1st Sunday in Advent, Year B
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
December 3, 2017
Today begins a new year for us.
As we look around, our banners and vestments have changed to violent symbolizes our season of Advent. Why today?
Everything about our liturgical year in our Catholic Church is determined by two dates, Christmas and Easter. In the secular world Christmas gets all the attention but in the Church, Easter (including Holy Thursday and Good Friday) is the most important. Christmas is very important as the beginning of something new but it reaches its pinnacle when Jesus dies on Good Friday and rises on Easter Sunday.
Recognizing Christmas as the beginning of something new, our Church puts the beginning of our liturgical year now, not at Christmas itself but with Advent as a time to get ready, to prepare, for Christmas. Then Christmas will come and we will celebrate it not just for a day but for a season that lasts until January because it is so important.
We might like to jump right to Christmas. Christmas is a happy time. Many people enjoy the parties and the gifts but it isn’t Christmas yet. We have to get ready.
I’m sure many of you have much to do with preparing for your Christmas celebrations and shopping for gifts but that is not what I am talking about today when I say, “We have to get ready.”
The readiness that is to be the focus of our church season of Advent is to ask ourselves are we ready spiritually for the coming of Christ. Words like sinful, unclean, and guilt from the first reading might come to mind when we think about our spiritual readiness. We might ask ourselves how we have wandered from the Lord’s ways.
It’s lot more enjoyable to think about Christmas than it is to think about our sins and failings. No wonder we tend to jump right to Christmas.
As we get closer to Christmas the theme of our readings will switch to the time just before Jesus’ birth but today they point us to the Second Coming of Jesus. We are called to “Be watchful! Be alert!” for we “do not know when the time will come.”
We know when Christmas comes. We don’t know when the second coming will happen and we often tend not to want to talk about it.
The first reason might have to do with being happy and content with what we have now versus the uncertainty of what is to come, which leads us to the second (and main reason) why we might not like to talk about the second coming. We feel like we have to be perfect in the sense of having no sins and no shortcomings but we know we are not perfect.
Knowing we are not perfect, we fear the pains of Hell but there is hope. Jesus came the first time because he knew we could not be ready for the coming at the end of the ages on our own. He came to celebrate the sacrifice of perfect reconciliation that is his death on the Cross that we celebrate on Good Friday and each time we celebrate the Eucharist. This is our faith. This is our hope.
What we need to do is hand over our sins to Jesus. How do we do this. First, we need to make a good examination of conscience to recall our sins. Then we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess them. This is not something to dread. We dread our sins but we confess them with hope because we know Jesus has given his life for the forgiveness of sins. We need to name them to admit we need forgiveness and grace.
This month we will have our normal time for confessions every Saturday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. and on the second Tuesday of the month from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. and then one weekday morning closer to Christmas. There is also a time for confessions in Spanish. We also have a penance service coming up next week with four priests here. The times are all listed in the bulletin. We offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help you be ready. If you haven’t come in a while and aren’t sure what to do, say so and I will help lead you through it. If you think it will take a while, you can make an appointment.
To help open your hearts to the coming of Christmas we also have Advent prayer books in back that offer a reflection for each day of Advent. Carlo is offering a time to open ourselves to the grace of the season this Sunday and the next two Sundays at 9:30 a.m. for adults.
One last thing to think about, new year’s resolutions. People often make new year’s resolutions for the secular new year on January 1st. I offer you two possibilities. First, how about making your new year’s resolutions now as we begin our new liturgical year. Or the second option is to use Advent as a time of reflection to think about what resolution you might make on January 1st to lead you closer to Jesus.