HOMILY ADVENT SUNDAY 01 – A
Best Practices for Advent
(Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)
Happy New Year! That is a very appropriate greeting as we begin a new liturgical year. Something else that is quite appropriate at the beginning of a New Year is the making of New Year’s resolutions.
Perhaps we can be different this new liturgical year, and instead of making resolutions, do what many organizations and businesses are doing. They are adopting what they call “Best Practices” to increase the success of their business or the productivity of their organization.
For us as a church, as we begin this new liturgical year, those “best practices” are provided by the readings. We are told to “wake up” by Jesus and by St. Paul. We are encouraged to “be ready.” We are asked to “let go” of all sin and deeds of darkness. We are invited to “walk in the light of the Lord”, and above all, we are almost commanded by Paul to “let our armour be Jesus Christ”. We certainly have no shortage of “best practices” for the season of Advent!
The challenge is to live these “best practices.” Let us look at them more closely. The late renowned spiritual writer and speaker, Fr. Anthony de Mello, urged his listeners in almost every session he gave to “wake up.” Many people, he claimed, were “sleep-walking” their way through life when it came to their faith. He wanted everyone to wake up to the greater depth and possibilities a life of faith held out for them.
In the Gospel, Jesus urges us to “be ready” for the time of his return which would be at an unexpected hour. There is an Oblate brother who was asked as he was playing a game of pool, what he would do if told that the world was to end in three hours. He replied calmly, “Keep on playing pool.” He was ready and had no need to change anything in his life.
Then in the second reading, St Paul encourages us to let go of any sin and sinfulness, any deeds of darkness. According to Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, good spirituality is all about letting go. St. Paul mentions some of the things that we need to let go of, including drunkenness, promiscuity, licentiousness, arguing and jealousy. The best way to ensure that we are doing this “letting go” is to celebrate a sincere and thorough sacrament of reconciliation during the season of Advent.
We can spend some time reflecting on our past mistakes and sins and checking our conscience. Then we can take the time and trouble to repent, to confess our sins to a priest, to clean house, to rid ourselves of any spiritual garbage that we are carrying. As part of this celebration, and it is a celebration, we can make amends to anyone we have harmed, and include a declaration to change as part of that amends or penance. The peace and joy we will experience is more than worth the effort to celebrate that sacrament.
John was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous in northern Saskatchewan for thirteen years. His wife phoned me at 2 am one night to ask if he could come over and see me. It seems he was very agitated and depressed, had been given medication by the doctors to no avail, and was basically driving her crazy. I agreed and John came over. It turned out he had never made a sincere Step 5 out of fear and false-pride. I reminded him of the rigorous honesty the program demanded, and he finally cleaned house. He celebrated a deep, profound Step 5, which is admitting to God, to one’s self and to another human being, the exact nature of one’s wrongs. John left the house at 5:30 a free man, and has since then shared this story at meetings and Round-ups.
Returning to St. Paul, we are then to “walk in the light.” That ties in with the vision of Isaiah in the first reading. He prophecies a day when all people will come to the Temple of the Lord and live the Law of God. There will be an end to war, and weapons will become tools of peace. People will walk in the light of the Lord.
Those who walk in the light have no darkness within them; they are totally given over to living according to the Law. More than that, those who believe in and follow Jesus transcend the Old Testament Law, for they are now living according to the teachings of Jesus which includes loving our enemies, doing good to those who harm us, loving our God back, and loving all others as we love ourselves. That is truly walking in the light.
Some persons speak of an aura some people have around them, an aura they claim they can see. To make Jesus our amour, would be to make him our aura. With Jesus as our aura or armour, no darkness, no sin can penetrate and enter into our lives to disturb us. There will be only peace, joy and justice, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Salvation will not only be at hand; we will be experiencing that salvation through that peace, joy and lives of justice. It does not get any better than that.
So that is the path that lies before us as we enter into this season of Advent, a path of “best practices” that will help us get ready for the celebration of Christmas. We could put it this way – the best way to celebrate Christmas is to live the season of Advent well, by being faithful to all these best practices.
The Eucharist is our food for the journey through the season of Advent, helping us to live out these best practices the readings put before us today. We experience forgiveness in the Penitential rite, are nourished by God’s Word and by the Body and Blood of Jesus. Then we are mandated to go out and live those best practices – to wake up, be ready, let go of darkness, walk in the light, and above all, make Jesus Christ our armour.