Greetings my brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus. Observing your presence here today, the angels of Heaven must be rejoicing. Surely, their praises and songs must be echoing in Heaven. For the angels have great joy each time a soul repents and is saved by coming to the Lord Jesus. Your presence here today is a sign that the salvation of the Lord Jesus is being manifested in you by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The message from today's readings tells us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus. With the approaching of Christmas, the day when we will be celebrating the incarnation of God on earth, we are reminded how the people of the Old Testament waited for the arrival of Baby Jesus as the promised Messiah. Through the New Testament readings, we are reminded of the patience of the Lord in His second and final coming that will serve the purpose of our salvation, the Lord not wanting any to perish.
Travelling back through time, let us imagine that we were living in the days of the great prophet Isaiah. It was about 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Through the great prophet Isaiah, God was speaking to His people.
As Biblical history tells us, God's chosen people was not always faithful to Him. When the people lived righteously by obeying the Commandments, they received Divine blessings. When they lived in sin, they were punished. Now the day had arrived when God was revealing to those who lived in Jerusalem that they had served their term. They had paid double the penalty for their sins of unfaithfulness.
Through Isaiah, God told the people to prepare the way for His coming. They were not told when He would come, if it would be in a year, ten years or a hundred years. As Biblical history reveals to us, many generations went by before the Lord Jesus was born, in fact, about seven hundred years.
As John spoke symbolically in his writing of the Book of Revelation, God also speaks symbolically in what follows. The people were told that every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low. The uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. When studying ancient Scriptures, we learn that the word mountain is symbolic of people of high positions, those who are proud.
The words of Isaiah echo the words of the Virgin Mary in the Magnificat. "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly." [Lk. 1:51] These words also echo the words of Simeon to Mary when Baby Jesus was presented at the Temple. "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many shall be revealed." [Lk. 2:34-5] In other words, Isaiah's prophecy meant that the humble would be raised and the proud would be lowered. The first shall be the last and the last shall be the first.
Then, the people of Jerusalem were commanded to go to the top of a high mountain and to shout the good news, announcing the blessing that would originate from Jerusalem. What was the good news? "Here is your God!" The mystery of the incarnation of God was about to be revealed. "For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." [Col. 1:19, 2:9] God would be dwelling physically among His people. Through Christ, the promised invisible spiritual Kingdom of God would arrive on earth, starting in Jerusalem. [Acts 1:4, 7, 2:5]
In the First Reading, it was mentioned that the Lord God would come with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. Looking back in history, when did Jesus come with might? If we ask this question with a worldly heart, we will not perceive the answer for it takes a spiritual heart to know what is spiritual. [Rom. 8:5-7]
The might of the Lord came when His Kingdom was founded on earth. Throughout the New Testament, we find clues here and there as to the coming of the invisible spiritual Kingdom of God. In Luke 10:18, when the seventy disciples of Jesus returned from proclaiming that the Kingdom of God has come near [Lk. 10:9], they boasted of how the demons submitted to the Name of Jesus. Jesus answered by saying that He watched Satan fall from Heaven like a flash of lightning.
In Revelation 12:7, we read of the war that broke out in Heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. In Revelation 12:10-1, we are told that the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before God. He was conquered by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Revelation 11:15 further tells us that the Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah. Since the day when sin entered the world through Adam, the Kingdom of the world had become the Kingdom of Satan. The Lord Jesus came to reclaim His Kingdom. But this time, God's new Kingdom would be spiritual, consisting of the new creation that all receive through faith in Christ in the Church Sacrament of Baptism. Being born again in Christ and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are now able to call upon our Heavenly Father as children of God.
As Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is within you.'" [Lk. 17:21] Through the gift of the new creation, the new heart and human spirit that is bestowed upon man, the new Kingdom of God on earth is being populated. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have all become participants of the spiritual and invisible Kingdom of God.
Through our new creation and the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Lord gathers us as one in the Body of Christ, leading us through the mother sheep, [Is. 40:11] the Holy Catholic Church that has been instituted on earth by our Lord Jesus Christ.
When reading the Holy Bible, it is important to perceive that the Holy Scriptures speak of a progressive Kingdom of God. At present, the Kingdom of God is coming and has arrived. For those of us on earth who are walking our faith in Christ by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual Kingdom of God is coming. For our saintly brothers and sisters who have passed away and who are dwelling in Heaven, the Kingdom of God has arrived.
The final phase of the progressive Kingdom will come at the end of time as we know time, at the end of this physical world. Our old physical bodies will resurrect. Then we will all be judged according to our deeds on earth and our living faith in Christ. Those who persisted in their living faith for the glory of God, at the twinkle of an eye, they will be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Then, those who have lived holy lives will inherit the eternal Kingdom of God while those who have lived unholy lives, they will be condemned to their eternal damnation.
When will this last phase of God's Kingdom come? We do not know! In today's Second Reading, we heard St. Peter's warning. Do not ignore this one fact, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years. The Lord is slow, as some think of slowness, about His final promise of the eternal glory that His children will inherit. Why? Because the Lord does not want any to perish, that all come to repentance.
Frequently, we hear, 'Why is it that many good people die so young and the miserable ones live to be so old?' It is because the good people are ready to proceed to Heaven, their salvation being assured in Christ. As to the miserable ones, the Lord is not finished with them as of yet. They have not fully repented through the grace of the Lord. The Lord God is being very patient with them.
But when the Day of the Lord comes, the final phase of God's progressive Kingdom, it will be like a thief in the night. With a loud noise, the heavens will pass away and the elements will be dissolved with fire. Everything that has ever been done on earth shall be disclosed for all to know.
Since these things are to happen in this way, St. Peter asks us, 'What sort of lives should we lead?' We should lead lives of holiness and godliness in the hope of the coming of the Day of the Lord where according to God's Divine promise, in the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, righteousness will be at home for all those who inherit the eternal promise.
Remembering that everything will be disclosed, St. Peter tells us to strive to be known as peaceful people, without spot or blemish. He tells us to consider the patience of our Lord as the assurance of the salvation of many. In simple words, we should not be critical of the Lord's Divine Plan as to when all this will come to pass. It is sufficient to be happy that we have found our salvation in Christ and that we strive by our teachings and living example to assist in the salvation of those who Christ has put on our earthly path.
From the Gospel of Mark, we heard today that John the Baptist was the messenger who came ahead of the Lord Jesus to announce His public life. When John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness, Jesus was already born. But His public ministry had not begun as of yet.
The words of John the Baptist echoed the words of the great prophet Isaiah, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' After waiting for 700 years, the Jewish people were told that the moment had now arrived. Through the baptism of repentance that John the Baptism preached, the people were forgiven of their sins. Here we hear of the people confessing their sins. We see the foundation of the Church Sacrament of Reconciliation. The people were transforming their lives, becoming righteous in preparation to receive the Lord Jesus. Equally, when one receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he is made righteous in the eyes of God so he may receive Jesus in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.
Through the Church Sacrament of Reconciliation, one prepares the way for the Lord to come into his whole being. He cleans his soul, his mind, his heart, so his body may be suitable for the indwelling Divine Presence of the Lord God.
So great is the Divine Presence of the Lord Jesus that John the Baptist, as a sinner, felt unworthy to stoop down and until the thongs of His sandals. These words echo the words of Simon Peter who also perceived the Divine power of Jesus when he said, 'Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!' [Lk. 5:9]
Today's Gospel Reading finishes by telling us that while John baptized the people with water, Jesus baptized those He loves with the Holy Spirit. [Mk. 1:8] Through Christ, we are sanctified to become in His likeness, holy, righteous, obedient and submissive to God's Divine Will, shining in love towards others and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Our baptism in the Holy Spirit is ongoing, being reflected by our living faith in Christ, by our walking the path of Christ, by our patient endurance, by our bearing of the daily crosses that the Lord permits to come our way, and forgiving those who trespass against us.
By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, we allow all these things to happen to us so we may be spiritually transformed to prepare the way of the Lord. Weekly, we unite with our faith community as one to receive Christ in our lives through the Church Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Daily, we remain united in communion with Christ while patiently waiting for His glorious return when all what is seen shall come to an end. United in prayer for the lost souls, we rejoice that the Lord is delaying His final return as the assurance of the salvation of many who otherwise would not be saved. Our patience is credited to us as a sign of our love towards sinners, we wanting that all be saved by the grace of God the Father. For the Lamb of God died for all of us!
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Homily for Today
Taken from Catholic Doors