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Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

November 29, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Be watchful. Stay alert. This “at the ready” attitude proclaimed by Jesus at the end of his ministry in Mark’s Gospel is not an attitude marked by anxiety. Rather, if we go back to the beginning of Mark we remember how to watch as we listen to the first words spoken by Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.

“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Because the Kingdom of God is close enough to touch in Jesus, we enter into a hope-filled watching for how close he is to us now. Because history is fulfilled with the coming of the Son of God into time, we spend each day, each waking hour in a joy-filled alertness, knowing that he is still coming to us in mystery at this very minute.

Advent, located in-between the coming of the Son of God into the world as the Son of Mary and his return in glory, is a time to fine tune our Christian attitude of hope-filled alertness, of joyful watching for the millions of different ways he breaks into our world now.

The reason we do not recognize his mysterious comings into the world today is that sin shrouds our vision. All of us in one way or another have wandered away from the Lord. All of us have hardened our hearts toward the Lord or toward others.

That is why we are invited to repent in order to believe in the Good News of God’s presence among us in the coming of His Son. But wonder of wonders, mercy of mercies, the very recognition that we have wandered away from the Lord is his gift to us. The very “seeing” how we have turned to other things in our life and made them more important than our relationship with Him is a powerful way the Lord comes to us. For He comes as light in our darkness, so that the deeds done which have led us away from his side are brought into the light of his mercy.

Simultaneously, in the clear-sighted vision that we are sinners that we also see the Lord of the Mercy ever ready to welcome us home from our wandering ways. When we finally see how part of heart has hardened toward Him, it is already being softened by the waters of his merciful love.

When we acknowledge the ways we have held onto hurt toward others, allowed resentment to root deeply into our heart, it is He who is already at work, coming to set us free.

Sin is not the only thing that blinds us to the Lord’s Advent into our lives. Our expectations of how He will come also prevent us from seeing Him coming to us. We think that He has to come in power and might, that only if he rends the heavens and comes down will we see Him.

But when the heavens were opened 2000 years ago to angels singing praises at his birth, the only ones who noticed were the shepherds tending their sheep in the fields. Born in lowliness and humility, away from the limelight of Jerusalem, not in a palace but a place populated by animals, he comes into the world under the radar. And he keeps on doing so!

That is why we live to watch for his coming each day. That is why we are ever on the alert for the small and hidden ways where love is being born, because there the source of love is breaking into our world.

We notice the Lord of humble love coming into the world through parents who care for challenging adult children and through adult children caring for their aging parents.

We watch and see the Lord of healing and all hopefulness break into the world through doctors and nurses who risk their lives to care for COVID-19 patients.

We are alert to His Faithful Presence in the never-go-away love of a spouse for their ill partner, for in sickness and in health He is with us, never abandoning us.

And in all those seemingly small acts of caring for a neighbor— cutting and carting away their storm damaged tree limbs, bringing food on Thanksgiving Day, praying for them or for their loved one— the one who is Compassion in the flesh visits this world.

In the gathering of supplies for the homeless, in the transporting of those supplies to them, by being present to them and recognizing their God-given dignity— in all these ways of providing what is necessary we witness to the inbreaking of the God of all providential love providing what is needed.

As we are alert for an opportunity to be of service to others, even in the smallest of ways, the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for others, comes into the world through us.

As we daily remain attentive to how the Lord Jesus is coming into the world, his Father and ours does something wonderful with our lives. As we stay on the watch for the various visits of the Lord, our heavenly Father fashions something beautiful out of our lives.

For God is the potter, and we are the clay, the work of His hands. The God of hope-filled Isaiah, the God of persistent Paul, the God of the evangelist Mark, daily shaped and formed them into a more powerful reflection of His Son’s image.

We who are nourished on their hope-filled examples of faith, are also being molded by the divine potter, as he takes the clay of our lives and fashions us into something beyond what we make of our lives on our own power. For He is making us into the vessels by which His Son is born into the world today.