2nd Sunday of Advent (B)

Is 40:1-5,9-11; 2Pt 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

2nd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 2 Peter 3:8-15 Mark 1:1-8

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Letting God Find Us

 

A school principal called the house of one of his teachers to find out why he was not in school. He was greeted by a small child who whisper: “Hello?”

“Is your Daddy home?” asked the principal.
“Yes,” answered the whispering child.
“May I talk with him?” the man asked.
“No,” replied the small voice.
“Is your Mommy there?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the answer.
“May I talk with her?”
Again the small voice whispered, “No.”
“All right,” said the man, “Is there any one there besides you?”
“Yes,” whispered the child, “A policeman.”
“A policeman? Now, may I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy,” whispered the child..
“Busy doing what?” asked the principal.
“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the fireman,” came the child’s answer.
“The fireman? Has there been a fire in the house or something?” asked the worried man.
“No,” whispered the child.
“Then what are the police and fireman doing there?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a soft giggle,“They are looking for me.”

It would be pretty hard for the “rescuers” to find this child as long as the child keeps hiding from them. In today’s gospel we see John the Baptist in the desert calling out to the people of Judea to come out into the open desert and let God find them. You can liken it to the fireman calling out to the ”lost” child. The child has to leave his hiding place and come out into the open for the fireman to find him.

To go into the desert is to leave behind the normal props of life on which we tend to depend. Such life props we often find in our job, in relationships and in routine religious practices. God cannot do much with us as long as we hope and trust in these things as the first things that give meaning to our lives. When the heart is full no one can come into it, not even God. You have first to let go of what your heart is holding on to before you can embrace God. This letting go is symbolized by a journey into the barren desert.

In the Bible the desert has come to mean a place of encounter with God. It was in the desert that the people of Israel met God and learnt the ways of God. There they became God’s own people and the Lord became their God. But first they had to give up all the things that make for the good life that they were enjoying in Egypt: “the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Numbers 11:5). Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, spent forty days and nights in the desert. It was a time of discovering and deepening his personal relationship with God. By calling the people into the desert John was calling them to let go of their false hopes and securities and learn to hope and trust in God alone.

John lived what he preached. By his lifestyle, his dressing and eating habits, he showed that the meaning of life is not to be found in the abundance of material possessions but in relationship with God. Simplicity of life and detachment from unnecessary cares and worries of social life frees the heart for a personal relationship with God. To go into the desert is the first step in true repentance. It means abandoning our usual hiding places and putting ourselves in a situation where God can easily reach us. It is the levelling of those hills and the filling of those valleys that make it difficult for God to reach us and save us.

In the season of advent the church extends to us the call of John the Baptist to repent and confess our sins in preparation for the One who is to come. It is an opportunity to rediscover our total dependence on God. God has made us for Himself, as St Augustine discovered, and our hearts are restless till they rest in God. When we realize this and make room for God in our lives, then we are on the way to true repentance after the example of John the Baptist.

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2nd Sunday of Advent (B)/Voice Crying in the Desert

Baruch 5:1-9/ Ps 126/ Phil 1:4-11/ Luke 3:1-6

Introduction
      For most people Christmas is a season for shopping. Malls are doing a lot of “advertising tricks” to call the attention of the buying public. Oftentimes having good window display is not enough; they need convincing voice of good sales agents to draw more people into their stores. Sometimes they even go as far as hiring known media personalities to endorse their products and to speak well in behalf of their company.
Background
      In today’s Gospel we have John de Baptist, an extra ordinary “agent” sent by God to speak in behalf of His Son. He was the voice that shouts in the wilderness “to sell” the plan of God to his people: “Prepare the way of the Lord make straight his path …” He is the Voice that speaks well of the name of His Son.

1.

The names of the political leaders and religious personalities were named in Luke to describe that John was a historical person. Having known personalities as his contemporaries signifies that he was not a legend nor a myth but real person that existed in a certain point in time. Therefore being endorsed by a known historical person, Jesus finds his own place in the history as a real and historical Messiah.

2.

Luke, being composed after Mk and Mt, manifests suspicion against an attempt in early Christianity to make the John de Baptist a rival or even an open opponent of Jesus. To avoid this scenario: (a) Luke omits John’s announcement of the Kingdom. (b) He suppressed the description of the Baptist in the role of Elijah and (c) delete the ministry of John’s baptism of Jesus. A little farther (v. 16) Luke removed the words, “after me” lest Jesus be considered a disciple of John. But nonetheless Luke considered John as the last and greatest prophet of Israel.

3.

Towards the end of the Gospel, Luke used the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5. When a king proposed to tour a part of his dominion in the east, he sent a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. So John is regarded as the courier of the King to prepare the hearts of the people.
Application

1.

He speaks with great courage and honesty. If for Isaiah, the prophet of hope, his credential is his prophesies, because they all came true. For John it was quite different, much deeper than that. His credential is his Life. And when he talks, he talks directly from the heart with all honesty until his death (on the hands of Herod). He lived what he preached. Sometimes when you give good advices to your children, do you notice that they pause first for awhile and have a special look at you, before they truly listen? My dear parents, that looks means something. Perhaps they are trying to see first in your life what you are telling them. “Witnessing is the best expression of one’s credibility.”

2.

He was the voice that is crying out in the desert. The desert is the place of nothingness. There is simply no water, no food – it is so quite and bare. For John nothing was there, except God. It is perfect place to have an encounter with God in the complete silence and prayer. That’s the reason why people believed in him. People believed that he was always in contact with God, thus, his words become the voice of God. It is good that you bring your children to the church and see you praying, when they noticed that you are always talking to God, you can easily convince them because your advices and decisions will be seen as coming not from you, but from God.

3.

He prepared the way of the Lord by living simply.” If we will only try to reduce commercialism during Christmas and put more time in silence and prayer then we can see clearly the real essence of Christmas: “it is the season to share and to love.” It is a season not to get more, but an opportunity to give more.Only in the simplicity of heart that we can see the true meaning of the season: God was born into the world to forgive us and to embrace us with his love once again
Conclusion
God has chosen the best “agent” to sell the saving act of His Son – The “Voice” that sells not by word but by the very witnessing of his life. As Christians, we can also be God’s agents in the present time, by telling ourselves and other people to prepare our hearts well. If we can sell enough, this saving act being offered by Jesus, we deserve a great commission: the commission of happiness and love in eternal life.

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2nd Sunday Advent – Cycle B

 Homily 1

Is. 40:1–5, 9–11; 2 Pt 3:8–14; Mk 1:1–8

Repent

The freeways and turnpikes we travel usually have signs on their overpasses telling us the minimum clearance for passing underneath them. For whatever reason, a tractor-trailer occasionally gets wedged in tight underneath an overpass. At first, no one seems to know how to get the truck out, short of pushing it out the way it entered. Then someone makes the obvious suggestion: let some air out of the tires. Then the truck, a couple inches lower, can squeeze through the overpass.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we are challenged to deflate our egos like the tires on the truck. We are being called by the Church of today to change our lives, to become less me-centered and more God-centered, so that we can squeeze into this season of repentance.

John the Baptist was Jesus’ messenger. John was announcing a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins to prepare for Jesus’ coming. John had a unique and much needed message for the people of his time and for us today.

·        Some people went to John because they were spiritually bankrupt.  They tried hard, and their neighbors thought highly of them, but something was missing. They were empty, and they hoped that John could fill the empty place.

·        Some people went to John because they had it all, but it wasn’t enough. They had money and homes, but they wanted more.  But then, when they got more, their hunger continued unabated.  Nothing made them happy. They went to John hoping that he could pull together the broken pieces of their lives, and make them whole.

These reasons for coming to John sound like some of the reasons that people turn to Jesus today. My friend, Pete, finally repented and returned to church after reaching the top of his business and asking himself, “Is this all that there is?”

Today we think of repentance with an emphasis on sorrow for past wrongs. The Greek word that Mark used for ‘repentance’ was metanoia. This means changing the attitude of our minds, by turning from a life centered on self to a life centered on God.

In today’s reading from 2 Peter, we hear that Jesus’ Second Coming is still being delayed because he does not want to lose any of us. He is giving us more time to repent and prepare. He is calling us to metanoia—to a complete change in our lives.

All of us have experienced someone telling us how to change our lives—most likely it was our parents. This call to change our lives may be the only one that some of us have ever heard. John’s approach is similar when he announces, discusses, and invites people to think about a new way of life. He comes along and says, “I want you to do what I told you to do.” But then there was Jesus’ approach. Jesus comes along and doesn’t simple discuss it: he is it! Jesus is the experience of the transformation that we all need.

Each of us is called to be the “beginning of the gospel” for others. To tell the good news in a way that makes us a messenger for the one who is coming. As Christians, we have the role of preparing the way of the Lord, and John the Baptist is our model. Mark’s gospel is but the beginning of a story that continues down to our time. It started with John. Today it continues with us. He prepared others for the coming of the Lord. We must do the same.

Before we help prepare others, we must acknowledge our own sins and seek forgiveness. We must be renewed so that nothing impedes our walk with Jesus. We must examine our inner sins, those that go beyond the Ten Commandments.

We must prepare as a people because we tend to overly individualize our relationships with God. Advent is something we do together. We dream, repent, turn our faces toward God together.

The Church gives us a means of repenting together during Advent with a community penance service. This year it will be the evening of Thursday, December 15 at 6:30 p.m. Individual confession—reconciliation—will follow a communal prayer service.

Come on this evening and “prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”


Homily # 2

Mark is the only evangelist who introduces the word “Gospel” in his opening statement:  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The word Gospel means people, God’s people as they manifest the glad tidings of the Lord’s presence in their midst or as they become the instruments of God’s redemptive presence toward others.

Advent is given to us in order that Jesus may be manifest in our midst.  We are to become, “The heralds of glad tidings,” the “Gospel.”

The gospel is Jesus Christ, John the Baptist in the message today is preparing the way for Jesus’ presence in our midst.  Jesus is the Gospel.  Perhaps a more correct translation would read:  “The beginning of the Gospel which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Gospel is people, manifesting God as Savior, intervening as God’s instrument in the work of salvation toward others.

In the gospel message today John the Baptist tells us that Jesus is coming and when He comes He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

John came announcing a baptism of repentance.  Symbolic washing and purifying was woven into the very fabric of Jewish ritual.  It was believed that Gentiles were necessarily unclean for they had never kept any part of the Jewish law.  Therefore, when a Gentile wished to convert to the Jewish beliefs, the Gentile would have to undergo three forms of purification. First, circumcision, for that was the mark of the covenant people. Second, sacrifice had to be made for him, because he need to atone for his sin. Third, the Gentile had to undergo baptism, which symbolized cleansing from all the pollution of his past life.  Baptism at the time was not a mere sprinkling with water, but a bath in which the entire body was bathed.

At the time of Jesus, the Jews knew something about baptism, but the amazing thing about John’s baptism was that he, a Jew, was asking Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need.  John made the discovery that to be a Jew in the racial sense was not to be a member of God’s chosen people.  A Jew might be in exactly the same position as a Gentile and that the cleansed life belonged to God.

It is clear that the ministry of John was mightily effective, the people flocked to listen to him and to submit to his baptism.  There are several reasons why John made an impact on the people.

First, he was a man who lived his message, not only his words, but also his whole life was a protest.  When John came on the scene the people were somehow forced to listen to him.  In the case of John the man was the message, the message of protest against the establishment of the day.

Second. his message was effective because he told people what in their hearts they knew and brought them what in the depths of their souls they were waiting for.

When John summoned men and women to repentance he was confronting them with a decision that they knew in their heart of hearts they ought to make.  Plato once said that education did not consist in telling people new things; it consisted in extracting from their memories what they already knew.  No message is so effective as that which speaks to a person’s conscience.   The people had been longing for some authentic word of God, and in John they heard it.  John’s message was effective because hew was completely humble.  Finally John’s message was effective because he pointed to something and someone beyond himself. John told men and women that his baptism drenched them in water, but one was coming would drench them in the Holy Spirit and while water washed their bodies clean, the Holy Spirit would cleanse a person’s heart.

John’s primary aim was not to occupy the center stage, but to try to connect men and women with the one who was greater and stronger, the Christ.  The people listened because John pointed, not to himself, but to the one true redeemer.


Homily # 3

The words, and certainly the dress of John the Baptist, strike us as odd. It is not that we are unfamiliar with his unusual attire and famous line: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” We know John the Baptist and his words well. Every year, on the second Sunday of Advent, we read a similar passage from one of the gospels covering his role in the story of Christ.

John the Baptist is the Dick Vitale of Advent—No biblical figure announces the coming of the Lord better than his forerunner, Herald and cousin.

Yet, no matter how well he fits the role or how many times we try to picture John the Baptist in our mind, his eating honey crisped locusts and wearing a camel’s hair coat—not the dapper dinner jacket variety—but the real hide of a camel—and his cry in the desert— make him a little too bizarre to really fit into our reality, let alone invite over for dinner.

On account of his peculiarity, we are unlikely to connect our lives to his, or his mission to our own. He is just too strange. He belongs out in the desert. So, we isolate him in our mind. He is a biblical figure marooned on the island of Advent.

However, John the Baptist’s words and mission should not seem so distant to us nor should his work be seen as one-time event. We hear his words and are called to his mission at each and every mass. In fact, one of the major objectives of mass is to inspire us to be like John the Baptists—maybe not complete with the diet and odd clothes—but to be straighteners of paths and heralds of God’s presence in the world.

At each mass, we are sent out to reconstruct the world in accord with the word of God we hear proclaimed. We are called to create the communion we share in the meal and sacrifice we celebrate here together out there in the world.

It is not by accident that our mass ends with “Go in peace and Love to serve the Lord.” It may not be as obvious as handing out camel hair coats, sandals and honey-covered locusts as we exit the church. But, we cannot overlook that we are called to be John the Baptist by these final words.

At each mass, we are commissioned to make the many crooked streets in the consumer driven desert we live in straight by proclaiming Christ’s teachings.

If we are attentive to what we say and do here together, John the Baptist should be far less a stranger to us than his immediate appearance suggests. We should recognize him as:

The precursor to the soup kitchen organizer who calls us to join to bring Christ and his peace to those in need of food and love.

The proto-type for civil rights demonstrators who led marches against segregation and discrimination in this country and continue to do so in countries still rife with oppression and racism.

As the peace protester asking for an end to war and the abortion clinic picketer who pleads with social services agencies to provide another way for scared teenagers.

He is the model for all those voices heard in the desert. And, most importantly, he is our model.

John the Baptist reminds us that we must courageously step out of the crowd and identify those things in the world that are not in accord with God’s will.

He reminds us that we must be willing to go where the problem is. This does not always mean Washington or the State House where we may be comfortable to speak on the behalf of others. It means going to the problem areas themselves to be in solidarity with those most effected by the crooked paths of our society, the poor in the developing world, the children in war-zones, the addicted in bars.

Imagine if a 150,000 John the Baptist were ready to deploy themselves to the war torn parts of the world—how much quicker we would have peace.

Not always so dramatic, being John the Baptist may mean going on mission locally to the economically depressed areas of our city.

For all of us, being John the Baptist is as much a process of personal conversion as it is a commitment to reconstructing the world according to God’s plan. We cannot do in the world what we are unwilling to do in our own hearts. We cannot remove lust from the streets, if we cannot get it out of our own hearts. We cannot end poverty, if we cannot control our own personal greed and desire for luxury.

As we prepare our hearts and world for the birth of Christ, let us seek with serious intention to accept our role as builders of peace and heralds of the child we await. Let us be genuine and thorough in our preparation, mindful that John the Baptist was not only a model Christian, he was our faith’s first martyr.

A gift we find hard to give in any season.


Homily # 4

In the nineteenth year of the rule of Pope John Paul II, when Charles Grahmann was Bishop of Dallas, Bill Clinton was President of the United States and George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, the word of God came to the people of Dallas, to say that the Lord is near; prepare the way of the Lord.

And with that introduction,John the Baptist is again calling us on this 2nd Sunday in Advent to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Today’s Gospel message is just as relevant as it was nearly 2000 years ago.

St. Luke the author of today’s gospel has just informed us of the precise historical moment that John The Baptist uttered these words for the 1st time.Because there was no universal calendar at that time, Luke tries to pinpoint the exact year of the beginning of Christ public life by mentioning the well-known authorities who were in office at that time.

How, then, do we prepare the way of the Lord? We pray that these words of John will jar us from our complacency and from our sleep. As a Christian and a Catholic we do what John The Baptist did. We proclaim to ourselves and others, “prepare the way of the Lord”, we are that voice crying in the modern world, “make a straight path for the Lord.”

The Church in its wisdom sets aside the four weeks of Advent as a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord, not only at Christmas but also at the end of time.  At Christmas we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord’s first coming into the world. The coming of the Son of God as a human being was prepared for a long time in advance. The Holy Scriptures give us evidence of this preparation through the prophets and the Psalms.

It is important that we continue to celebrate this coming of the Son of God Jesus Christ the God Man and even more importantly to prepare ourselves for that celebration so that we may enjoy the full benefit of its consequences. That is, that God our Father loves us so much that He sent His only Son to become one of us and to die for us so that we might be saved.

How do we prepare for Christ’s coming in the world? The world prepares for Christmas with a frenzy of buying and selling. From the music that is piped into the stores and the decorations that adorn within, a visitor from another planet might mistakenly think that we were preparing to worship snow or trees during the season of the year.

There are some good things, however, as many people open their hearts during the Advent season to assist those less fortunate than themselves. Many people make an honest effort to reconcile with, or at least be patient with others who are normally an irritation or whom they despise.

Paul calls on the Phillippians to “learn to value the things that really matter.” Paul is not concerned with the material preparations for a feast, but the preparation of the hearts and souls and bodies of Christ’s followers. And in the Gospel, John calls the Israelites to repentance.

As we continue this season of Advent, the first challenge to all of us is “to learn to value the things that really matter.” The world around us presents a lot of values that are in contrast with our own. If you watch TV or pay attention to advertising, you would begin to think that having great wealth or great physical beauty are “the things that really matter.”

Advent is a time to remember that the things that matter are the things that endure. Compassion, Justice, Faithfulness and Integrity are the things that made us successful and happy human beings. When we begin to value the things that really matter, we will start to change the world around us. We will be part of the restoration of the world, making it the sort of place into which we would be happy to receive as important visitor like the one we will receive on Christmas.

Advent is the time of hope as well. Baruch speaks words of hope to the people of Israel during the time of exile in Babylon. John the Baptist also preaches a message of hope, but he adds that we need to our part.

What is hope? In hope, we can look back on the past and remember all the times that God has been there for His people and rescued them.  Our greatest hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives among us and died for us even when we were not worthy, so that we could become holy and pure and perfect like Him.

How do we get hope? To obtain this gift we must exercise it, That is, we must be watchful, for the Lord is coming when we least expect it.  And we are to always be ready to give a reason for our hope. We are not to conform ourselves to the world or with the times.  The Church does not need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. When this century is gone and future generations regard us as old fashioned and our toys boring, the Bride of Christ will still remain, calling people to the kind of change that really matters- the conversion of hearts to God.

Our goal is not the brief pleasure of the world, which can be measured in mere moments, days, or even years, but rather the contentment of an eternity with our God.  We do not put our hopes on technology or social tinkering to provide salvation.  We already have salvation through Christ our Lord. It is our job to accept His salvation. to follow Him, to do His will, and thus to be filled with His love and peace.

The Church does not want us to limit ourselves to a superficial commemoration of Advent: She wants us to prepare ourselves to live in depth the mystery of the Word of God made Man.   In other words, we must live in a  perpetual Advent, always watching and waiting. As we keep the memory of Christ’s birth alive through our celebrations. Let us likewise live in the expectation of His return in Glory.


Homily # 5

The reality of our need for a mindful and loving God is easily perceived today as we listen to the prophet Baruch’s call for Jerusalem to rid herself of the “robe of mourning” and armed with the cloak of justice from God ascend to the heights and reveal God’s glory.  Some invitation . . . dramatic, electrifying, stunning.  Yet, how real is this?  How can we identify with this victory, this sense of union with god, this glorification and vindication of faith?

Jerusalem today is filled with misery.  Not long ago, we witnessed the horrendous and shocking death of a twelve-year-old Arab boy huddled with his father on a Jerusalem street as they sustained withering gunfire from Israeli soldiers.   Bombings, suicide missions, rock-throwing Arabs confronting Israelites armed with machine guns, children commissioned to assault strongholds by conniving politicians, holy sites used despicably as confrontation symbols . . . is this the Jerusalem that Baruch speaks of?

What glory is there in this?  What symbol of justice is contained here?  Where is compassion, understanding, respect for life, acceptance of differences, mutual acknowledgement of wrongs committed that led to his vicious hatred?  We view aspects of Jerusalem – physical ones – that Baruch himself might have viewed, but we see it through the disturbing and troubling lens of 21st Century realities.  Certainly if Baruch were to perceive what we perceive, he would not be motivated to call for Jerusalem to glorify herself in the mantle of the Lord.  Far from it!

Aren’t these the same streets that Our Lord strode?  Aren’t these the cobblestones that echoed His call for peace and unity?  Isn’t this the templeplace where He spoke of His Father’s love?

How do we as Christians, or as Muslims and Jews, even begin to approach this reality?  Where is religion properly celebrated with sincerity of heart and adherent to the loving laws of God?  Rather, from my distant vantage point, I view religion as the dividing force in Jerusalem, laden with powerful, secular attachments in the economic and political struggles of races as they contend violently against one another in a power struggle – with death all too often the residue.  For sure, this is nothing new in the annals of history nor in this particular geographic area.  But it is certainly a far cry from the invitation offered by Baruch or that of John calling us to repentance!

For this Advent to have any meaning in our world, be it Jerusalem, Belfast, on Timor, or the streets of an American ghetto, we need to inculcate the attitude and resolve of John – repenting for our sins both personal and collective, and having firmly committed ourselves to the resolution to cultivate an earnest desire to draw closer to the Lord.

This desire to come closer to God invariably produces within us a true understanding of our complete dependence on Him.  As children of God, motivated to be drawn to Him by His grace, we soon begin to have a growing awareness of our sinfulness and our inability of redressing this without His help.  Given this true and perceived reality of our limitations, we are led to a better appreciation of our absolute need for God.  Only then can we ever begin to have hope of constructing a presence of His kingdom on earth.

This need for God demands a price that any loyal son or daughter would willingly pay.  John is our model.  Relying upon true humility, he fasted, prayed and invited all to repent.  Before we go out to call others to repent, isn’t it necessary for us to commit ourselves to prayer, reflection and acts of self-denial?  Furthermore, isn’t it concomitant upon us to confront our own sinfulness and beg our gracious God to assist us in removing that dark aspect of our being?   And, is not Advent the season wherein we realize more clearly than ever that only God can grace us with the power to overcome evil, both personally and collectively?

This Advent should awaken within us the realization that the world’s only chance for reconciliation and our own personal hope lies in union with Our Lord who ascended Calvary and won for us the victory of life itself – true life – union with Our Creator.  Only He can be the true architect of a New Jerusalem.  Only through Him, and with Him, can we ever hope to carve out His kingdom on earth.  For He is Our lord and there is non-other.

May we all pray this Advent for humility and a true sense of our rightful dependence on God.  May we also pray for Jerusalem, asking Our Lord to remove the hardness of hearts, to motivate all parties to reconcile themselves so that a lasting and just peace may be at hand, and children spared from slaughter and hatred.


Homily # 6

Christmas is fast approaching and , as is usually the case, many of us will soon be worrying about whether we have gifts for everyone on our list.  Every year we read about the number of people who get caught in the “I haven’t gotten a gift for so-and-so and now I’m in a bind.”  That’s why the experts advise us to “shop early.”  Of course those experts are also the people who are selling the gifts and they hope to make a nice profit at Christmas.

On the other hand, we very seldom hear any of our family members, our friends or the people at Wal-Mart ever ask, “Have you prepared spiritually for Christmas yet?”   There’s not much profit to be derived from the spiritual preparation so the big advertisers don’t waste their precious dollars on any reference to the spirituality of the season.

And yet, what is Christmas?  Very simply it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  However, you might not realize that if you only read the ads on television, radio and in the newspapers.  Notice they usually don’t mention Jesus but they do let us know about the great sales that will allow us to buy things for our friends and families at a very good price but a price that still allows them to make a nice profit.

So the question arises, “But how do we prepare for Christmas?”  In today’s first reading we get some idea of what the Israelites thought about the promised coming of the Messiah.

“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.  Go up on a high mountain, Zion, herald of great tidings; cry out at the top of your voice.”

Isn’t that the real spirit of Christmas?  We are to prepare the way of the Lord.   Therefore, as we check off our gift lists at this time of the year we should also be taking inventory to determine what we are doing to prepare for the way of the Lord.

So, let’s make a little comparison.  I don’t mean for this exercise to put a downer on our Christmas preparation but it is true that our thoughts may be more occupied with thinking of what gifts we will purchase for our family and friends than thinking of what the Lord has given to us.

That means we shop  … we search for things that will please the people who are on our “Christmas list”.   That requires time to make sure we make the perfect selection for each person.  However, most of us have, for most of our lives, already received a “perfect gift”,  our faith.

Possibly the first part of our spiritual preparation would be to “Thank God” for the wonderful gifts he has given to each of us.  No society in the history of the world has been given the gifts that most of us have enjoyed merely because we were given the great gift of being born here in the United States.  As I hear and, through television, see the living conditions in much of the world I marvel at what God has done for me.  Why wasn’t I born in China where there is little freedom?  Why wasn’t I born in areas of Africa that have suffered through starvation and disease for years and years?  Why wasn’t I born in a country in which Catholic priests are not allowed, where I could not openly practice my faith?  Why not?  Because God gave me, and all of us, the special gift of location …  the United States of America.

Most of the young people here, grade school, high school or college students have certainly been blessed.  You have a higher standard of living than your parents had at your age, maybe more luxuries than any other age group has ever had.  Most live in a nice home but are not responsible for any mortgage payments.  Most have wonderful meals but don’t pay the super market bills.  Many have the benefit of a wonderful education but pay no tuition bills.  So it would behoove the young people to recognize the gifts that God, and your parents,  have given you.

Every category in our society has been blessed.  Most of us  have health, opportunity, relative safety and security.  Why?  The gift of our birth, here in this country and that came from our God.  We need not feel guilty because God has given us so much but, rather,  it would seem appropriate to recognize His gifts and spend time during this gift giving time to thank Him for His generosity.

How do we do this?  Basically the answer is simple  … we pray.  And yet, during this time of year, many of us complain that we have little time because we are so busy checking our lists and preparing for the holiday.  And  many in our society seems to have forgotten the meaning of the holiday.  When I read the newspapers or listen to radio or television, most of the space and time is consumed by advertising exhorting me to buy this or the other product.  There is never a mention about “giving thanks”.   There is never a mention of why we are involved is so much giving to others.  No one seems to mention it’s because we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.  A person from outer space could come to our planet and during the next few weeks hear about this wonderful holiday but never hear the name of Jesus.

As we look forward to the short amount of time we have before Christmas is here I would make a few suggestions.  In a spirit of thanksgiving, I would recommend we consider the possibility of praying the rosary each day.  We may be busy but we usually spend time alone when we are driving our cars.  Why not use the steering wheel as our rosary?  Would it be an imposition to consider attending daily Mass once or twice a week during this season.  We could use the opportunity to thank God for what we have.  And, of course, this is the perfect time to share what we do have with those less fortunate.  Compared to many people in the rest of the world our wealth is almost unbelievable.  We have been given great gifts but we only merit those gifts if we are honest enough to recognize where they came from. They came from our God and, therefore, our first thoughts this Christmastime should be to thank Him and worship Him because He has given us all so much.


Homily # 7

Our dictionary defines Advent as the coming of Christ-Our Church provides for the 4 week period to give us suitable time to prepare.  As usual our readings give us a real help in doing this.  Our section of Isaiah today is from the later writings called Deutero-  Isaiah or the 2nd Isaiah.

This is evident when we hear that the people are now slaves-they are no longer residents of rich Jerusalem but rather slaves in Babylon which, by the way is very close to the city of Baghdad which is in our news daily .

The nature of the Jews changed from a confident people to one destitute and hopeless.

The people are in sin and deep sorrow. While our 1st reading is still in the OT its time is close to the coming of our Lord.

This 2nd Isaiah is a prophet whose job is to tell the Jews and us what God wants us to know and do. God tells us to give comfort and speak tenderly and thus prepare for the coming of God.

Then as usual our Gospel “fleshes-out” our message from the 1st reading- it even quotes Isaiah.

So both of our readings give us a clear message of the coming of Christ!

Our role ,of course is to do just that-be prepared for our Lord/s coming not just for Christmas but for everyday of our life.

We wouldn’t invite friends over for dinner without preparing a dinner- We wouldn’t go to a banquet wearing the same clothes we mowed the lawn in.

Now we come to the point of how best to prepare. I think a good way to do this is to renew our lives to live as Jesus taught us. What did Jesus tell us to do?

Love your neighbor as yourself!
Keep the commandments!
Follow the Beatitudes!
Live like me as I am the Way, truth and the life!

So now how can we weak, sinful people do this?

We certainly cannot do it on our own! We need God’s consistent help.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to realize God speaks to us each day in the Scriptures and be sure we LISTEN.

But then we need to do more than that -we need to speak to God in our prayers-Are we doing this?

St Ignatius Loyola said that if we see God in everything that happens all of life is a prayer!

If you are like me you probably waste a lot of prayer time in driving to and from work, school, dates etc. One way to solve this is to mark the reverse side of your steering wheel with tape in groups of ten and use them to say the Rosary. You will probably also find your driving is more pleasant and enjoyable.

There are, of course many ways to prepare for Jesus/s coming-our Church gives us the gifts of the Sacraments.

If we haven’t started to prepare yet we still have 2 weeks-lets not be like the foolish virgins who brought no oil and were shut out by God.


Homily # 8

Is 40:1, 9-11
Pt 3:8-14
Mk 1:1-8

During this advent season, we’re looking and preparing for Jesus in our lives. But where should we look and what are we looking for?

There is a story told that after completing his masterpiece, the “Mona Lisa,” the famous Italian renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci went to a nearby tavern to celebrate the event with his friends. While in conversation and sipping a little of the local wine, he noticed that many in the tavern were making sport of an ugly fool who made his living going from tavern to tavern, entertaining patrons for a spare coin or a crust of bread. This man was truly an ugly person; he seemed to be more a troll than a man. His small beady eyes were not centered in his oversized head. His ears were like cauliflower, his nose was as large as a gourd, with an ugly mole on its tip, and his mouth and jaw were locked in a perpetual grimace.

As those in the tavern continued to mock the fool, a contentious rival artist hurled a challenge at the great da Vinci: “you are a master,” said the man, “can you make in paint a beauty of this ugly fool?” Leonardo could not avoid the challenge for to do so would forever place him in doubt with his followers. “Why not,” responded Leonardo. “If I can paint the most beautiful woman in the world in my ‘Mona Lisa’ then I can certainly make an Adonis of this ugly fool. Return here tonight at the call of vespers and I will reveal the work I have done.” Leonardo had little time, far less than normal for such a project, so he began in earnest.

Several hours later the bell in the cathedral rang for vespers and the crowd began to assemble at the tavern. It was filled to overflowing; it seemed that the whole city had heard the challenge and had come to see what the master had accomplished. Leonardo stood before his new painting, which was covered by a curtain, and called for quiet. Patrons continued to murmur, “What would the painting reveal? Would the fool’s eyes now be blue and centered in his face? Would his nose be noble and roman? Would his lips be gentle but firm? Would his large ears now be petite and soft?”

When the noise subsided Leonardo called out, “behold my masterpiece!” he slowly withdrew the curtain to reveal his work while the crowd held its breath. The painting was an exact image of the ugly fool – not one hair or expression was out of place. Silence filled the tavern. The rival artist cried out, “the ugly fool was too much of a challenge, even for the great Leonardo da Vinci.” “Not so,” responded Leonardo. Then pointing to the face of the fool he said, “This face was painted by the hand of God and only a fool would dare presume to change or replace the work of the Master.” Leonardo da Vince had used a fool to shame the proud.

To be well-born or important, to be a “name” person is not a bad thing, but this will not help us in any way to get where we need and want to be. Humbly answering Gods call to discipleship as it comes each day must be our goal

Society is constantly telling us that we must possess a name of importance, a position of influence, or accomplish something of great significance.

The greater our accomplishments, the more impressive our resume, and the more accolades we receive will bring us greater acceptance. Society likes a winner; it extols the rich, the famous, and; the beautiful. The fool, the ugly person is not acceptable.

Jesus is counter cultural and bucks against the system when it is wrong or corrupt. The lord casts down the mighty, lifts up the lowly, and has a preferential option for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized in human society. Jesus blesses in a special way those who find themselves on the outside.

Leonardo da Vinci did not dare improve on the work of the Master. He knew that God had a place for everyone, even for the fool, the ugly, the unacceptable of the world. Sometimes we will find ourselves, like those in the tavern, on the topside of life. When things are going well we must give thanks to God but we must never forget those who are poor and weak. At times, as the beatitudes suggest, we will find ourselves as the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, or even the persecuted. When such times come to us we must never think God has abandoned us. No, God honors the humble, raises up the lowly, and safeguards the poor and needy.

While we’re preparing for the birth of Jesus, maybe we should look around and try to see Jesus in those less fortunate than we are.

We should try to accept what God has created in us and others: the beautiful with the not so beautiful, the intelligent with the not so gifted, the poor with the rich, the weak with the strong. Let us accept our call to discipleship as we are, not as we wish to be. Let us believe that God has uniquely painted each of us as we are and that the rich, powerful, and the beautiful of this world have no advantage over us. Let us know that we are blessed by God, accept our call to discipleship and, in the end, discover the loving embrace of God.

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Moments
Preparing the way

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:56:00 12/07/2008

THE STORY IS TOLD ABOUT A BISHOP WHO hired a new secretary who used to work for the Pentagon. As soon as she took over, she changed the filing system from “secret” to “sacred,” and from “top secret” to “top sacred.”

* * *

In Sunday’s gospel (Mk. 1, 1-8), John the Baptist appears in the desert, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and echoing Isaiah’s message: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” Advent is the time for conversion, and conversion is basically a going away from our secret ways and toward the sacred way.

* * *

What is the key to conversion? John the Baptist gives us the answer: “One mightier that I am is coming after me.” In other words, conversion happens when we accept in all humility that there is someone greater than you and me. When we finally accept our littleness and our need for God, then conversion starts. As long as one thinks or acts as if he/she is the God of his/her own life, and God forbid, of others’ lives, there can be no conversion, and there can be no turning from one’s secret paths.

* * *

We are all supposed to prepare the way of the Lord. The problem with many of us is that we prepare the way for ourselves, and the Lord is not within our preparation or equation. Worse, we block the way of the Lord. Can you honestly say that you are working hard so that the Lord will be known and glorified? Or are you working hard just for your own glory and convenience in this life? Do you go out of your way for the Lord of your life? Or is He just an appendage, an afterthought perhaps, or maybe just a security crutch?

* * *

The problem with some people is that they are the superstars of their own lives, outshining the real Star of all stars. Instead of being busy reflecting the light of God, they are so busy catching and hoarding all the light. These are people who don’t know how to fade away, and will try till the very end to be in the limelight, refusing to leave the center stage instead of just making a humble exit and with finality say: “Not I, not I, but the Lord on high!”

* * *

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again as a former basketball player said it way back when: fade-away shots are more effective than the lay-up and forcing-through shots. So too in life. The one who assists is as good as the one who makes the shot. We must learn to fade away, and give to God the glory.

* * *

What if John the Baptist had refused to step down from his place of glory? All the people were going out to him to be baptized by him. What if he sought an extension of his term? Instead of being a herald, what if he insisted on claiming to be the savior? Answer: Salvation would not have come. He would have been a block to true progress and real moving on. Let us ask ourselves today: Am I clearing or am I blocking the Lord’s way?

* * *

Recently, I was in Roxas City, Capiz. Roxas is led by a big-hearted mayor in the person of Rosauro Buenafe who sees his position from the point of service and mission. It is very inspiring to meet simple public servants like him who know and practice sacrifice, accountability and transparency. There are still many good public servants in our country who have not given in to the pervading culture of corruption, deceit and secrecy among the higher-ups.

* * *

“Remember with gratitude, rejoice in humility, renew in love” was the theme of our recollection with the relatives and friends of our five deacons on the eve of their ordination day. There were a lot of touching moments as the parents shared what they remembered about their sons, and how they saw the priesthood as both a gift and a responsibility to their families. During the Mass, I asked the parents to pray over and offer their sons to God, and in return, the deacons gave to their parents a crucifix to remind them that they share in the common priesthood of Christ.

* * *

One of the deacons moved the whole audience during the Parents’ Night Program when he gifted and put on the feet of his parents slippers which, he said, were a symbol of dignity and security when they were young, because they hardly could afford them due to poverty. Now, with the priesthood, they have the dignity, and with the Lord, they have security. Yes, with true service, we all have dignity, and with the Lord, and only with the Lord, we have true security.

* * *

Monday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mama Mary will take care of us. She will, as she always had, deliver our families, and our nation from the problems and troubles that burden us.

* * *

Dec. 12 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Today, more than over, let us listen again to her message: “I am here, I’m your Mother. Do not fear, I am near.”

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, let me be one who prepares and not one who blocks your way. Amen.

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Word Alive

Christmas Preparation

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

December 2, 2011, 10:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — Some years ago when I was assigned at the Divine Word College of Legazpi, Albay, I visited an elderly SVD confrere who was a director of a high school in Sorsogon.

A social mixer, he would get invited to dine in friends’ houses. He liked it because that saved him from cooking his meals as well as saved his food budget.

* * *

One afternoon, we were invited to a sumptuous lunch. As we sat in one corner busy, doing justice to our overflowing plate, I leaned over to my senior confrere and whispered: “Father, ano ba itong malaking handaan na ito? (What’s this big celebration?) He stepped on my foot, looked at me, and said: “Huwag kang maingay. Hindi ko rin alam. Basta’t kumain ka na lang ng kumain.” (Keep quiet. I also don’t know. Just keep on eating.)

* * *

That amiable confrere passed away, but that personal experience somehow illustrates how we celebrate our Christmases year in and year out.

For don’t we tend to “eat, drink, and be merry,” and forget WHY in the world we’re doing all this? How would you feel if guests come to your birthday party and don’t even bother to greet you but go directly to the dining table?

* * *

John the Baptist in this 2nd Sunday gospel, exhorts us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” He is not referring to road repairs (although that’s a timely reminder for our Department of Public Works and Highways to fix our rough and potholed roads!) but rather that our morally rough and crooked ways, like bad traits, vices, corrupt practices, must be straightened.

* * *

The trouble is that our modern society has commercialized Christmas so much that we’ve mistaken the icing for the cake, the accidents for the substance. The truth of the matter is that Christmas is, first and foremost, a religious event.

Concretely, how can we prepare ourselves SPIRITUALLY?

We can attend the nine-day Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo climaxed by the Misa de Aguinaldo. It’s a form of penance, too, getting up on cold early mornings.

* * *

As God sent His Son to save us, we can share our blessings with the indigents or brethren in prison, or in hospital’s charity wards.

Since Christmas is celebrating the grand reconciliation between God and sin-scarred humanity, let it be a time of reconciliation for people who have not been in talking terms for years. Let it be a time to forgive and forget.

* * *

A good confession is an excellent form of spiritual preparation. There are a good number who have not gone to the sacrament of confession for years.

If we do prepare ourselves internally and spiritually, then most assuredly our Christmas will be more joyful, more meaningful, more fulfilling because we will celebrate the REAL meaning of Christmas.

mb.com.ph/articles/343444/christmas-preparation

***********************************************************************

Moments

Living reminders

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Sunday, December 4th, 2011

The story is told about a factory owner who made a surprise visit to the plant and saw a man leaning lazily against a post. “How much are you paid a week?” asked the owner. The man replied, “P3,000, sir.”  The owner gave him P3,000 and shouted: “Here’s your week’s pay. Get out and don’t ever come back.” After he left in a hurry, the supervisor told the owner: “Sir, that man is not our worker. He was here to deliver pizza.”

* * *

In today’s gospel (Mk. 1, 1-8) we hear about John the Baptist who was busy and diligent in his work to prepare for the way of the Lord. He was also passionate and strong in his message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His message was simple and clear: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

* * *

In John the Baptist, we see that the messenger himself is the message. He walked his talk by his very person and lifestyle. Take note: empty words from superficial messengers perhaps inspire, or even impress, but these are not enough to really move people toward change or conversion.

* * *

A lot of us have fallen into the sins of mediocrity and complacency. Many of us have dug in into our comfort zones and don’t like to “rock the boat” anymore.  Maybe that’s the way it goes as we grow. Be that as it may, may we not fall into the greater sin of cynicism which makes us give up on hope and on life itself.

* * *

There is an interesting story about a fireman who helped put off the fire in a burning church. When the priest found out that he was a Catholic, he asked: “How come I never see you in church?”  The fireman said: “Father, I only come to church when the church is on fire.”  St. John the Baptist reminds us today to re-examine ourselves and our message. Do we still burn with passion for our message and for our mission?

* * *

It is not often that we priests would be impressed by a fellow priest. I don’t know why.  Maybe it is because no prophet is acceptable among his own kind. But recently, I met Fr. Bonaventure Valles, a Franciscan monk who struck me with his simplicity and prayerfulness. In a recent trip with him to wintry Korea with everyone bundled up, he was just with his simple habit and a pair of sandals.  And I saw how he prayed –

in the plane, in the bus – and how he was joyfully in touch with the Divine, a living reminder of God’s presence in the present.

* * *

For almost two weeks now, at about 7 p.m., I would receive a call from Leah, a 40-year-old cancer patient who would tell me: “Father, I will sleep now. Please say a prayer and blessing for me over the phone.” Such faith! This mother of three small children who has been given up by her doctors continues to believe and hold on to her God, indeed, a living reminder of courage and faith.

* * *

“One mightier than I is coming after me.”  As long as a person believes that there is something or someone greater than himself/herself, that person has the right perspective. The problem with the mighty and the proud is that they lose sight of this perspective and begin to believe that they are the be-all and end-all in life.

* * *

December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is a holiday of obligation. On a personal note, it is also the 90th birthday of our dear mama Concepcion Muñoz-Orbos, a woman who has always reminded us the way of the Lord, and the love of our Blessed Mother. On that day, we also will launch my book “Treasured Moments,” which I lovingly dedicate to Mama.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to become a living reminder of your presence in the present. Amen

opinion.inquirer.net/18469/living-reminders

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TOURNAMENT SA LANGIT: Reflection for Second Sunday of Advent Year B – December 4, 2011

Gusto mo bang pumunta sa langit? Ngayon na? Siguro ang sagot mo: “As in ngayon na?” Nakakatakot nga naman kung “ngayon na” dahil marami sa atin ang magsasabing “hindi pa ako handa!” May dalawang magkaibigan na fanatic sa badminton. Halos lahat ng tournament ng badminton ay sinasalihan nila at walang pinapatawad. Sa sobrang pagkafanatic nila sa badminton ay nangako silang kung sino man sa kanila ang unang mamamatay ay dapat ibalita kung may badminton din sa langit. Nagkataong paglipas lamang ng ilang linggo ay binawian ng buhay ang isa sa kanila. At tinupad naman nito ang kanyang pangako. Kinagabihan ay dinalaw niya ang kanyang kaibigan. “Pare, si Budoy ito , may good news at bad news ako para sa iyo…” Laking gulat at takot ng kanyang kaibigan ng marinig ang tinig ni Budoy. “Ang good news ay… may badminton tournament sa langit. Ang bad news… ikaw ang makakalaro ko bukas!” hehehe… O di ba kahit ikaw man ang masabihan ng ganun ay matatakot ka rin? Hindi lang sa kadahilanang hindi tayo handa. Marahil ang pinakadahilan ay sapagkat hindi natin sukat na batid ang laki ng awa at habag ng Diyos. Ang panahon ng Adbiyento ay ang ating paghahanda hindi lamang para sa pagdiriwang ng Pasko ngunit sa pagharap natin sa muling pagdating ni Jesus sa ating piling. Haharap tayo hindi sa isang Diyos na mabagsik at mapanghusga ngunit sa isang Diyos na mapagpatawad at mahabagin. Kaya nga’t ang panawagan ni San Juan Bautista sa ilang ay pagbabalik-loob: “Pagsisihan ninyo’t talikdan ang inyong mga kasalanan!” Huwag sana tayong madaig ng ating sariling mga kakulangan. Totoo, walang sinuman sa atin ang karapat-dapat sa kanyang harapan, ngunit sa pagkakatawang-tao ng Kanyang Anak ay ginawa Niya tayong karapat-dapat! Ang pinakamagandang paghahanda sa pagdating ng Panginoon ay ang tuwirin ang “ang ating liko-likong landas!” Ayusin natin ang dapat ayusin sa ating buhay. Gawin natin sanang makahulugan ang Panahon ng Adbiyentong ito sa pamamagitan ng isang taos-pusong pagbabalik-loob at pagdulog sa Sakramento ng Kumpisal. Lagi tayong umasa na laki ng habag at sa walang kundisyong pagpapatawad ng Diyos sa ating mga kasalanan. Nasindihan na ang ikalawang kandila ng ating Korona ng Adiyento. Nasa ikalawang linggo na tayo ng ating paghahanda. Marahil ay panahon na upang ituon naman natin ang ating paghahanda sa paglilinis ng ating puso. Ikaw rin… baka may tournament ka na ng “badminton” bukas sa langit!

kiliti-ng-diyos.blogspot.com/2011/12/tournament-sa-langit-reflection-for.html

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See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B,

Back to: Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

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