The Noise Stopped

(First Sunday of Advent, Year A)

Several decades ago the city of Pittsburgh had many steel mills which hammered day and night. The people near them got so used to the constant pounding that they slept through it. In fact, it lulled them to sleep. But one night an accident shut down a major mill. The pounding noise stopped. Everyone woke up.

Something like that needs to happen in our lives. We are surround by such noise and distractions that we have become like sleepwalkers. A recent study indicated the average American is exposed to three thousand ads a day: on billboards and benches, on the sides of packages and buses, in magazines and newspapers. The more passive (asleep) we are, the greater the ad’s impact. A couch potato has little sales resistance. For that reason TV spots command high prices while the Internet has yet to show a profit. The big exception is Internet pornography which of course is a world of illusions, of sleepwalking.

As we begin Advent, Jesus is telling us to wake up. In today’s Gospel he invites people to get ready for the Second Coming. However, he does not warn them about grave sins like fornication or blasphemy, but rather about being too busy. He reminds them how, before the Flood, "they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark." (Mt. 24:38) Those are normal, necessary, even laudatory activities - but they lulled people to sleep, a fatal sleep that rendered them unprepared when the deluge came.

For most Americans December is the busiest month of the year. The very busy-ness creates a dread which advertisers exploit. For example, they will offer a Caribbean vacation, without mentioning it involves days of hectic preparation.* Those of us with smaller budgets can take a trip to McDonald's because, after all, we deserve a break today. My favorite ad was the gal with a soothing voice who said, “Get away from the maddening crowds. Come to the Southcenter Mall!”

Surrounded as we are by deadening noise and distractions, there is only one thing which can pull us back to life - the same thing which woke up the people of Pittsburgh: silence. Genuine silence can profoundly turn ones life around. Allow me to give a personal illustration.

Over the years many people have asked me how I received the call to become a priest. I can sum it up in one word: silence. One sunny day in 1963, while trimming a flower bed, I heard God speak interiorly. I was overwhelmed with the realization that to be a priest was not just a theoretical possibility, but something I could do. This December I complete thirty years of priesthood. I have had my good days and bad days, my lazy days and crazy days, but I have always known this is what God wants me to do with my life. For me it began in a moment of profound silence.

Another man received his calling while alone in a garden. He was attracted to God, but always held back. For example, he prayed, “Lord, give my chastity, but not yet.” Then, in a moment of silence, Augustine heard a voice which said, Tolle et legge (take and read). At first he thought it was child and tried to tried to remember what game had the words, take and read. But when he realized he was completely alone, he opened the Bible and fell on the verse we heard in today's second reading:

"Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." (Rom 13:13).

When he read those words he made a complete turn around. Without reserve he dedicated his life to God, to following his law and explaining it to others. He in fact became the most influential teacher the Church has known. St. Augustine is represented in one of our stain glass windows holding his great work, Civitas Dei, The City of God.

This Advent we recognize our time is short, that the moment to wake up has arrived. At the conclusion of our prayers of the faithful we will bless the Advent wreath and light the first of four candles. Now is the time to seek out a place of true silence. One of the best is before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.


*Of course what attracts the vacationer is not "relaxation" but what Pascal calls diversion.

Spanish Version

From Archives (First Sunday of Advent, Year A):

2013: One Taken, One Left
2010: Please Hold the Applause
2007: Not in Promiscuity and Lust
2004: The Night is Advanced
2001: The Noise Stopped
1998: Late, But Not Too Late

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies

Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

Evidence for God's Existence from Modern Physics (MP3 Audio File)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Parish Picture Album

(November 2010)

Bulletin (Reflection on Cloning, Is Holy Family an "Hispanic Church"?)


Homily for Our Lady Of Guadalupe "Am I Not Your Mother?"

Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants: OK Within Bounds

Official Vatican Response to Cloning of First Human Embryo

Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)

Advice for Bloggers (from Dante Alighieri)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

(Pilgrimage to Molokai)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

KRA's & SMART Goals (updated November 2013)