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

Scripture Message and Food Insecurity

On this Sunday, all the scriptures (Is 25:6-10A, Philip 4:12-14, 19-20, Mt 22:1-14) reference food. I invite you to read and reflect on them in relation to our times.

According to the U.S.D.A, there over 37 million people in the United States, that is equivelant to the entire population of Texas and Arizona, who are food insecure. These individuals and families go hungry or eat low quality food because of the lack of money and other resources. The pandemic has made the situation worst. Conservative estimates indicate that 1 in 8 Americans do not have enough food to eat. Think about that for a moment. One out of eight people you will encounter today is food insecure.

Christians have a responsibility to be generous to the community at all times but especially in times of need. People are in need for food. That gives us an opportunity to be generous, to share in their distress. That is what God desires from us. There is no doubt that our prayers are important, but our generosity is what pleases Jesus and those in need: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Paul confirmed Jesus’ command when he said to the Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry…. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress” (Phil 4: 12-13).

Recently, I read a Jewish story about generosity which captures today’s themes. The story says that “in hell, people sit around a great banquet table piled high with food. Each person is given a fork six food in length, far too long for them to maneuver into their mouths. They are starving. In heaven, on the other hand, people sit around exactly the same banquet. But in heaven each feeds the person across the table. And in so doing, all are filled” (Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path to Mussar).

I encourage you today to take a moment to think about how you can help people experiencing food insecurity. Can you make a contribution – money or time – to an organization like Catholic Charities or your local food bank? Can you spare a coin to someone in need? Can you make that a habit? How can you influence our government, civic, and religious institutions to help those suffering from food insecurity?

Finally, I pray to God that if you are suffering from food insecurity that He guards your hope. That you keep Paul’s words in your heart: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Trust in Isaiah’s words: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all people a feast of rich food and choice of wines” (Is 25:6). That you accept Jesus’ invitation to “come to the feast” of the Eucharist.

Let’s pray:

Sharing the loaves and fishes,
You gave us an image of solidarity with the hungry, O Lord.
Sharing yourself in the bread and wine,
You called all to the table, O Lord.
Give me the hunger to be a part of the feeding
And the healing of this world.
Nourish me with your Grace,
So I may work with joy to serve your children.
Open my eyes and my heart
To recognize those in poverty
And increase my awareness
Of the structures and systems
That need to be changed
So we may all break bread together.
In your name we pray for the end of hunger.

  • Prayer for the End of Hunger, Jesuit Resource Education for Justice

May God bless you.

Listening to God

Reading 1 – DT 18:15-20
Responsorial Psalm – PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
Reading 2 – 1 COR 7:32-35
Gospel MK 1:21-28

When God speaks, He reveals Himself. Listening, an essential element in any relationship, is of utmost importance with God. Unfortunately, our busy lives, jobs, relationships, technology, media etc. at times create a barrier between God’s words and our hearts.  Today, we are warned against resistance when God speaks to us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (PS 95:8).

Listening to God should be our most important priority. It was such revelation which helped Moses understand that a prophet greater than him, Jesus, would be coming into the world: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen” (DT 18:15).

Paul understood this as well when he spoke of the dangers of anxiety and distractions: “I should like you to be free of anxieties….I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction” (1 COR 7:35).

Listening to God requires that we set aside time to know Him. How? By reading His words and then meditating, praying, and contemplating on them (Lectio Divina).

If we make an effort to listen to God, we, too, can be cured of the unclean spirits clinging to our hearts. We, too, like the demonic man in today’s Gospel, can experience Jesus’ healing power: “Quiet! Come out of him!” (MK 1:25).

God’s Relentless Faithfulness

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 – JON 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm – PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading 2 – 1 COR 7:29-31
Gospel – MK 1:14-20

In his faithfulness, God cannot help but warn us when we are in peril of losing our souls. This is the reason why He always sends his prophets to get our attention, as when he sent the prophet Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you” (JON 3:2).

God did likewise with the disciple Paul who warned the Corinthians “I tell you, brothers, the time is running out…For the world in its present form is passing away
(1 COR 7:29, 31).

Of course, no other prophet embodies God’s faithfulness as His Son does. Unlike Jonah, Christ never said no to God. Unlike Paul, He never persecuted Christians. Christ’s whole human existence was a bright light to point us to salvation. It was through that light that He worked wonders as He did for Paul on the road to Damascus – the conversion we celebrate today.

In His Son, we get a glimpse of God’s mercy and fidelity. These are the same graces Christ sought from the disciples when He called them to join Him “Come after me”
(MK 1:17).

By being relentlessly faithful, God is always willing to give us mercy if we ask “Teach me your ways, O Lord” (PS 25:4a). When we do so as the Ninevites did, His hearts bursts with forgiveness “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to the them, he did not carry it out”
(JON 3:10).

It is up to us now to listen to God’s words so we, too, like the Ninevites, the Corinthians, and the apostles cannot only heed the words of God, but also imitate His faithful deeds.