I think that most of us are in the middle of Christmas preparations. We are trying to get cards out and gifts bought and wrapped. We are preparing for parties, baking cookies, getting ready for the celebration. The celebration is the birth of Christ, the Divine Presence given to us as one of us.
News in Homilies
Waiting for the Lord to come again is the focus of this first week of Advent. This waiting for the Lord is different than the usual way we wait. It is not like the waiting we experience when we go to the doctors office and sit in the lobby reading old magazines or playing on our phones.
Today we conclude the Liturgical Year with our celebration of the feast of Christ the King. On this final Sunday of the year we meditate on Our Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge that all creatures in heaven and on earth are ultimately subject to him as the Universal King. For our Gospel text we have the interesting exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate about his Kingship.
Today's readings are scary. The trouble is, they are not make believe. Daniel says that a time is coming which will be unsurpassed in distress. Jesus also talks about this time when he says that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give off light, the stars will fall from the skies and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
The radical message of today's readings is that we must place our confidence in God rather than in our material possessions. This is difficult for us to do because it demands our practicing the forgotten virtue of humility. A humble person recognizes his or her profound need for God. A humble person is certain that the presence of God in his or her life is fundamental to happiness.
“This saint is my hero”, we could say. The operative word to define a Greek hero would be courage. Did they have the courage to complete their mission in life? There are also heros in the first part of the Bible, the Old Testament. Abraham and Samson and David and Deborah and Ruth were all heros because against seemingly impossible odds, they still allowed God's plan to work through them.
Authority and Service: James and John had it all wrong. They wanted authority. They wanted to sit at the right hand and left hand of Jesus when the Kingdom of God was established on earth. They wanted to be powerful and feared because of their power. They looked forward to being in authority. They had it all wrong. In the Kingdom of God, authority would come through service.
How sad! The man had the wonders of the Lord right there in front of him. He could have become one of the Lord's closest disciples. Jesus heard him say that he had kept the commandments. Jesus knew that he was a good man. He loved him. But he also knew that something was holding the man back. His possessions were the reason for his life.
In no other field, as in that of sexual ethics, man is tempted to give his own morals, and so the salt of the gospel proposal is often made insipid by many “buts,” “ifs,” “howevers,” and “depends.” The goal is very high, but the footsteps of men are often uncertain. Since only God knows the weaknesses of each, no one can stand in judgment of their brethren; no one has the right to assess the guilt and pronounce sentences.
If we had a greater awareness of the presence of the Spirit in the world, then we would be at war with those aspects of our society and our lives that reject God's presence.
This Sunday's Gospel reading is familiar, but it seems to be missing some verses. We hear Jesus asking his disciple: "Who do people say I am.” We hear Peter's answer, "You are the Christ,” but then Jesus moves on to speak about how he would suffer greatly. We are missing something.
Listen and Proclaim the Good News. He put his fingers into the man's ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." And the man's ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
We give attention to minutiae and turn our backs on the essentials. Unhappily for us, we are living our lives in an epoch which downplays sin. There is a danger, John Newman warned, of thinking God takes our sins lightly because we take them lightly.
"This is hard to take,” some of the disciples complained. "People are leaving you,” the disciples moaned. "The choice is yours,” Jesus responds. "Will you leave too?” And then Peter, like Joshua, makes a great profession of faith. "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
This week we come to the climax of John 6. But this is not the last Sunday that we have a reading from this chapter. Next week we'll consider the disciples suggestion that Jesus "tone down” his teaching. That's the conclusion. Today we have the climax. John 6 is about sustenance. It is about eating. It is about nourishment. It is about the Eucharist.
Elijah had had enough. He was out of food and water. More than that, he just didn't have the fortitude or the stamina to continue to do God's work. He laid down under that broom tree, and he said to God, "Look, I just can't do this anymore. I'm no better than anyone who has come before me. I just can't continue your mission to Israel."
What is the food that we are seeking? Certainly, all of us want to be happy. Sane people throughout the world have this as their goal. But most of our happiness is merely temporary pleasure. It is fleeting. Where can lasting happiness be found?
This Sunday we begin a five week focus on the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John. We do this every three years, just as we repeat all the Sunday readings every three years. That the Church should spend five weeks on John 6 demonstrates that this is one of the most important sections of the Gospels.