1st Advent [A] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

1st Advent [A] 2010
Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
Given the conditions in which we find ourselves these days with the economy in turmoil, the values of our homes falling along with the value of the dollar, with the threat of terrorism always on our minds, our hearts and minds are filled with worries and concerns. Moreover with our cellphones, I-pads, and other electronic gizmos filling our minds with a gaggle of information that may or may not be helpful, we find ourselves paying scant attention to the voice of God. God seems so remote for so many of us.  Let’s face it, we’re just too busy for God. We are, more often than not, giving our attention to our concerns more than we are about giving our attention to God. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But isn’t it true?
You and I are here at Mass to give our attention to God now and in doing that we hear today the voice of one of God’s ancient prophets, the prophet Isaiah. In the first reading we heard Him calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. He’s calling us to rise above the mountains of our daily worries, problems and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives, to examine our lives with all of their peaks and valleys. As Christians we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us.

The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. We have the opposite problem. We’re far too concerned about so many things, things that divert us from being aware of God’s presence. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves. In biblical language this spiritual blindness is spoken of as darkness. Our darkness is not one of sleep; our darkness is that we are blinded by the flashing lightning bolts of the dark storms that come upon us.

When through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, we become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of spiritual awakening we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling. However the truth is that God has always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that changes. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant. It is we who are inconstant and changeable.

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of our heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives each and every day. God is always offering Himself to us – we are not always responding. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness, respond to His offer of Himself to us. How about beginning each day of Advent by giving God some early moments of reflection and awareness of His presence to us along with a commitment to be about accomplishing His purposes, His tasks. What better way to begin our days?

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, an in the final seasons of our lives when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. Each one of us feels it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it?

God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives. Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life. All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need… and He has it in an inexhaustible supply.

Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we track the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His message? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses? Attend parish communal penance services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what will we do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our abilities or our wishes.

We live in the time after September 11, 2001. We live in an age of terrorism. We live with a lot of emotional anxieties. We should ask ourselves the question: “Where is God in all of this?” and then seriously, during this Advent, pursue answers to that question. Genuine questions are not denials — they are quests. And God always wants to be sought.

As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared: “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time you come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids you to examine your life. I as your priest have always had that purpose in mind every time I’ve stood before you here preaching homilies.
Once again we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, words you just heard in his letter to the Romans, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture quite similar to the one in which we presently live:

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is an hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

And in the words of Jesus you just heard on today’s gospel account:

So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

To put it succinctly, we should expect the unexpected.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”