Posted for December 14, 2014
Message: This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life – the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus.
This our third Advent homily on Preparing Our Hearts. Last Sunday we learned We prepare our hearts for Jesus by repentance. Repenting can be a dramatic experience – accepting Jesus as personal savior, welcoming him into one’s heart, making a sincere confession. We learned that repentance is a daily task. If we are not learning from our mistakes, if we are blaming others instead of accepting responsibility, then we start sliding back. We stop growing. A Christian disciple has to keep growing, preparing his heart for Jesus.
This Sunday I want to emphasize the seriousness of giving our hearts, our lives to Jesus. We can get drowsy, just kind of drift along. We can start thinking, well I always have tomorrow. A person can even think, maybe there’s even another life where I can have a second chance.
A lot of people believe in reincarnation and they even go so far as to say that the New Testament teaches reincarnation. They point to Jesus’ statement that John the Baptist “is Elijah, the one who is to come.” (Mt 11:14) Therefore, they say, John is the reincarnation of Elijah. Today, however, when they ask John, “Are you Elijah?” he responds, “I am not.”
So how do you reconcile the two verses? Jesus says John is Elijah and then John says he is not Elijah. Well, John is Elijah in the way Pope Francis is Peter. He fulfills the role of Peter today. Similarly just as Elijah called Israel to repentance so John calls his generation – and us – to repentance.
This call to repentance is urgent because this life is the one chance we have. Jesus and his followers tell us that after death comes judgment – and that the judgment involves two possibilities: heaven or hell.
I wish I could tell you not to worry, everything’s going to be OK, you still have plenty of time, there will always be another chance. But if I tell you that, I would not be true to Jesus. When you hear him speak, you do not get a sense of leisure, but a sense of urgency. Consider the very first words in his public ministry, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Jesus picks up the message of John. Repent. This life is serious. It’s your one chance. Take it. Prepare your heart for Jesus.
John not only preaches repentance but he illustrates how we prepare our hearts. That preparation has two steps. The first involves giving of self. John had great talents – preaching, study, prayer, simplicity of life and fasting – and he invested those talents for his people. John’s investment made him the greatest man of his generation. He is the last and greatest of the prophets. Jesus says, “no man born of woman is greater than John.” The Jewish historian, Josephus, has a paragraph on John the Baptist, describing him as a crucial figure. And in the Acts of the Apostles we see that he had followers as far away as Ephesus in modern Turkey. This fame indicates John’s self gift. You and I will probably not achieve fame, but please God we will follow John’s example of investing all.
John exemplifies something else, a second step we must take after making that effort to give all. That step is humility. When you think about it, humility is the best gift we can give. If I give then start bragging about or if I give with strings attached, I will cut myself off from others – and from God. John represents beautiful humility. He was the greatest man of his generation, yet when he Jesus came he said “I am not worthy to untie…his sandal strap.”
This is tricky business. Humility does not mean hiding ones gift or worse burying them. It means giving all then acknowledging the truth – anything you and I could give (even if we had Bill Gates’ fortune, Einstein’s brilliance and Blessed Mother Teresa’ service to the poor) all that pales when we stand in front of Jesus – like a grain of sand:
At World Youth Day 2013 I spent a night on Copacabana Beach with about a million young people. It’s a huge area. Well, in relation to Jesus we are like a speck of sand: small in ourselves, but part of something glorious. John the Baptist shows that we must deposit that sand crystal and then praise God that we have joined ourselves to something – someone – incomparably great.
This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life – the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus. And we prepare our hearts by St. John’s example of self-giving and humility. Next week we will see an even greater example of humility, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Humility enables us to rejoice always, in all circumstances. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in God is the joy of my soul.” . Amen.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 14, 2014
Third Sunday in Advent, Year B—December 14, 2014
On this Sunday, the Church calls us to rejoice, even though our waiting and preparation aren’t over yet. Why?
Gospel (Read Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)
Today we have another description of the work of John the Baptist before the public appearance of Jesus at the Jordan River. In addition to calling the people of Judea to repent, John also had to answer questions about himself. We need to know that expectation of the Messiah’s coming was at fever pitch in first century Judea. Centuries earlier, the prophet, Daniel, was given a message from the angel, Gabriel, with a numbered calculation of years that would pass between the Exile of Judah in Babylon and the appearance of God’s “anointed one.
Third Sunday of Advent
John 1: 6–8, 19–28
The gospel passage tells us about a man named John who was sent by God to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. This is the way the testimony happened. Religious leaders from Jerusalem came to find out who he was. John tells them that he is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet. He does say: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord … ” Then John is asked: “Why then do you baptize … ?” He answers: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
3rd Sunday of Advent: Called To Be Apostles and Witnesses
“There was a man named John, sent by God to give testimony to the Light.” The first words of today’s gospel tell us everything we need to know about John the Baptist. He was sent to give testimony. He was sent. The word in the original Greek is apostolein, apostle. To give testimony, the word in the original Greek is marturios, martyr. John the Baptist is an apostle and a martyr. Actually, John was the first apostle. He was the first one sent to proclaim the presence of the Christ. He was also the first Christian martyr. John was the first one to give testimony to the truth of Christ among us. He realized that Divine Truth had entered the world as a human being. This was no time to hedge on the truth. John would rather die than turn from the truth. And he did die, a martyr to Truth.
The Angels of Advent
I’m of the opinion that angelic encounters are far more frequent than many people think. It’s just that who talks about it? Who was aware that what happened was an angelic interruption?
Maybe that meaningful dream you had, that close call you had in the car, that accident that didn’t happen, that chance meeting that helped direct your life or that surprising event was an angelic encounter.
Christmas: Biblical Reflections
With Christmas coming up around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some connections in sacred Scripture that may not be evident to the casual Bible reader.
The story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem is rife with meaning. The inn-keepers of Bethlehem had no room for Mary and Joseph, even though Joseph probably told them that Mary was about to give birth. The moral sense of this story (how it applies to us) is a question we all must ask ourselves – “Do we have room in our heart for the Holy Family?” Or are we too busy with the affairs of this world to give Jesus, Mary, and Joseph their proper due?
Advent and the Drama of Light and Darkness
Here are the summary notes from a talk I gave tonight at the Parish of St. Columba, here in D.C.
Many people think of Advent merely in terms of pre-Christmas time: office parties, shopping, decorating etc. But in the Church, Advent is more a penitential period, a time of preparation for both the Christmas Feast and the Second Coming of the Lord. The purple vestments signal penance. The faithful are encouraged to go to Confession, and the liturgical texts and readings emphasize readying for the coming of the Lord.
The Root of Restlessness: An Advent Hope
What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?
Some say it is desire. The root of all unhappiness is desire.
We desire what we do not have, and we desire more what we cannot have.
But what is at the root of that desire? I think it is something else.
A Divine Mercy Christmas
What does Jesus want for Christmas? After all, it’s his birthday. And he has told us what he wants.
When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina, to whom he entrusted his messages of Divine Mercy, he told her: “But child, you are not in your homeland: so fortify yourself by my grace and fight for My kingdom as a king’s child would, and remember that the days of your exile will pass quickly, and with them, the possibility of earning merit for heaven. I expect from you, My child, a great number of souls who will glorify My mercy for all eternity.” (Diary of St. Faustina 1489)
From the Realms of Glory
I imagine angels to be like responsible teenagers asked to babysit their toddler siblings. I’m sure that my own guardian angel is often exasperated with me, as tends to happen when babysitting mischievous toddlers. Sometimes the kids are adorable, and sometimes you have to lure the guinea pig out from under the couch because the toddler set it loose again. (Not that I, er, have any direct experience with that.) But I know that despite my tendencies to get caught in the same crazy predicaments time and time again, my guardian angel must also delight in me as well. After all, the angels have willingly chosen to babysit us, and they love us more than we know. Just as the antics of toddlers can have a certain charm, our human weakness and naiveté must seem endearing in the eyes of the angels.