YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: BE VIGILANT
BY: Abbot Philip Lawrence
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Today’s readings exhort us to be vigilant for Advent. This is not a time for passivity, for God is at work, fulfilling his promises and crafting signs and wonders attesting to His glory. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” William Butler Yeats’ poem begins, “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.” We Christians may not be going to Innisfree, but we must arise and go to Our Lord for He comes to us.
And, thematically similar to the three quatrains of this famous poem, with their specific needs for food and shelter, peace, and reconciliation with the inner life and the physical world; Christ, early Christian writers remind us, comes thrice: He comes into our hearts, He comes into the world in the flesh, and He comes at the end of time.
In the first reading the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God would fulfill his promises to his chosen people. Centuries later do we believe that God is faithful to His promises in our lives, in our situations, in our times? Some of our ancestors believe and accepted God’s faithfulness; others did not. We Christians believe that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus Christ redeems the world and our belief in Jesus redeems us. This Advent, this coming of Christ, requires our active participation, too.
The 1st Letter to the Thessalonians pinpoints the strengthening of hearts in holiness as important. We want to be ready to receive Our Lord in love, to live well and to please God. Ultimately, this means for us to learn to love as Christ loved us. We must prepare for and during this time on earth and in the life to come.
The Gospel of Luke wants us to be prepared for our personal death and the end of the world. We can only be prepared when we recognize that we need God above all else in our lives. Leo Tolstoy once remarked about the knowledge of a person’s imminent death in a half hour that the time would in all likelihood not be spent engaging in trivial or stupid things. If one had foreknowledge a half century before one’s death, would that make one’s actions any different from a half hour?
We are invited to begin again in this time of Advent. We prepare our hearts and minds to receive the perennial divine presence. Let us spend time during this Advent Season listening with “the ears of our hearts.” May the transformation of our lives begin. Come, Lord Jesus!
Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico