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

One imagining of Heavenly Jerusalem, our destination
One imagining of Heavenly Jerusalem, our destination

Central idea: Wake up and prepare to meet Christ. Doctrine: The cardinal virtues. Practical application: Daily examination of conscience.

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

Central idea: Wake up and prepare to meet Christ

Reading 1 Is 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

  • The prophet Isaiah foretells the future: God will dwell with his Chosen People. All nations will recognize this; Gentiles will stream to Jerusalem on pilgrimage; and the world will enjoy universal peace.
  • This prophecy is now fulfilled in Christ and in the Church Triumphant in Heaven. It will be universally fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.
  • This good and glorious future is why we should redouble our efforts to “walk in the light of the Lord!” so as to be faithful to our Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • So we Christians are on a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem. Our road is the natural and divine Law. Our guides are the legitimate pastors of the Church. Our manner of walking is in imitation of Christ. And we have hope of reaching our destination: this is our reason for supernatural joy despite the hardships along the road.

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

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.

According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.

Because of my brothers and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.

  • For us Christians, Jerusalem and its Temple represents heaven and Christ. This is the true home we have always been seeking.
  • This expectation–of you and me, with all the redeemed, living together with Christ in peace, perfectly at home, with the fullness of goodness, truth, beauty, and love–should give us joy.

Reading 2 Rom 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

  • Echoing our Lord’s warning to stay awake and be prepared for judgment, St. Paul admonishes us to wake from sleep.
  • It is a good part of our human nature to find happiness in eating and drinking, in intimacy, and in being esteemed by others. There are legitimate ways our 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 aided by the grace of Christ. 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 the Blessed Trinity forever.

Gospel Mt 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

  • From the very beginning until the very end, human beings always have been and always will be engaged in human activities: nourishing our bodies, finding pleasurable things to do, forming families, and working.
  • Because we have the faculties of reason and free will, we are responsible for what we do. We can engage in these human activities well or badly. We can do good or we can do evil. Someday Christ will hold us responsible for all our actions.
  • This is why we have to be awake: to be prepared for this moment of judgment.
  • The virtue which keeps us awake is prudence or sound decision making about our actions. The prudent person deliberates, makes a judgment, and then acts. Justice is the standard that prudence uses to make its judgment. Fortitude and temperance help us hold fast to that right judgment.

Doctrine: The cardinal virtues

  • There are four essential habits for human beings which ensure we will always be awake, walking in the light of the Lord, and 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.
    • Because we are acting for a supernatural end (to please God) with a supernatural help (His grace), these virtues also become supernatural.
    • 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.

Practical application: Daily examination of conscience

  • 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 cooporative effort, we will be able to improve and become more and more that just person who is always ready to give an account.
    • We will more and more become that just person who is, in fact, fit for eternal life.

The Homiletic Directory suggests these further possible themes and Catechism points for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A):

  • The final tribulation and Christ’s return in glory: CCC 668-677, 769
  • “Come, Lord Jesus!”: CCC 451, 671, 1130, 1403, 2817
  • Humble vigilance of heart: CCC 2729-2733






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