Homily: First Sunday of Advent 2020

HAPPY New Year! You heard me right. Happy New Year! Today is the first day of our new liturgical calendar year. As you probably noticed by the purple cloth on the tabernacle, our purple vestments, and the Advent wreath, today we mark the first season of the liturgical year, Advent. Advent is a special time of joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

LET me ask you, when you receive guests at home, do you spend time cleaning and putting your house in order? How do you prepare for the visit? A pleasant visit does not happen by accident, right?. It takes organizing and preparation.

ADVENT is a time for getting our spiritual home in order to receive the Lord. Just like the homes we live in, our spiritual lives sometimes get unorganized and filled with clutter. Advent and the new liturgical year allow us to look around our spiritual home and notice what needs to be cleared out and ready our soul to welcome God. All of us, regardless of the state of our spirituality, have the opportunity to do that. How? Through acts of reflection and repentance. We can find examples of these acts in the readings we heard today. For instance, in the First Reading, we hear the Israelites say to God: “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our deeds are like polluted rags.”[1] Their words show that they took the time to reflect on the purity of their souls. In the responsorial psalm, we hear about repentance: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”[2] Advent is an excellent occasion to experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is God’s gift of healing and restoration. I realize that for some, Confession may not be an easy thing to do. I get it.  If you are in that place, I pray that God shows you the light to guide you closer to Him.  He wants to purify our cluttered hearts, but we must do our part. During Advent, can you set aside time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation? To reflect on the purity of your soul? Is it clean or filled with cluttered? Is it ready to welcome God?

AS essential as organizing one’s soul is, any good host knows that hosting is more than cleaning; it requires preparation. And so it is as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.[3] In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives us a hint on how to prepare. He told the Corinthians: “the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[4] Paul is encouraging us to prepare for the coming of Jesus by cultivating the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What are the gifts? Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom, Fear of the Lord, Good Counsel, Piety, and Fortitude. Perhaps this Advent Season, you could focus on cultivating one gift in preparation to receive God’s revelation.  Maybe you can prepare for Advent by developing the gift of Fortitude.  Fortitude enables us to stand firm when faced with suffering.[5] The last nine months have been difficult. It could be easy to develop a pessimistic view of the world and a hopeless image of God. The gift of Fortitude may help us create a more resilient attitude toward life and a more faithful outlook of God. It is a gift that could help us to organize and prepare our hearts to receive God.

ADVENT is a time to be watchful. When I served in the United States Army, I performed guard duty. One of my routines before performing my guard duty was to recite the three general orders that governed it. Among them was this order: “I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”[6] That order was like an anchor that held me from drifting away from my responsibility to guard my post.

BY way of our baptism, we are all on spiritual guard duty. We are on the lookout for the unexpected encounter with Jesus, who tells us today: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” As guards in His kingdom here on earth, we too have general orders: the commandments. The next four weeks are an opportunity to live them, meditate on them, memorize them. I encourage you to choose one commandment and to focus on it throughout Advent. For example, the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any strange gods before me.” Are there any gods in your life preventing you from being watchful? Social media? Sports? Materialism? Take time this Advent to reflect on that.

ADVENT is a journey meant to be filled with joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take it, enjoy it, own it. Also, persevere. There are times when a journey can be costly, lonely, and challenging. The good news is that you are not alone. Jesus is here for you, in the Eucharist. Receive the Eucharist to nourish your soul. The Eucharist will help you organize your soul, prepare youself, and give you the strength to remain watchful this Advent. I wish you a happy Advent.

LET us pray:

“Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we rejoice in the hope of the Savior’s coming and look forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts. Remove any sadness, doubt, or anxiety that may hinder us from feeling the joy and hope which Jesus’ presence will bestow, for he is Lord forever and ever.” Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel, first champion of the Kingship of Christ, pray for us.


[1] Is 63:4-5

[2] Ps 80:4

[3] https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year-and-calendar

[4] 1 Cor 1:6-7

[5] Disciples of Christ, Education in Virtue, Educator’s Guide Sister John Dominic Rasmussen, O.P. and Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. 2013

[6] www.Armypubs.army.mil

Prepare the Way of the Lord

How many people do you know who build roads? May be some of you know, but I do not. Building roads is an important job in our society. Not everyone is called and trained to build roads.  We need roads to move from one place to another. There are city roads, country roads, old roads, new roads, public and private roads.

There are different types of roads. They are made of dirt, bricks, cement, tar, wood etc. Roads come in all sizes. Some roads are short and wide, others are long and narrow, or vice versa. Some are smooth, others are rough. Regardless of the how they are built or whether you walk or drive on them, their main function does not change, they lead to a destination.

Do you prefer to drive on a straight road rather than a crooked road? When we travel on a straight road, we can see what is in front of us. Our destination is clear and it takes less effort to travel.

The Season of Advent is an opportunity to walk the way to the Lord. Yet, He is more than just a destination. He is the way itself; the way to our salvation: “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (cf. PS 118:22).

The Prophet Isaiah prophesied that John the Baptize would make straight the paths of Jesus (cf. MT 3:3). By that he meant that John’s message for repentance was the way to redemption. Those who heeds John’s message walk on a solid foundation. As the Prophet Isaiah declared: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God: See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; whoever puts faith in it will not waver (IS 28:16). As baptized children, we receive the way to our salvation. That is when we become equipped to build the road for Jesus.

This Advent Season, Jesus is calling on us to build roads that lead to God. It is not enough for us to know the way of Jesus. His way should not be a secret that we keep to ourselves. Today as in the days of the John the Baptist, Jesus needs us to make His paths straight. That is our challenge this Advent Season. How are we making the crooked paths straight so Jesus becomes the way for others? Let’s pray to Jesus to give us the grace to know how and to have the courage to undertake His call.

Inspired by the Second Sunday of Advent Readings

Stay Alert and Be Prepared

Jesus’ exhortations to stay awake and be prepared (cf. MT 24:42,44) ought to be sweet music to a Christian’s ears. The King’s forewarning of His pending coming is a courteous declaration that allows us to make the proper spiritual arrangement in our lives to being good and to welcome him when He returns.

To those who abide by these exhortations, to stay awake and be prepared, these words inspire hope, not fear. They become words of mercy, not threats; pillars for eternal peace, not doom.

The uncertainty of the timing could unsettle some. Jesus does not tell us how long we should stay alert or prepare for His arrival. That is because not even He knows the time, only His Father does (cf. MK 13:32).

As Christians we know, nevertheless, that the time will come sooner or later. That ought to be good news for us. Why? Because we know well in advance what we must do to be in proper relationship with Jesus. This means that He ought to be the number one priority in our lives. Jesus should be the center of our lives. What does that mean exactly? It means that all we do should have Jesus in mind as the beginning, middle, and end. It does not mean that nothing else is important, but that everything is within the context of Jesus and His Father’s divine plan.

On this, the first week of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, let’s take a moment to reflect on how our lives conform to what Jesus expects. Properly discerned, alertness and preparedness will discourage unwelcome thieves and grant access to the King who provides the true meaning of the holiday season.

May God bless you!

 

—Inspired be the first Sunday of Advent readings

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 – 2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
Responsorial Psalm – PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29
Reading 2 ROM 16:25-27
Gospel LK 1:26-38

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you”
(Luke 1:26-28).

In this last Sunday of Advent, God sends two messengers, the prophet Nathan and the angel Gabriel, to deliver his commands to David and Mary.

Through Nathan, God tells David not to build a house for God. Instead, God promises to build a temple for David (cf. 2 SM 7:11); a temple to serve all generations:

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations”
(PS 89:4-5).

God’s promise to David is fulfilled when Gabriel announces to Mary

 “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”
(LK 1:31-33).

In today’s readings, God used his messengers to announce the good news of Advent: the prophecy and fulfillment of God’s kingdom revealed in Jesus Christ. When Mary said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (LK 1:38), God gave us the perfect model for obedience of faith.

Advent is the season of preparation, penance and joy; a time to surrender to God as Mary did.

 

– God, I give my heart to you this day; may you will it to please you.