Advent II [A] (Dec 8) Sunday Homily: One-page summary
Introduction: On the one hand, salvation is God’s doing, and we cannot earn His blessings. We are saved by His grace. On the other hand, we must cooperate with God’s grace because God cannot force his bounty upon us. That is why John the Baptist in today’s Gospel summons us to play our essential part by leading lives of repentance, conversion, and renewal, thus preparing the way for the Lord’s second coming. We start this process by spiritually preparing for the annual celebration of Christmas, the Lord’s first coming, as we reform and renew our lives by repentance and works of charity.
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes how God will reform the lives of His Chosen People by sending the Messiah. Because of the bad example of the unfaithful successors of King David, the Chosen People were wavering in their loyalty to Yahweh. Hence, in the first reading, the Lord God, through His prophet, Isaiah, tries to dispel their fears and to stir up hope among His people with His promise of a new Davidic King (a son of Jesse), who will establish peace and a glorious Kingdom of justice on earth. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72), the Psalmist pictures the Messiah as one who will show compassion to the poor, the lowly, and the afflicted. In the second reading, Paul is praying for the reformation of the Jewish Christians of Rome and instructing them to draw endurance and encouragement from the Old Testament books. They are to live in harmony with Gentile Christians, accepting them as equal, brothers and sisters, while they wait together for the second coming of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptizer urges the Pharisees and Sadducees to give evidence that they mean to reform their lives so as to recognize and be ready to meet and accept the promised Messiah. He challenges them to repentance, conversion and renewal. He tells the common people, who expect the Messiah to come soon, to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that will occur when the Messiah enters their lives. In the same way, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John advises us to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare for Christ’s coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives: Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives through prayer, penance, and the sharing of our blessings with others. Let us remember the oft-repeated 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?” He means that Jesus must be reborn in our heart during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, radiating his love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to the world through our lives.
2) We need to answer the call for a change of life. John the Baptist challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that, while obeying the commandments faithfully, we must correct our relationships with others, mend ruptures, soothe frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat our employees justly. Let us share our love with others as selfless and humble service. “Do small things but with great love” advise St. Theresa of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Therefore, following John’s advice, let us celebrate the memory of Jesus’ first advent, prepare for Jesus’ daily advent into our lives through the Sacraments and the Bible, and wait confidently for his second advent at the end of the world.
ADVENT II [A] (Dec 8): Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Accept divine forgiveness by true repentance: An attempt was made in 1985 by some fans of O Henry, the short-story writer, to get a pardon for their hero who had been convicted a century before of embezzling $784.08 from the bank where he was employed. But a pardon cannot be given to a dead man. A pardon can only be given to someone who can accept it. Back in 1830, George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall who concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. “A pardon is a slip of paper,” wrote Marshall, “the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. Hence, George Wilson must be hanged.” For some, the pardon comes too late. For others, the pardon is not accepted. Today’s readings remind us that the Advent is the acceptable time for repentance and the acceptance of God’s pardon and renewal of life.
#2: John’s invitation is to practice the octopus-evangelism of mega-churches as opposed to the sponge evangelism of traditional churches: Most traditional churches are pretty good about sponge evangelism. We soak up visiting folks with warm welcome, ushers offer them seats of their choice, many members greet them with miles of smiles. But octopus-evangelism of mega-churches is something else. It means reaching, stretching, finding, touching, drawing in those who are in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and may not have even realized it yet. Mega-churches are growing, not primarily because of their programming or preaching, buildings, video screens or cute, thirty-something pastors. They are growing primarily because members are actively inviting others to join them in worship. Eighty percent of all first-time visitors to a Church come because a friend or neighbor invited them. It’s the active verb…inviting, reaching, gathering…which makes all the difference. A mega-church is a non-denominational, Bible-centered Christian congregation that draws thousands of people to its weekly services. The phenomenon started about thirty years ago as a way to bring people back to the basics of Christianity – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You may have heard of Rick Warren, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Warren) pastor of a mega-church in southern California whose book, The Purpose-Driven Life, has over 20 million copies in print You may also have heard of Joel Osteen, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Osteen) author of two national bestsellers, who runs a mega-church in Houston, Texas that attracts 38,000 people to its Sunday services and 200 million households to its television broadcasts (https://youtu.be/GA6uE2CPo1I) . You may even have heard of Bill Hybels [HIGH-bills] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Hybels) , the founder of what many consider the first mega-church ever – Willow Creek Community Church, near Chicago, Illinois – that currently has more than 100 ministries operating out of its home base (https://youtu.be/jbtbgkh_bfE) . These are just some of the better-known mega-church leaders, but mega-churches are springing up throughout North America, and they are even sending missionaries abroad. One little known fact about these mega-churches is that more than 25% of their members are former Catholics whom nobody in their former parishes actively invited to the liturgical celebrations and whom nobody involved in various church ministries. Today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist reaching out and touching the lives of people through his fire-brand-octopus-evangelization.
# 3: The artist’s reconciliation: Leonardo da Vinci painted the fresco (wall painting), “The Last Supper,” in Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan in three years (1495-1498). A very interesting story is associated with this painting. At the time that Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper,” he had an enemy who was a fellow painter. Da Vinci had had a bitter argument with this man and despised him. When Da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot at the table with Jesus, he used the face of his enemy so that it would be present for ages as the man who betrayed Jesus. While painting this picture, he took delight in knowing that others would actually notice the face of his enemy on Judas. As he worked on the faces of the other disciples, he often tried to paint the face of Jesus but couldn’t make any progress. Da Vinci felt frustrated and confused. In time, he realized what was wrong. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus. Only after making peace with his fellow-painter and repainting the face of Judas was he able to paint the face of Jesus and complete his masterpiece. Be reconciled with your fellow human beings, says today’s Gospel. (http://www.lifeinitaly.com/art/last-supper.asp)
# 4: Waiting for the Lord to be reborn in our lives: Waiting, an inevitable and even necessary aspect of human life, is not something that most of us relish. We wait in lines: in order to purchase groceries; to be served at popular restaurants; to be assisted in a bank; at stop signs and traffic signals; at amusement parks; to see a play or film. We must also wait for flowers to grow and bloom; for babies to be born; for wounds to heal; for bread to rise and cheese to age; for children to mature; for friends to call; for love to deepen. Statisticians have estimated that in a lifetime of 70 years, the average person spends at least three years waiting! Today’s readings invite us to wait for the rebirth of the Lord in our lives with repentant hearts and renewed lives. (Sanchez Files).
Introduction: On the one hand, salvation is God’s doing, and we cannot earn His blessings. Today’s first reading, from Isaiah, emphasizes that, through his Son, God does all the saving. On the other hand, we must cooperate with God because He cannot force his bounty upon us. That is why John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, summons us to play our essential part – leading lives of repentance, conversion and renewal and thus preparing the way for the Lord’s second coming. We start this process by preparing for the celebration of Christmas, the Lord’s first coming. Many of the kings who succeeded David proved to be increasingly unfaithful, bringing eventual defeat and destruction upon the nation. Because of the bad example of their leaders, the Chosen People were wavering in their loyalty to Yahweh. The Lord God, through His prophet, Isaiah, in the first reading, tries to dispel their fears and stir up hope among His people by His promise of a new Davidic King (a son of Jesse), who will establish peace and a glorious Kingdom of justice on earth. His kingdom will be a return to the time of peace before sin entered the world. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72), the Psalmist pictures this King, the Messiah, as one who will show compassion to the poor, the lowly, and the afflicted. In the second reading, Paul is praying for the Jewish Christians of Rome and instructing them to draw endurance and encouragement from the Old Testament books. They are to live in harmony with Gentile Christians, accepting them as equals — brothers and sisters — while they wait for the second coming of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptizer urges the Pharisees and Sadducees to give evidence that they mean to reform their lives so as to recognize and accept the promised Messiah. He challenges them to repentance, conversion and renewal. He tells the common people, who are filled with expectation that the Messiah will come soon, to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that will occur when the Messiah enters their lives. In the same way, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John advises us to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
First reading: Is 10: 1-11 explained: The First Reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, is a Messianic prophesy. Explaining how God will respond to the sincere conversion of His people, Isaiah’s prophecy reports three oracles concerning a future king. The first two oracles (Isaiah 7:10-17, 9:1-6), were probably delivered to King Ahaz. This prophecy may have had an initial fulfillment in the days after it was first given, in Isaiah’s time. If so then, like many prophecies, it has another, greater fulfillment, which is in the Messiah. Today’s reading gives the third oracle as a prediction of the first coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Isaiah prophesies that the Spirit of God with His sevenfold gifts — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord — will appear in the promised Messiah. God Who called Abraham will fulfill His word by sending to them a king who will rule with wisdom and justice and will have the true spirit of the Lord. The reading also portrays this Messianic Kingdom as a return to the perfect harmony of Paradise. The Spirit will enable men to create a world in which “the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and a leopard shall lie down with the young goat.” These prophecies are fulfilled, in an anticipatory way, with the first advent of the Messiah and the spread of the Christian Faith, and they will be definitively fulfilled with the Second Advent and the appearance of the eternal order. The message for us is that, if we allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives, we will be able to live in peace and harmony even with those who threaten and disturb our lives. There can be no true love of neighbor or true respect for his rights where there is no love for God. Hence, we must strive to give God his rightful place in our daily lives and to follow the path that leads to justice and peace on earth.
Second reading: Rom 15:4-9 explained: In the Second Reading, St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, calls for reconciliation among the different factions in that community. Paul reminds his Roman readers that those who wait together for the many comings of our God should ignore their differences and sustain one another in mutual support and acceptance. Perhaps this reading is in the Lectionary today because it recommends patience, and this is the season of patient waiting for the Lord to come. It also contains a very seasonal statement about why the Lord came: to fulfill God’s promise to the Jews and to extend mercy to the Gentiles. Paul reminds the newly converted Roman Christians, many of whom are Jews, that the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament are still a source of instruction, encouragement, and hope. The sacred Scriptures are useless unless they are employed to control the Christian’s relations with others (Rom 15:4-9). Hence, Paul advises the Judeo-Christians and Gentile Christians of Rome to “live in harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ Jesus,” by being less judgmental and more understanding and benevolent. Paul also reminds the Romans that Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to the Jews and to extend mercy to the Gentiles. Hence, he encourages the Roman Christians to “accept one another” as Jesus Christ has accepted them. This reading reminds us to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord during this Advent season and shows us how to live as we do so.
Gospel exegesis: A prophet on fire with a fiery message: While only two Gospels mention the nativity, all four Gospels introduce Jesus with an account of John the Baptist’s ministry (Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:6-9). Matthew puts slightly greater emphasis on John’s words than on his action of baptizing. He records a direct quote from John’s preaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” There had been no prophet in Israel for four hundred years. But the people had no hesitation in accepting John as a prophet because he was like a burning torch summoning men to righteousness, a signpost to point men to God, and he had the authority of a man of God. He wore garments of coarse camel hair and a leather belt like the prophets that we read about in Zechariah 13:4 and 2 Kings 1:8. He ate what was available in the rocky desert — wild honey and roasted grasshoppers – which was permissible according to Leviticus 11. The Jews expected Elijah to return prior to the coming of the Messiah (Mal 4:5). John’s clothing of camel’s hair and leather belt (2 Kings 1:8)) identified him as the fulfillment of that prophecy, and Jesus Himself affirmed John’s role when he said, “I tell you that Elijah has already come (Mt. 17:12).”
Call to repentance: John’s message was not soothing. It cut into the very hearts of men. John denounced evil wherever he found it. He accused Herod of living a loose moral life (14:4), addressed the Scribes and the Pharisees as “brood of vipers” and summoned people to righteousness. His message was “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” (v. 2), words which Jesus later used to begin his own preaching (4:17), and similar to those the disciples would proclaim (10:7). John justified his call to repentance by announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven was near and that the way to prepare for that day was to repent. Literally, the Greek word for repentance (teshuvá in Hebrew and metánoia) in Greek), means, “to change one’s mind and heart,” a change of direction or a U-turn. Repentance involves turning around – facing in a new direction — with a change of heart and a new commitment. Repentance is a daily experience that renews our Baptism. “The repentant person comes before God saying, ‘I can’t do it myself, God. Kill me and give me new life. You buried me in Baptism. Bury me again today. Raise me to a new life.'” Repentance for us is not a one-time action but must take place daily, because preparing for the Lord is a perpetual task.
John’s baptism as the expression of repentance: John’s baptism by water was an external expression of repentance. What he insisted on was the internal expression, a repentance that bore real fruit: a turning from worldly values combined with generosity and love. As a sign of true repentance, John urged the tax collectors to “stop collecting more than what is prescribed,” and told the soldiers to “stop extortion and false accusation and remain satisfied with your wages.” In short, John’s message was a call for radical conversion, a demand for self-denial, sacrifice and loving service to others. We may have to put an ax to the roots of the resentments and biases in our hearts. We may have to winnow out our greed and overindulgence, and we may have to burn the chaff of our impatience. Even though John’s preaching was characterized by scathing criticism, his call for reform was described in Luke’s Gospel as “the Good News” because the arrival of the Messiah would initiate a new reign of forgiveness, healing and salvation.
John’s conditions for belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven: The coming Kingdom was John’s main theme. While the Gentile convert, Mark, uses the words “Kingdom of God,” Matthew follows the Jewish tradition of avoiding the use of God’s name by using the expression “Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of God is a God-centered, God-controlled life. John wanted people to experience such a life. Everyone who wants to experience this “reign of God” needs to make a radical change in his or her life. That is the call for repentance. We cannot come under the sovereign rule of God without a change of attitude, a change of heart and a change of lifestyle. John not only denounced men for what they had done, he summoned them to what they ought to do. That is why Matthew emphasized the new life of proper fruit-bearing more than the forgiveness of sins. Bearing good fruit is not just doing good things but also doing them for the right reason.
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare for Christ’s coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives: Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting of our sins, and renewing our lives through prayer, penance, and sharing our blessings with others. Let us remember the oft-repeated 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?” He means that Jesus must be reborn in our heart, during this season of Advent, and every day of our lives, bringing us love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble service.
2) We need to accept John’s call for a change of life. John the Baptist, the stern and uncompromising preacher, challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that we take a deeper look. Obeying the commandments is a good start, but we must also examine our relationships with others. We must mend ruptures and soothe frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat employees justly. Start where you are, John says. Our domestic and social lives must be put in order. John’s voice is sober and runs counter to the intoxicating voices around us today. He calls for rectitude and social consciousness. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption and, instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus’ coming. Therefore, following John’s advice, let us celebrate the memory of this first advent, prepare for Jesus’ new advent in our lives, and wait for his second advent at the end of the world.
3) We need to wait prayerfully for the second advent of Jesus. John’s answer as to how the Jews should wait for the Messiah was that they should wait for the Lord with repentant hearts and reformed lives. We can start by praying from the heart. Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers because it transforms us into Eucharistic people, providing the living presence of Jesus in our hearts and his divine life in our souls. Conversion is through Jesus whom we encounter, mainly, through the Holy Scripture and the Sacraments. The Word and the Sacraments are the principal means God uses to give life to men’s souls. Daily reconciliation with God, as we ask and receive His pardon for our daily sins and make our monthly sacramental confession, make us strong and enable us to receive more grace in the Eucharist. Let us read the Bible, pray the Rosary daily and fast once a week all year-round, rather than just during Advent and Lent. After all, we sin all year-round, so let us fast also all year-round by controlling our senses. We could take some time before Mass to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and we should practice forgiving those who offend us. Finally, let us share our love with others as selfless and humble service. “Do small things but with great love,” advise St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa).
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) Lent versus Yom Kippur: A priest and a rabbi were discussing the pros and cons of their religions, and inevitably the discussion turned
to repentance. The rabbi explained Yom Kippur as the solemn Jewish Day
of Atonement and as a day of fasting and penitence, while the priest told him all about Lent, and its 40 days of self-denial as reparation for sins.
After the discussion ended, the rabbi went home to tell his wife about the conversation, and how they discussed the comparative merits of Yom Kippur versus Lent. She turned her head and laughed. The rabbi asked, “What’s so funny, dear?”
“What a comparison!” she said. “Forty days of Lent for the poor Christians and one day of Yom Kippur for the Chosen People of God!”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK:
2) Movie and family video reviews: http://www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm
4) Lectio Divina daily gospel reflections: http://ocarm.org/en/lectio-divina
6) Bible project videos (Non-Catholic) on all books of the Bible: https://www.youtube.com/user/jointhebibleproject/
7) Franciscan media articles on Mary: https://info.franciscanmedia.org/blessed-virgin-mary
Where are the pictures? The pictures are not given in this website- edition because of the new copy-right regulations. However, if you would like to have pictures, please click on https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text uploaded at the end of the week, or my emailed homilies. Fr. Tony
21- Additional anecdotes
1) John’s challenge to the spirit of sharing love: One of my favorite Christmas stories is O Henry’s short story, “The Gift of The Magi.” You are all familiar with it. It is a story about a desperately poor young couple living in New York around the turn of the last century. Neither had money sufficient to buy a gift for the other so they each secretly went out and sold something of worth. He sold his prized pocket watch to get her decorative combs for her long hair. When he presented them to her she removed her scarf to reveal that she had had her hair clipped and sold to purchase a chain for his pocket watch. The thrust of the story is obvious. It is not what you give that is important, but the sharing spirit of love with which it is given.Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
2) “Do you carry a dead soul in a living body?” The Romans sometimes tied a captive face-to-face with a dead body and kept him in a dungeon until the horrible secretions of the dead one’s putrefying body destroyed the life of the living victim. Virgil describes this cruel punishment: “The living prisoners and the dead were coupled and tied together, face to face, body to body, until the wretched prisoners pined away and died.” Without the pardon and forgiveness of sins by Christ, our bodies, too, are shackled to a soul dead by mortal sins. Only genuine repentance and confession of sins can free us from certain death, as John the Baptist says in today’s Gospel, because life and death cannot co-exist indefinitely.Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
3) Community renewal during Advent: I am sure you are familiar with the amazing story of the migration of the monarch butterfly, a lovely little creature who blesses our gardens and forests in the summer. Every autumn, millions of monarchs from all over the eastern United States and Canada migrate thousands of miles to a small handful of sites in Mexico where they rest for the winter. Then in the spring, they begin their return trip to the north. The amazing thing is that no individual monarch ever makes the trip to Mexico and back. A butterfly that leaves the Adirondack Mountains in New York will fly all the way to Mexico and spend the winter. In March, it begins the trip northward, but after laying eggs in the milkweed of Texas and Florida, it will die. Those butterflies will continue northward, laying eggs along the way until some of them, maybe three or four generations removed from the original, make it back to mountains of New York. But when August comes, they will head south, aiming for the exact place their great grandparents visited, a place they have never been. Sue Haplern says: “The monarchs always migrate in community and depend on each other. Although a single monarch may make it from New York to Mexico, it is the next generation who completes the journey.” Now here is the word for the Church. She says: “No one completes the Advent journey solo. It is only as a community that we discover the fullness of God’s plan for us.”Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
4) God takes our sinning seriously: In John Steinbeck’s story, “The Wayward Bus,” a dilapidated old bus takes a cross-country shortcut on its journey to Los Angeles, and gets stuck in the mud. While the drivers go for assistance, the passengers take refuge in a cave. It is a curious company of people, and it is obvious that the author is attempting to get across the point that these people are lost spiritually as well as literally. As they enter into this cave, the author calls the reader’s attention to the fact that, as they enter, they must pass a word that has been scrawled with paint over the entrance. The word is repent. Although Steinbeck calls that to the reader’s attention, it is interesting that none of the passengers pays any attention to it whatsoever. All too often, this is our story. Yet, John the Baptist calls upon us to take our sinning seriously. Why? Because God does.
5) Return to God and renew your lives: There is a legend about a beautiful swan that alighted one day on the banks of a pool in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired: “Where do you come from?” “I come from Heaven!” replied the swan. “And where is heaven?” asked the crane. “Heaven!” said the swan, “Heaven! Have you never heard of Heaven?” And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life, pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations. In eloquent terms, the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane. Finally the crane asked: “Are there any snails there?” “Snails!” repeated the swan, “No! Of course there are not.” “Then,” said the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the pool, “you can have your Heaven. I want snails!” This fable, has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young person to whom God has granted the advantages of a Christian home has turned his back upon it and searched for snails! How many a man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of sin! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn too late that heaven has been forfeited for snails!” (Moody’s Anecdotes, Page 125-126.)Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
6) Metánoia after (9/11)
On Monday people were fighting over public prayer.
On Tuesday, we prayed.
On Monday, we were separated by race, sex, color, and creed.
On Tuesday, we held hands.
On Monday, we argued with kids about picking up after themselves.
On Tuesday, we could hardly wait to get home from work to pick up our kids and hug them.
On Monday, we were obsessed with the sex lives of politicians.
On Tuesday, we joined hands with politicians to sing God Bless America.
On Monday, we were football fanatics. On the following Sunday, we went to Church because the football games were cancelled.Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
7) John’s preaching of messianic hope: There’s a story about a man who had experienced a seven-year series of setbacks in business and in his love life. Every decision that he made, every relationship that he had, seemed to end in failure. One evening as he was walking home, he saw a bright spotlight on the porch of a previously abandoned home. As he approached the house, he noticed that the light was illuminating a sign advertising the presence of a fortune-teller. “Fantastic futures forecast inside,” he read. So, thinking that nothing else seemed to offer any hope, he walked through the door. The fortune-teller placed her hands on the crystal ball on the table between them. As she did so, a frown spread across her face as she predicted, “The next seven years will be just like the past seven … filled with despair, unhappiness, and disappointment.” “Oh, no,” said the young man. Still clinging to a tiny spark of hope, he asked timidly, “Then what?” “You’ll get used to it,” responded the fortune-teller. John the Baptist on the other hand gave the desperate people hope of the immediate arrival of the long expected Messiah. Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
8) God’s view of our sins: Plato tells the story of a shepherd named Gyges, who was in the service of the king. One day there was a great storm and an earthquake where he was pasturing his flock. A great chasm opened in the earth and Gyges descended into the chasm. There he saw many astonishing things, including what looked like a human corpse. Although there were many amazing treasures in the chasm, he took nothing except a gold ring the corpse had on his finger. He then made his way out. He attended the usual meeting of shepherds which reported monthly to the king, and as he was sitting in the meeting, he happened to twist the bezel of the ring towards the inside of his hand. He immediately became invisible to his companions. He was astonished, and began twisting the ring again, and turned the bezel outwards, whereupon he became visible again. He experimented with the ring to see if it really had this power and found that every time he turned it outwards he became visible, and every time he turned it inwards, he became invisible. Having made this discovery, he managed to get himself invited to the palace where he stole great treasures from the king himself. Being invisible, he would never be caught. There would be no consequences for his actions whatsoever. Plato asks the question, if we remove all consequences, all fear of punishment, is there any reason to seek honesty, virtue, and character? It’s a good question. John’s answer is that God takes sins seriously, and, hence, we must repent and renew our lives. Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
9) “This side is done now; I think you can turn me over.” St. Lawrence was a deacon in Rome in the 200s, when it was still illegal to be a Christian. During one of the waves of persecution, the Emperor arrested the Pope and had him put to death. Then he arrested St. Lawrence and ordered him to give all the Church’s wealth to the Imperial Treasury. The next day, St Lawrence showed up with the poor, the widows and the orphans whom the Church was supporting and said, “Here are our treasures.” The Emperor, who had been expecting golden vessels and jewel-studded chalices, was furious. He sentenced St Lawrence to death by being roasted alive. But even while he was burning on the grill, Lawrence’s heart was at peace. Eyewitnesses actually recorded him as saying to the guards soon after his torture had begun, “This side is done now; I think you can turn me over.” When we let Christ rule in our hearts, his strength, peace and wisdom become our strength, peace and wisdom. (By the way, this is why St. Lawrence is the official patron saint of football players: he died on the gridiron.) E-Priest Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
10) “The Hound of Heaven”: One of the greatest Christian poems of all time was written by Francis Thompson, a British poet from the late 19th-early 20th century. He had a difficult life: his career in medicine was a failure; his rift with his father forced him into homelessness for years; his addiction to opium was a life-long plague. Both his circumstances and his sins made his life miserable. Yet, his greatest work, an autobiographical poem called, “The Hound of Heaven,” tells about a God who refuses to abandon even the most determined sinner. In it, the protagonist is madly searching for happiness in all the wrong places. During the search, he is being relentlessly pursued by a hunting dog, a hound. The hound is a symbol of God, who loves us too much ever to give up on us. God is like a well-trained hunting dog, a hound that is on our trail, and nothing we can do will ever shake him off! The poem begins with a description of the poet’s flight from God and his vain search for happiness in other things: “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; / I fled Him, down the arches of the years; / I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways / Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears / I hid from Him, and under running laughter.” But at the end, when he has nowhere else to run to, the hound catches up to him and says, “Rise, clasp My hand, and come! …Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou drivest love from thee, who drivest Me.” Nothing we do can lessen God’s love for us: He is faithful, and His hand is always outstretched to save us from ourselves. Advent is the time of preparation to return to the “Hound of Heaven” by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives. (E-Priest). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
11) The dream for mankind: When the three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, landed on the moon, they were the very first human beings in history who could view our planet, Earth, from the outside. As they gazed from outer space and even tried to locate the various continents on Earth, they were wonderstruck and fascinated by their unanimous observation- that six billion humans, in spite of differing nationalities, languages, customs, religions and traditions, were just one gigantic family. To quote one astronaut: “The first day in space, we all pointed to our countries. The second day, we pointed to our continents. By the third day, we were aware of only one Earth.” -This was the magnificent vision and fantastic dream of Isaiah and the ancient prophets. They firmly believed and earnestly hoped the brotherhood of man would be as real as the Fatherhood of God. The prophets themselves were familiar with the injustices of an exploitative society and the horrors of senseless wars. But they still dreamed of a Messianic age -the day the lamb could lie down with the wolf and have nothing to fear. Their Faith and Hope in God urged them to dream of a time of universal peace, when the strong would no longer prey on the weak or the cunning exploit the innocent. The season of Advent each year rekindles our hope in this dream, also expressed by prophet Isaiah in the first reading, becoming a reality. We have to work and change ourselves to make that dream come true. (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, And They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
12) Let go and change! Perhaps you have heard the story of how hunters catch monkeys. They cut a small hole in the coconut, just large enough for the monkey to put its hand in and fill it with a sweet treat, and leave it fixed under a tree. The poor monkey would smell the treat, squeeze its hand into the coconut, grab the treat in its little paw and find that its fist would not come out through the hole. Since the monkey will not let go of the treat, the monkey holds itself prisoner. While it just sits there desperately grasping its treat, the smart hunter comes and catches it. Silly monkey! All it had to do was to let go of the treat and remove its arm from the coconut and run for freedom. But often we are like that monkey. We hold on to things that imprison us. In order to get our hand out of the jar, regardless of what the jar is, we need to change. We need to grow. We would like to think that we are smart enough to let go of something to gain our freedom; however, the truth is that many of us hold on to things so tightly that we imprison ourselves. We refuse to change because we are comfortable with what we have. To move forward in life, sometimes we have to just let go of the past and move ahead with confidence and Faith. During Advent, the Church challenges her children to free themselves from the snares of the devil and prepare their hearts and lives for the rebirth of Jesus. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Lord; quoted by Fr. Botelho).Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
13) We can and must change: Many years ago, a man was shocked to read his own obituary in the daily newspaper. As can be surmised, his death had been mistakenly reported. But what shocked him most was how the obituary had described him: as someone who had devoted his life to making weapons of war and destruction. That very morning, he resolved to concentrate his energies and God-given talents in a new direction: to work for world peace and the improvement of conditions around the world in the best interest of one and all in our global family. Later, the wise and resolute individual became the founder of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. -Alfred Nobel! Advent is the time for us to change from our selfishness. (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, And They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
14) Dave Brubeck was an American jazz pianist and composer, considered to be one of the foremost exponents of cool jazz. He died of heart failure on December 5, 2012, in Norwalk, Connecticut one day before his 92nd birthday. He was also a man of faith. In 1980, Dave Brubeck was baptized into the Catholic Church. It began when Brubeck was commissioned to write a Mass made up entirely of jazz music. He worked on it for a few months. When it finally premiered, it was widely praised. A priest told the composer how much he liked the music, but he was puzzled by something: why hadn’t he included in the music the Our Father? Brubeck didn’t even realize the oversight. He thought about revising the score, but decided against it. It was finished, and he thought anything he wrote would disrupt the musical structure. He decided to just let it go. But a few days later, something happened that made him change his mind. While on vacation with his family, Brubeck awoke in the middle of the night, astonished: the entire Our Father had come to him in a dream, complete with orchestra and chorus. He got out of bed, wrote it all out, and later added it to the score. “Because of this event,” he said, “I decided that I might as well join the Catholic Church. Someone somewhere was pulling me toward that end.” Today’s readings are about listening and responding. (Fr. Chirakkal). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
15) Advent Optimism: Attempts to make sense of life are universal. A famous poet (T. S. Eliot) expressed the wish to have carved on his gravestone about life: “I’ve had the experience, but I’ve missed the meaning.” Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist who was thrown into the concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II, addressed his fellow-prisoners as they were lying motionless in despair-filled silence with only an occasional sigh in the darkness of their cell. He told them that whoever is still alive has reason for hope; that whatever they were going through could still be an asset to them in the future: that the meaning of human life includes privation, suffering, and dying: that someone was looking down on each of them with love -friend, wife, somebody else alive or dead, or God – and wouldn’t want to be disappointed. They should courageously integrate their life into a worldview that has a meaning beyond immediate self-grasping, and know how to die. -Does your acquaintance with life find this optimism and hope remote? Does your experience make you dwell upon the shadow side of life, the many ways in which we suffer, fail, lose heart, or feel that nothing’s worthwhile? Advent’s optimism should be realistic. We’re not like the little boy who was overheard talking to himself as he strode through his back yard, baseball cap on sideways and totting ball and bat. “I’m the greatest baseball player in the world,” he said proudly. Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung and missed. Undaunted, he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and repeated to himself, “I’m the greatest player ever!” He swung at the ball again, and again he missed. He paused a moment to examine bat and ball carefully. Then once again he threw the ball into the air and said, “I’m the greatest baseball player who ever lived.” He swung the bat hard and again missed the ball. “Wow” he exclaimed. “What a pitcher!” Rather, we ought to be like David of the Old Covenant. When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” David looked at the same giant and thought, “He’s so big I can’t miss.” (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks! Listen; quoted by Fr. Botelho).Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
16) Waiting for Godot: Waiting, an inevitable and even necessary aspect of human life is not something that most of us relish. We wait in lines: to purchase groceries; to be served at popular restaurants; to be attended to in a bank; at stop signs and traffic signals; at amusement parts; to see a play or film. We must also wait for flowers to grow and bloom; for babies to be born; for wounds to heal; for bread to rise and cheese to age; for children to mature; for friends to call; for love to deepen. Statisticians have estimated that in a lifetime of 70 years, the average person spends at least three years waiting! For believers, however, it is not inconceivable to think of the entire span of a human life as a period of waiting –waiting for the God who comes. Samuel Beckett, Irish author, critic and playwright, and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969, cast a rather pessimistic eye on this aspect of the human condition. Along with Albert Camus, Eugène Ionesco and Arthur Adamov, Beckett regarded the very notion of waiting for fulfillment or Divine intervention as absurd. In his play, Waiting for Godot (1953), two people, Vladimir and Estragon (who are often portrayed as tramps) spend their lives patiently, but aimlessly, waiting for someone who never comes. To exacerbate the situation, the two characters have no evidence that Godot (probably God) intends to come or that he even exists. Set on a stage, empty except for a solitary tree, the two figures enunciate Beckett’s perception of human existence as mindless and purposeless. At this point, Beckett introduces a second pair of characters who unlike Vladimir and Estragon, pursue and attain their well-defined objectives, e.g. power, wealth, a desirable spouse, yet their lives also are empty and without meaning. Happily, the Theater of the Absurd with its hopelessness and pessimism has no place in the life of the believer, except perhaps to renew in him/her a gratitude for the gift of a God Who comes, Who has come, Who will come and Who never departs. Because of this, Advent is a season characterized, not by mindlessness and purposelessness but by a delicious joy and eager anticipation. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
17) Change yourself — wear shoes!: Once upon a time there was a king, who ruled a prosperous country. One day he went for a trip to some distant areas of his country. When he came back to his palace, he complained that his feet were very sore, because it was the first time that he went for such a long trip, and the road he went through was very rough and stony. He then ordered his people to cover every road of the country with leather. This would need skins of thousands of animals, and would cost a huge amount of money. Then one of his wise advisors dared to question the king, “Why do you have to spend that unnecessary amount of money? Why don’t you just cut a little piece of leather to cover your feet?” The king was surprised, but later agreed to his suggestion to make a ‘shoe’ for himself. – We often say, “I wish things would change or people would change.” Instead wise people say: “Change your thinking and change your world!” Advent is the time for such a change. (John Pichappilly in “The Table of the Word”). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
18) Word Power: The Greatest is a film about Muhammad Ali’s career as heavyweight boxing champion. It shows not only how he was gifted naturally with agility and strength, but also how he trained extensively with rigorous workouts and diets. But Muhammad Ali said one time that although all these things helped, the real secret of his power source was a set of inspirational tapes to which he listened. The tapes were recorded speeches of a Black Muslim leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. They deal with self-knowledge, freedom and potential. Muhammad Ali would listen to these tapes when he got up in the morning, when he ate his meals during the day and when he retired at night. He claimed that these inspirational messages gave him the power to fight for his black people, not only for their glory in the ring, but also for their civil rights in the arena of life. In the Gospel, we have the secret of the power of another man, Jesus Christ, revealed. At the very beginning of his Gospel, Mark wants there to be no mistake about who Jesus is and what the source of his power is. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
19) Repent! Let Go! I’m sure you have heard of the story of how hunters catch monkeys. They will cut a small hole in a coconut, just large enough for the monkey to put its hand in and fill it with a sweet treat and leave the coconut fixed under a tree. The poor monkey would smell the treat, squeeze its hand into the coconut, grab the treat in its little paw and find that its fist would not come through the hole. Since the monkey will not let go of the treat, the monkey holds itself a prisoner. While it sits there desperately grasping its treat, the smart hunter comes and catches it. Silly monkey! All it had to do was let go of the treat and remove its hand from the coconut and run for freedom. This story brings me to another level. To get my hand out of the jar, regardless of what the jar is, I need to change. Einstein said “We cannot solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.” We like to think we are smart enough to let go of something to gain our freedom, however, the truth is, many of us hang on to things so tightly that we imprison ourselves. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
20) “Give Jesus a free hand! Give him permission!” Cardinal John O’Connor of New York was consecrated a bishop in 1983 in Rome. On his way down the aisle after the consecration, he blessed the people gathered in the church. Suddenly he saw a famous face, and went over to greet Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He gave her a blessing, but was not prepared for what came next. She grasped one of his hands in both of hers, and said to him: “Give Jesus a free hand! Give him permission!” Cardinal O’Connor never forgot those words, and he said that he tried to make them a watchword for the rest of his life. Giving God a free hand in our lives is what is expected of us, especially during the advent season. (E-Priest).Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
21) The Satin Slipper: In his play The Satin Slipper, Paul Claudel offers a gripping example of giving God permission even in the midst of what seems like a hopeless situation. Strapped to a mast, a Jesuit priest is dying on the high seas. His ship has been overrun by pirates, and he’s left to die. As he dies, he prays for his brother Rodrigo, an immoral man living far from God. The priest prays: “His business, as he thinks, not being to stand and wait but to conquer and possess all he can – as if there were anything that did not belong to You and as if he could be otherwhere than where You are. •But Lord, it is not so easy to escape You, and, if he goes not to You by what he has of light, let him go to You by what he has of darkness; and if not by what he has of straight, may he go to You by what he has of indirection; and if not by what he has of simple, let him go by what in him is manifold and laborious and entangled. And if he desire evil, let it be such evil as be compatible only with good; and if he desire disorder, such disorder as shall involve the rending and the overthrow of those walls about him which bar him from salvation…” Giving God permission also means giving Him permission in the lives of others, to work in ways that only He knows. It is the sign of repentance and renewal of life, the message of today’s gospel. (E-Priest). Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
22) “Sixty years, young man, sixty years!” Once, when a conference of ministers was held in a certain town, a certain old preacher had sat quietly through it for a number of days until, toward the end of the conference, he was suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to speak. He arose thoughtfully and almost stumblingly fumbled for his words. Finally, his thoughts took form, his words fell in the rhythm of a marching column, and his impassioned oratory beat down upon the upturned faces of his audience until, as he arose to his peroration and reached his climax, the whole sedate conference broke into a spontaneous applause that shook the room, according to an item in Printer’s Ink. He had delivered the master oration of the conference. When finally, the applause subsided, a cocky young Doctor of Divinity strolled up to him. “That was a masterly address you delivered extemporaneously. Yet you must have had some preparation to have done it so well. How long did it take you to prepare it?” The older man looked gently for some time at the younger one before he answered. And then he said: “Sixty years, young man, sixty years!” Every year, on this Advent II Sunday, as preparation for Christmas, the Church leads us on pilgrimage to the Jordan River, so that we might enroll in the school of John the Baptist, hear his message, and put it into action in our lives. (Fr. Lakra) Fr. Tony (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/19
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 2) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: By clicking on https://www.frtonyshomilies.com (or using Google Search) for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only email@example.com. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).
Some initial sources on the Gospel according to Matthew (Rev. Dr. Murray Watson)
R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament series). Eerdmans Publishing, 2007. Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina commentary series). Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier, 2007. Donald Senior, The Gospel of Matthew (Interpreting Biblical Texts series). Abingdon Press, 1997. Barbara E. Reid, The Gospel According to Matthew (New Collegeville Bible Commentary series). Liturgical Press, 2005. William Barclay, Matthew (New Daily Study Bible series). Westminster John Knox Press, 2001 (+ Philip Law, Matthew: A Guide to the New Daily Study Bible. Westminster John Knox, 2010). Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Eerdmans Publishing, 2009. Curtis Mitch and Edward P. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series). Baker Academic, 2010. David L. Turner, Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series). Baker Academic, 2008. Amy-Jill Levine and Marianne Blickenstaff, A Feminist Companion to Matthew (Feminist Companions to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings, Vol. 1). Sheffield Academic Press, 2001. Manlio Simonetti, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (2 vols on Matthew 1-13 and 14-28). InterVarsity Press, 2001-2002. Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading. Orbis Books, 2000.
For general cultural, religious and social background: Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. InterVarsity Press, 1993. A E. Harvey, A Companion to the New Testament: The New Revised Standard Version. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
… plus articles in major commentaries, such as the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Oxford Bible Commentary, HarperCollins Bible Commentary, Collegeville Bible Commentary, etc.