Remember death. That phrase is very similar to the one we hear today as we receive ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Why so much focus on death as we prepare for the great celebration of life at Easter? Today’s homily explores how sometimes having a deadline might just be the life-giving trick that we need.
It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. When we see injustice and evil we naturally want to do something about it. Certainly that is the case this week as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade supreme court decision. All this week there will be prayer and fasting, marching in Topeka and Washington. Generations from now when abortion is relegated to the shameful past along with the holocaust of WWII, we want to be able to say that we did something. Today’s homily explores something that we might do, starting at the real root of the problem.
I’ve been attending the March for Life in Washington for years. Often, the President has chosen to send a message of encouragement to the half million people gathered outside his door. Sadly, President Obama has never given us any message…until now. He didn’t exactly intend them for the March for Life, but they could be one of the best pro-life speeches ever given by a President. He has presented all Americans with a direct and challenging question,
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
I’m not…so I’ll be in Topeka on Tuesday and Washington on Friday. Maybe the President will come.
In today’s Gospel we read of the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. However, what always puzzles me is the arrival of the Magi before Herod who, along with “all Jerusalem,” seem oblivious to the birth of the Messiah. How is it that these non-Jews from far away can show up at ground zero for Jewish Messiah watching and catch everyone off guard? What about the star? What about the Scripture? Today’s homily looks at how the Magi got it right while Herod missed it. The example of the Magi is a great gift to make sure that we don’t end up missing Jesus too.
Isn’t it amazing to think that when God came into this world he couldn’t even take care of himself? He chose to come in need of a family to raise him. As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family today, it’s important not to simply make this about honoring Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As important as that it, there is a tendency to think, “Well aren’t they great, but my family could never be like that.” The good news is that you are not called to be “the” holy family; but you are called to be “a” holy family. Today’s homily explores some ways in which our families make us holy and how to grow together in holiness.
One of the greatest TV moments in history occurs in the great classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Charlie Brown famously asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus confidently steps forward with his trusty blanket and proceeds to give one of the most memorable readings ever from tonight’s Gospel of St. Luke. The story of the birth of Jesus. That’s what Christmas is all about.
Yet, the prophet Isaiah in our first reading also has an idea of what Christmas is all about. Living in a time of great darkness for the Jewish people, Isaiah prophesies the coming of the Messiah as a great light for his people. He gives him four famous titles: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. Tonight’s homily looks at how each of these titles speak of not just a past Messiah, but our real need for a savior here and now. Our world needs the Messiah today more than ever…and he’s right here, Emmanuel, God with us. Good news indeed. In fact, that’s what Christmas is all about.
Sometimes people will speak of the Old and New Testaments as if they were completely different stories. A false distinction is often made between the “God of the Old Testament” (who is apparently mean and distant) and the “God of the New Testament” (who is nice and approachable). However, today’s Gospel reading and the famous “O Antiphons” of Advent tell a different story. The little baby that is to be born in Bethlehem is none other than the great I AM who revealed himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Jewish people called him “Lord” or, in their language, “Adonai.”
In today’s 2nd Reading, St. Paul reminds us to “Rejoice Always!” At times in our life it might seem particularly hard to rejoice. In the wake of the terrible events that took place in Connecticut on Friday it might seem almost inappropriate to be told to “rejoice” this weekend. Yet we have to be careful not to confuse joy and happiness. St. Paul is not telling us to be happy in the face of evil, but rather to rejoice. Joy and peace are possible even in the darkest times. St. Paul certainly knew that in his own life. It is precisely when things seem most grim that we need to be reminded why we have cause to rejoice. Today’s homily attempts to bring St. Paul’s perspective to bear on what might seem like a present situation of gloom.
In today’s reading we hear of John the Baptist and all the people that were going to him in the desert to repent. Why is it that when we sin, we seem to be afraid to make even the much easier journey to a Catholic church to go to confession? Today’s homily helps answer some important questions and alleviate unnecessary fear of confession. Penance services abound this week, so it’s a great time to come back to this beautiful sacrament.
We are all familiar with the great symbol of the Christmas tree and all that it means for this time of year. Yet, for our Jewish ancestors, the time of waiting for the Messiah was focused not only a tree, but on a stump and on a shoot that was to spout from that stump. The tree spoken of here is not a Christmas tree, but a family tree…the family tree of King David.
When the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading speaks of a “shoot” he is referring to the Messiah who would come from the family tree of David and would save the Jewish people. Jeremiah was writing at a time of great trouble for Jerusalem, where they were desperate for the coming of the Messiah. We too have many great struggles in life. The world appears broken and inadequate in so many ways and we know that we contribute to this with our sin. We too are in need of a savior. The good news is that we’ve got one. He has come and he is coming back.
This Advent, let’s not be afraid to acknowledge all the ways in which perhaps our life seems a bit like a lifeless stump. The good news of Advent is that it will not stay this way. A shoot shall sprout from the stump. The Messiah will return. Let our prayer be that of the early church…Marana Tha…Come Lord Jesus.