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?

33rd S. 2021: Basic Principles

Today’s homily is for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time, Nov. 14, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Our family was at a Crossfit competition in Hollister yesterday (My son, Luke, hoping to be the next Crossfit superstar.) I’ve only just started to compete, so yesterday was my first one. I did okay–my only consolation was that 7 (as in 7th place) is a holy number! I’m still quite out of shape, I need to eat better, and certainly need to exercise some more. To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for the competition–but I really should have been, or could have been. I registered, I knew when it was, I knew all the exercises I would have to do…and even still I wasn’t prepared. And that’s concerning to me. I need to take my health and fitness a lot more seriously if I’m going to win. 

Today’s readings sound like impending doom, don’t they! Daniel starts with, “In those days it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress,” and the Gospel we hear, “”In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Of course, this sounds like impending doom, horrible news for everyone. But if we look closely, it is not. In both cases, there is a silver lining. In both cases, God’s faithful people will be saved. 

Daniel says, “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” And Jesus tells us, “he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” In other words, the final time will bring swift justice to all people–God’s protection and care for the wise, and God’s condemnation for the wicked. And this truth makes me a bit nervous, if I’m being honest. 

In the parable of the faithful and unfaithful steward in Luke 12, the master has gone away and has put his stewards in charge of his property and his people. The stewards knew the master would return, but were living foolishly, even irresponsibly, when he did, and they were severely punished. The Lord, our master, has made each of us a steward of the gifts he has prepared for all his people. And we know too, that the master will return and demand an accounting of the quality of our stewardship–have we been faithful, diligent, hard working, and disciplined with the Lord’s goods? I haven’t even been faithful to the upkeep of God’s holy temple–my body, which yesterday’s Crossfit competition made clear. 

I knew when the competition was. I signed up for it. I knew the date, but I did not prepare as I should have done. Jesus says to his disciples, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.” This isn’t hard to figure out. Our Lord has not kept his return a secret…in fact, it’s the opposite. He tells us quite plainly–he will return, and the foolish will not be ready. The foolish will become complacent, they will stop praying, stop making Sunday a priority, they will become increasingly selfish, and their love for their neighbors will grow cold. They will live as though there will not be a reckoning…but there will be. There will be an accounting. There will be justice, where the work of each steward will be revealed. 

I drink too much Scotch and I eat too much chocolate, and I don’t work out enough. I was not prepared for yesterday’s competition. You should have seen the guy who won. He was amazing. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t eat sugar, and seriously works out. He’s serious about Crossfit. And we should be serious about Christian stewardship because more on the line than a trophy, the consequences are eternal. 

But being a Christian steward means more than just being generous with our time, talent, and treasure. The U.S. Bishops teach, “As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.” I need to evaluate my fitness, but I also need to evaluate my stewardship. I don’t know that I’m cultivating and sharing God’s gifts enough with others. I feel like I’m squandering those gifts too often and our Lord expects an increase. I’ve got work to do, maybe you do too.