Advent - "Stay awake, praying at all times..."

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We begin the season of Advent today. Jesus is the reason for the season, the reason for the season of Advent that we begin today and the reason for Christmas. In the midst of the rushing and hustle and bustle of life, and during the pre-Christmas rush to get everything prepared for Christmas, we remember that Jesus is the reason for Christmas. We do not want to forget the reason for the season.

To help us keep Jesus as the reason for Christmas the Church gives us four weeks during Advent to prepare our hearts for Jesus. Indeed our entire lives, not just Advent, are a preparation and waiting in hope for God. So the Gospel today asks us to prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming and since we do not know when that will be, we could really see the Gospel today asking us to be ready to be called from this life whenever that will be, to be ready for our death. Jesus’ gives two pieces of advice. Jesus’ first advice is,

“Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life…” (Luke 21:34)

Jesus is asking us to be aware of the many attractions and temptations in life that are pulling us away from the real meaning of life, and it is Jesus himself who is the real meaning of life. There is no lasting happiness, only a temporary escape from today and its disappointments and responsibilities, in the “debauchery and drunkenness” that Jesus refers to in the Gospel. Therefore for lasting peace and happiness Jesus’ second piece of advice is,

“Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)

Notice that Jesus asked us to pray. If we are too busy to pray then we really are too busy. The second reading from St. Paul (1 Thes 3:12-4:2) also advises us on how to use our time,

“we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants…” (1 Thes 4:1)

So those words from Jesus and Paul lead us to ask ourselves, “How do we spend our time?” We need to withdraw from what is a waste of time and harmful to us and instead to “stay awake, praying at all times…” and to “make more and more progress in the kind of life that we are meant to live: the life that God wants…” The following little poem helps us to think about how we use our time each day:

I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work
For bills would soon be due.
So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My Christian duty was now done
My soul could rest at ease.
All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of Christ to friends,
They’d laugh at me I’d fear.
No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.
I went before the Lord,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes,
For in his hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.
God looked into his book and said
“I waited for you each day
I sent my Son Jesus for you
But the time for Him you rarely found.”
(Unfortunately I do not know the source. I have edited this poem)

To find time for Jesus we have the season of Advent. Advent is a time of grace given us by the Church to help us prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming. Don’t miss out on the grace God is waiting to give you this Advent. Use Advent as a time to deepen your relationship with God, to prepare your heart for meeting God when you are called from this life, and to prepare your heart for our celebration of Christmas. There is only one gift at Christmas, and that gift is Jesus. The stores are promoting Christmas because they make money out of it. But Jesus said, “Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life…” (Luke 21:34) Instead, Advent is a time, as Jesus said in the Gospel,  to “stay awake, praying at all times…” and as Paul wrote, to “make more and more progress in the kind of life that we are meant to live: the life that God wants…” How do we use our time? Do we use it well or waste it foolishly? I would like to share with you another poem:

Take time to think –
It is the source of power.
Take time to read –
It is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to play –
It is the secret of staying young.
Take time to be quiet –
It is the opportunity to seek God.
Take time to be aware –
It is the opportunity to help others.
Take time to love and be loved –
It is God’s greatest gift.
Take time to laugh –
It is the music of the soul.
Take time to be friendly –
It is the road to happiness.
Take time to dream –
It is what the future is made of.
Take time to pray –
It is the greatest power on earth.
(Unfortunately I do not know the source.)

Above all during this season of Advent we want to take time for Jesus. Therefore I conclude with the words of Scripture to us today,

“Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

“we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants…” (1 Thes 4:1)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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