The First Sunday of Advent
November 30, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b;
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
The year was 1844 when Samuel F. B.
Morse first demonstrated his invention: the telegraph. The telegraph seems quaint now, but Morse’s
invention is the forerunner of the telephone, of cable television, and
conceivably even of the internet. In
front of an audience, Morse sent a message from The Supreme Court in Washington to Baltimore, Maryland. But how to verify that the message sent was
the message received? Young Annie
Ellsworth was asked to suggest a message.
She turned into a question a verse from the Book of Numbers, 
phrasing it as “What hath God wrought?”
Morse tapped the key sending electrical impulses through the wire, and
then waited. At that time the receiving
station used a spool of paper tape on which the mechanism marked the “dashes
and dots” corresponding to the long and short electrical impulses. (They had not yet realized a telegrapher
could “read” messages by the clicking sound alone.) Quickly the response came from Baltimore. And the marks on the paper tape corresponded
to the Morse Code alphabet of the very message sent.
“What hath God wrought?” is also
reflected in today’s first reading, where the prophet says of God, “you wrought
awesome deeds we could not hope for.”
Picture the prophet standing in the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple. In the year 586 BC the Babylonians had
destroyed the whole of Jerusalem. What could God possibly have had in mind in
allowing this catastrophe? Yes, the
people had sinned against God. They had
“wandered” from God’s “ways and harden[ed their] hearts so that” they feared
God not. The prophet lamented, God, “you
have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.”
40 years later the Persians defeated Babylon
and returned the Jews to their homeland.
time of chastening had ended. But what
was left? Historically, many Jews – and
some have suggested that most Jews – never returned to Jerusalem.
Word got back to Babylon
that there was nothing left of the city except decades of rebuilding to
do. Like some evacuees from flooded
sections of New Orleans
after Hurricane Katrina who chose to stay in their new homes in Texas and elsewhere,
even so, many of the Jewish exiles dared not commit themselves to decades of
rebuilding a new city
hath God wrought? God had destroyed the
structures of Jerusalem
as a sign of Israel’s
destruction of their covenant with God.
God had chastened his people but had never abandoned them. Now if Israel was ready to rebuild that
covenanted relationship with God, then rebuilding the city and Temple would be the sign. Through the construction of the city and
renewed worship in the rebuilt Temple,
the people acknowledged the nature of God as their father. And they confessed with the prophet, “O Lord,
you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work
of your hands.” That is what God had
have entered Advent. Advent is a
liturgical season. But for the
Christian, Advent is a way of living.
Advent means waiting. Not just
for Christmas. As the Catechism says, “in the long preparation
for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his
second coming.”  Advent is our waiting to experience the
presence of Christ when he returns in glory.
And Advent is the Christian experience of constantly seeking, “What hath
God wrought?” and, in asking that question, setting the stage for experiencing
God’s arrival in our lives even now. So,
on the level of salvation history, Advent means anxiously watching for Christ’s
return. But on a personal level, the
Advent attitude is a matter of always looking around ourselves to see what God
is doing in our life right now.
late Illinois Senator Paul Simon told a story of a road trip with his brother
years ago. As it was a cool evening,
they turned off the car air conditioner, rolled down the windows and listened
to the sounds of nature around them.
Rounding a curve, the boys thought they heard a call for help. So they turned the car around and pulled over
to look for the caller. And they discovered a rolled-over car with a driver
pinned within. Paul’s brother raced his
car to the nearest farm to call an ambulance.
stayed with the driver. He asked when
the accident happened. The trapped man
said it happened early in the morning on his way to work. He said every time a car went by he hollered
for help. But the Simon’s were the first
to stop. The future senator concluded
that he and his brother were the only ones to stop because they were the only
ones deliberately listening to the sounds of an evening drive.
Advent attitude is about deliberately listening to the presence of God in our
lives. The Advent life means becoming
familiar with the voice and hand of God.
Our bible study familiarizes us as to how God speaks, how God
leads. Our personal prayer attunes us to
hearing God’s voice, so that we always inquire of God, “What hath God wrought?”
and, “What is God doing for me and where is God calling me right now?”
this Advent attitude we truly become people awaiting the presence of Christ to
be revealed – not only in theory but in our actual, personal encounters with
God’s grace within us. And, building a
spiritual life on an Advent attitude, we stand before God with this prayer in
our heart: “Would that you [God] might
meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways.”
 Numbers 23:23b
– “It shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘Behold what God has
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No.
November 23, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
There is a parable in the Book of
Judges  in
reaction to the peoples’ demand that Israel should have a king like
other nations. In it, the trees want a
king and ask the olive tree to reign over them, but the olive refuses to give
up its precious olive oil. They ask the
fig tree to reign over them, but the fig would not surrender its sweet, good
fruit. The trees beg the vine to rule,
but it would not stop producing wine that cheers men’s heart. Then the trees ask the buckthorn, and the
buckthorn gladly invites the trees to take shelter in its shade, which
overwhelms every tree in the pain of its prickly thorns. For, so it is with kings.
we enter the last week of the Church’s year we celebrate Christ as our
king. This is awkward for us. We live in a republic that has rejected royalty. Even when most contemporary kings and queens
are benign figureheads with insignificant power, as in the United Kingdom
we remain leery of those who arrogate to themselves the trappings of
royalty. Yet, here we are, foisting on
Jesus a title that we can barely tolerate.
did have kings, it seemed comforting to think of them as “shepherds” of the
nation, guiding and guarding people as shepherds guide and guard their
flocks. So it might seem more reassuring
if we were to celebrate the end of 2014 with a feast for Christ the
Shepherd. We certainly are reassured by
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, 
who lays down his life for the sheep.
in today’s parable of the final judgment, Jesus did not describe a “good
shepherd.” Jesus compared divine
judgment to what shepherds actually do.
Shepherds are as dangerous to the sheep as are kings to the people.
course the shepherd guides and guards his flocks, but it is not out of love,
rather it is out of economic necessity.
Yes, he will keep his sheep for years of sheering that provides wool for
clothing. But there will come a day when
the sheep is old, and then it will become a delicious leg of mutton. Yes, the shepherd will protect his goats that
provide milk for the children and cheese to enhance the menu. But there will come a day when the goat dries
up, and it will then provide meat for the skewer and flesh to be made into new
wineskins. The shepherd decides the fate
of his flock.
he set up this parable, Jesus used a phrase that he often applied to
himself: Son of Man. Jesus compared himself to a shepherd. But here he did not describe the good
shepherd. He described a shepherd who
judges the value of each member of his flock.
In his parable the sheep and goats can speak, just as the trees in the
Book of Judges spoke to each other. And
the Son of Man invites some of the flock – the sheep – to enter the kingdom of
the Father. Others – the goats – the Son
of Man excludes from the Father’s kingdom.
what basis does the shepherd choose?
Those who gave water, food, comfort and companionship to others had
provided the same blessings to himself.
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you...?” Those who failed to give water, food,
clothing, shelter, and fellowship to others had failed to share the same with
himself. “Lord, when did we … not
minister to your needs?” On this alone
was their fate determined. To the right
went those blessed by the Father. To the
left were consigned those bound for eternal fire and the devil.
before, the prophet Ezekiel had also prophesied to the people of Judah that the
Lord God “will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and
goats.” The Son of Man will shepherd but
he will also judge. This divine judgment
on you and me will be based on the choices we have made in life and the actions
each of us has taken. Every decision you
or I take makes a difference; every action lays claim to the direction of our
eternal life. Our choices may seem small
at the time. Sometimes they could be
heroic – even traumatic. But, for the
most part, divine judgment will be about human compassion in daily living,
about our going out of self to reach another.
And by reaching another in their need, we are extending ourselves to the
Son of Man.
we end Anno Domini 2014, it is
fitting to reflect on those decisions and actions of ours in this passing year
that will be summed up at judgment day.
By our actions today may we prepare ourselves to hear, “Come, you who
are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world…. Amen, I say to
you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for
Thirty-third Sunday in
November 16, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20,
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
A burglar – a thief at night – broke
into a New York
company that manufactures burglar-proof glass.
He did it by – guess what – smashing the company’s glass doors. The firm’s president said, “It never occurred
to us to put burglar-proof glass in our own
As we near the end of the Church’s
year, there is a strong suggestion in our scripture selections that we prepare
for the Lord’s unexpected arrival. Saint Paul wrote, “that
the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” Shouldn’t you and I, then, prepare?
But the parable of Jesus heard today
is not so much about our expectations
of Christ’s return as it is about Christ’s
expectations of us.
parable is not about making a profit, or even about developing one’s God-given
abilities. A talent was a weight of
money, scholars estimate between 60 and 75 pounds of silver. (At approximately $720,000 per talent in
currency, the first of the servants received about $3.6 million.) Historians surmise a talent was at that time worth
6,000 drachmas (or Latin denarii), each denarius considered a minimum wage for a day’s pay. Doing the math, a single talent in those days
was equivalent to a year’s income for a wealthy family, or 16 years’ wages for
a common person.
Jesus hinted that money is not the point of his story. Notice the Master referred to the talents as
“a small matter” (though the sums were considerable, even for a wealthy
person). So Jesus implies money is not
the point of the story. Following this
hint, contemporary use of the term “talent” no longer means a weight of silver,
but a metaphor for a person’s God-given capabilities.
But that’s another detour, because the
key to the parable is not the talents, but the reaction of the Master upon his return. His response to his servants was to grant “greater
responsibility” to the first two, who share in their Master’s joy. Then the Master took away all responsibility from
the timid servant, who ended up outside in the darkness, where there is no joy,
but only the “wailing and grinding of teeth.”
this parable Jesus revealed God’s expectation of you and me, his servants. If we wish to enter the kingdom of God,
you and I must become adventuresome like those first two servants. We should not trust caution, like the timid
servant. There must be daring in our
lives, if we are to become part of God’s kingdom. To double each sum of silver required great daring
– they could have lost all of their Master`s money, perhaps forfeiting their
lives! But their daring was richly
rewarded. Timidity, on the other hand, paralyzed
the third servant: he did nothing. He stayed safe. And he lost everything!
Where is the adventure, the
risk-taking, in our life of faith – as a Church and as individuals? Although the consequences are profound, Jesus
is not looking for cautious, safe participation in the Kingdom of God. The participation to which Jesus calls us is
risk-taking; it’s adventure.
Our young people are good at
risk-taking. Every nervous parent who
lends their teenager the car keys knows what that means. Every teen who has taken a dare knows what
I’m talking about. And every adult who
has started a business or who has boldly taken a responsible position in the
corporation knows what I’m talking about.
Abundant life comes from risk-taking and it’s an adventure.
That’s what Jesus is talking about
in this parable. Who’s ready for the
adventure of a lifetime? Who’s ready to
take our faith seriously and do something with it? That’s what the Master will be looking for
when he returns at the end our own life or at the end of all time.
It’s going to be an adventure to be
a Catholic or a Christian in these days.
The Church has been sorely wounded by the sexual abuse scandals,
exposing the Church’s standing as a moral leader to ridicule by comics on TV and
smart-alecks at work or school. That
makes it adventuresome to stand up for our Catholic beliefs. Criticism doesn’t change the fact that our
beliefs are from God.
As American Catholics we face
temptations to play it safe, like that third servant, because leadership in the
White House and Congress and Beacon Hill is so completely pro-abortion and
pro-the Gay Activist agenda. For us to
propose a moral, religious, and political position that is Pro-Life and follows
the natural law concerning sexuality demands great courage. It will also require well informed
consciences and articulate arguments. It
presupposes deep faith, especially when we may be afraid of being accused of
being weirdly religious, homophobic, closed-minded or hate-filled. All these are words intended to make us bury our
talents. But what will the Master say
when he returns? That should be our Catholic concern, not how others may criticize or
Catholics will need more courage
than we’ve needed since the early days of our nation when in many colonies (and,
later on, some states) Catholics were persecuted and priests had a bounty on
their heads for celebrating Mass. Those
kinds of laws are unlikely today, but we do face so many so-called Catholic
politicians who embarrass our faith by living immodestly and by supporting laws
that offend our Catholic teachings and consciences. Some of our fellow citizens – our neighbors –
also hold the Church in disdain and ridicule, or dismiss the Christian faith is
irrelevant. To stand up to proclaim and
live our faith in the face such people and leaders will be an adventure!
law and politics, Christians meet the immediate needs of people around us. Are you and I afraid to extend ourselves to
our neighbor for fear of rejection – or worse, of getting too “involved?” We have a responsibility to be involved. “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus was asked. And he told the story of the Good Samaritan, [i] who
pitied and helped the wounded traveler.
Besides our response to a neighbor’s practical needs, an end in itself, showing
compassion to neighbors also calls them to belief. Compassion is evangelization. The faith may become their adventure, too!
Prepare! Prepare for the adventure by discerning our
talents through our study of scripture and in prayer. Prepare for the adventure by nurturing our
talents in the sacraments of the Church.
Those who have boldly undertaken the adventure of a living faith will
gain more until they grow rich, while those who are fearful of this
adventuresome spirit will lose the little they think they have.