Sunday, November 30, 2008

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.

5 Comments:

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Katherine said...

The story of Brendan Foster reminds me of a patient I had that also had cancer. This kid was about 8, and he wanted to donate money to our Pediatrics unit. I love working with kids because they see things so fresh, so pure in life. They also see the positive a lot more, even with their trials and tribulations. There are days when I wish I was back in high school, just working with horses and kids who needed therapy from the horses, and having that pure view on life.

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

The past several years we've had a family Advent wreath to help us focus on Christ's arrival. We're trying to teach our daughter that Christmas is not a Loot Fest. This year I broke down and obtained a "real" Advent wreath instead of making do with four candlesticks.

[In case anyone wants to know, Rossini's La Gazza Ladra (sp?), which happened to be playing on the radio this evening before we ate dinner, is not the best background music for blessing an Advent wreath.]

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter asked me why we get presents at Christmas. She likes the “loot” but asked a valid question. She said that everyone always says Christmas is about giving not getting- so why all the presents? I should preface, “giving” in my home means doing for others. My husband and I do buy presents for special occasions, but the kids do something for one another at those times. My daughter may do my son’s chores for his birthday week, or my son will read to his younger sister at night, etc. Christmas is the only time of year when I take each of them to actually buy something for each other, and my daughter asked the question when it was her “turn” to go shopping. Here’s my rationale- that first Christmas we were given an actual gift. The way we live each day (our giving) should be an expression of our gratitude for it. When my children shop for one another they set aside the time to stop and think about what is special for someone they love and want to give to. I think it is an appropriate expression of what Christmas is about- being given a great and special gift simply because we are loved. So, while giving is how we show that we live Christ, receiving is an important point at Christmas too.

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Fr. Greg! What an inspiring way to start the Advent Season.
Sorry the Redskins didn't get to hear this homily.

 
At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tail end of an article that can be found on:www.uscatholic.org

Monday, November 24, 2008
Father Robert Barron


Three Advent practices

What practically can we do during the season of waiting and vigil keeping? What are some practices that might incarnate for us the spirituality described here?

How about the classically Catholic discipline of eucharistic adoration? To spend a half-hour or an hour in the presence of the Lord is not to accomplish or achieve very much-it is not really "getting" anywhere-but it is a particularly rich form of spiritual waiting.

As you keep vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, bring to Christ some problem or dilemma that you have been fretting over, and then pray Lola's prayer: "Ich warte, ich warte." Say, "Lord, I'm waiting for you to solve this, to show me the way out, the way forward. I've been running, planning, worrying, but now I'm going to let you work." Then, throughout Advent, watch attentively for signs.

Also, when you pray before the Eucharist, allow your desire for the things of God to intensify; allow your heart and soul to expand. Pray, "Lord, make me ready to receive the gifts you want to give," or even, "Lord Jesus, surprise me."

A second-and more offbeat-suggestion: Do a jigsaw puzzle. Find one of those big, complex puzzles with thousands of small pieces, one that requires lots of time and plenty of patience, and make of it an Advent project. As you assemble the puzzle think of each piece as some aspect of your life: a relationship, a loss, a failure, a great joy, an adventure, a place where you lived, something you shouldn't have said, an act of generosity. So often the events of our lives seem like the thousand pieces of a puzzle lying incoherently and disconnectedly before us. As you patiently put the puzzle together meditate on the fact that God is slowly, patiently, according to his own plan and purpose, ordering the seemingly unrelated and incongruous events of our lives into a picture of great beauty.

Finally, take advantage of traffic jams and annoying lines-really anything that makes you wait. And let the truth of what 18th-century spiritual writer Jean-Pierre de Caussade said sink in: "Whatever happens to you in the course of a day, for good or ill, is an expression of God's will." Instead of cursing your luck, banging on the steering wheel, or rolling your eyes in frustration, see the wait as a spiritual invitation.

When you are forced to slow down, pray one of the great, repetitive vigil prayers of the church, such as the rosary or the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"). With this resolution in mind, hang a rosary around your rearview mirror at the beginning of Advent. Consider the possibility that God wants you at that moment to wait and then sanctify the time through one of those savoring prayers.

The entire Bible ends on a note not so much of triumph and completion as longing and expectation: "Come, Lord Jesus." From the very beginning of the Christian dispensation, followers of the risen Jesus have been waiting. Paul, Augustine, Chrysostom, Agnes, Thomas Aquinas, Clare, Francis, John Henry Newman, and Simone Weil have all waited for the Second Coming and have hence all been Advent people. During this season let us join them, turning our eyes and hearts upward and praying, "Ich warte, ich warte."

 

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