02 December 2021

Word and deed, word and deed

1st Week of Advent (Th)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA

Christ reveals the Father finally and uniquely in word and deed. He teaches us to pursue his mission and ministry in word and deed. Words alone may satisfy the intellect but leave the will with nothing to do. Deeds give the will plenty to do but can leave the intellect idle. If we will build our spiritual house on solid rock, we will pursue holiness in word and deed, revealing the Christ to the world in every word we speak and every deed we do. IOW, we will bring our whole person – body and soul, intellect and will – to task of growing in holiness. To do the will of the Father, we have to hear and listen to the will of the Father. This means cultivating an intellectual life finely tuned to the Real. Not just the really real of the physical world but the really real of the whole of Creation as created. Here we see the wisdom of the prophets naming God our Father. How else can we receive ourselves as hearers and doers of the Word except as creatures? We are wholly dependent on the Father for our very existence. Our growth in holiness is founded on the solid rock of humility. This is the truth we bear witness to in word and deed. 

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28 November 2021

Waking a drowsy heart

1st Sunday of Advent

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


I don't have to tell you that the world is out of whack. Has been for a while now. But have you noticed that we seem to be swirling 'round the bowl faster than ever? Maybe it's just me, but my brakes aren't working and the ditches seem to be a lot wider than they used to be. I keep getting the urge to yell, “Let me off this thing!” There's a monastery in Wyoming that needs the services of a gently used Dominican friar, I'm sure of it. Unfortunately, fleeing to a cozy monastic cell isn't really an option. And I doubt any of you have that option either. We're in the world as it spirals out of control. We have two sources of solace while we spin: 1). the world has been out of control since the Fall in the Garden, so nothing new, really; and 2). Christ is coming back for us. What counts right now is what we do in the Meantime. Jesus warns us, Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” Drowsy. Complacent. Self-satisfied. In the Meantime, we are to remain vigilant, on-guard, ever ready. Advent is our time to practice being prepared for the coming of Christ.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, I'm not much of a drinker or a carouser, so I'm good. I'm ready.” And that's great! Two fewer obstacles for you to tackle. But how are you with the anxieties of daily life? Are you worrying yourself sick about the kids, the grand kids, the job, the mortgage, the economy, crime, politics, race relations, the Saints' less than stellar win-lose ratio? IOW, are you allowing – yes, allowing – the people and events you have no control over occupy your heart and mind with fantasies of control? That's anxiety. Anxiety is the body and soul's reaction when it becomes clear to you that you have no control, yet you continue to believe and behave as if you do. You can let the illusion go and be free, or you can continue being a slave to magical thinking. Anxiety works well for the Enemy b/c it keeps you preoccupied in pride. While you spend your time and energy proudly attempting to will reality in a different direction through worrying, you neglect your duty to grow in holiness. The more you worry, the more you open yourself to the world, seeking solutions in passing things. The more you worry, the less you trust in God's promise to provide. The less you trust God, the further you fall into the world. The less prepared you are for Christ's return.

How do we prepare? Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, says, to love boundlessly so as “to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus.” Loving without limit puts us squarely in the world while leaving us uninfluenced by the world. That's holiness. If we love to be seen loving, then we are not loving as Christ loves us. We're loving to make ourselves into saviors: “Look at me! Look at how loving I am! I'm saving all these poor wretches from hungry and disease!” That's not being blameless in holiness but rather being blameworthy in worldliness. Our works of mercy must be done for the greater glory of God and no other reason. Otherwise, we are not preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ Jesus as the Just Judge but rather condemning ourselves with self-glorification. In fact, this is one of the ways that you can allow your heart to become drowsy – you come believe that your mercy is yours to bestow. To give or withhold mercy is mine to decide. A heart and mind given to this lie is more than just drowsy; it's drunk with power. And in need an awakening.

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy...” What can we do to keep our hearts alert? First, let go of anxiety, let go of worry. It's distracting and pointless. Advent is about waiting in joyful anticipation for two events we know are coming: the arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas and the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the age. We are to be prepared for both. Ready to welcome him, the Infant Jesus, and ready to be judged by the Just Judge. Worry does nothing to prepare us. Second, go to confession! Water cannot flow through a clogged pipe. You can't chew if your jaws are wired shut. Sin prevents us from receiving God's gifts. Sin clogs our pipes and wires our jaws. Go to confession and be ready for your judgment. Third, be generous. Generosity is one of the many surefire ways of growing in humility. Nothing you have or are is yours. All of it – me, you, all the things of man and nature – belong to God first. We are given these things as gifts to use while we're here. When you are generous with what you have and are, you acknowledge to God and others that you depend on Him alone. Take these weeks of Advent to practice being prepared for your final judgment. Jesus exhorts us: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength...to stand before the Son of Man.” 

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