Deacon Cornell's Homily


Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
1 Cor 1:3-9
Mk 13:33-37


November 29-30, 2008, First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

Happy New Year! Advent is the start of the new Church year. Like new year's customs in many cultures, including our own, our celebration of the new church year invites us to take stock of where we are going in the coming year. During Advent the church invites us to focus on three aspects of our life in faith. First, she invites us to remember and reflect on the event that changes all of history: God coming as a human 2000 years ago. Secondly, she invites us to reflect on how we will fulfill our baptismal commitment to put on Christ so that we live as Christ in this world; and thirdly, she invites us to reflect on the coming of God's kingdom in all its fullness in this world. Over the years we have summarized this as reflecting on the first coming of Christ 2000 years ago, the coming of Christ in our hearts today, and the coming of Christ at the end of time.

Advent is often referred to as a time of waiting. But as we reflect on those three aspects of our life I wonder if it is we who are supposed to be waiting; maybe it is God who is doing the waiting.

The birth of Jesus 2000 years ago is more than just an event in history. It is an event that changed history. It inaugurated (and I use that word in the light of all the hoopla surrounding the presidential election and coming inauguration) the coming of God's kingdom in this world. It put in motion the final stage of God's plan for all of creation. Against all our human expectations, God did not come with power and might and thunder and majesty. God came as a little baby, so it is not too far fetched to reflect on God coming into the world from the point of view of a human infant.

What is one of the first games that an infant learns? Isn't it hide and seek – starting in its primitive form as playing peek-a-boo. The Hasidic tradition in Judaism has a wonderful little parable about God and hide and seek.

Rabbi Baruch’s grandson Yechiel was once playing hide-and-seek with another boy. He hid himself well and waited for his playmate to find him. When, after a long wait, he came out of his hiding place, the other boy was nowhere to be seen. It seemed his friend had not looked for him at all! That made him cry and, crying, he ran to his grandfather and complained of his friend. Then tears brimmed in Rabbi Baruch’s eyes, and he said: God says the same thing: I hide, but no one comes looking for Me.

So one way to reflect on the birth of Jesus is to think of all the ways that God hides in our world, waiting for us to find him. God hides in nature, and in beauty, and as the Gospel passage we heard from Matthew last week, in the hungry and thirsty and naked and imprisoned among us. Just as the shepherds and the Magi had to seek out the baby Jesus, with the help of signs, so we need to seek him out where he is today. Catholics are those chosed by God to be that sign to the world today.

What is God waiting for? God is waiting for the completion of his kingdom here on earth. God's plan as revealed in history and in scripture is to bring all things into one in Christ. From a human perspective this means God plans is to wipe out hunger and war and poverty and sickness, and yes, even death. This leads naturally to the next question. If this is What God is waiting for, why is God waiting? Because in God's infinite wisdom, or divine madness, God has chosen human beings to bring this about. We are to do this by loving all of creation into being paradise. God first chose the people of Israel, and then the followers of Jesus to lead the way in this plan. That is our baptismal commitment. We are called by God to put on Christ, to act as priest, prophet, and king, to become the body of Christ that makes God's love real, incarnate in this world. The more aware we are of why we are Catholic, the more effective we can be in carrying out God's plan.

And lastly (pun on the eschaton intended), Advent is a time to reflect on the big picture. Christianity has been reduced in our times to a series of beliefs and ethics. Somehow we have lost our appreciation of the cosmic meaning of the world. God plans to complete creation by transforming it into the Kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God like? Remember all those stories the bible tells us, most especially the images that Jesus used: the father in the story of the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the good Shepherd, the merchant who finds the pearl of great price, and on and on. God waits for humans to grow into the maturity needed to be the consciousness of all creation, guiding creation towards the fullness of the kingdom of God. Paul reminds us that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift necessary to bring this about. God is the potter and we are the clay, the work of God's hands. It is God's power but we humans are to be the instruments.

As I watched all the celebrations and then the rhetoric following the election a few weeks ago, it was amazing how much hope and enthusiasm was being generated by Obama's election. And I couldn't help but wonder at how much more should be generated if the world truly understood what God's plan for this world really is.

So my prayer today is that we take advantage of this Advent season to commit ourselves to loving God and our neighbor so that we become the love of God made real here and now. Then we will be effective Catholics, signs of the incredibly awesome cosmic event that we are living in, God's recreation of the world. After all, it is not really nice to keep God waiting!

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