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Be watchful! Be alert!

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Homily for the First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

CLICK HERE FOR THE YOUTUBE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS SUNDAY HOMILY

The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year.

Since we are about to celebrate Christmas, we would suppose that the new liturgical year would begin chronologically with a reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation.  However, this is not the case.

The liturgical year ended by directing our gaze to the Second Coming of Jesus.

“Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13: 33)

The first Sunday of Advent begins the new liturgical year in the same way.

This is so, precisely because as disciples of Jesus, we are active participants in the mission of the Church “as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Roman Missal, 3rd edition).

The Catholic Church is a missionary Church, always moving forward towards the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

As the prophets of the Old Testament prepared the people of the Old Covenant for the first coming of Jesus, the prophetic mission of all the baptized is to evangelize everyone, without excluding anyone.  To be a disciple and an apostle are one and the same thing.

My dear friends, we read in this Sunday’s Gospel passage: Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13: 33)

Advent helps us to examine our lives.

How am I living as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

What do I need to change in my life so that I can live a fully Christian life, filled with love, joy and enthusiasm?

What do I need to do in order to become the dynamic Christian that Jesus wants me to be?

This Sunday’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah is very beautiful.  Isaiah reminds us that we are sinners and that we always need to turn to God.  “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”  (Isaiah 64: 7)

God is always calling us to conversion.  “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” (Isaiah 64: 4)

My dear friends, as disciples of the Lord we have so many ways to become distracted and loose our focus.

Our entire society is immersed in and obsessed with materialism.

Advent and Christmas have been hijacked by power, greed and the fixation to possess the latest gadget.

Malls, supermarkets and stores begin Christmas on the weekend before Thanksgiving and it all ends the day after Christmas.

They have it all wrong!

Advent begins today.  Christmas begins with the Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve and the Christmas season does not end until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

How shallow and frivolous our society has become.

And what can I say about the thousands of people that line-up on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving stampeding into stores in order to get in on the latest bargains?

“For what will profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16: 26)

Our society needs a lot of healing.

Just imagine if the same number of people were pushing open the church doors every Sunday, famished to receive the Bread of eternal life and to be washed by God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Penance.

As disciples of the Lord we live in the world, but we must not become corrupted by a decadent society that is increasingly out of control.

Change the world.

Do not let the world change you.

As Pope Francis writes: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.

Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.

This is a very real danger for believers too.

Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ” (Evangelli Gaudium, 2).

Advent is a time for all of us to wake up.

My dear friends, let us recall the words from this Sunday’s second reading:

“God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1: 9)

Saint Paul provides us with the solution to the problem at hand.

Over and over again I have preached one central theme Sunday after Sunday: Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Remember these beautiful words from Saint Augustine: “To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek him the greatest adventure, to find him the greatest human achievement.”

If we really fall in love with Jesus Christ, we will be enthusiastic and joyful witnesses of the Gospel.  

Pope Francis invites all of us to have a personal relationship with Jesus when he writes: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.

The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.

Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’

How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!

Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another ‘seventy times seven’ has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven.

Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.

Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will.

May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!” (Evangelli Gaudium, 3).

My dear friends, we have begun Advent.

Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas.  Let us live Advent, not as the world does, but as convinced, enthusiastic and joyful disciples of the Lord.

Here are some concrete ways to make this a good Advent for you and your family:

  • Increase your spiritual life by attending Mass every day during Advent and pray the Rosary every day as a family.
  • Place an Advent Wreath on your kitchen table. Have dinner every night as a family and use the Advent Wreath as you say Grace before dinner.
  • Be sure that you and your children get to confession sometime during the Advent Season. If your conscience has been anesthetized, now is the time to wake up.
  • A beautiful Hispanic tradition takes place the nine days before Christmas. Las Posadas is an excellent way to avoid worldly Christmas parties and to keep your focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  The Filipino Community has a similar tradition with the Simbang Gabi.