Tag Archive: advent

3acHomily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Third Sunday of Advent – Year C

15 December 2012 – 4.15pm

(Readings: Zeph 3:14-18;  Is 12;  Philippians 4:4-7;  Lk 3:10-18)


As we come to pray this weekend we are conscious of the tragic shooting in Connecticut where 26 people were killed, including 20 children.  We ask God to console the mourning families and friends of the deceased, and for God “to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love” (Benedict XVI’s message).  The words of the prophet Zephaniah in our first reading seem apt: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.  The Lord, your God, is in your midst …”

In the midst of those thoughts, the Liturgy of the third Sunday of Advent calls us to Rejoice in the Lord always.  At first this has to appear anachronistic.  How can we “rejoice” in the face of such tragedy?  At any time, there are so many things that could mitigate against joy.  So, how then can we rejoice and be joyful in the midst of difficulties and sadness?

As our thoughts turn to Christmas, we consider the Holy Family.  When we look at Our Lady and Saint Joseph setting out for Bethlehem, they don’t appear as a totally fortunate family.  Mary is about to give birth, and they undertake this journey to Bethlehem, without any certainty of where Mary is going to give birth.  After the birth of Jesus, they become refugees: forced to flee the murderous envy of a tyrant.  Having Our Lord himself as their child didn’t magically take them out of harm’s way;  it didn’t free them from the ordinary and extraordinary troubles of life.

And yet we’d have to say that Mary and Joseph were joyful and that they rejoiced.  Why?  Because they loved each other, they helped each other, and because they were certain that God was at work in the story of their lives.  Nothing can take those things away – no hardship, difficulty or present suffering.

In the past few days a nice reflection I saw recounted a man reflecting on his childhood.  Whenever scenes of a tragedy would come on the television, we know how distressing it can be to adults, but how much more so to children.  But he recalled his mother always saying when some horrible tragedy was being reported: Look for the helpers.   There’s always people helping.

Rejoice in the Lord always …. the Lord is near.  Christian joy is not reached only in heaven – where there will be no more suffering.  And here on earth, Christian joy does not mean the absence of pain and trouble, otherwise it would be completely elusive.

Christian joy rests on certain fundamentals.  The belief that – no matter what – the Lord is with us, that he is near.  Even when we forget that, or when we turn away from the Lord, his grace reaches out to us to bring us back.  The Lord is near!

Christian joy rests on the belief that God is doing something in the story of our lives.  All things work together unto good for those who love God.  Even when we are perplexed at how things turn out, God has a good outcome in mind.

Christian joy rests in the belief that love is more powerful than anything else.  In case we forget we remember that God is love.  God loves us with a love that never fails, and we share in that love when we love others.  This love shines as a light in the darkness.  No matter what the circumstances, no matter how much darkness there might be, we can always love and show love.  And that light shines, a light that the darkness can never overcome.

If we are to know Christian joy, we have to remember the object of our joy.  Rejoice in the Lord always.  It’s not just anything that we rejoice in, but we rejoice in the Lord.  Mary and Joseph knew true and deep joy because the Lord and His will was the centre of their life.  They had his love in their hearts;  they knew they were loved by him;  they knew the Lord was working his purposes in the story of their lives.  With that knowledge, they could rejoice and be joyful, even with difficulties, uncertainties, dangers.

It’s a nice custom – as we set up our Christmas cribs – to leave the manger empty until the Feast of the Nativity.  The empty manger encourages us to lift up to the Lord the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  Come and be born in our hearts.  Come and take centre stage.  Come and be the love that animates my life, the light that shines through my actions, the truth that sets me free.

Come, Lord, Jesus, help me to rejoice in the Lord always!

2acHomily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday, 8 December 2012 – 4.15pm

Second Sunday of Advent – Year C

(Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Ps 126; Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6)


The last parish where I was assigned was a growing parish.  It was still in the process of being subdivided for the houses to be built.  One of the roads I used to drive along frequently was a bit of a ‘goat track’ – winding, up and down hills, through the bushland.  By the time I left the parish, the tops of the hills had been chopped off, the ‘dips’ were filled in, and the trees were gone.  You now drove along a wide, more-or-less straight road.  It was now ideal for all the people that were going to pass along it as the houses were built.

As the transformation of that road took place I used to think of the Advent scripture readings that we’ve just heard.  The prophet Baruch says, For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.  Saint Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.

In the first instance, this leveling of mountains and the making of level grounds looks forward to when God’s people will be led out of captivity to freedom.  It speaks of the time when they will be freed from all that oppresses them, and they’ll walk safely, following the Lord.

In the Psalm, what God has done for his people in the past is remembered, and this gives hope and faith that God will act again, to restore his people.  God’s people will “come home with shouts of joy” along the path that has been made smooth.

Advent is a time of joyful longing.  Not just a wistful optimism, but a longing firmly grounded in what God has already done for his people.  God acted for his people so many times, as recounted in the scriptures.  Above all, God sent the Son into the world.  He has done even what seems impossible: Mary was conceived immaculately, without any stain of original sin;  Mary herself conceived Our Lord by the Holy Spirit while still a virgin;  Our Lord raised from the dead following his passion.  God does the impossible!

As we look at our own lives, what mountains are there that block us?  What rough and treacherous paths are we navigating?  What dark valleys are we stuck in?  It may seem impossible for life to be any different than it now is, but God has done the impossible, and will do it again!  This is our Advent hope.  There are, indeed, valleys to fill, mountains to move, and paths to smooth in our lives, but God can and will do great things for us!

It’s not just ourselves who will walk on these smooth paths created after laying low mountains and filling in valleys.  As Saint Luke says, we are to prepare the way for the Lord.  This recalls that we co-operate with what God will do.  God is gracious in that he doesn’t force us, he doesn’t overpower our own will.  He waits for us to open the door.  And then in mercy and tenderness he does the amazing.

The first step in God doing what seems impossible in our lives is for us to desire it!  Before we speak a word, or do anything, our holy desires are themselves beautiful, pure prayers.  Next we need to ask God to do the impossible.  And then, we need to do something to open the door to God.  We have the saying, “give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.”  In a positive way this applies to the Lord, give Him a bit, give Him an opening, and he’ll do more than we could even imagine.

The Lord wants to come and make his home among us.  Just as he came and “pitched his tent among us” in the Incarnation, the Lord wants to dwell in our hearts.  He wants all flesh [to] see [His] salvation – to know his healing, grace and peace.

May Advent hope inflame the desire of our heart to long for the Lord to come, to fill the valleys of darkness in our lives, to move mountains that block us from life, and to make smooth the rough, lonely and treacherous paths we walk.

Come Lord Jesus!  May we hear the glory of your voice in the joy of our hearts.

The Annunciation, Caravaggio

Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday 17 December 2011 – 4.15pm

[Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16;  Ps 89;  Rom 16:25-27;  Lk 1:26-38]


In these final days of Advent, the Church’s liturgy draws us more deeply into the original Christmas … and in tonight’s Gospel we have the annunciation scene, nine months before Jesus was born.  We consider the extraordinary thing that Mary was asked to do.

When we think about those occasions when some request is made of us, sometimes its fairly easy to say, ‘no.’  Particularly if the request is outlandish … but even when it’s not outrageous, sometimes we can be asked to do something that is clearly beyond us – clearly beyond out capabilities.  It’s fairly easy to say, ‘no’ to those sorts of requests.  “No, sorry, I can’t do that.”  Other things are more within our capabilities, and so we have to weigh up, am I going to do this or not.

When the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and told her that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit, a son who would be called Son of God – I’m sure most of us being asked anything remotely like that would say: “No way, that’s out of the question!”

And yet, we know Mary’s response: Here am I, – she said – the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.  Mary shows an attitude of hospitality.  She makes room for the Lord.  She opens herself to receive the Lord … in her own body she prepares a place of welcome.

In God’s design, Mary was immaculate … she was not encumbered in any way with sin, and so she is able to fully put her freedom at the disposal of God’s plan.  We are as free as Mary was to accept God’s will, the difference for us is that we are encumbered by our sins.  Its our selfishness that closes us … that turns us in on ourselves … that doesn’t make us want to prepare a place for the Lord in our lives.

This lack of hospitality is seen in the first Christmas in that element of the story when Mary and Joseph can’t find room where she could have her child.  Eventually someone makes room for them, even if it’s where the animals slept.

As we consider this idea of making room for God, of preparing a space to welcome him, we should remember that just a few weeks ago in the Sunday Gospels Jesus painted the scene of the final judgement.  He said that the good and the bad that we’ve done to other people, we have done to him, himself.  What we do to others we do to God.  If we make a space for others in our life, we make a space for God.  If we are inhospitable to others, we are inhospitable to God.  And Jesus’ own words tell us that there are eternal consequences for that.

As we look at the nativity scenes on display in churches and other places, we look at the infant in the manger.  We might perhaps think that its easy to welcome a baby.  But we know that that’s not true … its not always easy to welcome a baby – why else, tragically, would so many abortions occur?  And if its difficult to welcome innocent human life in the form of a defenseless baby, incapable of causing any harm to us … how much more difficult is it to welcome God when he comes to us in the form of our neighbour who irritates us;  when he comes to us in the guise of the person who offends us, of those who ignore us or even oppose us.

Making space for the Lord in our lives is no small challenge!  First we have to repent.  Our sin closes our hearts and makes us inhospitable.  It makes us unable to recognize when God is drawing near.  We need our saviour to come to us to free us from that sin – to heal us, and to open us.  Our saviour, redeemer and healer comes to us in our prayer, through His Word, and especially through the sacraments he has given us.

And we have the help of his Mother and our Mother.  Mary’s openness to the Lord and His ways she expressed so beautifully when she said, “I am the servant of the Lord.”  I am.  We can ask her to help us say that now, and every moment: “I am the servant of the Lord.”  With that statement comes a trust in God.  Mary could say “Yes” to the outrageous thing that was being asked of her because she trusted.  She trusted “right now” and she believed that if she kept trusting in every new moment, God would give her the grace she needed to keep saying “yes.”

That, I think, is the challenge for us.  Our minds skip too far into the future and we see all the ways that we might fall short, and fail, and not live up to what’s being asked of us.  And so we say ‘no.’  But if we can be like Mary, and right here in this moment, trust God and say “Yes … I am the servant of the Lord … let it be done to me according to your word”  and then in each new moment, renewing that trust, and that ‘yes’ to the Lord.

Mary is not just our model, but she is our constant companion and intercessor in the Lord’s presence, even giving us her own strength, and faith, and love, and trust … so that we can prepare a space in our hearts and in our lives to be able to welcome the Lord as he comes to us, in grace, in the sacraments, and in His people.



Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Saturday 3 December – 4.15pm

[Readings: Is 40:1-5, 9-11;  Ps 85;  2 Peter 3:8-14;  Mk 1:1-8]


The liturgical season of advent is one that opens us up to the coming of Christ.  On the feast of the Lord’s Nativity we will celebrate his coming as one of us, to renew fallen humankind from within.  Advent opens our minds as well to the future coming of Christ, when the new heavens and new earth will be established, and God’s kingdom will come about in its fullness, where righteousness will be at home.  In between his first and his final coming, we are invited to be open to the Lord’s coming into our lives, here and now.

Prepare the way of the Lord!  We hear this command several times in today’s liturgy.  Prepare … make a way for the Lord.

When Isaiah spoke the words we hear in the First Reading, the Israelites had endured decades of bitter exile in Babylon.  Isaiah speaks words that would have engendered joy and hope: the people’s time of exile would come to an end, the Lord is coming, and he will shepherd his people.  Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid …

This is what the Lord wants to do during Advent … to speak once again to the heart of his people, and through his people to all humankind: to proclaim salvation.  The light comes into the darkness;  new life comes where there is death.  It’s the role of the church to be like Isaiah and the prophets of old and to cry out, make straight in the desert a highway for our God;  it’s the purpose of the church to go up the high mountain of faith and to proclaim to the people: Here is your God!  [who] comes with might.  In the midst of suffering, poverty, hunger;  for those who have had to flee their homelands, for those who suffer violations of their rights, the church is called to proclaim the coming of Christ who brings salvation.

The Christian person lives in an in-between time.  Christ has come, and he will come again … Christ has brought salvation, and God’s kingdom will triumph in the end … but in between, the reign of God still needs to break through.  Things aren’t yet fully as they should be.  Evil still needs to be contended with.  St Paul speaks of this in-between time in the Second Reading.  This time of waiting for the new heavens and the new earth is a time in which the Lord is showing us his patience.  He gives us time to repent, to be converted.  God doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  God wants his kingdom to be established in the hearts of all people.

When we look at history, the church has always been active in preparing a way for the Lord, in making a highway in the wilderness for our God to come.  Wherever there has been need, and human suffering, the church has responded.  We think of the saints through history who’ve spent their lives making a way for God’s salvation to touch the hearts of people: in caring for the sick, in teaching, in providing for the suffering and the abandoned.  Blessed Mother Teresa is a great witness of this from our own times.  She exemplifies how the Christian person lives in the in-between, here and now amidst suffering, but helping God’s kingdom to come about.  In one of her writings she says, “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment.  Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him.”  Mother Teresa lived amongst the poorest, and endured her own spiritual suffering, and yet with one foot ‘in heaven’ she helped God’s kingdom of peace and salvation to break through into the lives of those she served.  She truly prepared a way for the Lord to come in the wildnerness of people’s lives, and she made a straight highway for God in the desert of misery and suffering.

The readings we hear today make us ask ourselves: how are we preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness of our world today?  How are we making straight in the desert a highway for our God to come?  How are we bringing God’s consolation to his people in their suffering?  How are we helping God’s kingdom to be established in the hearts of all people?

As we come this evening to be nourished in word and sacrament, we are reminded that Christ comes to us: he shows us his steadfast love, his mercy and compassion … he grants us the salvation he came to bring.  As we are nourished with these gifts of his, let’s pray that our hearts will be so filled that we will more eagerly share these gifts with others.  May we prepare a way for Christ’s salvation to come into the lives of all we meet.


Cardinal Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has given a message for priests at the beginning of the Advent season.

in this special time of Grace the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Icon and Model of the Church, wants us to be introduced to that vigilance which is the constant attitude of Her Immaculate heart.

Dearest Brothers and Friends, let us ask Her for a heart that is able to relive Christ’s  coming in our lives, a heart able to contemplate the way in which the Son of God, on the day of our Ordination, radically and definitely marked our entire existence immerging us in His priestly heart. He renews us daily in the Eucharistic Celebration so that our own lives become transfigured into Christ’s coming for humanity.

In the “Yes” of the Annunciation, we are also encouraged to be coherent to the “Yes” of our ordination. In the Visitation to Saint Elisabeth, we are encouraged to live that divine intimacy in order to bring Christ’s presence to the others and to translate it into joyful service without the limits of time and space. In the Holy Mother’s act of wrapping the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and adoring Him, we learn to treat the Most Holy Eucharist with an ineffable love. By conserving every event within our own hearts, we learn from Mary how to gather around the Only Necessity.


Source:  ZENIT.

Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Sunday, 27 November, 2011 – 7.30pm

[Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8;  Ps 80;  1 Cor 1:3-9;  Mk 13:33-37]

On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new church year.  In a practical way, it is a new beginning for English speaking Catholics, as we fully inaugurate our new English translation of the Roman Missal.  These prayers that we begin using today will accompany us for many years to come;  with them we will journey deeper into the mystery of God and they will help us to give expression to the gift of faith that we have received.

The season of Advent is a time of anticipation, a time of waiting for the feast of Christmas.  The very first Christmas truly was a new beginning for humankind.  He, through whom the world was made, came amongst us as one of us, to liberate the world from the bonds of sin, and to save us from eternal death.  With the coming of Christ as man the world was given a new opportunity to walk the path to life.  It was given a fresh beginning.  Whatever might have happened in the past, whatever ways God’s people might have forgotten God, or strayed from the covenant, or even outrightly rejected God’s way, in God becoming flesh, humankind had a new chance and a new opportunity to come to God.

New beginnings are important.  They allow us to start again;  to put our feet on the path we really want to be walking.  They allow us to leave behind some things we really want to get rid of.  We can formulate new resolutions, and set out with a new energy to do what we are called to do.

This season of Advent is a chance for us to – spiritually – take advantage of a new beginning.  As we prepare to celebrate the wonderful Christmas feast which was a new beginning in God’s relationship with humankind, we can enter into that newness for ourselves.

In the first reading tonight, we hear the prophet Isaiah’s longing for a new beginning.  He acknowledges that God’s people had gone astray.  He says, we transgressed.  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  The prophet has an urgent plea, a cry of longing to the Lord, O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!  None of us are perfect yet, and so all of us in some way can resonate with Isaiah’s sadness at the ways that we have strayed from God’s love and God’s will.  Our sins “carry us away” from God in ways we don’t even want.  We need our Saviour to come: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!

At the end of the First Reading we hear – almost in contrast to the urgent pleas coming before – words of trust and surrender; Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;  we are the clay, and you are our potter;  we are all the work of your hand.  Perhaps one advent resolution we might make is to more consciously allow God to shape us and our lives … to be clay in the Lord’s hands that responds to his action, his prompting … that our lives might be a work that is more evidently shaped by God’s hands.

In Advent, as we prepare to recall the new beginning of the first Christmas, and as we receive an invitation to begin again ourselves, we are also reminded that we await an ultimate new beginning: when Christ will come in glory, and will take all who are ready at his coming into the kingdom of heaven.  We must remember that our participation in the heavenly kingdom is not a forgone conclusion – the gift of eternal life can be lost, and what we do during the time we’re given has a decisive effect.  Last Sunday’s Gospel had the chastening words of the Lord that some will go to eternal life, and some to eternal punishment.

And so, as Jesus urges his followers to prepare for his return he tells them to keep alert, keep awake!  We are to be ready for when our master returns: not fearfully, but soberly and joyfully.  If we think of Jesus’ first coming, we know that some were ready to welcome him, and so they gained the full benefit of his ministry.  They had heeded the words of the prophets, they had anticipated the Messiah, and they recognized and welcomed him.  When Jesus comes again, there will be no more chances!  Jesus left behind his church, to advance his work between his first coming and his ultimate return.  Now is the time for us to be alert, and to be helping other people to be alert, awake and ready.  We are alert and ready when we try to follow the Lord in our daily life, when we choose what Christ would choose, when we love what he loves, when we conform our life to his, when we don’t allow ourselves to be overcome by the inevitable difficulties and problems of daily life (Benedict XVI).

As we await the final return of Jesus, he doesn’t leave us alone.  In a few moments we’ll celebrate the great mystery of his daily coming to us in the sacramental presence of his body and blood.  Jesus himself comes to strengthen us, to help us be alert and awake.

As we enter a new beginning on this first Sunday of Advent, let’s use these weeks of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s first coming as a time to return to the Lord in new ways.  May we open ourselves to the ways God wants to shape our lives.  When Jesus returns to us may he find us awake: joyfully ready to inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.