Advent Sunday 1 A (28 November 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Already and Not Yet
As we begin Advent light, courage, resolve and gospel living invite us to continue to shape ourselves as disciples of our living Lord today. A word about each, beginning with light.
Our Catholic heritage has always refused to be either/or. Instead our Catholic heritage is both/and. Some examples: body and spirit; rich and poor; heaven and earth; saints and sinners; sin and grace; now and not yet; feasting and fasting; darkness and light. Our both/and Catholic heritage invites God into everything to transform sin by divine life, for which we use the shorthand, grace; to help us discover who we are created to be by transforming our humanity by the risen life of our living Lord; and to brighten darkness of any sort with the radiance of living light imparted to us by Jesus’ Spirit.
We need all the help we can get to keep our faith from becoming, falsely, limited to mental activity. Our upcoming Annual Service Day celebrates the variety of Christian service to which Gesu commits itself all year. Acting on behalf of others as disciples of Jesus helps us experience him at work in our limits and the limits and suffering of others. Our gospel living makes faith no idea but a participation in the risen life and faith of our living Lord.
Nature gives us another help. Daily deepening darkness of winter gives our senses a chance to connect with the graciousness of our living Lord Jesus. Winter’s shortening days, lengthening nights and least intense solar radiance are for many symptoms of the calendar more than experiences of personal limits or invitations to deepen our gospel living. We do enter darkness, and we emerge in new light.
Light has long stood for revelation with its prophetic encouragement to guide us to live in harmony with the commandments and the Spirit of our Messiah Jesus. We heard Prophet Isaiah express the divine desire that we may walk in [God’s] paths by encouraging, Let us walk in the light of the Lord!
With an eye to a 24-hour cycle of dark and day-light, St. Paul, too, voiced this tradition for us: it is the hour now...to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. ...let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.
St. Paul, of course, spoke of salvation in Messiah Jesus. St. Paul began with Jesus who was past teacher—Jesus had also insisted, stay awake! and be prepared—but St. Paul urged his contemporaries and us in the spirit of Jesus, our living Lord. It takes courage to live in all sorts of darkness, to stay awake and be prepared. Our living Lord, no dead teacher of the past, makes his courage available to us through his Spirit. Jesus’ courage was not bravado, a boldness intended to impress. Jesus’ courage is divine life available to us: in baptism we were grafted onto Jesus; or in St. Paul’s words, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ; St. Paul actively described gospel living involves relationship.
Jesus’ reminder of the days of Noah made the contours of gospel living stand out. In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. Gospel living challenges the ways humans ordinarily do things often with self at the center or enslaved by fear, which causes us to behave in less than humane ways. Gospel living is shaped by courage and resolve to be open not heedless to the ways Jesus works in our lives: inviting; welcoming; challenging; and urging us not to be constrained by earthly affairs as if they were the final measure of our existence. The most wonderful, indeed saving, thing about gospel living is that it shapes us more like our living Lord as it widens the circles of relationships.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week consider your relationship with the Trinity. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus: praise him for welcoming you to extend his saving love to others; ask Jesus for the grace to be alert and attentive to the ways Jesus works in and through you for the sake of others and our world. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips, remind us that already present among us, the kingdom will be revealed in its full splendor when the Son of Man returns in the glory of his Second Advent.
Wiki-image of a manuscript bearing the beginning of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Phillip Medhurst depicting Jesus' teaching of the end time is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.