Pastoral Message – November 27, 2022

Pastoral Message – November 27, 2022

Therefore, stay awake!

At its foundation, the message of the Advent season is “Be Prepared!” This goes hand in hand with the warning that Jesus gives us in this weekend’s Gospel: “Stay awake!” The problem is that many of us don’t take this warning seriously. We refuse to admit (or, perhaps, don’t realize) that we are sleeping through our lives; too drowsy to recognize where we are falling short of the great promise of salvation; too “out of it” (or, perhaps too proud) to admit our faults and shortcomings. This is why many of us approach Reconciliation with the attitude that we haven’t really sinned or that our sinfulness is not a problem for a range of reasons. Some of us minimize our behaviors (it “really wasn’t that bad, Father,” or “it probably wasn’t even a sin…”). Others make excuses for our behaviors (“I only lied to help her feel better…”). Another group blames others for our behaviors, “my husband/sister/friend made me do it” or “the teacher/coach/police officer doesn’t like me”). Sometimes we challenge the entire system: “I don’t even know why that should be a problem…It’s not right (or fair) to get into trouble for doing something so minor.” The problem with this approach is that it specifically avoids the kind of self-reflection and humility that is required to actually be prepared for the coming of Jesus.

Whenever we were expecting guests to stay at our home (especially at Christmas), my wife, Rosemary, recognized that, while our home was always pretty clean, she also had to be humble enough to appreciate that it could be even better. Instead of arrogantly asserting that things at home were “fine” or “good enough,” she was always open to the possibility that she could improve our home. Once she admitted that she could improve things, she took the steps to ensure that things were as perfect as they could be. She would spend days making sure that the house was spotlessly clean, that the guests’ favorite dishes were prepared, and that special events were planned for the guests. She woke us all from whatever complacent attitude into which we might have lapsed and focused on the upcoming visit of our special guests. During this season, we prepare our souls as we would if Jesus were coming to visit our homes. I’m guessing that, if you are anything like Rosemary, your home would be spotless and you would have a feast prepared. Advent is a time to prepare just as meticulously for the coming of our Lord.

Like our homes, our souls may not be as clean as they should be. We may have become so complacent with our sinful tendencies (bad habits, laziness, anger, etc.) that we think everything is just fine. The point of Advent is much more than a remembrance that our Lord was born to a virgin 2,000 years ago. It is a very stark reminder that our Lord is coming at a time that we cannot predict. Both Paul and Matthew draw a distinction between one who is sleeping and one who is awake. Paul tells us, “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” In the Gospel, Jesus warns, “Therefore, stay awake!” We cannot sleepwalk through life and expect to receive the great reward of the heavenly kingdom. As Jesus points out, those who sleepwalk through a sinful life will be left behind when the true followers of Jesus are taken to their eternal reward.

Occasionally, a parishioner will complain that the Church spends too much time worrying about our “Eternal lives” instead of focusing on our day-to-day lives. However, we can only be fully prepared to be worthy of the promise of eternal life and our invitation to join Jesus in the heavenly kingdom if we lead our lives in a manner which is awake in every sense of what that looks like. This is precisely the message that must resonate during Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio (meaning, “to come to”), and refers to the coming of Christ. The Advent Season gives us a stark reminder that we must prepare our hearts and homes not only for the celebration of Christ’s birth in four weeks, but also for his ultimate coming at some point in the future. The season of Advent begins our liturgical year and reminds us to prepare for both the celebration of Jesus coming 2,000 years ago as well as His return. It is the classic paradox of “already” and “not yet” which is ever-present in our faith journey as Christians.

Jesus calls each of us to be prepared and ready for our journey in our lives in this world as well as the journey that will allow us to find our way to God’s eternal kingdom. To be prepared we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our failures to act, for our thoughts and words, for our love and for our failures to love. We cannot become weary in this journey. We cannot allow our pride, our excuses, or our laziness to distract us from successfully pursuing and completing this journey. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

Fr. Mike

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