1st Sunday Advent – Nov 27, 2022
What did the mommy broom say to the baby broom?
It’s time to go to sweep.
Yes, we all enjoy a good night’s sleep, especially if it’s cold outside, and the snow is falling, and the wind is blowing that snow everywhere. The problem comes when we won’t get ourselves out of bed in the morning, or when we have important things on our agenda that just won’t get done, if we don’t motivate ourselves to action. The season of Advent is like an alarm clock that goes off, that’s meant to spiritually waken us from our stupor and to remind us that there’s a world that needs our attention before it’s too late.
Indeed, that’s what St. Paul means when, in our second reading from the letter to the Romans, he says, “Brothers and sisters, you know what time it is, how it is NOW the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us NOW than when we became believers.” (Romans 13: 11) Yes, Advent is also an alarm clock calling us to remember that the end of the world will come on an unexpected day and that we need to be prepared at all times, for the glorious arrival of our Lord. At the same time, Advent is an alarm clock harkening us to prepare our hearts, minds, and souls to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.
To accomplish these preparatory tasks, we have to do some spiritual housekeeping. The spiritual dust and debris that we have to eliminate is whatever keeps us from singing Hallelujah with our full heart, mind, soul and body! Indeed, that’s our Theme for this Advent season: “What keeps us from singing Hallelujah?” Such dust and debris are sometimes swept under the carpet during the rest of the year. It’s still around, but hidden from sight. Even though it may be out of sight, it’s not out of mind. We know where we’ve put it and it won’t be removed or dealt with, until we’re ready to take action and throw it away.
We can ask ourselves then, what’s keeping us from taking action? What’s keeping us from being the spiritually minded people that the Lord has invited us to be? What’s keeping us from singing Hallelujah? Sometimes, the greatest obstacle we face is our fear. We’re afraid that if we deal with a particular sin, that we’ll fail and become depressed and despondent as a result. Sometimes, we’re afraid of what others might think of us, if they knew what we’re dealing with. At other times, we’re in denial ourselves, that such a sin is a real problem for us or that it’s become a difficult habit to break. And so, we never bring it out in the open and receive the help we may need to address its negative impact in our lives. Going it alone sometimes keeps the fear alive and well.
When this fear is never dealt with, it can lead us to procrastination. When we procrastinate on doing things that we know the Lord is asking us to do, we’re just building up stress as the deadline for what we need to accomplish gets closer and closer. What’s more, such procrastination can make us appear to be lazy in front of others or not as committed to the task with which we’ve been entrusted. It can make us feel unsure of whether or not we will succeed and cause us to doubt that God will give us the grace to accomplish the task with which we’ve been charged. Such procrastination also may prevent us from spending our time on activities that we really enjoy and which give us life, because it’s always in the back of our minds as something that we still have left unfinished.
One thing we all know. Life is short. If we were to picture ourselves on our death bed today, what regrets would we have? If possible, what needs to change in our lives in order for those regrets to be addressed before it’s too late. If Jesus were to appear at the end of mass, would we be spiritually ready for his arrival? Would our consciences be clean and our hidden messiness cleaned up?
Would knowing that Jesus is returning soon motivate us to make significant changes in the way we live and act and witness to others in the world? What will it take to end our procrastination, —our sleepiness—and to wake up to the life God challenges us to live?
The same reflection can be made with regard to our personal relationships with one another and with our significant others. If we put off doing the hard work of strengthening our personal relationships, especially when there’s an issue that’s causing strain or disagreement, the relationship will only become weaker with time. We can’t just coast on in life, thinking that relationship issues will resolve themselves, if they’re ignored or if we press the snooze button on them continually. No, the exact opposite usually happens. Resentments and hard feelings may build up in the process, and feelings that our significant other may not value us any longer as they once used to, may cause the relationship to rupture and to end.
When we fail to deal with the real problems we may have in life or in our relationships, or fail to take ownership for our part of the problem, we sometimes may look for comfort and consolation in other ways or with other people that may cause further damage. St. Paul gives us examples in today’s second reading, where he writes, “Let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” (Rom 13: 12b-13) Yes, even in St. Paul’s day some Christians sought escape in drugs and alcohol, in wild parties, in illicit sexual relationships, in seeking to control the conversation, and in thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. If St. Paul were to write to us today, he might include other deleterious actions, such as finding escape through social media relationships, making and using fake profiles so as to become a different person online, visiting pornographic sites, and leaving hurtful comments on various platforms while standing in judgment of others.
None of these ways of dealing with personal relationship issues in our lives are helpful. In fact, all of them keep us from enjoying the sort of life-giving relationships the Lord wants us to have.
There’s an answer in today’s readings to all of this. We need to wake up from our sleep! We need to stop living on autopilot! We need to become proactive in creating the sort of world which is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God! To begin that task, we need to honestly reflect on what sins we’ve swept under the carpet and deal with them, once and for all. We need the humility to recognize that none of us are perfect and all of us are in need of continued spiritual development and nourishment. Such nourishment most assuredly comes to us when we fully engage in God’s word and celebrate his sacraments with an openness of heart, mind and soul. Such nourishment can also come by reading the lives of the saints or by engaging in some spiritual podcast. By becoming the best version of ourselves, we’re in a better position to help others. Indeed, when we allow God’s grace to fill us each and every day, so that we’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, we can better hear and respond to that Spirit of God, urging us to say a kind word to this person, to give comfort that person in pain, to alleviate the workload of someone who’s over their heads, or to encourage someone who thinks that they’re not able to do what’s being asked of them. In these and other ways, we begin to see every second of our lives as sacred time, as time to be our authentic selves and to elicit the best in other people. In these and other ways, we begin to eliminate from our lives that which keeps us from being holy, focussed, and determined in living out our vocations. In these and other ways, our voice will become ever stronger, assured and joyful in singing out our Hallelujah to the Lord for his presence, love and care for us, every moment, of every day this Advent Season.
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