Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Stay Awake"
Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent

Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
28 November 2010
Year A

Some people may find this hard to believe but I can be a bit particular about things. For instance, in my closet I have all my clothes lined up in such a way that they in a certain order and my shoes are lined up in a similar fashion. I will frequently fiddle with the sheets on my bed so that when it’s made everything lines up all the way around. My family always makes fun of me and constantly reminds me that there is medication for these types of issues! One might find interesting to know then, that when it comes to cooking – and yes I love to cook – that I am not so methodical. I have my recipes; they serve as the basic information needed for the perfect dish. But I often will simply look at the recipe, see what I need to make a delicious meal and then I proceed. I make sure that I have all the ingredients I need and prepare them accordingly. But, in the process of cooking I will often add something to give it that extra flavor. Yet, the recipe still remains very important – if I don’t follow the essential directives then I will not get the outcome that I desire. Thus, if I want to make something that tastes good, I have to follow the rules.

A similar logic could be applied to the Advent Season. The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin ‘adventum’ which means: ‘to come to’ or ‘to draw toward.’ This season is not unlike the Season of Lent where we prepare ourselves for an upcoming feast with fasting, prayer and reconciliation. These three directives of Advent provide us with the basic ingredients of the season. They are designed to help us draw near to Christ during this short four-week period.

In order to ring in this new liturgical year and to kickoff the Season of Advent, the first thing we hear from Our Lord is a stern warning. “Stay awake!” Be prepared, he warns. The impervious people in the days of Noah were unprepared for the flood. They were too distracted by their “eating and drinking” – too caught up in themselves – that they missed the divine happenings that were going on right in their midst. The day of the Lord came upon them like a thief in the night. This question of when the Messiah will come has pervaded Jewish literature for centuries. They were obsessed with His coming. Even in the Book of Daniel we find actual calculations that seemingly predict the coming of the Messiah. Jesus appeals to this infatuation in the Gospel but does not give them any indication as to when He is coming – He doesn’t have to because He is already in their midst. They too were so caught up in themselves they missed the fact the Messiah was walking among them. The point He was trying to make is that since the day and hour are unknown; preparation is key.

Like the Jewish people in the time of Christ, we too do not know the day nor the hour when the Messiah will come again in His glorious return at the end of time. Nor are we aware of when He will call us home to heaven. Our preparation for this day is also strictly important. On the other hand, in the Advent Season we prepare ourselves for yet another coming of Christ – the coming of the Messiah in our own hearts. At Christmas we do not simply celebrate the birth of Christ in time but also His rebirth in our hearts. Drawing nearer to Christ during the Advent Season consists in paying closer attention to how we can grow deeper in our faith in Him. It is a time for us to relinquish the selfish “I” and focus on the living image of Christ found in each and every one of us. It is easy to get caught up in the consumer driven society that is concerned mostly with buying gifts, throwing parties, and cooking meals that could make Thanksgiving Day look like a bag lunch! If we focus too much on these things and our ourselves and pay no attention to the recipe of Advent, then we too could miss the divine happenings that are going on around us. Yet, we will remain steady if we are attentive to the ingredients – personal prayer, fasting, making a good confession. They help us to avoid lukewarmness and the dwindling desire for sanctity. We will constantly be awake if we do not let little acts of penance slip through the cracks. We will remain attentive by making a thorough examination of conscience, which reveals to us the areas of our lives that have become a hindrance from growing closer to Christ.

In his Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope), Pope Benedict wrote: “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history” (Spe Salvi, #49).
Christ is our light and His light radiates from the cave in Bethlehem. The journey of Advent consists in keeping our eyes fixed on this light and drawing closer and closer to it.

As we embark upon this journey of Advent, perhaps we could ask ourselves the following questions: what do we want to get out of this season? What is the outcome that we desire? What will we add to these ingredients so that we can truly draw nearer to Christ? As the opening prayer of the Mass suggests, so we make it our own prayer throughout the Advent Season: All-Powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at His coming and call us to His side in the Kingdom of Heaven, where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and forever, Amen.


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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