Bottom line: Focus on Jesus, find time for silence. "Be watchful! Be alert!"
My friend, Fr. Jim Williams tells about a town near Pittsburg. It had a steel mill that hammered day and night. The people got so used to the constant pounding that they slept through it. In fact, it lulled them to sleep. But one night an accident shut down the mill. The pounding noise stopped. Everyone woke up.
We need silence to wake up our souls - to hear God. Pope Benedict said "We are no longer able to hear God - There are too many different frequencies filling our ears." You would think that this year's pandemic would have been a golden opportunity. Many activities that took up so much of our time have stopped. We should have had more to read a Psalm or a Gospel passage, to go for a quiet walk, to pray the rosary. Some did, but studies show that people filled their time with Netflix, political news and worse things. Well, the year isn't over yet. Advent is good time to turn things around.
Jesus tells us "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come." We are like watchmen. It's a serious duty. In the Roman army if the night watchman fell asleep, the other soldiers would place him in the middle of a circle and club him to death. He had exposed them to mortal danger. The night watch was broken into shifts like Jesus describes: "evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning." The point here is that you and I have to establish a certain discipline of prayer. Maybe set your alarm a bit earlier so you can give twenty minutes or even an hour to pray. Best way to begin a day! Some people use part of their lunch break or before they turn in at night. Find the time - or times - that work for you. Then stick with them.
Seek silence. I heard God calling me to the priesthood because I had a summer job that involved blocks of silence. I was caring for a small estate on Camano Island, trimming a flower bed when it came over me that I not only could become a priest, but that I should become a priest. It was the Holy Spirit. Since that moment I have never doubted this is God's plan for me. God speaks to us in a quiet moment.
To connect with God Archbishop Etienne gives us help. In his pastoral letter for the Year of the Eucharist, Archbishop Etienne sets out this instruction: we should "kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) until it is time to go forward in the Communion procession." If you travel around, you probably have noticed this is common practice. Archbishop Etienne gives this explanation: "Kneeling is a posture of adoration. When we are on our knees, we cannot 'do' anything else! In this moment, we prepare to receive Communion by kneeling in the presence of Christ, already in our midst in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, until it is time to rise and join the Communion procession." After you return from Communion, you are free to kneel or be seated.
This is our message for this First Sunday of Advent: Focus on Jesus, find time for silence. We'll see more next Sunday when we hear a message of astounding comfort. For now take home these words: "Be watchful! Be alert!"
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (First Sunday of Advent, Year B)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
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 of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru