Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Homily Second Sunday of Advent 2009

In the well-known 1977 Franco Zefferilli film Jesus of Nazareth
John the Baptist, expertly played by Michael York,
is shown crying out from the desert hills:
“Repent! Change your ways! The kingdom of God is at hand!”

At his proclamation, great crowds stream toward him,
arms outstretched as they beg for mercy
their hearts yearning for the baptism of repentance John has preached.

John baptizes them with water, calling them to change their hearts
and predicting that there is still one who is to come after him: the Messiah.

As he continues to baptize great numbers of men and women,
at one point we see him head on…and he looks up…
uncharacteristically for an actor he looks directly into the camera.
With the music escalating for effect, his eyes meet ours…as if we are there.
Then the camera turns and we see that he has noticed Jesus coming down the road
and the appearance of the divine face creates a solemn stillness.

But we have been struck.
John the Baptist’s eyes have pierced us…as if we were in the line for baptism…
with all the other sinners begging for mercy…and also with Jesus.

Indeed we are there…precisely there…in the midst of a great throng of sinners…
and in the company of Jesus our Savior.
John the Baptist is the last of the prophets,
who appears not for his own sake but to prepare the way for Christ.
He recalls the words of the prophets Baruch and Isaiah…
every lofty mountain shall be leveled
every valley shall be filled in
winding paths shall be made straight and rough ways smooth.

All flesh shall see the salvation of God…shall behold the face of the Messiah…
and the terrain of our human existence
shall be impacted and changed forever.

The impact of Christ's coming shall humble the proud…
shall raise up the poor and lowly…
shall bring mercy and love to smooth the hardness of sinful human souls.

Notice the details of Saint Luke’s Gospel account of John’s preaching…
and the similarities with the Christmas story.
The historical details are nearly overwhelming.
Luke records every name and city…every governor and civil jurisdiction…
lest we forget not only that this story is real…a spiritual watershed event…
but that it is also a moment that changed the course of the world’s story.

Our encounter with Christ changes us for good as well.
We are there…with the sinners…and in the company of Jesus.
Jesus invites us to repent of our sins
and He has left us the marvelous gift of the Sacrament of Penance
as the instrument of His divine love and mercy.
There is none here who does not desire to be freed form the burden of sin.

The Lord speaks through the prophet Baruch…
to Israel of old…and to the Church…the new people of God:
“Take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever…
God will show the whole earth your splendor.”

Each time we go to confession…
God’s love divests us of the heavy burden of the robe of misery
and replaces it with a garment of purity and splendor.

In confession we encounter Christ, who loves us, and who makes us whole,
who reveals our splendor as His sons and daughters to the whole earth.

The beauty of a cleansed and forgiven child of God
is a light that shines to the whole world…revealing the love of God.

God’s invitation to confess our sins is nothing to fear
but instead is a moment of grace to anticipate with eagerness, hope and joy
just as the crowds, wide-eyed, open-armed, and excited
longed to see the face of Christ.

Every week so many faithful people come to confession in our parish.
Would that we all shared in the joy of their encounter with the mercy of Jesus!

One of the great American Christmas traditions is A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I’m sure we have all seen it and can recall its numerous lessons for life and faith.

The struggling and insecure Charlie Brown is on a path to knowledge,
and his best friend Linus accompanies him,
revealing to him the real meaning of Christmas.
Once Linus recalls the Christmas story…
Charlie takes his sad little tree and sets off into the snow.
He takes an ornament from Snoopy’s prize-winning Griswold-style doghouse,
and hangs it on his little tree,
only to have the tree droop under its weight.
“I killed it,” Charlie says with sadness. Nothing goes well for him.

Linus comes along and declares: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.”
“Maybe it just needs a little love.”
With Linus’ blanket for support and decorations lovingly added by all the Peanuts,
Charlie’s tree stands tall and beautiful.

The crooked tree has been made straight.
The lowly tree has been exalted.
The sad and barren tree has been clothed in beauty.

The advent of Christ into our lives through His sacramental grace
smoothes the rough places of our hearts
lifts up our drooping spirits
and clothes us in the beauty of holiness
that we may be found pure and blameless on the day of the Lord.

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