Our Advent Construction Project, First Thursday of Advent, December 4, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Memorial of St. John Damascene, Doctor
December 4, 2014
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!”
  • To build our whole existence on Jesus requires great trust, because Jesus’ words are different than the world’s. We see this clearly in the Beatitudes which began the Sermon on the Mount. Whereas the world thinks you need to be rich to be fulfilled Jesus says we need to be poor; whereas the world says you have to be popular and congenial, Jesus says we need to be persecuted for his sake; whereas the world says you need to be powerful, Jesus says we need to be meek peacemakers; whereas the world says we need to have all our sexual fantasies fulfilled, Jesus responds we need to be pure of heart; whereas the world says we need to have all our appetites satiated, Jesus says we need to hunger and thirst for holiness. Which is it for us? Are we building our lives on Jesus’ words or on the words of others? And with the Beatitudes Jesus was just getting warmed up. We also see the real challenge to build our lives on Jesus in the corporal works of mercy, in the command to turn the other cheek, to forgive and love even our enemies, to pick up our Cross each day to follow him, to sell all that we have, give the proceeds to the poor and follow him as the pearl of great price. We’re tempted to construct our life on what everyone else is doing, or on our whims, or to maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain. It’s hard to build on Jesus when he challenges us to trust. Nevertheless God encourages us to do so today. “Trust in the Lord forever!,” God calls us through Isaiah. “A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.” The Psalm says, “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.” This is true and Advent is a season for us to act on it.
  • St. John Damascene built his entire life on Christ in this way. He was a monk when the iconoclastic heresy of the 8th century erupted destroying icons and other holy images from a literalistic misinterpretation of the commandment not to make graven images. What God was forbidding was making images like the golden calf and then worshipping them; he wasn’t forbidding the use of images representing God, because God himself made such an image at the incarnation. Christ is the “image of the invisible God” and so therefore if God allowed himself to be depicted by taking on human flesh then it’s possible for us to try to continue touching God with our hands, seeing him with our eyes, and continuing in some way a representation of his presence. That’s what John fought for and what was eventually enshrined in the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. He trusted in the Lord. He build his life on the rock of the Lord’s word, even though he had to suffer for it. He was the one who sought to live by the Lord’s light and help others to do so. He was declared a doctor of the Church because he does it well.
  • 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. John of Damasus, 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.

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.”