Advent, 1st Sunday
On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin this season that focuses on preparation for the coming of Christ. Much of our focus is on Christ’s First Coming, as we re-visit what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph and all those 2000 years ago who prepared for Jesus’s birth. And, that is all very good and significant. It is important for us to know the Christmas story and how our Savior was born. But, we also hear much about how we, in 2006, are to prepare for Christ’s coming. This preparation is for Christ’s Second Coming. His first coming was as Savior; his Second Coming will be as judge. And, to make it a bit more confusing, there is one more coming of Christ: he comes to us now in the Eucharist.
Jesus says in the Gospel we are to “be vigilant at all times” in preparing for his Coming. We understand what it means to be vigilant much more since 9/11. It means to be on the look-out, to keep watch for those who wish to do us harm. We are vigilant in protecting our bodies from harm, and keeping our loved ones safe. And, it’s not just with terrorists; it’s with robbers as well. How many of us make sure every night that the doors to our homes are locked? If we forget one night to do it, we gasp, and make sure it never happens again.
But, are we vigilant with our souls, and with the souls of our loved ones? How are we to be vigilant spiritually? St. Paul says in the second reading that we are to be “blameless in holiness”. Now, many of us hear the word ‘holiness’, and think that it’s only for priests or nuns or saints. But, we are all called to be holy. Christ calls each one of us to be vigilant. He calls us to keep watch and be faithful to Him.
We have given you three ways to spiritually be vigilant this Advent, as you see on the insert in the bulletin. The first is Confession. We will have a Penance Service on December 19, when a bunch of priests from other parishes will be here to hear Confessions. I have been talking to several of you recently about Confession. When we start talking, it’s, “Father, I don’t need to go to Confession. I just take my sins to God directly”. Then, as we talk more, it becomes, “Ok, so I know that I need to go”. Then, “but, Father, if I tell you or Fr. Mike my sins, you will look at me differently”, or “it’s so embarrassing”.
For me, personally, I don’t focus on your sins. That’s between you and God. I simply give His absolution of those sins. But, what I focus on is the humility and courage of each person who comes to Confession. In my short time as a priest, I have heard Confessions of people who haven’t been for 10, 20, and over 30 years. My first reaction is, “Welcome back! This is awesome!” It’s sort of like, who cares about your sins. God absolves them. I look at the humility and courage that it takes to confess sins.
The other two ways have to do with the Eucharist. We have Adoration every Friday night from 7-8 pm, when we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle onto the altar. It is a great opportunity for parents and kids to spend time with Jesus. It is very peaceful and quiet. Our theme is “keeping watch with Christ”, with the quote being from Jesus in the garden with his Apostles the night before he died: “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?”
Also, we have suggested attending a daily Mass, in addition to Sunday. We have Mass every morning here at 8:30. If that doesn’t work for you, we have provided a web site, masstimes.org, which gives you all of the times that Mass is celebrated during the week throughout the area. Many people prefer the weekday Mass to Sunday (not in lieu of it!) because it is more personal and less distracting. There something to it when we choose to come to Mass. Also, it’s shorter (and no collection)!
These are all ways for each of us to grow in holiness which means to grow in friendship with Christ. It means to be vigilant for His Coming. Again, his First Coming was as Savior, his Second Coming will be as Judge. But also, he comes to us in a few minutes in the Eucharist. He comes to us as the Lamb of God…the Bread of Life…the Bread that’s come down from Heaven…the Kingdom of God…Eternal Life…the source of our joy…the source of our happiness. It is truly with joy that we keep watch with Christ in the Eucharist. It is true that “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”.