2nd S. of Advent: The Good In You

As we continue into the second week of Advent, our focus remains on the Second Coming, that is, on the return of the Lord at the end of time. We focus on justice, on God’s just judgement of our soul, at the end of time–but also at the end of our time, when our time on earth is over. Today we ask ourselves–are we ready? I admit that I have not stood alongside many bedsides as the elderly receive Last Rights, mostly that is the experience of priests, but I have been at a few, and there is nothing so sweet as when a person has lived a life well, is reconciled with God and neighbor, and embraces their time to stand before almighty God to render an account of every word and every deed. I want to be ready at all times for that day, don’t you?

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Dec. 5, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Today the Church has good news: there’s still time! I stand with John the Baptist today proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That’s how we will be ready. True conversion of heart. Seeking first the waters of baptism, like young Anthony Gallagher who I baptized today, and then the door of the confessional where we are renewed and brought to perfection time and time again throughout the difficulties and struggles of life where our weakness, our selfishness, and our sinfulness is so often revealed. Take heart, our Lord Jesus never tires or renewing our Spirit, reconciling us, and making us whole again. We need only but ask. 

The 1st reading from Baruch we are told to stand up and take off the robe of mourning and misery and to put on the splendor of God. In sinful behavior, selfishness and greed we wander far from God, but today we are told to stand upon the heights and watch what God wants to do for us in our life. Sin led us away, Baruch says, but God will bring us back to him on royal thrones. God “leads us in joy by the light of his glory.” God really has done great things for us; we are filled with joy,” as the psalmist says. 

Has the Lord done great things for you? Are you filled with joy? Or are there times of struggle that rob us of our joy? As we prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is there not a small part of us that says, “Father, it’s the same old thing, when it comes to _______ I just can’t seem to win.” Does Garth Brooks’ song, Same Old Story seem to be the theme song of your confession? Do not lose heart! Keep praying. Keep attending Mass. Keep crying out to God for deliverance and strength. Keep going to Reconciliation. And for the love of God, keep smiling, keep shining, keep loving, and as St. Paul tells the Philippians, be “confident in this, that the one who began a good work in your will continue to complete it until the day of Christ.” Believe that. God is at work in us.

Are we ready for judgement day? Lord no! I’ve got to get my act together–God give me another day, I pray! Give me a chance to get to the confessional, like our faith formation children did last week. Give me another moment to say I’m sorry to family or friends that I have hurt or ignored, or held a grudge against because they hurt me. Give me a chance to take a second look at my budget to see how I might support a child in need, support the Wheelchair Foundation, support my local food bank or shelter, my church, or my pastor–but especially my deacon (haha). Give me this last chance to turn away from sins of the flesh, drunkenness or drugs. Give me one more day to turn away from this sin and turn toward you, my Savior, my Lord, my mercy, my love. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…John called for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He cried out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” My prayer is that I, my family and yours, are able to see the salvation of God. With St. Paul, “this is my prayer: that [our] love may increase ever more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that [we] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Time is short. Lord, complete your work in me. Marana Tha. Come Lord Jesus.

1st S. Advent 2021: A Warning & A Prayer

Today’s homily is for the !st Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

As we begin Advent, we begin a new year in the Church. New years are exciting because we have survived yet another year, and we eagerly look forward to the one that is to come. As with years past, we should expect both joy and sorrow, at times. We should expect to make some new friends, renew old friendships, and even lose some of those that we love. As we journey into the new year, however, we have but one request, we heard it in the Alleluia today, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” Isn’t that a beautiful prayer? It comes from Psalm 85 verse 5, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” I challenge you to join our family each morning as we start our day, and each evening as we retire, to say this prayer. Today is day one. 

Advent, as you know, is not only preparation to celebrate the birth of our Lord, in a manger in Bethlehem, but is also our preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who will return to judge the living and the dead. The Incarnation was real–God visited his people to definitively reveal to the world his immense love for it, and all who live in it. As John 3:16 reads, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” 

The return of God is also real–Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, he will come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead and his Kingdom will have no end. As Matthew 25:31 reads, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them.” To one group he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To the other he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” 

Our Church bids us to prepare this Advent season. It really could be our last. Are we ready? Have we prepared? Many have prepared-well for Christmas: buying gifts, hanging stockings, getting the tree, but have we given any thought whatsoever to the condition of our soul? Of our family, and friends, and where we will spend all eternity? St. Bernard of Clairvaux said of Advent, “There are three distinct comings of the Lord: His coming to men, His coming into men, and His coming against men.” 

I once knew a Baptist minister, who when leading a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, burst into tears at the thought of all those who were burning in the lake of fire–who did not know life, who failed to love, who maybe, did not outright reject God, but just never bothered to give him praise, or thanks, and the honor that is due His holy name. 

I think St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians today gives us all a proper warning that is worth repeating, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life, and that day,” meaning, of course, the day of judgement, “catch you by surprise like a trap. Be vigilant,” he says, “at all times and pray.” That’s good advice going into this holiday season, isn’t it? No carousing. No drunkenness. No anxiety. Be vigilant and pray for strength. Write that down! That’s good stuff! Meditate on that with me everyday.  

And I leave you with the prayer of our Lord Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” That’s the most beautiful prayer for the year to come. Increase in holiness. Abound in love for all. Strengthen your heart. Be blameless in word and deed. In this simple way we’ll always be ready for the Advent of our Lord–whenever and wherever we are. Marana tha! Come Lord Jesus. Repeat after me, ““Show us your love, oh Lord and grant us your salvation.” Happy New year.

Christ the King 2021: A Good King

Today’s homily is for the The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, Nov. 21, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

My boys and I have once again committed ourselves to watching The Lord of the Rings–and my wife, who has little patience for battles, usually escapes for some alone-time while myself and my boys marvel at the discipline and courage of the woodland elves! Last night we watched The Two Towers, where King Theoden took his people to find protection in Helm’s deep. 300 men and boys–mostly farmers–against 10,000 orks are hardly good odds, but those were the numbers and in a very powerful scene, Theoden musters up his own strength to give his people words of encouragement and optimism, that they might fight bravely to the end… because that’s what a king does. He moves his people, with what little they have, to hold their chin high, and to fight bravely–and of course, they did. Theoden was a good king.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This was Daniel’s vision some two thousand six hundred years ago. Daniel lived about 620–538 B.C. He was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, in 605, and then saw Assyria overthrown by the Medes and Persians, under Cyrus the Great. Daniel saw Jesus’ day in a wonderful vision that was our first reading today. What a treasure the Sacred Scriptures are to us. 

Daniel never saw the coming of the King of Israel in real life, and the disciples mostly didn’t understand and didn’t realize they were in the midst of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords most of the time, though Simon Peter answered correctly when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” in Matthew 16:16. In fact, John’s Gospel chapter 20 verse 30, reads, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” 

Daniel had a vision, Peter recognizes Jesus as the fulfillment of that vision, Pilate questions whether Jesus is or is not the king, and John writes the whole Gospel for the sole purpose that we might believe and have life in the name of Jesus, the King of the Universe. Do you believe Jesus is king of the entire universe? All the galaxies, solar systems, planets, earth itself and all the people on it? Maybe a simpler question–is Jesus even the Lord of our own life? Our family life? Our work life? Our prayer life?

I think we’re quick to say yes many times, but how do we know, how would someone else know, if Jesus was indeed the King of our conscience, our soul, our body? Today’s gospel is helpful. Jesus answered, “You say I am a king…Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” If we belong to the truth, and listen to his voice, we are his. We hear our Lord’s voice in the ministers of the Church, in the teachings of the Church, in our conscience, and especially in God’s Sacred Word. One of my favorite quotes from the Second Vatican Council is from Dei Verbum, God’s Word, chapter 21. It reads, “In the Sacred Scriptures, the father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the Word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.” 

In other words, we need to listen to the King. Jesus is the King. The battle is at hand, the forces of evil number far more than 10,000 and continue to stand against God, but we who are his, must listen to his voice, his truth, from Sacred Scripture, the Church and it’s ministers, and in the depths of our soul. Today we celebrate Christ the King of the Universe – our everlasting protector and savior, but we must first bend the knee. Not an easy thing to do. No wonder we enter the Church and genuflect. Do it with conviction, make the sign of the Cross, and be roused to greatness and courage by the voice of the king. The battle is at hand. The kingdom of life and love needs warriors. The only question is, are you in?