This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Refrain: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
1) I rejoiced because they said to me, "We will go up to the house of the Lord."
And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. (Refrain:)
2) Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. (Refrain:)
3) According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. (Refrain:)
4) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings. (Refrain:)
5) Because of my brothers and friends I will say, "Peace be within you!"
Because of the house of the Lord, our God, I will pray for your good. (Refrain:)
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 at 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, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
Today we begin a new season in the church's liturgical year, the season of "Advent", from the Latin word adventus which means "coming". During these four weeks before Christmas, we are, of course, preparing to remember Christ's coming to earth in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. But as today's readings tell us, there are two other meanings of this word advent which we need to keep in mind: the coming of our Lord in today's world and his Second Coming in glory at the end of time.
Such is the rich meaning of Advent. From this beginning of the liturgical year, we celebrate the whole panorama of the mystery: from the beginning of time when God created heaven and earth, until its fulfillment at the end of time, passing through the times of preparation - through the Scriptures - nearer and nearer to the approaching realization of "today in our world" (1). Today, I would like to look at the second of Christ's three comings, namely, his coming in our world now, and specifically, his coming into our own lives.
If we look at our readings today, our Lord points out in the gospel how the people of Noah's time went about their lives as if nothing was going to happen, even though they had been warned to prepare themselves. In the second reading, Paul advises that "it is now the hour to wake from sleep...the night is far spent, the day draws near. Cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light...put on the Lord Jesus Christ." And finally, the prophet Isaiah advises the Israelites to "walk in the light of the Lord".
Back in the 40's, there was a popular song entitled "Mañana" and one verse of the chorus had the line "Mañana is good enough for me". In essence, all of our readings today are telling us most definitely that "mañana" will never do. And yet, I think many of us are guilty of putting off until tomorrow what should be done today. We take many things for granted, including our own lives and the lives of others, even though "we know not neither the day nor the hour". Consider the following story:
- In 1996, I attended a week of training in Washington, D.C. for my job with the federal government. While there, I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman whom I noticed was from Oklahoma. I asked her if she was one of the new employees who had come from all over the country to staff the Oklahoma City office after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building there. She said that she wasn't new to the office, but had in fact been one of the survivors. She then rolled up the sleeve of her blouse to show me a scar on her arm which extended from above the wrist to above the elbow. As she discussed her efforts to deal with the tragedy, she told me of a conversation she had had with the mother of her best friend who was one of those killed in the blast. The woman's daughter had gone to work early that morning but was just preparing to leave to pick up her mother for a doctor's appointment later that morning. Why the daughter had even reported for work that day is anyone's guess since she was only there for a couple of hours. The mother said that her daughter had called her just before 9 AM to let her know that she was getting ready to leave the office to pick her up. Before hanging up the phone, the daughter said, "I love you, mom". Before the mother could hang up the phone, she heard the blast through the phone and then the line went dead. Those were the last words her daughter ever spoke to her.
The daughter in our story had no idea on the morning of the bombing that those few hours would be her last on earth. And yet she left a lasting memory with her mother just because she was able to verbalize her love. I think what our Lord is telling all of us is that we need to live each day as if it were our last. Don't put off until tomorrow what should be done today because we have no assurance that tomorrow will ever come for us or for those we love.
- An adult education teacher once gave his class an assignment to go to someone they love before the following week's class and tell them that they loved them. They would then give their report at the next class. It had to be someone to whom they had never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time.
At the next class, one man stood up and recounted his story to the class. "I was quite angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I felt that who were you to tell us to do something so personal? But as I was driving home, my conscience started talking to me. It was telling me that I knew exactly who I needed to say 'I love you' to. Five years ago, my father and I had a terrible argument which we have never resolved. We have avoided seeing each other unless it was absolutely necessary and even then we hardly spoke to each other. So last week by the time I had gotten home after class, I had convinced myself to tell my father that I loved him.
It's strange, but just making the decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. When I told my wife, she jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and for the first time in our married life saw me cry. We sat up half of the night talking and drinking coffee. The next day I was up bright and early as if I had slept soundly all night. I got to the office and accomplished more in a couple of hours than I had the whole day before.
At 9AM, I called my father to tell him I wanted to come over after work and talk to him. He reluctantly agreed. By 5:30, I was at the house. When my father answered the door, I didn't waste any time. I took one step inside and blurted out 'Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.'
Well, it was as if a transformation had come over him. Before my eyes, his face softened and the wrinkles on his face seemed to disappear. He reached out and hugged me, saying 'I love you too, son, but I've never been able to say it'. My mother walked by just then with tears in her eyes. I didn't stay long, but I hadn't felt that great in a long time. Two days after my visit, my dad, who had had heart problems but hadn't told us, had an attack and ended up unconscious in the hospital. I still don't know if he'll make it. So my message to all of you in this class is: don't wait to do the things you know need to be done. If I had waited, I may never have another chance to do what I did." (2)
- Several years ago, I was preparing a couple for their marriage. It was to be the first ceremony I would perform since my ordination. The groom's father had divorced his mother a few years before and there was such lingering bitterness that the groom had not even invited his father to the wedding. I made one last pitch to him at a planning session a week before the wedding that he shouldn't let this opportunity for reconciliation pass by. His sister was also pressuring him to invite the father. A few minutes before the wedding, I found out that he had in fact called his father and that his father was present for this memorable day in his son's life. Ironically, I happened to be doing a baptism prep class about a year after the wedding. As is my custom, I went around and asked each couple a few questions like how long they had been in the parish, what they do for a living, etc. When I came to the last couple, they identified themselves as this couple that I had married. I asked the husband how his relationship had been with his father since the wedding. He said that it had turned around 180 degrees and he was coming to the baptism that Sunday.
Paul tells us that we need to "put on Christ". We all need to take a serious look at our own lives as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ at Christmas and the coming of Christ at the end of our own lives. There used to be a popular Christian saying "WWJD - What Would Jesus Do?" That is a question that we need to ask ourselves as we evaluate where we are in our journey of life. And one of the areas where I think I could safely say that we all need work is in the area of reconciliation.
Christ has told us that we need to be a light to the world, even as Isaiah and Paul told their readers. Being a light to the world means showing others how to live their own lives by our example. And one of the ways that we can most vividly be lights to the world is by being living examples of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Make this Advent season one that you will never forget. Give yourself the assignment that the adult education teacher gave to his class in our story. We all need to go to those we love, perhaps someone we have not told about our love for them, or perhaps even spoken to, in a long time. We need to tell them how much we love them. We always presume that they know. But maybe they don't, and besides it wouldn't kill us to say so. I love you - three little words that could change our lives and the lives of those around us, something that Christ told each one of us from the cross. If we can overcome our own bitterness, anger and resentment, then the peace of Christ will truly be ours this Christmas. But don't do it "mañana"; do it...today!
1. Adapted from Days of the Lord, p. 27. Copyright 1991 by the Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville, MN. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (These excellent commentaries on the readings for each of the Sundays and major feasts of the three-year cycle are available at a discount, either individually or in a specially-priced seven volume set, through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
2. Do It Now. Copyright 1995 by Dennis E. Mannering. (He is the author of How Good Managers, Become Great Leaders, plus several audio-cassettes including Motivation In Action. He may be reached at Options Unlimited, 617 Sunrise Lane, Green Bay, WI. 54305 or at 1-800-236-3445. Reprinted with his permission from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1995 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 46-48. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. (This resource, as well as many others including a specially-priced package of the Chicken Soup books, is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
(Copyright 2013 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Lord Jesus, you have called us to prepare for your coming. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you have called us to cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you reign in glory at the right hand of the Father. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: My brothers and sisters, as we prepare to remember the first coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, at Christmas and prepare for his second coming at the end of the world, let us earnestly ask his mercy and confidently bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the church will help us to prepare our hearts as a fitting dwelling place for the Lord, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will find a peaceful resolution of their differences, we pray to the Lord.
That all those who are terminally ill may find peace as they prepare to meet their Savior, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will find us watching and ready at his coming, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will welcome all of our faithful departed into their eternal home with him, we pray to the Lord.
That all those whose lives have been affected by natural disasters may find the strength to rebuild their lives and not give in to despair, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions which we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Merciful Father, your Son has taught us to be constantly watching and waiting, ever ready for his return in glory. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to help us live our lives according to his teachings and thus gain the eternal life that he has promised us. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.