27 November 2010

Homily, 28 November 2010

The First Sunday of Advent

On The Yule Blog of the State Journal-Register we find these incomprehensible words from two Black Friday shoppers:
“I live for this day. I don’t care about Christmas or Thanksgiving. I love Black Friday,” she said.

Miller agreed.

“This is our holiday,” she added.
These words are truly sad and what more can we do when we hear them than cry out, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation” (Psalm 85:8)!

The women’s words come at the end of a post that stops just shy of praising those brave souls who battle the cold and the crowds, who so live for Black Friday that they happily admit to skipping Thanksgiving dinner.

When I was younger and working in a toy store, the day after Thanksgiving was called Green Friday. It was called green because on that day we took in half of all sales for the year. I dare say I do not miss retail on this day that we now more fittingly call black.

Perhaps these women’s words are mere hyperbole – nothing but an exaggeration. But, I wonder: could one who cares even slightly about Christmas have uttered such a sentence? Could one who has experienced the love of the Christ-Child and who lives in expectation of his coming ever say, “I don’t care about Christmas?”

Surely such a mindset shows a refusal to follow the warning of Saint Paul to make no provision for the sinful desires of the flesh (cf. Romans 13:14). How can one who does not care about the birth of the Savior sing with the Psalmist, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (cf. Psalm 122:1)? How can one who does not care about Christmas climb the mountain of the Lord to be taught by him and walk in his ways (cf. Isaiah 2:3)?

Such a person would do well to listen carefully to the words of Jesus:

Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the
thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken
into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the
Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:43-44).
Together with thousands of others, those two women prepared well for their shopping expedition, making thorough arrangements and plans, even going so far as to download a special application on their phones to be instantly alerted of new deals. Nothing would stand in the way of their shopping; no thief would come and snatch their deal away from them.

But, I wonder: are they prepared for that other thief will come who will steal their life away? Are they prepared for the coming of the Son of Man who “shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4)?

As I say, these two women are not alone in their efforts and there are, perhaps, several such shoppers here among us now. Others among us are not altogether unlike them, though perhaps our excesses are not so great; nevertheless, our focus is not where it ought to be. Who among us can say that we have fully thrown off the works of darkness (cf. Romans 13:12)?

Reflecting on this passage of Saint Paul written to the Romans, Saint Augustine corrects each of us with these words:

Provision for the flesh is not to be condemned if it has to do with the needs of
bodily health. But if it is a question of unnecessary delights or luxuries, a
person who enjoys the delights of the flesh is rightly chastised. For in that
case he makes provision for the desires of the flesh, and “he who sows in the
flesh will reap corruption in the flesh” (Galatians 6:8) [Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Romans 77].
As we enter into this holy season each of us must prayerfully consider if - knowing we have made provisions for the good desires of the flesh and, regretfully, also for the sinful ones – we have likewise made provisions for the desires of the spirit.

Have we truly endeavored, with the Lord’s grace, to grow in faith, hope and love? Do we truly seek to live the faith of Jesus Christ in the totality of our daily lives? Do we truly intend to enter into the beauty and stillness of these days of Advent?

Dear brothers and sisters, in the opening prayer we prayed that Christ may find in us an eager welcome at his coming. Is this really what we desire, knowing that when at last he comes he will take his seat upon his throne of judgment?

Christian discipleship requires that we live in the world, preparing it for the Lord and opening hearts to him until he should call us to himself, but that we not be of the world. The Christian life stands in stark contradiction to the ways of the world.

One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the rampant individualism of the present age that knows no concern for another. One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the materialistic and hedonistic pursuits of the present age, conscious that our true home is not here. One who follows Christ must stand in contradiction to the culture of death and defend the rights and dignity of all people. For the Christian lives waiting in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, and “the one who has hope lives differently”(Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi 2)!

I ask you then: Are you prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?

If you have done everything that was asked of you and are prepared for it, then
you have nothing to fear, but if you have not, then look out! Paul is not trying
to frighten his hearers but to encourage them, so as to detach them from their
love of the things of this world (Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 23).
These days of Advent are given us a brief time to refocus our lives on Christ that he might not catch us off guard.

We know neither when each of our lives will end, nor when the Lord will appear in his glory. He himself says to us, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37).

In the days of Noah, the righteous were saved on the ark, because they listened to the Lord and sought his face. Those who neither listened to him nor sought his face were swept away in the destructive waters of the flood. When the waters receded, all that was left was good.

So will it be when the Lord comes. Those who are wicked and are unprepared for his coming will be taken away, and the ones who remain will be those who sought his face and watched eagerly for his coming.

If you wish to be found ready when the Lord comes, then awake now from your sleep of apathy to the faith (cf. Romans 13:11)! Rise up now, put on the armor of light, and walk in the light of the Lord (cf. Romans 13:12; Isaiah 2:5)! Amen.


  1. Excellent homily, Father! A great job of bringing the scriptures and the day's newspaper headlines together to make us think. Wonderful way to get us focused on Advent's call to wait prayerfully. Thanks.

  2. You're welcome, Steve; thank you for your kind words!