Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 6 
Luke 3: 1-6

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Last Sunday, on the First Sunday of Advent, we spoke of God’s presence to all of us. This is one of the promises Jesus made to us: I will be with you always even to the end of the world. This past week it came to my mind that every spiritual movement that I am aware of has its promises, certain expectations of hope that those who get involved in the movement are assured they will experience. In Matthew’s Gospel, 19: 27-30, we hear Peter saying to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” In other words, Lord, we have left much to come and follow you. What’s in it for us? And the Lord replied to Peter, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

One of my favorite places in Scripture gives more promises associated with the coming of the Messiah. This is found in the Book of Isaiah 11: 6-9. There we read that when the Messiah comes “the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together. The cow and bear shall be neighbors, the lion shall eat hay like the ox, the baby shall play by the cobra’s den, the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.” Wow! Peace and love, care and equality are going to be everywhere!

The Islam religion promises its followers enlightenment, eternal life, and they will live with their ancestors forever. There will be no more confusion among peoples and death will not be the end of our existence. We will live eternally with those we love and who love us.

Alcoholics Anonymous, while strictly speaking not a religion, is very much a spiritual movement and is a fine example of the promise thing we are talking about here. We find these promises for those who live a life of sobriety on pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book. Some of them are: We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will no longer regret the past or wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the meaning of the word serenity and we will know peace. We will see our experiences benefit others. Feelings of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others. Self-seeking will slip away. Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us. We will realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. This is a rather impressive list, I think. And then it goes on to say: Are these extravagant promises? We think not – They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

The last sentence tells us what we are expected to do if we are to reap these promises. We have to work for them. We have to focus and concentrate on what these movements can do for us, desire it, and it will happen. The peace, happiness, joy, serenity and the new life we seek will be ours. I think Advent is a good time to think about all this and to look for the rewards and promises being fulfilled in our lives right now if we work at it, and also to see what we are missing if we are not working.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday of the Second Week of Advent, Dec. 7 
Luke 5: 17-26

“We have seen incredible things today.”

Last Tuesday’s Gospel began the month of December with the Lord telling us how blessed we are to see the things we see and to hear the things we hear. And today’s Gospel ends with the people themselves remarking about the incredible things they have seen Jesus do. He told the paralyzed man to walk and he got up from his stretcher and walked! Incredible, indeed.

This Gospel opens the way to reflection on the wonderful and incredible things the Lord has done for all of us. Let’s stop and think for a while today about that. I remember, for example, the incredible ways he helped my developmentally handicapped brother. He lived in a home in St. Paul for the handicapped and received wonderful and expensive care. Some of you know what I mean. It doesn’t take long to spend a lot of money. The money my brother received from my parents for his welfare was running a bit low. I thought I had received all the money from my parent’s various bank accounts, but evidently my Dad forgot to tell me about a couple. One day I received a phone call from a bank in Cleveland, Ohio, telling me there were two accounts that we had better claim before the money was turned over to the State. After our lawyer investigated, it amounted to $60,000 dollars. My brother needed money and the Lord provided! Incredible!

Recall today some of the incredible things the Lord has done for you.

Fr. Howard

 


Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8 
Luke 1: 26-38

 The first reading for today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a also a good Advent reading. This passage contains a very special verse of Scripture from Genesis 3:15. It is called by the special name “protoevangelium,” meaning the first good news. This verse gives us the first indication that God will provide for our reconciliation with him through the offspring of a woman. The finite cannot go to the infinite so the infinite became finite and crushed the head of Satan.

This is the miracle and the mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Jesus, the Son of God and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took on human nature and redeemed us by his death on the cross. Talk about incredible! Yet, this was God’s plan for salvation revealed to us in Sacred Scripture. Now he comes to us again in this Advent season to refresh our memories and to offer us the continual opportunity to be born again in him. Let us embrace him with all our hearts.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Fr. Howard


Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent, Dec. 9 
Mt. 11: 28-30

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Oftentimes these days, I wonder to myself: Where is the world going in such a big hurry? If I am on a freeway driving the speed limit, sometimes it seems like I am standing still. All the other cars are flying past me – and I wonder where they are going to so quickly. This time before Christmas is a busy time. People are shopping, decorating, baking, writing Christmas cards, wrapping presents, and buying food for the holiday’s special meals. Man, it can get to be a real jungle.

Rest, take it easy, fluff off, kick back, take off you shoes, take a nap – rest! This is Jesus’ suggestion in today’s Gospel. “Come to me and I will give you rest.”  Dare I suggest, amidst all the hub-bub going on these days that we take a little more special time and spend it talking to the Lord?

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday of the Second Week of Advent, Dec. 10 
Mt. 11: 11-15

The wording at the beginning of today’s Gospel selection is rather strange. Jesus says to the crowds, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” Fine, we can appreciate that. John was a great prophet and the last of the prophets who made known the coming of the Messiah. But then Jesus continues, “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

What Jesus is telling us in these words is that the reality of the world we live in today or any day is reversed, turned upside down in the kingdom of God. In other words, the world’s way is not the way to go. The way of the world is the way of power, violence, war, hatred, wealth, the strong over the weak, oppression of the poor and minorities. The way of the kingdom is just the opposite: a way of peace, justice, mercy, kindness, respect, equality, compassion, helping others, love of the poor and underprivileged, forgiveness of wrongs and hurts. We see here the whole idea of repentance preached by John the Baptist, of making that U turn in our lives. What can we do in our corner of the world to cause this to happen during this holy season?

Fr. Howard

 


Friday of the Second Week of Advent, Dec. 11 
Isaiah 48: 17-19

The first reading for today’s Liturgy from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah follows up and accents what we said yesterday concerning reversing the ways of the world and making some U turns in our lives. If we desire the things of God, the ways of God in our lives and all the good things that come from this, we must “hearken to my commandments and your prosperity would be like a river and your vindication like the waves of the sea; your descendents would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains.”

This is to say, first of all, that if we want God’s ways in our lives we have to have to have that faith desire we have spoken of before. We must want it, will it to be there. And, secondly, we must listen closely to his words, his commands. Today’s Gospel tells us our part in all of this. Are we listening as well as we can to the words of God? Are our lives changing because of this?

Fr. Howard

 


Saturday of the Second Week of Advent, Dec. 12 
Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On a day in December, 1531, Mary, the Mother of God, appeared to a simple peasant, Juan Diego, on a hill in Tepeyac, Mexico. The whole thing is a wonderful story. It also shows vividly that the ways of God reverse the ways of the world as we noted previously in our homilies for this week.

I would like to share a poem by Francine O’Connor that I read about this Feast with you.

Beautiful Lady of Tepeyac Hill,
Clothed in rays of sunshine bright,
Softly etched on a peasant’s cloak,
Your radiant beauty brings delight.
Not to the Fathers did you appear,
Nor to bishops in hallowed hall.
To a people oppressed, you turn your face;
To a race despised, you call.
From these people you chose a son
Juan Diego, gentle herald;
Juan Diego, suffering servant;
Juan Diego, simple Aztec saint.
As roses blossomed in rocky soil,
Out of season, out of place,
So did hearts frozen in hatred melt,
And so did radiant faith take root.
Virgin Mother of our God,
Soften our hearts and fill them now;
Call us out of our narrowness;
Challenge us in our shallowness,
And bring us into your Son’s embrace.

Amen.

Fr. Howard

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