Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


2nd Sunday of Advent
Fr. Joseph Rogers
December 8th, 2013
Year A

Good morning, everyone, and second Sunday of Advent! The snow this morning reminds of the word in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 55: “Just as the snow . . . falls from the heavens . . . producing grain for the one who sows, and food for the one who labors so too does my word accomplish the end for which it was sent.” The Lord is faithful, and he fulfills his promises. Advent directs our gaze to two historical moments: the first two weeks direct us to the second coming of Christ, who will come as our Just Judge and for whom we must always be ready; the second two weeks direct us to the first coming of Christ, to the joy of Christmas.

1. Today the Gospel gives us a wake-up call. We hear the words of St. John the Baptist and the prophecy of Isaiah: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight the paths!” (Mt 3:2-3). These are words of hope, and they are spoken to us today. The kingdom of heaven is at hand! God is with us! Heaven is among us! And not only that: heaven is within us! John speaks of a baptism of repentance, but he goes on to say that there is one who will baptize with the water of the Holy Spirit. He’s speaking of our baptism! At baptism the kingdom of heaven is given to us! God enters us – not partially, not abstractly, not probably. God – heaven – enters our souls! God gives us himself as a free gift! This is the cause of our hope. “But, Father, I just don’t know. I’m so busy. I can’t pray. I have so many sins, and it’s been so long since I’ve been to confession.” My brothers and sisters, heaven is our hope. Our path is not having to get everything perfectly in order, to white-knuckle our way to heaven. No! Heaven is a gift! Heaven is freely given to us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us strength to follow the Lord Jesus and to change, to ask for pardon for our sins, and to follow the Lord, to have hope. But we also hear in the Gospel today another word: fire. In the Hebrew Scriptures fire, above all, is a symbol of God: at Mt. Sinai, the burning bush; in the Letter to the Hebrews St. Paul says, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:19), a fire of divine love that is Mercy. Divine mercy requires the pain of separation from sin, the painful fire of renunciation of disordered attachments, whether they be material, social, relationships, or even our work. And it is a painful fire. God is a fire of Mercy who calls us to conversion so that our hearts can receive the gift of heaven. But is this really possible? John give us hope when he says, “God can raise up children from these stones!” The stones were the gentiles. John is looking across the waters of the Jordan. He sees Roman soldiers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners coming. He is speaking to those who are self-satisfied, saying, “Look, heaven is a gift, and it is given to them, and the greatest proof is that God can change the hearts of the gentiles, those who do not know God, changing their hard and stony hearts with his mercy.” In Advent we are reminded that heaven is already within us and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide our conversion with divine fire.

2. Our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 11, speaks to us of another symbol: water. Isaiah speaks of the divine waters of healing and restoration, the Holy Spirit. There are two movements to our reading, one dealing with changing us on the inside and one dealing with changing us on the outside. The first movement describes the work of the Spirit: “The spirit of the Lord shall be upon him, a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and fortitude, of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord” (Is 11:2-3). The Holy Spirit fully anoints the Messhiah the Christus, the Christ. Jesus is fully immersed in the Spirit, and the Spirit constantly draws us into relationship with Jesus.  But how do we receive these divine waters that conform us to Christ? What are these waters? The Gospel speaks of fire; Isaiah speaks of water. This divine water is the Holy Spirit given to us in prayer: prayer with the Lord each day, in silence, perhaps for five minutes but five minutes given to him, not with an agenda, going before him, letting him speak. St. Faustina writes in her diary on Divine Mercy: “Patience, prayer and silence – these are what give strength to the soul” (D. 944). “Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance” (D. 477). “Silence is so powerful a language that it reaches the throne of the living God. Silence is His language, through secret, yet living and powerful” (D. 888). The soul that makes room for God each day, for silence before him, is filled with the waters of peace, waters that give new life new relationships: “Then the wolf will be the guest of the lamb . . .the lion shall eat hay like the ox  . . . the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair” (Is 11:6-8). Through prayer over time the Spirit strengthens and changes us so that we can be an instrument of healing to others, so that we can glorify the Lord. Changes on the inside bear fruit on the outside. Conversion of heart, if authentic, leads to conversion of life – a new life.

3. Our second reading from St. Paul speaks to us precisely of this change that happens through the divine fire of mercy and the healing waters of prayer: “Welcome one another, then, as the Christ welcomed you” (Rom 15:7). He goes on, “so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Rom 15:9). Those who receive God’s mercy are impelled to give it, to live it, to turn toward others, to go out of themselves to serve. Pope Francis spoke on this path of life in a recent General Audience: “And how do we stay close to Jesus? Through prayer, in the Sacraments and also in the exercise of charity. Let us remember that he is present in the weakest and most needy. He identified himself with them, in the well known parable of the Last Judgment, when he says, ‘for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . . . as you did to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:35-36.40). Therefore a sure path comes by recovering the meaning of Christian charity and of fraternal solidarity, by caring for the bodily and spiritual wounds of our neighbor.” The Holy Father is speaking to us of the path of Divine Mercy. He goes on, “The one who practices mercy [the one who has received Divine Mercy and lives it] does not fear death! . . . And why does he not fear it? Because he looks death in the face in the wounds of his brothers and sisters, and he overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ” (Pope Francis, General Audience November 27, 2013). Here, my brothers and sisters, we have our Advent itinerary: the divine fire of conversion, the waters of daily prayer, and the joy of serving others. As we approach the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as we grow near to him in prayer, he sends us out to serve, and when we serve, when we freely give the gift that we have received, we become instruments of God’s kingdom. Heaven enters history. Heaven passes from our hearts to the hearts of our brothers and sisters. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” – which conquers sin and death.

As we make our Advent pilgrimage let us follow the one who precedes the whole Church – as Bl. John Paul taught us – in her pilgrimage of Faith. Let us follow in the footsteps of she who lived the first pilgrimage of Advent. Let us not be afraid to hear the word of the angel to Our Lady. Let us not be afraid to receive God’s mercy, to receive the gift of a new life, to make time for God every day in prayer, to be courageous enough to live the Gospel of Christ, to live the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy. Let us not be afraid to respond as Our Lady did when the angel told her: “Be not afraid, Mary, for nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37). My brothers and sisters, nothing is impossible for God because God is Mercy, and “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16).


Fr. Joseph Rogers

Fr. Joseph Rogers is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington (DC) and graduate of the
Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America.
Fr. Rogers serves as parochial vicar at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland.
He was ordained a priest on May 26, 2007




See other homilies of Fr. Joseph Rogers...
Return to multimedia home...


SCTJM logo
Return to main page