Pastoral Sharings: "Third Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Phil Bloom
Third Sunday of Advent

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

Gospel Summary

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.

Come Lord Jesus! A Meditation on the Stunning Glory of Being Gathered to Christ on the Last Day
In Advent, as we continue to meditate on the Parousia (the magnificent Second Coming of the Lord), we do well to allow our imaginations to be engaged in contemplating the glory that awaits those who are faithful, to meditate on the joy and ecstasy of the culmination of all things!

Sanctity and God’s Will
Presence of God – I place myself in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, asking Him to penetrate my soul with His words, “He that doth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7:21).

It Was a Beautiful Confession
On Saturday, we went to confession. Mine was a pretty standard operation: “Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last confession. I did that thing I always do, and that other thing I always do. I also did that other thing I always do, except more so than usual. And I stopped doing that thing I usually do, but then I started again.  And I was mean on the internet. For these and all my sins, I am truly sorry.”

The Priest of the Gulag: Walter Ciszek, SJ
Far in the bitter Russian north, word of the death of Joseph Stalin spread—even among the political prisoners and criminals who toiled ceaselessly, doomed and forgotten, in the mines and forests of Siberia. The news was a spark of hope that lit the fuse of rebellion. The camps erupted in violence as prisoners’ pent up frustrations with hard labor, hunger, and indignity were loosed. They never had a chance. By the butt of the rifle and the muzzle of the machine gun, Soviet soldiers put the uprising down. Among the prisoners of Camp 5, sprawled in the dirt and desperately trying to avoid the gunfire, was a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania. How he came there—and how he came back—is a study in, as the priest himself put it later, “the strange and mysterious ways of divine providence.”

How Do I Love God Above All? Part II of II
…Father John Bartunek answers the following question:

Dear Father John,  I try to love God above everything and everyone else, but I’m not sure how.  I’m not even sure that I am doing that.  Can you help?

Editor’s Note:  In part I, we looked at why someone would even think about this question and the precise totality of love.  Today we will: talk about going beyond self-help lists, introduce the four arenas of love, and savor the promise.

Pope Francis: There are many ‘hidden saints’ who live out the Gospel in their daily lives
In his Thursday morning Mass, Pope Francis talked about so called ‘hidden saints.’ Men, women, parents, religious and everyday people who live out the Gospel and give hope.

“Let’s think about all the priests who don’t publicize it, but who work in their parishes with great love: Teaching catechesis to children, caring for the elderly, the sick, and preparing newlywed couples…Every day it’s the same, the same, the same. They don’t get bored because their foundation is solid like a rock. It’s Jesus. This is what gives Holiness to the Church. This is what gives hope!”

Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell?….So What
Deacon is busy publishing parish letters on the Four Last Things for the Sundays of Advent.

Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

But it seems to me that the response of most people in our society and our church is a careless shrug of “So what.”

35 Promises Of God
The Bible contains numerous promises that God makes to His people.

Below you will find the top 35 promises God makes to His people.

Rhyming the Beginning and the End
Since God is the Author of the great story of creation and salvation history, he knows the end from the beginning and can tell us about that end as he chooses.

What we immediately notice when we scan biblical prophecy is that God only tells us enough to give us a general shape of history, not to give us details. In that, he is like every good storyteller we know. He offers us hints and foreshadows, which tell us something of the end, even in the beginning.

Prepare ye the Way – ?
Advent is a time of joyful anticipation. For someone even bigger than Santa Claus is coming to town.

The human race has been waiting a long time for his next and final visit. Actually, it waited a long time for the first visit.

The Priesthood is Love
“The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.  When you see a priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~ St. John Mary Vianney

Greed doesn’t sum up the priesthood. The average priest makes under $35,000 per year. Sexism doesn’t sum up the priesthood. Jesus ordained men, but women never had to be priests to be important in the Church. In fact, some of the most important people in Church history have been women.

On Smiling Angels and Joy-Filled Hearts
It is difficult to be a parent today, especially if you have a child or children with special needs. The days are emotional roller coaster rides often filled with frustration and only fleeting glimpses of progress. These families often push the pause button on their old lives as the focus becomes all about therapists, adaptive learning, fighting with schools for support, medication regimens, special diets, etc., etc. The expenses are astronomical and sacrifices are made which other families would never understand. Each day is a battle for survival, which requires fully engaged mothers, fathers and often siblings to pitch in and make it work.

We Teach Our Children That God Loves Them
As responsible and caring parents, we teach our children that God loves them. We also teach them to pray and to go to God with their needs. But how do we explain those times when God lets them suffer and their prayers are not answered the way they had hoped?

Love and Judgment
Anyone with a Facebook account has probably seen the following quote at some point, most likely in meme form, along with a tagline from the poster that reads, “YES!”, or “Exactly!”, or “Why can’t Christians get this?”:

Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. Mohammad wasn’t a Muslim. They were teachers who taught love. Love was their religion.

I Should Have Said No
I should have said no.

But when I said yes, I felt POWERFUL.

I felt NEEDED.



Now, I just feel TIRED.

Caring for the Dying MeansNot Intentionally Killing Them
A week ago I received a message from a distressed family writing about a loved one in the final stages of living.

The members of this family were informed by hospice care that their dying relative, a 95-year-old father/grandfather with dementia who still recognizes the family and talks with them at times, had come down with pneumonia. They were told he had no chance of recovering due to his reduced lung capacity. As a result, he had been put on 100 percent oxygen (pure oxygen delivered by a ventilator).

In the Enemy’s Camp: An In-depth Look at the Tactics of the Devil
If we are in a Spiritual War (which we are), we need to know our Enemy. Going into a battle blindly, without proper planning and preparation, will most assuredly result in utter defeat.

That is why over the next several weeks and months ahead, we will take a look in the Enemy’s camp and discover the varied ways he plots to destroy our souls.

Evil Can Only Be Conquered Through Weakness
With all this talk about Spiritual Warfare and battling against the Enemy, it can give the false notion that if we are “powerful” enough, we can take down Satan. In fact, if we approach our own daily battles through this lens we will actually be overpowered and the Evil One will use our quest for power to his advantage.
Satan loves power and so he is going to use our desire for power against us. However, one thing he hates and the one thing that can conquer his temptations is weakness. That may sound strange to our modern ears, but it is entirely biblical and entirely true.

Revitalizing Parishes Begins With the Liturgy – How Three Churches Are Putting Christ Front and Center
How Three Churches Are Putting Christ Front and Center

What can happen if parishes are faithful to the Church’s centuries-old patrimony and seek to revitalize along a transcendent path, which expresses the “other” and the eternal, the divine?

This movement seeks to ensure that the faithful Mass lifts the believer out of the world and up to heaven, rather than dragging the Mass down to the standards of the world.

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