Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B: On Hope

December 4, 2011

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Isa 40:1-5; 9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8

“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2Pet 3:13).

One of the more notorious incidents in radio broadcasting is the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds, narrated by Orson Welles.  The producers of the program repackaged the H.G. Wells novel about alien invasion as a series of “newsflashes,” which they then played without commercial interruption.  The effect of this heightened realism was that a certain number of the radio audience became convinced that the end of the world was truly at hand.  Panic ensued.  Newspapers reported that a few even despaired—taking their own lives, it would seem, so as not to have to die.  Pope Benedict once alluded to this bizarre panic as evidence of an important rule about humanity: “We live much more on the future than on the present.  A man violently robbed of his future is already a man robbed of life itself” (Introduction to Christianity, 247 fn 39).  Our strength to live today, in other words, depends very much on what we expect from tomorrow.

Keenly aware of this link between present and future, the second reading today from 2 Peter exhorts us to present holiness precisely by recalling the sort of future that we await “according to his promise.”  2 Peter gives us 3 characteristics of this future: Read the rest of this entry »

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Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A

November 19, 2011

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Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 23; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of ordinary time.  The image of kingship and kingdom, like most of the images used to describe Christ, is rich and multifaceted.  All of today’s readings, however, either feature or allude to a certain dimension of Christ’s kingly power: his role as Judge.  Ezekiel, describing the Lord as a royal shepherd, reports that the Lord “will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats” (Ez 34:17).  The Gospel of Matthew makes the link between King, Shepherd, and Judge even clearer when it describes the Son of Man seated “upon his royal throne” (25:31) and separating the nations “as a shepherd separates sheep from goats” (25:32).  In the reading from 1 Corinthians, Christ does not separate any sheep, but he does destroy every “sovereignty, authority, and power” (1Cor 15:25) hostile to himself, so that “God may be all in all” (1Cor 15:28).  Christ, in other words, is judge of everything.

It’s no secret that the theme of judgment has always been central to Christian preaching and, therefore, to the Christian imagination.  For many nowadays, however, it seems to provoke only anxiety, and to have so little to do with the “Good News” of the Kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »