First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Nov 28, 2022

“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.”  Words from the 13th chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

Happy New Year!  Today we begin a new liturgical year in the Church with the season of Advent.  But in a way, we are picking up, right where we left off, for the readings of the last month concerned themselves with the culmination of our hope-filled striving, when Christ shall come in the fullness of his glory and reign over all of creation as King, assigning all things to their proper place at the end of time.  The readings of these last few weeks were calling on us to prepare ourselves for that Day of Judgment so that we may be found worthy to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven to be with God forever.  And in many respects that is exactly how our new year begins with Advent today, as we once again explore our hopes anew, where we begin with that innermost yearning for the fulfillment that only God can bring about, and then accordingly prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our lives more fully, first experienced in the gift of a child at Christmas.  And so, the cycle continues and a new year begins again.

The gift of time is celebrated in the Church through the cycle of her liturgical seasons and her calendar, beginning with Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time once more, of course with various feast days in between, ending with the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe.  In a manner of speaking, every day is Christmas in that it contains great joys and blessings that are given to us, every day is Easter as new life continuously bursts forth, but this is so because every day also contains the dark crosses of Lent, the routine of Ordinary Time, the dreaming of Advent and everything in between.  The grace of God is unbounded and can be experienced at any time – we don’t have to wait until Christmas to be generous and give, nor do we have to wait until Lent to make amends and achieve reconciliation.  And yet it is only through the intentional parsing of time into its appropriate cycles, that we can appreciate every moment for what it is trying to give us.  In celebrating time in this way, the Church respects the rhythms of life, for there are times as the book of Ecclesiastes says, for laughter as well as weeping, for building as well as destruction, for planting as well as harvesting, for being born as well as for death.  We look at nature and know that new life bursts forth in the spring, is vibrant in the summer, fades beautifully in the Fall and rests dormant in the winter.  Moreover, history has a way of repeating itself.  Every day we wake up and go to sleep again.  Time is cyclical, and we celebrate each moment in a special way through the liturgical seasons.

But I would like to suggest that time is also spiraling, that it has a purpose, that it is leading us somewhere.  Indeed, our celebration of the liturgical year is meant to draw us deeper into our faith and help us to grow closer in our relationship to God than we were before.  As St. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters: You know the time… our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  If we neglect this spiraling effect and where time is leading us to, when particular moments arrive in the cycles of our lives, we can get stuck in the feeling of, ‘here we go again,’ and we will find ourselves simply going through the motions, instead of being present to what each moment brings and where it is leading us to.  If we are not careful, we can be lulled into a false sense of security and we’ll miss out on the opportunities before us because we’ve given up chasing our goals.  This signals a loss of purpose and of hope.  Indeed, Jesus warns of this in the Gospel, as people went about their everyday lives: eating, drinking, the ins and outs of marriage and family life, of working in the fields or at the mill, and of sleeping in one’s own house.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it was in Jesus’ day, as it is in our own time in the many ordinary activities that make up our day, some are prepared and some are not ready at all.  Well, isn’t it interesting how things come upon us suddenly?  When everything was shut down for Covid, there was no toilet paper to be found.  When the Snow storm came last weekend, you didn’t have much time to have your pantry stocked and shovels and plows ready.  The spiraling effect of our liturgical year is meant to disrupt the complacency of our everyday lives and reinvigorate it with purpose and even urgency to keep us always ready for the Lord’s coming.  Our readings tell us accordingly to put away our misdeeds and to walk in the light of faith.  You know what you have to do. 

Consider all the fanfare of the holidays in our society – does it accomplish what it is meant to achieve?  Advent is here.  We can go through the motions this season once again or we can go deeper – we can move along that spiral and draw closer to God who is simultaneously drawing closer to us.  It’s not that we don’t have the time – it’s just that we are not using it very well (2x).  St. Paul reminds us of what we are to do: “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.”  Advent is a time given to us to renew our hope and make ourselves ready to receive hope’s promise.  Let’s use this time well, that we can appreciate fully the coming of the Lord.  Maranatha!