November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015


While the weather this November has been appreciated by all of us, I think that we’re all on alert that winter is coming.  I don’t know about you, but when I have to go outside when it’s cold and windy and rainy and snowy, I tend to just duck my head down and try to plunge ahead, more or less oblivious to what else might be going on around me.  I usually try to take my glasses off because I know they’ll just get messed up anyway, and my only hope is that I can find the right key to get in somewhere quickly and that my shoes don’t get too wet.  And to top it all off, with Jesus’ words in the Gospel about cosmic signs and tribulations, it seems like there’s more in the forecast than just a little downturn in the temperature. 


But in the midst of it all, we come here to church and one extra candle lets us know that something different is happening; one extra candle to remind us of the light that guides our way, the light that shines on the promise made to us by God.


Advent is a season of joyful expectation.  But when Jesus tells us to expect signs that will make people die of fright, we may try our best to be oblivious to those words.  In a sense, we may prefer just to take off our glasses and keep our heads down.  Besides, this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” and ‘end of the world’ stuff isn’t the kind of holiday magic we’re looking for.  “But,” Jesus also says, “when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”  Jeremiah proclaims, “In those days, Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.”  These are messages of confidence and hope for God’s people.  With all that’s going on in the world and society, it’s a message we need to hear—and embrace—now more than ever.


Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year, is a time to refocus our attention on the light of the promises of peace and fulfillment that only our loving, provident, merciful, and forgiving God can give.  The living light of God broke through into our darkness with the birth of Jesus, and the return of Christ in glory will cast all darkness away forever.  Rather than causing fear, this should move us more and more to open up our eyes and our hearts to this light, and to live in this light.  In our 2nd Reading, St. Paul prays that the Lord make us increase and abound in love, so as to strengthen our hearts and be blameless in holiness for the coming of the Lord.


Advent is a time of active waiting and preparation, strengthening our hearts to stand before the Lord.  Yes, there will be the end of one age, but also the birth of another; not a time of punishment for those who have waited faithfully, but a new age of fulfillment.  So the question can be asked (just as we asked a couple of weeks ago): if Jesus were to come back again today, would we be ready?  Or perhaps there are things that we’re not too proud of.  Or perhaps the pressures of daily life have swirled around us so much that we just try to plunge ahead and so fail to see what is ultimately ahead of us. 


And so this new season/this new year offers us the chance to turn again toward the light of God, allowing God’s grace to transform us as we try, and even struggle, to walk the way of holiness.  Holiness is not something separate from life, but rather is God’s gift of life lived to its fullness, trusting in that living light of God that shines through any darkness (whether that darkness be around us or within us), and longing to be transformed by the power of God’s grace.  We encounter this transforming power of God’s grace through the Eucharist, in which we proclaim the death and resurrection of the Lord until He comes.  We encounter God’s grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and indeed through all of the sacraments.  And responding sincerely to God’s gift of grace with praise, contrition, thanksgiving, and acts of love, we surely become vigilant “as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”  For the Lord is our hope and our salvation.