Posted November 4, 2010
Book: Preach the Word: Homilies on the Sundays and Feasts of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite
Author: Kenneth Baker, SJ
St. Paul’s. Staten Island, NY. 2010. Pp. 210
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
The seventy-five homilies found here cover each of the Sundays and several of the major Feast days of the liturgical year and were composed specifically to assist those priests who occasionally or regulary celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin according to the 1962 Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The number of such celebrations has been increasing by the year especially since the appearance of Summorum Pontificum, the Motu Proprio issued by Pope Benedict XVI in July 2007. It is the hope that these brief homilies will be helpful not only to priests but also to members of the laity who follow the Mass closely as well as to those attentive readers who hear God’s word proclaimed in each Sunday liturgy and are eager to delve more deeply into its meaning.
An Excerpt from the Book:
First Sunday of Advent
Readings Romans 13:11-14; Luke 21:25-33
Prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord
The season before Christmas is called “Advent,” a word which means “Coming.” During this time the Church calls on us to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the feast of Christmas when God became man as a little child in Bethlehem. The time of Advent is four weeks of spiritual preparation for the coming of our Savior.
During Advent we celebrate three comings of Jesus Christ: 1. In love and humility at Bethlehem 2000 years ago, 2. In grace in the sacraments now; 3. In power and glory at the end of the world. During this time the Church urges us to pray more fervently, to repent for our sins and to do some penance, to cleanse ourselves so that we will be more receptive of his coming. This preparation should be both internal and external, but primarily internal. The result of his coming is his presence in our souls by grace which effects an intimate union with us in knowledge and love.
Preparing ourselves for Christmas is like preparing our home to receive guests. Just as we prepare carefully for guests who will come for a Thanksgiving dinner, so also the church urges us to prepare our souls for the coming of Christ. During Advent we prepare for his coming to us with his grace, we prepare for our own death when he will judge us, and we prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of the world when he will appear in glory as both our Savior and our Judge.
Last Sunday, which was the 24th Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we read from St. Matthew’s Gospel in Chapter 24 about the Second Coming of Christ, the end of the world and the final or General Judgment. There Jesus revealed certain signs of the end: persecutions, turmoil among nations, disruption of nature in the heavens, and the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds “with great power and majesty” to judge all humankind.
Some of that is repeated today, with emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ. In his First Coming at Bethlehem he came in humility and meekness and remains with us in a hidden way in his Church, especially in the sacraments. In his Second Coming he will come with power. The Father has appointed him as our Judge — he has power to send us to Heaven or to Hell, depending on our merits.
Notice the stark contrast: In Bethlehem he comes as a loving, helpless infant Savior; at the end he is the awesome Avenger of man’s sins and rewarder of good deeds. Why does the church present such a view to us today — two events that are so different?
By having us think of Jesus as our future judge, the church wishes to stir up a holy and salutary fear that will turn us from sin and help us prepare our hearts as a worthy home for him. In divine things, fear prepares the way for love, and we better appreciate our redemption when we consider the fate from which redemption is intended to save us, namely, eternal loss of God and damnation, which means everlasting misery.
At the beginning of Advent the thought of judgment is salutary because it restrains us from the commission of sin. Note what the wise man says in Ecclesiastes 7:40: “In all thy works, remember your last end, and you shall never sin.” The thought of judgment and final accounting for our lives spurs us on to the practice of the highest virtue, to prayer and good works. St. Paul refers to this in today’s Epistle when he speaks about the contrast between darkness and light: “Let us walk becomingly as in the day . . .Put on the Lord Jesus Christ”; “put on” here means to imitate him and to love him. Now God gives us the time to do that.
Time, just like our life, is a gift from God. We should use it wisely to work out our salvation in fear and trembling as St. Paul says. For, our eternal destiny depends on how we use our time. When we die the time of merit in the eyes of God comes to a close.
Time is a type of motion; it has a beginning, middle and end. God gives each one of us time to become a saint. The length of man’s life is threescore and ten years — and 80 years for those who are strong according to Psalm 90:10. For us eternity has a beginning when God created us, but it has no end. We begin our lives in time, but we end them in eternity — either in perfect happiness or perfect misery — forever. God is eternal by his essence and time reaches its purpose and perfection in eternity.
In the first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes the wise man tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This fear means awe, reverence and respect for God. Such fear is called “filial fear”; it is the fear a son has of not offending his father, rather than the servile fear of a slave. It helps us to keep our eyes focused on our last end. It is not so much a fear of punishment as it is a fear of sin and our own weakness. With the help of filial fear we will be able to overcome tmeptations, which all are subject to, to reject sin and to practice virtue — especially love of God and love of neighbor.
Let us pray today that Christ will come into our hearts in a more intimate way during this Advent so that we may be prepared to meet him with confidence when he comes — and he may come to some of us sooner than we think. Advent is also a time to make a good confession if you have not done so recently.
The Lord has come with love at Bethlehem, he is coming with his grace in the sacraments, and he will come again in glory and power. We need to thank him, to welcome him, and to prepare for him. The beautiful season of Advent helps us to do all three. God bless you.