Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2008 Year: B
Is. 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:31-7
KEEP AWAKE
 

First Reading...
"You, O Lord, are our father; 'Our Redeemer from of old' is your name. Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you? Turn back for the sake of your servants, for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence.

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways.

But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." [Is. 63:16-7, 64:1, 3-8]

Second Reading...
"My brothers and sisters; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind - just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you - so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." [1 Cor. 1:3-9]

Gospel Reading...
"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with a particular task, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake - in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.'" [Mk. 13:31-7]

KEEP AWAKE
There once was a king who loved to eat. When the castle cook grew too old to prepare the meals anymore, the king looked for a new cook. A young man applied for the job. The king said to him, "I want you to cook me the best and most important dish in the whole world."

The night the king sat down at the table. When he looked at the special dish, he exclaimed, "Why, that’s cow tongue!"

The young man answered, "Yes, it is. Nothing is more important then the tongue if it is used correctly. The tongue is used to teach, to explain, to command, to defend, to calm. Tongues are used to sing to babies and to make bargains. Tongue has to be the most important thing for a king."

"I must say I didn’t realize that, young man. You’ve opened my eyes. Therefore, tomorrow night, I want you to fix me the worst dish you know."

The next night, the young man served the king cow tongue. The king said, "What goes on here? Last night, tongue was the best dish in the world. Tonight it’s the worst. How can this be?"

"The difference is what you do with it, sire," said the young man. "Tongues make gossip, stir up trouble, and tell lies. Tongues are cruel and hypocritical. Therefore, tongue can be the worst dish in the world."

"Yes, I see. I also see that I need your wisdom in my court. I’ll get someone else to do the cooking."

Being awake literally means that we take care of ourselves through the five external senses, hearing, seeing, tasting, touch, smelling. We often falter in their use. Either we use them for our own pleasure or we use them to target someone who is against us. Our sins often are committed through our five senses in the first place, and then we commit them in our heart. If we can apply the wisdom of this little story to all the senses and to our entire being, I am sure we would be doing the right thing expecting our Saviour in our hearts for Christmas.

Recently, Vatican forgave John Lenon on 23rd November this year. He is one of the members of the Beatles group. He had claimed that the Beatles group was greater than Jesus Christ. Now they have come to know that they are nothing in comparison with Christ. Jesus did not organize concerts; he was just like a man like me and you. He came to save us all. Never did he work for his own popularity.

Today's readings touch upon a number of spiritual issues. They reveal to us that God is faithful, His Word being unchanging. They teach us the end result of righteousness. They tell us that although we presently dwell in our present sinful physical bodies that seek to oppose what is spiritual, we can still be blameless before God on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are all very powerful statements that deserve to be reviewed so that they may be understood.

But for those who turn their hearts away from the Lord, God treats them as children, disciplining them as a loving Father. [Heb. 12:8] Allowing all to enjoy their free will, the Lord permits them for some time to stray away from His ways, hardening their hearts so that they do not fear Him.

When some deliberately turn to sin, the Lord is angry. He hides Himself from them because they are like filthy cloths. Like a leaf, the sinners are taken away by the wind to fade away at a distance. Having turned from the ways of the Lord, no longer calling on His Holy Name, the sinners are left to their own iniquities.

Jesus said to keep awake, in the evening, or at midnight, or at the cockcrow, or at dawn. By this, He meant to be spiritually active and consistent. Do not take a break in your spiritual lives to relapse into sin. For that sinful moment may be the moment when you will be called and judged according to the actions of your heart at the moment of physical death.

Consider it similar to when you buy a house and have to make monthly payments. What happens if you miss a monthly payment? You lose your house! In His infinite grace, God patiently awaits for all to live according to His Holy ways, not suddenly calling everyone who misses on a payment. If He did so, He would not have any children left because we are all sinners, weak in the human nature.

Keep awake, means that we become conscious of ourselves. We need from time to time remind ourselves of the dangers that are around us. Just things happen. Some one dies of road accident, perhaps he/she never thought of it. Keeping awake in these times of uncertainty is necessary.

So often when I hear talk about Christ's coming, it is presented as though it is something to fear. Images of death, guilt and sinfulness leading to the awesome Judgement throne of a righteous God come to mind. Perhaps we very naturally think of it in terms of the days of our life having come to an end and the eternal night about to fall. But Paul's image is reversed. It is not the day that is about over - nor is it the darkness and evil of night that approaches. Rather, it is the night that is

about over and the dawn will come with a glorious day ahead. Are you sleeping yet? Wake up - walk with Christ - for the glorious day of the Lord is coming. 

It reminds me of a favorite story. There was a young deacon that had recently entered the ministry and was trying hard to develop a style of preaching without notes that he liked. He had worked hard on preparing his Advent sermon and the time had come for delivering it. But shortly after he began he found that he had forgotten what he was planning to say. He knew that the main point was to emphasis that Christ was coming soon, so he decided that he would just repeat that line in hopes that it would stir his memory. So he said; “He is coming so.” But it didn’t help - so he tried again; “He is coming soon!!!” Nothing. So after a dramatic pause he tried again - but this time he put his all into it, slapping his hands down on the pulpit and really leaning into it. “HE IS COMING SOON!!” Unfortunately, the pulpit was old and a little weak in some spots and it broke free and the deacon was thrown forward into the front pew right into the lap of one of the members sitting there. The deacon picked himself up and apologized to the woman. But she simply said: “Oh, it’s my own fault. I should have moved back right away. After all you told us three times that you were coming soon,” 

I guess for most of us there have been times in our lives when we have wanted to stay awake all night. It might be because we wanted to read or study, maybe because we were excited about something happening the next day or because we were on a long journey and travelling at night was more convenient, maybe because we had to work.  Whatever the reason it was sufficiently necessary or interesting to keep us wake.  Yet as the night drew on tiredness sets in and often we awaken in the morning with a book fallen to the floor or if driving need to pull over and sleep. I have not worked at night very often but I found the hardest time was 3-4 am when my eyes wanted to close and concentration was at its worst. 

I am sure we all remember the parable Jesus told about the 10 virgins, five of whom were wise and five who were foolish. All of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Though they all fell asleep the wise had at least prepared for the bridegroom coming, they had tried to remain alert and prepared before sleep (or death) overwhelmed them. 

Now our primary goal in life must be to keep our eyes firmly fixed upon God’s Kingdom and the things that we so dearly believe in.  Indeed he cry shall very soon come, as stated in the parable of the 10 virgins: 

"Here is the bridegroom come out to meet him!” 

Now Jesus said that upon his return, the angels would go out to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth.  What will our reaction will be then? Will we be alert and prepared? Shall we have thoughts of this life and what we are leaving behind, or shall we go with fear, yet joyful anticipation at the prospect of seeing our Lord at last.

Let us daily fix our eyes upon his coming Kingdom, for it will generate zeal to stay alert and striving to develop a character pleasing to the Lord Jesus. It has been a long night, the ‘bridegroom’ has tarried long and it is now almost dawn.  It is well worth just considering and meditating upon what us to come to help us remain awake.  Our Master will come, our hope is certain; as we read "Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and view a land that stretches far" Isaiah 33:17.  At that time there will at last be peace when the earth is ruled by a righteous King, God's righteous and just law going forth from Jerusalem.  We read that: 

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and no-one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” Micah 4:1-5.

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