Saturday, December 12, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C 2015:
This year during the season of Advent we are taking a closer look at the Mass.  I think this is a great way to spend the season of Advent.  This is a season where we contemplate the coming of Christ.  Not only his first coming, but also to prepare for the day when he will come again.  There is no better way to prepare for the coming of Christ than to worship and praise God here at the Mass.  That is because at this Mass, and at every Mass, Jesus comes here to us.  Last week we talked a bit about some things we can do to prepare for Mass.  Things like praying with the readings during the week before Sunday Mass, arriving early to spend a few minutes in prayer, seeing the Mass as an act of worship, a chance to give God thanks and praise.
This week, I want to think a little bit about the first half of the Mass.  It’s called the Liturgy of the Word.  At the heart of this part of the Mass is the reading of Sacred Scripture.  Catholics have a bad rap about the Bible.  How many of us really think that we know the Bible well?  It was actually pretty common some 70 years ago that Catholics were discouraged from reading the Bible.  The thought was that it was too difficult to interpret, so better off not reading it.  But, this is certainly not the teaching of the Church.  The Church encourages all the faithful to know the Bible well.  Because, through the Sacred Text of the Scriptures God makes himself known to the human race.
If you want to learn more about the bible, go to the Catechism at paragraph number 101.  There is a great description there of what we believe about the Bible.  We profess and believe that this Bible is no mere book, no mere history lesson.  Rather, the Bible is truly the Word of God.  This means that we hold that God is the author of the Sacred Scriptures.  Now, we also hold that humans acted as true authors.  But, through the miracle of inspiration, God employed human authors so that they wrote down all and only what he wanted, and did so without taking away human freedom.  It’s truly a wondrous teaching.  These are the words of human beings, but because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these are truly the words of God.  This is one of the greatest miracles of all time.  God inspired human beings so that he could talk to us directly.  Therefore, the Second Vatican Council states that the Sacred Scriptures contain the truth which God wished to reveal for the sake of our salvation.
No wonder the Bible is so important.  Contained in the Word of God is the truth that will set us free, it’s the truth that leads us to faith in Christ.  As St. John says so well in his gospel: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”  Isn’t that a great description of the Bible: the things written so that you might have faith in Jesus?
No wonder the Bible is an essential part of the celebration of the Mass.  By encountering the Word of God we are led to faith in Jesus Christ.  But, it is not a simple or automatic kind of thing.  The Bible doesn’t work like magic.  We can’t put the book under our heads and hope to learn more about God.  We have to read it, study it, wrestle with it.  We have to let the words of the Bible comfort us sometimes, like in our first reading: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”  Sometimes we need the bible to challenge and inspire us.  St. Paul prayed in the second reading: may your love increase ever more and more … so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.  I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point of being pure and blameless, have you?  The Bible tells us the story: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee.  But, it also calls us to something deeper: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,” for “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
The catechism states: “In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way.”  Think about that, in the Scripture, God speaks to us in words that we can understand.  At this Mass, and at every Mass, Christ comes to us, he speaks to us in the Liturgy of the Word.  If we open our ears, open our minds, open our hearts, each one of us will hear the saving truth that God wishes to speak to each one of us. 
And it really is God who does the speaking.  One time when I was at St. Matt’s I wrote out my homily just like I normally do.  But, as I was starting the second Mass I decided that I wasn’t too happy with the way that homily came out the first time.  So, I decided to scrap that homily and go with something else for that Mass.  And I have to say, that was a colossal mistake.  I kept putting my foot in my mouth, nothing came out like I wanted to.  After I sat down I thought “even I don’t know what I said, how were they supposed to get anything out of that.”  But, after mass a woman came up to me and said: “thank you so much, that was exactly what I needed to hear.”  I was tempted to ask her what she heard, but I decided to let it go.  It was God who was speaking to her.

My friends, God has a message for each one of us.  He speaks to us through the Sacred Scriptures.  I hope each one of us has a great relationship with the Bible.  I hope it’s a part of our daily lives.  I especially hope it is an important part of our worship here at Mass.  Because if we are listening, God will speak to us exactly what we need to hear.

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