Advent I / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Today is New Year’s Day in the Church—the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. We move from "Year B" to "Year C," from the year of Mark to the year of Luke. And, like any new year, this is a time to take stock, to take a good look at ourselves, to make some resolutions for the new year. Off to a good start. Ready for the coming of the Lord—into the world, and into our hearts.
The Gospel today looks a lot like last week—it is "apocalyptic," describing the "end of the world." Listen to the imagery: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay . . . people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
From the beginning of the Church, people have interpreted this literally, as a description of the end. But if that is all it is, what good is it? Does it help us? It might help the one generation that will experience it—but think of the thousands of generations that have gone before us.
No, it is not intended to be read in a literal fashion. Remember the word apocalyptic: it means to "unveil," or to "reveal." So what is this reading unveiling, revealing?
To answer that, we need to go a little deeper. We need to go back to the ancient world. Navigation in the ancient world depended on the sun, the moon, and the stars. There was no GPS! The sun, the moon, and the stars kept everything on track, predictable "fixed points" that told us we are going north, south, east, and west. Navigational points. Well what if the sun, moon, and stars fell from the sky and were no more? We’d be lost. We would lose our way. We would no longer have a fixed point.
And that’s the point. When Jesus came the first time, born in Bethlehem, the Incarnation, everything changed. We might say that sun, the moon, and stars fell from the sky. The
breakdown of the old order; the ushering in of the new. The old "fixed points" were gone. The Kingdom broke into the world! It was a time when everything was shaken— and people had to make a decision: to follow Christ, the new fixed point, the new navigational star, or not.
We are faced with the same decision. Each of us must take a good look at ourselves, and ask the question, "What is the fixed point in my life, what is my "north star" that directs everything I do?" What is my navigational point? What do I value most? Is it Jesus, or is it something else? If I choose Jesus, what does that mean? Am I strong enough to become a Christian—to "stand before the Son of Man"?
Some practical questions, then, to ask ourselves: where is my star?
- For example, if I value money and things, Jesus says, "Sell all you have."
- If I value popularity, Jesus says, "Humble yourself."
- If I value worldly glory, Jesus says, "Take up your cross."
- If I value power, Jesus says, "Unless you become like little children."
- If I value family, Jesus says, "Unless you love me more than father and mother."
- If I value superiority, Jesus says, "the first will be last." "Love your enemies."
And so on.
Am I able to say with St. Paul, "I consider all things as loss in light of the supreme good of knowing Jesus Christ" (Phil 3:8).
Advent is a time to let the "sun, moon, and stars" of our lives be shaken, to set our navigational point, our North Star, that gives us true direction: Jesus Christ, the light of the world, who leads us to salvation.
With us this morning are our Catechumens and Candidates. They recognize their need for God, and they wish to become a part of our faith community. In the Rite of Acceptance (for Catechumens), and the Rite of Welcoming (for Candidates), the Church
says yes to their desire for God, and we pledge our support as they set the direction of their life—and begin their journey. Until that day, when all of us will gather around the table of the Lord—brothers and sisters, one family, and children of our God.