1 December 20191 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
1 Advent
First Sunday of Sunday Advent - Cycle A - Matthew 24:37-44

Two men talked about salvation over drinks. "I'm making my Confession on my death bed like the Good Thief." His buddy replied, "There were two thieves on the cross. One guy didn't make it to confession. What makes you think you're not going to be that second guy?" The other fellow put down his Budweiser.

Student devils were being dispatched to the earth to finish their training. Satan interviewed them. To the first: "How will you operate?" Said he: "I will instruct people God does not exist." The Devil shook his head: "Most know our Enemy exists." The next said: "I will argue Hell does not exist." Satan was annoyed: "After millions of abortions, people know Hell exists." The last said: "I will tell all they have plenty of time." Satan beamed: "Good woman. Do that and you'll bring people down here by the billions. Why can't these male devils be as clever as you.?" (CS Lewis)

Most delight in telling ourselves that we have time to set the record straight with God. Yet, if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him about your plans for tomorrow. The most dangerous words in any language is the word "tomorrow." Write your plans then in pencil. Give God the eraser. (Unknown) If we put off a rapprochement with God, we have bought the advice of the third apprentice devil. Some of us might not see Christmas day. It is four weeks away.

On September 11, 2001, 3000 people intended to return to their homes from the World Trade Center in New York City. None of them made it.

The Great Wall of China was built to keep the enemy out. They got in. How? They bribed the gatekeepers. Piece of cake. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. God writes the last word.

In 2007, 560 people lost their lives in an earthquake that came without warning in Peru.

Jesus warns us six times in the Gospels that we do not know what day or hour He is coming for us.

St. Paul advises us: "Realize what time it is. It is high time to be awakened from sleep. Your salvation is nearer than when you believed."

Like many illustrious people who followed him, St Paul was alarmed by intimations of mortality. A 17th century poet spoke of "time's winged chariot hurrying near." The genius John Keats guessed his life would close before his pen had gleaned his teeming brain. He was correct. He died at 26. Robert Louis Stevenson trembled "lest I hear the sunset gun too soon." He too was prescient. He died at 44. (William Barclay)

The prophet Isaiah invites us "to go up to the mountains of the Lord...that He may teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths." Each of us should make this line the leitmotif of our respective Advents this fresh liturgical year.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is but a promissory note. Today is the only reality. Live then as though each day is your last and someday you'll be right. You learn how to die if you learn how to live. (Mitch Albon)

Remember Mohandas Gandhi's advice. He practiced what he preached. "You don't have to be an angel to be a saint. Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves."

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. (George Bernard Shaw)

But is not all of this too ominous a note to begin what is a magic time of year? Might not the Church have chosen more benign readings to cheer us on to the snowflake splendors of Christmas? Negative!

The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent would have us get our affairs, especially our spiritual ones, in order. We should give as much attention to this detail as we give to getting prepared for Christmas. We are advised by the Church to move along our preparations for the Christmas that will never end. Plan then as if Jesus' return were years away but live as if it were this afternoon. (Unknown)

If you are wondering what areas of your life you should improve, check it out with St Paul. He ticks off such pastimes as heavy drinking, sexual misconduct, arguing, and jealousy for openers. You can take it from there. The Apostle to the Gentiles obviously spent many long Saturday afternoons in the confessional box in Rome. As we go to Confession in our parish, we might carry with us advice that salvation is not measured by perspiration but by readiness. (Leonard Foley)

This might be your last Confession.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
1 Advent
Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino

First Sunday of Advent: Commit to the Kingdom!

  This is the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent.  This year we return to the A cycle of readings, with the gospel focus mostly on the Gospel of Matthew. For those who read the daily readings, they are now from Year 1.  

They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks.  This is from the first reading of Advent, the second chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  

At the end of World War II, the nations of the world decided that an international organization could best prevent war, and the United Nations was established.  Since that time, the United States has fought in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to mention the main conflicts.  War has continued in the East between Israel and the various Moslem leaders and continues in various areas of Africa and South America.   In the area of preventing war, the United Nations has not been very successful.  

This is because we have fallen into the misconception that our world is capable of finding lasting peace on its own.  That is not possible.  The time of peace, justice and love cannot take place apart from the King of justice, peace and love, Jesus Christ.  The angels proclaimed that this kingdom has begun with Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem, "Glory to God on the highest and peace to his people on earth." But it will not be complete until His Second Coming at the end of time.  

We need to be prepared for the Second Coming of the Lord.  "Wake from sleep," Paul tells the Romans.  "Stay awake," Jesus says in the apocalyptical section of Matthew. We must be prepared for the Day of the Lord.  

Jesus gives the example of the people of Noah’s day.  Many of these people weren't ready in the days immediately before the flood.  They were too busy with their lives to be concerned about God's will and his Way.  The gospel reading does not say that the people of Noah's day prior to the flood were evil, it just says that they were unconcerned.   

It is fashionable, politically correct in a religious sense, to speak about people who do not worship as being unchurched.  Well, in most of the United States, people who do not worship are not just unchurched; they are unconcerned.  They just don't care about the existence of God or their obligation to reverence him not just in a Church but in their lives.  During Advent we pray for these people.  We pray that  many of them will be touched by the grace of Christmas and come and join us on Christmas Day.  If we are blessed with their presence, we need to welcome them.  We need to let all our visitors, be they just coming down to see grandchildren or grandparents, or be they people who come to Church once or twice a year, we need to let all our visitors know that we treasure their presence.  They need to know that the people they are sitting next to, you folks, want them to be members of our parish family. That is doing the work of the Kingdom.  

"Don’t get caught napping," the Gospel says. The Lord will come to complete his restoration of creation to God’s original plan.  How will he find us?  What will he find me doing when I least expect his arrival?  What will he find you doing?   

Hopefully, he will find us spreading his Kingdom.   

Allow me to be mystical here.  Every act of kindness and love, every sacrifice of self for another, is a small step in the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God. Conversely, every act of hatred, every act of selfishness, strengthens the power of evil that is destroying our world.  The Battle for the Lord is not something that will take place many years from now.  It is a battle that we are engaged in right now and right here.  We need to be part of this.  We need to commit.  

We are not Christians because we say we are Christians.  We are not Christians because we have been baptized and receive the sacraments.  We are Christians because we have put on Jesus Christ and work hard to make his ways, our ways. We are Christians because we are open to the transformation the Lord wishes to make in our lives.  We are Christians because we are determined to be the reflection of God’s love that he created us to be.  

We need to commit.  If we are committed to Christianity, then Christmas will be a reflection of the Lord’s presence in our lives.  If we use the Christmas holidays as an opportunity to bury the hatchet and reconcile with those who have hurt us, if we look for ways to be more loving to others, especially those within our homes, then we will be engaged in the Lord’s battle against evil.  

We need to commit.   There are times that preachers call people to the altar to establish a personal relationship with the Lord.  This is a good thing.  But the commitment to the Lord has deeper implications than that which is personal.  The commitment to the Lord has a mystical element of being part of the transformation of the world Jesus initiated at his birth.    

Christianity is not just a faith.  It is the lifestyle of transformation. We have been called to take our part in the transformation of the world from the terrors that exist right now to that ideal of Isaiah’s prophecy: the mountain of the Lord, the time of peace.  

Only Jesus Christ is the solution to the difficulties of the world.   He is the Prince of Peace.  And his time is now.  

"So," we are told, "Stay awake, be prepared," for the Son of Man is coming.  

We are called to participate in the ultimate victory of Christ the King.  

May we have the courage to be Christian

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
1 Advent

Bottom line: Mary shows us how to climb the Lord's mountain and walk in God's paths.

I begin by thanking you for your support for the Called to Serve as Christ campaign. We wrapped up the campaign last Sunday. I am touched by your care for elderly priests and religious sisters. I'm not beginning a new campaign but I do want to also thank you for your ongoing support of parish Stewardship. Your weekly contributions enable us to carry forward our parish mission. Rather than fill out commitment cards I am going to assume you will continue your current level of support. We do, however, have cards if you wish to increase your commitment or if you need to reduce your level of giving. I am grateful for every gift. If you make an identified donation (check or envelope) I will send you a quarterly letter acknowledging those gifts. The next letter will come at the end of January and will include the entire year 2019.

We are making a new beginning with this First Sunday of Advent. Generosity and gratitude are a key part of that fresh start. We bring to Jesus all we have and all we are.

In our first reading we have a beautiful image of renewal. Jerusalem - Mount Zion - becomes the highest mountain and people stream toward it:

"In days to come, the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it..."

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles has a nice suggestion for picturing this mountain. He says the best image is right here in Washington state: Mount Rainier. With only small mountains and hills nearby, Mt. Rainier rises up majestically. Imagine people streaming from all sides to somehow reach that summit. Isaiah says on that mountain nations will make a new beginning:

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again."

Instruments of violence will become implements of productivity and peace. How will this happen? Isaiah tells us:

"Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths."

The "house of the God of Jacob" of course is the Temple - the place of worship. When we together worship God, our relationships begin to sort themselves out. We have one God. We worship him because he created us, he has forgiven and redeemed us in Jesus, he is the goal of our existence. He shows us the way we should walk.

Jesus wants to show us his ways. How will he do that? This Advent I encourage you to find a time of quiet. At the start of the day, get a cup of coffee (if you need it), go to a place where you have candle, a crucifix or a sacred image. Maybe take the Word Among Us to find the day's readings or say a decade of the rosary or simply spend time in gratitude and petition. And if you want to find God's way, above all, do what you are doing now - weekly participation in Bethlehem, that is, the Mass.

We have example of Mary. In our parish logo you see her holding Jesus. Below we have the saying, "centered on Jesus, serving others". During Advent we have the Gospel of Mary with Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit. What does she do? She journeys to the hill country of Judea to help her kinswoman Elizabeth - six months pregnant with John the Baptist.

Like Mary we want to live centered on Jesus, serving others. She shows us how to climb the Lord's mountain and walk in God's paths. Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
1 Advent

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