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ADVENT IS UNIQUELY ADVENT
Advent 1A – December 01 2019
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Rev. David Justin Lynch
Isaiah 2:1-5 | Psalm 122:1-9
Romans 3:11-14 | Matthew 24:37-44
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
Happy New Year! No, I am not bestowing on you an early wish for a happy two thousand twenty. I’m wishing you a happy Church New Year. Today is the First Sunday in Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin verb “advenire,” which means “to come toward, to draw near, to approach.” During Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s drawing near to us in Jesus Christ. The beginning of another Church year commences with our anticipation of the coming of Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His incarnation. Beginning the Church year with the First Sunday in Advent is countercultural. It is out of sync with every other time structure in our lives: the academic semester, the fiscal year, the twelve-month calendar, and the cycle of the sports seasons. It reminds us that to be a Christian sometimes requires that we not go along with what’s around us. This should not surprise Christians, as Jesus was not in sync with the world as He knew it.
There are, however, two things the four-week-long Advent season is not. The Advent Season is not the Christmas Season, and Advent is not a penitential season. Advent is uniquely Advent.
The secular world does not see Advent and Christmas as two different and separate seasons. Merchants would have us celebrate the so-called “Christmas Season” beginning at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday” on which shoppers stampede into malls and department stores searching for the so-called “good deals”, activity the store owners hope continues for at least the next four weeks.
In the secular mind, Advent does not exist. But Christians celebrate Advent during Advent, and Christmas at Christmas. So you won’t hear Christmas carols here at Saint Cecilia’s until Christmas Eve. And the tree to my right is an Advent Tree…note that it is predominately blue, the color of Advent. Over the next four weeks, you will hear and sing only the glorious music of Advent, a time the Church invites us to watchful anticipation, making our souls ready to receive Jesus, feeling joyful about His coming, and expecting a guest in our hearts who is more than we can ask or imagine.
And, Advent is not a penitential season. We’ll save that for Lent. That is why we use blue here instead of purple as many churches do, to maintain the significance of Advent, in contrast to Lent, when we will use purple.Penitence focuses on the past, as we sorrow for our sins and seek forgiveness for what we may have done wrong. Advent, however, focuses on the future rather than the past.Advent is a season of expectant delight. Advent is a time to proclaim the good news of the incarnation and a time meditate on our relationship to Jesus going forward in the coming church year.
Today’s Gospel warns us to be vigilant, always ready to receive Jesus to look to the future, not dwell on the present. Two weeks ago, Deacon Sharon preached on the Second Coming of Jesus. We do not know when that will be; hence, we must always be prepared. The Gospel uses an example based on a very basic to human existence, the security of our homes. We never know when a burglar might invade our dwelling, so we keep our doors locked all the time.
Why? Time and history culminate in Jesus, but we don’t know when that will occur. Time is a part of God’s plan. By time, I don’t mean only the seconds, hours and minutes that we count, but the sequence of events. Chronologically, Christians live in the interval between the first and second comings of Jesus. ForChristians, the only meaning of time is in Jesus.
The Second Coming of Jesus will occur at an unknown time in the future. Christians always need to be ready for that. Today’s Gospel analogizes to the days just before Noah entered the ark before the Great Flood. People were living their lives as usual, with no thought for what might happen in the future. Their attitude was, “I only live once, and I’m going to enjoy my life.” They ate, drank, and got married. Yet, suddenly, families were separated by death into unexpected loneliness for which no one was prepared. Suddenly, people were without co-workers and family members. They were unprepared!
How about we look at the Second Coming of Jesus in a more optimistic way? Advent symbolizes the Church, as the People of God, awaiting the return of Jesus to consummate his eternal kingdom. Today’s Church is like Israel in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. In the same way, the Church, during Advent, looks Christ’s coming looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when He returns for His people.
But whether Jesus will literally come down out of the clouds one day is not important. What is important is the meaning behind that idea, not an actual, physical event.
Think of the Second Coming as a time when the things that Jesus taught us to become a part of who we are, replacing the present status quo ante, which is quite the opposite of the Kingdom of God as presented by Jesus.The ultimate reign of God will shake the foundations of the globe and lead to the emergence of anew world.
Think of the Second Coming as a time when love will replace fear.
Think of the Second Coming as a time when reconciliation will replace retaliation.
Think of the Second Coming as a time when, as foretold by Our Lady in the Song of Mary, the mighty will be cast down from their thrones and the least among us exalted.
Think of the Second Coming as a time when the hungry people will be fed and the wealthy will go hungry. Again, that’s in the Song of Mary.
Think of the Second Coming of Jesus as a time when the world will be turned upside down, the coming of the new order foretold by Jesus during His earthly ministry, where God’s justice will reign forever and ever.
Let’s think of God’s justice for a moment. When we think about justice, we tend to think about punishing someone or otherwise getting even. In the popular mind, people think justice is sending a criminal to jail. God, however, takes a different view.
God’s justice builds people up, rather than destroys them. God’s justice restores goodness in people.
God’s justice reconciles people to each other.
God’s justice envisions a society is one where compassion is exalted over law for law’s sake, where the care of human persons comes before following rules, where justice equals mercy.
For Jesus, doing justice involves not only healing people who are hurting, but also confronting those who have been doing the hurting. Jesus did not go along with the prevailing program, and understandably, that got the powers-that-be mad at Him, and that, of course, led to His crucifixion.
The language in the Gospel about the Second Coming of Jesus in the context of Advent is meant to impress upon us the supreme importance of celebrating the arrival of Jesus, God Incarnate, at Christmas, as a momentous event.We herald Jesus, supposedly a lineal descendant of the revered King David, as the new paradigm whom we expect to make all things right, to establish a just and secure society. In Jesus, we hope for that in believing Jesus came to us in Bethlehem to renew the world in love and justice.
Imagine a world where we live without fear of terrorists, without fear of proliferating nuclear weapons, without fear of horrific climate change, without fear of a crash of the world economy, and a world free of the greed that fills our world so pervasively. The Season of Advent is meant to anticipate all that. Advent gives us a reason to pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Above all, we pray that the coming of Jesus among us this Christmas will move us closer to realizing salvation through the Kingdom of God on earth to establish God’s justice.The coming Kingdom of God will be an era of peace, as described in today’s First Reading, a time when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.
Peace, however, in today’s world, is a very tall order, particularly in the very polarized country in which we live. The results of the twenty-sixteen election have turned neighbor against neighbor, family against family, and church against church. We are experiencing an era of tribal politics based not on objective truth, practical solutions to problems, and mutual cooperation to get things done, but on who has power over whom. People who focus on remaining in power rather than fix what’s wrong do nothing but ensure ongoing conflict as the world goes about its business with no preparation for traumatic cosmic events like the Great Flood in the time of Noah.
Today’s Gospel calls us to prepare for the coming of Jesus rather than focus on our immediate daily concerns. We should be focusing our prayers on the life Jesus wants for us and changing our world to prepare for His arrival by taking direct action. Going about our daily lives without effectuating the changes that future exigencies may require is not my approach to life.
I grew up in the 1960s and was proudly part of the Anti-War Movement. I marched in peace demonstrations, chanting “Hell No, We Won’t Go”, singing, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance”, and listening to speeches by Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. Many people thought I looked out of place there, with my short haircut and conventional clothing. Nonetheless, those activities are part of who I am, regardless of my appearance then or now.
The Anti-War Movement featured counter-cultural songs, like “Where Have All the Flowers God”, “Blowing in the Wind”, and “If I Had a Hammer.” Organizations, plays, and other literary works encouraged a spirit of nonconformism, and replacing conflict with peace. The movement sought to change prevailing politics and social norms by direct confrontation and outright refusal to “go along with the program”, such as a refusal to be drafted into the military. I avoided the draft because I had asthma, but had I been drafted, I would have fled to Canada in a heartbeat. I am not about to become cannon fodder for the continuance of any country. My life is precious in God’s sight. Others can give their lives for their country if they choose to do so, but I refuse to go down that road.
What motivated me to become involved in the Anti-War Movement were visions I had of a different world than the one inhabited and controlled by people born in the first part of the Twentieth Century, where money, material goods and competition for same were the focus of life. I was not willing to be a “good boy” on the terms prescribed by the prevailing social and political order…and in fact, I am still that way in many respects.
What is socially acceptable and what is acceptable to Jesus are more often than not, two different things. I was not satisfied with the status quo, then or now. I wanted, and still want, a new and better world, a world that reflected the values for which Jesus stood. And although today’s world is in many respects better than yesterdays’ world, it is still not the world I want. It is still not the realization of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom prophesized by Jesus.
I understand the Second Coming of Jesus in power and glory to mean establishing God’s justice to set us on a path for a new relationship with God, where we no longer see God as a harsh and uncompromising judge, but instead as a loving Father. That kind of relationship with God brings new relationships with those in our personal lives abounding in love rather than wallowing in fear. The coming of Jesus means the love and righteousness for which humankind longs will finally come to pass. In the community called the Church, we pray that love and righteousness may not only abound, but continue to make us perfect in holiness until the final coming of Christ.
Getting ready for the coming of Jesus means strengthening our hearts to abound in love for one another.
Getting ready for the coming of Jesus means we must allow Jesus to come to us in every part of our life, here at Mass, at work, and home, or when we socialize with our friends.
Getting ready for the coming of Jesus means growing in a dynamic love.
A love that grows for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A love that grows in love for Mary and for the saints.
A love that grows for one’s family, relatives and friends.
A love that grows for strangers,theneedy,thesick,and sinners of every kind.
God’s compassion is what makes God holy. As the Holy One in the midst of humanity, Jesus brings a message of compassion and healing, not condemnation and punishment. The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts to receive that message. As we prepare for the Incarnation, or in ordinary words, while we get ready of Christmas, let us be alert for times to let Jesus come into our lives in doing such simple things as buying some food for a hungry person, holding a door for someone who has trouble walking, and keeping a lonely person company. It also means being alert for the forces of evil which would rather we not do those things. Our alertness must encompass a total spiritual awareness of who and where we are, what is going on around us, and discerning where Jesus is in the present as we go about our business.
Growing in love is what will best prepare us to receive Jesus and to love Jesus. The love Jesus gives us is what should truly excite us about the coming of Jesus. AMEN.