Fr Chris Lemieux’s Homily for the First Sunday of Advent [Sunday December 1, 2013]; at St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham: One of the many things I will miss when I leave parish ministry in four weeks are the questions which I was asked by the students at the schools. These questions kept me real in my faith as I had to think about faith from the perspective of the young people who asked these questions; often tough questions. And they deserved to have the answer to the questions so I spent some time seeking to answer their questions through the Youth Blog here at St. Pat’s [and now I begin another Blog experience]. I’ve learned as much as I’ve shared in doing that.
There are many things which we just take for granted, or glance over and I know that in their asking me questions I found my own faith challenged in many ways – and that’s a good thing!
Well, what does all of this have to do with Advent? What does that have to do with me? In our Gospel today, Jesus mentions the Flood and brings it into the context of the people of the time; the people He reaches out to. He does not want anyone to think the account of the Flood or Noah is irrelevant, an insignificant event in time; something that any of us should become indifferent to.
My friends, in the questions that were asked of me in the classroom, more often than you might imagine, young people ask about the Old Testament. They also ask why should we have Advent if Jesus already came? Or what does it mean to expect or await Jesus again this way? Sometimes in our haste to move on, or to sooth and ease their minds, we tell them that God’s not like the God we experience or hear of in the Old Testament, or that the people of the Old Testament got it wrong, when nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes we make the mistake of categorizing God of the Old Testament as a vengeful, angry, jealous God and then a different God is revealed to us in the New Testament.
God is one for all time, always a God of love but we have been challenged throughout history to see that love for what it is and always was. God reveals that love fully and completely through the Son, the Messiah, Jesus. He has encouraged all of us throughout all of human history with the same message: Keep awake! Be alert!
This is what Advent helps us with. Advent is a new beginning. Advent defined means a coming, an arrival. Of course, in a visible, tangible way, in a way which enlivens our Christian faith; we await the coming and arrival of the Christ child, the holy infant in Bethlehem. Advent needs to be a time when we reflect on our faith and how we live that out. It is for each one of us a time we are invited by God to “go deeper” in that faith. Going back to the flood for a moment, if we recall that account in Genesis, what many of us recall are the vivid concepts of the death, destruction, of God “wiping out most of the world” rather than how Noah and all creation remaining entered into a brand new experience, where evil and sin had been wiped away. Though Noah and his family remained part of humanity with original sin, still capable and likely to sin; they were given the chance to begin again. We must begin Advent with a fresh new perspective; one that draws the greatest lessons from the Gospels and the Old Testament. A perspective that considers the saving and healing powers of the sacrament; baptism which was for all of us our first Advent; the Eucharist which is in itself an Advent celebration as we await the coming of the Lord with joyful expectation and Confession which prepares our hearts and minds for that joy.
The account of the flood like every word of God and proclaimed so often in the Gospels speaks of an ever-patient God, a God of second and third and fourth chances. It’s of less importance to God that we sin, and more that we pick ourselves up and keep trying to become better people day by day.
And central to that is the Eucharist. Next to the Eucharist is confession; the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In Advent, like Lent we see purple in our liturgy because we stress and emphasize confession; our need for forgiveness because we are only free to love when we are forgiven. What’s given to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is what’s given to us in Advent – a new beginning. My friends, Advent is a time to change, to pause, to reflect on our lives and to amend our ways. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s anyone here who doesn’t need that – I know I sure do. Our Gospel calls us to keep awake! To be ready! The Lord has been reaching out to each one of us, He has and He is! Our readiness can only be found in our self-awareness; our ongoing desire to become more aware of who we are with our strengths and weaknesses. It is who we are as Catholics; sinners who are aware and acknowledge we are sinners, but loved sinners all the same. We should not be morbid or morose about that. We should not ever beat ourselves up for our sins – but we should drop them off in confession, and allow the Lord’s absolution to free us so we can get on with the joyful and best part of being a Christian; rejoicing in the Lord; to go rejoicing in the house of the Lord as our psalm today says. Let us be like the children of our faith community who ask questions, seeking answers, who want to know their faith by the questions they ask, and continue to grow as a community and as important members of this Christian community; approaching and embracing this Advent season as a season of new beginning. The Lord comes deeper into our midst, the more we allow Him to. Let us all unite ourselves today in our commitment to that for ourselves, in our families and to each other. May God bless you.