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December 9th, 2001
Catholic Homilies
December 9th, 2001

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Second Sunday in Advent Mt 3/1-12


There was conflict between the followers of John the Baptist and the followers of Jesus in the days of the early Church. The Baptist's people claimed superiority because Jesus had once been a disciple of the Baptist and had been baptized by him. The Jesus people responded with stories in which John was presented as preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. The debate no longer concerns us today. But we do see that, whether intentionally or not, John did clear the way for Jesus because he preached a decisive change in history. He was the most powerful of all the apocalyptic preachers at a time when everyone was expecting change. The change which came with Jesus was not one that people expected, probably not the one John expected either. But his warning that it was a time for "metanoia," a word meaning "total transformation" was valid for his day. And for ours. We are called upon during advent and indeed through our whole lives to transform ourselves, to break out of our old habits and begin life again as a new person. We may not be able to do it perfectly. We will make mistakes and fall back into old ways, but it is enough to respond continually to the invitation.

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Once upon a time, a pastor invited his parishioners to participate in special mass to which he invited representatives of the local Muslim community. He invited the Muslim guests and the parishioners to a gathering in the church hall after the liturgy. He hoped that once the parishioners became acquainted with people of a different faith tradition who lived beyond the boundaries of their upper middle class neighbor, they might respond to the challenge to respect other religious traditions. However, some parishioners were irate that the pastor had invited non-Christians to the liturgy –after all they did not belong to the parish and had no business being at the mass. Indeed some of the irate parishioners left their local church and joined another parish, making sure that its pastor would not expect them to mingle with people of a different faith. Those who remained in the parish developed a deeper appreciation for the beliefs of their guests and also learned from them that they, too, had members who were askance to hear that they would attend a Catholic liturgy. All at the gathering agreed that both of their traditions call for respect of the beliefs of others.

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All at the gathering agreed that both of their traditions call for respect of the beliefs of others

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