Homily 1st Sunday of Advent (Year A)
As we start the season of Advent, we remember that God, over the centuries and through the Old Testament writings, was preparing the hearts of the Jewish people to receive the definitive coming of His Son into the world. As Christians, we share in their long preparation for the first coming of Jesus through the readings at Mass, the symbol of the Advent wreath and in other ways so that we can renew in our hearts a desire to receive His Son, Our Lord at His second coming at the end of time.
For me, when I think of sharing in this preparation, I am reminded of the image of the sun rising. The night sky, the darkness, the cold temperature, the stillness and the anticipation as the sun slowly rises into the dark night sky in the horizon. The first glimpses of the rays of sunshine spread through the horizon and different shades of colour radiate in the sky: orange tints, night blue and sky blue. The temperature in the air begins to slowly warm up as the rays of the sun break through the horizon. But, this week in preparing this homily, I was struck by something as I walked out of the chapel in the morning. In the night sky everything is dark. Yet, as the sun rises, the clouds that are in the sky become visible. It is only when the sun comes up do we see the details of the clouds in the sky. And the rays of the sun shine through the clouds making for an awesome portrait.
God’s covenants in the Old Testament with Abraham, Moses and David are like the first glimpses of the rays of sunshine spread wide through the horizon. The words of the prophets are like the rays of sun that raise the temperature in our hearts to the fidelity of God calling us back to Him. In His messenger, John the Baptist, God makes the clouds in our hearts clearly known. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that our salvation is won for us: Jesus gives us the free gift of His grace to cast out those clouds so that we may receive the rays of His love into the depth of our hearts. After His ascension into heaven, God sends apostles to the whole world through the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news, a gospel of joy that we are no longer to be living in darkness but are welcomed into a radiant light that Christ offers to us. He now prepares our hearts for the second coming of Jesus at the end of time as King of Kings and Judge of the nations.
So, what does this mean to us today? While Jesus is going to come again He did not reveal when that time would be. In fact, in the Gospel today Jesus tells us: “Stay Awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come….Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” By not revealing the day or the hour when He will come again, Jesus is asking us to be vigilant, to stay awake and to be prepared.
One way that we can be vigilant in our lives is to pray the Examen Prayer daily. The Examen Prayer is gift of Ignatian Spirituality that allows us to see God in all things. It is an important prayer because it allows us to encounter Jesus in every action and event in our life so that our relationship with Him may be strengthened. An easy method of how to make an examination of conscience is using the Acronym “GRACE”. This method should take no more than 10 minutes.
To prepare yourself for this, spend maybe the length of an Our Father, just recognizing God’s presence with you at the time, and consider how He looks upon you. After this you begin the examen.
The “G” stands for “Gratitude”. Every day, we have to give thanks to God for all the blessings that we have received from Him.
Secondly, the “R” stands for “Request for Light”. In this time we ask for the grace to see ourselves as God wants us to see ourselves. In this section, again the image of the sun rise comes to mind. As the sun rises, it dispels the darkness and makes clear the clouds in the sky. We need this, it is Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of our heart and brings to light all things.
Thirdly, the A stands for “Account of Actions/Attitudes”. In this section we review in our minds the time since your last examen. We go through the day and ask ourselves who did we encounter at work or at school? What events took place? In these encounters and events, what feelings were stirring in our heart? And how did those feelings manifested themselves in action?
Fourthly, the C stands for “Chart your Course”. After reviewing the day and our actions and attitudes, is there anything that needs to change? Need to be corrected? Do we need to ask God for forgiveness for something we might have said or done, or even a feeling that is not from God?
Finally, the E stands for “Enthusiasm”. In this section, we bring the joyful hope and the promises of God into our mind and ask Him for the grace to carry out any resolutions that we have made…and to do it joyfully!
St. Paul in the second reading says: “The night is far spent, the day draws near, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” We have to live our lives constantly turning back to God, continually seeking His mercy. We can do that through the Examen Prayer. It allows the light of Jesus’ love to radiate in our hearts, to cast out any darkness that might be there. And so I am going to challenge you to try this for a week. 10 minutes a day. You can do it as you are washing the dishes, before you go to bed, even in the car ride to and from work…10 minutes. Remember “GRACE”!
So, let us then, as we approach the altar, prepare to receive Jesus who comes to us so humbly in the Eucharist. Let us receive our God now, in this Holy Communion, as we await with joyful hope, the coming of our Saviour at the end of time.