Advent III [A] (Dec 15) Sunday Homily: One-page Summary (L/19)
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to rejoice at the rebirth of Jesus in our lives as we are preparing for our annual Christmas celebration. Today is called Gaudete Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” i.e., “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior into our hearts and lives, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments.
Scripture lessons summarized: The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the exiled Jews in Babylon to rejoice because their God is going to liberate them from slavery and lead them safely to their homeland. In the second reading, James the Apostle encourages the early Christians to rejoice and wait with patience for the imminent second coming of Jesus. Finally, in the first part of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages John the Baptist in prison to rejoice by casting away his wrong expectations about the Messiah and simply accepting Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah. In the second part of today’s Gospel, Matthew presents Jesus, the true Messiah, paying the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets, and giving special credit to the courage of John’s prophetic convictions, asking his listeners to rejoice in the greatness of his herald.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn how to survive a Faith crisis: If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus, the Messiah, had his doubts about Jesus and his teachings, we, too, can have our crises of Faith. On such occasions, let us remember the truth that all our Christian dogmas are based on our trusting Faith in the Divinity of Jesus who taught them, and on his Divine authority which he gave to his Church to teach what he taught. Hence, it is up to us to learn our Faith in depth and so to remove our doubts.
2) “Go and tell others what you hear and see.” We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, deepening in us his gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble and sacrificial service during this Christmas season. Hence, let us joyfully share God’s bountiful grace, forgiveness, and mercy with others. What Jesus commanded John’s disciples, he commands us as well: Go and tell others what you hear and see. This means that we have to share with others our experience of the rebirth of Jesus within us.3) We need to open our hearts and let God transform our lives: Today’s readings remind us that our lives can also be transformed if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We must prepare our hearts to recognize and welcome him by allowing a metánoia (a change of thinking about God, ourselves, and the world) to take place in us during Advent.
ADVENT III [A] (Dec 15): Is 35:1-6a, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Unfinished Play: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was an American novelist and short story writer. When he died in 1864, he had on his desk the outline of a play he never got a chance to finish. The play centered around a person who never appeared on stage. Everyone talked about him. Everyone dreamed about him. Everyone waited for his arrival. But he never came. All kinds of minor characters described him. They told everybody what he would do. But the main character never appeared. –The Old Testament is something like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s play. It too ended without the main character’s appearing on the stage. Everyone talked about the Messiah, everyone awaited his arrival. But he never came in the Old Testament period. In today’s reading, we hear Isaiah describing what the Messiah would do by bringing salvation to all mankind. Today’s Gospel tells us that when the real Messiah came, even the last prophet and the Messiah’s herald, John the Baptist, could not believe that he was the expected Messiah. (Mark Link S. J. in Sunday Homilies)
# 2: Gaudete Sunday smile: A number of years ago, a young college student was working as an intern at his college’s Museum of Natural History. One day while working at the cash register in the gift shop, he saw an elderly couple come in with a little girl in a wheelchair. As he looked more closely at this girl, he saw that she was kind of perched on her chair. The student realized that she had no arms or legs, just a head, neck and torso. She was wearing a little white dress with red polka dots. As the couple wheeled her up to the checkout counter, he turned his head toward the girl and gave her a wink. Meanwhile, he took the money from her grandparents and looked back at the girl, who was giving him the cutest and the largest smile he had ever seen. All of a sudden, her handicap was gone, and all that the college student saw was this beautiful girl, whose smile just melted him and almost instantly gave him a completely new sense of what life is all about. She took him from being an unhappy college student and brought him into her world – a world of smiles, love and warmth. With the lighting of the rose candle, the third of the Advent Wreath, among the purple candles, and the priest’s wearing the rose vestments, we are reminded that we are called to live with joy in our world of sorrows and pain. (Fr. James Farfaglia)
# 3: “Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!” Under a cultural exchange program, a rabbi from Russia was visiting a Christian family in Texas. Since it was Christmas, the family wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston, so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant. Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland. When they had finished eating, the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present for the rabbi. They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “made in India.” But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas tree as a gift. But no, he smiled and shook his head and said, “Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in a Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”
Introduction: The common theme running through today’s readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings stress the need for patience in those awaiting the rebirth of Jesus in their hearts and lives. They give us a message of hope—for people almost three millennia ago, for people at the beginning of the first millennium and for people today. Today is called Gaudete Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” i.e., “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Today, our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior, is marked by our lighting of our Advent Wreath’s third candle which is ‘rose-colored,’ and by the ‘rose-colored’ vestments, which the priest may wear at this Eucharist, because they represent a lightening of the dark violet of the rest of the penitential season of Advent. They remind us of the color of the sky at the very brink of morning, when the sun is just beginning to come up. The horizon takes on a pale rose color that gradually gets redder and brighter as the sun rises. For faithful Christians, life is like a “long sunrise,” and death is the entrance into the bright, “everlasting day” of eternal life. This is the reason why this Sunday is also called “Rose Sunday. ”The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the exiled Jews in Babylon to believe that God is going to save them and transform their lives. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146) reminds us of the fidelity, mercy and justice of the Lord God Who will come again. In the second reading, James the Apostle encourages the early Christians to be patient, “because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Finally, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages John the Baptist to cast away the popular political expectations about the Messiah and simply to accept Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Isaiah.
First reading: Is 35:1-6, 10 explained: Through Isaiah, His prophet, the Lord God tries to stir up in his exiled children the hope of their return to Israel by assuring them of His saving power in their lives. He reminds them that it was through their disloyalty to Him that they had lost their liberty, had been taken as slaves to Babylon and had lived there in servitude for sixty years (598-538 BC). The Jews were finally set free by Cyrus (who had captured Babylon), and were allowed to return to their native land, rebuild the Temple and serve their God once more as His Chosen People. Through the prophet, Yahweh assures the exiles that He will lead them back to their land in this second exodus (6th century B.C.), as He led their ancestors from Egypt to the Promised Land in the first exodus (13th century BC). The Lord God says He is going to do three things for them. 1) He will transform the wasteland lying between their land of exile and Israel into a new Garden of Eden to facilitate their journey. 2) The weak and the sick will be strengthened for the journey. 3) They will reach their destination singing and crowned with glory. The assurance of this second exodus is chosen for Advent, because both Exodus events foreshadow the coming of the Messiah.
Second reading: James 5:7-10 explained: The expectation of Jesus’ imminent return did not last very long in the early Church. Even within Saint Paul’s lifetime, that expectation had waned. The Apostles advised the Christians to bear witness to Christ through their heroic lives without waiting for the Parousia in their lifetime. Hence, in the second reading, James encourages the fearful, frustrated and persecuted early Christians to be patient. Like Isaiah, James tries to show his Christian community that what they have been hoping for is already happening. Though he stresses patience and determination, James also reminds them that “the Judge stands at the gate.” Just as the prophets believed that what they were proclaiming was already happening, the Christians needed to behave as though the returned risen Jesus were already influencing their lives. James uses the analogy of a farmer who must wait patiently for the ground to yield its fruit. In the same way, we must trust that God is bringing abundance into, and out of, our lives, although we cannot see it yet. St. James’ warning is clear: if anyone among them has hitherto neglected his duties to God, he needs to listen now to the warning (“The Judge is standing before the gates!”) and put his conscience and his life right with God.
Gospel exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel describes how Isaiah’s vision of Israel’s glorious future is fulfilled unexpectedly by the coming of the promised Messiah in Jesus, the poor, humble, itinerant preacher who told the Truth, and who worked wonders of healing in his Messianic mission. But the Jews in general expected a political Messiah who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom after overthrowing the Roman government. Hence, most of them were scandalized by Jesus’ peaceful preaching and shameful death. The disciples of John the Baptist continued to insist that John was indeed the Messiah, and they awaited his return, causing problems to early Christians. Hence, all four Evangelists highlighted John’s important role as the Messiah’s herald but emphasized that John’s was a secondary and subordinate role in salvation history. Matthew, in the second part of today’s Gospel, presents Jesus, the true Messiah, as paying the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets, and to the courage with which John proclaimed his prophetic convictions.
John’s reasonable doubts. Scripture scholars over the centuries have wondered why John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the one who was to come. There are two possible explanations: 1) John knew that Jesus was the Christ and, as a prisoner, he wanted his disciples to follow Jesus as their new master. So, he sent them to ask Jesus this question and presumed that, once they had met Jesus, they would see for themselves that he was the Messiah and so would become followers of Jesus. 2) John began to doubt Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. The silent healing, preaching, saving, and empowering ministry of Jesus was a surprise to John and to those who expected a fire-and-brimstone Messiah. Besides, Jesus had not yet fulfilled John’s prediction that the One-to-come would baptize the repentant in the Holy Spirit. Nor did Jesus conform to popular Jewish beliefs about a warrior and a political Messiah who would bring political, social, and economic deliverance to Israel. Instead, Jesus pronounced blessings on the poor in spirit, the meek, and peacemakers (5:1-11). He called his disciples to love their enemies (5:42-48). He warned his disciples not to judge others (7:1-5). For John, these teachings might have seemed to weaken rather than to strengthen the Messiah’s cause. Furthermore, Jesus moved away from Jerusalem, the home of the Temple and the center of religious authority and began his ministry in Galilee among the common people (4:12). John proclaimed the power of the coming Messiah to bring in a new age, and instead found himself imprisoned in the dungeon of Herod’s prison-fortress at Machaerus, southeast of the Dead Sea. He might have been wondering why the expected Messiah was not setting him free as Isaiah (61:1) had predicted. John might have found sympathetic doubters among his own disciples who might have wondered how the Messiah could leave their own teacher in prison, and how He could usher in the kingdom without political or military might. These might have been the reasons why John sent his disciples to dispel his doubt, asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Generosity to dispel doubts and humility to accept correction: Instead of criticizing Jesus or breaking away from him, John approached Jesus through his disciples. The disciples asked Jesus whether he was the one to come or if they should look for another. John might have had his doubts, but he was open to hearing Jesus say that he was, indeed, the one! John must have recognized the Scriptural allusions behind Jesus’ answer. Isaiah 29:18 speaks of the deaf hearing and the blind seeing. Isaiah 35:6 speaks of the lame leaping like a deer. Isaiah 26:19 speaks of the dead becoming alive. Isaiah 61:1 speaks of good news for the oppressed, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners. These were signs of the Messiah’s coming. Jesus could have rebuked John for his doubts, but instead offered him a blessing. Jesus had not lived up to John’s expectations, but John did not allow that to be a stumbling block (skandalizomia). Soon enough, Jesus would deal with the people of his hometown, who took offense at him (13:57). Complimenting John, Jesus says that John is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 (“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me”), presenting the Baptist as the last prophetic messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn how to survive a Faith crisis: From a theological perspective, this entire episode helps us to understand how the experience of a Faith crisis can play a role in our spiritual and emotional development. If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus the Messiah, could doubt and question his Faith, then so can we. If disillusionment is a necessary precondition for a more resilient Faith, then we, too, must be open to its possibilities. In moments of doubt, despair and disillusionment, we are, indeed, in good company. Occasional doubts – even horrifying doubts – are one thing, but doubts that persist in the face of every Biblical remedy demand careful attention. Let us remember the truth that our trust and Faith in our Christian dogmas and all the teachings of the Church, are rooted and grounded in the Divinity of Jesus Who taught them, and on His Divine authority by which He authorized the Church to teach what He taught. It is up to us to learn our Faith in depth, so that God will be able to dispel our doubts.
2) “Go and tell others what you hear and see.” In medieval times, this day—the Third Sunday of Advent—was called Gaudete Sunday, as an equivalent to Laetare Sunday during Lent. As we pray today, we also rejoice that the Lord does not fail to show his power and might. We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, deepening in us His gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble and sacrificial service during this Christmas season. During this season, let us joyfully share God’s bountiful grace, forgiveness, and mercy with others. What Jesus commanded John’s disciples, he commands us as well: Go and tell others what you hear and see. Despite the obvious “signs” and miracles, some people still rejected Jesus (CCC #548). Each of us must strive to interpret the “signs of the times,” and accept the help of the Church and the Holy Spirit (CCC #1788).
3) We need to open our hearts and let God transform our lives: We, too, should be encouraged by today’s readings. They remind us that our lives can also be transformed, if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We must prepare our hearts to recognize and welcome Him. “If a man is the center of his [own] life, everyone around him becomes hell for him because everyone around him interferes with him and obstructs what he wants to do” (Jean Paul Sartre). Let us believe in our hearts the Gospel message about Jesus given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Will we allow the Holy Spirit, through these Gospel reports, to create in us this Advent a metánoia — a radical change of our thinking, loving, living, and our very being in relation to God, other people, and ourselves, which will reshape and clarify our purpose for living in this world as He intended when He created us.
4) Each of us is called to be “more than a prophet,” “more than a precursor,” more than someone who points to Jesus. We are called to be greater than a prophet, greater than John the Baptist, in our mission. We’re supposed to become Jesus’ voice, Jesus’ hands, Jesus’ feet, Jesus’ heart. As St. Teresa of Avila would say, “Christ has no body on earth now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth. Yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) “I am John the Baptist! A man who thought he was John the Baptist was disturbing the neighborhood, so for public safety, he was committed. He was put in a room with another crazy one. The new inmate immediately began his routine, “I am John the Baptist! Jesus Christ has sent me!” The other guy looked at him and declared, “I did not!”
2) A Politically Correct Christmas Greeting? Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasions of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as for those who choose not to practice a religion at all. (Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.)
3) What happens when pastor’s mom lives in the rectory as his housekeeper? On a Sunday morning he couldn’t get out of bed. His mother tried to get him out of bed, but to little avail. She shouted up the stairs, “Get up!” and he shouted down the stairs, “No!” Then she shouted again, “Get up!” and he shouted down, “Why should I?” She said, “Well, first of all your breakfast is ready, secondly this is the third Sunday of Advent, and thirdly you’re the Pastor and you have to say two Masses today!”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- Catholic Questions and answers:1) OnceCatholic.org; : 2) https://mycatholic.life/catholic-question-and-answer/
- Catholic Answers for teenagers: EveryStudent.com
- Apologetic sites on the Web: http://www.catholic-view.com/sites.html
- The Catholic News service: http://www.catholicnews.com
- Catholic Bible for your desktop: https://mycatholic.life/bible/
- A lectionary resource for Catholics: http://www.word-sunday.com/
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
27 Additional anecdotes:
1) “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. (Timothy J. Smith; quoted by Fr. T. Kayala).
2) Encouraging others with facial paralysis: The Reader’s Digest once reported the story of an attractive and successful business woman who noticed a small lump behind her ear as she was brushing her hair one morning. As the days went on, she noticed that the lump was getting larger. So she decided to see her doctor. Her worst fears were confirmed. The doctor told her that the lump was a large tumor that would require immediate surgery. When she awoke following the surgery, she found her entire head wrapped like that of a mummy. She could see herself in a mirror only through two tiny holes cut into the wrapping. When the bandages were removed after a week she was shocked to see that her once attractive features had become disfigured by a facial paralysis caused perhaps by damage to facial nerves during the removal of the tumor. Standing before the mirror, she told herself that she had to make a choice whether to laugh or to cry. She decided to laugh. Although the various therapies tried were unsuccessful in alleviating the facial paralysis, the decision to laugh in the face of adversity allowed this woman to carry on with her life with joy, giving encouragement to those with similar paralysis. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus encouraged the imprisoned John the Baptist by dispelling his doubts about the role of the Messiah and making him strong enough to face martyrdom.
2) “Sweetheart, you’re the answer to my prayers.” A few years ago in Reader’s Digest, a lady named Barbara Bartocci reported searching for the perfect birthday card for her husband. She came across a promising one. On the outside it read: “Sweetheart, you’re the answer to my prayers.” Then she turned to the inside, which was inscribed, “You’re not what I prayed for exactly, but apparently you are the answer.” In a strange way, something like that was running through John’s mind as he sat there in that prison. He and his people had hoped and prayed for years for a Messiah, one anointed by God to lead the nation, a deliverer who would vanquish occupying forces, conquer all enemies, establish a great Kingdom, and usher in an era of peace and prosperity. In time past, and not that long ago, John had come to believe that the prayers had been answered. The Messiah was none other than his own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus’ mission was spiritual.
3) “Down with Khrushchev!” There was a joke that came out of the Soviet Union many years ago about a Russian who stood on the street corner in Moscow, and shouted, “Down with Khrushchev!” He was arrested and sent to prison camp for ten years. While he was in prison, he had a change of heart, and came to see that Khrushchev was a great leader after all. The only problem was, while he was in prison the times changed, and Khrushchev was deposed from office and publicly denounced. When the man was released, he went back to that same street corner in Moscow. He wanted to give a public testimony to his rehabilitation. This time he shouted, “Hooray for Khrushchev!” and got ten more years. Timing is everything! Look at our lesson for this morning. The disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus, and ask, “Are you the one, or do we look for another?” It is a critical question for John. John has preached that the time has come. The Messiah, he said, is about to appear, so repent, get ready, put your lives in order. He has devoted his whole life to the belief that the time has come. But he is in prison now. Though he is unaware of it, John is about to lose his head. So he sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one that we have been waiting for, or do we still look for somebody else?”
4) Broken dreams of a warrior Messiah: In his book Horns and Halos, Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton tells about one of the weirdest auction sales in history, held in Washington, D.C., in 1926. At the auction, 150,000 patented models of old inventions were declared obsolete and placed on the block for public auction. Prospective buyers and on-lookers chuckled as item after item was put up for bid; such as a “bed-bug buster” or an “illuminated cat” that was designed to scare away mice. Then there was a device to prevent snoring. It consisted of a trumpet that reached from the mouth to the ear; and was designed to awaken the snorer and not the neighbors. And then there was the adjustable pulpit that could be raised or lowered according to the height of the preacher. Needless to say, this auction of old patent models was worth at least 150,000 laughs; but if we would look into this situation a little more deeply, we would discover that these 150,000 old patent models also represent 150,000 broken dreams. Today’s Gospel shows us John the Baptist’s broken dreams of a warrior Messiah.
5) John expected better treatment from a Messiah: Glen was nearly 90 years old and had not been sick more than a few hours of those 90 years. Then the doctor mentioned cancer. At first Glen nodded and said that for 90 good years he had no complaints. But as days passed he grew quiet, the smile left his face, and the love left his eyes. He worried constantly, and complained just a bit more than that. “I’ve tried to do good,” Glen said one morning, “but I just don’t see why God would do this to me. This isn’t what I expected at all. Maybe I’ve been wasting my time.” In the same way, John the Baptist expected better treatment from a Messiah.
6) Greek, and Jewish civilization: The first great civilization in the West was the Greek civilization. It provided a universal language. Three hundred years before Jesus, Alexander the Great conquered the world. The Greeks followed him with a kind of missionary zeal to spread Greek language and culture. By Jesus’ time, Greek was the universal language of the Mediterranean world, which made it possible for a new kind of communication in the world that did not exist before that time. People could speak the same language. Thus, three hundred years before Jesus, the Old Testament was translated into Greek because more Jews could speak Greek than could speak Hebrew. For the first time, Jew and Greek, Egyptian and Roman, all spoke the same language, shared the same culture, and they all became familiar with one another’s traditional cultures. The second great civilization was the Jewish civilization. Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, also wrote The Gifts of the Jews, a wonderful book, with the subtitle, “How A Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels.” The great contribution of the Jews, claims Cahill, was to see history as moving toward a goal that they called the Kingdom of God. That meant that, for the first time, history had a purpose. We owe that to the Jews, as well as the conviction that someday the world will be renewed. Each week in Advent we read these beautiful visions of what the world will be in the future. “The wilderness shall be glad…the desert shall rejoice and blossom. …Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come…and save you. The ears of the deaf unstopped…the lame shall leap like a deer…the tongue of the speechless shall sing.”
7) “The only Christ I ever knew” Myra had worked for many years in a large, downtown business office. Many different things were said about Myra, but on one point all her colleagues agreed: Myra was a hateful person. She had a way of quickly turning off anyone who tried to befriend her. She was a loner, a disagreeable one at that. Consequently, whenever a new employee was hired, the warning went out, “Stay away from Myra.” This situation lasted for years until a new employee, whom we shall call Margaret, arrived on the scene. Disregarding all the friendly warnings, Margaret made a special effort to let Myra know that now there was someone in that office who really cared about her. Amazingly, this initial expression of kindness eventually began to bear fruit. Myra was breaking out of her shell. She was communicating more easily. She even was developing a friendship or two. Then, early one morning, the entire office staff was shocked to learn that Margaret had died suddenly the night before. When Myra heard the news she cried and cried and said over and over again, “Margaret was the only Christ I ever knew, she was the only Christ I ever knew.”
8) Dreams for sale: There is a wonderful parable that tells us what “prophecy actualized” might look like in our lives. There was once a woman who was disappointed, who was disillusioned and depressed. She wanted a good world, a peaceful world, and she wanted to be a good person. But the newspaper and television showed her how far we were from such a reality. So she decided to go shopping. She went to the mall and wandered into a new store – where the person behind the counter looked strangely like Jesus. Gathering up her courage she went up to the counter and asked, “Are you Jesus?” “Well, yes, I am,” the man answered. “Do you work here?” “Actually,” Jesus responded, “I own the store. You are free to wander up and down the aisles, see what it is I sell, and then make a list of what you want. When you are finished, come back here, and we’ll see what we can do for you.” So, the woman did just that. And what she saw thrilled her. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air. She wrote furiously and finally approached the counter, handing a long list to Jesus. He skimmed the paper, and then smiling at her said, “No problem.” Reaching under the counter, he grabbed some packets and laid them out on the counter. Confused, she asked, “What are these?” Jesus replied: “These are seed packets. Surprised the woman blurted out, “You mean I don’t get the finished product?” “No,” Jesus gently responded. “This is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. Then you plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.” “Oh,” she said, deeply disappointed in Jesus. Then she turned around and left the store without buying anything. [F. and M. Brussat, editors, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life (New York: Scribner, 1996), p. 359.] Our Gospel passage for today speaks to us about our calling as Christians in a world of violence, increasing poverty, terrorism and intolerance. As disciples of Jesus, our text for today is calling us to actualize Jesus’ passionate dream of a whole and healed world. So, my friends, let’s pick up those packets of seeds. And let’s plant them – for the sake of our children and all the children of the world.
9) “Look, this was Elijah’s face that night.” One Hasidic story tells of a pious Jew who asked his rabbi, “For about forty years I have opened the door for Elijah every Seder night, waiting for him to come, but he never does. What is the reason?” The rabbi answered, “In your neighborhood, there lives a very poor family with many children. Call on the man and propose to him that you and your family celebrate the next Passover at his house, and for this purpose provide him and his whole family with everything necessary for the eight days of Passover. Then on the Seder night Elijah will certainly come.” The man did as the rabbi told him, but after Passover he came back and claimed that again he had waited in vain to see Elijah. The rabbi answered, “I know very well that Elijah came on the Seder night to the house of your poor neighbor. But, of course, you could not see him.” And the rabbi held a mirror before the face of the man and said, “Look, this was Elijah’s face that night.” This leads me to the question John asked: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
10) No Sea Gull came: During World War II, there was an event which occurred in the Pacific which still is vivid in my memory. Eddie Rickenbacker and some colleagues on an aircraft were shot down and managed to inflate a raft. The food and water were soon expended, and all hope for their rescue seemed to fade. As they related the story later, they described how together they had formed a prayer band and had prayed earnestly for deliverance. It was just at that time that a seemingly miraculous circumstance occurred. A seagull, clearly far off course, began to circle the raft, came lower and lower until at last they were able to capture it. They drank its blood and ate its flesh and were strengthened and sustained. The next day they were found and brought safely to shore. They told the story, and there was spread across the pages of the newspapers of the United States this answer to prayer. But there were hundreds of other young fliers during World War II who had gone off to the Pacific, had been shot down, and were never seen again. While the seagull episode is certainly a token that deliverance is always possible, there is no indication in the New Testament that such deliverance on its own terms is promised. John was beheaded in the prison without being freed by Jesus, the Messiah, as he may have hoped. In the same way, there were many sick people in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in the time of Jesus who were not healed by Jesus. Today’s Gospel tells us that God has His own plans for us, and our duty is to accept them and do His will as John did.
11) “She can’t sing while she plays.” One woman was talking about her parents who had recently retired. Her mom had always wanted to learn to play the piano, so her dad bought her mom a piano for her birthday. A few weeks later, the woman asked how her mom was doing with it. “Oh, we returned the piano,” said her dad, “I persuaded her to switch to a clarinet instead.” “How come?” the woman asked. “Well,” he answered, “because with a clarinet, she can’t sing while she plays.” We’re not all great singers. That’s all right. We can still make a joyful noise. (Robert Allred, Th.D., http://www.bobssermons.com/sermons/archive/041212.htm.)
12) “I wasn’t sure which song God would like better.” I’m reminded of the story of a Catholic Church in which the choir director had gone to a great deal of trouble preparing an excellent soprano for a solo for Sunday Mass. As the soloist’s beautiful voice soared through the church, she was suddenly joined by a bedraggled “street person” who had wandered in and taken a seat near the choir. The newcomer’s voice had seen better days, and it quavered along, slightly off-key, through the entire song. The choir members kept looking frantically at the director, who made no move to interrupt the intruder. Afterward, some of the members of the choir asked the director why he hadn’t stopped her. “Because,” he replied, “I wasn’t sure which song God would like better.” (Kate Kellogg, The Catholic Digest, September 1992, p. 65.)
13) Michael Jordan playing with country kids? One evening at the country park, a group of teenage boys was playing basketball. A tall, bald, African-American man strolled up. The man watched for a few minutes, then asked if he might play with them. He made three point jump shots and lay-ups and hooks with the ease of a pro. The stranger played for about fifteen minutes with the teenagers, gave them some pointers, thanked them for letting him play, and disappeared. The stranger didn’t tell the teenagers his name. They’d seen Michael Jordan on TV, and he looked like him. But could this stranger who came to a remote village actually be Michael Jordan? In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist asks the same kind of question about Jesus. Could this gentle Jesus with a band of fishermen as his disciples be the real Messiah, the long awaited Anointed One of God, while the Messiah he had heralded was a firebrand?
14) Tom Sawyer Finds Light in the Darkness: You may remember the famous final chapters of Mark Twain’s classic novel, Tom Sawyer. Tom and his friend Becky have been exploring a cave, just for adventure’s sake. But the cave is full of dark caverns and twisting passages, and as they explore, they end up getting lost. Fear sets in. They start to panic. Their candles – the only light they have – are running low. An entire day goes by. Their candles are spent. They lose track of time. They are becoming desperate. They keep wandering through the darkness, looking for the smallest glimpse of daylight. But they don’t even know if it’s night or day any longer, so they are afraid that they may pass right by a passageway that leads out of the cave, because if it’s nighttime outside, they won’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, they spot a pinprick of light far in the distance, and they follow it to freedom. The fallen human race is like Tom and Becky, lost in the dark caverns of a fallen world. We light little candles – like money, pleasure, power, fame, philosophy, comfort, but they all waver and burn out. But Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the everlasting light that has conquered the darkness. He has given us a glimpse of everlasting life. His revelation is the pinprick of light that is the source of true, lasting joy, not the anemic joy that is inspired by the passing flicker of a fragile candle. (E-Priest).
15) “Why are you outside?” – Not involved: Henry David Thoreau was an American writer who authored the renowned essay “Civil Disobedience.” He championed the freedom of the individual over the law of the land. He distinguished between ”law” and “right.” He wrote: ”What the majority passes is the ‘law’ and what the individual conscience sees is the ‘right’, and what matters most is the ‘right’ and not the ‘law.’” Once Thoreau was imprisoned for a night for his refusal to pay the poll-tax as a protest against the government’s support of slavery and its unjust war against Mexico presumably in support of slave trade intentions. When he was arrested, he hoped that some of his friends would follow his example and fill the jails, and in this way persuade the government to change its stance on the issue of slavery. In this he was disappointed. Not only did his friends not join him, one friend paid the tax on his behalf and got him released the very next day. When he was in the prison, Emerson, another American writer, came to visit him. He said to Thoreau: “Thoreau, Thoreau, why are you inside (jail)?” And Thoreau replied, “Emerson, Emerson, why are you outside?” Thoreau was a great lover of truth. He suffered because he spoke and stood for truth. Emerson said in his obituary of Thoreau, “He was a great speaker and actor of truth.” (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
16) Disillusioned or determined: In her book, Return to Love, Marianne Williamson points out that a friend said to her, “Marianne, I’m so depressed by world hunger!” Marianne replied: “Do you give five dollars a week to one of the organizations that feed the hungry?” She goes on to say she asks this question because she has noticed how people who participate in solving problems don’t seem to be as depressed as those standing on the sidelines doing nothing. Application: Have we recently gone out of our way to help someone? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho)
17) “Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!” Under a cultural exchange program, a rabbi from Russia was visiting with a Christian family in Texas. Since it was Christmas, the family wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston, so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant. Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland. When they had finished eating the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present for the rabbi. They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “made in India.” But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas tree as a gift. But no, he smiled and shook his head and said, “Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in a Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”
18) Walking among the reeds: You’re working 60 to 70 hours a week; you’re lucky if you get six hours of sleep a night. Making income cover expenses is becoming a bigger challenge every month — and, in the meantime, your spouse and children — the people you live for — are becoming strangers. What did you go out to the desert to see? You juggle a wide network of acquaintances. The e-mails never stop; there’s not an empty line in your calendar book; your cell phone is permanently clipped to your ear. But you can’t seem to shake the loneliness you feel in the most crowded rooms. While you maintain contact with a host of business associates and colleagues, precious few of them do you consider friends and no one close to being special. What did you go out to the desert to see? Every semester you scan the course offerings: This course I need to graduate . . . this class meets at a good time . . . this professor is a nightmare . . . this lecturer is an easy A . . . God, look at this reading list — no way! What did you go out to the desert to see? What did you go out to the desert to see? What are you looking for? Jesus’ question takes on particular urgency in the Advent of our lives: As we struggle to make ends meet, have the means become an end in themselves? (Connections).
19) Facilitating God’s Coming – Will you hold me? A soldier was on duty one Christmas morning during World War II. It had been his custom to go to Church each Christmas with his family, but now stationed in an outlying district of London, that was impossible. So, with some of his soldier buddies he walked down the road as dawn was breaking. Along the way they came upon an old grey stone building over the main door were carved the words, “Queen Ann’s Orphanage.” They decided to enter to find out what kind of Christmas might be taking place. After knocking the soldiers went in just as the orphan children were tumbling out of bed. There was no Christmas tree in the corner. There were no presents. The soldiers went around the room wishing the children ‘Merry Christmas,’ and giving them whatever they had in their pockets: a stick of gum, a piece of candy, a nickel, a dime, a pencil, a pocketknife, a good luck charm. Then the soldier who had gotten his buddies together noticed a little fellow alone in the corner. The little fellow looked an awful lot like his nephew back home, so he approached him and said, “And you, little guy, what do you want for Christmas?” The child replied, “Will you hold me?” The soldier, with tears in his eyes, picked up the little boy and held him in his arms, very close. The soldier experienced the joy that love and Jesus brings into our life, no matter what the situation is around us! (William Bausch in The Word –In and Out of Season; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
20) Be a lamplighter: Several parents were sitting on a neighbor’s porch discussing their children. They were talking about the negative environment in which their kids had to grow up and were wondering how they could bring any light into their children’s world since it seemed so dark and hopeless. Could they be enough of a positive influence to change the world around them? One of the parents, a science teacher remarked, “I think we can make a difference in our children’s lives if we become lamplighters.” “Lamplighters? What do you mean?” the others asked. She explained. “Around the turn of the century a lamplighter went around the streets lighting the street lamps. He carried a long pole that had a small candle on top with which he would reach up to light the kerosene-fed lamps, “she said. “But from a distance you could not see the lamplighter very well. The light from one small candle was not very bright in the surrounding darkness of night.” “However,” she continued, “you could follow the progress of the lamplighter as he went along a street. The presence of his candle was barely visible until it joined with the flame of the street lamp being newly lit. A radiant glow erased a portion of the darkness and looking down the street, you could see the light from the glowing lamps made the entire street bright as day. The darkness was held at bay.” “That’s it” exclaimed the parents. “We’ll be lamplighters for our children. We’ll share from our own flame in order to light each child’s individual lamp of wisdom. (Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
21) Waiting for God in joyful hope. Ingrid was a South American woman who was admitted to a Catholic Hospice in the U.S. She had full-blown aids and steroid-induced diabetes. One day she, not a Catholic at the time, asked the nun why she went to church every day. “Because God loves me, and I want to return his love.” replied the nun. Ingrid replied, “I don’t think I like God.” Naturally, she wouldn’t. Sister reassured her that while this was understandable, God really liked her. As she grew weaker with each passing day, with the love and care of those around her, she experienced a quiet hope and then illumination. As the moment of her death she whispered: “I’m so tired; I want to go home.” Asked what she meant by that she replied: “I want to go to God.” She had learned to wait in joyful hope for the coming of her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Quoted by Fr. Botelho).
22) Are You Swapping Heaven? The evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, used to tell a legend about a beautiful swan that alighted one day by the banks of the water 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,” said Moody, “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 spoke those words a century ago, but people are still swapping heaven for snails. How about you? John the Baptist’s words are for each of us: Are there some changes that need to be made in your life? (Moody’s Anecdotes, Page 125-126, adapted by King Duncan. Quoted by Fr. Kayala.)
23) It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Snoopy of Charlie Brown comic strip fame is typing a novel. He begins his story, “It was a dark and stormy night …” Snoopy always starts his stories in this manner. Lucy looks at what Snoopy has written. She goes into a tirade, putting down Snoopy for such a silly beginning. Doesn’t Snoopy know that any good story starts with the words, “Once upon a time …” The last frame of the comic strip has Snoopy starting his story again. Now he is ready. He types, “Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night.” Do you feel like Snoopy sometimes? No matter how you begin your story you somehow revert to “a dark and stormy night.” If you feel that way today you are not alone. Most of us are struggling in one way or another to overcome the dark side of our existence. The Advent season leading to Christmas should be a time of joy, anticipation and hope. But the very fact that it is supposed to be such an upbeat time only compounds the problem.(Richard A. Hasler, Empowered by the Light, CSS Publishing Company. Quoted by Fr. Kayala).
24) I Will Be There: In her wonderful children’s picture book, We Were There: A Nativity Story, (Illustrator: Wendell Minor), Eve Bunting turns Christmas upside down for us in ways that are revealing. The simple story shows us first a slithering snake, then a warty toad, a scary scorpion, a shiny cockroach, a swooping bat, a hairy spider, and a furry rat all on a journey. Each creature introduces itself and then concludes with the words “I will be there.” As the book ends, we are shown more common nativity creatures: fuzzy lambs, doe-eyed donkeys, gentle cows. But as those traditional figures in the stable stand around the manger in which the Babe has been laid by his mother Mary, we see in the corner, unnoticed, that small gathering of the snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat. Bunting has found a lyric way to remind us that the coming of the Christ is not all about the traditional and cozy trappings in which we have for too long ensconced the Christmas story but that this is a story for all creatures and that Jesus came to embrace and renew the good, the bad, the ugly; the expected and the unexpected. A simple children’s story like this reminds us of the paradoxes and unexpected twists of the season, rather the way John the Baptist can shake things up for us if only we take time to listen to his message. (Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations; quoted by Fr. Kayala).
25) “When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! “ When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought an old two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights. But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world’s eyes, an important person like his other guests. She was a ten-year-old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth-grade arithmetic, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help. A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and he couldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. And then she rushed over to Einstein’s house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion – for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.” Yes, if it is joy for us to welcome Jesus into our hearts today, then it is Jesus’ joy to welcome us into his Father’s house at the end of times. (Fr. Lakra).
26) What are the ten major Faith and Church struggles of our time?
Several years ago in an interview, John Allen (journalist who travels the world as the Vatican analyst for both CNN television and the National Catholic Reporter ) asked me to draw up a list of what I considered to be the ten major Faith and Church struggles of our time. I took this as a healthy challenge and the list that follows, no doubt less global in perspective than Allen’s ten trends (My vision, I fear, speaks more for Western and secularized cultures than for the world at large), is my own attempt to name the key Faith and Ecclesial struggles we deal with today. What are the ten major Faith and Church struggles of our time, at least as manifest within the more highly secularized parts of our world?
1) The struggle with the atheism of our everyday consciousness, that is, the struggle to have a vital sense of God within a secular culture which, for good and for bad, is the most powerful narcotic ever perpetrated on this planet … the struggle to be conscious of God outside of Church and explicit religious activity.
2) The struggle to live in torn, divided, and highly-polarized communities, as wounded persons ourselves, and carry that tension without resentment and without giving it back in kind … the struggle inside of our own wounded selves to be healers and peace-makers rather than ourselves contributing to the tension.
3) The struggle to live, love, and forgive beyond the infectious ideologies that we daily inhale, that is, the struggle for true sincerity, to genuinely know and follow our own hearts and minds beyond what is prescribed to us by the right and the left … the struggle to be neither liberal or conservative but rather men and women of true compassion.
4) The struggle to carry our sexuality without undue frigidity and without irresponsibility, the struggle for a healthy sexuality that can both properly revere and properly delight in this great power … the struggle to carry our sexuality in such a way so as to radiate both chastity and passion.
5) The struggle for interiority and prayer inside of a culture that in its thirst for information and distraction constitutes a virtual conspiracy against depth and solitude, the eclipse of silence in our world … the struggle to move our eyes beyond our digital screens towards a deeper horizon.
6) The struggle to deal healthily with “the dragon” of personal grandiosity, ambition, and pathological restlessness, inside of a culture that daily over-stimulates them, the struggle to healthily cope with both affirmation and rejection … the struggle inside of a restless and over-stimulated environment to habitually find the delicate balance between depression and inflation.
7) The struggle to not be motivated by paranoia, fear, narrowness, and over-protectionism in the face of terrorism and overpowering complexity … the struggle to not let our need for clarity and security trump compassion and truth.
8) The struggle with moral loneliness inside a religious, cultural, political, and moral Diaspora … the struggle to find soul mate who will meet us and sleep with us inside our moral center.
9) The struggle to link Faith to Justice … the struggle to get a letter of reference from the poor, to institutionally connect the gospel to the streets, to remain on the side of the poor.
10) The struggle for community and Church, the struggle inside a culture of excessive individuality to find the healthy line between individuality and community, spirituality and ecclesiology … the struggle as adult children of the Enlightenment to be both mature and committed, spiritual and ecclesial.
What’s the value in a list of this sort? It’s important to name things and to name them properly; although, admittedly, simply naming a disease doesn’t of itself bring about a cure. However, as James Hillman used to quip, a symptom suffers most when it doesn’t know where it belongs. Fr. Ron Rolheiser.
27) Marian pilgrimage center at Velankanni, India: Sometime during the sixteenth century, in Velankanni, India, our Lady with her infant son appeared to a Hindu boy carrying milk to a customer’s home. Our Lady asked for milk for her Son and the boy gave her some. On reaching the customer’s home, the boy related the incident that occurred on his way and apologized for his being late, and the reduced amount of milk. But the man found the milk pot to be full and realized that something miraculous had happened. That man wanted to see the place where the apparition occurred. When they reached the tank, Our Lady appeared once again. On learning that Our Lady appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic. Hearing about the miracle thousands of people visited to see the place, and the boy. About two thousand years ago a message spread in Galilee that a man among them, Jesus of Nazareth, was performing miracles. The news became a sensation in and around Galilee. Thousands of people flocked around him, probably out of curiosity, to see him giving sight to the blind, making the deaf hear, helping the lame walk and curing the lepers. This has already been announced by Prophet Isaiah about 740 before the birth of Jesus. “Look your God is coming. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.” There is a story about St Thomas Aquinas. After he had finished Summa Theologica, being pleased with his meritorious work Jesus asked him what he desired. St Thomas replied, “Only you Lord. Only you”. When the word of God reaches our very essence, we will be able to give up everything and declare with St Thomas, I want nothing but you Lord! (Fr. Bobby Jose). /19
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No.4) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website: By clicking on http://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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).