Prepare Yourself

(Homily for First Sunday of Advent, Year B)

As we begin Advent, Jesus warns us to prepare ourselves because he might come suddenly. I saw a news item which exemplifies preparation. Down in Memphis, Tennessee, a man named Foster Walker accidentally strolled into a store during a robbery. The gunman pointed his pistol at Walker and ordered him to hand over his money. Walker responded, “Go ahead and shoot. I just got through reading my Bible and I’ve already said my prayers.” The robber was dumbfounded and Walker, a man in his sixties, walked away.

I have to admit I probably would have handed over the money, but I do admire Walker’s courage – and above all his apparent readiness to meet the Lord. That is what Jesus tells us today. Prepare yourself. Be alert and watchful. You and I do not know when he will come. But it will be soon.

This Sunday I want to help you capture – or re-capture – a sense of urgency about preparing to meet the Lord. Our problem today is that we live a therapeutic culture. What matters to people is that they “feel good about themselves.” A person can imagine that as long as he feels OK about his life, then he is ready to meet the Lord. That way of thinking is foreign to the New Testament.

When you read the Bible, you realize that the thought of meeting God caused awe, even a certain trembling.* They recognized a plain fact which you and I often overlook. We are sinners. We have distanced ourselves from God, told him that he is not welcome in certain parts of our lives. This is serious. It is not some minor prank we can chuckle about. It is more like deliberately insulting one’s father. Isaiah expresses it this way:

Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags. (64:4-5)

Before we can receive divine mercy, we must know why we need it. Jesus is telling us to recognize who God is and who we are. The time is short.

You and I may not have turned away from God in dramatic ways. We may not have committed adultery or abortion. We may not have denied Jesus or renounced our faith. We may not have dishonored our parents. Still, we have done smaller things. If carried to their logical conclusion, they would result in a denial of God. During Advent we need to alert ourselves to apparently small matters which can have enormous consequences: the little lies, the resentments which fester, the unchecked temper, the failure to control impulses, a certain laziness, a lack of courage. These small things can lead to a terrible end.

Remember Bobby Leach. He was the gutsy Englishman who went over Niagara Falls in a steel cylinder. He took quite a beating, but he survived. A few years later, however, he was walking down a street in New Zealand. He was not watching his way and he slipped on an orange peel. He wound up in a hospital and the complications eventually brought his death.

We can overcome major challenges, but small things can bring us down. A man can resist difficult temptations at work, but come home and start shouting at his family. Once a guy, after years of sobriety, thought he could handle one small drink. The taste stayed in his mind and he could not resist. He wound up on First Avenue. He had lost his home, his money, his family. Small missteps can have devastating consequences. For that reason Jesus tells us, Be watchful, be alert. Not that we become neurotics worried about every misstep. No, we are confident that Jesus will care for us, even carry us. But we want to avoid the path which leads away from him. The time is short. This could be your last Advent. His coming should fill us with a healthy sense of awe:

May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mk 13:37)

**********

*C.S. Lewis used this comparison to understand that sense of awe: Suppose that someone told you that if you opened the door to a certain room, you would find a tiger awaiting you. You would feel one type of awe. Suppose further that a person you trust tells you that the room contains a spirit or a ghost. Even though you are not sure whether poltergeists or ghosts exist, still the person who told you seems very convinced. You are standing alone in front of the door. In a moment, you may encounter a being unlike anything you have previously met. The door begins to open. You would feel a very particular kind of awe.

Spanish Version

From Archives (First Sunday of Advent, Year B):

2017: God's Thirst, Our Thirst Week 1: Misery and Magnificence
2014: Preparing Our Hearts Week 1
2011: It Is Right and Just
2008: The Diagnosis
2005: Prepare Yourself
2002: The Gatekeeper
1999: The Last Curtain

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New Episodes*

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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All were rounded up and the five Christian leaders were told they could avoid death if they denied their faith and swore to serve only Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist dictatorship. Refusing to do so, they were forced to lie down and a steamroller used in the highway construction was driven over them. The report continues, “Fellow parishioners who had been assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.”

NCR: Confession Guide for Adults

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"The theory of evolution is a scientific theory," he (Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn) said. "What I call evolutionism is an ideological view that says evolution can explain everything in the whole development of the cosmos, from the Big Bang to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony." (Reuters article)

Great Christmas gifts - or just personal reading: Amy Welborn and Michael Dubruiel's Books - Catholic books for adults, teens and children

Reactions to document on Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders: Bill Donohue, Amy, David and Jimmy

ProLife Search: A search engine (powered by Google) which donates to Priests for Life and other pro-life groups. "The more you search, the more money we donate."

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