Fr. Mark's Homily - November 28, 2010 1st Sunday Advent -Waiting in Peace
The first Sunday of Advent means the beginning of a new Liturgical year. It is interesting to note that the beginning and the end of the Liturgical year have the same theme: the Second Coming. You would think that in Advent we prepare to celebrate Christmas that the Liturgy of the Church would focus our attention on the Incarnation. The reason is clear why the Liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme; if we have embraced the Lord Jesus at His first coming we will have no fear of His second coming and, in fact look forward to it with joyful anticipation. Advent has several themes within it and we will look at some of those themes over the next four weeks beginning today with the theme of “peace.” But throughout the season of Advent there is the theme of waiting. Why is waiting such an important theme of Advent and really throughout our whole lives as Christians? It is because we have not yet received the fullness of the promise that we have been given in Jesus Christ- the promise of eternal life. We have received a down-payment on the promise in the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us in baptism (Eph. 1:13-14), but the fullness of the promise is not received until we pass through the doors of death into eternity. In the meantime we are called to live by faith, having the interior witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, that we are the children of God. Our journey in this life is one that will take us through various trials and suffering, with the promise we will not be given and trial that we cannot endure with His grace (1 Cor. 10:13), and if we persevere to the end we will inherit the promise in full. We are also given the promise that we will be given joy and peace that the world cannot give even in the midst of these trials. Another observation about waiting - when you wait for something that you really want, what happens is your desire for that thing increases. God has designed our faith journey here on earth is such a way that in waiting to receive the promise in full our desire for Him should increase and as that happens the things of this world hold less and less attraction and our desire to please and serve Him grows.
Today we hear much talk about peace by world leaders yet they seem incapable of bringing it to the world. There is a reason for that. In the OT there are 8 names given to God which describe His various attributes. One of those names is Jehovah – Shalom (Judges 6:22), the Lord our Peace. Peace is not a man-made invention, something we can create on our own. Peace can only come from God. In fact, when the Lord Jesus appeared to St. Faustina He told her, “Mankind will not find peace until it turns to the fount of My mercy” (diary #699). On a personal level, as a country, and as a world apart from turning to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, one will not find peace. The Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord our peace. The Hebrew word shalom denotes completeness, wholeness, soundness of mind, tranquility, rest, harmony, an absence of agitation, anxiety and fear and discord. When we look around us we often do not see much peace in people’s lives, families, in our country and world – it is because people have not turned to Jesus Christ to receive His mercy and in doing so find peace. The words of the prophet Isaiah have not yet been fulfilled yet. They will one day in the Era of Peace prophesied by the ancient prophets (Is. 11:6-9; Zeph. 3:9-15; Zech. 14:6-10; Rev. 20:4) and spoken of by the Church Fathers and recent Popes. It will come with the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart that she spoke of at Fatima. In the meantime, the peace of God comes to those are reconciled to God through His Son, Jesus Christ and the blood of His Cross (Col.1:19). Having found the peace of God on a personal level enable us to be peacemaker’s which means working for justice in our world. It means to be living in the truth. The Second Vatican Council Father’s spoke of this in Gaudium et spes when they wrote, “Peace is not the mere absence of war or the simple maintenance of a balance of power between forces. It is called rightly and properly, a work of justice… Peace here on earth cannot be maintained unless the good of the human person is safeguarded…if peace is to be established it is absolutely necessary to respect other persons and their dignity…Peace is therefore the fruit also of love; love goes beyond what justice can achieve. Peace on earth is born of love for one’s neighbour, is the sin and effect of the peace of Christ that flows from God the Father. In His own person the Incarnate Son, the Prince of Peace, reconciled all men to God through His death on the Cross. In His human nature he destroyed hatred and restored unity to all mankind in one people and one body. All Christians are thus urgently summoned to live the truth in love”(GS no. 78).
Last night I attended the Vigil of Prayer at the Basilica for “nascent life” (life at its beginning) that Pope Benedict called for around the world in every Diocese to begin Advent. The purpose was to give witness by our prayer around the world that every human life called into existence has worth and dignity. One of the great injustices of or day is that so many of our brothers and sisters in the womb have their life ended through abortion (100,000 every year in Canada). How can there peace as long as this injustice continues? There is a call here for every Christian and people of good will to uphold the dignity of every life and work to restore culture of life. In the Incarnation as a humble baby our Lord shows the inherent worth and dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.
I want ask us all a question today – are we experiencing that peace that only comes from God? Our Lord said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you…(Jn.14:27). The Lord promises His peace to all His disciples. If we are not experiencing the peace of God that I have spoken about today there can be a number of reasons why. Perhaps we have never fully made our peace with God through Jesus Christ, acknowledging our sins and need for God’s forgiveness. Maybe we have become lukewarm and careless about our relationship with God. Perhaps we have not been spending that time each day with the Lord in prayer and have become distracted by many others things. We may have taken our eyes off of the Lord and lost our peace as we have focused on all the things going on in the world and around us that would disturb our peace. These things can often happen gradually without us even realizing it. If you are not experiencing the Lord’s peace you can find it. Yesterday we had some 20 young people celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation for the very first time at CM. This is the sacrament of God’s mercy and in His mercy we find peace. I heard that a number of parents upon seeing their children’s faces as they came back to their seats felt compelled to go to the sacrament – they found the Lord’s peace. While much of the world will use Advent as a time to get busier and spend money on things they don’t really need not conscious of the Lord’s first coming, His desire to come into their lives each day by the presence of His Holy Spirit, or to ensure they are prepared for His coming at death or His second coming, we as Christians need to slow down (interiorly) and be like Our Lady after giving birth to the Incarnate Son of God she, “pondered all these things in her heart” (Lk. 2:19). We should quiet ourselves interiorly, as we wait, so we can ponder the great mystery of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and its meaning in our life personally. We should all celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent in preparation to celebrate the Lord’s birth with joy. My number one recommendation this Advent to regain or maybe find the Lord’s peace for the first time is to go to the sacrament of Reconciliation (Dec 9th and 10th). Next week I will have some other recommendations to find and keep the Lord’s peace in our lives each day. Next week we will look at “waiting in hope.”