The Cardinal Virtues and Daily Examination of Conscience: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the First Sunday of Advent

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Written as an aid for homilists, this doctrinal homily outline for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A), December 1, 2013, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

To view the Lectionary readings (§1), click here.

Wake up and prepare to meet Christ: Central Idea

Reading 1 Is 2:1-5

  • The prophet Isaiah sees a future in which God dwells with his Chosen People. All nations recognize this, Gentiles stream to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, and the world enjoys universal peace.
  • This prophecy is fulfilled now in Christ and in the Church Triumphant in Heaven. It will be universally fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.
  • This is why we should redouble our efforts to “walk in the light of the Lord!” so as to be faithful to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

  • For us Christians, Jerusalem and its Temple represents heaven and Christ. The expectation of living together with Christ in peace should give us joy.

Reading 2 Rom 13:11-14

  • Echoing our Lord’s warning to stay awake and be prepared for judgment, St. Paul admonishes us to wake from sleep.
  • It is part of our human nature to find pleasure in eating and drinking, in intimacy, and in being esteemed by others. There are legitimate ways are natural desires can be satisfied. But due to the wound of original sin, we are as likely to pursue them through gluttony, drunkenness, lust, rivalry, and jealousy.
  • To put on the armor of light is to pursue a life of virtue. Temperance, for example, is the power to hold back from pleasures that would be sinful, like gluttony, drunkenness, and lust.
  • We are not supposed to be sleepwalking through life. We have a purpose and a goal: To live as a child of God now, so as to live with him forever.

Gospel Mt 24:37-44

  • We are responsible for what we do. Someday Christ will hold us responsible for all our behavior. This is why we have to be awake, to be prepared.
  • The virtue which keeps us awake is prudence or sound decision making about our actions. The prudent person deliberates, makes a judgment, and then act.

The cardinal virtues: Doctrine

  • There are four essential habits for human beings which ensure we will always be awake, walking in the light of the Lord, prepared to meet him whenever he should call us to account. They are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
  • Justice is giving everyone what we owe them, beginning with God. Prudence is the judgment of our reason that an action we going to take will, in fact, be just. The rule or standard of what is just is right reason and the divine law. Temperance is self-control to do what is just when the unjust action seems more pleasant. Fortitude is the will power to do what is just despite fear or pain.
  • God helps us develop these four virtues with his grace. We cannot be the just person the Scriptures praise without them. We must be awake to whether our actions are just and not fail due to pleasure or pain.

 Daily examination of conscience: Practical application

  • Prudence is the human power to think about our actions, determine whether they conform to right reason, and to choose them or not.
  • One very important application of prudence is the daily examination of conscience. In the evening, before we are too tired to think, we stop our other activities and “wake up” by reviewing our day in God’s presence, asking him to help us see what we have and have not done well. We thank God for any good we have been able to do and we ask him to forgive our sins and failings. The examination of conscience prepares us for sacramental confession.
  • By a daily examination of conscience, we get to know ourselves. We really get to know ourselves when we see not only what we have done wrong, but why we have done it. With God’s grace and our effort, we will be able to improve and become more and more that just person who is always ready to give an account.

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