1st Sunday of Advent Year A – 16

1st Sunday of Advent Year A – 16

Is.2:1-5, Rom.13:11-14, Matt.24:36-44

A lady, raised as a vegetarian, hardly ever saw a piece of meat growing up. When she married a man, who loved meat, they had meat all the time.

One Thanksgiving while they and their children were having dinner, the husband announced to the children: “Your mother didn’t know what a turkey was until she met me.” I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

One time a man was watching TV with 2 friends. Both were heavy smokers. They said they could never stop smoking. Not long afterwards each of them had a heart attack. One died immediately but the other survived.

His doctor told him to stop smoking or he would die. He believed the heart attack was a warning, a wake-up call to him and he stopped. It is hard to know why one died and the other survived. Can we not say that the gospel today is a wake-up call from God?

Jesus says to his listeners: “Stay awake because you do not know the hour when your master is coming”. And he uses two little examples from their history to remind us about the unexpected coming of Christ, the Son of Man at the end of time.

How will you and I heed, pay attention to this invitation? Will we neglect it or be like the man in the story above who heard the call and took the steps necessary to respond for his own good.

In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. At the end of today’s first reading when we hear Isaiah cry out, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

We need to understand that Isaiah isn’t simply talking about nature’s daylight nighttime’s darkness, he is talking about what we see with our minds and hearts. He’s calling us to rise above our daily worries, concerns and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives with all of their peaks and valleys.

As Christians, we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us. The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. The problem you and I have is that we’re far too concerned about so many other things.

Often these are legitimate concerns, worries that are thrust upon us by the world in which we live. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves.

This spiritual blindness is spoken of in biblical language as darkness. And what do we do in darkness? Usually we sleep. We sleep because we shut down, tune out, and turn off.

When we, through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of waking up we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling.

God has always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that has changed. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant; He is always present. It is we who are inconstant, changeable and inattentive.

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day.

God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life.

All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need. He has all that we need in an inexhaustible supply. The man working in the field and the woman working at the mill will be “left”, because they won’t leave their work. True enough – work is important.

We need to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families. But there is something more important than our work: the coming of the Son of Man. God will arrive unexpectedly. We don’t know when a thief might break into our house, so we are prepared for him at all times.

We lock our doors and windows. We leave a light on when we’re gone. We put in an alarm system. We insure our possessions. We do these things now because a thief could come at some unknown time. Hence, even during this busy Christmas season we must keep our daily life centered on Christ.

Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we trace the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His messages? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses?

Attend Communal Penance Services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what we will do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our wishes.

As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time we come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids us to examine our lives.

Once again, we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so, I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture not altogether different from the one in which we presently live:

“Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

In the words of Jesus, you just heard in today’s gospel account: “So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Now the question is, how to be alert and watchful in the spirit of today’s Gospel. Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy and forgiveness.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), once said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.”  Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?”

The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we’ll be getting an extra gift:  Christ himself.  There is a saying about being saved which goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas: “Without God, I can’t.  Without me, He won’t.” Amen.

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The Solemnity Christ The King – 16

The Solemnity Christ The King – 16

II Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43

Polycarp, the fifth century bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King Jesus Christ Who saved me?”

The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt.” But Polycarp said, “You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish.”

It was Pope Pius XI who brought the Feast of Christ the King into the liturgy in 1925 in order to bring Christ, his rule and Christian values back into lives of Christians, into society and into politics.

The Feast was also a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King. Although Emperors and Kings now exist mostly in history books, we still honor Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning Him in our hearts and allowing Him to take control of our lives.

This feast challenges us to see Christ the King in everyone, especially those whom our society considers the least important, and to treat each person with love, mercy and compassion as Jesus did. Since the New Testament identifies Christ the King as the Son of David, the first reading recalls the story of David’s anointing as King of Israel.

In the second reading, St. Paul asserts that, as the Image of the invisible God, Christ the King is superior to the prominent groups of angels like “Thrones, Dominations, Principalities or Powers.”

Describing the crucifixion scene, today’s Gospel teaches that Christ became the King of our hearts and lives by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1:32-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and his Kingdom will never end.”

The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt.2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.”  During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk.19:38)

“Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn.18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus, in the course of their conversation, made his assertion, “You say that I am a King.

For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to My Voice” (Jn.18:37). That Truth, as we know, is that He is God and Sovereign King of all creation.

Today’s Gospel tells us that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” (Lk.23:36; Mt.27:37; Mk.15:26; Jn.19:19-20), and that, to the repentant thief on the cross who made the request:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” Jesus promised Paradise with Him that very day. (Lk.19:39-43). Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: (Mt.28:18) “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.”

Jesus is a unique King with a unique Kingdom. Jesus Christ still lives as King, in thousands of human hearts all over the world. The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law. His citizens need obey only one law: “Love others as I have loved you” (Jn.15:12).

His love is selfless, sacrificial, kind, compassionate, forgiving and unconditional. That is why the preface in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ Kingdom as “a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: to free mankind from all types of bondage so that we may live peacefully and happily on earth and inherit Eternal Life in Heaven. His rule consists in seeking the lost, offering salvation to those who call out to him and making friends of enemies.

The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom.

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1:14). In Christ’s Kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1Pt.2:9). According to the teachings of the New Testament, the “Kingdom of God” is a three-dimensional reality.

The three-dimensional realities are the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God, the Church here on earth, and Eternal Life in Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Church is the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery.

It is the mission of the Church to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of Christ in human souls. This mission takes place between the first coming and the second coming of Christ.

The Church helps us to establish Christ’s Kingdom in our hearts, thus allowing us to participate in God’s inner life. We are elevated and transformed through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfillment in the eternal life of Heaven.

We need to surrender our lives to Christ’s rule. Since Christ, our King, lives in our hearts with the Holy Spirit and His Heavenly Father and fills our souls with His grace, we need to learn to live in His Holy Presence, doing His will by sharing His forgiving love with others around us.

We need to be constantly aware of His Presence in the Bible, in the Sacraments and in the worshipping community. We need to fight against the enemies of Christ’s Kingdom: Terrorism has affected the entire world, including Christ’s kingdom on earth.

These terrorists are people who slaughter the unborn; engage in a frontal attack on the modern family through provocative television shows, movies, music and pornography; eradicate any recognition of God from public display and public schools.

We need to use what authority we have been given to pass on Jesus’ message. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions and in the family to use it for Jesus.

Are we using our God-given authority so as to serve others with love and compassion as Jesus did? Are we using it to build a more just society rather than to boost our own egos? Are parents using their God-given authority to train their children in Christian ideals and committed Christian living?

The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year.  It is also a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children.

Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us. “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood and made us a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”

33rd Sunday, O T Year C – 16

33rd Sunday, O T Year C – 16

Mal.3:19-20/ 2Thess.3:7-12/ Lk.21:5-19

Grandma told her little grandson: “Be a good boy. At the end of the world all the disobedient and bad people will be cast into fiery hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  The little boy raised an intelligent doubt.

“Grandma, you don’t have any teeth and you always quarrel with others. How would you gnash your teeth when you are cast into hell?” Grandma replied: “You naughty boy, don’t you know that teeth will be provided in hell.”

The central theme of today’s readings is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory, as Judge, at the end of the world. They warn us about the final days of the world, our own death and the final judgment.

Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, which will bring healing and reward for the just and punishment in fire for the “proud and all evil doers.” Although St. Paul expected that Jesus would return during his lifetime, he cautions the Thessalonians, in the second reading.

Paul advises the Thessalonians that the best preparation for welcoming Jesus in his “Second Coming” is to keep working and doing one’s duties faithfully, as he did. Today’s Gospel passage clarifies that the date of the end of the world is uncertain.

One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is the fact that he or she looks forward to the judgment of God. The Christian is aware of the constant in-breaking of God into his or her life.

A true Christian sees this not as a threat or in negative terms but rather sees it as a summons, a calling, or as an invitation from God for us to grow. To believe in and assert that Christ will come again is to believe in and assert that we are in the process of becoming, in the process of growing and maturing, and that heaven can begin here on earth.

It is a tremendously hopeful vision. It gives us goals. It gives us something to work for. It gives us the power to overcome despair, hopelessness, and the inertia present when we hear ourselves saying, “What’s the use?”.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in the feverish pursuit of the approval of others. Life begins that way but heaven help us if it ends that way. On the day, I die I won’t care very much at all any more about what others may think of me.

What will matter very much is whether or not I have lived in what is right, what is true, what is just, what is beautiful, and what is noble. All of the times I prayed and lived “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” will be there with me.

You and I can work with inner peace. In spite of the most frantic activity and noise we can work secure in God’s judgment, with the peace that comes from knowing we are, in God’s eyes, doing what we must, and doing what is right.

Furthermore, we can work with receptive minds, minds that are quiet and able to listen to and perceive what is real in all that we are doing. All of that does not depend on what other people think of me. All of that depends on asking the question “Why did God create me and give me life?”

The Second Coming of Christ, the Last Days, the Day of Judgment, is always upon us. Today is a day of judgment for all of us in all that we do or say. It really isn’t very threatening; it’s more of an invitation.

And when we pray to God “Thy Kingdom come,” it can also be seen as an invitation, a seeking of that order of reality that is divine. Isn’t that the best way to always judge things, to judge my actions, my motivations, my loves, my relationships with others?

We ought to avoid the escapism of constantly dreaming about the future. Day-dreaming about the world to come, or the person I fancy I am going to be, is out of touch with the reality that is the world as it is here and now.

It is also out of touch with the judgment of God that is upon us here and now. There comes a point when we have to get off of the merry-go-round and look at where we are in relation to the past that has brought us to this point and look to the future that calls us to act the way we do today.

I am what I am based on the many, many decisions that I made in my past. I also am what I am based on my vision of the future, based on what my life will say to God when I am called upon to give it over to Him. He gave me life. The question I must answer is “What did I do with it?”

Your life here is very real. You cannot say to yourself: “Well, I’ll really begin to live when I retire.” If you think that way then you’re deluding yourself… you are trying to escape the judgment that must be placed on what you choose to do in the here and now, on the life you are living in whatever occupation you now find yourself.

What other think is of some value, of course? It always is. And God can be judging you through, with, and in them. But the ultimate reality is that you must be a self-actuating, mature, and independent person who has met the challenge of becoming a true son or daughter of God… the way Jesus did.

Like our great heroes and heroines of the past, we have to have the courage and strength to stand alone and be judged by God alone. What we consider today is the First Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.”

It is God who ought to be the ultimate judge of our worth and our deeds, not others, and not just ourselves. And so, you and I, especially in these times, are called to give witness, to give testimony in our world, in our times, that God is the judge of all things.

We need to be prepared daily for death and judgment. The ideal way to accept Jesus’ apocalyptic message is always to be ready to face our death. We must live holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness, remembering the demands of justice in our day-to- day lives.

We must also take time to rest and to pray in order to keep our hearts alive to God’s presence with us and within us. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime, asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, also prepares us to face God at any time to give an account of our lives.

We are to persevere in our Faith, despite worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs.

Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus our Savior. Amen.