Watch and Stay Awake for Christ

Homily for the First Sunday Sunday of Advent Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We live in times of such economic growth unprecedented for our small country (Ireland 1990’s). At the same time we are aware that we are going through a spiritual decline. One would be forgiven for thinking that economic boom and spiritual famine dwell together at one end of the seesaw, and poverty and spiritual riches together at the other end of the seesaw. When we have everything it is easier to forget about God who gave us everything. When we are enjoying the gifts we may forget the Giver of the gifts, God. Jesus says in the Gospel today, “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.” (Luke 21:34) Jesus, the best psychologist, knew that we can be distracted by the good life and warns us not to get lost in the riches of this world but to “stay awake, praying at all times…to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36) When there was not much money in the past we worshipped God, but when there is plenty of money now (Ireland 1990’s), one would be forgiven for thinking that money has become a god in our country. Let us not get lost in the money and possessions we can see while forgetting God whom we cannot see, the Giver of the gifts.

Jesus’ call in the Gospel to watch and stay awake is good for us to meditate on during Advent. Jesus’ call to us is to remember who we are and not forget the real meaning of life. During Advent we reflect on Jesus in the womb of Mary, growing slowly, silently and invisibly, present even though invisible. In these times when some may be tempted to allow their hearts be “coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life” (Luke 21:34), Advent and baby Jesus growing silently in Mary’s womb, present but invisible, remind us to look beyond what we can see, and not forget God whom we cannot see, to “stay awake, praying at all times…to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

During Advent let us look beyond the fact that Santa Claus is coming to town and prepare our hearts and town for Jesus coming to town. (Where’s the line to see Jesus?) As Jesus said, let us stay awake, praying at all times. (Luke 21:36) Then when the Lord comes, we can confidently stand before him. As we contemplate watching and staying awake for God during Advent let us remember that in fact it is God who is watching and staying awake for us to find Him. God watching and waiting for us was fulfilled when the Father sent us his Son, Jesus. That is really what the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah today says. (Jer 33:14-16) God promises,

In those days and at that time,
I will make a virtuous Branch grow from David,
who shall practice honesty and integrity in the land. (Jer 33:15)

Jesus, in the tribe of Judah, is that virtuous Branch grown from his ancestor David in the tribe of Judah, promised by Jeremiah. Jeremiah was giving encouragement to his fellow people during a very difficult period in the history of Israel. In these times of economic success when some may be tempted to allow their hearts be “coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life” (Luke 21:34), the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that only in Christ will we find what we are really seeking in life. We cannot create a new life with money, we can only create a new life with Christ in our life. With Christ in our life the words of Jeremiah are also relevant for us,

“In those days Judah shall be saved
And Israel shall dwell in confidence
And this is the name the city will be called:
The Lord-our-integrity.” (Jer 33:16)

Those disturbed by the secularization and apparent abandonment of God by people around us in our society could reflect on that message of Jeremiah. The Lord never abandons his own even if they abandon him. God did not abandon his own even when they broke the first covenant with Moses so God sent his Son Jesus, prophesied by Jeremiah, to make the New Covenant with us. Because God does not abandon us let us watch and stay awake.

During Advent let us once again reflect on who we really are and the only way in which we will achieve the happiness we seek. During Advent let us look beyond the fact that Santa Claus is coming to town and prepare our hearts and town for Jesus coming to town. We are God’s people and we will only have peace and happiness if Christ is at the center of our lives. Therefore Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in the second reading,

“May the Lord so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints…We urge you and appeal to you to make more and more progress in the kind of life you are meant to live.” (1 Thes 3:13-4:1)

I conclude with the words of Jesus in the Gospel today,

“Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life…Stay awake, praying at all times…to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34,36)

This is an edited version of the homily which 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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