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Fr. Tim’s Homily for December 10, 2017


Second Sunday of Advent – B 

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Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

2 Peter 3:8-14

Mark 1:1-8

 

The Gospel for this Second Sunday of Advent is from Mark, chapter 1, verses 1-8.  It is unusual because it doesn’t begin with Bethlehem, with angels and shepherds and wide-eyed cattle lowing over the manger of the Baby Jesus.

No, Mark’s Gospel begins in the desert with John the Baptist.  John the Baptist is the last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.  And he is a classic prophet.

The Gospel says that John the Baptist was dressed in camel’s hair with a belt around his waist.  Why is this detail important?  Classic prophet that he was, he was dressed just like Elijah the prophet, who lived eight hundred years before John the Baptist.

Christian art often portrays John the Baptist looking quite penitential, like he never had a shave or a haircut in his entire life.  It presents him as downright skinny, probably because he dined on locusts and wild honey.  On that kind of diet you really don’t put on the pounds!

People from all over came to him.  He was not in a downtown area – like so many of the street preachers that we encounter.  John located himself in “nowhere land” – out in the desert, out in the wilderness.  What I find astonishing is that people went to him.  They actually wanted to hear John the Baptist.

And what does John tell them?  We heard him say in today’s Gospel:  “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

And what are we all supposed to be doing?  John makes his own the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight His paths.”  John preached, encouraging people to repent of their sins.

Now, the message of John the Baptist is as relevant for us two thousand years later as it was for those early folks. We all know where the desert is in our lives, where we can go to be quiet and hear God speak.  But the problem is, so often we don’t want to go there.  And why not?  Because we don’t want to hear what God has to say to us.

We complain, don’t we:  “Why is God so distant from me?”  Well, if the truth be told, our question should really be:  “Why do I keep my distance from God?

There was a woman who really didn’t like decorating for Christmas.  One year she decided not to bother with it, but then she wondered what the neighbors and relatives might think.  So she bought an everlasting Christmas tree, a permanent Christmas tree. You know what that means…a fake one!

She took her time to decorate it just so, and then she had a closet built in her living room, at the far end.  When it came time for Christmas she simply opened the closet door, and when Christmas was over, she simply closed the closet door until the next Christmas.

John the Baptist would have had a hissy-fit with that!  Why?  Because she was treating Christmas as simply a re-run of Christmases gone by, as though everything about Christmas has all been said and done, and each year we just go through the motions – but never allow ourselves to be changed a bit by the coming of our Savior.

Sometimes we treat Christmas like a liturgical Williamsburg – a wonderful place to visit, but having very little permanent impact on our lives.

And so John the Baptist invites us today:  “Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight His paths.”  Go into the desert in your life where it is quiet.  Listen to the voice of the Lord this year.  What is it He wants you to admit to?  What is it He wants to enable you to change in your life this year by the power of His saving grace?

Celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent.  I hear Confessions here year-round every Saturday morning from 11:00 until 12 Noon, and every Thursday evening after the 7:00 PM Mass until 8:30 PM.  And this weekend and next, I will be available to hear Confessions after all of the Masses, except for the Saturday 4:00 PM Mass. And I’ll leave the light on for you!

John the Baptist’s words, quoting Isaiah the prophet, still ring true:  “Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight His paths.”  This Advent, this very day, invite the Lord to come closer to you than you have ever let Him come before.  Don’t be afraid.

And John the Baptist, the greatest of all the prophets, will offer you his smile of approval.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, December 3, 2017

 

First Sunday of Advent – B

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 Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b;  64: 2-7

1 Corinthians 1 :3-9

Mark 13: 33-37

 

“Be watchful!  Be alert!” Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel.  And this is a fitting reminder as we begin the season of Advent today.  Then Jesus goes on to say, “You do not know when the time will come.”

Advent means “coming,” and Advent speaks of the two comings of Christ:  His first coming, as we look forward to celebrating the Feast of Christmas, His birth in Bethlehem.  And His second coming, that we now anticipate, is when He will come again in glory.  So, “Be watchful!  Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

During this season of Advent, we feature the Advent wreath.  It is made out of evergreens, and evergreens live up to their name!  They remain fresh, and green is a sign of hope, a sign of life.  And so even in these dark cold days of December, we have hope as we wait for the coming of the Lord.

The wreath, of course, is in the form of a circle, saying that that there is no limit to God’s endless love for us:  the Eternal Father sent His Divine Son to be conceived in the womb of Mary and to be born in Bethlehem.  Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us” – loving us so much, forgiving our sins, so that we can live with Him forever in the kingdom of heaven.

On the wreath are four candles, for each of the four weeks of Advent, which really represent four periods of human history awaiting the coming of the Messiah.  Three of the candles are violet, one is rose.  The violet that we wear during the season of Advent is really “a royal purple” as we await the coming of our King, and not “a penitential purple” as in the season of Lent.  One of the candles is rose, for the third Sunday of the four, a lighter shade of violet, saying, “Be of good heart.  Be of good cheer.  Don’t lose hope, for the feast is almost here.”

A candle is lit each week, a symbol of Christ who is the Light of the World.  Even in this part of the world, where we are at our darkest time of the year, we proclaim that Christ our Light conquers the darkness of sin and death.

“Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.”  What does that mean for us?  It means we wait.  And there are two senses of waiting.

The first one is passive waiting.  For instance:  being at an airport, and your connecting flight home is delayed by weather, and you don’t know for sure when it will arrive, so you just sit there, feeling helpless.  That is passive waiting.

The second one is active waiting and it is hope-filled.  Here is an example:  a little girl is on the street corner for a summer holiday parade.  She has a good spot.  And she waits – with hope.  Then from a distance she hears the marching band.  The parade is coming closer.  She is actively waiting to see that parade.  And she is filled with anticipation.

Sometimes people approach God while waiting passively:  “OK God, I believe in you, I know you are there, and I am sure you know I am here, so if you want something let me know.”  They do not offer God much personal response at all.

This is so different from actively waiting for God.  Like right now – we have come to celebrate this Mass on this First Sunday of Advent.  We are not just “watching Mass.”  We are “participating.”  We are singing, we are praying, we are listening to God speak in the Scriptures.  And we are looking forward to His coming to us in Holy Communion.

That is active waiting for the coming of the Lord, and we carry that spirit with us today and in the days that follow in our personal prayer to the Lord – actively waiting for His coming.

I invite you to actively use this season of Advent to go to Confession, to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, to make the best Confession you have ever made in your life – actively waiting for the coming of the Lord.

Jesus says in the Gospel on this First Sunday of Advent, “Be watchful!  Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

How do we wait for His coming?  We can wait passively, or we can wait actively with hope and anticipation.

And so I ask:  “What are we waiting for?”  Or better, “Whom are we waiting for?”

The hymn says it so well:  “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King.”

 

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