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Advent II – Year A

ADVENT II – year A

In 1911 captain Robert Scott

and four other British explorers

set out on foot for the South Pole.

They travelled 800 miles

through deep snow and bitter cold.

A year later they reached the South Pole.

But on their return journey,

their glorious victory turned into bitter defeat.

Two men died along the way.

The other three froze to death

just a few miles from safety.

When the bodies of the men were found,

the last words that each had written

were still readable.

One of the men was Bill Wilson,

the doctor of the expedition.

Twenty years before,

Bill had attended Cambridge University.

His classmates nicknamed him “the cynic.”

He had a mean personality

and an even meaner tongue.

He once wrote these words to a friend:

“I know I am…proud…bitter…

insulting…and always selfish.”

On the polar expedition, “Bill the cynic”

Became “Bill the peacemaker.”

And just before he died,

Captain Scott wrote to a friend:

“If this letter reaches you,

Bill and I have gone on together.

We are very near it now;

and I should like you to know

how splendid Bill was…everlastingly cheerful

and ready to sacrifice himself for others.

His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope

and his mind is peaceful.”

Meanwhile, in his last hours Bill Wilson wrote:

“So I live now,

knowing that I am in God’s hands

to be used to bring others to him,

if he wills a long life…

or if I die tomorrow.

“We must do what we can

and leave the rest to him…

my trust is in God,

so that it matters not what I do

or where I go.”

The story of Bill Wilson illustrates

what today’s scripture exhorts us to do.

First, the gospel reading asks us

to take top heart the words of John the Baptist:

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

And second, Paul exhorts us

to live according to the spirit of Jesus, saying:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may, with one voice  glorify…God.”

Bill Wilson’s remarkable change

illustrates what the church urges us to do

during the season of Advent.

It urges us to “repent,

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

When Bill Wilson was at Cambridge University,

he never dreamed

how close the kingdom of God was for him.

He never dreamed that in 20 short years

he would be called by God

to give an account of his life.

And Bill Wilson’s classmates

never dreamed how much he would change

in those 20 short years.

The man who was proud, bitter and selfish

became a man

who was splendid, cheerful and self-giving.

The man who was known as “the cynic”

became the man

who was known as “the peacemaker.”

History is filled

with men and women like Bill Wilson –

men and women

who began life as selfish individuals

and ended life as loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that we to can turn from our sins

and become loving, generous people.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to do for us

what he did for them.

The lives of these people

remind us

that God wants to give us the same grace

that he gave them.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God had in mind for us

when he created us.

Advent is a time

when we recall

what God wants us to become.

Advent is a time

when we recall that God wants us

to make something beautiful of our lives.

Advent is a time

when we try to respond to God’s plan for us

as generously

as did men and women like Bill Wilson.

This is what advent is all about.

It’s the season that invites us to

take to heart,

the words of John the Baptist

in today’s gospel:

“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”

It’s the season that invites us

to take to heart Paul’s prayer for us

in today’s second reading.

Let’s close by repeating it:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement

grant you to think in harmony with one another,

in keeping with Christ Jesus,

that with one accord

you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Welcome one another, then,

as Christ welcomed you,

for the glory of God.”

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ADVENT I -Year A

Some time ago,
An interesting article was written
about simulators in a magazine.

It went something like this:

“I had never piloted a plane in my life.
so I was nervous when I took control
of a commercial jet in Miami
and prepared to fly to Washington DC.

“The trip was far more eventful
than I or my copilot had ever anticipated.

One engine did a flameout.
A fuel tank sprang a leak.
And the plane’s rudder kept sticking.

“But the real problem came
as we prepared to touch down for our landing
at Washington’s airport.
All of a sudden
it became obvious that the runway
was coming up at too steep an angle.

“Bam! We hit the runway hard, bounced up,
came down, and hit again.
My Copilot shouted at me to hold on.
Then he hit the brakes hard.
as he did, we came to a screeching halt,
just a few feet from disaster.

“My heart was pounding like a drum.
But then I began to relax.
I remembered that we had never left Miami.
We were in a flight simulator.
The experience was so vivid and real
that it took several minutes
to get myself back together again.”

The author went on to describe
the important role that simulators
are playing in modern life.

For example, hospitals simulate disasters
to see how doctors nurses and equipment
react to the over load of victims.

Schools simulate fires to find the fastest way
to evacuate several hundreds of children
from their classrooms.

The military simulates nuclear attacks
to find the most effective way to coordinate
planes, ships and submarines
in the event of such an unthinkable disaster.

It is against this background
that the Church wants us
to look on the season of Advent.
It wants us to treat it as a time of simulation.
It wants us to simulate
the coming of Jesus into our world.

And the coming of Jesus
that the Church wants us to simulate
is not just his coming on the first Christmas.
The Church also wants us to simulate
Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of time.

And it’s this Second Coming of Jesus
that the Church stresses
on this first Sunday of Advent.

So let’s turn our attention to it.
The first thing the Church tells us is
that the Second Coming of Christ
may be closer than we think.

Thus Paul says in today’s second reading:
“The night is advanced,
the day is at hand.”

The second thing the Church tells us is
that the Second Coming of Christ
will catch us by surprise. Matthew says:

“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know.”

Matthew concludes:

“So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour when you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Someone said
that the most dangerous day of our lives comes
when we learn the word tomorrow.
For on that day we begin to put things off.
On that day we begin to procrastinate.

On that day we begin to act as if
we have plenty of time to do whatever we wish.

William Barclay, the Scottish theologian,
tells the story of three devils
who were preparing to depart for earth
for their apprenticeship of deceiving people.

Before departing,
they each had an interview with Satan,
the chief of the devils.

Satan asked the first devil,
“And how do you plan to deceive people
and destroy them?”

The first devil said,
“I plan to convince them that there is no God.”

“And what about you?”
Satan said to the second devil.
“How do you plan to deceive people?”

The second devil said,
“I plan to convince people that there is no hell.”

“And what about you?”
Satan said to the third devil.
The third devil responded,
“My approach is going to be less intellectual.
I simply plan to convince people
that they have plenty of time
to prepare for death
and for the Second Coming of Jesus.”

Satan smiled and said to the third devil,
“Do that, my son, and you will deceive many.”

The point is that there area certain things in life
that we should never put off until tomorrow,
because we don’t know for sure
whether tomorrow will come for us.

This brings us to the big question
that the Church sets before us
on this first Sunday of Advent:
How prepared would we be to meet Jesus
if he were to come at this very moment?

If we had five minutes to prepare for death,
how would we use those five minutes?
Whatever we would do, that’s what
Church wants us to do in Advent.

 

Once there was an elderly woman
who used to sweep and clean her house
each night before she went to bed.
One night her husband said to her
“You’re very tired tonight.
why don’t you sweep and clean the house
in the morning?
No one’s going to visit us
in the middle of the night.”

His wife replied,
“My dear,
Jesus may come in the middle of the night.”
He may come for you or for me.
In any event,
I don’t want him to enter a dirty house.”

The elderly woman’s point
is in keeping with the spirit of Advent,
especially the spirit of this Sunday.

Her point is simply this:
we should be ready for death –
or for Jesus Second Coming –
at any moment in our lives.

Let us conclude with this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have not revealed to us
when you will come.
We only know that you will come.
When you do come,
may you find our souls swept clean
and ready for your arrival.
May you find us watching and praying,
ready to receive you.
Amen.

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ADVENT I – YEAR C

A recent front page story
in a city newspaper
told of a house that burned down,
killing five people.

What made the story especially tragic
was that the house’s owner
had been planning for two weeks
to install a smoke alarm.

The man told reporters that
it was something he kept putting off
because he was too busy
with other things.
Now five of his loved ones are dead.

That tragic story
hits close to home with all of us.

There are so many things
that we want to do,
but we keep putting them off –
for one reason or another.

There are mothers
who want to get to know their daughters better
but keep putting it off –
for one reason or another.

There are husbands
who want to get to know their sons better,
but keep putting it off –
for one reason or another.

There are husbands and wives
who want to deepen their relationship
with each other
but keep putting it off –
for one reason or another.

There’s a human tendency in all of us
to put things off.
But a closer look shows
that maybe that’s not the whole story.

A closer look shows
that perhaps our problem
Isn’t that of putting things off.
rather, it’s that of missing opportunities.

During those two weeks
when the man was planning to install a smoke alarm,
he probably could have found time to do it.
He simply missed the opportunities.

The same is true of us.
Our days are filled with missed opportunities,
to do things we want to do –
or ought to do.

Jesus has something to say about all of this
in today’s gospel.
Talking about his return at the end of the world,
He says of that all-important moment.

Jesus is warning us about getting so involved
with ordinary things of life
that we forget about
the more important things of life.

Jesus is warning us
about getting so involved with this life
that we forget about the next life.

Which life is more important –
the few years that we spewnd in this life world,
or the eternity of years
that we will spend in the world to come?

Be on guard! Watch! Pray!
These are three important instructions.

That’s why Advent is such an important season
in the liturgical year.

The word Advent means “coming”.
The word underscores Advent’s purpose.
It’s to make ready for the coming of Jesus.

And the coming we’re to make ready for
is not just the liturgical reliving
of Jesus’ first coming 2000 year ago.
It’s also the liturgical reliving
of his second coming at the end of time.

The season of Advent
is like the ancient Roman god Janus,
for whom the month of January is named.

He is depicted in art as having two faces.
One face looks backward into the past;
the other looks forward into the future
to his second coming.

And so today we stand at the midpoint
between these two great moments
in the history of the world.

Our job in Advent, therefore, is twofold.

First, it is to relive Israel’s anticipation
of the coming of the Messiah into history.

It’s to prepare for the celebration of Christmas,
when we relive the incredible moment
when Jesus returns in power and majesty
to take us with him
into the eternal glory
of his Father’s heavenly kingdom.

Blessed will you be,
if your can say, when Jesus comes,
“Welcome Lord.
after all these years
of watching and making ready,
it’s good to see you face-to-face.”

And blessed will you be
if Jesus can say to you in return,
“Welcome dearest friends.
after all these years of watching you prepare,
it’s indeed good to meet you face-to-face.”

This is the purpose of Advent.

It’s to make ourselves ready.
It’s to remind ourselves not to become so busy
with the affairs of this world
that we miss the opportunities God gives us
to be ready for the next world.

Let us close with a prayer
from the Red Cloud Indian School.
It sums up
the spirit of the First Sunday of Advent:
“Watch and make ready.”

“O Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me!
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

“Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset…

“Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.

“Let me learn the lessons
you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

“I seek strength,
not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.

“Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes.

“So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.

“Amen.” Author unknown

 

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