Second Sunday of Advent - Fr. Pete Iorio
December 4, 2021 - 5:00 PM
December 5, 2021 - 8:30 AM
The second reading speaks to me when Saint Paul writes this in his letter to the Philippians: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more. And by looking at the life of Saul who became Paul, we see a person who knows that his life is a work in progress. We are not complete until as he says the day of Christ Jesus. Our goal as Paul expresses in his prayer should be to continue to grow and change. It is when we become complacent and stagnant that spiritual sickness sets in.
And he tells the people of Philippi that he has a prayer for them and it really is a desire, a prayer for all of us as well. That your love may increase ever more and more. One of the providential blessings that our parish is receiving this Advent is the mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart is symbolic of love. Having participated about 17 years ago in an enthronement mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at our Cathedral Parish when I was assigned there, I recall that there were great blessings for all who participated. I also believe that it is providential that our priest retreat this past October included a talk on the art of loving. Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Texas was our retreat master and one of his talks helped us as priests increase in our love.
The retreat was very well received by our priests. We were very moved by the bishop’s personal experiences of putting the art of loving into practice… so they were not just words, but he shared his life with us.
Here are some highlights. Jesus is the incarnation of love. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman who had five husbands, Jesus spoke love to her, not condemnation. The attitude of Christ has to be love and so does our attitude. The woman who was caught in adultery encountered Jesus who is love not condemnation. Jesus encountered people first with love and then called them to the moral life. Love is our way, our truth, and our freedom. There are five expressions from the Scriptures which are called the art of loving.
The first point in the art of loving is to be the first to love. In the first letter of John it says “and this is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his son.” So following God’s initiative, we can see those who are in need around us and be motivated with the attitude of love to go out to other people. A simple example is that I can recognize that even though it is not my job to do a particular thing like clean up, I can be the first to love by concretely doing something for the good of others.
The second point in the art of loving is to love everyone. From the gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, God makes his sun rise on the good and on the bad and the rain falls on the just and the unjust. In other words, these good things that God sends to earth, sun and rain are for the benefit of all regardless of whether a person is deserving of it or not. God loves everyone and so we in imitation of God should not discriminate in our love towards other people.
The third point is directly from the mouth of Jesus as the second greatest commandment and that is to love your neighbor as yourself. It means putting yourself in the other person’s place. It is counteractive to selfishness because it requires us to pay attention to the other person and his or her needs as if they are my own.
The fourth point of the art of loving is to recognize the presence of Jesus in those who are suffering, and this comes from the 25th chapter of Matthew in the description of the last judgment. Jesus said whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me. Jesus explained that whenever a person is thirsty and we give that person something to drink or homeless and we give them shelter or in prison and we visit them, we are loving and doing something concrete to help Him. He identifies himself with those who are in need. So the fourth point is to love Jesus in the other.
The fifth point of the art of loving is the hardest. But Jesus himself said it in Matthew chapter 5. You have heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Whenever we actively try to reconcile or forgive or pray for our prosecutors or those who have offended us in any way, those who have different points of view than us, we are living this fifth and very difficult point in the art of loving. It takes courage but it bears great fruit. When we make our little effort to love the enemy, God does the bulk of the work.
Paul’s prayer for Philippi is my prayer for the Fatima’s Advent mission: that our love may increase more and more and that the good work begun in us come to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.