Watching, Reflection, and Hope

Watching, Reflection, and Hope

December 3, 2017 | N W | Advent, Family, Guest Celebrants, Hope, Repentance, Self-Reflection, St. Mark

First Sunday of Advent
December 3, 2017 – Year B
Readings: Is 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7 / Ps 80 / 1 Cor 1:3-9 / Mk 13:33-37
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant

It’s the First Sunday of Advent, and this year we begin a new set of readings. As you know, this is the so-called “B” cycle. All last year we were reading from the other set of readings, the “A” cycle.

Here we have advice from the Lord in the very brief gospel reading. “Be watchful, because you do not know the day.” It sounds rather ominous and like bad things are going to happen. On the other hand, it is more than a warning; it is an open, generous, and warm counsel that our Lord gives us.

That’s how we look at the season of Advent, that maybe we’ve neglected some things. We’ve neglected the relationships in our families. We haven’t been to Confession in a long while, a LONG while. And if that’s the case, then we have to say, “I’m going to renew my spiritual life, and I’m going to receive the sacrament of Penance.”

The sacrament of Penance is very important. I have to go a long distance when I go to confession (I don’t HAVE to; I could find a priest nearby where I live in Allegheny County.) But I like to receive the sacrament from this Trappist monk who lives near Crozet, who is the chaplain for the Trappistine nuns in that area. So that’s convenient enough, and they change the chaplain about once a year, so I have an opportunity to get to know some of the monks who come from Spencer, Massachusetts, or one of the other Trappist monasteries. It’s worth it for me, because somebody can really listen to what I’m saying, has the time, and help me improve just a little bit.

I speak about this because that is such a way of growth. In today’s gospel, the account is taken from St. Mark, when Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the end of the world. You have heard over many years some evangelical denomination proclaim when it’s going to be. Actually, our Lord says, “No one knows except the Father in heaven.”

So while it’s good to be alert, why did Jesus mention that? They say “the end of the world,” but you know, the world means the whole universe, and the universe is so enormous. How can all of that come to an end? Our own galaxy is forty thousand light-years across, and you know what a light-year is: It’s a long, long – a lot of shoe leather to get out there, across the galaxy. It was not too many decades ago that it was believed that there were probably about two thousand galaxies in the known universe. In recent years they have decided, with the assistance of the Hubble telescope and mathematical projections, that there are nine hundred billion galaxies.

This is really wonderful news, because God has created such a vast universe, it kind of stuns the faith for a moment, saying “How can all this be?” and “How can all this come to an end? Won’t that take a long while?” Nine hundred billion galaxies: We’re not even thinking about life on other planets or intelligent life that would recognize their Creator as we do. We’re just talking about God’s creation. It’s so astounding. And yet, here we are, listening to the words of Jesus, after he mentioned this two thousand years ago. The time will come, so we need to be aware of our own mortality.

We should not be anxious and worried about this and be held in the grasp of fear over when will this happen, because our own mortality is marked by all kinds of events. It may be tomorrow, after the funeral Mass at Resurrection, on the way over to some other parish, who knows what might happen, and my human mortality will come to an end, and my entrance into the next life will begin. I don’t take that lightly. That’s why, when I say my night prayers, I also add the act of contrition: Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they have offended You, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

If that prayer just comes to you several times during the week, you will not be held in the grip of fear but will have the great confidence that grace is permeating your heart. Jesus tells us that God had sent his only Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. God’s salvation comes in His only begotten Son, Whom He has sent among us to bridge the chasm between men and God.

Advent is a time of expecting. We have a candle lighted, and every week an additional candle will be lighted. On the third Sunday of Advent, we will celebrate Gaudete Sunday, on which flowers may be placed. It’s a little pause during Advent to anticipate with joy the birth of the Lord. And finally, the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last violet candle will be lighted.

Advent is a time of expectation. It is a time of longing for a better world, because we do long. We look in the newspaper or we listen to the news, and the thing is, sometimes we’re so preoccupied with what is happening that we get busy, busy, busy. You get out of your car at the plaza or to go into the supermarket, and many folks are on their phone: “Was it rigatoni I was supposed to get, or was it spaghetti?” We have to have a phone to double check things and receive messages. The phone is on almost all the time. Add to that the emails. That shows you how too-busy we are. Our life is being taken over by those things.

Advent is a time to say, “I’m going to slow down and focus on my spiritual life, rather than that.” It doesn’t matter. It’s a waste of time. It drags our spirituality down when we listen and pay attention to all this, which is not news. It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t help our spiritual life. It doesn’t help solve the problems, but it does help to break up our relationship with God by this interference. We’re too busy! Busy on things that don’t have any importance. Our busy-ness should be with the love of our life, husband or wife, children, parents, grandparents. They’re the things to be busy about. The important things.

We are too distracted, lost in all this chatter, lost in all the excess. Advent is the gift before Christmas, and it can be this gift if we take time to make it a way to celebrate the preparation of Jesus’ coming. Ignore all these other things I’ve been suggesting you ignore. The less we are occupied like that, the more peaceful will be your soul, and the less anxious you will be.

Love lives in hope. Hope. That is my expectation. Love takes patience, and love is patience. You heard St. Paul when he wrote about this, in a reading often chosen by those who are preparing for marriage or during their marriage Mass. Love is kind and never self-centered. It does not focus on other people’s sins. Love does not focus on other people’s sins. And that probably weighs us down as much as any other distractions, especially during Advent.

We should be thinking that Jesus Our Lord came with a power. His power is His birth of life, death, and His resurrection.

This is an Advent of watching, reflection, and hope.

Mass Times