Listen here to my homily for the First Sunday of Advent. It was given to Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish in Punxsutawney, PA on Sunday, December 3, 2017, at the 11:00 AM parish mass.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
The Gospel of the Lord
Advent is one of my favorite times of the year: we start to see Christmas decorations go up, students know that a long vacation is right around the corner, and there seems to be just a bit more joy in the air. You know as well as I know the liturgical color of the season: purple! One of my favorite colors is purple, so there’s another reason for me to love advent! The other major time of the year that the Church uses purple in her color scheme is Lent. We often equate purple to penance, and this is rather appropriate. Lent is a time for penance and reconciliation in waiting for the ultimate death of Jesus and then his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Advent, though, is not only a time of penance and reconciliation, it is a time of preparation. This is a season of preparation; a season of expectant hope.
In a very real sense, we prepare our homes for a celebration by decorating and preparing for a family gathering. The more important preparation, though is the preparation of our hearts. We are in penance knowing that we are not perfect and we seek reconciliation with God and with those we love, and even those we do not love. Yet this season of penance and reconciliation does not end with the death of Jesus. Rather, it ends with His birth. There is no time of sadness this time of year in our church. Rather it is a time to prepare for an amazing gift: the gift of eternal life.
During this season, we look to the future. We remember the Birth of Jesus and celebrate that great day, but we look to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus says in today’s gospel that we must be ready, that we must be watchful, for the Lord is coming. He is coming. He promised us that He would return. But we do not know when, so be prepared.
We have a journey to take these next four Sundays. We have a journey of preparation. We will prepare our homes and our Church for a great celebration of joy and peace. But we must prepare our hearts. We must make our hearts ready to receive that peace and joy. If we prepare the world around us, but we do not prepare ourselves, Christmas will fly by and be nothing of importance: it will be as if it was a pointless celebration, just another Monday of the year. But if we prepare ourselves for the great celebration, we will receive the gift of God of peace and joy and love.
So how do we prepare our hearts and our lives? Numerous ways. Children, you know the best way to prepare yourselves for Christmas, follow the fourth commandment, honor your Father and Mother. Yet that does not just apply to Children, it applies to all of us. We all have parents. If our parents are living, do we help them when they need it? If our parents are older, do we call them or visit them? If our parents are deceased, do we pray for them and have masses offered for them? These are important ways to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ.
Another way that we prepare ourselves for Christmas is through prayer. The number one way to pray is by attending mass. Remember, there are FOUR Sundays before Christmas! And yes, I do expect everyone to go to Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent as well as either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day! (Remember the third commandment??) We have an opportunity to come and worship before our God here at mass, and therefore this should be the highlight of our week, if not every day! In addition to mass, we should take an opportunity to pray every day. What does that mean? We can pray the rosary, or we can pray a novena, or read scripture, or even sitting in silence listening for God. Prayer is of utmost importance for our preparation.
My third suggestion for preparation for Christmas is to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Next Sunday we have our parish penance service where there will be other priests from around our deanery to hear our confessions. In this sacrament, we have an opportunity to right our wrongs with God, to truly be forgiven of any wrong-doing that we are truly sorry for. We have an opportunity to come before Jesus Christ and be forgiven of our sins.
Advent is a time of penance and reconciliation, but it is even more of a time of preparation. We are given this season every year to continue to prepare our hearts and our lives for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Let’s make this advent extra special by focusing on ways to truly follow Jesus Christ in our daily lives.