Homily for November 27, I Sunday of Advent, cycle B
Happy New Year! (The appropriate response is “and with your spirit!” Just kidding…) If I were to say that outside of church, most people would think I’ve been hitting the eggnog a bit hard and early, but here, I think we’re all aware that we are beginning a new liturgical year, and we’re also inaugurating the new translation of the Roman Missal.
The new wording might throw us off a little at first, and it will certainly keep us on our toes, because by force of habit our tongues will want to say the prayers and responses from the previous edition. I know I’m going to mess up a bit at first and say the old words sometimes. However, this new version of the Roman Missal in English is really a good thing. The earlier translation was easier to say, but not very accurate. The reason accuracy is important, is because we are Roman Catholics, and the original version of the missal we use is in Latin. Every Roman Catholic Church around the world that celebrates Mass in the local language is using a translation of that one Latin original – and all the translations are being checked and updated. Having a better translation helps to ensure that we are all truly praying with one voice around the world, without losing any of the theological richness or scriptural references that are contained in the Latin.
The translations of the readings are not affected by the new Missal, though, and today’s readings are powerful reminders of the meaning of Advent. The first reading brings us back to the time before Christ, when the Israelites were suffering the hardship of the Babylonian exile, and the desired return to their homeland. The prophet expresses the people’s awareness of their own sinfulness and their need for God to intervene to help them to return to the right path and have true freedom and peace. They ask God to “come down” to work wondrous deeds beyond what they could hope for. The yearning of the Jews for salvation was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, God made Man. We can certainly sympathize with those sentiments; our own world today is in great need of divine assistance. One meaning of Advent is precisely to re-live this historical yearning for the first coming of Christ.
But of course, Christ has already come, and is living among us. As St. Paul says in the second reading, we have already been enriched with spiritual gifts of knowledge, grace, and peace. Through prayer, the liturgy and the sacraments, we have access to the infinite treasures of God’s love to help us live our lives serving God and each other. This is another aspect of Advent: asking God to continue to strengthen His hidden, “mysterious” presence among us, to renew His grace in our hearts as we celebrate His birth at Christmas. We must also play an active role by sharing this great blessing with others.
Yet, St. Paul says we are still waiting and preparing for “the full revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ”. Our Lord Himself tells us that we know neither the day nor the time when He will come again. He tells us to be watchful and alert, each of us fulfilling the mission God has given us in life according to our own vocation. This is the third aspect of Advent: praying for the final coming of Christ in majesty, and striving to live in a way pleasing to Him.
As we embark on our Advent journey, let us keep in mind these three aspects of the season, to use a phrase coined by the monk and writer Pius Parsch: the coming of Christ in history, in mystery, and in majesty. May God grant us the grace to recognize our own need for His presence in our lives, and to draw ever nearer to Him each day in prayer and the sacraments, so that we will be ready to welcome Him when He comes again.
If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy my 5 Tips for Living Advent!