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1st Sunday in Advent, Year B – Homily

1st Sunday in Advent, Year B
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37
November 30, 2014

Today we mark the beginning of a new liturgical year with our celebration of the First Sunday of Advent.

In the first reading, Isaiah speaks of how the people realize their need for a new beginning because they have wander from the Lord’s ways and hardened their hearts, becoming an unclean people.  For this, the Lord had delivered them up to their guilt by letting their enemies defeat them and many were taken into exile in Babylon.  They ask the Lord to return into their lives and the Lord grants them a new beginning setting them from Exile.

Just like the Israelites of old, we wander at times from the Lord’s ways.  When we do, the Lord lets us face the consequences of our guilt.

The good news is that Jesus offers us a new beginning from our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Advent is a time where we might be more aware of our sins.  This coming Saturday we will have our annual Advent Penance Service as a time to reflect on our sins and to celebrate the Sacrament individually.  We will have several priests here so I invite you to come and celebrate with us.

If this is all we see Advent as, it can seem a lot like Lent.  After all, we talk about our sins in both and the color for both Advent and Lent is violet.  In both Advent and Lent, we do not sing the Gloria.

So there are a lot of commonalities between Lent and Advent but there are differences too.

Lent is officially called a penitential time to reflect upon our sins.  It is a time when we give up something as a sacrifice.  We abstain from meat on Fridays and we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Advent is different.  We don’t give up stuff in Advent and we don’t have days of universal fasting.

Advent is more a time of waiting.  If you look at the secular world, Christmas is already being thrust upon us with stores having Christmas sales and decorations going up but here in the Catholic Church we have not decorated for Christmas.  At Christmas our banners and vestments will be white.  Our manger scene will be out and the flowers will be plentiful.

But not yet.

For now our church is decorated with violet banners and vestments but beyond that remains relatively simple.  During this time, we patiently (or maybe impatiently) wait for Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah the Israelites had been waiting for.  They waited for a 1,000 years.  We hear Jesus say, “Be watchful!  Be alert!

As we wait, we think about the first coming of Jesus at Christmas.  We should also think about the Second Coming.  Are we ready?

Asking about our individual readiness is what can lead us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that is a good thing.  However, I think we do well to think about not just our individual readiness but how our human world is doing.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray thy kingdom come but we can struggle to see God’s kingdom in this world.

We can think about other parts of the world like the Middle East where there is much war and violence.  We can think about violence in Africa that includes kidnapping of hundreds of children.  We can think about violence in schools and colleges in our own country.

This week we have the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri when the grand jury handed down its decision concerning the shooting of Michael Brown.  We knew regardless of which way the decision went there would be disagreement and protests.

But why the looting and the fires?

What does looting and setting fires do to help the situation?  I think it is more a sign of how we are slipping as a society.  When the Israelites slipped and wandered away from God, they were defeated by their enemies.  Our ultimate enemy is evil.  Is evil getting the upper hand?

Perhaps but the Lord stands ready to give us a new beginning.  As we wait for Christmas, I hope we all take some time to think about how we can come closer to God.  Christmas shows us the gift of God’s love.  May we embrace and share the love.

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