Dear friends, My Homily for First Sunday of Advent (A) 2013
Renewing Our Christian Citizenship
Another Advent is upon us.
Why? Why does the Church lead us along the same path every year, repeating the same seasons, even the same readings?
Is it for lack of creativity and imagination?
No, the Church is always young, and never runs out of creativity. In every generation she gives the world new saints, new religious orders, new artists. The Church is ever ancient, and yet ever new. Is it out of condescension? Does the Church think we are too unintelligent to understand it the first time around?
No, the Church is a wise, loving mother who knows her children well, sincerely respects them,
and is always leading them forward, never backward. Is it out of malice? Does the Church want to bore us to death?
No, it is certainly not out of malice. The Church may often be demanding, but when she is, it is for our benefit, not our destruction. So what is the reason for another Advent?
The word “advent” comes from the Latin “ad-venire”, meaning to come to, to come towards.
This season spotlights the three comings of Christ: the first, 2000 years ago; the last, sometime in the future; and the ongoing – Christ’s constant coming into our lives through his grace, his providence, and his sacraments. We live in the final age of human history, the age which will end in Christ’s second coming, the destruction of the cosmos as we know it, and the creation of a new heavens and earth – the full establishment of Christ’s Kingdom, as today’s Readings described.
We are already citizens of that Kingdom, because we are members of his Church.
The Church gives us the season of Advent in order to remind us of this, and to give us a chance to check up on the quality of our citizenship.
Good Coaches Stress the Fundamentals
A good coach isn’t always trying to reinvent the fundamentals of the sport. A good coach makes sure the players never lose sight of the fundamentals, makes sure the players keep practicing the fundamentals.
The spiritual life is like that.
God wants us to grow, to experience wisdom, happiness, and fruitfulness. And to do so, he constantly leads us back to the fundamentals of our faith. The liturgical seasons are like a spiritual gymnasium, where we can always go back to exercise and strengthen our awareness of the basic truths that Christ has revealed to us. These truths are the building blocks of holiness and happiness.
In Advent, we focus on the truth of Christ’s coming.
In Bethlehem two thousand years ago he was born once, so that we could be born twice. In every generation he is constantly being born through the Eucharist, so that we can have the strength and grace to become grown-up Christians. And at the end of time he will give birth to a new heaven and a new earth, so that we can live forever with him in everlasting, abundant, adventurous happiness.
God is our coach, and Advent is one of his training camps. Let’s give it a good effort.
Spiritualizing the Commercialization of Christmas
We all know that Christmas has become too commercialized in our society.
For many, Christmas has lost its religious meaning; for many, it consists only of presents, parties and punch. For those of us who really believe in the true message of Christmas, which we think and pray about during Advent, this commercialization can cause frustration. But it can also be an opportunity; we can use it to our advantage.
The commercialization focuses everyone’s attention, more or less, on the presents and pleasures that will be enjoyed on Christmas Day. In other words, it stimulates a natural kind of hope.
We can use this atmosphere of natural hope (“season’s greetings”) to stir up and nourish our supernatural, Christian hope (“Merry Christmas!”), which is a key ingredient for citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom. As Christians, we should be looking forward to Christ’s second coming as eagerly as everyone else looks forward to Christmas Day.
Advent and Christmas, in fact, are like dress rehearsals for history and the end of history, for our lives on earth and our entrance into heaven after death.
The pattern of joyful anticipation and busy preparation that marks the commercial interpretation of Advent can serve us well, if we use it to bolster the joyful SPIRITUAL anticipation and the busy SPIRITUAL preparation of our hearts for a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ.
In a few moments, when the priest speaks the words of consecration, God will transform some very material and mundane bread and wine into Christ’s own body and blood, in order to give us spiritual nourishment.
This Advent, counting on God’s help, let’s do the same thing with the material and mundane commercialization that’s all around us: instead of complaining about it, let’s transform it, let’s infuse it with spiritual meaning. Let’s pray….
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