Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
We begin the liturgical year hearing in the Gospel a solemn warning from Christ to his disciples. He warns them severely to get themselves ready; he tells them not to be caught out on the Last Day. He urges them to be prepared and tells them not to be like the people in Noah’s day who ignored his advice and went on eating and drinking till they were all washed away in the Great Flood.
These words are addressed to his immediate disciples but, of course, they are also addressed to Christians in whichever era that they live, because Christ wants every one of us to be ready for that great Day of Days when he will come in glory ready to judge the living and the dead.
We know that the Gospel is not all about warnings. We are perfectly aware that it is packed full of positive teachings urging us to be good and kind and to love our fellow man. The main purpose of the Gospel is to tell us all about Jesus and about how he lived and what he taught. It tells us of his miracles and many other wonders. It gives us heart as we journey through life and it enables us to live in a new and more generous way.
But as we begin this new liturgical year with the season of Advent we are alerted by the Church and told to be on our guard and to prepare ourselves to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
The word Advent literally means coming and during this important liturgical season we prepare ourselves for the two great comings of Christ: first for the anniversary of his coming into our world as an infant in Bethlehem and secondly for when he comes as the Great Judge and Lord of all at the end of time.
The preparation for both of these comings is exactly the same. We confess our sins and we resolve to become more faithful disciples of Christ. We recommit ourselves to his service and we choose again to embrace his Gospel of love.
Jesus Christ entered our world as a tiny babe on that first Christmas Day. And as his followers we celebrate the anniversary of that great event with immense joy and love in our hearts. And in order to do this well we get ourselves ready during this season of Advent. We give our souls a bit of a spring clean and we put our lives in order so that we are spiritually ready to celebrate this great Christian feast worthily and well.
I don’t know about you but one of the modern day duties that falls to me during Advent is to choose appropriate gifts for my family members and very close friends. And sometimes it is really quite difficult to decide on exactly the right gift for each particular person. It often requires a great deal of thought and sometimes I find myself having to go to a lot of trouble to find just the right thing. I generally find, however, that the earlier I start the easier it is.
This duty is an expression of the deep love that is in our hearts for those closest to us. During the year we might find it difficult to find ways to demonstrate our love for those nearest to us but at Christmas by means of a well-chosen gift we can make up for our lack of demonstrativeness during the previous year.
So while the season of Advent has a certain sobriety about it, underneath there is a lot of quiet joy and often great thoughtfulness for those around us whom we love.
Advent however starts with a particular focus on the end of the world, on Christ’s Second Coming. As we have seen, the liturgical year begins with a warning. We are told to look out for the Last Day and to be always in the process of getting ourselves ready for that great day when we shall meet the King of Kings and find ourselves standing before his judgement seat.
We might think that on that day we will be quaking in our shoes with fear, dreading the possibility of eternal damnation. But if we live our lives as best we can as true Christians then we need have no fear on that final day. The Lord that will be greeting us will be a welcoming Lord, a merciful Lord, a Lord who earnestly wants to invite us to share his Kingdom of Love.
Of course, if we have lived a dissolute life, if we have spent our time here on earth living in defiance of the laws of God, if we have been wholly self-centred, or if we have denied our love to others then we really should be quaking in our shoes.
By living in such a way we will have demonstrated to God that we are unfit to live in his Kingdom. We will have already made our own choice and all that will be left for God to do is to issue the verdict that we will already have pronounced on ourselves.
But this is not what we want. We choose to live lives worthy of God’s love; we choose to do the things in this world which will enable us to live with God forever. And if we have failed on some occasions, or fallen into sin for whatever reason, then we know exactly what we have to do which is to repent and beg pardon from God especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And there is no better time for us to do this than in these few weeks running up to Christmas.
So Advent is a season of repentance, it is certainly a season when we take stock of our lives, but most of all it is a season of forgiveness.
We began the Liturgy of the Word today with a marvellous reading from the Prophet Isaiah all about the gathering of the nations before the Lord at the end of time. Its words are majestic and Isaiah paints a picture of all the nations gathering together as they go up to God’s holy mountain.
They go to the Mountain of the Lord quite willingly in order to subject themselves to God’s judgement. They stream from all corners of the world and they resolve to live in God’s ways and express their decision to live peaceably till the end of their days.
What better image could we have of the Christian life than this; that the people of the world come together seeking to live under God’s guidance and in conformity with his laws determining to live in peace with each other all their days.
Isaiah beautifully concludes with the invitation: ‘O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.’ It is an invitation addressed as much to us as it was to those ancient Israelites.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45