Deacon Cornellís Homily


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


November 28-29, 2009 - First Sunday of Advent - Cycle C

As I was proclaiming the Gospel, I was looking out at your smiling faces, and I couldn’t help wondering if Jesus got the same reaction from his disciples as he told them that people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming in the last days. Every year during the last Sundays of Ordinary Time and the first couple of Sundays in Advent, we have these apocalyptic readings that talk of the turmoil and stress of the last days and the second coming of Christ.

Fifteen years ago this past week, I had some back surgery. For about a year I had been experiencing increasing loss of sensation in my legs, and after all the X rays, CAT scans, MRI’s, nerve conduction tests, blood tests and even a nerve biopsy, there was no diagnosis. I finally went into the top neurologist at New England Medical and he diagnosed it as a joint between two of my vertebrae that had enlarged and was compressing my spinal cord. The next step was a meeting with the neurosurgeon to discuss surgery. Talk about an apocalyptic meeting. He not only discussed the consequences of not having the surgery, but he discussed a number of things that could possibly go wrong if I had the surgery. But even though he discussed all these scary things, his intent was not to scare me into not having surgery. And when he finally handed me the consent form to sign, saying that I understood all the consequences of the procedure, I signed it with eager anticipation. My very next question was, “How soon can we do it?” But even after making that decision, I still checked up on the doctor’s and the hospital’s reputation for this type of operation. After several great references, I developed a hope that the operation would go quite well. I am happy to report that it went just as everybody expected and I have experienced no more loss of feeling in my legs.

If you had asked me a year before that if I would be looking forward with eager anticipation to back surgery, I am sure I would have thought you were joking. But after living with, and reflecting on, the signs and the consequences of my condition, I went into that surgery with just that, eager anticipation. My attitude towards the operation came from a combination of awareness of the hard reality of the negatives and hope based on past experience of success.

The Church schedules these apocalyptic readings this time every year for the very same reasons. At the start of the new liturgical year we need to be reminded of importance of being Christians. We live in a culture that does its best to paint Christianity as foolish, and as we have seen over the past few weeks, tries to push any faith based considerations out of the public forum. It amazes me how people can say the most ridiculous things and not get laughed off camera. In the past few weeks we have heard seemingly intelligent people claim that politicians should not let their faith influence their public policy decisions. That is a self contradictory statement because faith is something that influences every aspect of our lives. If it doesn't it isn't faith. So a politician who claims that his/her faith is not informing his decisions is lying. Either he or she does not have that faith or it is influencing every decision. So it is very easy for us to forget that in these last times we Christians are called to counteract all the evil and turmoil we see around us. That’s the sole purpose of the Church, to help establish the kingdom of God here on earth.

I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but how many of us can truly say that we are looking forward with eager anticipation to the second coming of Christ? Why not? Is it because we don’t think about it much, so we don't understand it as the culmination of God's plan, as salvation? Is it because we have not lived our lives in such a way as to feel we can stand up straight and raise our heads at the coming of the Son of Man? Today’s readings are a wake up call to us to reestablish the importance of Christ in our lives. We don’t need to be very aware to understand that we are living in times that contain turmoil that could frighten us to death. But just as my neurosurgeon was not discussing all the negatives with me to scare me off, Jesus’ words are not meant to scare us off. What we can’t do is just sit it out, ignoring the signs. We are called by God to be active participants in overcoming the turmoil of these last times. We are called to be the Body of this Son of Man who comes at the end of times, to be love as our Christ our head is love. This figure of the Son of Man from the book of Daniel was not understood by the Jews to be God: it was the people of Israel. And as members of the body of this Son of Man with Jesus as the head, we are ones who are called on to transform this world. Listen to Jesus’s warning today. The consequences of not living our baptismal call are catastrophic.

How do we develop hope in the face of all the turmoil we experience? Here are three concrete suggestions of how we can use this season of Advent. 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. We celebrate the story of God’s beneficial intervention in human history as a way of having hope that He will come though again in these last times. And we are initiated more fully into being the Body of Christ who is to come. Even though we don’t always live our lives the way that we want to, Jesus has made us whole again. We can stand up straight and raise our heads because Christ is our head.

A second way is to use one the many wonderful Advent customs, the 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. I’ve 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 Thursday night, December 10th at 7 PM. Make it a point to come with the whole family to celebrate God’s 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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