The First Sunday of Advent [A]
Isa 2:1-5 + Rom 13:11-14 + Mt 24:37-44
December 1, 2019
“For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this Sunday (2:59)
click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:10)
click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday
click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday
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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2013 homily for this Sunday
click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 homily for this Sunday
click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 1998 homily for this Sunday
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Jesus Christ, on this First Sunday of Advent, warns us that we do not know on which day the Lord will come. That seems like an odd statement as we prepare for Christmas. After all, we know exactly when the Lord will come: December 25th. So much of our preparation for Christmas is customary, and customs are like well-worn slippers: comfortable and without surprises.
But surprise leaps off every page of the Gospel accounts of the nine months leading up to the birth of Jesus. Surprise also surrounds His birth at Bethlehem, and surprise follows His birth as others try to get a good look at the new-born king. The Season of Advent is about being ready for God, no matter where, when, how or through whom He wishes to be present to us, for us, and finally within us.
There are three very practical ways to engage in the Season of Advent. These three practices will help you, if you choose to enter into them, to recognize and accept the Lord on the day when He chooses to come into your life. These three are poverty, silence, and penance. Just remember the first letter of each. Poverty, silence, and penance: P-S-P. Not E-S-P: if you had ESP than you would know on which day the Lord will come. The letters P-S-P stand for poverty, silence and penance. Scripture and Tradition both show us how these three can help you as a Christian prepare for God. Focus here just on the first.
When we think of poverty, we might think of destitution, where families do not have food to eat or shelter from the elements. When God, in His sacred Scriptures and Tradition, commends poverty to His children, He’s not talking about destitution.
Where most Christians are concerned, God is not even talking about material poverty, but about a spiritual form of poverty. While consecrated religious take a vow of material poverty, God doesn’t ask laypersons or diocesan priests to take such a vow. Yet he does expect every Christian to be detached from every material thing. Jesus spoke to this expectation when He declared: “every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” [Lk 14:33]. This points to the first principle of spiritual poverty: to realize and believe how little value material possessions hold.
The second principle of spiritual poverty is trust: trust in the providential care of God our Father. Practically speaking, we can ask God to increase our trust by making a concrete sacrifice.
Here’s one example: tithe your wardrobe. This means giving 10% of your clothes and accessories to the poor. It might take one morning to go through your shirts, slacks, dresses, coats, shoes, and so, boxing them up. It might take another morning or two to deliver this tithe to worthy causes. Advent is a good time to offer this sacrifice, as the cold months of the year are settling in.
Parents can put the second challenge to their children. When children make their Christmas lists, they put down only three gifts that they’d like to receive at Christmas. If a child receives more than three gifts, he or she selects only three of them, and donates the rest to less fortunate children who might otherwise receive fewer than three presents.
Poverty can help us conform our families and our homes more closely to the Holy Family and their dwelling in Bethlehem. God the Father, in His providential will, chose for His only-begotten Son to be born in a stable amid the stench of animals. But the Holy Family’s lack of material things and material security wasn’t intended as a good in and of itself: that poverty was good inasmuch as it focused attention upon the goodness of the Holy Family in general, and the divine goodness of the newborn child.
Spiritual poverty is sought by Christians in order to dispose themselves to the grace by which God wishes to conform each of us the Image and Likeness of Jesus. Jesus became one of us when at the Annunciation so that you and I could become like God by opening our hearts and minds to God’s grace.