Building Anew this Advent on Christ the Rock, First Thursday of Advent, December 3, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier
December 3, 2015
Is 26:1-6, Ps 118, Mt 7:21.24-27

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we continue to ponder the double-dynamism of Advent, pondering both the Lord who comes — who has entered our world through his Incarnation, to the Lord who continues to come to us each day in prayer, the Sacraments, his Word and others, and to the Lord who will come for us on the last day — and the dispositions we need to go out to meet him.
  • Today the Church teaches us about the Lord who is coming. “The Lord is an eternal Rock,” Isaiah tells us today. The Psalm adds, “The Lord is God and he has given us light.” The Lord is the solid, stable, unchanging foundation for life, the God who not only is “Light from Light,” but shares that light with us so that we may walk as children of light. Isaiah will tell us on Christmas night that the “people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” and that light is the Lord.
  • But we need to respond to that light. We need to build on that rock. That’s what Jesus tells us today. He says it’s not enough merely to invoke God’s name, but we need to live in the light of God and construct our existence on him. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says, “but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” He goes on to give an image that concludes his Sermon on the Mount about how we’re supposed to live what he teaches. ““Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” That’s what our response is supposed to be to Jesus’ triple coming: to build our life on his taking on our humanity so that we may share in his divinity. To construct our existence on Him in the present, especially in the source and summit, the root and center of Christian life which is the Eucharist. To ground our hopes, aspirations and daily choices in the guarantee of his second coming and to live, as we’re reminded to live each Advent, vigilant and alert each day for his return. Not everyone lives this way. Many are foolish. Many of us are foolish, because we hear his Word, we may even be able to cite chapter and verse, but we don’t act on it. Jesus says, “And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” The true Advent response is Mary’s, which in response to the Archangel Gabriel’s words said, “Behold I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to your Word!”
  • Today we celebrate the feast of a saint who clearly built his life on the Lord as an eternal rock. St. Francis Xavier’s incredible missionary work can only be explained by having built his life on the solid foundation of the Lord and his fiery enthusiasm to help others to do the same. Today the Church has us pray that we might have the same passion, raising up to God the petition in the Opening Prayer of the Mass that we might “burn with the same zeal” and in the Prayer after Communion that God will “enkindle in us that fire of charity with which St. Francis Xavier burned for the salvation of souls.”  St. Francis Xavier was the great 16th century Jesuit apostle of India and Japan who  died trying on the shores of China trying to bring the Gospel there. He did this not because he felt impelled by obligation but out of love for God and others, to bring God the joy of so many sons and daughters and to bring those sons and daughters to discover the reality, love and joy of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He’s the patron saint of the Church’s mission work and considering that the Church is a mission, he’s one of the most important patrons and models that the Church has.
  • His letters to St. Ignatius about his missionary adventures have not only moved tens of thousands to become missionaries, but give full evidence to the zeal Christ had for our salvation that he wants us to have for the salvation of others. Every year priests, religious and all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours ponder this letter he sent in 1544 to his friend, former college roommate and religious superior, St. Ignatius of Loyola: “We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. … The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law. I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: ‘The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians. Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: ‘What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!’ I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India.”
  • Reading those words soon after they were published for the first time, the future St. Philip Neri went to his spiritual director and said that he thought the Lord was asking him to follow Francis to India. His wise spiritual director told him, “No. Rome will be your Indies!,” and St. Philip worked as hard bringing people back to the faith in Rome after the sack and so much debauchery as St. Francis Xavier had been doing in far away lands. Likewise, for us, Manhattan must be our Indies. There’s no reason why we can’t do here what St. Francis did in Goa, Malaysia and Japan. He had 46 chromosomes just like us. He needed to eat, sleep and go to the restroom just like us. But he burned in his gut with a hunger to share with others not only the joy of faith in the Christian life here on earth but the eternal joy that comes from those who receive God’s revelation like little children and conform their entire lives to it, not merely saying “Lord, Lord!” but doing what the Lord asks, building their entire life on him.
  • God gives us a daily opportunity to build ourselves on him at the Mass. In the Liturgy of the Word, God wants us to ground ourselves anew on the rock of God’s word, provided that we try to live the word we hear rather than merely say in response to it “Thanks be to God” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” We’re called, like Mary, to respond, “Let it be done to me according to your word!” Then we come to the liturgy of the Eucharist and have the chance to construct our life on this gift, on Christ himself, so that he can shine his light from the inside out of us. Then we have the chance, in communion with him, to build our life on the words of his great commission, to go in peace, glorifying the Lord with our life. Through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, may we respond to this great privilege and build ourselves firmly on Christ with trust so that no matter what storms come, we will be set firmly on Christ so that we might come to experience eternal tranquility in the house that God has build in heaven for all his beloved children. And we also pray that, like St. Francis Xavier, we will spend our life on earth helping to bring all those beloved children home!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:
“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
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