Reflections for the Second Week of Advent 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 2nd Week of Advent 2011.
Sunday of the Second Week of Advent 2011
December 4, Mark 1: 1-8
On this Second Sunday of Advent, the readings from Isaiah and the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark speak of preparing the way of the Lord Jesus, the One who is to come, Emmanuel, God-is-with-us. In John the Baptist’s time, Jesus had already come. For us, too, in 2011, the Lord is here, salvation has come, the Kingdom of God is among us. And in our own time, the purpose of John the Baptist becomes our purpose: to announce to our world that the Christ, the Anointed One of God, has come. John the Baptist made a difference in his time. And we are to make a difference in our own times. We must be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
We do not make a difference in the world around us by being indifferent. To make a difference is to care, to be concerned, involved, and to work at being what our beliefs lead us to be. We cannot be indifferent to the fact that we are Christians, followers of the One who is to come into the world to make a radical difference, who came to raise human nature to the fullness of what it can be.
We look around our world today and we see that indifference to God and to our neighbor is all around us and is accomplishing nothing. The world has become a place where many people think they are going forward but in reality they are going in reverse at full speed. The human race has made great gains in many ways and the quality of life has improved over the centuries. We are capable of great things, but as long as we continue to be indifferent towards God all will come to naught because with indifference to God, shutting him out of our lives, we are headed in the wrong direction and will not find happiness, joy and peace.
Jesus taught us to love one another, to be compassionate, forgiving, and serving. And this, quite simply, is what leads us to the happiness we seek. But we seem to persist in being selfish, greedy, resentful and serving only ourselves. Our lives are all about me and mine and not about you and yours. And as long as we remain indifferent to the values of Jesus, we will not make a difference.
A good question to ask ourselves during this Advent Season is whether or not I am contributing to this indifference in the world toward God and neighbor. And if so, what do I need to do to begin to go in the right direction?
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Dec. 5, 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.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Dec. 6, 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!
Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
Dec. 7, Mt. 11: 28-30
“Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit.”
In today’s Gospel message, Jesus tells us that he is gentle. In my online dictionary, there are 16 different descriptions of gentle. It also tells me the word gentle comes from the Middle English gentle or gentil meaning highborn or noble, and from the Latin gentilis meaning belonging to the same family. The Latin root for the word, gens, means people, family, country. In general it means kindly, amiable, polite, refined, soft – not severe, rough, or violent.
I read a story about Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk. One day he was sitting outside, probably meditating, when a moth settled on his hand. It wouldn’t go away until Thomas blew it lightly with his breath and then it fluttered away. That is gentle! I probably would have given the moth a mighty whack and that would have been all she wrote. I have never been accused of being gentle. And that is not good. It must be wonderful to be able to be called a gentle person. I did find myself able to be gentle when caring for my mentally handicapped brother. But he inspired that in others. It is easy to be gentle with the gentle. I was also able to be gentle with my Dad when he was ill. But too many times I am rather violent and rough.
Jesus was gentle. The first instance of Jesus’ gentleness that comes to mind is the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 7: 53-8: 1-11. We all know that story. The Jews were going to stone her to death for her crime and Jesus told them that the one without sin could cast the first stone. They all left, of course, and then Jesus turned to the poor woman and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, Sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Wow! How kind, understanding and gentle!
Along with my lack of tolerance, gentleness is another thing for me to work on during Advent. How about you?
Thursday 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, this was 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 Tuesday’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 Tuesday’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.
Friday of the Second Week of Advent
Dec. 9, 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.
Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Dec. 10, 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!!