Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


1st Sunday of Advent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
November 1st, 2014
Year B

As many of you know, this past October I went on a trip to Rome with 2 priests from our diocese. During the 9 days we spent in the Eternal City, we had the chance to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Funny story about this visit was that as we were walking it began to rain, pretty heavily. We thought all would be better once we reached our destination, only to discover that the Basilica had closed for the day and we would have to return. This Basilica was the very first church in the West dedicated to the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was constructed in the 400s, and many of its original mosaics have survived. A mosaic located on the triumphal arch high above the main altar, in the very focal point of the Basilica, depicts something very strange: a lavish, gorgeously decorated throne, which happens to be completely empty. That empty throne is the perfect symbol for Advent. It reminds us of the Incarnation. Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, left his heavenly throne when, out of infinite love, he came to dwell among us here on earth and become our salvation. This powerful reference to the Incarnation is echoed by the Basilica's most famous relic: pieces of the crib that Mary used for the baby Jesus. Whenever I visit and kneel before the crib, I often think of a peaceful sleeping Jesus, resting in His mother’s arms.

Sleep to many is a beautiful thing – many of us I’m sure long for that unconscious state of rest hoping to be refreshed the next morning. Yet, sleep can have another connotation and it is used in the Gospel today. Jesus actually warns against sleep using phrases like: stay wake, be alert, and watch. It is a warning or call for to keep watch for the Lord’s coming, His return – and He could appear at any moment. He warns the disciples that He could come suddenly and they could be asleep – which is precisely what happens in the Garden of Gethsemane at the onset of His passion. Sleep in this case signifies a spiritual numbness, a state of being that lacks any sort of energy for the things of God. Thus the disciples could quite possibly miss the divine happenings that are going on around them.

Jesus’ prediction of the disciple’s spiritual numbness is also warning to us – the age of the Church. Their trial in the garden is the beginning of the trial that will last throughout the Church’s history in which we are called to be constantly alert and attentive to the presence of God in our lives. Thus, in the wisdom of the Church, we are given certain times of the year to wake up. Advent is one of those times. During this short liturgical season we are given an opportunity to reflect, to pray, to clean out our souls and become awake to the things of God. Advent is full of rich family devotions that help us to engage this season and to think more deeply on the mystery of the Incarnation at every moment of the day. For example, having an advent wreath, lighting the candle each day, and reciting the prayers at table with family and friends. A daily Advent devotional helps us to read along with the Prophet Isaiah who spoke so well of the Messiah that St. Augustine and many other Church theologians consider him to be more an evangelist than a prophet. Making a good, sincere confession is also another way to prepare our hearts and open up our soul to the great graces that await us on Christmas Day and the celebration of the Lord’s birth. For, we must remember, that this season celebrates three realities, three comings of Christ: the first is the Birth of Christ in human history, the second is His return in Glory, and the third is His coming again in our own hearts.

The beautiful mosaic at Santa Maria Maggiore – one among the many – reminds us of these realities and also of one more thing: while surely we think of how Christ left His throne in Heaven to take on human flesh, so too, we are reminded that each day He leaves His throne and makes Himself present to us in the Holy Eucharist. As Catholics, we are a Eucharistic people. Our whole faith is centered on the Eucharist, for Christ, just as He did when walked the earth, draws us to Himself by His presence under the appearance of bread and wine. Therefore, this Advent Season, let us make the Mass a special part of this journey. Just as Christ was humble enough to leave His throne and come to us, may we, through Holy Communion, be humble enough to welcome Him.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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