Late, But Not Too Late

(First Sunday Advent, Year A)

On this First Sunday of Advent we recall the beautiful vision of Isaiah:

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."

Most of us have seen at least a foto the statue depicting that prophecy. Outside the United Nations building in New York there is a statue of a muscular young man. He is leaning slightly forward and in his left hand holds a rather lengthy, broad sword. In his right hand he weilds a hammer which he using to pound one end into a farm instrument. That is the great dream of mankind: to lay aside weapons of war, to work productively rather than fighting each other.

We all want peace and justice, but we have had so little success in acheiving that dream. The reason is that we have not paid attention to the whole prophecy. Before saying that men will beat their swords into plowshares, Isaiah says, "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths."

What he is saying is that if we want a just, peaceful society, we must first learn to worship God and be instructed in his commandments. In this regard, we can learn a lesson from history. We are coming to the end of a long century in which people have dreamed about creating a paradise here on earth. The communists in Russia thought they would create heaven on earth. The Nazis in Germany felt the same, as did many other nations who followed the totalitarian way. But instead of creating paradise, they made the worst hells that mankind has ever seen. That happened because they tried to brush aside God and his laws. Commandments like: You shall not steal, you shall not murder, you shall not lie, meant nothing to them. They thought by disregarding ordinary morality they could form a new and beautiful world, but they failed terribly.

Perhaps because of this sad history, people are now realizing that we need to return to God and learn his ways. We can certainly hope that will happen--altho to be honest, things do not look so positive in our society. I think that is the reason why so many people are speculating that the year 2000 might be the Second Coming of Christ. For my part I will only say this: there would be certain symetry if Christ brought history to close in the year 2000. God began salvation history about 2000 years before the birth of Jesus when he called Abraham, our father in faith. There would be a balance if he wrapped things up in the year 2000.

But we should not get involved in any speculation about when the world will end. There have always been people who thought they could calculate the exact date of Jesus' return. For example the founders of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah Witnesses made very precise predictions. They turned out wrong. The problem wasn't so much there arithmetic. It was that they ignored Jesus' plain words,, "You cannot know the day your Lord is coming." The conclusion is not to breathe a sigh of relief and to make fun of those who are preocuppied with the Second Coming. Just the opposite. You cannot know the hour, therefore Jesus says, "Stay awake."

We should not be lulled into a sense of false security. That is what happened to the people before the great deluge. They were buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, right up to the day of the Flood. Notice that Jesus does not say they were involved in anything bad in itself.. they were just so busy about their everyday lives that they they didn't see the obvious signs.

Our neigboring pastor Fr. Jim Williams tells the story about Pittsburgh during its days of very active steel mills. Because it took so much to fire them up, they never let them stop, so they were hammering day and night. The people of Pittsburgh got so used to the constant pounding that they could sleep through it. In fact, it lulled them to sleep. But one night there was an accident which shut down the mills. The pounding noise stopped. The silence woke everyone up. Something like that needs to happen in our noisy, busy lives.

President Jimmy Carter had it right when he said that he was going to try to live every day in the White House as if Jesus were coming that afternoon. Think about what our lives would be like if we lived that way. How many quarrels, how many unnecessary trips to the mall we would avoid. Be prepared.

St. Paul tells us the hour is late. The night is far advanced; dawn is drawing near. Then he says something which was made famous by St. Augustine. Augustine was a young man involved in the philosophies of his day. In reality, philosophies very much like what we today call "New Age." They tried to mix religions and in doing so came up with an refined spirituality, in fact so refined that they felt the flesh did not matter. So they could do anything they wanted with their bodies. Augustine was living that kind of compartmentalized life (spirit in the clouds, body in the mud) when one day Augustine was alone in a garden and he heard a voice which said, Tolle et legge Take and read. At first he thought it was child and tried to think of what game might have the words, take and read. But when he realized he was completely alone, he opened the Bible at random and landed on the verse which we just heard:

"Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." (Rom 13:13).

When he read those words he made a complete turn around. Without reserve he dedicated his life to God and to following his law and explaining it to others. He in fact became one of the greatest teachers the Church has ever know. St. Augustine is represented in one of our stain glass windows holding his great work, Civitas Dei, The City of God.

This Advent we embark on that path to worship God and learn his ways. We will at the end of our prayers of the faithful today bless the Advent wreath, which is a reminder of that preparation. We will light the first of four candles which stand for the four Sundays of Advent. Let's use this time well to return to God and learn his ways.


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

2013: One Taken, One Left
2010: Please Hold the Applause
2007: Not in Promiscuity and Lust
2004: The Night is Advanced
2001: The Noise Stopped
1998: Late, But Not Too Late

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies

Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

Evidence for God's Existence from Modern Physics (MP3 Audio File)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Parish Picture Album

(November 2010)

Advice for Bloggers (from Dante Alighieri)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

(Pilgrimage to Molokai)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

KRA's & SMART Goals (updated November 2013)