A devout Catholic got a ride to work with his non-Christian friend. The car in front of them had a bumper sticker with the word, “Maranatha.” The non-Christian friend asked the Catholic, “What does that word mean?” The Catholic answered, “Maranatha means, Oh Lord, come!” The non-Christian friend interrupted angrily, “Ah, I don’t believe any of those nonsense you talk about the coming of the Lord.” The Catholic friend then replied, “Don’t worry about that, after all, he is not coming for you.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, I welcome you to the beginning of a new liturgical year. Today is the First Sunday of Advent Year A. Every liturgical year begins with the season of Advent. The word advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming.” The season of advent reminds us of the three different senses of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the First Coming, the Second/Final Coming, and the Third Coming.
For the First Coming, we commemorate the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, which we celebrate on Christmas day. In the sense of the Second Coming, we prepare ourselves for the final coming of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead. He came at his First Coming as our Savior, but he will come at his Second Coming as our judge. In the sense of his Third Coming, advent reminds us of the daily and every moment coming of Christ between the First and the Second Comings. Here, he comes to us through the Scripture, through the sacraments, through his ministers, through our neighbors, through the daily events of our lives, and through our individual deaths.
We sometimes tend to question the truth of the Second/Final Coming of the Lord, but we cannot doubt individual deaths. People die every day. As a hospital Chaplain, one thing I experience frequently is how family members welcome reconciliation when a family member is actively dying. People say, “Over my dead body for me to reconcile with this person,” but when death becomes imminent, it dawns on them that they do not have all the time in the world, so they soften their hearts, and they welcome reconciliation. But it does not take too long before they get into another quarrel with another family member and repeat the words, “Over my dead body…” How quickly we forget that each breath we take in and out reduces the number of breaths we have left. Each step we take in life reduces the number of steps we have left in this world. Each one of us is closer to our death now than when I began this homily. If only we remember how short this life is, we would be more careful and loving in our relationships with ourselves and others.
The season of advent reminds us that time does not wait for us. What then should be the Christian response to the passing nature of this world? In answer to this question, St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to wake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; and conduct ourselves properly as in the day…” So, we must not welcome procrastination as Christians.
This passage from St. Paul to the Romans contributed greatly to the conversion of St. Augustine. One day, Augustine was troubled about his lifestyle and he was taking a walk in the garden. In his misery, he was exclaiming to himself, “How long? How long? Tomorrow and tomorrow – why not now?” Then he heard the voice of a little child saying to him, “Take and read; take and read.” He then remembered that he left some copies of the writings of St Paul nearby. He hurried back to where they were, he grabbed one of them, and randomly opened a page, and the first passage that caught his eyes was today’s second reading. He read St Paul’s words urging the Romans to put away the things of darkness/the flesh and put on the things of Christ. Augustine took those words personally and turned his life to Christ at that moment. My dearly beloved in Christ. Time does not wait for us. Christ came, he will come again, and he comes every day. We are not sure of the next moment. “Procrastination,” they say, “is the thief of time.” So, if you have any good thing to do, just do it now!
Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent Year A 2022