SOLT Christmas Novena: This year the usual novena of 9 Masses will be said beginning on Christmas Day. If you would like to enrol somebody in the novena you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, the number of cards requested and when known, the names to be included in the novena. Recommended donation is €3/£3 per card which will cover mailing. Proceeds benefit the training of SOLT seminarians and the SOLT sisters’ missions.
This was my homily for today.
I am regularly asked about how a Kerryman shows up in Donegal. Depending on the time I have, I explain that I belong to a religious order based in Texas, USA. Since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 I’ve had to stay in Ireland because of health insurance and also being able to live with my sister when necessary. My superior knew Bishop Boyce and this led to me being placed here.
Once Mother Teresa was similarly asked about where she was from and doing, etc. She said: “By birth I am an Albanian, by citizenship an Indian. I am a Catholic sister. By my mission I belong to the whole world, but my heart belongs to Jesus alone.”
I tell you that because it sums up the whole Christian journey – our hearts belonging to Jesus alone. For most of us this journey will extend beyond this life and through the final purification (Purgatory) when we will be rid of all our attachments to lesser things.
Advent is a special season in the year when we work on this great project. As I said last week, the word ‘Advent’ is from Latin and means ‘coming’ – the coming of Christ. It is easy to identify two great comings of Christ. The first was 2000 years ago when he descended from the Trinity and became a little unborn baby within Mary, being born 9 months later. The final coming will be at the end of time and will herald the Final Judgement of mankind.
But there is another coming that I didn’t really understand until a few years ago in spite of having spend 6 years in the seminary and being in ministry for a considerable time. Jesus comes annually through GRACE each Advent/Christmas season to renew us spiritually, so that eventually our hearts will belong to him alone. But we have to COOPERATE with these yearly comings. God is very respectful of our freedom and never acts in our lives unless we consent.
So how do we individually cooperate with this annual coming of Christ, right here in this parish, this December of 2018? I want to consider 4 points taken from God’s Word for today.
FIRSTLY, a serious effort is required on our behalf. It is no trivial matter. In the gospel we heard John the Baptist announce at the time of Jesus’ first coming: “Prepare a way for the Lord… Every valley will be filled in… Every mountain will be laid low.” This speaks to us of some serious earth moving – knocking down mountains and filling in valleys. It is even bigger that the local Mountcharles roadworks. Correspondingly, we have serious ‘earth moving’ to do within because we are all affected by the apathy and inertia of the world around us. The common mood is “I’m OK and you’re OK!” We are told that there is no need for any of us to change and grow spiritually.
SECONDLY: How do we overcome this spiritual apathy and inertia within and outside of us? In the gospel we heard John the Baptist proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As the NIKE ad says: “Just do it!” We need to examine our lives in the light of the Holy Spirit using the sheet I mentioned last week – the one that takes us through the Ten Commandments according to modern living. Then we have to make it to Confession sometime before Christmas. Just do it!
THIRDLY: Preparing our hearts for Jesus isn’t just about avoiding wrong things prohibited by the Commandments. Christianity is all about a positive option, a life of self-giving love. In the second reading St Paul said the loved the Philippians as much as Jesus loved them. We all have people in our lives that we find it difficult to love and get on with. This week make a big effort to see in them the face of Jesus and that they are his beloved brothers and sisters. It will make a big difference in how we relate to them.
FOURTHLY: We need to know our Faith better. People who are in the ‘know’ say that this is a major weakness of Irish Catholicism . We are great when it comes to devotions – going to Lough Derg, climbing Croagh Patrick, making pilgrimages, visiting holy wells and Mass rocks, etc. These are great things to do but do not compensate for knowing how to live a Christian life in a secular world. People have all sorts of degrees and yet their knowledge of the Faith is limited to what they had in 6th class in primary school. St Paul said in the second reading: “My prayer is that you never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception of [the gospel].” This is my prayer for you too.
The quote I read earlier from Mother Teresa was taken from the YOUCAT catechism I mentioned recently. This is the best explanation of the Catholic Faith we’ve seen in the last 2000 years. Treat yourselves to a great Christmas present this year – it only costs €10 and is available online and from Catholic bookshops.
In summary: Jesus comes again each Advent and Christmas to renew us and so that our hearts can belong to him alone. To cooperate with this coming we need to make a serious effort to be faithful to the Commandments, to love generously like Jesus and know our Faith better.