Blessed Virgin Mary Christmas Homilies

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

This is definitely the kind of reflection a mom would do. Saint Luke notes all throughout Jesus’ young life that Mary kept the events of Jesus’ life and reflected on them in her heart. At the visit of the shepherds, and again after finding Jesus in the temple, Mary kept those memories for later reflection. Maybe she understood them, or perhaps had to work them out later, but keeping them in her heart, she was able to ponder the Word. She got to savor those moments over and over; it shows us the joy of Mary’s heart as a mother.

This idea of Mary reflecting on these things in her heart almost reminds me of a kind of It’s kind of scrapbook of memories in her heart, and I found myself wishing during these Christmas days, that I could take a look at that scrapbook.  She had a first-hand view of how Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, and as Luke tells the story, her perspective of God’s work in the life of her family had to be incredible.

Mary’s reflection on the life of Jesus is really a model for us.  Keeping those events close to her and reflecting on them later is her way of reflecting on the Word of God.  Whether she understood them at the time or not,  she didn’t just live through the moment and move on.  Sadly, in our frantic-paced lives, we do that all too often.  But Mary went back to those events later in her life – even after the death and resurrection of Jesus – and came to a new understanding guided by the Holy Spirit.  And thank God she did that.  It’s probably her later reflection on those events that made the early Church Evangelist able to record them and pass them on to us.  I can just imagine Mary sharing those reflections with Luke and the other disciples.

We too, must reflect on the Word of God.  We have to put ourselves in the presence of the Story, and ponder it in our hearts.  If we’re confused by Scripture, we have Mary as our patron to help us reflect on that Word and come to understand it, guided as we are by the Holy Spirit.  But we also have her encouragement to keep those Scriptures in the scrapbook of our hearts, to keep coming back to them.  That’s the only way the Spirit can work on us and help us to come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Word of God, and in doing that, to come to a renewed and vibrant relationship with our Lord.  But we have to do that following the example of Mary’s reflective pondering, or just like everything else in our lives, we’ll fly through the moment and miss it.

In Advent, I encouraged all of us to take some quiet, reflective time to be with the Lord.  Today Mary shows us how to do that, pondering her God incarnate in her own arms.  Imagine that!  The Incarnation is definitely a mystery worth pondering!

If we would make a resolution for this new year, maybe it could be to follow Mary’s example.  Maybe we could set aside some time on a regular basis – even just those five minutes – to put ourselves in the presence of the Word of God.  And not just here at Mass, although that’s a good start.  But maybe in private prayer or even in an organized Bible Study – we have a few of them going on in our parish on a regular basis.  If we regularly open ourselves up to the Word of God, maybe we too could come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Scriptures; and a closer and more beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God.

Mary, mother of God the Word, help us to understand the Word as you did.  Help us to ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation and savor its joy every day. 

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Christmas Homilies

The Sixth a Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today’s readings

What did you get for Christmas?  Was it everything you’d hoped for?  Or are you at that stage of life where gifts are nice, but you really don’t need anything special?  A lot of my family has come to that point, because we’re at that point where the gifts aren’t so important as it is to be together at Christmas and enjoy one another.

Today’s first reading is exhorting us to something similar.  While the rest of the world waits in line for hours to get whatever the coveted gift of the year may be, we have the consolation of knowing that nothing like that is ultimately important, or will ever make us ultimately happy.  The real gift that we can receive today, and every day, is the gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh, our Savior come to be one with us as Emmanuel.

Saint John tells us quite clearly: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Because what we have is so much better than anything the world can give.  Anna the prophetess in the Gospel reading recognized the Gift.  She had been waiting for it, praying for it, every day of her life.  Heaven forbid that we should miss it! 

The real gift this Christmas, and really every day, is the gift of eternal life.  And we have that gift because Jesus came to earth and chose to be one with us in our human nature.  That’s why the angels sang that night, and why we sing his praise every day of our lives.

Christmas Homilies

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.  We know who they are, but I wonder if we can relate?  I wonder if we can wrap our minds around what this feast calls us to, namely, the holiness of all of our families, whatever those families may look like.  There are all sorts of families out there: families broken by divorce or separation, families marked by emotional or physical abuse, families fractured by living a great distance apart, families grieving the loss of loved ones or agonizing over the illness of one of the members, families of great means and those touched by poverty, homelessness and hunger, families divided by immigration issues, families torn by family secrets, grudges and age-old hurts. Some are trying to form a family: they want to have children, but are unable.  There are healthy families and hurting families, and every one of them is graced by good and touched by some kind of sadness at some point in their history.  And every one of them is called to holiness.

Even the Holy Family, whose feast we celebrate today, was marked with challenges.  An unexpected – and almost inexplicable – pregnancy marked the days before the couple was officially wed; news of the child’s birth touched chords of jealousy and hatred in the hearts of the nation’s leaders and caused the young family to have to flee for their lives and safety.  Even this Holy Family was saddened, in some ways, by an extremely rocky beginning.  But none of that flawed their holiness.

The institution of the family is a very precarious thing.  We know this.  God knows this.  Yet it was into this flawed structure that the God of all the earth chose to come into our world.  Taking our flesh and joining a human family, Christ came to be Emmanuel, God with us, and sanctify the whole world by his most loving presence.

Saint Paul exhorts us all to be marked by holiness, part of the family of God.  We do this, he tells us, by showing one another “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”  Living in a family, living the Christian life, requires sacrifice.  Some days we don’t feel very compassionate, but we are still called to be that way.  We might not feel like showing someone kindness, or patience, or being humble.  But that’s what disciples do.  But the real sticking point is that whole forgiveness thing.  Because all of us are going to fail in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience at one time or another.  So just as the Lord has forgiven us, so many times and of so many things, so must we forgive one another.  We live our whole lives trying to figure out how to do this.

Even today’s Gospel portrays for us the challenges of the family.  This Gospel event reminds me of an action thriller movie: the family is trying to settle in after the birth of a child, but there is political unrest and jealousy surrounding the birth of the child.  Warned in a dream, Joseph, the child’s father, takes the family in the dead of the night and flees to a distant land, where they live until the death of the political puppet who was so pathetically insecure that he felt he needed to kill a child to retain his sovereignty, such as it was.

And so I think what we’re supposed to be seeing in the Holy Family today is faithfulness.  What I think is worth focusing on is that, even though they knew there would be hard times ahead for them, they faithfully lived their lives through it all.  They continued to be a family, Jesus continued to grow and become strong in his human nature, and to be filled with wisdom and the favor of God.  And that, for us, is something worth striving for.  Being perfect might seem impossible, but being faithful is possible and it leads us to holiness.

For Jesus, Mary and Joseph, their faithfulness helped them to absorb the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy and the dangers of oppression from the government, and still shed light on the whole world.  For us, faithfulness can help us to get through whatever rough spots life may have in store for us and not break apart.

I am aware, however, that as I speak about faithfulness, that it all can still seem insurmountable.  Why should you be faithful when the hurts inflicted by other members of your family still linger?  That’s a hard one to address, but we’re not told to be faithful just when everyone else is faithful.  Sometimes we are called to make an almost unilateral decision to love and respect the others in our families, and let God worry about the equity of it all.  I know that’s easier to say than to do, but please know that you have your Church family to support you with prayer and love as you do it.

This coming year, our parish pastoral council has chosen to observe the Year of the Family.  You’ll be hearing more about that throughout the year, but the main focus is helping families of all kinds grow in faithfulness and holiness.  The devil wants the fracturing of all of our families, but the Holy Family gives us a model to thwart that evil one.  We are praying for the strengthening of all of our families as we grow together in holiness.

Every single one of us is called to be holy, brothers and sisters.  And every single one of our families is called to be holy.  That doesn’t mean that we will be perfect.  Some days we will be quite far from it.  But it does mean that we will be faithful in love and respect.  It means that we will unite ourselves to God in prayer and worship.  It means we will love when loving is hard to do.  Mary loved Jesus all the way to the Cross and watched him die.  What we see in the model of the Holy Family for us is faithfulness and holiness.

That holiness will make demands of us.  It did for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Yet they continued to live their lives, aided by the Spirit of God, and they all grew strong in wisdom and grace.  Those same blessings are intended for us too, all of us who do our best to live according to the Spirit in our own human families, no matter what those families may look like.

Christmas Homilies Saints

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Today’s readings

Right here in the middle of the joy of the Christmas Octave, we have the feast of what seems to be an incredibly horrible event.  All of the male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem two years old and younger are murdered by the jealous and, quite frankly, rather pathetic Herod.  But not only are his plans to kill the Christ Child (and thus remove any threat to his reign) thwarted by the providence of God, but also the horror of this event is transfigured into something rather glorious in terms of the Kingdom of God.

As I said, in some ways, this is a horrible feast.  And we can relate, I think.  Just think about the millions who have been slaughtered by abortion, and the many children who die in inner-city violence every year, and we see just how precarious childhood can be in every time and place.  But the Church, in recognizing the contribution of the Holy Innocents to the kingdom, turns all of this sadness into hope and asserts that this is just the beginning of the world’s seeing the glory of Jesus Christ.  As disgusting and repugnant as Herod’s actions are to our sensibilities, yet these innocent children bear witness to the Child Jesus.  Saint Quodvoltdeus, an African bishop of the fifth century writes of them:

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it.  The parents mourn for the death of martyrs.  The Christ child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself.  But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious.  While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory?  They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ.  They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

I think the key to making sense of all this is in the first reading.  The line that really catches me, because it seems almost erroneous in light of the horrible event we remember today, is “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.”  We can see all kinds of darkness in an event like the murder of innocent children.  Yet only God could turn something that horrible around to his glory.  They may have lived extremely short lives on earth, yet their lives in eternity were secured forever.  They become some of the first to participate in the kingdom that Christ would bring about through his Paschal Mystery.

Christmas Homilies

The Nativity of the Lord: Mass During the Day

Today’s readings

All during Advent, we have been yearning for the light.  Advent reminds us that the world can sometimes be a very dark place, that war and terrorism and crime and disease and sin and death can really give us a beating, that very often we experience life much differently than God intended us to, and that all of this darkness has kept us from union with our God.  But Advent also has reminded us that it’s not supposed to be that way, and that God has always intervened for love of the people he has created.  And so in Advent, we came to see that God promises salvation for the people that are his own, and that he would do everything to make that promised salvation unfold for us.

The Old Testament unfolds for us the many ways that God has intervened in history to save his people.  He placed man and woman in the Garden of Eden, safe from all harm, should they choose to accept it (which, of course, they did not!).  He brought eight people through the deluge of the great flood on Noah’s Ark.  He promised Abraham his descendents would be as numerous as the stars of the sky.  He led his people out of slavery in Egypt, through the desert and into the Promised Land, protecting them and guiding them through the hand of Moses all along the way.  His love for his people, his desire that they be one with him, and his efforts to save them from their own folly have been abundant all through human history.  But as numerous as his efforts have been, so have humankind’s failures to follow him been numerous as well.

Which brings us to the event we celebrate today.  Let’s be clear: this is not some last-ditch effort before he throws up his hands and leaves us to our own devices.  This is the saving event, par excellence.  This is the way to salvation that has always been intended and has been promised through the ages, from the very days of the creation of the world, when the Word, as Saint John tells us today, was with God, and with God, was the Word through which everything in heaven and on earth came to be.

This awesome event is the Incarnation: Jesus, the Word through which all were created, comes to be one of the created ones.  This is the primordial mystery of our faith: without the Incarnation, there could be no cross, no resurrection, no ascension, no salvation.  None of the savings events of the Old Testament could be as efficacious as the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery: in fact, those previous acts of salvation led up to the salvation we have in Christ Jesus, and paved the way for that saving act.  In today’s feast, the great light of Christ has taken hold of the darkness this world brings to us and shatters it forever, shining great light into every corner of our dark world, and our sometimes very dark lives as well.

This gift of the Incarnation is the best Christmas present we will receive – it is the best gift of any kind that we will ever receive, because in the Incarnation we have what’s necessary for us to be saved.  This is so important a mystery and so great a gift, that at the words of the Incarnation in the Creed today, we are instructed to genuflect, not just bow.  So we will genuflect when we say the words, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  And we genuflect because we remember with great gratitude that if the Word didn’t become flesh, if he wasn’t born of the Virgin Mary, if he didn’t become one like us, if he didn’t pay the price for our sins, we would never have salvation, or hope of life with God.  Praise God for this great gift today!

And so as we continue our prayer today, we offer God the darkness in our lives: our sins, our frustrations, our disappointments, our pain, our grief – and we hold up all of this to the great Light that is God’s Word, the one who became one like us, who pitched his tent among us, and who dwells with us now.  We pray that the Light of the world would banish our darkness, and help us to see the way to God from wherever it is that we find ourselves on the spiritual path today.  We celebrate that today and every day, Jesus Christ is the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Christmas Homilies

The Nativity of the Lord: Mass During the Night

Today’s readings

We’ve all had the experience of being in a dark room, probably at night, and turning on a light.  It’s blinding until we get used to it.  There’s even a scene in the movie, Christmas Vacation, when Clark finally gets the Christmas lights to work and it’s so blinding that his neighbors, who have been sitting peacefully in the dark sipping wine get up and stumble around and even fall down the stairs.  That’s our natural, biological, response to bright light in the midst of darkness.

I get that same idea from the second part of tonight’s Gospel reading.  I can just imagine the shepherds, who have become very used to seeing their flocks and keeping watch over them by the dim but present light of the stars and the moon.  Suddenly, they have the blinding light of the angel and the glory of the Lord.  It’s no wonder they were afraid: they could hardly see, and what they could see was the surprising appearance of an angel into their mundane nightly watch.

But that’s what this night is all about.  We live very mundane day-to-day, night-to-night, existences.  We become used to what we see: the shadows, the darkness, even the sadness around us.  Bad news doesn’t surprise us anymore.  The real surprise on the evening news is the occasional human-interest story about something positive happening somewhere in our world.  We get very used to our day-to-day lives, filled as they are with long to-do lists, running from one errand or event to the next, managing the stress, frustration, and anxiety that come from falling behind in one area or the other.  This is the dim light we become used to.

And this night aims to change all that.  Into our dimly lit lives, our God wants to shine the splendor of his glory.  The birth of his only begotten Son into our world isn’t just a nice event depicted on Christmas cards or Nativity scenes.  The birth of his only begotten Son is meant to change the world, including the dimly-lit recesses of our daily existence.

This is amazing grace.  This is an indwelling of God that changes the world and changes our lives.

It’s incredible, because when you think about it, God doesn’t have to care about our welfare or our salvation.  He’s God, he’s not in need of anyone or anything, because he is all-sufficient.  He doesn’t need our love, he doesn’t need our praise, he doesn’t need our contrition … honestly, he doesn’t need us period.

But he wants us.  Love needs the beloved.  Grace needs the penitent.  Goodness and truth and beauty need the worn and weary.  And so our God pursues us, and pursues us with great zeal.  Isaiah tells us that the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.  Indeed that zeal won’t rest until it reaches its perfection in the lives of all of us.

He created us in love, and even though he doesn’t need us, he loves us beyond all imagining, and can’t do anything but that.  Throughout time, yes, we’ve disappointed him, and when he forgave us – which he didn’t have to do – we disappointed him again.  That’s been the story of us as a people, and also our own personal stories, if we’re honest.  How many times have we all sinned, and after being forgiven, go back and sin again?  Honestly, if we were God, we’d throw up our hands and walk away.  But, thank God, we’re not God, and our God isn’t like that.  As often as we turn away and come back, he reaches out to us with the love of the father for his prodigal son.  Our God pursues us, and pursues us with great zeal.

When our need for a Savior was great, when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world, when century upon century had passed since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood, after Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel had made God’s desire for reconciliation known, our Lord Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desired to consecrate the world by his most loving presence.  Being conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, he was born in Bethlehem of Judah and was made man.  As a man, he walked among the people of his time and lived as one of us, in all things but sin.  At the appointed hour, he took on our sins and was nailed to a cross.  He died to pay the price for all of us, in order to redeem us and bring us back to friendship with the Father.  Because of this, the power of death and sin to keep us from God has been canceled out, and we have the possibility of eternal life.  Our God pursues us, and pursues us with great zeal.

We gather this night not to wish each other happy holidays or season’s greetings, but instead to revel in the zeal that our God has for our souls.  We who are so much less than him, and so unworthy of his love, nonetheless have his love and are intimately known to him, better than we even know ourselves.  In God’s zeal for us, he reaches out to us when we fall, walks with us when we suffer, and brings us back to him when we wander away.  There is nowhere we can go, no place we can run, no depth to which we can fall, that is beyond the reach of God’s zealous love for us.  And that’s why this night, when we celebrate the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, is such an amazing and holy night for us.  If not for this night, the night of our salvation on Easter would never come to pass.  This night we celebrate not just the birth of a baby, but the birth of God’s intimate presence in the world from the moment of his birth until time is no more.

It’s no wonder the angels sang that night: they knew what the world had yet to behold.  They knew that God’s zeal had obliterated the chasm between the world and its Maker.  They knew that the sadness of death was coming to an end.  They knew that the power of sin had been smashed to bits.  They knew the light of God’s Radiant Dawn had burst forth upon the earth and Emmanuel, God-with-us, became incarnate in our midst.  They knew that in this moment, the sad melody of sin had given way to a chorus of God’s glory.  They knew that the dirge of death had dwindled to the peace that God pours forth on those whom he favors.

That moment, all those years ago, changed everything.  Light shone in the darkness.  The glory of the Lord enveloped the earth.  Nothing would be the same.  The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this!

Christmas Homilies

The Nativity of the Lord: Vigil Mass

Today’s readings

Nazareth was a sleepy little town in the region of Galilee, a vast region with lots of wilderness and, like Nazareth, a few sleepy little towns.  Galilee was in the nation of Israel, one of the small nations in the Roman Empire.  Israel had its own king, but he was really just someone who kept the peace and did whatever Rome told him to do.

So it’s really impossible that anything great or surprising would happen in this little town.  The people were faithful, mostly, to God, and did what they could to keep the covenant and follow the Law in Scripture.  Their leaders not so much, but they sure tried.  Still, because they were still under the Roman occupation, and because their leaders weren’t great, it almost seemed like God had forgotten them.

But then some surprising things started happening.  Angels started visiting people and, unbeknownst to most of the people, everything was changing.  First one day, an angel visited a young woman named Mary.  “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you!” he said.  Mary, surprised at the visit from the angel, didn’t know what to make of the greeting.

But the angel continued, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

This, too, surprised Mary, because she wasn’t even married yet.  But the angel told her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Let it be done to me as you have said,” and when the angel vanished, she went off to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

But that wasn’t the last time anyone saw an angel.  Joseph was Mary’s husband-to-be, and when he heard she was with child, he was hurt and surprised.  He knew the child wasn’t from him.  So he decided to quietly break his relationship with Mary.  But that night, he had a visit from an angel in a dream.  The angel said to him:

“Joseph, son of David, 
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit 
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, 
because he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph, too, did what the angel told him.  He took Mary into his home, and eventually became the baby’s father.

That baby, of course, was Jesus, the Son of God, Emmanuel, God-with-us.  God had indeed decided to change everything.  He wanted people to be saved from their sins, and so did the only thing that could be done: he came in the flesh, through the Virgin Mary, to become one of us, to show us how to get to heaven, and to pay the price for our sins.  Everything changed because Mary and Joseph believed what the angel told them, and followed the angel’s instructions.

Because of that, an angel appeared to some shepherds to tell them of this great change.  The angel appeared to the shepherds in the fields, and said to them:

“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy 
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David 
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: 
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes 
and lying in a manger.”

Then more angels joined them, and they began to sing:

“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

On that night, everything changed.  God came to earth to bring light to our darkness and to give joy to a people who were saddened by sin and death. The words of the angels were proved true.

Angels are messengers.  They bring God’s word to people and show them the way to God.  So if you should see an angel in a dream or on the face of another person, don’t be surprised.  Angels want nothing but the best for us, because that’s what God wants for us.  So be not afraid!  A Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord!  Everything has changed!  God’s love will not fail to give us peace, and grace, and mercy.

Advent Homilies

O Root of Jesse

Today’s readings

In these late days of Advent, we pray the “O Antiphons.”  These antiphons are the various titles of Jesus as found in Scripture.  Today’s antiphon is “O Root of Jesse” and it is found as the antiphon for the Canticle of Mary in Vespers: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you.  Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

Zechariah in today’s Gospel certainly knew what it was like to stand silent in the presence of the Root of Jesse.  Having been promised a son by an angel of the Lord – what one might consider a very trustworthy source – his disbelief moved him to silence in God’s presence.  Here is a man who, one would think, should know better – after all, he was a priest. But maybe his years of childlessness have led him to accept a life that was not God’s will for him.  Perhaps we could not blame him if the angel’s message was a bit unbelievable; we who have the benefit of so much science would probably be a little harder on the angel than Zechariah was.

When you’re accustomed to living without hope, any sign of hope can be met with an awful lot of skepticism.  Would Elizabeth and Zechariah ever give birth to a child?  How would that even be possible at this late stage of their lives?  Would God save the world from the darkness of sin and death?  Why would he even want to?  Can God be born here among us, giving us rootedness and a solid foundation for our lives?  Why would he even care?

But, friends, better to be silent than to voice our lack of faith and hope.  Then, in the stillness of our hearts and souls, maybe God can speak to our weary hearts and give rootedness to our scattered lives, bring hope to a world grown dark in sin and crime and war and too much death.  Today’s Gospel has God bringing hope to a elderly, childless couple.  God forbid that we would doubt that he could bring hope to us too.

So where have you given up hope in your life?  What is going on that is so burdensome that you have stopped even praying about it?  Is there an dark area of your life that you don’t think God can change?  Maybe bring that to mind today and stand silent in the presence of God.  Let him take the burden of hopelessness from you and bring to birth the Root of Jesse.

We pray today: Come, Lord Jesus, come Root of Jesse, give rootedness to our lives that are sometimes adrift in despair or apathy, give hope to a world grown cold in darkness and disappointment, give life to a people burdened by sin and death.  Come, let us stand silent as we await the dawning of your hope in our lives, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.  Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly and do not delay!

Advent Homilies

O Wisdom

Today’s readings

That was quite a list of names, wasn’t it?  It always strikes me that this list of characters, which is basically the human family tree of our Lord, is so much like any of our families’ history.  Forty-two generations of the pilgrim people Israel led by people of greatness, and, well, people of something else.  Some of them were heroic like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah and to some extent David and Solomon.  But some of them were pretty wicked, especially Manasseh, whose wickedness in shedding innocent blood incurred God’s wrath such that he allowed the Babylonian captivity that took place during Jeconiah’s reign.  So we have forty-two generations of saints and sinners, great men and flawed men, all leading up to the Incarnation of Christ, who was the only remedy to the cycle of sin that spiraled all through the story.

Today we begin the more intense period of Advent that extends from December 17th through the morning of Christmas Eve. During this time, the Liturgy leads us to yearn all the more longingly for the presence of Christ.  Just as forty-two generations of a mix of wisdom and foolishness could only be remedied by the presence of Christ, so the foolishness of our time calls for that same remedy.

And we don’t have to do all that much imagining to see the foolishness of our own time, do we?  All we need to do is turn on the news and see the sad folly of those we have elected.  Or we can log into social media and see the antics of people famous for being famous, or read hateful rants by internet trolls.  We can also bring to mind our own foolishness, the sin in our lives.  We too need the coming of Christ to put an end to our foolishness.

During these last days of Advent, we pray the “O Antiphons,” from which we derive the verses in the Advent Hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  The verses are also used during Evening Prayer.  Today’s is “O Wisdom,” and the verse from Evening Prayer is “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: Come and show your people the way to salvation.”  We trust the governance of God, the Creator of creation, to satisfy our longing for wisdom with the presence of the Incarnate Christ.

Come, Lord Jesus and bring us peace.  Come, Lord Jesus and put an end to the world’s foolishness.  Come, Lord Jesus and bring us your Wisdom.  Come quickly and do not delay.

Advent Homilies

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Today’s readings

The whole progression of Advent is one that has always captured my imagination.  I see Advent as a kind of dawning of a new day.  Just as the day doesn’t come all at once, so Advent progresses and we see the coming of Jesus ever more gradually as we participate in each day’s Liturgy of the Word.  At the same time though, night doesn’t last forever, and the day arrives more quickly than we might be ready for.  I think that’s kind of where we are at this sort of late-middle point of Advent.

Today we see some glimmers of light.  The prophet Balaam speaks of a star advancing from Jacob and a spear from Israel.  This wasn’t terribly good news for Balaam’s people, but it sure is for us.  The hope of all the earth was in the somewhat distant future for the people of Israel, and even though in the Gospel that hope was standing right in front of them, the Truth of it all had not yet dawned on the chief priests and elders.

Tomorrow we begin a special part of Advent, marked by reflection on the “O Antiphons” which we famously sing in the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and which we pray during Evening Prayer each day.  The Liturgy is pretty strict during these days and calls for us to focus on the coming of Christ and his manifestation among us in so many wonderful ways.

So the question is, have we been progressing faithfully this Advent?  Has the light been made ever brighter in our hearts?  Are we progressing toward the dawning of the day, or will it happen all at once and find us unprepared?  This is the time to light the lamp if we’ve been keeping it dim.  This is the time to wake from our sleep.  Our salvation is near at hand.