TEXT: 1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015
First Sunday of Advent
November 29, 2015
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today we begin 2 important periods of time:
first, the season of preparation and anticipation before Christmas,
and second, a new liturgical year in the life of the Church.
This actually puts us in an awkward position
in relation to the world around us,
since it’s doing the exact opposite:
it has already begun to celebrate
the Christmas—or “holiday”—season,
and according to secular time, we are entering
the last month ending the old year,
not the first month beginning a new year.
Catholics have a tendency to forget this, or overlook this,
or to sort of compartmentalize the two.
But by seeing the two side by side, and comparing them,
we are reminded that as Christians,
we are called to live in the world, but not be of the world.
And to recognize how so often,
seeing things through the eyes of the Lord Jesus and His Church
leads us to see things a little differently, even exactly the opposite,
of the way the world sees them.
Now, let me clarify something:
by “the world” I don’t mean “creation” all around us,
which is essentially good.
No, when I say “the world” I mean it the way Jesus uses the term in Scripture:
which is to refer to human beings and society
when they ignore God,
or place him on the sidelines,
and are so affected and distracted by sin and temptation,
that they love the things of the world
more than they love God,
love creation more than the Creator.
Now, one of the ways we very quickly recognize
that “the world” sees things differently than Jesus and His Church
is the way we understand and approach “promises.”
When the world, or worldly people, make a promise,
think of how often they know they might not be able to keep the promise,
or don’t even intend to keep the promise in the first place.
For example, look at so many politicians—of whatever party:
too many make promises all the time they have no intention of keeping.
Or think of the promises of advertisers:
buy this product and you’ll be cool, or healthy or beautiful.
Or the promises made that
if you go to this school, you’ll come out guaranteed a successful future,
or if you take this job and you’ll be happy and rich.
How many of those promises are kept?
How many of those were even intended to be kept?
So many broken, so many never meant to be kept, so many impossible to keep.
But that is not the way the Lord sees promises.
From the very beginning God has made promises he intended to keep,
and he’s kept them all.
And at this time of year, in particular, in Advent and then in Christmas,
we remember the greatest promise he ever made,
that a Messiah, a Savior would come into the world,
a promise he made repeatedly from the beginning,
and kept on the first Christmas day 2000 years ago.
We remember the promise in the beginning,
recorded in the 3rd Chapter Genesis,
His promise of a Savior made to Adam and Eve,
as he spoke to the serpent:
“I will put enmity between you [serpent] and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall [crush] your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
[you will snap at his feet, but he will destroy you].
We remember how he repeated this promise of a Savior throughout the years,
to Moses and David, and to all the Jews
and to all mankind through the Jewish prophets.
We read this promise repeated to his prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading:
“The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot.”
The Lord promised, and in the fullness of time he kept his promise,
sending His only Son to be born into the world,
Jesus of Nazareth,
offspring of the sinless woman Mary,
a descendant of the House of David,
the perfectly Just one who would crush the devil’s head,
save us from our sins,
and win for us a home in the paradise of heaven.
And so we prepare to celebrate that great day,
when God kept His promise, the day the savior, the Christ,
was born in Bethlehem, Christmas day.
But how do we prepare?
We prepare by focusing on his promises to us, and how he keeps them.
And by focusing on our promises to him, and to one another,
and how we keep them.
In the world, this is a season of promising all sorts of things:
Again, promises of the world—society, advertisers, etc.—
–if you buy her this present, she’ll love you forever,
if you eat this food Christmas will be just as great as
it was when you were a kid,
if someone buys you this present it means they really love you.
And well-intended promises made by people
who get a little too caught up in the world:
“I promise to be good, Santa, or Mommy and Daddy, or Darling,
if you just bring me what I want for Christmas.”
“I promise to give you what you what you want for Christmas, honey,
if that’s what will make you happy,
or if you will just behave yourself or stop nagging me.”
And of course, the promise to pay back the credit card company
for all the money you borrowed to buy all those gifts you promised,
or to buy things for yourself
that promised to make you happy.
But these promises are all too often built on false hope, and even sin
—on pride, avarice, gluttony, sloth, greed, envy, and even lust.
And so many of them are either unrealistic or never meant to be kept.
But the promises of the Christian should be different during Advent.
They should include the promises we made at our baptism,
and renewed at confirmation.
“reject Satan” “and all his works” “and all his empty promises”;
“believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth”,
and “in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary””,
and “in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church,
…the forgiveness of sins, …and life everlasting.”
For priests it means renewal of our promises of ordination,
especially to be obedient to our bishops
and to live a life of chaste celibacy.
For so many of you it means a renewal of the promises
you made to your spouse on your wedding day,
“to be true …in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health.
[to] …love …and honor …all the days of [your] life.”
And for all of us, it means the renewal of the promises
that we made throughout our lives,
to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,
and our neighbors as ourselves.
Promises to keep God’s commandments
and the teachings of the Church,
a loving spouse and a dedicated parent,
an obedient and devoted son or daughter,
an honest and hard worker;
and to be patient with adversity.
By coming to Mass every single Sunday and Holy Day,
and to confession on a regular basis—especially during Advent!
By actually spending time every single day in prayer,
giving the Lord thanks for all he does for you
—and for all the promises he’s made, and kept.
These are the promises every Christian makes and renews in Advent.
Very different than the worldly promises of the Holiday season.
The Lord makes so many wonderful promises to us,
and in Advent we remember not only His promises fulfilled in the past,
but also His promises that He keeps fulfilling today,
and will fulfill in the future.
He promises to be with us always until the end of time,
and he continues to keep that promise in so many ways,
especially in his sacraments,
and most wonderfully in the Eucharist.
And when time is over,
he promises to come again in glory,
to gather to himself in heaven
all who have steadfastly trusted in his promise.
In Advent we remember this promise also and look forward to his keeping it,
and prepare ourselves for his second coming
by keeping our promises to him.
Today the world is preparing to end the old year,
while Christians begin a new year;
the world begins to celebrate the 4-week Holiday Season,
while we begin our 4-week preparation to celebrate Christmas.
We should not ignore this contrast, but rather let it remind us
of the difference between
the passing and false promises of the world,
and the certain promises of Jesus Christ.
And of the need to prepare for Christmas
by renewing and keeping our promises to Him.