Fr. Rick’s Homily: First Sunday in Advent Time 12/3/23

IS 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7; PS 80:2-3, 15-19; 1 COR 1:3-9; MK 13:33-37

We are once again entering the season where we begin to prepare for something that happened over 2000 years ago.  That would seem pretty strange if not understood in a theological context which includes ‘eternal time’.  Past present and future are much more fluid than we often realize.  They are not such neat categories.  This season must also be understood while considering the general complexity and conflicted state of human nature.  Human beings can be pretty fickle and conflicted in our motivations and intentions.  They frequently don’t match up with our actual behavior.  We can see this phenomenon in our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah:

“Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?  Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you…”

We seem to be acknowledging God’s infinite power and control over our lives and the rest of the world as we did last week when we celebrated the Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  The whole universe!!  Why doesn’t He just act to MAKE things right?!   Today’s verse from Psalm 80 in fact says exactly that, “Lord, make us turn to you”.

At the same time, we acknowledge our severe shortcomings.  Just a verse or two later in the same reading of Isaiah, we declare: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!

Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; …”

Lord, make us turn to you!”  Just make us!!  Going through the arduous task of actually changing and becoming the people whom you fashioned, is just too much work and pain.  “O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”

Again, the conflicted nature of we humans.  We acknowledge God’s power and authority; we just don’t want to live our daily lives in accordance with His rules and plan.  Especially in December!!  We are so busy!!!  Lord, make us turn to you!!  But maybe wait until after Christmas season.

The Israelites are asking, “Why do you allow us to wander?”  We as modern Americans can be asking the same question.  It’s just as apropos as it was 2500 or 3000 years ago.  We’re the same species with many of the same basic challenges.

In one of St. Augustine’s writings, I don’t remember exactly which, he realizes that in the long wait for God to ‘fix’ him, God was softening his heart, his will.’  God made us to participate in His love and transcended glory.  We’re not robots just waiting to be properly programmed.  WE are made in the image and likeness of the King of the Universe.  Whether we like it or not.  That comes with a great inheritance, but also great responsibilities: to manifest His Kingdom as much as possible while we are still on earth….waiting for His final coming.  Waiting in eternal time.  Jesus is already here and never left us as orphans.  We just have to remove the obstacles and let Him in.

Purple vestments represent penance and repentance.  It’s a time of preparation for God’s glory.  Advent comes at the most perfect time of year as we approach the shortest day of the year, and hence the darkest day of the year.  In centuries past this would have been a time when people more naturally slowed down as the hours of light diminished.  They were forced into a time of reflection and reckoning with themselves and others.  A time of repentance, reconciliation and healing.  It would have been a natural time to attend to their interior lives.  With all the pain and the shame and the regrets that still might need attention. When entering the deeper realms of our interior lives we can better appreciate our sense of living in eternal time.  Our souls and hearts and bodies all have memories still very much alive that need to be acknowledged and often healed.  These memories can also be a time of great joy and consolation as we recall the wonders God has worked in our lives despite our wandering ways.

Today’s gospel starts where we have left off in previous weeks.  Stay awake!!  Embrace God’s personal presence among us … and be found attending to the ordering of God’s Kingdom among us.  We’re supposed to be making the world look more like Heaven than hell for our grandchildren.

Please consider these reflection questions during this first week of Advent.  Also see the link in today’s bulletin for a great talk on spiritual and emotional healing featuring a couple of today’s younger Catholics who seem to be wise beyond their years.

Reflection Questions:

Is. 63:17   “Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?”

Recall a time or two when you felt like God had just let you wander off on your own without paying heed to your petitions for help?  How did you eventually realize that God was with you, but had allowed your faith and heart to be strengthened in the perceived void?  How have you shared these experiences with others?

When might you have felt like God had let our nation just drift and wander without any noticeable corrective to our situation?  How did you maintain your faith in God’s perpetual presence and how might you have encouraged others to trust in God’s care even when He seems absent?

1 Corinthians 1:4  – Paul is expressing his deep gratitude for the people of Corinth: “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,”

Recall a moment when you were overcome with gratitude to God for other Christians in your life.

When might someone have told you that you had been a gift from God for them?  How did you respond to that amazing declaration?

Mk. 13:36  “May (the Lord) not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

If the Lord should come back today, in what ways would He find you wide awake and doing His work?

How might we in the United States be judged as a nation if the Lord should return today?