The Gospel for November 27th , 2016: “The Unknown Day and Hour”
Reflection: The Advent Wake-up Call
On this first Sunday of Advent, 2016, I would like to begin by sharing an insight from Catholic writer and speaker Matthew Kelly about this season. On his CD called “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself,” he observes, ‘There’s genius in Catholicism.’ In particular he mentions the timing of Advent as providing the reminder we need to repent, to turn back to Jesus, at a time when the press of modern life has distracted us completely from the basic simplicity of loving Jesus and neighbor in joyful hope of His coming. Consider November 2016. During this month in addition to all the usual challenges of family and work life, I have been bewildered by an acrimonious presidential election that has had all the epic drama of a Shakespearean play. I turn on the TV to find marquee matchups in both college football and basketball that are irresistible, even during Thanksgiving family gatherings. And let’s not forget the commercial onslaught of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Is it any wonder we need a reminder from our Church to “stay awake!” (42). Yes, Matthew, there’s genius in Catholicism.
And so right on time comes the Advent season to remind us that just as Jesus’s first coming into the world was unexpected and missed by errant human understanding—after all, could the Messiah really come as a baby born in poverty and then grow up to be executed as a scandalized criminal? It is unbelievable. Only those whose hearts were filled with faith and love recognized His arrival and believed. Our worship and celebration of Advent and Christmas are not dues to be paid to a miserly savior. They are spiritual exercises to renew our hearts, to cultivate the disposition of love and faith so that we will be ready to fulfill our roles in the theo-drama of the salvation of humanity. God’s grace will only work through an unselfish heart that is ready to believe. When Jesus says, “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (42), this is not a threat. It is a paradigm shift! It is says this is not a game to played with human cunning in attempt to escape eternal damnation. Instead, it is an invitation to be with Jesus right now through His church and the Holy Spirit. Our life of joy and peace is all around us right now if we just pay attention and open our hearts. For as we look back on His words two thousand years later, we remember that He has already come into His kingdom. His crucifixion, resurrection, and finally His victory over sin and death are complete! We just need to say Yes! to our Savior again and again.
True, the lure of the worldly desires and fears still tempt us today as they have throughout human history. It takes a level of commitment and focus beyond our individual willpower to resist their ability to harden our hearts to Jesus’s love. But God in His infinite wisdom is ready with help. Right now, that help is called Advent. We just need to say yes to the saving grace of this Church season. Last week we witnessed two sinners crucified next to Jesus. One could not accept that His savior was dying on a cross with him. It was perfectly logical point of view. The other confessed his sins and asked to be saved. That very day he was with Jesus in paradise. His heart was open to a savior in a moment that was so unlikely it defies worldly wisdom. And yet, that was the moment, believe it or not. I believe. I just thank God for the reminder to pay attention. Happy Advent! I pray that we all renew our commitment to look for Jesus so that we may find His grace.