02 December 20181 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
First Sunday of Advent: Sacred Lists

Santa has made his appearance at the end of the Macy Day parade and in the malls throughout the country. Christmas is upon us. Well, not really. For us Catholics, Advent is upon us. Christmas starts, well, on Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting. We place ourselves back into the days of the Hebrew Scriptures and re-read the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. We join the ancients in waiting for the Lord to be born. But that is only one way that we wait during Advent. We also wait for the Lord to come a second time, at the end of time, or, if we don't live that long, at the end of our own time on earth. This second waiting is the theme of our readings for this week. "Wait for the Day of the Lord with increased love for one another," Paul tells the Thessalonians in one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture, our second reading, "Wait for the Lord in a way that is pleasing to God by living out the instructions you have received." Today's Gospel reading comes from the apocalyptical section of Luke. Like the Book of Revelations, or the Apocalypse, this literary genre uses frightening symbolism to move people into action. The predictions frighten us. "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world" We are meant to become emotionally involved.

"Be vigilant at all times," the Lord says, "and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." Stay awake. Be ready. These are the themes of the First Sunday of Advent. But how are we to be ready? Perhaps, we can take a cue for our advent preparation from the little children. Right now they are making out their lists to send to Santa. Well, we should also make out our lists, in our minds if not on paper. But our lists must be different than the children's lists. Our lists must both contain what we need and demonstrate what we are doing to help fulfill our needs. At the Second Coming, be it at the end of time or the end of our own personal time on earth, at the Second Coming the Lord will examine our lists and then look to see if we have done our part to bring each item into reality. This morning I want to give you a few examples of what should be on our lists, and how we should participate in attaining our needs. At the top of our lists should be world peace. Terrorists have disrupted our sense of security. The world is involved in another world war, only one quite different than the two of the last century. This world war does not have battle lines. It exists wherever there are innocent people who can serve as targets for the extremists. We pray for peace continually, but what are we doing about it? Yes, we support our military who are fighting terrorists, but that certainly isn't enough. How can we have peace if we hate those who hate us? We have to rid our hearts of hatred, even for those who are doing hideous atrocities in the name of a religion their leaders have perverted. One way to eliminate hatred is to pray for the haters.

We need to pray that those committing atrocities listen to their consciences and follow the natural law that God has planted within all rational people. These men and women who are told by their religious leaders to do horrible things to those they decide not to kill, have a voice within them that tells them that it is wrong to beat a child to death, do horrible things to a teenage girl, or mow down the captives of a village. They have a voice within them that tells them that it is wrong to kill people at a concert, on an airplane, or children in schools. We need to pray that they listen to the voice of God within them, not the voice of their perverted religious leaders. We need to pray that they be like St. Joseph who knew in his heart that it would be wrong to submit Mary to the law and have her stoned to death. He followed his conscience and by doing that he became the foster father of the Lord. When the Lord comes and checks the top of our lists and sees world peace, He is going to ask us, "And what have you done to fight hatred." We need to respond, "I have prayed for those committing the abominations.

I then found that when I prayed for them to return to you, I could not hate them, I could only hate their actions." Somewhere on our lists we have to ask the Lord that people keep their vows, their marriage vows and their religious vows. If people were faithful to their marriages, we would not have a fear for the deterioration of family life. If priests and religious were faithful to their vows, we would not be concerned about the direction of the Church. But what are we doing about these vows? First of all, we need to remember what a vow is. It is not simply a promise. A vow is a commitment to God to live our lives in a way that puts Him in the center of our lives. Those who marry make a vow to God through their husband or wife. Their vow is to make Him present in their love for their spouse. To do this they have to love as Christ loved, with sacrificial love. When people work hard to make this type of love the center of their marriage, then despite all the difficulties of daily life, all the warts of the human condition, the love of Christ will prevail. Those who become priests or religious make vows to serve God through serving his people. When the love of God really becomes the center of their lives, then their own wants become secondary to the needs of God's people. The Church then remains on the direction of serving God through his people, and is not tied up in fulfilling tradition and manmade laws for the sake of tradition and manmade laws. When the Lord comes and sees on our lists that we have placed the keeping of vows, he is going to ask us, "How well have you kept your own vows? And what have you done to help others keep their vows?" We need to respond, "When I was young, I prayed to God to prepare me for marriage. After I married, I prayed for my spouse every day. I prayed for other people's marriages.

I have prayed for my parents' marriage. I have prayed to God to help me prepare to be a priest or religious; and I have prayed for all those who have made vows to you." On these interactive lists that we are preparing to show the Lord on the Last Day, the world or ours, we have to place the needs of our children, Teens and young adults. We pray that the young have the courage to withstand the many forces attacking their spiritual lives. We pray that they have the determination to change the world from one that glorifies the self, tries to convince them to make themselves the center of the universe, to a world that radiates the Love of Christ. And when the Lord asks all of us, "What have you done to bring this about?" we need to respond, "I have fought hypocrisy in my own life. I realized that the young need models to look up to and to follow. I have also prayed for the young. I pray for my children, your children, every day." These are just a few of the items we need to place on our interactive lists preparing for the Last Day. We should add that life be respected, including the lives of those who do not respect life. We should put on our lists freedom and pray for freedom, true freedom, not licentiousness. True freedom is the freedom to be our best selves not the freedom to do whatever we want without considering the impact of our actions on ourselves or on others.

We should put on our lists those who are struggling to have a decent existence, those who lack housing, or food, or water, or health care, those who are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged. We need to pray for the least of our society, the poor, and the marginalized, and we need to find ways to reach out to them. The Lord told us in Matthew 25, that at the end of time he will ask, "And what have you done for the least of my brethren?" Advent calls us to prepare for life, the fullness of life with family and friends, and the promise of life eternal. Advent calls us to focus in on all that is sacred. It warns us that if we don't reflect on what is sacred, more than that, if we are not active in promoting that which is sacred, then we will assure the arrival of a day when nothing is sacred. And so we are told, "Stay Awake," for the One is coming who will soon be checking our lists.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
1 Advent
First Advent Virtue: Patience
(Decembere 2, 2018)

Bottom line: Patience is essential to our relationship to God and to each other. Asking for that virtue I will bless the Advent Wreath and light the first of four candles.

As we begin Advent, we hear St Paul say, "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts..." When we turn to God, he begins to strengthen us. Another word for strength is virtue. The word come from the Latin "virtus" which means "manliness." We want strong men and - I hasten to add, women of strength. That means men and women of virtue. Our Advent series will focus on four virtues. The first Advent virtue is patience. Each of today's Scripture readings speak about patient waiting, but I was particularly struck by the Psalm, "For you I wait all the day long." You have the image of a man standing in the temple - not too far from the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies - waiting for the Lord to speak or inspire him. He will wait all day if necessary and, even if nothing happens, he will still consider it time well spent. That kind of patience is not easy, but it is essential to our relationship with the Lord - and, for that matter, with each other. Patient waiting is sometimes the greatest service a person can perform. Soldiers know that. One of the slogans in the military is "hurry up and wait." A soldier has to be vigilant. It might involve some boredom, but is necessary to defend one's country. I had the opportunity to talk with a doctor who works in the emergency room of a hospital. I asked her if her work is as exciting as the television programs. She said at times it is, but she added "we also have to do a lot of waiting, just standing by."

I don't know about you, but I am glad that she and other people are willing to stand by. I am grateful for their patience. The Lord tells us today that we must stand by and patiently wait for him. He warns against the impatience that leads to escapist behavior - like excessive drinking. He also warns against getting so caught up in the immediate concerns that we fall into anxiety, which is a kind of free-floating fear. The key to avoiding both anxiety and escapism is vigilance, also known as patience. An early Christian writer named Tertullian considered patience the most basic virtue. He wrote a classic essay on patience.* Tertullian begins by focusing on the patience of God and of Jesus. Then he describes how our first parents fell away from God because of their impatience. After analyzing the damage caused by impatience, Tertullian uses examples of biblical saints to inspire his readers to practice the virtue. It is a powerful essay, but it contains a sad irony. Tertullian wrote wonderfully about patience, but he had a terrible time practicing it. Toward the end of his life, he grew so impatient with the failings of the Church that he joined a sect he imagined would bring about a perfect church. Like Tertullian, you and I can become discouraged with the Church. Before jumping ship, however, we need to step back and take a look at history. History teaches patience.

And you know, without patience we cannot properly love other people. Love requires that we listen patiently to that other person - and balance our own desires against the good of the other. Over the years I have read a number of self-help books. Some people tell me I should ask for my money back. That might be, but I've noticed they almost always emphasize delayed gratification. So many people ruin their lives - and other peoples' lives - by grasping at some satisfaction before its time. The truth is that the Lord will satisfy all our legitimate desires, if we only have patience. Stand erect, Jesus says, lift your head. Like a solider be vigilant. To grow in patience the Bible recommends fasting.

During Advent we don't have specific fast days, but I invite you to select a day - maybe Tuesdays or Fridays - to fast. It may mean abstaining from some favorite food. Consider the Daniel Fast: no meat, dairy, eggs, fried foods, sweets or alcohol. Instead - fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts. Fasting is patience - delayed satisfaction. Fasting is like going to a gym to build up strength. But even if you don't go to a gym, you still have other ways to get in shape. Ask God for patience and, don't worry, he will give you opportunities to exercise patient endurance. Before I conclude let me suggest something practical. A person once decided to make a small gesture: when he went to Mass, he started parking his car in the furthest spot so visitors could get a closer space, especially in the rain. That small gesture started influencing other aspects of his life. A little delayed gratification can go a long way. Patience, delayed gratification, is essential to our relationship to God and to each other. Asking for that virtue I will bless the Advent Wreath and light the first of four candles. Next Sunday we shall see a virtue closely related to patience. Don't worry. It's a much easier virtue. Ultimately as we shall see these four Sundays of Advent, virtue does not depend so much on our puny power, but a Higher Power. As St. Paul says, "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts..." **********

*Here's a quote: "She (patience) fortifies faith; is the pilot of peace; assists charity; establishes humility; waits long for repentance; sets her seal on confession; rules the flesh; preserves the spirit; bridles the tongue; restrains the hand; tramples temptations under foot; drives away scandals; gives their crowning grace to martyrdoms; consoles the poor; teaches the rich moderation; overstrains not the weak; exhausts not the strong; is the delight of the believer; invites the Gentile; commends the servant to his lord, and his lord to God; adorns the woman; makes the man approved; is loved in childhood, praised in youth, looked up to in age; is beauteous in either sex, in every time of life."

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

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

We finished the liturgical year last Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. Today we begin the new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent and we will be guided through it with the help of St Luke the Evangelist. Surprisingly we begin at the very end. On this First Sunday of Advent we hear how Jesus predicts the end-times, the Second Coming. He warns his disciples that they will not know in advance when that dreadful day will be. Although there will be signs in the sky and on the earth, actually that day will be sprung on us suddenly, as Jesus says, like a trap. Our task is to live our lives in readiness, prepared always for that final day of days. We are advised by Christ to stay awake, to be alert so that we may stand in confidence before the Son of Man when he comes in glory. Those who live sinful lives will have reason to fear when that day comes. Those who are caught up in selfishness, licentiousness, deceit and such things will be shaking in their shoes when that final day arrives. However, for a serious Christian the proper attitudes to adopt in preparation for that day are alertness and readiness and a spirit of repentance for our sins. The whole of our Christian lives ought to be one of preparedness, getting ourselves fit for that Last Day.

What this means is living our lives in a proper manner; it means keeping the commandments as best we can; it means cultivating in our lives the Christian values; it means turning to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we have broken God's laws. And besides these things it also means that we should take seriously our duty as Christian Evangelists, especially in relation to our own children. It is our sacred duty to hand on the faith to our children, to teach them to pray and to show them how to love God and our neighbour. God does not want us to live our lives in fear and trembling or in dread of that final day. As Jesus says in the final line of our Gospel today, he wants us to 'stand with confidence before the Son of Man.' God wants us to live our lives in such a way that we will have no fear of an adverse judgement at the end of time. Living our lives in accordance with Christ's teaching will fill us with inner strength and self-assurance. We will have become better people and therefore see ourselves in a positive light and feel good about ourselves. Following the Gospel will give us integrity and strength and we will discover that we have become more fulfilled human beings. The Season of Advent is a time when we prepare for two comings. The first is the appearance in our world of Christ on the very first Christmas Day; we get ourselves ready to celebrate the anniversary of that great event in the life of the world. But while we are doing this, we are also preparing ourselves for that Last Day, the day of Christ's second coming. It is often like this in the liturgy, we frequently find ourselves doing two things at once and during Advent we do precisely this. On the one hand we look back in time two thousand years as we prepare to mark once again Christ's birth in the stable of Bethlehem.

And on the other hand, we look forwards to the end of time as we anticipate Christ's second coming. But in looking back and at the same time looking forward we are actually considering the same thing namely our salvation. Christ comes as our Saviour. That is literally what the name Jesus means: 'one who saves.' He enters our world with the sole purpose of saving us from our sins and he carries this out by the sacrifice of his life on the altar of the Cross. The culmination of this saving work occurs on the Last Day when the whole of mankind experiences what we call the general judgement. Our own particular judgement occurs at the moment of our death but in the Church we also believe that there will be a general judgement which will take place at the end of time. We are taught that there will be a great gathering of the whole of humanity and Christ will appear to judge the nations. This will be the definitive and final conclusion to his great work of salvation. Christ tells us how to get ready for Judgement Day. He says, 'Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen.' From this we see that prayer is the key, because it is through prayer that we come close to God. Prayer is an essential aspect of the life of any Christian. And I would go so far as to say that if we do not pray then we can hardly even call ourselves a Christian.

Neglect to pray and you will find that you are neglecting all your other Christian duties. We cannot love God unless we are close to him and the way to get close to him is principally through prayer and the celebration of the sacraments. Prayer while it certainly involves the reciting of particular prayers such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Act of Contrition cannot be left at that. True prayer is that inner dialogue which we have with God.

True prayer is realising that God is listening to our every thought. True prayer involves us in talking to God throughout the day. True prayer involves us adopting a listening attitude as we attempt to discern God's intention for us. To summarise, we acknowledge that we need to get ourselves ready to face divine judgement. And we do this by shunning sin, by adopting the Christian values and by trying to live our lives as Jesus taught us. It further means that we need to grow close to God in prayer. We do this by deepening the intimacy between God and ourselves so much so that over a period of time we find ourselves talking and dialoguing with God all through the day. Doing these things will make us grow in faith and love so when that great day dawns on us we will be confident and ready and unashamed to face the Lord when he comes in glory and power.

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.