First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2016
Reading 1IS 2:1-5
Responsorial PsalmPS 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
- Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Reading 2ROM 13:11-14
AlleluiaCF. PS 85:8
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.
Homily— November 26 & 27, 2016
We begin the season of Advent with readings that direct our gaze to the ultimate and the immediate realities of our lives. The first Sunday of Advent always looks to history’s end. For Christians this is the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ, which we believe will bring all of creation to its fulfillment. The first Christians expected the end to happen during their lifetime. The Christians of the second and third generation had to realign their expectations of when this would happen. When we check what Jesus had to say about the end, we discover that he was remarkably sparing when it came to details. His strongest statement was “You do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
Today’s readings invite us to focus on the end, not to emphasize our vulnerability but to remember where we’re going. That’s what Isaiah is trying to teach his people as he paints a picture of life as it is meant to be. Isaiah lived about 700 years before Christ and addressed a people who had lost faith because they’d lost their prosperity. Isaiah tried to teach them that prosperity based on injustice has nothing to do with God. I love the line that states, “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.” Just imagine all the good that could be done in the world if nothing was spent on armies and weapons of war—that would be my dream! In a 1993 document of the U. S. Catholic Bishops it states, “In the absence of repentance and forgiveness, no peace can endure; without a spirit of courageous charity, justice cannot be won” . Think about that, “In the absence of repentance and forgiveness, no peace can endure, without a spirit of courageous charity, justice cannot be won.”
Today’s first reading ends with the exhortation: “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” The vision of peace will only take flesh through human effort in collaboration with God’s grace.
The God revealed in the Jewish and Christian scriptures offers possibility, not certainty. The weakness of God’s promised future is that it depends on human hearts and heads, hands and feet. God has instructed us, but our hearts and heads have to give God’s dream a home. What are we doing to bring peace to our families, to our workplace, to our neighborhood, and to our city?
Our Advent Gospel warns us not to get caught in the routine of life. We must always be prepared for something new, something unexpected or we will miss it. In addition to his first coming through incarnation, Christ is still to come in several different ways. Foremost, Christ will come at the end of time to judge the living and he dead, just as the early Christians expected. Christ will also come for us at the end of our lives here on earth. Christ comes in the sacraments and actions of the church. In Matthew’s insights today, Christ reminds us that he also comes to save us in daily, unseen ways.
We are to live daily as if this day were the last day—as if now were the hour when “the Son of Man” comes in the fullness of time. What happens to us beyond this life is predicated on decisions made in the course of this life. How we live in our time is a doorway into God’s time.
The four weeks of Advent are a time to recommit to discernment. As the lights of the wreath multiply, we must intensify our search for Christ’s subtle light. This is a fitting time to undertake days of reflection, or practices like a daily examination of our life and plan a time to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making a confession of our sins before Christmas. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.