Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2010. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/120510.shtml. Thanks for reading, and all your comments and feedback.
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So a week and a half ago, Thanksgiving 2010, there was a historic first. It was the first time since 1925 when the department store Sears first opened that this national chain made the decision to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day. They joined a handful of stores that seems to be growing each year who’ve very slowly been expanding “Black Friday” -which was the day after Thanksgiving which traditionally is the biggest day of sales moving stores financially from being in the “red” (in debt) all year to being in the“black” making a profit. Opening on Thanksgiving, is another attempt for stores to try to get a jump on their competitors.
For some reason, that seems to have been “the line” for me. We all know how rough the economy is, so, the whole 4 am Black Friday opening with crazy sales, while you’ll never see me wake up that early to go shopping (I hate shopping to begin with, so make me get up that early, I can’t imagine I’d be too pleasant) - I do get what drives some people to do that to try to get a bargain. And I’m not against Christmas gifts... (for those taking notes: XL shirt size, size 12 shoes) As much as I hate shopping, I do enjoy thinking of something that might surprise and excite my family and friends to buy. So I don’t agree when people argue that everyone, or “religious” people should stop buying and giving gifts to each other for Christmas.
But shopping on Thanksgiving Day seems to have really hit a new low, doesn’t it? It just doesn’t make sense. Because who is it that means so much to us that we want to buy them Christmas gifts that we’d chose to go shop rather than spend time with them and other family and friends on a day like Thanksgiving?
I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad or guilty if they found a circular or saw an ad with prices so tantalizing that they ducked out part of Thanksgiving to save some cash and purchase something (well, maybe a little guilty) One reason that gift-giving started was to experience a taste of the joy that God has in showering us with blessings in our own lives, from our very existence– that we are even here - to the ultimate gift of His Son Jesus Christ, in whom God the Father has given us the path, the way to spend eternity with Him. That’s what should bring us ultimate happiness - reflecting on all that God has done, all that He continues to do right now... How Jesus continues to come to us to bring us fullness of life. That’s the joy we celebrate Christmas. Advent is meant to prepare ourselves to renew our appreciation of that gift.
The thing is, for so many of us is how the devil has been able to twist all of that. We all seem to race around in these weeks leading up to December 25th , and then wonder why there’s so much stress, so little happiness this season. We seem to be on this marathon to the point that we can’t wait for Christmas Day just to collapse... The happiness, the joy, the love that Christmas is all about seems for many to be an ideal to hope for, but have yet to really experience. It becomes a prize - a jackpot some think that only a few will win, and so all of these things – parties, cards, gifts become like lotto tickets... If I just do this, get that thing,... maybe, maybe this Christmas I’ll feel something. I’ll experience that happiness that has eluded me every other year.
Which is why what a gift we receive today as the Church gives us this Gospel on this second week of Advent. John the Baptist steps into our lives and says “REPENT.” Just hearing that word, a lot of us has this gut-reaction like “Here comes the dose of guilt again - making me feel like a bad person...” great way for us to feel that happiness we desire, huh?
But that call to Repent is a real gift. It’s a loving thing that John the Baptist speaks, that the Lord uses the Church to call us too once again. To call out to us, to wake us up as we’re falling asleep at a 4 am door-buster sale, skipping out on Thanksgiving, getting deceived by the lies of the evil one that tells us the happiness of Christmas is out there somewhere and instead, listen to John the Baptist as he says - “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It’s within our reach. It’s in our grasp. But we have to let go of all the things in our lives that make it hard to grab onto - that make it seem so far away. We have to free ourselves of those things that dominate so much space in our hearts that there’s not enough room for Jesus to truly reside there. We are being invited to take a new, honest look at how this quest for happiness we’ve been on has left us empty... how all those other voices have deceived us as we’ve bought into them and found ourselves unfulfilled.. And then ask ourselves What is it that brings us here today? A religious obligation? Trying to cover our bases to make sure if there’s a heaven, we’re on the list to get in? Hopefully what brings us here is that on some level we’ve identified, we’ve sensed, we’ve experienced some of that fullness of life we seek in following Jesus Christ. And we want more of that– we desire even more of that joy, that happiness. And we find once we start to receive that joy of Christ in my life, we can’t contain it. It overflows from us to those around us, who, in turn, will want it - and we will want to share it with them.
What is it that we’ve been holding onto that still hurts? What is it that we’ve done that we still feel guilty or ashamed about? What lie is it that diminishes who we truly are - beloved children of God - that we have heard or told ourselves and believed? This time of Advent, will we take advantage of the gift of reconciliation, use this opportunity to go to Confession to really rid ourselves of all these things? Until we “repent” of these things, and clear these paths to our hearts, Jesus can’t fully reside within us... and that joy we seek will continue to elude us. Jesus longs for us to experience the true happiness that His coming to us means. Imagine what a Christmas we could have if we experienced that ourselves. What better gift is there than to give that to one another.