Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent

Homily for the
1st Sunday of Advent

I was at St. Vincent's Hospital this a.m. for Mass and preached on the Collect of the Mass from a 1-page outline.

In Advent we look to the coming of Christ--in this 1st week and into the 2d, toward his 2d coming particularly.  As we say in the Creed, he "will come again to judge the living and the dead."

The text of the Collect prays, "Grant your faithful, Almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at this coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom."
The Last Judgment
13th-c. manuscript illustration by William de Brailes
"Run to meet him" suggests eagerness, welcoming him. Don't we want to belong to Christ? We pray for that in the Communion Rite of every Mass: "we await the blessed hope and the coming our Lord Jesus Christ." You know, if you run away from him, you're running to the hot place! But if we want to spend eternity with him, we'd better look forward to his coming for us. The prayer urges that we be like families greeting a soldier coming home from war.

"Resolve" is a firm decision to act.

"Righteous deeds" are deeds expressive of a right relationship with God.  In the 2d reading St. Paul listed "works of darkness" that don't belong to God and make us very reluctant to meet Christ (Rom 13:12-13). Rather, we need to be children of light, who do the works that Jesus urges us to do.

Those works are suggested by our hoping to be "gathered at his right hand." That's an allusion to the parable of the Last Judgment in Matt 25 (vv. 31-46). The King separates the sheep from the goats, respectively to his right and to his left, and passes judgment on them according to whether they've fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited prisoners, and the sick, welcomed the stranger. And these he calls to possess the Kingdom.

Our resolve, then, is to do away with vices like those Paul named, and to do what Jesus asks us to do, so that we'll be eager and waiting for Jesus whenever he comes to collect us, the Good Shepherd to gather us, his sheep into a safe and pleasant heavenly home.

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