Deacon Cornellís Homily


Jeremiah 33:14-16
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28,34-36


November 29-30, 2003 First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

As practicing Catholics we often find ourselves going in a different direction from the rest of our society. This time of year that difference is most obvious. For the rest of our culture, the Christmas season is more than half over. As soon as Halloween was over, the stores had their Christmas displays up; radio stations have already started playing Christmas carols, and we are starting to see Christmas specials on TV. In our culture, Christmas ends abruptly on December 26th. Christmas displays come down to be replaced by Valentineís Day ones, the trees are thrown out bare and forlorn for recycling, and Christmas carols are banished from the airwaves.

In our culture, the Christmas season is filled with hyperactivity. Constantly we are bombarded by warnings that we only have a few days to go out and shop for gifts. There are parties to go to, and shopping to do, Christmas cards and messages to write, and shopping to do, decorations to get up, and shopping to do. The success or failure of the season will depend on how much we spend, which means that our value is basically tied to our ability to spend, or sell.

As Catholics, our Christmas season doesnít begin until December 24th. We are entering the season of Advent. Instead of Christmas decorations we see the purples of Advent. Instead of hyperactivity, we celebrate a season of waiting, of anticipation, reflecting the changes in nature: the shortening of the day and lengthening of night, the cold of winter settling in, the stillness of trees bare of any leaves.

For what do we wait in this season of Advent? What do we anticipate? As youngsters we often understand it as waiting for Jesus to be born. In this sense we relive the history of humanity as it waited for the birth of God made human. But as we get older, we realize that Jesus has already been born, 2000 years ago so we cannot be waiting for that to happen. As our readings remind us today, we await the fulfillment of what started with the birth of Jesus; we await the coming of the Son of Man.

The early Christians identified this figure of the Son of Man who we heard of from the book of Daniel last week, with Jesus Christ. They expected the kingdom to come in full within their lifetimes. But this Son of Man experienced by Daniel was not God or Jesus; it was the whole people of Israel. So too, as it has become obvious to us 2000 years later that we donít know when the kingdom will come in full, we realize that this Christ who is to come as a son of Man at the end of time is not just Jesus. It is Jesus as the head but us as the body of Christ. Knowing this, it changes the way that we wait in Advent.

We do not wait as inactive bystanders. Jesus warns us we must be awake, aware, vigilant. I would suggest that we wait the way a couple expecting a baby waits. There is nothing they can do to hurry the coming of the baby but they do not wait as inactive bystanders. The mother to be watches her diet and environment to make sure they are healthy for the baby in her womb. They prepare a place for the baby to live in their home. Often, to do this, they have to get rid of other things taking up space to have a place for the baby to live. They furnish it with a crib, dressing table, diaper pail, and all the other things that are needed to make it a warm, safe, and nurturing place for an infant to live.

We too are to wait as active participants. We are to prepare a place in our lives for Christ to live in us, fulfilling our baptismal call to put on Christ. In order to do this, we too often have to clear out the things we have accumulated in order to make room for Christ.

I would suggest that one of the most effective ways to do this is prayer. Now many think that life is just too busy to have time to pray. I am not suggesting that we remove ourselves completely from society but with just a little of the discipline that Jesus urges for us in todayís Gospel, we can use prayer to prepare for Christ to fill our hearts so we can become more fully the body of Christ, instruments in bringing to fullness Godís kingdom.

Here are three concrete suggestions of how we can pray in the midst of the hyperactivity of the season around us. The first, and most important way is exactly what you are doing now: offering the perfect prayer of Christ in the Eucharist. Let us not be inactive bystanders but rather active participants in this prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Son, and the promise of the kingdom.

A second way is to use one the many wonderful Advent customs. Each of the children in the Religious Ed program will be bringing home a packet of Advent ideas but even if you donít have a child in Religious Ed, get an advent wreath. A few times a week as you gather for the family meal, extend your grace before meals to light the appropriate candles and say a prayer. Iíve posted a link on the parish web site that contains prayers and meditations for the wreath.

The last way I would suggest is to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. What better way to clear away the clutter and anxiety of daily life to make room for Christ in our lives? We are having a community reconciliation service on Sunday night, December 14th. Make it a point to come with the whole family to celebrate Godís mercy and healing power. Then when we enter our Christmas season on Christmas Eve, we will stand erect before the Son of Man, and raise our heads in joy because we see our redemption close at hand.

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