Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday word, 06 Dec 2006

1st Advent Wednesday (06 Dec 2006) Is 25. 6-10a; Ps 23; Mt 15. 29-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

On Christ the King Sunday you picked up the new Sunday missal, which Gesu offers families each year to prepare itself for the liturgies of the Sundays and holydays throughout the year. It’s marked 2007, but its first celebration was the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 3d, 2006

We casually say the liturgical year begins with Advent. That’s so casual that it misses what’s essential about the liturgical year and of liturgy itself. While we can trace an Advent to the 4th century, it was not until much later, when designers of liturgical books put Advent read-ings and prayers at the beginning of them, did people begin to say what we still say, “Advent opens the liturgical year.” Advent only opens liturgical books. Liturgical time always looks forward as it does back. Liturgical time has no limits. In fact it is better to say that liturgy is free of time--and space, too. When members of our sisters, the Eastern churches, walk into a church, they walk off the street and into heaven and join its worship before God.

The readings and prayers we hear during the Advent/Christmas season heap image on image in order to train our vision forward to God’s promise: the mountain of the Lord, where death is destroyed, rich food and pure, choice wines satisfy all; where God, who is compassion itself, personally feeds everyone, who enjoy God’s life and love fully and unhindered.

Many images express what words limp trying to communicate--God’s total gift. It isn’t automatic; it’s not forced on anyone. God forces nothing. This truth of one day sharing God’s life fully is for those who look for God, who invite God to shepherd them through life. The gospel reminds us that those who already enjoy glimpses of God are the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. We are the many others, whose personal limitations are our personal opportunities to discover God at work in us, to hunger for God’s bread. If we don’t eat it, St. Bernard said, our “heart will wither away.”*

* from his sermon, “On the Advent of the Lord,” in the Office of Readings for the first Wednesday of Advent, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 1, p. 169.

Happy St. Nicholas Day to all! Nicholas personified compassion, esp. to the poor. This entire Advent/Christmas season, you might say, is the voice of Nicholas speakiing to our hearts and the hearts of all people of good will.

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