12. 2.18. Sun. Advent wk 1- C
Jeremiah 33: 14 – 16
Thessalonians 3: 12 – 2:4
Gospel – Luke 21: 25 – 28. 34 – 36
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture Readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy The Light of Christ In You
An author wrote: “Despite this gloomy time, without a certitude about life and faith, we had set up the Advent Wreath, even though no one knows how long it will stand, or whether all four of its candles will be lit”. (Father Alfred Delp, S.J; from Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1944; Abtie St. Walburg, trans.; Ignatius Press, 2006) The author spoke of living in dangerous and uncertain times – like the times we are living in now. But this is not an editorial from the Wall Street Journal – it was not an article that appeared in our diocesan newspaper – nor was it written after the latest terrorist attack. (What I just read to you was written by Fr. Alfred Delp.) Fr. Delp was a Jesuit in Germany in 1945, and he wrote these words after he was condemned to death for preaching the Gospel. Europe was cast in darkness – war – and violence. Many wondered if the light would ever return. (Some of you were around at that time and you remember the uncertainty of those days.) And of course – every age has its share of darkness and uncertainty. We have it in our time in the 21st century; yet – people continue to live out their lives hopeful – hopeful that it will get better – and that’s the Christian Virtue – HOPE! That’s what we hold onto. This is a challenge for us – in the midst of spiritual darkness and uncertainty. How are we going to recognize the presence of God around us when there is so much despair? To live as a people of HOPE can be challenging. The world around us is aflame with violence and greed – envy – strife – uncertainty – and many people have lost hope in God and in His promises.
In the time of †Jesus in Judea, there was not much hope – as the Jews lived under the occupation of the very brutal Roman occupying government. And yet, Zechariah, on the birth of his son – could repeat the ancient promises of God in that beautiful prayer we call ‘”The Benedictus”. And he would proclaim: “This was the oath that God swore to our Father Abraham: ‘To set us free from the hands of our enemies’ – free to worship Him – without fear – holy and righteous in His sight – all the days of our life’”. (Luke 1:73)
Even today – many Christians in the Middle East – are not free to worship Him without fear. Clearly there is spiritual and moral darkness that circles humanity. But these promises of God – are timeless. We must hold on to them and not become discouraged – not become angry – and tear people down – but be hopeful. Our faith is firmly founded on the belief that “God Is With Us”. “Emmanuel” – we sang that as we started our mass today. “Emmanuel – God is with us”. That’s what we have to take with us every day despite all the bad news around us – whether it’s in our government – across the border – in our Church – whatever it is. Let us always remember: “God is with us”.
What is it that keeps us from recognizing the Lord in our presence in the world today? What keeps us from this? It is indifference. It is not just the indifference of non-believers – but there are even Christians who are indifferent to God. I remember a Pastoral Letter that was written by the Archbishop of London – back in the 1990s. At that time he wrote: “Christianity in Britain is irrelevant”. People had stopped coming to Church – they weren’t practicing their faith – whether it was Catholic or Anglican or anything. And we see what has happened in Europe in the succeeding decades. The Christian faith has been deteriorating.
I remember several years ago Cardinal Schonborn, the Archbishop of Vienna was here and I
celebrated mass with him one morning. I asked him how the Church in Vienna was doing? He said: “Fr. Mike – Europe is lost. Europe is lost to the faith”. Not only because of the irrelevancy of people’s faith – but also because Islam was making huge inroads in Europe and so the Christian Faith has become irrelevant to Christians.
There is a temptation to laziness in living our Christian faith and values. Many have become passive in the face of a secular culture. Spiritually we just fall asleep. If there is one thing the Lord does not tolerate – it is that attitude of indifference. Recall what the Lord said in the Scriptures: “I rather you be hot or cold toward me. But if you are lukewarm – I will vomit you out of my mouth”. (Rev. 3:16). The Lord cannot tolerate indifference – becoming passive and not caring; doing nothing when we could actively be building-up the Kingdom. There is so much around that tends to beat us down – sometimes we wonder: ‘Can I continue to do this’? That’s why we have to pray for the Grace of God because, as the Lord said to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient.” (2 Cor.12:9) When you find yourself becoming tepid in your faith – pray for the grace! Pray for the grace to strengthen your faith. We all need that gift.
†Jesus was so angry at the scribes and the Pharisees during His time because they had become so indifferent. They were more concerned about maintaining their authority and prestige rather than showing mercy to the people – to sinners. And daily, God wants us to bring hope into the lives of other people – if you have the grace to walk in the truth.
Pope Francis teaches this: “We have such a need in these times that can appear dark in which we sometimes feel disoriented by the evil and the violence around us, by the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters…We must not let HOPE abandon us because God, with His love – walks with us. (On Hope; Pope Francis; Loyola Press; p.1) God wants us to seek His glory and honor. The Lord wants us to share in His glory and honor. However, too often we focus on the darkness around us – we choose to blend into the shadows of the world – rather than be a force against it – rather than being a light to the world.
The Advent Wreath symbolizes the Light of Christ – and every week we light an additional candle to increase the light – to symbolize our drawing closer and closer to †Jesus. Our light is growing also as the days and weeks go by – because we want our light to grow – as the Light of Christ grows in us. This is the Season – the Advent Season – for quiet patience and simplicity. Advent is about pondering what is yet to come – all of us gathered together in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christmas will make no sense unless we ponder how much we need ‘The Light of Christ’ to guide us now – in this life and not be indifferent to ‘The Light of Christ’.
Unfortunately, this season – rather than bringing a lot of peace and comfort – our holiday trappings become a source of stress and anxiety for many of us. Parents running around getting their children every gift that they wanted. Inviting others to the home has become more of a burden rather than a joy – because it has to be ‘Perfect’. How many families will still be paying off their Christmas debt – come July?
Advent is to remind us to prepare for the fullness of ‘The Light of Christ’. Advent is not about attending epic Christmas parties. It’s not about receiving the best gifts or overindulging in food and drink. It is more than that. It is about surrendering to the beauty and the love of our Lord. If we choose to focus not on the darkness – but on ‘The Light of Christ’ – and if we do that during these four weeks of Advent – you might be surprised how your life will change. And here in this parish we have different opportunities to focus on ‘The Light of Christ’ – through our Advent Services. We have the Taize Prayer Service coming up on Tuesday Evening. It is a quiet hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament – just to pray and invite the Lord into our lives. We will have the Sacrament of Reconciliation available that night if you want.
The Lord wants a new beginning – and we know that when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation – that with the words of absolution – we are as pure and as holy as on the day of our Baptism. How many of you would like a new start like that?
This is a time for a new start. This week I went to confession – and boy – I just feel great. See – that’s why I am so excited right now. I feel renewed. There are new ways to bring that ‘Light of Christ’ into us – to give us the encouragement and the hope – despite how difficult things are going in our lives. But … GOD IS WITH US! The Lord is with us every step of the way!
Christianity began when the angel said to Mary: “Be not afraid”. †Jesus tells us not to be among those who hide in the darkness. We must raise our heads in such a way that the Light of Christ shines through us for all to see. St. Paul describes the way to insure ‘The Light of Christ’ will shine in us with these words from the First Letter to the Thessalonians: “Abound in love for one another and for all…Be blameless in holiness before God our Father” (1 Thess.3:12ff). It can all begin this Advent. Receive the Sacraments that bring us back to union with the Father and take time for daily prayer. Be centered on “The Light of Christ”. Maybe get a candle in your home and light it for ten minutes of prayer every day. You sit with that candle – understanding that the ‘Light’ represents ‘Christ’ and you are in His Presence. Then, just be with Him, quietly. Don’t worry about what you have to say. Just be with Him and let Him look at you. Let Him rejoice in you. That’s the heart of contemplation. I look at Him and He looks at me. No words have to pass. Just let the Lord relish in you – His creation – because when He formed you, He held you in His hand. He held you and He admired you and He loves you. Even in the midst of your weakness and sin – the Lord still holds you in His hand and He admires you and He loves you. So just sit with the Lord, and bask in His love for you. Ten minutes a day – that’s all. – try it!
Before his execution by the Nazis, Fr. Delp wrote that disciples must continue to do what our faith teaches. These were his words: “It comes from a sense of certitude about things, about mankind and revelation, things that are fixed and valid…These teachings give mankind the right to light candles and to believe in the light and the brightness of existence.” (ibid) Believe in the power of ‘The Light of Christ’. His Light will shatter the darkness. It will shatter your fear”.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.