1-page Summary: Advent I (Dec 2) Homily on Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Central theme: Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing Jesus to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives. Besides his first coming at his birth, Jesus comes to our lives through the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through the Word of God, through the worshipping community, at the moment of our death and, finally, in his Second Coming to judge the world.
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of King David who will bring security, peace and justice to God’s people. Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah assures us that the Lord our justice will fulfill His promises, and, hence, we need not be afraid in spite of the frightening events and moral degradation all around. The Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient, vigilant and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), asking Him to make known His ways to us, guide us, and teach us. In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” We are advised to “strengthen our hearts in holiness” (3:13) and “abound in love for one another” (3:12). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his Second Coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us accept the challenge of Alexander Pope this Advent season: “What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” 2) A message of warning and hope: The Church reminds us that we will be asked to give an account of our lives before Christ the Judge, both at the moment of our deaths and at Jesus’ second coming. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives every night during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives and the setbacks in spiritual life, we must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again.
Advent I [C] (Dec 2): Jer 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12 – 4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Missing the signal! In its day, the Titanic was the world’s largest ship, weighing 46,328 tons, and it was considered unsinkable. Yet, late during the night of April 14-15, 1912, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. Near midnight, the great Titanic struck an iceberg, ripping a three-hundred-foot hole through five of its sixteen watertight compartments. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Before the Titanic sank, warning after warning had been sent to tell the crew that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent warning, the Titanic was talking to Cape Race about the time the chauffeurs were to meet arriving passengers at the dock in New York, and what dinner menus were to be ready. Preoccupied with the trivia, the Titanic responded to the warning, “Shut up. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals!” Why did so many die that night? Perhaps the crew disregarded the danger of the weather; there were not enough lifeboats on board; and the radio operator of nearby California was off duty; perhaps those responsible did not heed the warnings; they were preoccupied with other things! -Sometimes we believe that our ‘ship’ is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to read the signs of the times, we need to pay attention to the warning signals. But if we are preoccupied with the trivial things of life we will miss the most important things till it is too late. The First Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting and prepared.
# 2: “Watch the road.” There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s Gospel. Several years ago a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record. In 23 years he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident. When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “Watch the road.” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life. A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players. A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words. A good Catholic in the Church must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs. Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the past year and the other looking into future, Christians during the Advent season are to look at the past event of the first coming of Jesus into the world and expectantly look forward to his second coming in glory.
# 3: Be patient, be faithful: Be faithful. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth, and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” We are Christ’s Body in the world today. Be patient. Be faithful.
Introduction: Advent is a time of waiting and hoping, of renewing our trust in God’s merciful love and care, and of reflecting on the several comings (advents), of Christ into our lives. Besides his first coming at his birth, we are asked to reflect on Christ’s coming as the risen Lord at Easter, in the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in our everyday lives, at the moment of death, and at the end of human history (the second coming). The word Advent comes from the Latin ‘advenio‘, which literally means “come to.” During this Advent season we should consider “coming to” Christ by “abounding in love… for all,” instead waiting for Christ to come to us. Just as we ended the previous liturgical season with an apocalyptic description of the end of the world we begin the new season of Advent with similar apocalyptic warnings. The Church invites us to join a pilgrimage of Faith by showing us a prophetic vision of Christ’s first coming (advent), through the prophecy of Jeremiah with a prophetic vision of Christ in his glorious Second Coming through the Gospel selection from Luke, and by reminding us of his daily coming into our lives here and now through the second reading. She also reminds us that these are days of “joyful and prayerful anticipation of Jesus’ coming” because the Advent season is intended to fill us with great expectations of the coming of the Messiah just as parents expectantly wait for the birth of their child and make preparations for receiving the child into their family. We know that all valuable things in life – a healthy child, a loving marriage relationship, a work of art, a scientific discovery – need a period of quiet incubation. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for an ideal descendant of King David who might bring security and justice to God’s people. He was waiting for the Messiah of Israel, and we Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah assures us that the Lord our justice will fulfill His promises and, hence, that we need not be afraid, in spite of the frightening events and moral degradation all around. “For you I wait all day long,” sings the Psalmist, expressing the central idea of patient and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), as he asks the Lord God to make known His ways to us, to guide us, and teach us. In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” He urges us to put God’s promise of peace into action by cultivating a spirit of love for others. We are told to strengthen our hearts in holiness (3:13) and abound in love for one another (3:12). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his second coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.
First reading: Jer 33:14-16, explained: Jeremiah, the prophet of hope, introduces us this year to our season of Advent. He was from a priestly family and was born in a little village called Anathoth, close to Jerusalem. Josiah, who was king (640-609 BC), in Judah in those days, was a God-fearing man. But he was killed in a battle at Megiddo by the invading Egyptians who were attacking the Assyrians (2 Kings 23:29-30; 2Chron 35:20-24). A later king of Judah, Zedekiah (598-587 BC), swore allegiance in the Name of the Lord God, to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in return for his life and continued to rule in Jerusalem, then rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2Chron 36:13). He faced an attack by the Babylonian (Chaldean) army which surrounded Jerusalem. The king ignored God’s advice, given through Jeremiah, to surrender and save the town and its people, and he concealed the Lord God’s message from his generals (Jeremiah 38: 17-27). As a result, the Babylonians took Zedekiah prisoner (blinding him after he had watched the execution of his sons), captured and looted the city, burned the Temple down, and sent the healthy Jews into exile leaving only some poor people (2 Kings 25:1-21; 36:17-21; Jeremiah 38: 28–-39:10). Despite all this, Jeremiah conveyed words of hope from God to the people in exile: “I WILL BE WITH YOU.” God says through the prophet that He will fulfill this promise by raising up a “just shoot,” a righteous offspring of David, who will rule Israel in justice (see 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 33:17; Psalm 89:4-5; 27-38). Jeremiah told the people that they would return to see their old city and their Temple again, and that their priests would return to their Temple duties (Jeremiah 33:17ff). Thus, through Jeremiah, the Lord God, speaking His inspiring words at such a tragic moment, kindled hope and optimism in the people. What does it mean to raise up for David a just shoot? David was this people’s first great king, and he became the standard by which subsequent kings were measured. “Shoot” is an image from farming or gardening, meaning a young growth from a mature plant. These people believed their fortunes were linked to the justice of their king. So, for them, a “just shoot for David” would have meant a new king, descended from David, whose justice would have positive effects among the people, and who would then get a new name: “The Lord our justice.”
Second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2, explained: Readings in early Advent always carry forward from the last Sundays of the previous liturgical year the theme of Jesus’ coming again. At the time Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (rather early in his apostolic career), he and they believed Jesus was to return soon. Jesus’ coming would mean the end of history and the judgment of all peoples. But some Thessalonian Christians began to doubt the promise of Christ’s second Coming because it was indefinitely delayed. Hence Paul gave them some clarification, emphasizing proper behavior in this part of his letter. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” Paul tells them that what they do while they’re waiting is just as important as the event for which they’re waiting. Hence, he prays for their transformation. He prays that they, and we, will abound in love and that our hearts will be strengthened.
Gospel exegesis: Two versions of the end time events: Today we move from the year of Mark (B) to the year of Luke (C). In fact, today’s Gospel is Luke’s version of the Gospel we read two weeks ago from Mark. Luke seems to be the first evangelist who believed that everyone in his community would die a natural death before Jesus triumphantly returned in the Parousia or Second Coming. Still, many years after Mark’s Gospel, Luke wrote about the Parousia. Comparing Mark 13:24-32 which we read two Sundays ago with Luke 21:25ff, which we read today, we note that Luke has reduced the scope of the spectacular celestial events of the Last Days and has omitted Mark’s description of the Son of Man. The reason for these changes may lie in the events filling the years between Mark’s Gospel (AD 69), and Luke’s work (AD 80). Mark wrote his Gospel sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Jewish Christians believed that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple would coincide with the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. But when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the world did not end. Perhaps taking this into account, Luke, completing his Gospel in A.D. 80, dissociated the destruction of the Temple from Jesus’ prediction of the end of the world. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus warns us to keep watch for his return in glory. He draws on Old Testament images of chaos and instability – turmoil in the heavens (see Isaiah 13:11,13; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10); roaring seas (see Isaiah 5:30; 17:12); distress among the nations (see Isaiah 8:22; 14:25) and terrified people (see Isaiah 13:6-11).
The context: The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple created a major crisis of Faith for the early Christians. Since the expected end of the world did not come, many Christians gave up their belief in the Second Coming of Christ, abandoned their Faith and began living lives of moral laxity. It may have been in order to address these needs that Luke continued with the second half of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ exhortation to all of His disciples, then and now, to be on their guard against “dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life” (21:34).
Jesus’ warning: Neither Paul nor the evangelists were preparing their readers for Christmas. Instead, they were helping these Christians to boost their spirits while they waited for Jesus to accomplish things in their lives that would give them a share in His risen life. Luke advised his readers on how they were to wait and prepare for the Lord in their present situation of indefinitely waiting for Christ’s second coming. They had to shift their attention and energies from future fulfillment to present service and commitment. They must prepare themselves by watchfulness and prayerfulness. That’s why, after reminding his community about the signs which would precede Jesus’ Second Coming, Luke gives them Jesus’ warning: “Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and to stand secure before the Son of Man.” Since our own transformation is an ongoing process, we move yearly through the liturgical celebration of the mystery of our salvation. While Advent is set aside to commemorate Jesus’ coming in the flesh as well as his final coming in glory, it is also a time for us to open ourselves to the Lord’s coming into our lives and our world today. In order to do this, we must read the signs of the times and adjust our lives accordingly. Jesus also gives us the assurance that no matter what terrors the future holds, he will be present, caring for his followers.
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us remember the words of Alexander Pope: ‘What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then only will we be able to give people his hope by caring for those in need, give them God’s peace by turning the other cheek when we are provoked, give them His love by encouraging those who are feeling sad or tired, and give them His joy by encouraging and helping those who feel at the end of their strength, showing them that we care and that God cares as well. When, with His grace, we do these kinds of things we will receive hope, peace, love, and joy in return. Then we will know that when the King, our Lord Jesus, returns on the clouds of glory, we will be ready for Him.
2) A message of warning and hope: The Church begins the Advent season of Liturgical Cycle C by presenting the second coming of Christ in glory, in order to give us a vision of our future glory in Heaven and to show us the preparation needed for it. She reminds us that we are accountable for our lives before Christ the Judge. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Advent is the time for an improvement of our lives and for deepening the sincerity of our religious commitment. It is a call to “look up” to see that Christ is still here. We must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again. Luke reminds us to trust in Jesus, amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives. Our marriage may break up; we may lose our job, discover that we have cancer or some terminal illness or become estranged from our children. In all such situations, when we feel overwhelmed by disaster and feel that our lives have no meaning, Jesus says: “Stand up, raise your heads, because your salvation is near” (Lk 21:28).
JOKE OF THE WEEK: #1: Who came up with this? A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping. She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present. She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card. She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers. Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full. “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.
As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up and shot!” A few others shook their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.”
#2: Sign on a Church bulletin board: “Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.”
#3: “We don’t have time for that!” Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”
WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) Your Catholic Voice www.yourcatholicvoice.org 2) Catholic Goldmine: http://www.catholicgoldmine.com/, 3) KIM AND JASON (Fun for all age groups): http://kimandjason.com/blog/ 4) Text Week homilies on Advent I ©: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk21b.htm 5) Resources for Catholic Educators: http://www.4catholiceducators.com/index.htm
A BIT OF SERIOUS ADVENT THOUGHT: An Advent Examination (Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196): “Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place. Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward [people because of] race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, of their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts. May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation, and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.”
21- Additional Anecdotes
1) Waiting is no fun: A man was in a restaurant. A waiter was passing by. “Excuse me,” said the man, “but how long have you been working here?” “About a year,” replied the waiter. The man said wearily, “In that case it couldn’t have been you that took my order.” Advent season reminds us that we celebrate the first coming of Jesus and we keep waiting for his second coming in glory.
2) Would we keep arranging deckchairs on a sinking ship? On the night of April 15, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. Over 1,500 people lost their lives in one of the worst sea disasters in history. A few years ago a magazine recalled the great disaster and asked its readers this shocking –almost blasphemous question: “If we’d been on the Titanic when it sank, would we have arranged the deckchairs?” At first we say to ourselves, “What a ridiculous question! No one in his right mind would ignore wailing sirens on a sinking ship and rearrange its deck chairs! No one with an ounce of sanity would ignore the shouts of drowning people and keep arranging deck chairs!” But as we continue to read the magazine, we see the reason for the strange question. And suddenly we ask ourselves, “Are we perhaps, rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship? For example, are we so caught up with material things in life that we are giving a back seat to spiritual things? Are we so busy making a living that we are forgetting the purpose of life? Are we so taken up with life that we are forgetting why God gave us life?” (Mark Link in Sunday Liturgies).
3) Waiting for the call of the Prime Minister: “Lord Reith, the founder of the BBC, says that he spent virtually the entire period of World War II by the telephone, waiting for Winston Churchill to call him. He never [called]. And think of all the [ordinary] people waiting today at the airport, at the bus depot, at the doctor’s, at the amusement park, at the bowling alley, at the post office, the ticket office, the unemployment office, the Social Security office. Society has become a vast waiting room.” As Christians, we give a spiritual dimension to our waiting by waiting for Christ’s, the Messiah’s, second coming because much of the New Testament is devoted to the second coming of Christ. [Sherwood Wirt, in Freshness in the Spirit (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978).]
4) “No, I am not going to kick him off.” I like John Cooper, football coach for The Ohio State University team, for many reasons, but especially for this one. As he was being interviewed once about a player who was in trouble with the law, a reporter asked if Cooper was going to kick the player off the team. He said, “No, I am not going to kick him off, because if I kick him off I can’t help him. We are in the business of helping young people grow up, and you can’t do that by turning them away when they make a mistake.” That is good news for those growing up, and that attitude is especially good news at Advent.
5) The city had reached 284th Street far exceeding their expectations! Be prepared for Christ’s coming. Be prepared if Jesus should come today; be prepared if Jesus should tarry another thousand years or more. Be prepared at any cost, for we simply do not know what tomorrow may bring. Nothing is more unpredictable than the future. If there is one lesson from history, it is that. I read recently that when the city fathers of the grand metropolis New York City planned for the future growth of their city, they laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow. Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th Street. They called it “Boundary Street” because they were sure that’s as large as New York City would become. At last count, the city had reached 284th Street far exceeding their expectations! (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, http://www.trinitycrc.org/sermons/eph3v20-21.html) Be careful when you try to predict the future. Today’s experts turn out sometimes to be tomorrow’s fools.
6) False messiahs: “The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity” is a religious movement founded in South Korea in 1954 by the late Sun Myung Moon. It is more commonly known as the Unification Church. Since its inception, the Church has expanded to most nations of the world, with an uncertain number of members. But we don’t see many signs nowadays of the Moonies. Their founder Rev. Moon and his Unification Church have faded into the background. At one time he boasted considerable political support. He invested heavily in the elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Rev. Moon built an empire by putting young people out on the streets selling flowers. Moon preached that a new messiah was soon to come. This new messiah was already on earth. He was a man born in Korea in the 20th century. Wonder who he could be? Surely not Moon himself! In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the warning that false messiahs will be forever with us.
7) Jesus’ admonition is to be faithful. Some of you remember the ancient epic poem by Homer called the Odyssey. It is the story of Odysseus who traveled the world pursuing many adventures. Meanwhile back home his beautiful wife Penelope was being pursued by various suitors trying to take advantage of Odysseus’ twenty-year absence. In order to keep these suitors at bay, Penelope announced that when she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, she would choose among these persistent suitors. There was something these suitors did not know, however. Each night Penelope undid the stitches that she put in during the daytime, and so she remained faithful to Odysseus until he returned. That is our call to be faithful. While we wait for Christ’s return, we are his Body in the world, called to do his work. The Church has been serving the world in Christ’s Name for some two thousand years. Now is not the time to let up.
8) The Poseidon Adventure: One of my favorite movies was The Poseidon Adventure from 1972. You might remember that a cruise ship was turned upside down by a big wave. Everything was turned upside down. Reality was turned “upside down.” The way out was up to the bottom and back to the front. The survivors had to go to the bottom of the boat, which was now the top, to get out. A whole group of people were not willing to follow the lead of the pastor to crawl up a Christmas tree to get out of the ballroom, to safety. He said: “Everybody is dead who was above us when the ship turned over. Now they’re underneath us. It’s up to us to get out of here.” The people who waited for help drowned, but those who were willing to risk, to have Faith eventually were saved. Not all, but most. The pastor was indeed the Christ-figure for those people. They eventually trusted in him and were saved. So for us it is no different, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
9)”It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’” Humorist Lewis Grizzard writes about a man in his hometown named Luther Gilroy. Luther claimed he was out plowing his field and saw a sign in the sky that said THE END IS NEAR. So Luther let his mule and his cow out of their pens, gave all his chickens away, and climbed on top of his house to await the end. When it didn’t come, he pouted and refused to come down off the roof. Finally, his wife called the deputy sheriff, who came over and said, “Luther, you idiot, I saw that same sign. It didn’t say, ‘The end is near.’ It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’ Now come down off that roof before you fall off and break your neck.” [Lewis Grizzard, Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night (New York: Villard Books, 1989), p. 52.] From Jesus’ day to the present, people have speculated about when the world would end. Over the centuries, people have made calculations and predictions, sold or given away all their belongings, and gathered at appointed places to wait for the end of the world and for Jesus to return. Obviously, the world has not yet come to an end, and Jesus has not returned. Still, we wait. We look around at the world in which we live, a world filled with violence and crime and racial tension. We read about child abuse, spouse abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and we say, “Things just can’t keep on going the way they’re going.” Times of uncertainty and crisis trigger thoughts about the end of time. And people always want to know when.
10) “Joy to the World!” Consider the story of one young man. He was often sick as a baby. He was always small, puny some would say. As a youth he was always frail and delicate. He was not able to play sports with the other boys his age. Eventually he entered the ministry. But his health was so fragile, he was unable to serve his growing congregation. Amazingly, he did not dwell on his troubles. In fact, his spirit soared. His only real complaint was the poor quality of the hymns of his day. He felt they did not convey hope and joy. Someone challenged him to write better ones. He did. He wrote over 600 hymns, most of them hymns of praise. When his health collapsed completely in 1748, he left one of the most remarkable collections of hymns the world has ever known. His name was Isaac Watts. In a few weeks we will be singing one of his most famous hymns, “Joy to the World!” Isaac Watts discovered joy in his life because he knew that God would never desert him. He was able to live his life with all sorts of health problems, feeling close to God and Jesus. He had joy deep in his heart
11) The Light meant Redemption: King Alexander of Macedonia, who in his day conquered land after land, used to observe a certain procedure. Whenever his army was encamped outside a heavily walled city or fortress, he would have a lighted lamp hung up where it was visible by day and night. He would then have the besieged inhabitants know that as long as the lantern kept burning, they had a chance to change their minds. But if the lantern was smashed and its light extinguished, then the city and all it contained would be mercilessly destroyed. And he kept his promise. If the lantern was smashed to pieces, all hope was gone. The Macedonians would storm the city, kill any person who could bear arms, and then ransack and destroy the city. The time of grace was over. – The lamp is still burning for us, this is a time for grace- but it will end! [Willi Hoffsuemmer; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]
12) Are we coming or going? A man was running down the pier, heading for the ferryboat, afraid he was not going to make it. Here was a man of some status, a man who was concerned about his dignity. He wore a pin-striped suit, carried a black umbrella in one hand and a black bowler hat in the other, with which he was waving at the ferry boat, and yelling at the boat to stop so that he could get on it. He ran all the way to the end of the pier, furiously jumped and landed safely on the deck of the boat. Very proud of himself, he straightened his tie, and recovered his dignity. It was then that he discovered that the boat was not going out; it was coming in. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and there is that kind of confusion about Advent and Christmas. Are we coming or going? Christmas is the celebration that Christ has come; Advent is the celebration that Christ is coming. Advent is preparation for Christmas.
13) Smile please: A story is told of the photographer taking a picture. He says to the woman, “Smile pretty for the camera.” A moment later, “OK, madam, you can resume your usual face.” Whether you and I will have a successful Advent these next four weeks will depend on the attitude or “face” we bring to it today. We must stay awake, as Jesus advises us in this Gospel and practice self-control. The Greek philosopher, Plato, who lived out his life several centuries before Christ, wrote, “The greatest victory in the world is the victory of self-conquest.” (Fr. James Gilhooley).
14) Time expired: A dramatic picture appeared in a newspaper. It was a young man dead from a drug overdose in his cherry-red Corvette. The car was parked beside a parking meter that read “TIME EXPIRED.” But so, too, is my clock expiring. So is yours. No wonder Jesus says today, “Stay awake.” An auto decal reads: “Jesus is coming back. Look busy.” Today’s Gospel affirms He will return for each of us. Were a scientist to warn us that an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale was fast approaching, we would take every precaution imaginable. Yet, unhappily, the Master’s prediction that He shall return does not move us to make even incidental changes in our lives. But, given the on-target correctness of the prophecies of His first arrival told in Micah 5:2-6 and Isaiah 9: 6-7, one would think we would be smart enough to act accordingly. Should we decide not to do so, we can hardly fault the Early Warning System God has today put in place in Luke’s Gospel. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…”
15) Watch and Prepare: In the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England, there is an exhibition of the memorabilia of Lord Dowding. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the RAF in 1936 to take on the challenge of expanding the RAF’s fighting force to meet the Nazi threat. Dowding had less than four years to prepare the RAF for the epic Battle of Britain, while at the same time helping France as much as possible. Lord Dowding’s accomplishment in getting the RAF ready is summed up on a plaque: “It has been given to few men so to employ so short a time that by their efforts they saved a civilization.” Lord Dowding’s vigilance and preparation while waiting for the Nazi attempt to invade Great Britain played a key role in England’s victory in the early 1940’s (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). Vigilance and preparation while waiting are part of the theme of today’s Advent Gospel.
16) Promise of Things to Come! It was about mid-November of 1979 in Dublin. One morning we woke to find that overnight a layer of fine dust had fallen. It was very noticeable. It covered cars, windows, clotheslines….. In some areas it was heavier than others. One man went out to look for his blue car, but so thick was the dust that he had difficulty finding it. The dust caused quite a sensation. People reacted immediately. What was it and where did it come from? Many were worried, fearing that it was caused by a fall-out of dangerous chemicals or radio-active materials. There was a deluge of phone calls to the police, to weather centers, and motoring organizations. Finally the explanation came: it was sand from the Sahara Desert! This came as a great relief. It was still a nuisance but was readily accepted because the Southerly winds that had brought it, also heralded the warmest November in fifteen years. In today’s Gospel, after foretelling the endtime events we get such an assurance of his “second coming” from Jesus (Flor McCarthy, in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).
17) The Watchman: There is an old Hasidic tale about Rabbi Naftali. It was the custom of the rich men of his city, whose homes were on the outskirts and sort of isolated, to hire men to watch over their property at night. Late one evening, as was his custom, Rabbi Naftali went out for a walk and met one such watchman walking back and forth. The Rabbi asked, “For whom do you work?” The guard told the rabbi who had hired him, and then the guard inquired, “And for whom do you work Rabbi?” The watchman’s words struck at the heart of the rabbi, who replied, “I am not sure whether I work for anyone or not.” The rabbi walked along with the watchman for some time in silence. Then he asked, “Will you come and work for me?” “Oh Rabbi, I should be honoured to be your servant,” said the watchman, “but what would be my duties?” Rabbi Naftali answered quietly, “To keep reminding me with that question.” Like that rabbi, we need help if we are to remember for Whom we work and for what we live our lives. Advent helps us to ask that question of ourselves. “Watch and pray” are the watchwords, they remind us that God is in charge. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
18) Advent waiting: A blind man and I were standing in the middle of a throng of travelers at Port Mores by airport. “You just stand here.” I told him. I wanted to spare him the disturbance of being jostled about, so I left him in a protected corner. I then went my way to buy a ticket, post a letter, and check on the plane arrivals and departures. At one stage I turned around and looked back at him. He just stood there. People milled around him. A child stared at him. A porter drove his baggage cart around him. A newspaper boy could not understand why he did not even look at the paper. The blind man just stood there. The shuffling feet around him, the unknown voices and all the various noises of humans going and coming had no meaning for him. He just stood and waited for me to come back. He patiently waited, completely content that I would come back. There was no shadow of doubt on his face. Instead, there was an air of expectation about him: I would return and take him by the hand and we would go on. That look of the blind man with closed eyelids standing there put in mind the Advent face of a Christian.
(Willi Hoffsuemmer; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
19) O Henry’s story the “Last Leaf” brings out the significance of hope. The story begins as Johnsy, near death from pneumonia, lies in bed waiting for the last leaf of an ivy vine on the brick wall she spies through her window to fall. She counted the falling of all leaves. Now only the last one is left. She is sure that she will die as the last leaf falls. The night witnessed torrential rain and powerful storm. In the morning Johnsy looked out of the window before breathing her last. But to her surprise she saw that the last leaf had survived the rain and wind. It stuck to the vine. She began to show signs of improvement, and recovered in a few days. An artist who lived below her apartment understood the thought of Johnsy. That night he had gone out with his set of brush and paint. The last leaf was the creation of Behrman. Outside Johnsy’s window were a ladder, a lantern still lighted “some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it . . . it was Behrman’s masterpiece–he painted it [a leaf] there the night that the last leaf fell.” The sight of the last leaf rekindled the hope of Johnsy. And she survived. At the end of every sorrow there is some joy awaiting us.
St. Paul assures us: “… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 3:3-5). (Fr. Bobby).
20)”But with a good ship, you can always ride it out.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told of encountering a hurricane while on a cruise in the Atlantic. After the captain managed to sail around the danger, he and Dr. Peale were visiting with one another. The captain said he had always lived by a simple philosophy namely that if the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. He added something worth remembering: “But with a good ship,” the Captain said, “you can always ride it out.” Our ship is our Faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Life is unpredictable. God is with us. “But not a hair of your head will perish,” Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your souls” (Luke 21:18).
21) “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” We played a game when I was a child. Perhaps you played it too. It worked best just at twilight. We would let the “wolf” hide somewhere, and then we would walk together as a group toward the “wolf”, unable to see him or where he was hidden, but knowing that he was there and that he was near. “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?” we would cry, and he would tell us the time, later the closer we got, until he cried out “Twelve o’clock midnight, hope to see a ghost tonight!” And then he would chase us and we would flee toward the goal and safety, trying not to be caught by the “wolf”. That is also the point of the Gospel Lesson this morning. There is a day coming which will be unlike any other, for it will not be followed by any other. We don’t know when, exactly, but we know it grows ever closer. The end of the world, the final day of reckoning, the day of our salvation or the day of our doom, is coming. Jesus tells us how we should stand in readiness for that great and terrible day, always being alert to the signs of the times. (Rev. Robin Fish). L/18
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 1) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit this website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed or previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.