, "No, no. It is but an illusion. Go home and bloom where you are planted. The message that each one of us is a member of God's family is as much needed where you came from as it is here. We must do small things with great love." This last line so moved US President George W Bush that he quoted it in his brief inaugural address in Washington, DC in 2001. This week why not see how many times you yourself can bring Jesus back to earth? Here's a proverb to motivate you. "I sought my God; my God I could not see. I sought my soul; my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor, and I found all three." Become God's miracle for somebody today. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
1 Advent
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Faith to the End

At this time every year, I go down to Guardian Angles School to answer questions that the 8th graders devised. The kids are honest and frank, and I am honored that they trust me enough to seek some answers to areas of life that might be troubling them, particularly areas relating to their stage in life, adolescence. So, many of their questions are about dating and sexuality. I have to say that they are always quite respectful in the way they frame their questions. I am not be able to get away with my standard answer for their concerns regarding sexuality, "Ask your mother." The 8th graders can ask questions about any area. Some questions are about doubts in faith, or about particular beliefs. A few years ago, I was asked a question that greatly disturbed me. It was not about a sexual matter, but a question about our country. I was asked, "Do you think that the United States is getting farther and farther away from God?" I answered that by telling them that in some ways the country with its laws protecting abortion, defining marriage, etc, is drawing further from God, but in other ways the country is drawing closer to God. This is seen in the determination of our country to care for the poor and sick in the United States and throughout the world and in the commitment of so many of our young people, particularly young families, to lead Christ centered lives. Many older people have nothing but negatives to say about the young.

They do not know the young. No one can attend any of the many youth conferences, youth retreats, or campus ministries or get to know our young families and not feel good about the future of our country as well as our church. Still, I can understand the source of the 8th grader's question. There is a great deal of evil not just in our country but in the world. There are terror attacks that are perpetrated by the perversion of a religion that instructs its members to wage war throughout the world using all forms of terror, some of which should not be mentioned around our children. There is a great deal of evil in the world. It is understandable how people can become pessimists. But pessimism is not the Christian attitude. Christians are optimists. Jesus Christ became one of us, died for us, gave us his life, and offers a personal relationship to each of us. Take the first reading for today, from the Book of Daniel. We heard about a time unsurpassed in distress. But we also heard that Michael, our prince, the great archangel, joins us in the battle against evil. The reading speaks about the end of time and the final destruction of the world. Even here we are optimists. We heard that those whose names are written in God's book will escape the destruction coming upon mankind. We learned that the wise shall shine brightly and those who lead many to justice will be like the stars forever. In today's Gospel we heard that when the time of devastation comes, God's angels will gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

Those who lead many to justice will shine like the stars forever. This is where the readings about the end of time become less about something we hope will be in the far future and more about the way that we are living our faith now. We need to lead the many to justice. Biblical justice is more than fair treatment in a courtroom. In the bible, justice means living so united to God that our decisions reflect His Presence. We are called to lead others to justice. We are called to help them see His Presence in our actions, our care for the poor, the struggling, the sick, and all who are dependent on our compassion. On January 1st, 1972, the pope, St. Paul VI, proclaimed, "If you want peace, work for justice." This message has animated many areas of the Catholic Church, particularly the Catholic Campaign for Human Development here in the United States. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Relief Services, missions in Haiti, Africa and throughout the world, the Peace Corp, Doctors Without Borders, and so many other charitable organizations are examples of the wise, very often the young, shining brightly. These organizations of charity exist because there are people of faith in the world, people whose faith is so strong that no matter what horrors have been or are being thrust upon the world, they firmly believe that God will win the final battle against evil. In the last century the world faced great evil, the rise of the Third Reich. In Europe, the British faced a real possibility of being conquered. All in England felt obliged to participate in the war in some way.

They called it "doing my bit." Each bit might seem to be only a little bit, but it was all part of a tremendous war effort. Like the Brits, we are facing evil that is doing everything to destroy us. Each of us can and must do our bit. That "bit" might be here in our country, or in another country. It might consist in giving a year to help destitute people, or a life. It might mean making a financial sacrifice so others can do this work. Our bit certainly means changing our lifestyle if that is what we need to do to fight evil within our homes. Whatever it may be, we all need to do our bit in the war against evil. Our hearts hurt when we learn about terrorist attacks. The caliphate of evil, must be destroyed, but we have to realize that it is just one of the many forms of evil attacking God's people. The attack on human life at every stage of life, from womb to tomb, substance abuse, pornography, immoral gains in business through the exploitation of others, the economic model that some must lose so others may gain, are all just some of the ways that the world is in the grip of evil. But we, people of faith, refuse to give in to pessimism. Michael is fighting with us. Jesus Christ is the Victor. We are optimistic that in the end, the end of time, evil will be defeated. And then we, people of faith, trust that God will join us to Himself as He wins the final battle.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
1 Advent
(November 18, 2018)

Bottom line: So begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself - amazingly, inexplicably - gathered to Jesus.
Some of you remember Stephen Covey's book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The second habit states: Begin with the end in mind. Covey asks the reader to imagine a funeral - one's own. Think about what you would want people to say about your relationships, what matters most to you, the legacy you leave. That's a good meditation but this weekend I ask you take it a step further: not just the end of your life but the end of human history. Jesus promises he "will send out the angels and gather his elect..." As we say in the Creed: He will come to judge the living and the dead. That's where we are headed. Keep that end in mind. The idea of judgment can sound scary. Many people reject God because judgement scares them. I understand, but at the same time we desire, even demand, judgement. Consider a recent event - the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Apart from the political implications, the case left us with a dilemma: On one hand a woman insists that Kavanaugh abused and humiliated her. She retains a memory of cruel laughter and mockery. On the other hand he asserts that false accusations have permanently damaged him and his family. One way or another a terrible injustice has happened. The case cries out for justice. Beyond the politics this matter touches us because it connects with other injustices - injustices that strike close to home.

Pope Benedict said, "the question of justice constitutes the essential argument - or in any case the strongest argument - in favor of faith in eternal life." Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. In today's Gospel we see that after judgment Jesus will gather his elect. If we begin with that end in mind, then we want to know how we become part of the elect? That's the big question. In some ways, the only question. Let's start with an image we have been using these past months - the sunflower. In our banner we see sunflowers surrounded by the message, "Turn to God." As the sunflower draws life from the soil, so we owe all to God. The sunflower then turns to the source of life and warmth. Just so, we want to live as children of the light. Turn to God and renounce those things people do under the cover of darkness. We all bear a burden of shame. Don't run from it; take it to Jesus. Turn to him. As we hear in the second reading, he has offered one sacrifice for sin. In Jesus we can make a new beginning.

We are in a spiritual battle. Jesus warns about coming tribulations. I would be a liar if I told you everything will be smooth sailing. We need to prepare for spiritual combat. We can't do it alone. Call on St. Michael for defense against Satan. The prophet Daniel speaks today about "Michael the great prince" - the guardian of God's people. When I meet someone named Michael, I ask him if he knows the meaning of his name. Usually he doesn't. It comes from three short Hebrew words: Mi-Ka-El: Who Like God? You and I want to make ourselves into little gods. But the proper response is Mi-Ka-El? Who is like God? The answer, of course, is no one. God is the Source who has no source. He is the Light all light comes from.

Turn to God. Now, I don't want to give the idea we can earn salvation. No, Jesus has won salvation for us by the cross. For that reason the most basic step is thanksgiving. Gratitude is salvation. At our Thanksgiving Mass we will hear about a leper who returns to thank Jesus. "Your faith has saved you," Jesus tells him. This Thursday I will give examples of extreme gratitude and extreme ingratitude. That's the choice we face. So begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself - amazingly, inexplicably - gathered to Jesus. It's pure mercy. You know it. With that end in mind we can make a new beginning. We can let go of anger because we know justice belongs to God. We can let go of fear because we know Jesus has won salvation. We can face tribulation because we hear St. Michael say, Who is like God? Jesus one day will gather his elect. Turn to God.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
1 Advent
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are coming to the end of the liturgical year during which we have been seeing the years of Christ's public ministry through the eyes of St Mark. As we approach the conclusion of the year it is appropriate that we consider Christ's words about the Last Days. Jesus tells his disciples that, 'In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.' I don't think that we are meant to take these words in an absolutely literal sense. What Jesus is using is an Old Testament way of speaking. The heavens are the realm of God and when upheavals in the heavens are spoken about it means that there is going to be something momentous happening in the realm of God. These words certainly should not be taken as an astronomy lesson; the stars won't literally fall from the sky, after all the laws of physics wouldn't allow it. What Jesus is talking about is that everything that exists will eventually come to its conclusion.

Just as the material universe had a beginning, a creation, so it will also have an ending. There will be a final day when everything we know will come to an end. On that great day Christ will come in glory and what we call the General Judgement will take place. On that day as it says in Philippians, 'All beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, will bend the knee at the name of Jesus and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' We only have for our Gospel text today the second half of Chapter Thirteen of Mark. If we look at the chapter as a whole we will see that Christ predicted three things: the destruction of the Temple; the end of the world; and his second coming. The destruction of the Temple took place about forty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jews revolted as a result of heavy taxation and the Romans sent in their troops and laid siege to the Holy City and after seven months or so managed to overcome the rebellion and laid Jerusalem waste. Actually, the rebels were not united among themselves and this led to them being unable to repel the Roman army. It definitely wasn't the intention of the future Emperor Titus, who led the invasion, to destroy the Temple; he wanted to convert it to Roman worship. But the building caught fire when a Roman soldier threw a burning stick over the wall and this is what led to its destruction.

This prediction of the destruction of the Temple by Jesus as they sat on the hillside looking at the splendid buildings was surely very shocking but, if we see it in context, we realise that the fulfilment of this prophecy gave authenticity to the other predictions made at the same time about the end of the world and the Second Coming. Jesus is very clear that we will not know the day or the hour when the end will occur, but you can imagine that the early disciples once they saw the destruction of Jerusalem and its mighty Temple were sure that the end of the world couldn't be very far off. This thought filled them with trepidation but it also gave them great courage and helped them to face up to dreadful persecutions. Thinking that the second coming was just around the corner made them feel that they had little to lose in bravely standing up to their persecutors. Of course, two thousand years on, the people of today don't think like those early disciples. We tend to have the opposite problem; our temptation today is to think that the world will exist for thousands more years. Believing this we tend not to think overmuch about the end of the world or even for that matter about the end of our own lives. But we definitely should think about these things. We are mortal beings and as surely as we had a beginning, a birth, we will most certainly have an end, a death. And our death is something that we need to prepare for.

We do not like to think about it but we could easily step out of this Church and be mown down by a car as we cross the road. So, we need to prepare for our death, we need to put our lives in order, we need to confess our sins, we need to get ourselves in shape from a spiritual point of view so that we are ready to meet our maker whenever that day comes. But our death and the Final Judgement, while it is something we need to prepare for, is not something that we should be afraid of. Indeed, it is the very opposite, it is something we should hope for, something we should rejoice in. When we are eventually called by Jesus it will not be to face a severe headmaster but to embrace a loving Saviour. If we die with words of repentance on our lips we are assured of a merciful judgement. Rejoicing in the fact that Jesus has brought salvation to the world we should be also happy when we are finally ushered into his presence. It is those who reject the salvation that Jesus brings us who ought to be afraid.

They have good reason to fear their death and the end of the world. But we who embrace God's love and who want to walk in his ways, however imperfectly we may do it, have nothing to fear. As the Prophet Daniel says in our first reading today, 'The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.' That word learned doesn't mean the clever, it is rendered in other translations as 'wise' or 'those who impart wisdom.' If our lives are imbued in the faith, if we communicate the Gospel to others especially to our children then there is nothing for us to fear. That great day when the whole universe comes to its fulfilment will be a day of rejoicing, a day of salvation, a day of love and hope.

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