1st Sunday of Advent - homily
We begin the season of Advent which is a season of preparation for the Lord’s Coming. The word ‘advent’ literally means ‘coming to’. We remember Jesus’s 1st Coming into the world when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). But. the Church also has us prepare for Christ’s Second Coming. We hear into today’s Gospel to “be watchful…be alert”. We are used to hearing this, though – “Jesus is coming!” It’s even become a joke that we might see on t-shirts or bumper stickers: “Jesus is coming. Look busy!”
This is basically the message of today’s Gospel, but Jesus is a bit more serious about it. He says, “Be watchful. Be alert. You do not know when the time will come”. It could be today. It could be in the next hour. We don’t know. We always have to be ready. Jesus then tells a brief parable about a man who leaves home and places his servants in charge “each with his own work”. As servants of Jesus, what is our work? Does each of us know how to prepare for Christ’s return like the servants knew how to prepare for the man’s return in the Gospel?
We know how to prepare for other things in life. Students know how to prepare for tests in school. Workers or employees know how to prepare for meetings or presentations at work. Athletes know how to prepare for games or races in sports. They know what their work is. They know what is expected of them. They know how to prepare. But, as Catholic Christians, do we know how to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ? Do we know what our work is?
“Each with his own work”. I think the Church describes what this means in one of its teachings from Vatican II: the universal call to holiness. In the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, the Church says that all are called to holiness. All are called to be saints. It doesn’t matter our age, background, or situation in life. We are called to be holy, to live the perfection of love. The work for each of us, then, is holiness – to live for God and others. The Church says that holiness is expressed in many ways. How can we live holiness here at St. Andrew’s, especially during Advent? Let me give some suggestions, beginning with our relationship with Christ and then our relationship with others.
Our relationship with Christ begins with the Eucharist. We come to the Eucharist every Sunday for Mass during Advent; that is non-negotiable. But, maybe we can hit a daily Mass at least once during Advent. Or, we can come to Adoration once on a Friday night between 7-8 pm, even for just a few minutes. It is a powerful encounter that we have with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Confession. Hopefully, each of us will go to Confession at least once during Advent. If we haven’t been living holiness – if we’ve been living for ourselves – then Confession is a way to get rid of all that and to start over. Confession is a great way to always be ready for the Second Coming of Christ! We will have a Parish Penance Service on Tuesday, December 16th.
Praying the rosary. Hopefully, each of us prays the rosary every day. It’s a great way to stay close to Jesus and Mary. Maybe your family can pray the rosary together at least once during Advent.
Stations of the Cross. We see them on the walls of our Church. This is another beautiful devotion. We are used to hearing about this during Advent, but it would be an excellent preparation during Advent to do the Stations of the Cross once.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are beginning our new offertory program on the 1st Sunday of Advent. Giving fairly and generously back to God what He has given us is another great act of holiness.
Now, for specific persons – spouses can do an extra act of kindness for the other during Advent. Parents can spend an extra amount of time with one of your kids’ activities. Kids can do an extra act of generosity around the house – maybe a chore that you don’t get paid for. Young adults and teens can pray for their future spouse, whoever that might be.
In all acts of holiness, it is really God’s work coming through us. The first reading reminds us of this – He is the potter, we are the clay. “We are the work of his hands”. It’s really God’s holiness coming through us if we are open.
I’d like to close with an example of holiness that is inspiring and dramatic. You might have read about an 11 year old boy named Brendan Foster who died recently of leukemia. When Brendan was told that he had two weeks to live, his dying wish was to feed the hungry and care for the homeless. He was physically unable to do it, so his friends made about 200 sandwiches for those in need. The story spread nationally and internationally. There was a huge response! People filled food banks and had food drives. One person described it as “an avalanche of love and support”. Brendan was able to see this response before he died.
11 years old and staring death in the face. He wasn’t afraid. He didn’t focus on himself. He was thinking about others. That is good clay. That is the work of God’s hands. That, my brothers and sisters, is holiness.