Quote for Today - December 7, 2013 - Saturday "Dealing in generalities is the death of prayer." J.H. Evans QUESTION: Can't we say the same of meetings and many conversations? Ooops! That's not specific.
The title of my homily is, “The
Kingdom of God Advents Within.”
Advent is a time for Jesus to come
to us in a new way.
Each advent, each Christmas,
hopefully, Christ is born anew in us in richer and better ways.
Don’t you love today’s first reading
– Isaiah 11:1-10?
Don’t you love the painting, “The
Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks?
When I go to see my sister Mary at Doylestown, Pennsylvania,
I have often gone to the MichenerArt Museum there and they
have one of the 61 renditions of The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks.
Edward Hicks was a Quaker and had
deep religious interests – two special interests were Peace and the Inner Light.
He saw good stuff in people – the
light of Christ shining in them. He also saw Quakers in division at times with
one another – the city with the rural, simplicity versus stuff,, etc. If he
heard Isaiah and Jesus correctly, the call is to be peaceful.
We have within us the lamb and the
wolf, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear. We can be catty or calm,
bearish and gentle, lone wolfish or gentle as a lamb. The choice is always
Edward Hicks, a coach painter,
turned painter, turned farmer, turned back to painter, preached with his
picture – figured things out with his painting.
We look at the scene and we see
ourselves. It’s a mirror. Is there peace in my belly? Is there peace in my
heart? Is there peace in my mind? Is the Kingdom of God
During Advent - in preparation for
Christmas - we bring out the lights - and we light up our homes - inside and
out. During Advent - in preparation for
Christmas we shop for gifts to give each other for Christmas. During Advent -
in preparation for Christmas we set up the manger - along with Mary and Joseph
and the animals - the shepherds - and the kings. Why not step back and wonder how I’m making
all these motions real - not just in symbol - but in reality - that we be
light, gift, and manger to receive Christ the Lord!
Edward Hicks paints a child with the
animals and the people of his day – hopefully working for peace – making the kingdom of God arrive not only in our homes, but in
The revelation – the message of
today’s gospel – is that we are the lucky ones – the blessed ones – for being
given these revelations from God about the Son.
Listen again to how today’s gospel
ends: Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that
see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did
not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
Edward Hicks made Isaiah and the
gospel very personal, very real, very relevant – when he showed faces of people
in his paintings. Some people seem to grow and glow in peace. The light of Christ shines
in their faces. Other people are like some of the animals in later pictures -
animals whose claws that have gotten sharper – and more dangerous looking.
We can change as we get older. Hopefully,
we change for the better and not the worse
– that is, becoming more cynical
and cruel. Hopefully, more and more of the light of Christ advents into us and
we vent the light of Christ out from us more and more.
Obviously, more light, more peace,
the advent of the kingdom, is one of the
key messages of Advent. Amen.
Painting on top:
Edward Hicks [1780-1849] - The Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1837 - at the Mercer Museum - The Michenor - Doylestown, Pa.
December 3, 2013 - Tuesday - Quote for Today "When I was young, I said to God, 'God, tell me the mystery of the universe.' "But God answered, 'That knowledge is reserved for me alone.' "So I said, 'God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.' "Then God said, 'Well, George, that's more nearly your size.' "And he told me." George Washington Carver [1864-1943]
Question: If God said to you - "I'll tell you about one mystery - what would be your quest?"
The title of my homily for this First Monday in Advent is, “Branches! Signs of Hope!
Every once and a while
- while walking - I’ve spotted small branches - branching out of sawed
down tree. I stop and think to myself: “Interesting!” or “Wow!” or “There’s
always signs of hope around.”
THE PROPHET ISAIAH
If you read the words - better - if you look at the images -
slide shows of verbal pictures - in the
book of the Prophet Isaiah - you’ll spot great signs of hope.
The wolf is the guest of the lamb …. The cow and the bear become neighbors …. Weak
knees become stronger …. The lame leap like a stag…. Buds blossom …. Deserts
bloom …. Roads appear …. Crooked ways
become straight …. - Branches appear on
In today’s first reading from Isaiah 4: 2-6 - we have the
image of the branch - one of these wonderful images from Isaiah. They hang like
ornaments on the evergreen tree called Advent. Spot them and you spot hope.
Isaiah promises for survivors that they will find fruit -
the fruit being honor and splendor - after a time of suffering in Jerusalem. There will be
shelter and protection on MountZion - like finding a shade tree on a hot day - or
place to duck into in a storm - when it’s raining and pouring.
TODAY’S GOSPEL -
MATTHEW 8: 5-11
Jesus spots hope in the words and sentiments of a centurion - whom Jesus says
has more faith than those of his own people. He says to Jesus, “Just give me
your word and that’s enough for my servant to be healed.”
THE CALL TO BE
SIGNS OF HOPE
The title of my homily is, “Branches! Signs of Hope.”
Is that our call?
Aren’t we who are local branches on the tree called
Christianity, called Church, called Christ - called to branch out to others -
to give others words and signs of hope?
Take some time to look at our own life.
Who have been examples of hope for us?
What have been the signs of hope we have spotted.
Two people stopped to tell me after Sunday Masses yesterday
that their spouses got good news - that the cancer is in remission for one and
cut out for the other. A lady with gray scraggily hair on her head - after
losing it all from chemotherapy said, “Look at my hair! It’s come back and it’s
not going to be gray for long!”
People who have lost a loved one often tell me about
something that happens that gives them a smile on their face and hope in their
brain: the sky is different - something falls off a book shelf - a bird is on
the branch of a backyard tree - and for some reason this helps them say that
it’s okay now. “It’s okay now!”
My brother told me once that he missed Sunday morning Mass
so he went to another church for a Sunday evening Mass. The place was at a
distance. He sat down. Sometime during
the Mass spotted one of his daughters in front of him - all by herself - at
that same Mass.
Surprise. He said it was quite a surprise.
We are people who are often looking for signs of hope - some
sign that branches out of nowhere - or somewhere - where there has been hurt or
And praise God when we get these signs.
And praise God when we are these signs of hope for others. Amen.
December 2, 2013 - Monday - Quote for Today "I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly, because they are surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable." Robert Rauschenberg [1925-2008] Title of art object above: Rare Ceramic Sculpture
The title of my homily is, “Judgment Day: The Deep Down Uh
The gist of my homily is that we all have “Uh oh!” judgment moments. They are feelings that bubble up from time to time from up out of our gut - from our deep down inner self. Without knowing it, our
subconscious is working on and wondering about our past. We are moving around memories and
moments - like peas on a plate - with our fork. We wondering about our life: what we’re doing or not doing - or what we
did with this gift of life that we’ve been given.
THE SEASON OF
We start the season of Advent this Sunday. One of the
major themes that Advent triggers is not just the first coming of Christ - Christmas - the tree, Bethlehem,
the Stable, the giving of gifts - the singing of the great hymns, Silent Night and Adeste Fidelis - but it’s also a call to look at the Second
Coming of Christ. Compared to Christmas - the First Coming of Christ - this Second Coming is something we are not that familiar with.
If we read and listen to the Advent Readings - as well as
the readings at the end of the Church Year - we hear the big fear of the Early
Christians - that Christ was coming - and coming soon - and the world was about
to end - and there would then be the Great Judgment.
But when? Was it soon and very soon or later and later?
Surprise! Like some sermons - the ending wasn’t happening!
Surprise! Because it wasn’t happening, they had to rethink the message they thought
they got from Christ.
Fortunately, some rethought that message before the
Scriptures were closed - and so we have
their comments in the New Testament as well.
And a key re-thinking
message is that of the delay. We hear about delays in the parables about the
Bridegroom or a King or the Owner of a vineyard - all of whom are coming for judgment or
wanting to see a return on their coins or vineyard.
Each story has the message of not knowing when he’s going to
show - like a thief in the night. Each
story stays there’s going to be a delay and we don’t know when he’s coming - or when the show is going to end.
So we have the key, key words in Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour no one knows,
neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
Yet in the history of the world there have been many
predictors of the End Times. It’s now
2013. The curtain hasn't closed yet. After hearing so many false predictions, we can assume we don’t know when
the world is going to end.
The evening news the other night talked about the ISON comet
that was going by our planet this late November. [Cf. morning of October 8, 2013 above picture of ISON] It was described as a giant snowball - made
up of frozen gases, rocks and dust, several miles in diameter. It said it wasn’t going to hit our
precious planet - the earth. It was described as a baby comet - that is, an object with
a photometric age less than four comet years. I have no idea how long a
comet year is - but then the news report said in contrast that our solar system is 4.6
billion years old.
That was then. I've also read that we have billions and billions of years
to come. So who knows when this earth will end. Maybe we'll be smashed by some
unknown mass that roars into us - from out of nowhere - in some unknown future - and that's it for good old planet earth? Hey you never know
That’s the object called the earth and the stuff in space. They have a long shelf life so far and it seems a long shelf life to come. What about this subject called me? How long am I going to last?
So my first however
is that I sense that there is in each person a worry - a deep down worry -
that my end - my crash - my death - could suddenly hit me - like today. Hey, you never know.
So we kiss each other when we go out the door or the other
goes out the door. So we hold onto the
arm rest of some chairs more than other
chairs: like that of a plane or in a doctor’s office.
And my second
however, is that I sense that in each person there is also a worry, a deep down “Uh
oh!” worry - that God is a big time judge.
These two worries - these two thoughts - these two uh oh feelings - hit us from time to time
- but for most not at Christmas time. Christmas time is “Joy to the World”
time. It’s the Lord has Come time - and the Lord is a tiny baby in a manger -
not a finger pointing Judge from on high.
Yet the end of the world and Second Coming - and the
Judgment - and the Reckoning themes - are part of the Advent Season. TODAY'S READINGS By the way that's the Genesis of this homily!
We heard it loud and clear in today’s readings - with
references to the Great Flood in Noah’s time. Those people were not ready.
Those people were partying. “… the flood came and carried them all away.” We heard Jesus say to us in today's gospel that when the
Son of Man comes: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one
will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and
one will be left.”
Then there are the big time warning signals. Every tornado,
hurricane, typhoon, tsunami, terror
bombing, plane or helicopter crash - sends this same message. Those are uh oh moments.
When those messages appear on our news reports, the judgment messenger wakes up in our
subconscious - and rubbing its eyes and wearing pajamas, it walks into our
kitchen or our living room and says, “It’s uh oh! time. Look at your time and your life!”
The scriptures back up this reality big time. Read the 3
parables in Matthew 25 from time to time - especially the 3rd
Parable - that at the end of the world - we will be all led before the Son of
Man and we will be sorted out. We will be judged to be either a sheep or a goat
- depending on whether we cared for others
- whether we reached out and helped our neighbor in need.
TWO QUOTES ABOUT
THE NOW OF JUDGMENT MOMENTS
Here are two quotes from two existentialist philosophers.
The first is from Albert Camus [1913-1960]. It’s found in
his book: The Fall [La Chute]  : “I shall tell you a great
secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.”
The second is from
Franz Kafka [1884-1924]. It’s found in his Letters. Quote in Max Brod: “Our own concept of time makes it possible for
us to speak of the Day of Judgment by that name; in reality it is a summary
court in perpetual session.”
Existential thinkers often think about the angst and agita
in the middle of daily living - those feelings at funerals or when our kids go
off the deep end or when we hear of cancer or even when we see all those people
crunching outside the big stores on Black Thanksgiving Evening or now Gray
Friday - ready to run in and grab a shopping cart. We wonder: "What's that all about?"
We hear the song, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it only
for a moment that we live?”
24 MORE SHOPPING
DAYS TO CHRISTMAS
We begin thinking about what am I shopping for? What am I
looking for? What do I want? How many
more shopping days do I have till I drop?
Is this world a gigantic store - with its many aisles -and so much to choose?
Is every person walking around with a shopping cart - and every once and a
while we go to the check out counter - and we find out how much what I’m
shopping for and buying costs.
I remember a priest telling the story about how he was
visiting his sister and he felt guilty doing nothing - just sitting around - so
he said, “Can I do anything to help?”
She said, “Could you run down to the supermarket and get a few things for me?”
He said, “Gladly.”
It was 9 items. He gets them all and puts them in the
shopping cart - and on the way to the check out counter he adds two more items.
He sees only one person at the 10 items or less check out counter. He’s about
to put his 11 items on the counter when the check out person looks at them and
says, “You have one item too many. You have to go to the other check out
He bites his tongue. He stops. He walks out the store as is
- and goes to another store. Could we do that with our life?
What’s in our wallet?
What’s in our shopping cart?
How much does what we have gathered cost us or is going to
Obviously we have in our shopping cart people - spouse -
family - children - relationships.
And we have a lot more. I just lost 2 family members so a
quote from Eugene O’Neill - the American playwright grabbed me: “The dead! Why
can’t the dead die!” Are we carrying stuff that's making our cart too heavy to push? It could be deaths or disasters - regrets or resentments - you name it.
What’s in our shopping cart. What’s in our heart?
Obviously, any time is a good time to judge our contents -
what we’re carrying - thinking about - worrying about.
Obviously, Advent and Christmas time is a good time for
judgment - even though it’s the big Christmas rush time.
In fact sometimes the best time for judgment and change is the time
of the biggest rush and crush of life and time.
Isn’t that what Paul is saying in today’s second reading
from Romans. "Now is the time - now is
the hour to wake up - now is the time to throw off the works of darkness and
put on the armor of light. Now is the time to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and
make no provision for the desires of the flesh." That reading - that passage in
Paul’s Letter to the Romans - changed Augustine’s life when he read it in a
garden once - and like that priest in the supermarket - he just upped out of the life he was leaving - left everything he was shopping for - and started a new life elsewhere.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah also tells us about
change. What can I change in my life? What can I melt down? What weapons do I
have to take out of my shopping cart? Well, I can melt down gossip words and make my words
- words of love. I can melt down my wasted time - and use my time to make another’s
day - each day - by presence, presence, presence - not just presents, presents, presents.