The Second Sunday of Advent 
Mt. 3:1-12

On this Second Sunday of Advent let’s focus for a few moments on two things that are very important to our human lives and all too often are missing from our lives. We go through all kinds of measures to insure their being there, but in the end it seems we fail most of the time. The two things I am speaking of are peace and safety. Our country spends trillions of dollars every year seeking these two things and still they manage to elude us. That is most probably because we look for them in the wrong way and in the wrong places. There is no way we can “purchase” peace and safety for any amount of money. They are only to be found in our hearts, inside us, and they are either there or they are not there.

One of the bright spots about the season of Advent is our coming into contact often with readings from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Today’s first reading includes Isaiah 11: 6-9. These verses present us with a picture of the kind of peace and safety we are focusing on in this homily. These words are among my favorite in all of Sacred Scripture: “Then the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf and the young lion shall graze together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors …… the lion shall eat hay with the ox ….. the baby shall play in the cobra’s den ….. there shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain.” Wow!! What a picture of peace and safety. And it will all come to be because “a shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”

Ordinarily I don’t go ga ga over TV commercials. Fact is, when I see one coming I’ll switch channels, turn off the sound, or whatever. But there are two commercials sponsored by Traveller’s Insurance that I just love to watch. One of them appeared last year and is running again now. I wrote a homily on it when it first came out. This is the ad of the little dog who is worried about losing his precious bone and all that he goes through to prevent it from being stolen. Finally, it shows up in a bowl with the “red umbrella” of Traveller’s hanging over it and the dog is sleeping peacefully. His bone is safe at last.

The new one that just started a few months ago pictures a water hole in the jungle. All the animals large and small are drinking from it at the same time and swimming in it with no fear at all of any of the other animals. All is peaceful and safe! The lion and zebra are drinking together as are the rhinos, the monkeys, the prairie dogs, the ostriches, the giraffes, the tigers and all the rest. And once again, hanging over the whole water hole, is the peace, safety and security offered by the “red umbrella” of Traveller’s. A caption sums up the whole commercial: Take the scary out of your life.

We look at that ad and somehow realize that it just can’t be that easy to have the peace and safety we desire. But it could be! We can take the scary out of life simply by removing the “red umbrella” and putting in its place a picture of the Lord Jesus. If he is watching over all we do, there is no need for fears, worry and troubles. This takes us back again to a place we so often end up: surrendering our wills and lives to God, putting him in control.

O Lord, you and you alone are my shield and my armor. You are the answer to having a peaceful, safe, fearless and happy life. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Second Week of Advent 
 Luke 5: 17-26

I believe we have all met people who are really good, but just don’t seem to have a firm foundation. They seem to waver and drift and seem to be lost. Our Gospel for today is a guideline for what to do when we meet someone like this. The obvious solution is to get them in touch with Jesus and his message and values. We have to go out of our way to arrange a meeting between the person and the Lord. There are several ways to go about doing this. Invite them, for example, to go to Sunday Mass with you and then to breakfast afterwards. Introduce the person to your friends and once you seem to have their attention, invite them to get in touch with the RCIA program that exists today in all our parishes. This is exactly what this program is all about. Those letters, by the way, stand for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is why this program exists: to give to those who are seemingly lost and drifting and looking for answers, the answers they are seeking. It introduces them to Jesus, takes the roof off their house and brings them to Jesus, and gives them an opportunity to meet the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

I remember only too well the days before the RCIA program came into existence. When someone wanted to inquire about the Church or Jesus and his message, it was a one on one procedure that took literally forever. The RCIA program was one of the best things to happen in the Church in a long time. Don’t forget about it. It is there. It works. Use it. Participate in it as a sponsor or perhaps as an instructor. It introduces people to the Lord Jesus and bears great fruit.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent 
Mt. 18: 12-14.

Both of our readings for today’s Advent Liturgy show God’s love for each of us individually. This is a lot more meaningful than saying that God loves us all “in globo.” a Latin phrase that means God lumps us all together and loves us as a whole, kind of all together at one time. I hope you get the meaning of this. Loving people as a group “in globo” is not the same as loving them all individually. We see God’s love for us individually expressed often in the Scriptures. In today’s Gospel, for example, Jesus is willing to leave the ninety-nine for the one lost sheep, indicating his special, individual love for the one that is lost. And in the reading from Isaiah, God brings his comfort and peace to the individual. In another place in Isaiah, the Prophet tells us that God holds us in the palm of his hand, that he calls us each by name, indicating an individual love for us. In his miracles he chooses one person to heal, one person to raise from the dead, all indicating an individual love for us. I think we might liken this type of love to a family with fifteen children. Mom and Dad don’t just love them “all” as a group, but they love each individual person for who they are and what they are.

Lord, your love for me leaves me with a feelings of humbleness and awe and I realize, at least somewhat, that your love for us all is priceless. Thank you!

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent 
Dec. 8, 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.

Fr. Howard

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

“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

The same idea of our individual specialness and dignity continues in today’s Gospel in the words just quoted above. If we insist on finding someone who is greater than all the rest born of women, it would be John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. But, even if that were so, even John the Baptist is not greater than the least disciple found in the Kingdom of heaven. We are all special!

I keep pounding on this idea of our individual greatness, specialness and holiness, to get us all to think positively of ourselves. I am reminded of my Counselor’s advice to me in the alcohol treatment center: Howard, why don’t you start worrying about who you are and what you can do and forget about who you are not and what you cannot do. Put the accent on who God made you to be, on what you can do with the gifts and talents he has given you, on the positive things in your life. If you can’t fly a jet airplane, forget about it. Who cares? You don’t have to fly a jet airplane. Let someone else with that gift do it.

Lord, help me please to focus today on my goodness, on the gifts and talents you have freely given to me and thereby to become what you want me to be and do.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Second Week of Advent 
Mt. 11: 16-19

I was just glancing through a little red meditation book I have for each day of the year and for today’s Gospel it has a little story taken from a Peanut’s cartoon in the paper. This little episode seems to tie together what we’ve been saying for the past couple of days.

In the cartoon, Lucy is looking up at the sky and says to no one in particular, “Sometimes clouds form actual words.” Charlie Brown happens to hear her and looks up at the sky and replies, “They’re not clouds; that’s skywriting.” Unbothered by Charlie, Lucy says, “As I was saying, sometimes clouds form actual words.”

The moral of the little story: When we close our minds to the truth, we do not see things as they really are but as we would have them to be. We must be real and face reality. Reality says that we are all beautiful and special people and that we should take our goodness and give it all back to God a hundredfold. Then we will be making the difference in the world that God expects from the gifts and talents he gave us.

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent 
Mt. 17: 9-13

We have seen all this past week how much God loves us individually. His coming Incarnation, the feast of Christmas, is another demonstration of this. Jesus’ whole life is a life of love. He became man, suffered, died on the cross and rose again to redeem us. It is totally unconscionable that God should do such things for his creatures. Jesus came into this world ready to suffer for us. Are we ready to suffer for him? As we have said many times before, it is not only ours to take but it is also ours to give in return, for it is in giving that we receive even more.

O God, how truly great Thou art!!

Fr. Howard

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