4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

FR TONY'S HOMILYHOMILY ANECDOTESRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS
SPEECHES IN AMERICAN HISTORY (13:59) – Bobby Kennedy delivered a speech, known as a ‘Ripple of Hope’, to the University of Cape Town in South Africa amidst racial tensions. On arrival in Johannesburg, the South African government informed then Senator Bobby Kennedy, and his wife Ethel, that they would not be providing protection, but this did not dissuade them. Bobby Kennedy was a fierce advocate for civil rights and a humanitarian in the purest sense. He was known for referencing the quote, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Bobby Kennedy was the last kind of man who should be taken from this world.
8-MINUTE HOMILY

Jesus is Reborn Everyday in Ordinary People Living Ordinary Lives

http://frtonyshomilies.com/

Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is reborn every day in ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness to do God’s will.They suggest that Christmas should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect, loving obedience to His will, with cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity.

Homily Starter Anecdote

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. 
OPTION A: AT LEAST I MADE A DIFFERENCE OT THAT ONE!

At least I made a difference to that one!

A little girl was walking along a beach covered with thousands of starfish left dying by the receding tide. Seeking to help, she started picking up the dying starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. A man, who watched her with amusement, said, “Little girl, there are hundreds of starfish on the beach. You cannot make a difference by putting a few of them back into the sea.” Discouraged, she began to walk away. Suddenly, she turned around, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea. Turning to the man, she smiled and said, “At least I made a difference to that one!” — Today’s Gospel tells us how Mary, a village girl carrying Jesus in her womb, made a difference in the lives of her cousin Elizabeth and of Elizabeth’s unborn child, John. When John had grown up, he helped Mary’s Son to transform the history of mankind by preparing the way for the Messiah. The starfish story suggests that each person, no matter how unimportant, may truly benefit from our work, and that any service, however small, is valuable. The story also shows how seemingly hopeless problems can be solved by taking the first step. (Fr. Tony)

OPTION B: ELIJAH HEART A TINY, WHISPERING SOUND AND MARY A BABY'S CRY

Elijah heard a tiny, whispering sound and Mary a baby’s cry

There’s a marvelous scene in the Old Testament that, in a way, illustrates something of what is occurring in today’s Scriptures. It is the scene where the famous prophet Elijah, pursued by his enemies, takes refuge in a cave and waits for the Lord to tell him what to do. He is prompted to go to the mouth of the cave. A great wind sweeps through the valley, breaking the trees, it is so powerful. But the Scriptures say, the Lord was not in the wind. Then there is a terrible earthquake and the mountains tumble. But the Lord, we are again informed, was not in the earthquake. Then comes a huge fire; but there again, Scripture declares, the Lord was absent. Finally, Elijah hears a tiny, whispering sound, and he promptly covers his face with his mantle out of reverent fear of God’s holy presence. A tiny, whispering sound! Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the tiny whispering sound, God speaks. And in much the same way He speaks again, and for a final and complete time, when He speaks His ultimate Word to the human race for all ages. For this time, He speaks in the soft cries of a little baby boy in Bethlehem.

OPTION C: BOBBY KENNEDY'S 'RIPPLE OF HOPE' SPEECH

Bobby Kennedy’s “Ripple of Hope” Speech

Robert F. Kennedy said: “Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Today’s Gospel describes how an unknown Jewish virgin, Mary occasioned such a ripple effect by her little, loving acts of humble service to her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth.

Click on chevron banners for additional insights into this week’s scripture in order to relate it to the lives of your parishioners.

First Reading

In the first reading, the prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler.

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Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

Micah 5:1-4, explained: Micah prophesies the doom of the corrupt leaders of Judah in chapters 1, 2 and 3. Like his three immediate prophetic predecessors — Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah — Micah’ receives from the Lord God oracles rooted in the Jewish concept of social justice: the relationships people are expected by God to develop with one another and with Him. The pain His people are experiencing from the Assyrian invasions is Yahweh’s punishment for their lack of concern for the unfortunate individuals around them. Then in Chapter 4, Micah is given the Lord God’s Good News to foretell: the restoration of the people living in Judah to a godly state. In Chapter 5 Micah prophesies that Israel will be led by a new king, who will come from the town of the great historic King David (“Bethlehem-Ephrathah”), and from David’s family. The situation when Micah wrote seems to be that which prevailed at the end of the Exile, when hopes ran high for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. With a background of kings who heard and spoke Yahweh’s word, but never did anything different because of it, the Lord God speaks through Micah about a future, God-rooted king, who “shall stand firm and shepherd His flock by the strength of the Lord.” The future, kingly descendant of David, of Whom the Lord God speaks here, will lead the Israelites to victory over their enemies and, “He shall be peace” (Micah 5:4). Micah expresses a rare hope: if God’s people recognize and follow the religious insights of this one special Davidic King, they will receive the peace they’re seeking.


Second Reading

The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us to be thankful for Jesus Christ’s Self-offering, the perfect sacrifice of loving obedience that liberated us from sin. In obedient, willing eagerness to do God’s will, (“Behold, I come to do Your will”), Christ gave Himself in the place of all other ritual sacrifices offered as the means of sanctification.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

Hebrews 10:5-10, explained: The letter to the Hebrews was written for the benefit of Jewish converts to Christianity. When their old friends turned them out of synagogue and Temple, they missed the institutions of Judaism, especially the Law, the priesthood and the Temple rituals and sacrifices. Hence, Paul gives them the assurance that it is Christ and their relationship with Him in the Church which replaces and improves upon everything they’ve been asked to give up. In today’s passage, Jesus is said to have quoted Psalm 40 which explains his mission: “to do his Father’s will” in the world. Paul explains that the meaning of the Incarnation is summarized in the words, “Behold, I come to do your will.” More than anything else, it is Jesus’ determination to discover God’s will and carry it out that actually saves us. True Faith entails doing God’s will, carrying out God’s commands in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, however, it is often not God’s will that we seek. Instead, we make idols of our jobs, our spouses, our children, our wealth, our social standing, and our bodies. Hence, Paul reminds us that Christ took a body so as to have an instrument through which He would be able to offer this sacrifice of perfect, loving obedience to the will of God. “You have prepared a body for me… Behold I said, I come to do your will.” This means that our bodies are the meeting place of God and human beings. That is why, as a believing community, we take our bodies seriously. We wash them in the waters of Baptism; anoint them with holy oil to seal them in the Holy Spirit; and feed them with Bread from Heaven. In addition, when we are ill, we ask the priest to anoint our bodies with holy oil. When we die, we honor our bodies with Christian burial. (http://netministries.org).


Gospel

In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. We see here how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God’s word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and carrying the newly- conceived Jesus, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and Elizabeth’s unborn child. Like all good Jews, whatever Mary did was prompted by her commitment to God’s word in her life. “It is traditionally believed that Mary received the message of Elizabeth’s pregnancy while residing at her home in Nazareth. Elizabeth was living in Ein Karem at the time, and the distance between the two villages is roughly 100 miles. Ein Karem is on the outskirts of Jerusalem and is about 2,474 feet above sea level, while Nazareth is at 1,138 feet. This means Mary had to trek uphill nearly 1,336 feet in elevation!” According to writer J. A. Loarte, “Most likely it was Joseph who arranged the trip, looking for a caravan in which the Blessed Virgin could travel safely. He himself may have accompanied her, at least as far as Jerusalem; some commentators even think he went with Mary right to Ain Karim, which is only five miles from the capital. If so, he would have needed to return immediately to his workshop in Nazareth.”( (https://aleteia.org/2019/05/31/mary-traveled-a-highly-dangerous-path-to-visit-elizabeth/#)) According to Fr. Robert Maloney, ((https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/555/article/historical-mary) “It would be a mistake to think of Mary as fragile, even at 13. As a peasant woman capable of walking the hill country of Judea while pregnant, of giving birth in a stable, of making a four- or five-day journey on foot to Jerusalem once a year or so, of sleeping in the open country like other pilgrims and of engaging in daily hard labor at home, she probably had a robust physique in youth and even in her later years.”


The greetings of the cousins: The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and Faith. Mary’s formal salutation served both as a prophetic gesture and a prophetic oracle. Elizabeth’s unborn child, touched by the Holy Spirit, leaped with joy in recognition that salvation was near. John’s “leap” revealed the sheer joy of being filled with God’s Spirit. Elizabeth was the first to hear the words, but John was the first to experience the grace. Elizabeth perceived Mary’s coming; John perceived the coming of the Lord. Many scholars also see a possible parallel with the “leaping” of the brothers Esau and Jacob in their mother’s womb (Gn 25:22). No wonder, John would be the first to recognize the presence of Jesus as He began His public ministry!


Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”: To many Catholics, these lines are most familiar because they form part of the core of the Hail Mary. Elizabeth does not simply speak these words; on the contrary, the text says that she “shouts them out with a loud voice.” Elizabeth then prophetically interprets this event, pointing away from her own motherhood to reveal the hidden identity of her visitor and the baby she carries. We too can “leap for joy,” because Jesus has come to us to forgive our sins. Elizabeth’s concluding words (“Blessed is she who believed… “) express a deeply Biblical and profoundly Jewish conviction: to trust in the Lord and in the Lord’s promises (no matter how seemingly impossible). That is the epitome of that authentic Faith, which, for Luke, both Mary and Elizabeth supremely exemplify. Elizabeth, in turn, gives Mary assurance and confirmation to strengthen the young woman’s Faith in the early stages of her pilgrimage. She pronounces a blessing over Mary. Having been both blessed and favored, Mary was now in a blessed and happy condition. Mary was blessed both because of her Faith and because of her bearing of the Christ-child. Thus, Mary becomes the true believer, model of Faith and first among her Son’s disciple-followers. Mary helps Elizabeth in her time of need and serves her till John is born — her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to ElizabethThis story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry. Each of us has a unique call, leaving us no reason for envy. Mary brought the Savior; John recognized and identified Him; and Elizabeth gave prophecy, mediating God’s word by interpreting this event.These two women rejoice, and we are called to rejoice with them, for one reason and one reason only: because God loves us enough to act. God wants each of us, like Mary, to bear within us, and to carry to those around us, no one other than the Lord of life.


The new Ark of the Covenant. Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth had enormous significance for Luke’s Jewish and Gentile readers. It showed them that Mary’s womb was truly the locale of God’s presence. This story suggests a mysterious parallel between Mary’s journey into the hill country and the movement of the Ark of the Covenant to the same locale on its way to Jerusalem (II Samuel, Chapter 6). Both the Ark and Mary are greeted with “shouts of joy;” both are sources of joy for the households into which they enter; both the Ark and Mary remain in the hill country for three months. King David’s sacred leaping and dancing before the Ark (2 Samuel 6:12) could be compared to John’s stirring, or, more literally, leaping (eskirtesin) for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. In the same way that King David had leapt and danced with joy in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, so John is leaping and dancing within the confines of Elizabeth’s womb. As a temporary vessel housing the immanent presence of God, Mary appears to fulfill the same purpose as the Ark of the Covenant. What the Ark of the Covenant could only signify (and only in a local way), Mary makes a reality, in a personal and universal way: Mary with her Child is an effective sign of God’s presence with His people.The Jewish Christians believed that God dwelt in the Temple in Jerusalem, but now, the evangelist tells them, God is present in Mary. Like the Ark of the Covenant, God is journeying throughout His land, visiting His chosen people, and blessing them with His presenceAs Ark of the New Covenant, Mary is the model par excellence of what every believer is called to be, the dwelling place of the Divine presence on earth.


The paradox of blessedness. In his commentary on this episode of visitation, William Barclay remarks that blessedness confers on a person both the greatest joy and the greatest task in the world. Nowhere can we see the paradox better than in Mary’s life. Mary was granted the blessedness and privilege of being the mother of the Son of God. Yet that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart: one day she would see her Son hanging on a cross. So, to be chosen by God is often both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. God does not choose us for a life of ease and comfort, but in order to use us, with our free, loving consent, for His purposes. When Joan of Arc knew that her time was short, she prayed, “I shall only last a year; use me as You can.” When we realize God’s purposes in our lives, the sorrows and hardships of life disappear.

Life messages

1) We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the Spirit of Christ, through Whom Christ is reborn in us and thus enables us to share His love with all whom we encounter. We do so by offering them all humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate, caring love. Let us take the time to visit others during this Christmas season, especially the sick and shut-ins, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.

2) We need to bless and encourage the younger generation. Elizabeth demonstrates the responsibility of the older generation to inspire the younger generation. Grandparents, parents, teachers, and leaders are responsible for encouraging those around them. By complimenting and encouraging one’s spouse, children and friends, let us make them know how valuable they are to us and to God.

3) We need to recognize the Real Presence of the Emmanuel (God is with us) in the Holy Eucharist, in the Bible, in the Sacraments, and in the praying community. The hill country of Judea is right here in our surroundings. Let us convey Jesus to people around us by our acts of love, kindness and forgiveness.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

1) Christmas telegram: The preacher and his pregnant wife had left for a conference in France, forgetting to give instructions for the banner which was to decorate the hall at the Christmas Carol Concert, the following weekend. The parish secretary was astonished to receive a telegram from France which readd simply: UNTO US A SON IS BORN. NINE FEET LONG AND TWO FEET WIDE. REV. AND MRS. JOHNSON.

2) Christmas Stamps: A woman went to the Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. “What denomination?” asked the clerk? “Oh, good Heavens! Have we come to this?” said the woman. “Well, give me 20 Catholic stamps for me and 20 Baptist stamps for my husband.”

3) On whose side? During the American Civil War, a lady exclaimed effusively to President Lincoln: “Oh Mr. President, I feel so sure that God is on our side, don’t you?” “Ma’am,” replied the President, “I am more concerned that we should be on God’s side.”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week. Since Fr. Tony is retiring from parish duties, he has started a personal website: https://frtonyshomilies.com/ where he has started putting his Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA lessons, Faith Formation articles and other useful items for pastors and pastoral assistants. Fr. Tony warmly invites priests and deacons and the public to visit his website and use it for their preaching and teaching ministries. He welcomes your corrections, modifications and suggestions to improve the homilies and articles given in this website.

The World’s First Eucharistic Procession

FATHER BURKE (15:08)

Pope Benedict XVI has written that the Visitation is more than just a trip into the country for a young girl from Nazareth. As he explains, when Mary “set out in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she embarked on the world’s first Eucharistic procession. She carried Christ into the world. She was a living tabernacle. And so it is that her cousin became the first to experience Eucharistic adoration, and to share in the first Benediction. “Blessed are you,” she says to Mary. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed.” Three times, she speaks the word “Blessed.”

I can’t help but be reminded of our own Benediction, when the bells ring three times, and then we chant the divine praises: “Blessed be God…”


When Pregnancy Met Pregnancy

(Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in The World’s First Love): One of the most beautiful moments in history was that when pregnancy met pregnancy, when child-bearers became the first heralds of the King of Kings. All pagan religions begin with the teachings of adults, but Christianity begins with the birth of a Child. From that day to this, Christians have ever been the defenders of the family and the love of generation. If we ever sat down to write out what we would expect the Infinite God to do, certainly the last thing we would expect would be to see Him imprisoned in a carnal ciborium for nine months; and the next to last thing we would expect is that the “greatest man ever born of woman” while yet in his mother’s womb, would salute the yet imprisoned God-man. But this is precisely what took place in the Visitation.


The Sonnet, “The Visitation”

The sonnet, entitled “The Visitation”, and today’s feast, celebrate one wonderful moment of our salvation as Mary shares with Elizabeth the arrival of the “hidden God”. The poem was written by American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), author of “Trees.” It has a dedication to fellow-American poet, Louise Imogen Guiney. A sergeant in the 165th US Infantry Regiment, Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in 1918 at the age of 31. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

THE VISITATION

There is a wall of flesh before the eyes
Of John, who yet perceives and hails his King.
It is Our Lady’s painful bliss to bring
Before mankind the Glory of the skies.
Her cousin feels her womb’s sweet burden rise
And leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing,
With trembling mouth, her words of welcoming.
She knows her hidden God, and prophesies.

Saint John, pray for us, weary souls that tarry
Where life is withered by sin’s deadly breath.
Pray for us, whom the dogs of Satan harry,
Saint John, Saint Anne, and Saint Elizabeth.
And, Mother Mary, give us Christ to carry
Within our hearts, that we may conquer death.


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