Homily from the 1st Sunday of Advent - Year B
And if you watched any TV at all over the Thanksgiving holiday, you saw non-stop commercials for this and that sale. One in particular, was exceptionally ridiculous. It was for Target.
It showed this lady with platinum blonde hair, ruby red lipstick, and a red jogging suit opening her mail. Apparently she opens a flyer saying that the Target Thanksgiving sale has begun. Because she starts hyperventilating, and crying uncontrollably and then she screams, “It’s here!” That’s all it was. Someone got paid a lot of money for coming up with that idea.
As it turns out, this lady was the main character of Target’s commercials over the last several weeks. And the commercials have been about her getting ready for the big sale. I watched a slew of them this afternoon on YouTube. They show her lifting weights, running through the aisles with a shopping cart, making lists and maps of the store.
As I watched each commercial, my celibacy was confirmed more and more.
Today, we’re entering a season in which we get ready for the big day. We enter the season of Advent, a season of preparation, a season of anticipation, and a season of waiting and watching. But not for the Black Friday sale at Target. And not even, I would dare to say for Christmas. Instead, Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare and watch not for the day of Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem, but for his second at the end of time.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says three times: to watch. But Jesus is a grown man when he says this. He’s not talking about his birth. How could he, right? He’s already been born of course. Instead, this passage comes from near the end of the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus is awaiting his death. So, he warns his listeners to be watchful for the day when they will leave this world as well.
It’s ironic actually. Here at the beginning of a new liturgical year, we’re not talking about beginnings. Rather, we’re talking about endings. The end times. Both the end of our time here on earth and the end of time itself.
I think if we all had to admit the truth, we’d have to admit that for the most part, we spend a lot more time thinking about today rather than tomorrow. We think about the things of this world rather than the things of heaven. We think more about the 2-day sale than the second coming.
However, as Christians, we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re only on this earth for a time. That’s why we call ourselves a pilgrim Church. Because we’re not here forever. We’re only on a journey through this earth. In fact, how we begin each and every Mass signifies this pilgrim journey. In the procession, the priest walks through you the people which symbolizes our pilgrim journey through earth on our way to our true home, which is heaven, symbolized by this sanctuary.
Every time we come to Mass, we get to prepare for our heavenly destination. In fact, so much of what we do and say in the Mass, especially with the new translation we begin today, is directed towards preparing us for the next life, our ultimate life.
We begin every Mass with a penitential rite in which we “prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”
In our opening prayer, we pray for “the resolve to run forth to meet… Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”
In the Creed, we say “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
In the prayer over the gifts we pray for “the prize of eternal redemption.”
In the preface before the Eucharistic Prayer, we hear about how Jesus will come “again in glory and majesty” and pray that “we who watch for that may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope.”
In the Memorial Acclamation we sing to Jesus himself, “When we eat the Bead and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
In the Eucharistic Prayer we remember Jesus’ Passion, Death, Resurrection, his Ascension into heaven and that “we look forward to his second coming.”
As we pray the Our Father, we pray “thy kingdom come.”
“We await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
And right before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we are invited to the “supper of the Lamb” which is not only the supper of this Eucharist, but the supper of the Lamb, Jesus, in the heavenly kingdom.
In this Mass and in our life, we live, as one biblical commentator stated, in the shadow of eternity. Think about that for a moment: we live in the shadow of eternity. We’re not there yet, but it’s definitely in our future.
And the good news is, we don’t have to live in fearful or hysterical expectation. Instead, we live in day-to-day readiness for the Lord. Grateful to him for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which cleanses us for his coming and the gift of the Eucharist which gives us strength for the journey.
So, as our closing prayer today will say, may this Mass, “may these mysteries… profit us… even now as we walk amid passing things” as we walk amid the Black Friday sales, may we “love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.” So that when the day of our meeting the Lord comes, we can say with joy, "It's here! It's here!"