Reflections for the First Week of Advent 2012**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2009 and 2010.
Sunday of the First Week of Advent
D December 2, 2012 Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
When I was in the treatment center for my alcoholism many years ago, I was told by my counselor: As long as you wake up every morning and ask the Lord to walk with you this day, you need not worry about taking a drink of alcohol. That was a good suggestion. And it applies not only to alcoholism but to any other difficulties in our lives we might be trying to get rid of. It has become a habit for me to ask him to be with me as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. I have no doubt that it works. It is kind of the same thing as the old saying: If God is with me, who can be against me.
The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus and means coming to a person, a coming near, an approach, an arrival, a being present. This season reminds us of the fact that Jesus has come to be with us, he has arrived, he is present to us. In Jesus’ own words: I am with you all days, even to the end of the world. And as usual his arms are open. He invites us to come to him, to be refreshed, to be made new again: Come to me all you who are burdened and tired and I will refresh you. We begin this new year of the Church with the gratifying knowledge that our Savior has come for us and is constantly present to us. He reaches out for us; all we have to do is reach out for him.
Once again, as this new year of the Church begins, I try to make up my mind to walk in Jesus’ way this year and not in my own way. Jesus is present to me in his words. I listen to him, read his words, daily. I ask that he help me to listen with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I ask him to hear his words and put into action in my live what I hear. I remember the old Alcoholics Anonymous cliché: Do it, dammit!
I see Jesus present in my family and community. Jesus told us that God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in them. I know God abides in my fellow Friars of my community. He is certainly present to me through them. You know that Jesus abides in your spouse and in your children. Stay close to them, listen to them, and you will stay close to God and hear his words.
God is present in our neighbors, even the people I don’t even know. Let us walk with them, respect them, treat them with dignity and equality, speak well of them whoever and whatever they are – and God will be with us.
This is what Advent, the coming of the Lord, reminds me of this year. How about you?
Monday of the First Week of Advent
December 3, 2012 Matthew 8: 5-11
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
It kind of irks me a bit when we say the words quoted above just before we receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass. There was a time (before the redemptive act of Jesus on the cross) when we were not worthy, but we are worthy now (after he has died for our sins.)
This is one of the great graces given us by Jesus. He gave us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink and along with this he bestowed on us the dignity to receive him into our hearts. With this God-given dignity, we can receive him under our roof, into our hearts, every time we go to Mass! I believe this is one of the truths we are being urged to “stay awake to”, during this season of Advent.
As we receive the Eucharist at Mass during Advent, let us remember the words written by St. Francis of Assisi in his Letter to the Entire Order: “The Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation he hides Himself under an ordinary piece of bread! Brothers and Sisters, look at the humility of God, and pour out your hearts before Him! Humble yourselves that you may be exulted by Him! Hold back nothing of yourselves, that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.”
Truly a beautiful prayer for all of us to remember to say as we receive Jesus in Eucharist.
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
December 4, 2012 Luke 10: 21-24
Jesus said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Seeing and hearing are two of our five senses through which we experience and encounter the world we live in. To lose any one of them is a great loss to a person. The two senses spoken of in the Gospel today, seeing and hearing, both come into play in our lives more than the other three. When you come right down to it, we see and hear an awful lot every day.
This is true of all of us, but the Gospel implies, through the words of Jesus, that those who follow him hear and see much more than those who do not follow him. There are many people in our world who have not seen or heard the values of Jesus such as caring, loving, compassion, serving, forgiving and all the rest. All of these people have a yearning deep within their hearts for happiness, peace and joy, but really do not know where to find them. They wander on a different path, and even those of us who are supposed to see and hear the right way, the way of the Lord, go asunder from time to time.
What we are privileged to see and hear as followers of Jesus is sometimes referred to as the straight and narrow. As long as we stay on this right way, hear the real truth, and live the abundant life Jesus has given to us, we are OK and find the happiness, peace and joy we desire.
What a gift is ours to see and hear!
Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
December 5, 2012 Matthew 15: 29-37
Today’s Gospel selection presents us with the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes according to Matthew. As we have noted before, this is miracle of Jesus that is told the most by the Evangelists. It appears six times in the four Gospels.
This past Sunday we spoke of Jesus’ presence to us. In this miracle Jesus shows his presence to his followers in another very special way. Jesus is bread for us, he nourishes us as we follow him on our way. We hunger and thirst for many things as we go on our way. We hunger for Jesus himself, we hunger for love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, the service of others, respect, dignity, and equality. It is in Jesus, the Bread of Life, that we find all these things and are able to share them with others.
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
December 6, 2012 Matthew 7: 21, 24-27
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
The Gospel for this first Thursday of Advent again speaks of the Kingdom of God. We saw just a few days ago that this Kingdom is not a place, but rather a condition, a new way of human life. It begins right here and now and will culminate in the life to come. Today’s Gospel tells us who is going to possess this Kingdom: “only the one who does the will of my Father.”
That makes good sense. While the Kingdom of God is a gift of God to us, we must accept it, embrace it. As with God’s grace, it is not all take. There has to be some give too. And that give is to do the will of the Father for me, to be what he wants me to be and do what he wants me to do.
Advent is a time of discernment as we wait for the Messiah to come. What does God want me to be? What does God want me to do? Why am I here on this earth? Where am I going? Let’s spend a bit of time reflecting on these questions today. We must know the answers to really get anywhere, to make progress on our journey to the Father.
Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 7, 2012 Matthew 9: 27-31
Yesterday we spoke of fulfilling the will of God for us. Today’s Gospel gives us a look at that will of the Father in a general way, in a way that affects us all. Surely Jesus wills that our faith in him should grow and grow and grow. All of us are like the man in the Gospel who exclaimed to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” We all want to believe and trust the Lord completely and fully in our surrender to him, yet we fail many times.
Maybe we ought to take Jesus’ question to the two blind man who sought his help in today’s Gospel story and turn it around: “Do you believe that you can grow in your faith in me?” The answer will be yes if we ask God for the strength to do so.
Saturday of the First Week in Advent, December 8, 2012
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
Today on December 8, we celebrate the glorious feast of Mary the Mother of God under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the name that tells us she was free from from the stain of original sin from the very first moment of her conception. Indeed, a great privilege granted to her by God. We have spoken before on this feast about all the theological implications, the length of time it took for the definition to come, and the opinions of the various theologians. But these thoughts were farthest from my mind as I thought of the Immaculate Conception today as I write this homily. The thought came to me, in light of yesterday’s homily about God loving us all individually, that this is how Mary his Mother loves us too. I believe the above quote from St. John’s Gospel shows us this.
Mary is our Mother, individually. John, the beloved disciple, represents each one of us and all the people yet to come as Jesus gave Mary to him as his Mother. Put this together with yesterday’s homily and it shows me something about each of us: Each of us in our own way, our own time and to our own degree, matters to God and also to his Blessed Mother. We are all special, unique people, people with a great and profound dignity.
Would that we could live up to what God has made us to be! Lord, show us where to begin.