Message: This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life - the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus.
This is our third Advent homily on Preparing Our Hearts. Last Sunday we learned We prepare our hearts for Jesus by repentance. Repenting can be a dramatic experience - accepting Jesus as personal savior, welcoming him into one's heart, making a sincere confession. We learned that repentance is a daily task. If we are not learning from our mistakes, if we are blaming others instead of accepting responsibility, then we start sliding back. We stop growing. A Christian disciple has to keep growing, preparing his heart for Jesus.
This Sunday I want to emphasize the seriousness of giving our hearts, our lives to Jesus. We can get drowsy, just kind of drift along. We can start thinking, well I always have tomorrow. A person can even think, maybe there's another life where I can have a second chance.
A lot of people believe in reincarnation and they go so far as to say that the New Testament teaches reincarnation. They point to Jesus' statement that John the Baptist "is Elijah, the one who is to come." (Mt 11:14) Therefore, they say, John is the reincarnation of Elijah. Today, however, when they ask John, "Are you Elijah?" he responds, "I am not."
So how do you reconcile the two verses? Jesus says John is Elijah and then John says he is not Elijah. Well, John is Elijah in the way Pope Francis is Peter. He fulfills the role of Peter today. Similarly just as Elijah called Israel to repentance so John calls his generation - and us - to repentance.
This call to repentance is urgent because this life is the one chance we have. Jesus and his followers tell us that after death comes judgment - and that the judgment involves two possibilities: heaven or hell.
I wish I could tell you not to worry, everything's going to be OK, you still have plenty of time, there will always be another chance. But if I tell you that, I would not be true to Jesus. When you hear him speak, you do not get a sense of leisure, but a sense of urgency. Consider the very first words in his public ministry, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel."
Jesus picks up the message of John. Repent. This life is serious. It's your one chance. Take it. Prepare your heart for Jesus.
John not only preaches repentance but he illustrates how we prepare our hearts. That preparation has two steps. The first involves giving of self. John had great talents - preaching, study, prayer, simplicity of life and fasting - and he invested those talents for his people. John's investment made him the greatest man of his generation. He is the last and greatest of the prophets. Jesus says, "no man born of woman is greater than John." The Jewish historian, Josephus, has a paragraph on John the Baptist, describing him as a crucial figure. And in the Acts of the Apostles we see that he had followers as far away as Ephesus in modern Turkey. This fame indicates John's self gift. You and I will probably not achieve fame, but please God we will follow John's example of investing all.
John exemplifies something else, a second step we must take after making that effort to give all. That step is humility. When you think about it, humility is the best gift we can give. If I give then start bragging about or if I give with strings attached, I will cut myself off from others - and from God. John represents beautiful humility. He was the greatest man of his generation, yet when he Jesus came he said "I am not worthy to untie...his sandal strap."
This is tricky business. Humility does not mean hiding ones gift or worse burying them. It means giving all then acknowledging the truth - anything you and I could give (even if we had Bill Gates' fortune, Einstein's brilliance and Blessed Mother Teresa' service to the poor) all that pales when we stand in front of Jesus - like a grain of sand:
At World Youth Day 2013 I spent a night on Copacabana Beach with about a million young people. It's a huge area. Well, in relation to Jesus we are like a speck of sand: small in ourselves, but part of something glorious. John the Baptist shows that we must deposit that sand crystal and then praise God that we have joined ourselves to something - someone - incomparably great.
This Sunday we see the seriousness of this life - the one opportunity we have to prepare our hearts for Jesus. And we prepare our hearts by St. John's example of self-giving and humility. Next week we will see an even greater example of humility, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Humility enables us to rejoice always, in all circumstances. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in God is the joy of my soul." . Amen.
Preparing Our Hearts Week 1:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 2:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 3:
Preparing Our Hearts Week 4:
From Archives (Third Sunday of Advent, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New Episodes*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru