Longing and Anticipation — November 29, 2015

  • Homily Details
  • Pastor Name: Fr. Stephen Hoffman
  • Date & Time: November 29, 2015
  • Gospel Reading: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

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My dear friends,

 

The Holy Spirit has given us an image of God in the 3rd Chapter of Genesis which sums up the great glory, joy, and purpose for our life: “ . . . and they heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”  This image of God walking in the garden which He gave to the 1st man and woman expressed loud and clearly that God made us to be in a personal relationship with Him–and this relationship is everything that we most deeply long for and need (its where we receive our identity, our need for love, affirmation and worth, belonging, security, and life’s meaning).  Without this relationship with God life quickly becomes empty, pointless, superficial, and flat.

 

This relationship was lost for the whole human race by the sin of Adam and Eve, and we could not fix it on our own, we could not make things right.  This is the whole reason for the 1st coming of Christ–through His death and resurrection Jesus reconciles us with God by the forgiveness of our sins–healing and mending what was broken.  The 2nd coming brings to completion and fulfillment the hope planted in our hearts at baptism–to go Home, God’s desire to take us into His eternal embrace, the Holy communion of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Because God desires this great good for us, His love now takes the form of warnings, encouragements, waking us up, urging us to persevere and be vigilant.

 

Perseverance, which is synonymous with strength or fortitude, is one of the most important virtues we need.  It is often easier to begin a commitment to something or someone, but difficult to maintain the commitment over time.  When parents bring their children to be baptized they know this is the easier part–the difficulty lies in fulfilling the baptismal promises to raise the children in the faith day in and day out.  The beginning of a friendship in the first attractions, the discovery of what is shared in common, is wonderful–but to persevere in one’s love for the friend through all the ups and downs of character weaknesses and imperfections, the changes and trials of life, this can be extremely difficult.

 

Jesus wants us to be faithful to our heavenly calling, to be prepared for our departure from this life–so he says: “do not let you hearts become drowsy.”  What is drowsiness?  When we are physically drowsy we find that we are less present to and engaged with the reality of what’s going on around us–we “check out,”  we “unplug.” By referring to the heart, Jesus is talking about spiritual drowsiness–which would mean a lack of being present to and aware of the greater, spiritual reality of life: our relationship with God and our heavenly goal.

 

There are mainly two things that cause this spiritual drowsiness that Jesus mentions: Carousing (a party spirit with boisterous laughter) and drunkenness being the 1st, and the cares and anxieties of daily life.  Drunkenness hits upon the category of all the sensual pleasures we enjoy in life that are part of God gifts of creation.  When these are pursued excessively they can dull our spiritual senses and diminish our engagement with and awareness of God and our ultimate end (Jesus uses the example of the people at the time of Noah and Lot).

  • For example, look at how much time we spend now viewing our laptops, ipads, iphones, androids, etc.–and how quickly and easily this can diminish and choke out the time for prayer and spiritual reading, time that is necessary to cultivate and nourish our relationship with God.

 

Equally challenging are the daily cares and anxieties that weigh upon us–many of us woke up this morning or came to Church with heavy hearts.  Some, if not most of the concerns we carry, have names, names of family members or friends that we are worried about.  While these cares and worries are a normal part of human life in a fallen world, they can easily become overwhelming and make us so self-absorbed that we forget the bigger picture, we lose sight of what matters most, we become disconnected and unengaged in our relationship with God.

 

I would like to recommend a practice that can help us to avoid becoming spiritually drowsy in the areas of pleasure and the times of anxiety.  Over two thousand years ago, at this time before Christmas, there is a young teenage mother walking the dusty streets of Nazareth, and she is pregnant with the Hope of the world–Jesus Christ.  She opened her life and her body to God’s will, and welcomed into her womb Jesus, the Savior of the world.  Bearing Christ within her, she brought Jesus into everything she did, and she brought everything she experienced to Jesus.  This is how Mary helps us to understand the meaning and grace of Advent–we too are Christ bearers–we too want to keep making space in us for Christ, and like Mary, we too are called to live everything with Jesus–to bring everything to Jesus.

 

To help us do this I’d like to recommend that we, either individually or with each other, that we stop and make time to pray an extra decade of the rosary every day of Advent.  This will do two things: it will give us a much needed moment of spiritual rest to regain our spiritual focus, and, as we pray one of the mysteries with Mary–slowly with our heart–she will help us to be mindful of Christ amidst the pleasures of life, so that they do not lull our heats to sleep, and she will help us to entrust and surrender all our cares and worries to the Lord, to see everything in the light of hope, how it relates to our heavenly calling and goal.  Connecting us to Christ, and connecting everything we live and do to Christ–this is the gift of walking with Mary through Advent.

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