It is a great privilege, for you, for me,
to be here today as the universal Catholic Church enters once again,
into the Season of Advent;
to be present with each other in this house of God
as we prepare ourselves and our world
to greet, at his birth,
the one who was, who is and who will always be: Jesus Christ.
We were reminded by our consumer society, as far back as 8 weeks ago,
that the countdown to Christmas had already begun.
And we were encouraged by this same element to start getting ready
by beating the rush and buying gifts ahead of time.
Advent is old, older than anything in our culture.
It goes as far back as Old Testament times
where the people of God awaited the promised Messiah.
This people prayed: “O Lord, do not let us wander from Your ways.
Protect us from hardness of heart.
Keep us mindful of Your commands.
You are the creator. We are the work of Your hands.
Come down from the heavens.
Return, O Lord, for the sake of Your people.”
Their Advent prayer becomes our Advent prayer.
Advent is also new.
In this moment of history just prior to Christmas 2017,
a time of promise stretches out before us.
It will unfold in real time as the future becomes the present, as tomorrow becomes today.
We will prepare ourselves in new ways to receive the gift of God’s Son.
Our Christmas present is already present in the present: the Spirit of Jesus is active within us.
But we believe: there is more to the mystery than we currently know.
Life is an adventure…
an exciting and remarkable undertaking,
involving the risk of an unknown future.
The Christian life is the greatest of adventures….
involving the risk of living and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
words the world doesn’t want to hear, but needs to hear.
The word “adventure” contains the word “advent”.
With the passing of every second, life comes into being.
What “wasn’t” yesterday “is” today. What “isn’t” today “will be” tomorrow.
Possibilities that didn’t exist yesterday, exist today.
Doors that were closed yesterday are open today.
According to our Christian perspective, God is opening the way for us to eternal salvation.
There is grace to be had during this Season of Advent….
a grace that opens us to something new.
We are encouraged to embrace a new identity,
a new understanding of our Christian identity
where our vocation is one of mission:
our Christian presence is a present…a gift we give to the world.
Our eyes are opened in new ways as to what it means to be a body of believers,
a community of faith extending to one another mutual concern and support.
We are friends and co-laborers.
Our hearts are opened to broader parameters of truth, opened to what adds to the common good.
We are given new courage
so as to address the great problems of our society and culture:
terrorism, hatred, greed, immorality.
Our souls are given new inspiration, taking in a new breath of Christian life.
Our minds engage in new reflection.
The treasury of human knowledge has increased since last Advent.
We ponder this increase so as to gain new wisdom,
which will bring us to prudent integration,
and assure our responses remain faithful to the Christian message.
The grace of Advent increases the strength of our Gospel values and our Christian ideals.
Accordingly, we ask ourselves “what goals are to be achieved in my living?”
Where necessary, we intentionally adopt better alternatives,
ones that are more properly oriented toward a Christ-centered life.
Most importantly, the grace of Advent will bring us to make choices
insuring that our future lives will be decided along the paths of love…
hopefully a maturing love.
A love that starts out innocently in our hearts in our youth.
But then grows through discovery over time and with experience,
maturing into a Christian love,
developing into the same love that allowed Jesus to die on the cross in selflessness.
As we wait and prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ
we are reminded: love is meant to be an adventure
an exciting and remarkable undertaking, not without unknown risks,
that will bring us to new ways of being in this world.
Love is a great task. Rediscover the adventure.
Because we have been wounded by careless love,
we become reluctant to venture into love again.
It is possible and preferable that we develop a greater trust in the ways of love…
God’s love for us and our love for others.
Our God is mighty and has done great things for us.
He will continue to do great things for us…
the greatest of which is the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, into our hearts.
This is His promise.
If all we do is stand still during this Season of Advent…
if we do nothing more than what we’ve always done,
if we don’t move forward in some way, physically and spiritually,
we will discover nothing new.
The wonder of God coming into this world,
the mystery that occurs when what is divine is brought together with what is human,
allows for great discoveries.
It allows us to discover our own person, our gifts, our purpose.
It allows us to discover through experience
that giving ourselves to the Christian enterprise
with its pursuit of goodness and truth,
returns a blessing to us many times over.
It allows us to discover just how generous our God is.
Divine providence abounds.
What needs to increase is our awareness of it:
our awareness of life-giving grace,
of the power of forgiveness,
of the freedom that comes with love.
Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, our liturgical year is born.
Within the span of the next 365 days,
as Catholics we will celebrate Jesus Christ as the beginning, continuation, and the end of time.
We will recall and reflect upon Him who is the source of our life
from before his conception to his death on the cross,
to his resurrection from the dead,
to his ascension into glory.
We see our liturgical year as a year of favor from the Lord
where the scriptures are fulfilled in our hearing them.
Jesus Christ is the Messiah foretold by Old Testament prophets.
His expected coming has taken place.
His mission is messianic: to save humanity from sin and death…
to reestablish the bond that was broken by Adam and Eve…
to bring together in love what was separated by disobedience.
He brings liberty. He frees the oppressed. He opens eyes to see and hearts to love.
It is ours to discover and know the breadth, the length, the height and depth of God’s love.
God doesn’t want His secrets to remain hidden.
Discovery requires that we decide, here and now, to venture into an unknown future,
accepting the risk that what can be discovered is worth the investment
of our interest and of our time, of our desire and of our prayer.
This year, let’s put the adventure back into Advent.
Today’s prayer: “O Lord, in the fullness of time, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, into this world. May a new awareness of his love be born in our hearts this Advent Season. Make us ready to live well every day hereafter with our eyes open and our hearts fixed on the life that knows no end. Amen!”
1st Sunday of Advent
It is a great privilege, for you, for me,