Advent I / A / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
A "happy new year" to all as we gather on this First Sunday of Advent—a new liturgical year.
For many people, Advent is their favorite season, coming as it does just before Christmas. Advent is a season of waiting, longing, and expectation. In a sense, our whole Christian life has an "Advent quality"—we are always waiting for the coming of the Lord—keeping vigil—a season that contains our deepest longing. Remember the final line of the Bible: "Maranatha—Come Lord Jesus!"
Advent has three dimensions to it: 1) the Lord has come in history, 2) the Lord will come definitively at the end of history, and 3) the Lord comes to us even now.
I want to focus on that third dimension in my homily today—that the Risen Lord wants to take up residence in us, now, today. Remember the Zacchaeus story, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today."
The Prophet Isaiah in the first reading guides us through an Advent meditation on the coming of the Lord. The prophet speaks of the "day of fulfillment," the definitive rule of the Messiah, when Christ will rule the nations. But let’s turn these words into something personal, when Christ will come to us personally, to rule over us definitively.
The prophet says, "In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain." In other words, when Christ comes to reign in us, He must be the highest value—he must be the highest mountain. So we look at ourselves: what is the highest mountain in my life? What is the highest value in my life: work, honor, pleasure, money, fame, etc.? We all have a highest mountain. What is it in your life? Advent tells us what it must be—it must be Christ. Christ must be Lord of my entire life.
Isaiah, continues, "All will stream toward this highest mountain." All the nations streaming toward Jerusalem, the highest mountain. So we ask ourselves during this Advent season: does everything in my life stream towards Christ? And by everything, we mean everything: my mind, my heart, my emotions, my relationship, my work, my values. Christ cannot be just another interest in my life! Christ must be the center toward which all things stream.
Finally, Isaiah says that when Christ comes, "all nations will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." An end to war and divisions. To make it personal, aren’t we all a jumble of "wars and divisions"? My mind wants one thing, my will does another. Competing emotions and values and interests. But when Christ becomes the center of my life, everything falls into place. There is only one supreme value—no more division, no more competition—everything subordinated to Christ. Swords into plowshares. Peace.
And when will all this take place? St. Paul, in the second reading, puts it bluntly: "You know the time. Now is the hour for you to wake from sleep."
Sleep is never something good in the Bible—it means spiritual laziness. The Gospel agrees: "Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come."
Advent is the season for us to wake up, to do our work . . . and to welcome the Lord.