Advent: Night is almost over

Listen to mp3 file
1st Sunday of Advent, Year A: Nov. 28, 2010
Isa 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-9; Rom 13:11-14; Matt 24:37-44

In our readings today, we hear again and again about darkness and light. We know that the Season of Advent always comes at a time of year when the world is getting darker, literally. It wasn’t that long ago this morning that it was dark; and we know that this evening, indeed before 5 p.m., the sun will set again. Now, today, when we are at home and we have our electricity to light our homes, doors to lock, and so on, this often doesn’t mean much. But we all know that when we are outside—hiking or camping or simply walking through an unknown area—then darkness makes a great difference in our lives. It means that it gets cold. It means it will be hard to see; hard to know what is out there in front of us or behind us; hard to know what to do about it. Hard to know what danger might be approaching. Night is a most appropriate time for a thief to come and break in most easily, as our Lord Jesus said in the Gospel.

And so night and darkness, even today, are appropriate symbols for fear and suffering; confusion and error; personal isolation; lingering guilt.

But the message of Advent is not a message of darkness. It is an acknowledgement of darkness and a proclamation, into that reality, that light is coming. The sunrise is almost here. Whether we face problems with our money or our personal relationships; from violence in the world, or sickness in our own body; whatever fear or confusion we might face, this night—whatever night we experience—will not last forever; it will come to an end when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

And so, in the midst of darkness, the light of Advent proclaims Good News!

Advent tells us that the Light of the World himself is coming. And the Advent Wreath stands as a symbol of this truth. For even as our world keeps growing darker in the next four weeks, the light of Christ grows brighter, as we light one more candle; two, three, and four. St. Peter wrote in his second letter: You will do well to be attentive to the prophetic message, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. [2 Pet 1:19]

And we hear from St. Paul in our second reading today: our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

So the message of this Advent season is a message of hope. And it is also a message of preparation. Are we prepared for the light to come?—Jesus asks, in effect, in our Gospel reading. Are we living in a way that is consistent with the light rather than with darkness?—St. Paul asks us in our second reading. For the darkness is not only outside of us; it also may be inside of us, if our thoughts or our actions are those that are consistent with darkness rather than with light. And similarly the light can be inside of us right now: our hearts, our minds, can glow now like the candles of the Advent Wreath.

We do not know when our Lord Jesus will return: we do not know when his Second Coming will occur. Or, we do not know when we ourselves will die, if that should come before he returns; and so when we will face him in our own particular judgment. The only way to be prepared for his coming is to prepare now and to stay prepared, so that at every moment we are prepared, for whenever the time comes for us to meet him.

Are you prepared? Are you prepared at this moment to meet our Lord Jesus when he comes? This season of Advent is a season of grace and preparation. And I want to suggest three things that each of us might do this Advent in order to be prepared to meet Jesus Christ, the Light of the World:

First, is there sin in your life that you need to turn away from? We heard in our second reading that St. Paul urged us to throw off the works of darkness, and he gave us a list of six sins that fall into three categories:

  • First, he listed orgies and drunkenness, that is, indulging our appetites for food, drink, or other things to such a degree that they begin to control our lives and to do harm to us or those around us;
  • Secondly, promiscuity and lust, that is, engaging in sexual sin or impure thoughts or actions, rather than the chastity that our Lord desires of us; and
  • Third, rivalry and jealousy, or those ways in which we resent and harm others in our efforts to get ahead and get the upper hand.

All of these three areas—appetites, impurity, harming others—are actions about which St. Paul says: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. Our parish penance service will be in 3 weeks, on Tuesday December 14: on that evening, or before, you can receive God’s forgiveness and the grace of the sacrament to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

A second way to prepare during this Advent Season: Are you letting good things in your life crowd your relationship with God out of your day-to-day life? We heard in the Gospel that Jesus spoke of how the people in the days of Noah were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage: all good and healthy things, all things they should have been doing; but things that kept them preoccupied and distracted from spending time with God and preparing for what was coming in their lives.

  • Do you spend some time every day in prayer and meditation upon the Scripture?
  • Do you give your time and money to support the poor and the work of the Church?

As you consider how you might make time in your day-to-day life during this Advent Season, there are some tools that can help you. As you leave today, you will find copies of The Word Among Us, which includes Scripture readings and short meditations for every day of Advent. You also will find in the bulletin what you also heard last week: news of our parish Day of Recollection, which is coming up on Saturday, December 11. Please consider whether you can come to that and give some time for the growth of your own soul. And you will also find in today’s bulletin an insert regarding the Giving Tree program.

A third question to ask about this Advent: Have you shared the Good News of Advent with others? Many people you know are suffering in various forms of darkness; and they desperately need the gift of hope that Advent brings in the message that the night is almost over, and Jesus the Light of the World is coming. In his Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization, Cardinal Wuerl told us:

We can help people we know, neighbors, coworkers, even, in some cases, family members, hear … the good news … all over again, this time for the first time…. In this, we are protagonists of hope.

There are so many ways to do this. And next weekend, there will be yet one more way, as we will have a yard sign to be distributed from the Archdiocese, that you will be able to take with you and put in your yard or in your window as a way to invite others to discover that Light for which they long so strongly.

Advent brings the message of hope that night is almost over and Christ our Light is almost here. And it brings a special chance for us to wake up and prepare ourselves: by turning away from sin; by making daily room for Jesus in our own lives; and sharing his Good News with others. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

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