33 Sunday November 18 – Several Homilies -2
Homily from Father James Gilhooley
In 1981, a man left $57,000 in his will to Jesus. It was
for His own use when He returned at the Second Coming. The money was to be invested at the highest interest in the meantime.
Does anyone really think that Jesus will be shopping at a posh department store for a new seamless robe and sandals upon His return? Does anyone feel money is what He shall require from us at the Parousia? Is this what the Nazarene is all about?
Christ is more interested in the way we conduct our lives this moment rather than tomorrow. He is more eager to see us improve life for others today than He is to remove us from it.
Andrew Greeley has some wise thoughts on this point. The Second Coming, the New Age, the New Epoch, he says, can and should be happening throughout this day and week.
I saw the Second Coming at a Soup Kitchen where I worked. A white woman volunteer gave a black man soup, pasta, and coffee. As he was leaving, he thanked her. Then she noticed the bad condition of his shoes. She told him to wait. From the clothing closet, she brought several pair. The woman got down on her knees and fitted each pair. Finally, she found his fit. In this forty minute encounter, Jesus in His Second Coming was present. I was watching Him washing His apostles' feet all over again.
I witnessed the New Age today at a fast-food restaurant. A busload of children treated their waitress with kindness. "Please" and "thank you" were more plentiful than hamburgers and cokes. They cleaned their table. They left a generous tip and a happy waitress. There was no doubt but that the Lord was present.
I see the New Epoch every time one of you gives me $100
and asks me to give it to a family having a difficult time. If one looks sharp enough, you can see a smile on Christ's face.
I observed the New Order yesterday. I was lost and could not find the correct road. I asked directions of a young man. Though he was in as much a hurry as I, he U-turned and told me to follow him for several miles. Then he put my car on the correct road. Can you not hear Jesus applaud as I tell you this story?
I heard of the Second Coming yesterday. A mother told me of her return from a long journey. On her kitchen table, she found a dozen carnations waiting to greet her. The benefactor was her teen son. That day she saw Christ in her boy.
I saw the New Epoch last week. A priest had heard that hostiles in a parish were gleefully giving another priest, whom he hardly knew, a hard time. He phoned. "May I buy you a good lunch?" The trip cost him not only the restaurant bill but also a round trip of 140 miles, and over half a tank of gas. Was not the Nazarene riding with him that day?
You, I am sure, can fill in the blanks and tell me of the times when you saw the Second Coming this past week. And hopefully you were the cause of it. If negative, just as hopefully you will bring it about tomorrow. We ask Jesus, "How do we prepare for dying?" He responds, "By living."
As Greeley says, the answer to the "when?" of the Second Coming can be readily given. The Lord is present anywhere people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness.
A man helped Mother Teresa in Calcutta. He was swept off his feet as he watched the small giant wash sick bodies. He said to her, "I want to remain here permanently with you." The woman, whose wrinkled face showed thousands of miles of wear, said with a smile, "No, no. It is but an illusion. Go home and bloom where you are planted. The message that each one of us is a member of God's family is as much needed where you came from as it is here. We must do small things with great love." This last line so moved US President George W Bush that he quoted it in his brief inaugural address in Washington, DC in 2001.
This week why not see how many times you yourself can bring Jesus back to earth? Here's a proverb to motivate you. "I sought my God; my God I could not see. I sought my soul; my soul eluded me. I sought my neighbor, and I found all three."
Become God's miracle for somebody today.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Hollywood thought it had hit upon a gold mine. The producers, directors, etc had found a way to combine religion and disaster themes into one movie that is came out a few years ago. The movie was titled, 2012. The premise was that the world was going to come to an end in 2012. As Hollywood hoped, a significant number of Americans, believed that there might be some truth to this. Hollywood prayed on the inordinate American fear of death and the tendency of many to live in a state of near panic. This is particularly true regarding those of us who believe the garbage that is passed on as news. So, the swine flu is going to get us all, or climate change is going to get us all, the government is going to get us all, etc. Remember twelve years ago while the rest of the world was celebrating the turn of the century, many Americans stayed home, preparing for the disaster that would be Y2K. The only disaster that happened is that the president at the time, Bill Clinton, spoke on TV for about 55 minutes, and we all almost missed the ball being dropped on Time Square.
We Americans are so gullible and live in such a state of expectant panic that if we hear that something horrible is going to happen and we learn that there is some sort of a religious reference, many of us believe whatever is presented. Then we come to Church on a Sunday at the end of the Church year and hear readings about the end of time. There are always readings about the end of time at this time of the year. Some will put these readings together with the 2012 thing and think there might be something to it. There isn’t. The premise of 2012 is based on a Mayan prophecy. The Mayan’s were pagans. Their world was ending before the Spanish came. The Spanish conquistadors accelerated it by assimilating the Mayan people into the Spanish colonial culture. We should not give credence to the rambling of pagans.
The readings we just heard have nothing to do with the Mayan Prophecies. They speak about the end of time but with a particular emphasis: those who trust in the Lord, and who live His life to the best of their ability have nothing to fear. Daniel says that the archangel Michael is the guardian of God’s people. We usually address this archangel as St. Michael. Daniel calls him, God’s Prince. So, we just heard that when the final days come, Michael will gather God’s people together including those who have died. And, the reading says, the wise will shine brightly. In the Gospel reading Jesus says that on the last day, the angels will gather the elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. By the way, Jesus also says, that no one knows when the last day will come, not the angels, not even the Son, only the Creator, the Father.
The basic message, though, is, “Do not be afraid. Trust in God. He will care for you.” We need to do our best to get out of the fear mind set and live as people of the faith we profess. God is infinitely stronger than all the forces of the world. And He loves us. He loves us as a people. And He loves us as individuals. He loves us more than we can fathom. If we do everything we can to be open to His Presence, He will take care of us even if we were to be alive on the last day. St. Augustine put it this way, “If we do not resist the first coming of the Lord, then we will have no reason to dread His second coming.” By that he means if we live according to the way He told us to live when He came to be one of us, then we have no reason to fear when He comes again at the end of the world.
Perhaps many of us are not inordinately concerned about the end of the world. But each of us does have certain areas of fear in our lives. Some are afraid due to their health or that of a loved one. Maybe we are going to die sooner than we expect. Everyone dies sooner than she or he expects. Should we live in panic like the pagans, or should we trust in God to care for us? We need to trust in God. Some are afraid that their lives are not going to turn out as they hope. No one knows how our lives will turn out. I never thought I’d be a priest in Florida. I don’t know what is going to happen. I do know that my plans and God’s plans are often quite different. I am certain you can say the same thing. Where will each of us be 10 years from now, or 20 or 30 or 50? Fifty years from now I’ll be 115. I, for one, am hoping to be dead by then. But whatever the future brings, we have no reason to fear. We trust in God. We are Christian. We are people of Hope.
Today’s readings tell us that God is in control. We do our best to give ourselves to Him. He gave Himself to us for that very reason, so that we, in turn, can give ourselves to Him. As people united to the One who brings life through death, united to Jesus Christ, we trust our loving Savior to care for us.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
Bottom line: It is good to think about the last things: death, judgment, hell and heaven.
This month we are reflecting on the last things: death, judgment, hell and heaven. During November, when we see nature dying, it is natural to think about the meaning of death.
Today's readings speak about the last things. The Prophet Daniel foresees the day when those who "sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." Some, says Daniel, "shall live forever." Others, however, will be an "everlasting horror." Jesus also describes a separation. God will send angels to "gather his elect."
In thinking about death, I found help in a little book by Dr. Peter Kreeft. It's titled "Love is Stronger than Death." Dr. Keeft teaches philosophy at Boston College and he is always thought provoking. He uses five images to explore the meaning of death: death as an enemy, a stranger, a friend, a mother and a lover.
Dr. Kreeft addresses a common misunderstanding. Many people say it is morbid to think about death. For sure, no one should want to hasten their death, but it is good to recognize its reality. Dr. Kreeft tells about people who have come near death, maybe experienced a heart attack, and how it sometimes changes their attitude toward life: each moment and each person becomes more precious. Dr Kreeft then directly addresses the reader: "Lay the book down for ten minutes and ask yourself what you would think, feel, say and do if you knew this was the last ten minutes of your life."
I did that. I was in my prayer chapel and the Lord was right in front of me in the Blessed Sacrament. I have only ten minutes. What do I do? As you might imagine, I thought about my sins and asked for forgiveness. Then I began feeling gratitude for the life he had given me. I said I do not know what lies ahead, I cannot imagine it, but, please, I want to be with you.
Now, this was no great mystical experience. At the same time I was thinking forgiveness, gratitude and meeting the Lord, I was worrying about a problem in the parish, the election outcome and what I would have for breakfast!
It's not easy, but it can be good to think about one's own death. Some saints used to keep a human skull on their desk to remember their mortality. The Bible says: "Remember your last days and set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!" (Sirach 28:6) St. Paul writes that we carry the dying of Jesus in our own bodies. (2 Cor 4:10)
We all know that we are going to die, but it is hard to really believe it. C.S. Lewis observed that it is difficult to believe that this hand will one day be a skeleton. We know that death is real, but we tend to think that it always applies to someone else.
We can live in a fantasy world where our own death seems unreal. That's a reason why we should take another look at our burial practices. You can learn a lot about a culture from their burial practices. The Egyptians built magnificent pyramids - basically tombs for the Pharaoh and his family. The peoples of America - for example in Peru - made funeral monuments that visitors continue to admire. In this country we have cemeteries that are green spots in our urban landscapes. They are tranquil places where people can go to remember those who have gone before us.
Unfortunately, our burial practices are diminishing. It's done in the name of practicality and conservation, which is good, but something is being lost. I would ask you to think about this: What is one of the most visited spots in Seattle? It might surprise you, but it is the grave of our most famous citizen. You know who he is: Bruce Lee. I've gone there and noticed flowers and notes from all parts of the world.
Now, if people do that for a movie star, should we not do the same - or more - for our parents and other loved ones? Even if you plan on cremation, there should be a spot with a marker for your mortal remains. And I would add something else: If you are going to be cremated, you should consider purchasing a simple casket so that there can be a Mass with your body present.
Funerals are not easy because we tend to steer away from the reality of death. No one likes to think about it, especially the death of dear ones. But, you know, it's what makes our lives a true drama. I think about my dad's death. This Wednesday will be the 17th anniversary. I remember my mom, my nephew and I kneeling at his bed after giving him Communion as Viaticum. It struck me that he was embarking on a mysterious voyage. If we were sending a man to Mars, news networks from all over the world would cover the launch. But my dad was setting out on an unimaginably greater adventure.
Isaiah calls death "the veil that veils all people." One day you and I will pass through that veil. As Dr. Keeft points out, death is an enemy and a stranger, but can also become friend, mother and lover. It is good to think about the last things: death, judgment, hell and heaven. Amen.
Homily from Father Andrew M. Greeley
Today we begin our annual tour through Apocalyptic literature. Both Daniel and Mark describe the end times, the final reckoning time when the Lord God and His Son Jesus will triumph over sin and death. The apocalyptic writings are charged with poetry, metaphor, fantasy.
We must not make the mistake some of the fundamentalists do and interpret these passages literally. However, we must not make the opposite mistake of dismissing them as “nothing but” poetry. Metaphor tells us truth more fully and more adequately than does plain prose. The truth is Heaven and Earth may indeed pass away, but not before the Final Resolution in which good triumphs over evil an life over death. We don’t know when or how that will happen. Those issues really don’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus and his true followers will finally win.
Once upon a time a TV commentator (on PBS) delivered a pessimistic editorial on a Friday evening broadcast (taped earlier in the day). The world was in grim shape, he told the camera. Global warming was worse than anyone had thought it was. The population of the world would double again in the next twenty year. It was likely that an asteroid would hit earth before the end of the next century. Rage was increasing the third world countries against our wealth.
The races were polarizing in America. The crime had turned up again. Our schools were total failures and would not, could not get any better. There was a drug and alcohol epidemic in white suburban high schools. Divorce rates were increasing. Abortions were at an all time high. A wave of bad news was sweeping the earth and thee was nothing anyone could do about it.
When the taping was over, he got into his Mercedes and drove rapidly into the country to escape the Friday night traffic rush. At his house on the shore of the lake, he relaxed in the sauna, sipping from a large glass of Barolo wine, swam in the pool, wrapped himself in a robe, and sat on the deck as the sun set. He poured himself a second glass of wine and, as the sky turned red and then purple that life was very good indeed.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Jesus promises his disciples that they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The angels will gather his elect from the four winds. His coming in glory will be preceded by tribulation. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in heaven will be shaken. These will be signs just as fig leaves sprouting are a sign that summer is near. Jesus adds that their generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Though heaven and earth will pass away, his words will not pass away. Then Jesus says: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Jesus speaks of the ultimate triumph of his future coming with great power and glory immediately before what appears to be his ultimate defeat without any power and glory--dying like a criminal on a cross. This would seem to be a foolhardy promise to his disciples on Jesus' part unless we understand the source of his unconquerable hope. Does a man on his way to the electric chair make promises about what he will do in the future?
From the very beginning of Mark's gospel we learn that Jesus the beloved Son will devote his life to bringing about the kingdom of God. Through Jesus, God's power will overthrow the earthly reign of Satan. Satan will attempt to thwart the divine plan through lifelong temptation of Jesus. Jesus, however, remains faithful to his mission, and casts out many demons from those under the power of Satan.
In response to the accusation that he expels demons with the help of the prince of demons, Jesus says that if that were true, the kingdom of Satan would be divided against itself. Luke in his gospel presents Jesus' understanding of his mission in similar terms: "But if it is by the finger [the power] of God that I cast out devils then the reign of God is upon you" (11:20). Jesus also indicates the cosmic nature of the power of God's kingdom when the disciples reported that in his name they had power over the demons: "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky" (Lk 10:18).
Here is the source of the unconquerable hope that Jesus proclaims in face of the apparent triumph of Satan's reign through those who are about to kill him. Jesus trusts that just as God's kingdom has come to earth through him, the kingdom's ultimate triumph will also be accomplished through him.
Today we pray for the gift of receiving the Spirit of Jesus, and thereby the grace of unconquerable hope. For one who has received his Spirit, there is no hopeless situation--the power of God's reign is supreme on earth as it is in heaven. Death itself, apparently Satan's triumph over us as over Jesus, cannot defeat the supreme power of God's love. Saint Paul reminds us: "Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor 15:26).
In seeking the life implications of Christ's promise to come in power and glory at the end-time, we should also note the corresponding passage in the gospel according to Matthew. Like Mark, Matthew tells us that Jesus spoke of his coming in power and glory when his death was imminent. In Matthew's gospel, however, Jesus is very specific about identifying the elect who will be gathered by the angels from the four winds. The criterion for entry into God's kingdom is so radical in its simplicity: "...whatever you did for one of these least brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me...whatever you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me" (25:31-46).
Campion P. Gavaler, OSB
Homily from Father Cusick
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Even after the apocalyptic predictions surrounding the turning of the millennium failed to materialize, false prophets continue to spring up who will claim to know the day and the hour of the final judgment. Books and movies purport to know exactly "the day and the hour" whne the world will end. A current movie says the date is now 2012!
The Church stands fast in the truth delivered once and for all by Christ the Lord that it is not for the faithful "to know the day or the hour" that the Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Since the Ascension Christ's coming in glory has been imminent, (Cf. Rev 22:20) even though "it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:7; cf. Mk 13:32.) This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are "delayed." (Cf. Mt 24:44; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Theses 2:3-12)" (CCC 673)
“The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by ‘all Israel,’ for ‘a hardening has come upon part of Israel’ in their ‘unbelief’ toward Jesus. (Rom 11:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.)” (CCC 674)
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." (Mk 13:24-26)
“Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. (Cf. Lk 19:8; Mt 24:12.) The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth (Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.) will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (Cf. 2 Thess 2:4-12; 1 Thess 5:2-3;2 Jn 7; 1 Jn 2:18, 22)” (CCC 675)
“The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification o f the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, (Cf. DS 3839.) especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, condemning the "false mysticism" of this "counterfeit of the redemption of the lowly"; cf. GS 20-21.)” (CCC 676)
The Gospel cannot be reduced to liberation theology or Marxist solutions or calendar guesswork, but comes from Christ only for redemption from sin through the Church, the sacrament of salvation for the world.
“The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. (Cf. Rev 19:1-9) The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. (Cf. Rev 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4.) God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. (Cf. Rev 20:12; 2 Pet 3: 12-13.)” (CCC 677)
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
The readings for today’s mass are a bit apocalyptic; they sound like gloom and doom and predict the end of the world. We feel like quaking in our shoes as we read about the times of distress which are to come and hear prophecies of the world collapsing all around us.
We are approaching the end of the Church’s year; it concludes next Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King and then we begin the new liturgical year with the season of Advent.
There is a logic to the way the scripture readings are chosen for our Sunday masses and here in these couple of Sundays at the end of the liturgical year we are being invited to meditate on the four last things which you know are: death, judgement, heaven and hell.
Next Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King we will be focussing more particularly on the Last Day when Christ will come in glory to judge the nations and to divide the proverbial sheep from the goats. It is salutary to think of these things and good now and again to turn our attention to the End of the World and the Day of Judgement.
It is one of the basic doctrines of Christianity that there will be a judgement. We usually think that it has two aspects: a personal judgement and a general judgement.
The personal judgement comes at the moment of our death when we face a reckoning for the way we have conducted ourselves in this life here on earth. The general judgement comes at the end of time when there will be a gathering together of all the nations and a judgement pronounced on the world in its entirety.
Let me zoom in on the moment of personal judgement because this is something that we all have to take into account. We have to live our lives in such a way as to be ready to face God at the moment of our death; which is a moment we know can occur at any time.
To do this we try to live our lives according to the commandments and to make the Gospel of Jesus a reality in our lives. Sometimes this is not easy and we fall into sin but it is vital that when we get into such a situation we get a grip on ourselves and seek reconciliation at the earliest opportunity.
This is not easy and frequently when we do fall into sin we start playing games with ourselves. We delay the moment when we seek forgiveness and, of course, the further we delay that day the harder it becomes to ask God to show us his mercy. In extreme cases we can put this off indefinitely and by doing so we jeopardise our eternal salvation.
Another reaction is when we think that what we have done is so bad that God isn’t interested in us anymore, we believe that we have offended him so badly that he will not forgive us. This is a false conclusion and leads us further into a sinful way of life.
A third reaction to sin is when we minimise it. In this case we are likely to consider what we originally thought was serious as now being something quite trivial that God won’t bother about. We then carry on going to the sacraments and living our lives as if nothing had happened unaware that the gulf between us and God is growing ever deeper.
All of these reactions to sin are very dangerous and lead us further and further away from God. If we want to know where these ideas come from then there is only one answer: they come from the evil one.
It is very important for us to see sin in its true perspective. It is vital that we do not allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking of sin in a distorted way.
Yes, we know that we have a predisposition to sin. We know that we are prone to selfishness and deceitfulness and that we frequently commit sins in weak moments.
It is true that there are many mitigating circumstances. Quite often we sin because we are fed up or are annoyed with those we live with; we can sin because we are lonely or frustrated or angry. But whatever the cause it is vital to see that sin is a destructive power in our lives and that it inevitably draws us away from God.
As we are doing today, thinking about the Last Day from time to time reminds us to get things into a true perspective, to see things as they really are and to stop fooling ourselves.
Be clear about it, the only way to life a good and truly fulfilling life is to live according to the Gospel, to live as Jesus wants us to live. It is the virtues that build us up and help us to grow into our full stature as human beings. These virtues are things such as patience, love, peacefulness, trust, hope, faith and so on.
It is the vices that draw us away from God; these are things like pride, lust, envy, deceit, laziness, gluttony and so on. We must do everything we can to eradicate these things from our lives. Of course, this is an extremely difficult task and one that we will be unlikely to fully achieve in this life. It is important, however, to do all we can to live our lives based on the virtues and not on the vices.
You are all familiar with the phrase: as a tree leans so shall it fall. This proverb is never more true than in this area of life.
Habit is the key human mechanism in considering these matters. The more we do something the more we like to do it until it becomes a habit and we wake up one day and find that this or that action is so much a part of us that we cannot change it.
Everybody is aware just how important it is for parents to train their children to acquire good habits so that they get the very best start in life. We also know how easy it is for us to get into bad habits and how difficult they are to change once they have been acquired.
The upshot of all this is that we need to realise that we are in charge of our lives, that we are in control and that we can change things if we really want to. The trick is to acquire new and good habits and in this way squeeze out the old bad habits.
A quick glimpse every now and again at the Last Day, at the Day of Judgement is very salutary. It is a healthy thing to do because it helps us to get everything in perspective, to see our lives with God’s eyes and to highlight what needs changing.
Christmas is coming and reconciliation is on our minds, let each one of us take the opportunity to use this time to be reconciled to God and so be enable to look upon that Last Day with hope in or hearts.