I. Homily – First Sunday of Advent – November 29-30, 2014
II. Where will you shop?
A. This is the question posed to us this First Sunday of Advent: where will we shop?
B. Did we go to the store on Black Friday or will we shop from the safety of our computer on Cyber Monday?
C. Where will we shop?
1. I am told, you can get most of the same products on the internet and you may actually have more choices and more options when buying on-line, shipping is often free or very inexpensive, you don’t have to wait in line and you don’t have to worry about someone wrestling that new TV from your hands or hitting you.
2. You don’t have to fight for a parking place or navigate your way out of the parking lot.
3. Some have begun to evaluate this dichotomy between shopping in the store and on the internet.
a) Now, some have explained that it is more exciting to go to the store, you get to see people and, well, you can actually try on the clothes, for example.
b) You get better customer service buying in the store than on-line and you can color match better in the store.
c) The problem here is that if the shop does not provide these things: better customer service, better color matching, excitement, etc., then that store is not going to stay in business very long.
d) There are also those commentators who have explained that some items are better purchased in the store and other products are better purchased on-line.
4. Mind you, I am not taking a position here and I am not trying to convince you to shop one way or another. As you might have guessed, the point I am making has nothing to do with shopping. The question is this: Are there those aspects of life for which the shopping-choice principle does not work?
a) What do I mean?
b) Well…most companies manufacturing a product attempt to tailor that product
c) Although the marketing principle of “creating a need” does apply, the reality is that even this “creating a need” is somehow formed by the tastes and tolerances of the consumer.
d) A product ultimately sells based on the likes and dislikes of consumers. These likes and dislikes might be formed to some degree by marketing, but marketing is still limited by the consumer.
e) You will hear a retailer explaining that this or that product will or will not sell.
III. But, is there something in our life so important not that it changes to accommodate our wishes but that we change to accommodate it?
A. Yes. There are these things. These tend to be relationships.
B. Recently I celebrated a wedding…not an unusual occurrence…the bride is a runner and the groom not so much…so the parents of the groom explained that they knew the relationship was serious when the groom-to-be decided to run the half-marathon with his future bride.
C. The reality is that, almost infallibly, the things for which we will change ourselves or even reorient our desires are the people we love.
D. We will change schedules and careers and home for those we love.
E. Usually in these relationships, there is some reciprocity. Both parties change for the one they love. When we love someone, we begin to express things to them like: “I need you,” “I cannot live without you.” “You are my life.”
IV. Now, let’s take this a step further: Is there someone who is so important…so essential to our life…who is so perfectly loving that, in order for us to live, it is required that our desires, our wants, our thoughts and ourselves be changed…and…further…although we must be changed in order to live, He must stay exactly who He is?
A. Fr. Robert Barron poses the same question a question like this in explaining the purpose of Advent and the purpose of our Church. He takes the position that the purpose of Advent is to convince ourselves that we need a Savior.
B. I am going to accept this point but take it a step further: the purpose of Advent is to convince ourselves that we need a Savior and Christ’s Church is the instrument of this salvation.
C. A temptation has existed from the dawn of time but is as relevant as ever in our contemporary world.
1. This temptation views Christ as a special kind of teacher or guru but nothing more than a guru. We can easily fall into the trap of viewing Jesus as a really good guy who taught us good things to do but not much more than that. The danger is that in viewing Jesus simply as a teacher, Jesus and His teaching should change to accommodate what I want…or what I have decided is right.
2. The reality, however, is that Jesus is not just a teacher…He is our Savior.
3. In order to understand the difference between Jesus as teacher and Savior, we first need to believe that we are in need of being saved…and this is what the Church asks dominate our meditations during the Season of Advent…the purpose of Advent is to convince ourselves that we need a Savior…it is not simply the murderer and the thief and the pervert who are exhorted to convince themselves they need a Savior…no…ALL OF US…you and me…we need a Savior and Jesus Christ is it.
D. Although we see this need all around us whether it be watching the evening news and hearing about the gunman who killed his girlfriend at Nordstroms or the events in Ferguson, Missouri or even experience this need in ourselves: when we lie to make ourselves look good or feel angst when someone does better than we do or when we are jealous and trying to keep up with our neighbors…, the reality is that most human beings don’t like to admit that we need to be saved. Despite all the evidence, we still tend to ask: “Saved from what?” It is a rare human being who readily and willingly admits in a real, specific and concrete way that he/she needs a Savior too…
E. We are much more apt to react negatively to such insinuations. “Who does she think she is saying that?” “Where do they get off telling me what to do?” The same can go for Jesus: where does He get off telling us that we need to confess our sins, change our lives and repent.
F. In the first reading we heard today from Isaiah, Israel, after a great deal of trial and distress, decides to take a different approach than denying they need a Savior. In Isaiah, we hear Israel pleading with God: “You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…”
G. The Israelites are asking God to return and to make them quake in their boots, because they know they cannot do it without Him. The fear of which they speak is not an emotion that God fosters. No. The reality is that fear is the insufficiency we feel when the all-perfect, all-loving, all-powerful and all-merciful God comes to us and stares us in the face. When He stands before us, we see ourselves for who we truly are…not because of His terribleness but because we realize we are profoundly in need of Him. We are not quite as self-sufficient as we thought.
H. Our Psalm Response reiterates the same message: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
1. The only problem here is that we first need to convince ourselves that we need to be saved…that we cannot simply do all that is right and good left to our own devices.
2. It is true. There is a great deal that we CAN do, because of how God has made us, but the good, we do not accomplish on our own.
3. If we do not believe this, then there is no need for Christ and Christ is certainly not a Savior. He is just a teacher and there are plenty of other teachers who can speak good things to us that we may or may not follow.
4. Christ is necessary so that we can accomplish the good and the more our hearts are open to Him taking possession of our heart and mind and will…allowing Christ to remake us in His image and likeness, then we act as other Christs.
I. Saint Paul wrote in our second reading: “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way…”
1. Christ redeemed us through His cross and now this Grace comes to us through His Church…Yes…His Church is integral in this work of salvation.
2. Indeed, His Grace comes to us through His Word and all that He has taught, but His Sanctifying Grace comes to us through His Church…the sacraments and her teaching.
J. When our Lord is telling His disciples to “Watch” and “Stay awake,” He is asking them to watch for the Savior, because they cannot save themselves. Watch their hearts that they not become so full of themselves that the Savior passes them by when He comes. This is the purpose of Advent: Watch for Christ, because we need Him.
K. Imagine what the celebration of Christmas is like…when we behold Christ in the manger while being fully aware that we NEED HIM! We realize that the Almighty and perfect God does love us so much that He became one like us so that we might listen to Him.
A. In the end, the question is no longer where will we shop?
B. The question is the same one that Saint Peter asked Jesus as so many of our Lord’s disciples were leaving Him. Saint Peter asked Jesus: “To whom will we go, YOU have the words of everlasting life?”
I. Homily – First Sunday of Advent – November 29-30, 2014