2nd Sunday of Advent 2011

This is the second Sunday of Advent; Advent is a period of four weeks that has been set apart for us to prepare our hearts to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord. Advent is a time for us to be shaken awake. As we journey through life, we can easily fall into daily routine and slowly lose focus on the things that are truly important. Advent is a time of the year in which we are called again and again in the readings and in the prayers at Mass to be alert, attentive, awake and watching.

Advent is a time for us to be shaken out of complacency, it is a time for us to examine our hearts and honestly ask ourselves: have we fallen asleep in our spiritual lives? Have we turned on the “auto-pilot,” have we allowed our faith to become a mere routine? Our Catholic Christian Faith demands something from us: our Faith is to be lived; we have to profess our faith both with our lives and with our lips. Being an authentic Christian takes more than just saying: “I was Baptized when I was an infant, therefore I am a Christian.” Christianity is not merely a social club and it is not a cultural label. Being a Christian means following Jesus Christ. What does it mean to follow Jesus Christ? It means to be in a relationship with Him; it means modeling my life on Him and on His teaching.

How do we deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ? First, we have to know Him. We have to know things about Him, but more than that: we have to know Him. We know about Him by studying Sacred Scripture and by studying our Faith. We come to know Him by spending time with Him in prayer, by praying with Scripture and not merely studying it. We cannot be in a relationship with someone we never spend time with. And the most important relationship that we will ever have is our relationship with God. We deepen our faith by putting it into practice. Our Lord said that when we do or fail to do something for someone else, we have done or not done it for Him.

Advent commemorates the historical reality that from the time of the fall of our first parents, God has promised the human race a Savior. Christmas is the celebration of the promised Savior’s birth. But this time of year is also more than a recalling of history. It reminds us also of our current situation. Just as the Old Testament people looked for the coming of the Redeemer into the world, we are called to watch and wait for Christ to come. We are to do all we can to help build of the Kingdom of God on earth; we are to spread the Gospel; we are to allow God’s love to flow through us to those around us: by what we say and by what we do we are to help others to see God in us and come to know and love Him.

In Advent we also call to mind the fact that we are still waiting for Christ to come. In the Preface that we will pray in just a few minutes, we hear that at His first coming Christ assumed the lowliness of human flesh, but when He comes again, He will come in glory and majesty. In the Creed that we pray together each Sunday, we confess our faith that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Our culture’s favorite Scripture verse is: “judge not.” It is true: we cannot judge the heart of another, yet we can judge actions. Our Lord says that if someone sins, we should correct them. We can judge actions, but we cannot judge hearts. The reason that we cannot judge hearts is because God alone knows what is in the heart of someone else. The thing that our culture seems to forget is: we cannot judge others because all judgment is reserved to Jesus Christ. “Judge not” does not mean that there will not be a judgment, it means that judgment is not ours to make: Christ alone will judge the hearts of all.

Advent looks back to the historical first coming of Christ, and looks forward to the Second Coming which will be the end of all history. Christ’s first coming and His promised Second Coming both call for a personal response from each one of us. Advent is a time to be shaken awake: it is a time for us to reflect on His first coming, and to remember that He will come again. When He came to earth the first time, He came as Savior: He came to reconcile fallen human beings with God, and to show us the way to the Father. When He comes again, in glory, He will come as Just Judge. That thought should help us all to be shaken into alertness. We will each be called to render an account of how we have lived our lives. Each one of us will be judged one day on how we have followed Jesus Christ, how we have cooperated with His grace, and what we have done with the gifts that He has given to us. Let us be awake and watchful, let us use the gifts that we have received to build up the Kingdom of God so that when we go before Christ we will worthy to hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant; come and enter into your master’s joy.”