Homily for November 30, 2014: 1st Sunday of Advent: Msgr. Jim Miller

First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2014

Reading 1 Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

R/ Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading 2 1 Cor 1:3-9

Gospel Mk 13:33-37


The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that the Lord is our father—he is the potter and we are the clay.   When the potter makes a mistake with the clay he or she can start over again.   We are the work of God’s hands but when we make mistakes and fall into sin God does not start over again.   We might reflect on the verse “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?”   We have the desire to do what is right and good but sometimes we get distracted from being on the right path.   We take another path that looks good to us and even well-traveled but we find it is a dead end and we come back to the right path and acknowledge our error and sin and failure to see the danger in that path or sometimes we choose to live recklessly and regret it.

Sometimes in our quest for perfection we develop tunnel vision and become hard hearted instead of being able to see all of the God signs around us and allow God to continue to shape and form us when we allow ourselves to be pliable to God the potter.   There is a danger in becoming too focused on our own perfection and not enough on helping others to be their best selves.   We want our favorite teams to go undefeated, we want to bowl that 300 game, have a hole in one golfing, ace the test, score the highest in a video game, and be a winner.   The great saints that I read about and study would not have the same measure of perfection.   They always wanted to do the will of God.   This is the perfection we want—to be pleasing in God’s eyes.  St. Augustine would tell us to make progress in virtue, faith and living rightly. 

In the gospel Jesus said to his disciples:  “Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.”   On Thanksgiving Day about two in the afternoon I was following a car that had a difficult time staying straight down the road.   If I was to make a bet I was quite sure that they were trying to text and drive.   They were definitely not very alert.   When I was in Marshalltown a high school girl crossed the centerline on her way to school and hit another car head on and a woman in the other car, a mother on her way to work died.  The word was that the teenager was on her cell phone.   Two weeks ago two Hispanic ladies were on their way to Des Moines to a sale on office furniture and had borrowed a friend’s pickup.   It started to snow and the road got slick and the woman driving lost control and it went off the road and rolled a number of times.   The driver was killed.   Her passenger was a good friend of mine, Maria, along with her 17 year old son.   Maria also died in the accident and her son only had minor injuries.   I was able to return to Marshalltown for her funeral about 10 days ago.   Maria was 43 years old and the mother of five children, three boys and two girls.   I met her when I first arrived at Marshalltown and found out that her husband was abusing the two daughters.   She divorced him and was trying to make ends meet as a single mother while trying to come up with the money to work on papers to become legal.   After six years of work she finally accomplished residency and could hold a job legally.   She worked hard to support her family by working at the packing plant the last two years.   She came to the Spanish Mass both on Saturday night and Sunday morning.   She attended the Sunday night prayer meetings and always would volunteer to help.    Although she did not have much of an education she always wanted to study the Bible and study faith.   She would complain because as hard as she studied English she could not grasp the language.   One time she held a garage sale and afterwards  came to see Sr. Chris, the Hispanic Minister in Marshalltown and gave her $400 because she had promised God one half of the profit from the sale.   In my last two years at St. Mary Parish in Marshalltown she came to me once each year and gave me ten $100 bills for the church.   I have no doubt that when the roads turned bad that she began to pray the rosary.   Her family and the community lost a rock of faith with her death.   Because of my knowledge of her goodness through my nine years of ministry in Marshalltown I have complete confidence that she is now with God in heaven.   She was watchful for the Lord and alert and ready for the call to eternal life.   I pray that you and I can be as ready as she was.   Thank you Maria for your journey and example of faith.

Life is fragile and can end in an instant—a car accident, a stroke, a heart attack, a stray bullet, etc.  If we live each day well then we will be always ready to meet our God face to face.