The First Sunday of Advent [A]

The First Sunday of Advent [A]
Isa 2:1-5  +  Rom 13:11-14  +  Mt 24:37-44
December 1, 2019

   “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”   

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:10)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2013 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday

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Jesus Christ, on this First Sunday of Advent, warns us that we do not know on which day the Lord will come.  That seems like an odd statement as we prepare for Christmas.  After all, we know exactly when the Lord will come:  December 25th.  So much of our preparation for Christmas is customary, and customs are like well-worn slippers:  comfortable and without surprises.

But surprise leaps off every page of the Gospel accounts of the nine months leading up to the birth of Jesus.  Surprise also surrounds His birth at Bethlehem, and surprise follows His birth as others try to get a good look at the new-born king.  The Season of Advent is about being ready for God, no matter where, when, how or through whom He wishes to be present to us, for us, and finally within us.

There are three very practical ways to engage in the Season of Advent.  These three practices will help you, if you choose to enter into them, to recognize and accept the Lord on the day when He chooses to come into your life.  These three are poverty, silence, and penance.  Just remember the first letter of each.  Poverty, silence, and penance:  P-S-P.  Not E-S-P:  if you had ESP than you would know on which day the Lord will come.  The letters P-S-P stand for poverty, silence and penance.  Scripture and Tradition both show us how these three can help you as a Christian prepare for God.  Focus here just on the first.

When we think of poverty, we might think of destitution, where families do not have food to eat or shelter from the elements.  When God, in His sacred Scriptures and Tradition, commends poverty to His children, He’s not talking about destitution.

Where most Christians are concerned, God is not even talking about material poverty, but about a spiritual form of poverty.  While consecrated religious take a vow of material poverty, God doesn’t ask laypersons or diocesan priests to take such a vow.  Yet he does expect every Christian to be detached from every material thing.  Jesus spoke to this expectation when He declared:  “every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” [Lk 14:33].  This points to the first principle of spiritual poverty:  to realize and believe how little value material possessions hold.

The second principle of spiritual poverty is trust:  trust in the providential care of God our Father.  Practically speaking, we can ask God to increase our trust by making a concrete sacrifice.

Here’s one example:  tithe your wardrobe.  This means giving 10% of your clothes and accessories to the poor.  It might take one morning to go through your shirts, slacks, dresses, coats, shoes, and so, boxing them up.  It might take another morning or two to deliver this tithe to worthy causes.  Advent is a good time to offer this sacrifice, as the cold months of the year are settling in.

Parents can put the second challenge to their children.  When children make their Christmas lists, they put down only three gifts that they’d like to receive at Christmas.  If a child receives more than three gifts, he or she selects only three of them, and donates the rest to less fortunate children who might otherwise receive fewer than three presents.

Poverty can help us conform our families and our homes more closely to the Holy Family and their dwelling in Bethlehem.  God the Father, in His providential will, chose for His only-begotten Son to be born in a stable amid the stench of animals.  But the Holy Family’s lack of material things and material security wasn’t intended as a good in and of itself:  that poverty was good inasmuch as it focused attention upon the goodness of the Holy Family in general, and the divine goodness of the newborn child.

Spiritual poverty is sought by Christians in order to dispose themselves to the grace by which God wishes to conform each of us the Image and Likeness of Jesus.  Jesus became one of us when at the Annunciation so that you and I could become like God by opening our hearts and minds to God’s grace.

Advent 1-0A

St. Andrew the Apostle

St. Andrew the Apostle
Romans 10:9-18  +  Matthew 4:18-22
November 30, 2019

And how can they hear without someone to preach?

There are many things about a man entering the seminary that are misunderstood.  One important point, that many people are not clear on, is that a man enters the seminary in order to continue to discern the calling that the Lord has made to him.  He does not enter the seminary because he has already made a decision to be a priest.  The Lord calls out to every young man, “Come after me….”

What differs from one man to another is the phrase that follows “Come after me….”  For some, the words that follow are “Be my faithful disciple, and serve me through the wife and children I will gift you.”  To others, Jesus says those words by which we hear him calling Simon and Andrew:  “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The prayer that a man offers while in the seminary asks the Lord for help in clarifying just which call it is that the Lord has made to him.

“Fishers of men.”  This is a metaphor, of course:  one that speaks to Simon and Andrew, whose lives as adults had been given to the livelihood of being fishermen.  Regardless of the livelihood which they had chosen for themselves, the Lord’s words mean “Come after me.  I chose you to be the servants of my Church.”  No matter the Christian, and no matter the vocation to which the Lord calls him or her, the root of each vocation is service.

St. Andrew - Artus Wolffort

Friday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 7:2-14  +  Luke 21:29-33
November 29, 2019

   His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away….   

Today’s First Reading from Daniel follows naturally from last Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King.  There are few queens and kings in the world today who truly rule as monarchs, and the peoples of many nations (such as the United States) reject the very idea of having a queen or king.  Indeed, in modern Western thought, government is “by the people”, and all elected officials hold power only through consent of the governed.  While such ideas hold merit when it comes to civil government, problems arise when they are applied to the spiritual life and to the life of the Church.

In Daniel’s vision, the “son of man” “received dominion, glory and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion”.  The word “dominion” comes from the Latin word “dominus”, meaning “lord” (either human or divine).  Older Catholics are familiar with the phrase “Dominus vobiscum” (“The Lord be with you”).  The English word “dominate” is a cognate.

Secular Western culture rejects all ideas of domination, even in the spiritual life.  There are many “brands” of religion and spirituality that reject even the notion that God should be seen as a “lord” who has “dominion”.  At the heart of many modern religions and spiritualities is the idea enshrined in a modern U. S. Supreme Court decision that each human being has a right to create her or his own view of reality, including the definition of life itself.  Whatever the origins of such ideas, they cannot be reconciled with the Bible, whose God is, at one and the same time, both a loving Father and a providential Lord.

OT 34-5 Year I

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

For the Scriptures and reflection for Thanksgiving Day, click HERE.

Thursday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 6:12-28  +  Luke 21:20-28
November 28, 2019

   Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home and found him praying….   

Jesus issues a sharp challenge to you today.  His words might even be described as frightening.  Yet Jesus is not preaching fire and brimstone.  He’s not preaching, at least directly, about sin and damnation.  He is preaching, though, about the worldly desolation of Jerusalem, and signs above and upon earth that will cause people to “die in fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world”.

Today’s First Reading from this last week of the Church year comes from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.  It is the famous story of “Daniel and the lions’ den”.  While the miracle of Daniel’s survival stands out as the dramatic hinge of the passage, less noticeable details deserve our attention, also.  For example, what was it that provoked the king’s anger at Daniel?  It was Daniel’s prayers of petition.  Daniel violated the decree that all were to petition no one—neither god nor man—except the king.  Daniel’s wisdom lay in trusting the Lord alone, or rather, knowing that petitions to anyone but the Lord would be of little meaning.

Many people find the idea of the end of the world very frightening, especially when it’s dramatized in literature or film.  The drama is enhanced by the physical destruction of worldly monuments and temples.  But physical destruction, no matter how vast the scale, pales in comparison to the destruction of a single human soul.

That phrase is not quite accurate, of course, because a soul can never be destroyed.  It would be more accurate to speak of “the destruction of a single human soul’s opportunity for eternal bliss”, or more simply, “the eternal damnation of a single human soul”.  Thanks be to God for His sending the Son of Man to redeem man from his sins.  This final truth is the reason for Jesus to speak hopefully at the end of today’s Gospel passage.  In effect, Jesus preaches that we need not fear the end of the world, or the end of earthly life, because when we place our faith in the Son of Man, we can have full assurance that our redemption is at hand.

OT 34-4

Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28  +  Luke 21:12-19
November 27, 2019

   “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   

So many people grow fearful thinking about a cataclysmic end of the planet, even though the vast majority of mankind will never face it.  Perhaps you’ve seen one of those movies where there’s a dramatic end to life on the planet Earth as we know it.  Movies like that can draw a great deal of attention, and sell a lot of tickets and popcorn.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter if you die from an ice age covering the whole continent, or from old age in your own home:  death is death.

We reflect on this sobering truth at the end of each Church year:  in November, we pray to the saints in heaven, and for the faithful in Purgatory, and the Church reminds us of the “last things”:  heaven, hell, death, and judgment.  All this give us perspective.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus declares to His disciples, “By perseverance you will secure your lives.”  What does this mean?  Every day, God calls us to offer Him our lives in faith, and to live for others.  That’s how we can reach the hour of our deaths in God’s sight.  When all is said and done, there are two types of persons.  There are those who say in the end, “Heavenly Father, thy will be done.”  Then there are those to whom the Father says in the end, “My child, thy will be done.”

OT 34-3

Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 2:31-45  +  Luke 21:5-11
November 26, 2019

   “…there will not be left a stone upon another stone….”   

Everything that’s built by human beings can be destroyed.  That’s why something like the Great Pyramids of Egypt are so awesome:  not simply because they are colossal, but because they have—to an amazing extent—survived the ravages of time.  You can think of one of the large cities on the West Coast of our own country:  from the air, as you fly into the area, you can be filled with awe.  Yet an earthquake could destroy everything in the area in a matter of minutes.

Through the prophet Daniel, God wanted King Nebuchadnezzar to know that his kingdom, so dear to him, could and would undergo destruction.  Other kingdoms would take its place, but they, too, would last only a time.  This prophecy of Daniel foreshadowed the words of Jesus, when he spoke of the Temple of Jerusalem:  it, like everything built by human beings, would be destroyed.  These are not the sorts of things to place our hope in.

But Daniel also prophesied that God would set up a kingdom that would not be destroyed.  There was no way that Daniel could understand this prophecy, but through Daniel, God was speaking about the Church:  not church buildings (even Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome will some day fall), but the Church herself, made up of “living stones”.  Those who place their faith in Christ the King, and live in Him as members of His Mystical Body, will have eternal life.

OT 34-2

Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Daniel 1:1-6,8-20  +  Luke 21:1-4
November 25, 2019

   “…she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”   

We live in a society in which values contrary to the Gospel are canonized.  A person’s value is measured in economic terms.  The poor are shunned as worthless.

God has a different set of values from those of our society.  When Jesus saw the wealthy putting large amounts of money into the collection box of the Temple, He was not impressed.  It was not as if the wealthy should not have given large sums, but Jesus was looking for something else.  He saw that something else in the poor widow who donated only two small coins.  He explains to us what He saw:  “[The wealthy] have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

It was the generosity of the widow that mattered, not the money she gave.  We are called to be generous people, unselfish in all our relationships with others.  God does not value us for giving our money; or, for that matter, for giving our time and talent.  God values us for the generosity from which our giving flows.  Generosity flows from the love that we receive in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

OT 34-1

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [C]

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [C]
II Samuel 5:1-3  +  Colossians 1:12-20  +  Luke 23:35-43
November 24, 2019

   “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   

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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this liturgical Sunday (2:59)

click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:58)

click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday

click HERE to watch the homily of Bishop Thomas Olmsted for this Sunday (17:59)

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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 homily for this Sunday

click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 Angelus address on this Sunday

click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday

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This Sunday’s feast is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.  “King” is the key word.  The word “king” distinguishes this Sunday from the other Sundays of the year.  Every Sunday focuses upon Our Lord Jesus Christ.  But this Sunday we focus upon His kingship, and upon the battle that this King engages in.  Today’s Gospel Reading describes this battle in progress.

“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’  … they called out, ‘If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.’”

These earthly rulers are extremely logical.  If Jesus could save others, why would he not save himself?  Of course, their sneer shows that they’re not serious in what they say.  They don’t believe that Jesus could save himself.  They probably don’t believe that Jesus saved others, either.  They likely claimed that those people whom Jesus reportedly saved were never really sick or dead in the first place.  The claims of Jesus working miracles were mere tricks.  So of course, given that Jesus couldn’t really save others, he would not—because he could not—save himself.

What’s clear in their way of thinking—a way of thinking that’s just as prevalent in the twenty-first century as in the first—is that the golden rule of life is “Me first”.  No one with power gives up power willingly.  No one with power does not use power for the greater glory of the most unholy trinity of “Me, Myself, and I”.

What the logic of this egoism overlooks is what Saint Francis of Assisi sang so ardently about:  that “it is in giving that we receive; … in pardoning that we are pardoned; and … in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  This is the logic of God.  This is the logic that leads to Calvary, from which Divine Mercy flows.

It is for mercy that Christ reigns as King upon the Cross.  Why, after all, would the Church proclaim on the feast of Christ the King the Gospel passage describing Jesus in His last moments before death?  It’s because the Cross is the earthly throne of Christ the King.  Thorns make up His crown.  Christ the King shows us His power not in living for Himself, but in dying for us poor sinners.  In this regard, we need to paraphrase the Prayer of St. Francis, because it’s in Christ the King dying that we are born to eternal life.  The King has laid down His life for us peasants.

Given all that, why do we Catholics gather each Sunday before an altar on which Christ the King sacrifices His life for us?  We do not only assemble there to give thanks for Christ the King’s sacrifice.

We also gather there to share in the sacrifice of Christ the King.  At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that you and I would have a means of being transported mystically to the foot of Jesus’ Cross.  During Holy Mass we are present on that afternoon of Good Friday in order to enter into His sacrifice:  that is, to make His sacrifice our sacrifice.

Christ the King strengthens us not only so that each of us can get to Heaven.  He strengthens us through His Body and Blood, soul and divinity so that we might lead our daily lives in Him.  We accept the love of God at Holy Mass so that we’ll be strong enough to love everyone in this fallen world with the very love of God.

Of course, love is a notoriously slippery term.  Some people just think of love as an emotion or feeling.  But Christ the King shows us on the Cross that divine love actually is self-sacrifice.  If, when we leave Holy Mass, we wonder about how we can love others better, then we need to remember the ready answer that the Church offers us.  The Church points our attention towards the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Christ calls us to leave His Church, filled with the strength of His Body and Blood, soul and divinity, in order to share that love concretely with those in the world.

Christ the King C

The Last Judgment by Jan Provoost [1465-1529]

Saturday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Saturday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time [I]
I Maccabees 6:1-13  +  Luke 20:27-40
November 23, 2019

   And they no longer dared to ask Him anything.   

In today’s Gospel passage, Our Lord tries to make clear to the Sadducees the meaning of the Resurrection.  We too, however, even if we understand and believe in both the Resurrection of Our Lord and the promise of resurrection that God offers to all who die, perhaps may need to realize what type of claim the Resurrection places upon our Christian faith.

To believe in the Resurrection is to believe in the future fulfillment of God’s grace.  It is to understand that the suffering of the present is as nothing compared to the future glory to be revealed in Christ Jesus.  It is to guard in God’s name what has been entrusted to us until that final Day, which for each of us is the day of one’s death.

We never find Our Lord going into great detail about the nature of the afterlife.  There are two practical reasons for this.  First, the glory which will be the reward of God’s elect is too far beyond our comprehension.  Second, our only hope for sharing in that glory is to persevere in running the race which God has set before us, to stir into flame the gift of God each of us first received at our baptism, a flame in which we are purified like gold in the furnace.

OT 33-6