One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

December 03, 2006

For the First Sunday of Advent, the First Day of the Church Year

Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Today, the first day of Advent, is the first day of the Church’s calendar of worship.
From the first day of Advent— today— through December 16, the prayers and readings of the daily Mass give most of their attention to the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.
In the second part of Advent, December 17 to 24, the Church changes her prayers and readings at Mass to more specific preparation for Christmas.
Today in his Gospel, the Lord tells us to live in careful expectation of his return at the fulfillment of the world.
We are to be on constant guard, watchful, alert, faithful and ready for him to return at any moment, lest he find us negligent, careless or spiritually asleep.
Christ returns in several ways.
There will be his final return in glory for all humanity to see, when he will make all things new.
There is his private return for each of us in the hour of our individual deaths.
He also returns constantly in the perpetual opportunities of grace in daily life and faith, in moments of prayer, in the hours of work and in our relations with one another.
There is also his return and presence in the sacraments and in the Church itself.
All these ways in which the Lord returns and is present—all of these ways paradoxically both demand and strengthen our vigilance and readiness for the Lord.
The last time that eyes of flesh and blood publicly saw the Lord was on the day of his Ascension, forty days after his Resurrection from the dead.
The very last words he spoke that day were these:
… you shall be my witnesses … to the end of the earth. [Acts 1:8]

Our ascended Lord still gives us the mission to testify to all humanity on his behalf until he returns to bring the creation to its eternal fulfillment.
During the ten days between the Lord’s Ascension and the Holy Spirit’s revealing, Peter took charge.
He directed the believers to elect a replacement for Judas who had committed suicide.
As the Scripture literally puts it, Peter said, “Let another man take his place as bishop” [episkopèn].
Peter was mindful of the Lord’s last words:
… you shall be my witnesses… to the end of the earth. [Acts 1:8]

Peter told the believers to recognize a successor, a new witness:
… one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from his baptism by John until the day when he was taken up from us—
one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. [Acts 1:21-22]

The Holy Spirit was not publicly revealed until after Peter and his fellow bishops secured a new witness to carry on the testimony concerning the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Pentecost did not take place without the fidelity of the apostles to that testimony.
The Lord wanted it that way:
… you shall be my witnesses … to the end of the earth. [Acts 1:8]

Why should the whole earth hear or even want the testimony concerning the person, life and mission of Christ?
We need Christ because he is the source of TRUTH and happiness.
He does not offer us happiness alone.
He offers us TRUTH.
Without it, happiness and everything else is necessarily false.
The last two conversations of our Lord before he died were conversations about kingship, truth and happiness.
On the cross, though he spoke to Mary, John and the heavenly Father, they remained silent; they did not converse.
The Lord’s last two conversations were with Pilate and the good thief.
With Pilate, he conversed of kingship and truth.
My kingship is not of this world….
For this I was born,
and for this I have come into the world,
to bear witness to the truth.
Every one who is of the truth hears my voice. [John 18:36-37]

Pilate retorted, “What is truth?”— but turned his back without waiting to hear any answer, and went out to confer with the angry mob.
On the cross, the Lord conversed with the good thief about kingship and happiness.
The thief said to him, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The Lord answered, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Christ offers us a share in his kingdom of truth and happiness.
That is the witness he came to bear.
That is our testimony: a kingdom of truth and happiness.
Remember that all UN-happiness began with UN-truth: a serpent telling a lie in Paradise.
The truth is that man is made for happiness in knowing and loving God.
Without obedience to that truth, any happiness we might get on our own and by our own efforts in the material world and even in the world of human relationships— any happiness and any freedom without obedience to the truth eventually crumbles.
We are free to do many things with our bodies.
But the truth is that our bodies will pay for some of the things we might choose to do.
We are free to do many things in our relationships with other person.
But the truth is that our relationships will pay for some of the things we might choose to do.
We are free to do many things with our spiritual life.
But the truth is that our spiritual life, our relationships and even our bodies will pay for some of the things we might choose to do.
There is no freedom without truth.
Without the truth, freedom is lost sooner or later.
The truth is that we are made for happiness in knowing and loving God.
If we obey that, it does not mean we will be free of suffering in the here and now.
If we obey the truth, freedom and happiness begin to sink deep roots within us— roots whose vigor does not depend on circumstance, but on God.
Even the agnostic, secular world recognizes the depth and vigor of freedom and happiness in a genuine Christian like Mother Teresa.
Christ our Lord is the definitive demonstration and foundation of all human freedom and happiness.
The Son of God became man, and freely laid down everything— flesh and blood, mind and spirit— every fiber of his being— he freely laid it all down out of obedience to the truth.
As a result, every fiber of his humanity— flesh and blood, mind and spirit— received absolute freedom in resurrection from death.
The same freedom of God and the children of God will blossom in fullness for each of us on the day of Christ’s return— if that day finds us watchful and ready, obedient to the truth.
Until then, we receive the absolute freedom of the Son of God in his own flesh and blood given as our food and drink.
The Eucharist is the sacrament of eternal salvation.
In it, the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ plant and replant the roots of freedom and truth deep within us.
That is the truth.
That is the Eucharist.
That is our testimony.
We announce the death and resurrection of Christ until he returns.
We are to do so with our lives, with our freedom, obedient to the truth that we are made for happiness through knowing and loving God.

That God Be Glorified in All


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