HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
BISHOP RENE HENRY GRACIDA
Stay Awake !!!
No, I am not telling you not to fall asleep during my homily. I hope that there is no need for me to tell you that, I hope that what I have to say will keep you awake.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is telling you to stay awake during this holy season of Advent. He is telling you to stay awake to the purpose of this holy season of Advent.
To not be distracted by all the things that go to make up the season of Advent in our modern society.
Things like shopping for the bargains the stores are offering starting with Black Friday two days ago. Things like shopping for Christmas presents. Things like Christmas parties. Things like Christmas cards, decorations, Christmas trees, all the things that the commercialization of Christmas has inflicted on us in our materialist society.
Advent is a Liturgical Season and the Church tells you to stay awake and realize that during the next four weeks the Church is offering you the means to prepare yourself spiritually to celebrate Christmas with the greatest spiritual benefit to yourself and the ones you love.
There is a big difference between the seasons of Advent and Lent.
Lent is a season of penance in which we fast and we deny our bodies a lot of pleasures. Why do we do it? We do it so as to condition ourselves to experience through empathy the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ in his Passion and Death on the Cross for our redemption from eternal death.
Advent, on the other hand, is not a season of fasting and abstinence from a lot of bodily pleasures. Sadly, the world has made Advent a season of eating and drinking and partying.
Advent should be a season of prayer and reflection on the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the significance for each of us of his being born as a man like us in all things but sin.
To help us in these four weeks of prayer and reflection, the Church gives us a continuous spiritual education through the texts that are in the prayers and readings that constitute an important part of the Masses each day as we progress to our celebration on Christmas Day.
Since the time of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Christians have spoken of the three comings of Christ: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.” The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.
So the themes of the readings and teachings during Advent will be the preparation for the Second Coming, while also focusing on the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. They relate to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior as well as to his second coming as judge.
In today’s Gospel, for example, coming so soon after the end-of-the-world readings of the the 33rd Sunday of the Year two weeks ago the Church reminds us through the warning of Our Lord in the Gospel of the Second Coming, but the primary purpose is a warning that Christmas may slip up on you with your being spiritually unprepared to receive the rich harvest of grace available to you if you are properly spiritually prepared.
The basic reality of the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ is that he became a man, a human being like us, so that there would be perfect correlation between the sin of Adam and Eve and the redemption of us by Jesus on the wood of the cross.
As a man Jesus experienced everything that you and I experience in our lives.
He knew temptation, but he did not know sin.
Jesus’ temptations follow three patterns that are common to all of us. The first temptation we learn about in the Gospel of Saint Matthew concerns the lust of the flesh . Our Lord is hungry, and the devil tempts Him to convert stones into bread.
The second temptation concerns the pride of life, the devil uses a verse of Scripture, but the Lord replies again with Scripture to the contrary, stating that it is wrong for Him to abuse His divine powers to commit sin as a man.
The third temptation concerns the lust for power, and offers Jesus a quick route to the Messiahship, bypassing the passion and crucifixion for which He had come.The devil already had control over the kingdoms of the world but was now ready to give everything to Christ in return for His allegiance. But the mere thought almost causes the Lord’s divine nature to shudder at such a concept and He replies sharply, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only”.
The fact that Jesus is tested by the devil, reveals that He is also 100% human. The temptations are real. Jesus has the same weaknesses, struggles, doubts, fears and wishes that we have. By coming to earth as a man, Jesus humbled Himself to live and be as one of us.
When we read Jesus’ rebuke to the devil, we imagine Him to be faithful, confident and strong. But we are not privy to Jesus’ facial expressions when He rebukes the devil, nor do we hear the tone of His voice. It is reasonable to suppose that after 40 days and nights of fasting in the unrelenting desert heat along with struggle, fear and doubt, Jesus must have been weak, frail and exhausted. Was Jesus fighting with every ounce of His strength to resist the devil? Jesus’ responses don’t reveal the internal struggle He had with these temptations, but we know that He did not sin and was obedient.
He struggled with the same struggles that we have: whether to live our life our way OR to live serving God wherever it will lead.
All of us live to satisfy ourselves. Our earthly appetites. We seek to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and make something of ourselves. But obedience to God is often at the very bottom of our list of things to do. Jesus sought the will of the Father. That is His food. His Heavenly appetite. He will not be driven by His fleshly wants, but will seek only to follow God in faith. He denies Himself.
Each of the temptations of Christ are the same temptations we all face daily:
1. Seeking to satisfy ourselves instead of God.
2. Manipulating God to attain our goals of power and glory.
To BE as God. To have it all.
Prepare yourself to derive the most grace from your celebration of Christmas by coming to daily Mass.
If you cannot do that, at least read the texts of each day’s Mass at home slowly and prayerfully.
Let each day of the next four weeks be for you one more step on a living Las Posadas to Christmas Day!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit !!!