I did not expect to give a homily on this cruise but I thank Fr. Jack for the opportunity. I would like to offer a little reflection to you while we are at sea.
Today is Friday of the 2nd week of Advent and so liturgically we are still in the period of preparation and waiting for the commemoration of the first coming of Christ.
In today's Gospel Christ talks about the people of His time, comparing them to confused and disobedient children. He points out the inconsistency of their comments (the Israelites) about John the Baptist and of Christ where whatever John and Jesus did, these people talked against.
Our present culture is similar, even worse. For all those centuries of the spreading of His Gospel to the world, those cherished values have been dumped, criticized and even ridiculed. . . values like the sanctity of human life, of the nature of family and marriage, are aggressively attacked. Where vice is praised and virtue is ridiculed, where God is now deprived of His role in human affairs, where the true is now regarded as false, the good evil, and the ugly beautiful.
The first reading from Sirach yesterday tells us that God gives us free will to keep His commandments. He does not force us to accept Him nor to obey Him. In the first reading today from Isaiah, He invites us to keep His commandments, for He knows what is good for us. Just like we need to follow the rules of the cruise captain so we can safely reach our ports of destination, so we need to keep God's commandments so we can reach our eternal destination.
The universal call to holiness is meant to keep us closer to God, to sanctify us by our keeping His commandments in our particular state of life. But in the pursuit of holiness, we are engaged in a spiritual warfare or combat . . . with temptations from our adversary the devil, who is like a roaring lion seeking the ruin of our souls. We also fight the culture of death. We fight against our weaknesses and human tendencies.
But aware of this, and of our weak nature, we know we need God's grace. And if we need His grace, we need to put Him at the Center of our lives trying to please Him in all things we think say and do. Our waiting for Christ is not limited to the 4 weeks of Advent and we not only wait but we long for Him, we yearn for Him, for as St. Augustine said we were made for Him, and our hearts will never rest until they rest in Him.
This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent. We turn our focus on the joy in anticipation of the Lord's coming.
Our whole life is a preparation for His coming when we meet Him face to face when our journey of life ends. It's either we will be holy enough to be with our Most Holy God, or not.
Let our preparation be consistent. . Let us have faith in God's love and mercy which is compared to the vastness of the sea that we have been familiar with for the past few days of our cruise.
If we love God, and keep His commandments, we will flourish like the palm tree as our psalm says, and we will live with Him forever.
We are about to end our cruise. Like the voyage we have made, we ask our Lady of Perpetual Help: "When the voyage is o'er O stand on the shore, and show Him at last to me. #
* Delivered at a Mass on Holland America cruise ship December 2017