December 2, 2007
Well here we are – the first Sunday of Advent. Already! We begin a new Liturgical year this evening at the vigil mass. The church is decorated in violet and pink, the advent candles are in place, and there are sure signs in this place that Christmas is coming. The great celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is just four weeks and a couple of days away.
As if we didn’t know that Christmas is coming, the world out there has been decorating since November 1 and the stores have been trying to lure people in to buy more gifts than they can afford. Getting prepared for so many means presents and party favors. And so it goes.
But the scriptures present us with an entirely different view of preparation.
In the gospel Jesus tells the disciples that the day of the coming of the Son of Man will be like it was in the days of Noah. He describes the population as “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” In other words, ordinary life. They were preoccupied with the cares of ordinary life. As Jesus describes the day of the coming of the Son of Man, he describes people working in the field and at the mill when it happens. People doing the ordinary things of ordinary life.
Did you ever notice how busy ordinary life can get? How preoccupied we can get with it? Just as a test, how many people here think that you need more complexity in your life? More things to add to your schedule? No volunteers? The fact of the matter is, especially at this time of the year, the ordinary cares of life have us all quite preoccupied.
It is precisely for this reason that the Holy Spirit has carefully provided us with these readings this weekend. The message is this:
Stay Awake! You Must Be Prepared! It is at the hour that you do not expect that the Son of Man will come.
He was born in the fullness of time in Bethlehem. He comes in word and sacrament to strengthen his people in holiness. He will come again in glory with salvation for his people.
Stay Awake! Be Prepared!
St. Paul has an interesting take on being awake and prepared. Let’s check back to the 2nd reading from the 13th chapter of the letter to the Romans. Paul says first to throw off the works of darkness.
And he has quite a list about those works of darkness.
Orgies and drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy.
Throw off the works of darkness.
Maybe that little list names some areas of darkness in your life. Or perhaps there are other areas. Perhaps you have forgotten how to do an examination of conscience. It always is interesting to me when people come to me for confession after not having been for many years and will tell me that they have not sinned or done anything bad. What that reveals to me is that this person has lost the ability to do an examination of conscience. Has lost the sense of what sin is. Listen, if Mother Theresa went to confession every two weeks – and most of the world considered here a living saint – then you and I just simply need a better sense of what holiness really is so that we can throw off the works of darkness in our lives.
You want to throw off the works of darkness? Do a good examination of conscience on a daily basis. There are pamphlets in the vestibule about this. If you have forgotten how to do a good examination of conscience, then these will teach you some of the basics.
Throw off the works of darkness. Stay Awake. Be Prepared.
Paul then says to put on the armor of light. Later on in the text he explains it this way. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
How do you do that? Well, I have a couple of ideas for us.
We first put on the Lord Jesus in the sacrament of baptism. It is in the sacraments – those seven signs of the New Covenant – that we put on Christ. So we are encouraged to make frequent use of the sacraments of the Church. To live the sacramental life every day. The Church also provides us with sacramentals. Those are the little signs of our faith. Holy Water, crucifixes, prayers and devotions. Last week we talked about consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have that information in the vestibule. I recommend it. I plan to use it with my family at Christmas. These sacramentals are good faith reminders of our sacramental union with Jesus. And these should always lead us to good works. Because, as St. James reminds us in his epistle, we are saved by faith and works. Faith without works is dead. So works of peace and justice are the evidence of putting on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ through faith and through works. Stay Awake. Be Prepared.
The third little piece that Paul mentions is this: Make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
What a great message to get during this time of endless Christmas parties. Tis the season for weight gain and Santa Clausian girth. What a great opportunity for us all to counter-balance these with some actions of private penance – reminding our flesh of who the boss is.
The Holy Spirit makes great provision for us – reminding us of what is truly important. Giving us an eternal perspective on things. Dear people – dear members of the body of Christ.
Stay Awake. Be Prepared.
For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.