Sunday, December 29, 2019

Faith, Fidelity and Forgiveness: The Three Keys to Undermining Satan’s Anti-Family Strategy

(Holy Family 2019 (A): This homily was given on December 29, 2019, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Sirach 3:2-6, 6-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-22.) 

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Holy Family 2019]

I’ll begin my homily today with a question:  If you were Satan, what would you do?

(I hope no one is offended by the question.)

Keep in mind what his goal is: The goal of Satan is to take souls to hell—as many souls as he possibly can.

If that were your goal, if that was what you were ultimately trying to achieve in your life, what would be the steps you would take to get there?

Personally, I would attack humanity like I would attack a house if I wanted to get it to fall:  I would go after the foundation!

That means I would go after the family, because the family is the foundation of every society.

And I submit to you that’s precisely what Satan has done in the last half century especially.

And, we have to be honest about it, he’s done a pretty good job!

In fact, he’s corrupted the minds of so many people at this point that many men and women don’t even know what THE NORMAL STANDARD FOR FAMILY LIFE is anymore!  (For any here who might be confused, the norm is one man and one woman bound together in a lifelong marital commitment along with their children—natural or adopted!)

Every study I’ve ever read has made clear that this (the traditional, nuclear family) is the best and healthiest environment in which to raise children—which is precisely why Satan is trying to destroy it through things like infidelity, and contraception (which makes infidelity easier and more common), and divorce, and the promotion of “alternative living arrangements” like the “living together phenomenon,” and so-called gay marriage.

This is Satan’s anti-family strategy which, as I said earlier, is working. 

But the good news is, it’s only working because we are allowing it to work!

Remember, Satan has no power over us save the power we give him.

Which leads to the obvious question: How can we reverse the trend?  How can we undermine Satan’s plans for taking souls to hell through the destruction of family life?  Or, to put it in a more positive way, what can we do to strengthen family life (which is, and always will be, the foundation of our society)?

As I reflected on this in preparation for today’s homily, 3 words came to mind: Faith, fidelity and forgiveness.

Those are all words that begin with F (like family) so they will hopefully be easy to remember: To strengthen family life in general, and our individual family life in particular, we need to promote and practice those 3 realities: faith, fidelity and forgiveness.

First, faith.  A family that’s united in a common commitment to God is a family that’s united in a common belief system—especially a common belief system concerning what’s right and what’s wrong.

And that can go a long way toward achieving family harmony.  If, for example, everyone in your family believes that lying and stealing and cheating and disobeying legitimate authority are wrong, that will make a big difference in what goes on in your home.  Everyone will be “on the same page” so to speak in terms their personal morality, because everyone will have the same, ultimate, Divine Authority in their life.

Which brings us to fidelity: Fidelity is faithfulness—faithfulness especially toward one another in difficult times.    How many marriages and families break apart when things begin to get tough?  In some families nowadays there’s little or no desire to work at relationships.  I’ve heard of parents—supposedly Catholic parents—who have threatened to disown their pregnant unwed teenage daughters unless their daughters get abortions.

What kind of support is that?  Support—fidelity to another person—means encouraging that person to do the right thing, and then helping them to follow through on that intention.  It doesn’t mean condoning sin of any kind, but it does involve giving emotional and spiritual guidance and support to the sinner (in this case the sinner in the family).

Which brings us to the final necessary component for the restoration of family life: forgiveness!  No marriage survives without it, no family survives without it—no interpersonal relationship whatsoever survives without it.

Unforgiveness is at the root of every family breakup, which is why the two most common sentences that are uttered in the home of a HEALTHY family are the sentences, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”

So there you have it: faith, fidelity and forgiveness—the three components of a strong family life.

Now since this is the case it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that the Holy Family exhibited each of these qualities in their interpersonal relationships:

  • They definitely shared the same belief system (and morality)
  • Without question, they showed fidelity to one another—especially in difficult times (think of the faithfulness of Mary, for example, in following her Son, even to the cross; think of the faithfulness of Joseph in guiding and protecting Mary and Jesus in the flight to Egypt and back; think of the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph to Jesus in the gospel story of the finding of our Lord in the temple.  They were not going to stop looking for their Son, until he was safely back with them.)
  • And finally, forgiveness.  Since neither Jesus nor Mary ever committed a sin, there was nothing to forgive there—but the very fact that they never committed any sin means they never committed the sin of unforgiveness—which means they ALWAYS forgave Joseph!  Immediately!

Let me conclude my homily now with a prayer to the Holy Family which I found online.  It ties in with so much of what I’ve said in this homily.  I pray it in the name of all the families represented here at this Mass:

JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas and the Tragedy at Babcock Village

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey answers questions about the tragedy at Babcock Village

(Christmas 2019: This homily was given on December 25, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-14.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Christmas 2019]

Whether they were conscious of it or not, last Thursday morning, at about 10:30AM, the residents of Babcock Village here in Westerly understood the meaning of Christmas.  They understood it analogously—and experientially.  You see, the moment those men and women at Babcock Village realized what was going on—that there was an active shooter in the building who was a threat to their lives—they knew what Christmas is all about.

That’s because at that moment—at that terrible, frightening moment—they knew what they needed.  They knew exactly what they needed—and what they did not need.

They knew, for example, that they didn’t need a teacher.  They didn’t need someone to come in and teach them about how a gun works and what a gun can do to people.

They didn’t need a moralist to talk to them about the immorality of using a gun improperly, and how wrong it is to kill innocent human beings.

They didn’t need a social worker to help them get financial assistance or medical benefits.

At the moment they realized there was an active shooter in their apartment building, the good people of Babcock Village knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that what they desperately needed was a SAVIOR!  They knew that their lives were being threatened by a person with killing on his mind, and they knew that they needed somebody to come and prevent this murderer from killing them.

Thankfully that savior—actually I should say thankfully those saviors (plural)—came to the residents of Babcock Village that day in the persons of our first responders, especially our state and local law enforcement personnel. 

And they did a fantastic job.  God bless them for their efforts that day (and every day) to keep the rest of us safe.

I said a few minutes ago that last Thursday morning the people of Babcock Village understood the meaning of Christmas, even if they weren’t aware at the time of the connection between what they were experiencing and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

But hopefully you do recognize the connection.

You see, whether we’re conscious of it or not, spiritually speaking every one of us—every human person—is just like the men and women in those apartments on December 19: we’re in a situation that we can’t get out of on our own.  There’s a killer on the loose—a killer who believe it or not is far more dangerous than the Babcock Village shooter; and that killer, named Satan, wants destroy us for all eternity.  St. Peter describes him as “a roaring lion who’s looking for someone to devour.” His goal is to lead us into sin—preferably serious, mortal sin—and then to keep us there.  And these days he seems to be achieving his goal with a growing number of people.  If you don’t believe me, just read the daily newspaper!  But the fact of the matter is we’re all sinners and we’ve all sinned—many times.  Pride, greed, lust, envy, anger, gluttony and sloth: we’re all guilty in one way or another of at least some of those sins.

And those sins of ours (even if they’re small ones) are infinitely offensive to Almighty God, because our God is infinitely holy; he’s totally perfect.  But you’re not infinite and neither am I; you’re not perfect and neither am I.  We are finite human beings.  That means that all our actions have a finite value—no matter how good or numerous they might be.  Consequently we could never fully atone for even one of our sins.  Only someone who’s both human and divine could do that.  Because he’s human this individual could represent all of us before the heavenly Father, and because he’s divine each and every one of his actions would have INFINITE value.  Hence his one sacrificial act of atonement could bring forgiveness to everyone—everyone who needs it and then seeks it.

This is the “why” of Christmas, my brothers and sisters.  In John, chapter 3 Jesus says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

Only Jesus could do the job because he was both God and man.  As St. John tells us in the gospel reading for Christmas Day: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God” (that’s our Lord’s divine nature).  Then later on he says, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (that’s his human nature).

When people are asked the question, “Who was Jesus Christ?” many will respond by saying, “He was a great teacher” or “He was a great moralist” or “He was a great social reformer.”  And it’s true, Jesus was all of those things and much more.  But first and foremost, Jesus Christ was (and is) A SAVIOR—OUR SAVIOR! 

Because salvation is what we need most as human beings!  We need it most, because if we’re not saved from our sins and able to go to heaven at the end of our lives, nothing in this earthly life matters.  It’s all ultimately meaningless.

Earlier I said that on the morning of December 19, the people of Babcock Village did not need a teacher, or a moralist or a social worker—they needed a savior.  And the Lord, in his mercy, met that need.

Today we celebrate the fact that God has done something similar—and much greater—for us by sending us his Son, Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary on Christmas day, and who gave his life for us on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins—something we could never, ever have done for ourselves.

That forgiveness comes to us as Catholics first through baptism, and then through the sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).  On that note, when was the last time you made a good confession, a thorough confession, an honest confession?

I’ll end my homily now with these words, which were on a Christmas card I received a number of years ago:

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a SAVIOR.

Praised be Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, now and forever.  Amen.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

In Early 21st Century America, How Well Would St. Joseph Fit In?”

(Fourth Sunday of Advent (A): This homily was given on December 22, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24:1-6; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of Advent 2019]

One of the constant themes in science fiction stories is time travel.  What would it be like to travel backwards or forwards in time?—to live in another era of human history?—in another culture?—in another part of the world? 

Well, for the purposes of this homily I played out that theme with respect to St. Joseph and America in the early 21st century.  If we could reach back in time and pluck Joseph out of his carpenter shop—out of his Palestinian world of the first century, and magically transport him halfway around the globe, 2,000 years into the future, what would happen?  How would he fare among us?  Would he fit in well in the early 21st century?  (Too bad Rod Serling isn’t still around!  This might be a good story line for another Twilight Zone program.) 

Now I suppose it would be pretty easy to make Joseph look like a person of our age.  Since almost anything goes these days in terms of hairstyles, we probably wouldn’t have to change much on that score.  A trim and a style would be sufficient.  However, the clothes would have to go.  If he wanted to serve Mass in his first century garb I suppose that would be okay.  But for work and everyday wear, he’d certainly need some new threads.  And I’m not talking about $2,000 silk suits here—the J.C. Penny or even the Kmart variety would do just fine.  And even though he probably wouldn’t like a lot of jewelry, Joseph more than likely would want a crucifix to wear around his neck.  And I’m sure we could also convince him to wear a simple, inexpensive watch—so that he’d always be on time for Mass and his many other day to day appointments.

Making St. Joseph a man of the early 21st century is pretty easy when you’re dealing with things that are on the outside (like clothing and a hairstyle).  It gets much more difficult, however, when you have to deal with matters of the mind and heart.  Here, I would say, Joseph would have a very hard time making the grade.  He just wouldn’t fit in very well. He’d never be numbered among the politically correct, that’s for sure.  In terms of his attitudes and personal philosophy, he’d be a 21st century anomaly. 

We find evidence for this, certainly, in today’s gospel text from Matthew 1.  There we learn some very important things about Joseph—things that distinguish him from many, many people in our modern world.  We learn, for example, that he was a person who did not take the easy way out of things.  In our society today some people are always looking for the easy way out. 

“Can’t deal with reality? Take the easy way out: have a drink—or two or three—or forty!  Take a drag on this joint.  Take this pill.”

“Have an unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy? Take the easy way out—get an abortion.”

“Don’t want to discipline your libido?  Take the easy way out: get some birth control.” 

“Don’t want to work for a living?  Take the easy way out: steal from the government, or from anybody else who comes along the way.”

“Have a terminal illness, or too many problems?  Take the easy way out—call your local ‘Dr. Kevorkian’.  Or if you want just do the job yourself, and try to take a few innocent people along with you, like Joseph Giachello did this past Thursday here in Westerly.” 

Now if St. Joseph had been like this—if he had been someone who always took the easy way out—then, I hope you realize, my brothers and sisters, that there would have been no first Christmas day!  I say that because, in all likelihood, Mary would have been stoned to death, and Jesus would have perished in her womb. 

It says there that Mary and Joseph were “betrothed” to one another.  This means that, according to Jewish law, they were already considered husband and wife, even though they weren’t living together as husband and wife.  And this was not unusual.  According to Jewish law, the period of betrothal lasted for one year prior to what we would consider to be the actual marriage ceremony.  Then, after that, the husband would take his wife into his home, and the marriage would be consummated.  So, even though during the betrothal period couples would not be married by our standards, they were husband and wife according to Jewish standards.  Which means two things: number one, a divorce was needed to break the betrothal bond; and number two, any infidelity during the betrothal year was considered to be adultery. 

So here we have Mary coming to Joseph one day, and telling this good, holy, pure man that she’s conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Can you imagine Joseph’s initial reaction? . . .

“Mary, I’ve never known you to do anything wrong, but, Mary, do you realize what you’re asking me to believe?  I don’t know.  That’s a tough one.  And besides, what will happen to me if this becomes known?  Do you realize what a terrible position this puts me in?  What will happen to me if people find out that I knew about this situation and did nothing about it?  What will that do to my reputation?” 

Now if Joseph had been a person who always took the easy way out, he would have said to himself, “Hey, I don’t need this aggravation.   This is Mary’s problem, not mine.  I don’t want this responsibility.  I don’t want to take the chance of having my reputation ruined.”

In that case, he would have exposed her to the law, and in all likelihood Mary would have been convicted of adultery and stoned to death.  But Scripture says that Joseph was unwilling to do that.  Yes, it would cost him more personally, but to protect Mary and the child he would take the more difficult route and divorce her “quietly”.  Then, of course, he received a revelation from God in a dream, which confirmed Mary’s story.  And then we see that St. Joseph was willing to take upon himself the most difficult job of all: caring each and every day for the divine Son of God and his mother. 

This brings us to some other points about St. Joseph which set him in sharp contrast to many Americans of the early 21st century.  These others I will mention rather quickly: 

As we’ve already seen, Joseph’s primary concern was not, “What’s in it for me?”  His first concern was to obey God’s will, even if it was difficult, even if there was little or no personal glory in it for him. 

Secondly, Joseph wasn’t ruled by his emotions, as so many people are today.  He didn’t act hastily.  He wasn’t quick to lose his cool.  When he was confused about Mary’s situation, what did he do?  In essence the Bible tells us that he “slept on it’.  He didn’t immediately fly off the handle and lose control. 

Thirdly, I think it’s important to mention that St. Joseph wasn’t ruled by his libido either.  That puts him very much at odds with our 21st century world.  Lest we forget, Joseph lived a celibate life within marriage (Mary according to Catholic Church teaching was always a virgin). 

Fourthly, St. Joseph understood that there’s a very big distinction between what’s legal and what’s moral.  That’s definitely a distinction that many in our nation at the present time either don’t understand or simply choose to ignore.  For example, some try to justify abortion by saying, “It’s legal, so it must be okay.”  Others in business will cheat their customers, cutting corners on the quality of their products, and then try to justify their action by saying that the law allows them to cut the corners.  The law allows it, they say, so it must be okay.

How different Joseph was!  He knew it was well within his legal rights to allow Mary to be put on trial for becoming pregnant during their betrothal.  But that was not the issue for this great saint.  The issue for him was, “Is it right?  Is this what God wants?  Is this the moral course of action?”  (Things would have been a lot different this past Thursday here in Westerly if Mr. Giachello had asked himself those questions and answered them properly.)

Dear St. Joseph, we ask you on this 4th Sunday of Advent to pray for us.  The fact that you wouldn’t fit in very well in 21st century America is not your problem, it’s ours.  It says something about us, as individuals and as a society.  It says that we, by the power of God’s grace, need a change of heart, so that we will become more like you.  Pray that this change will occur in us, St. Joseph, and in all Americans, so that someday, in the future, we will be able to say that you would fit in perfectly in our society.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Fr. Ray’s Top Ten Reasons to Repent

David Letterman

(Second Sunday of Advent (A): This homily was given on December 8, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday of Advent 2019]

Comedian David Letterman was well-known for his “Top Ten Lists.”  He shared them periodically on his late night television program.  Well, today I will offer you my variation on this theme, by sharing with you my Top Ten Reasons to Repent.

I don’t think Letterman ever did that during his career.

Of course, there is one big difference between his top ten lists and mine: his were meant to move people to laughter (and they usually did!); mine is designed to move people to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

So here they are—Fr Ray’s Top Ten Reasons to Repent: 

Reason #10: Because John the Baptist told us to in today’s gospel reading from Matthew 3, and John was—in the words of Jesus Christ—“the greatest man ever born of woman.”  I think it’s a sign of wisdom to follow the advice of a person that Jesus thought so highly of!

Reason #9 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance is necessary to receive the Holy Spirit, whose fruits are things like joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and self-control”—all of which we should want in our lives.  When the crowds heard Peter preach on Pentecost Sunday they were deeply moved and they said to him, “What must we do?”  Peter said, “You must repent”—those were his very first words—“You must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins; THEN you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2: 38)  Repentance is always a precondition for receiving the Spirit and the many good things the Spirit brings into our lives.

Reason #8 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance makes room in our heart for God.  As Bishop Sheen used to put it, “If you fill a box with salt, you cannot fill it with pepper.”  In other words, to the extent that our heart is filled with sin, to that extent it cannot be filled with God’s grace and love.

Reason #7 why it’s good to repent: Because repentance improves our relationships with other people—by the very fact that it improves us!  Do you enjoy being around people who never admit that they’ve done anything wrong?  I don’t know about you, but those are the people I try to stay away from!  People who will admit when they’re wrong and say they’re sorry—those are the people I enjoy spending time with.

Reason #6 why repentance is good: Because it brings us inner peace—and helps to bring about peace between us and others.  I think every priest can tell you stories of men and women who have made good confessions and then breathed a big, audible sigh of relief after they’ve been absolved.  They’ve repented in a deep and genuine way, and they experience a burst of peace in their hearts.


And, of course, if you have a situation where two people hurt one another deeply and then both repent individually, there’s a very good chance that they will eventually be reconciled to one another.  The chance of reconciliation is much less if only one repents—or if neither does.

Reason #5 why repentance is good: Repentance brings with it self-knowledge.  The person who recognizes his faults and admits them knows his true self.  The prideful person who never repents doesn’t know his true self (or perhaps he just doesn’t want to know his true self).

Reason #4 to repent: Since we’re all sinners, repentance is the only path to holiness!   If we weren’t sinners, it would be a different story—but we are.  Therefore it’s only by seeking forgiveness for our sins that we can move spiritually from where we are right now to where God wants us to be.

Reason #3 why repentance is good: It doesn’t cost anything (except a little humility and honesty)—which should be very good news in these challenging economic times!

Reason #2 to repent: Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, told us to!  In fact, it was the very first command he gave us in his public ministry: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  (Mark 1: 15)

And, finally, the #1 reason to have true, genuine repentance in your heart: Because without it, you can’t possibly get into heaven!  No repentance—no forgiveness—no eternal life!

This, believe it or not, is where I will end my homily today.  By my standards, I think you’ll agree, it was rather short.  Ah, but the real question is: Was it successful?

I wish I could tell you the answer to that question, but, unfortunately, I can’t.

Only you can.

Remember what I said earlier: David Letterman’s top ten lists were meant to move people to laughter; my list here is designed to move people to seek God’s forgiveness for their sins, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Will that happen?
Only you can decide.

So my personal prayer today is that you will make this homily—that I worked so hard to prepare!—successful by your repentance and by your resolution to make a good confession sometime in the very near future.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

How to Ruin Things

One way to ruin a house

(First Sunday of Advent (A): This homily was given on December 1, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-9; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24:37-44.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: First Sunday of Advent 2019]

Today’s lesson is on how to ruin things.

Now that might sound like a rather negative topic for a Sunday homily, but I can assure you that at the end of it all, the message will be a very positive one.

How to ruin things . . .

If you own a car, and want to ruin it, the good news is you have a number of options.  For example:

  • You can drain the oil out of the crankcase and then attempt to go on driving the vehicle (you probably won’t get very far);
  • You can slash the tires, smash the windows and put dirt in the gas tank (that will certainly do the trick);
  • Or you can just “let things go,” so to speak.  In other words, you can neglect the oil changes, the tune-ups, and the many other items of routine maintenance called for in the owner’s manual.  It will take a little longer, of course, to ruin your car in that way—through neglect—but eventually it will happen.

If you own a house, and want to ruin it, you also have a lot of options:

  • You can have your teenagers play contact sports in the living room, and allow your three-year-old to do artwork on the walls with his finger paint;
  • You can smash the furniture, rip the curtains and break all the dishes and glasses in the kitchen;
  • You can turn on the water in the upstairs bathtub and then let it overflow—for 3 or 4 hours;
  • Or, once again, you can just let things go.  You can avoid painting the house, fixing the roof, cleaning the floors and doing all the routine maintenance that’s required to keep a home in good shape.

If you want to ruin a friendship, you can do a number of things:
  • You can call your friend and tell him off;
  • You can spread false rumors about him;
  • You can cause division in his family and break up his marriage;
  • Or you can simply ignore him and pretend he doesn’t exist!  Every friendship needs to be nourished by personal contact on some level.  Without that contact, a friendship can very easily weaken and die with passage of time.

I give these examples today because on this First Sunday of Advent the focus of our gospel reading is on the second coming of Jesus Christ.  This, as most of us know, is one of the foundational beliefs of our faith.  As we say in the Creed every Sunday, “[We believe that Jesus, our Lord and Savior,] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  That same belief is expressed in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer when we say (or sing), "We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection UNTIL YOU COME AGAIN.”

We believe that the physical world as we know it will eventually come to an end.  As the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, “We do not have here a lasting city.”  At some unknown time in the future, Jesus will come again as our judge, and put a definitive end to human history.

But even if we don’t live to see that day, we will all experience the Lord’s second coming: we’ll experience it at the moment we die!  And because that moment can literally come at any time, Jesus urges us in this gospel to always be ready!

Here’s an interesting thought: In today’s second reading from Romans 13 it says, “It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Our salvation is also nearer now—at this moment—than it was when I began my homily!  Did you realize that?  And it will be nearer at the end of my homily than it is right now!

Every second that passes, brings each of us one second closer to the end—to our end.

That end, of course, is also supposed to be a beginning: the glorious beginning of a new life with Jesus Christ in his eternal kingdom.  But getting into that kingdom is NOT automatic, as Jesus makes clear in this text!  Which is precisely why I entitled this homily, “How to ruin things”!  Just as it’s possible to ruin a car, and a house, and a friendship, so it’s also possible to ruin our eternal salvation!

And we can ruin our salvation in the very same ways that we can ruin those other things I mentioned.  For example, I said that you can ruin a car by DOING certain things to it: by taking out the oil, by slashing the tires, by smashing the windows, etc.  But then I said that you could also ruin a car by simply neglecting it: by neglecting to change the oil and perform the normal maintenance specified in the owner’s manual.

I also said you could ruin a house or a close friendship in either of those two ways: by actions or by neglect.

I said all those things for a reason: to make an important parallel with our spiritual lives!

Think about it: How does a person ruin his or her salvation?

Well the obvious answer is: by doing something really bad!  We lose salvation—we lose sanctifying grace after Baptism—by committing a mortal sin and never repenting of it.

But that’s only half the story!  We can also ruin our salvation through neglect.  And I base that assertion on the words of Jesus in this gospel.  Jesus starts off here by comparing people who are not ready for his second coming with the people at the time of Noah who were unprepared for the Great Flood.  Now I would have expected Jesus to say that these unprepared people back in Noah’s day were lying, cheating, stealing, killing one another and committing adultery—and this is why they weren’t ready.

But notice something: THAT’S NOT WHAT HE SAYS!  Listen again to his words: “In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Now I ask you, what was so bad about eating—and drinking (we all need water, don’t we?)?  What was so bad about marrying and giving someone away in marriage?

The answer is: Nothing!  Those things were—and are—all GOOD!  That was not the problem!  The problem was NEGLECT!  What Jesus was saying is that these unprepared men and women were guilty of NEGLECT!  They lost their lives simply because they were going about their daily business while at the same time neglecting to take care of their souls! 

So how do you ruin your salvation?

By committing a mortal sin, yes; but also by neglecting your spiritual life!  Because when you neglect your spiritual life, you can easily fall into mortal sin.

Think now of all the things that most people do NOT neglect during the season of Advent:

·         They do not neglect shopping (although they might wait until the last minute!); 
·         They do not neglect cooking and baking (they’ve just got to make those special Christmas cookies for everybody in the family!);
·         They do not neglect socializing;
·         They do not neglect decorating (even if they don’t like to do it);
·         And they certainly don’t neglect eating—and eating—and eating!

But a lot of people neglect their souls, don’t they?  They neglect spending extra time in prayer.  When December 8 is a holy day of obligation they neglect coming to Mass; they may even neglect attending a Sunday Mass if they’ve got a lot of shopping or baking to do.  They also neglect the extra opportunities they have to make a good examination of conscience and go to Confession. 

They make extra time for everything and for everybody during this holy season of the year—except Jesus (who just happens to be the reason for the season!)!

Today, as many of you know, is “New Year’s Day” in the Church: it’s the first day of the Church’s new liturgical year.  That means it’s a good day for all of us to make a joint resolution.  Let’s resolve at this Mass NOT to neglect our spiritual lives during the next 4 weeks of Advent.

And by the grace of God may that resolution then carry over to the other 48 weeks of the year.