Homily, Advent Sunday 1B
Every year or so, we get another shipment of these little blue books, The Catholic Devotional. I remember these from my home parish as I was growing up. I don’t think I used them all that much, but on one of the pages, at least in earlier printings, there was sort of a clever poem that has come to mind again recently. The poem is titled, “No Time”: I knelt to pray but not for long. / I had too much to do. / I had to hurry and get to work / For bills would soon be due. // So I knelt and said a hurried prayer / And jumped up off my knees. / My Christian duty was now done. / My soul could rest at ease. // Now all day long I had no time / To spread a word of cheer. / No time to speak of Christ to friends. / They’d laugh at me I’d fear. // “No time. No time. Too much to do.” / That was my constant cry. / No time to give to souls in need. / At last the time to die. // I went before the Lord, I came, / I stood with downcast eyes. / For in his hands God held a book. / It was the book of life. // God looked into his book and said, / “Your name I cannot find. / I once was going to write it down / But never found the time.”
It’s popular today in our culture to be always busy, to be filling our time with all sorts of activities, and to convey to the people around us that we’re really busy. I’ve fallen into this habit myself when someone asks me how things are going or how I’m doing, the easy and standard reply is, “It’s been busy, lots of funerals this year,” and maybe it has, but each of us is given the same 24 hours each day, and we always seem to find the time for things we really want to do.
This Advent season is a great opportunity to ask ourselves, Are we really spending our time wisely, on the things of lasting importance in life? And how much do we really invest in that relationship that is meant to last for ever? The Catechism quotes St. Alphonsus Liguori as saying, “Those who pray are certainly saved. Those who do not pray are certainly damned.” Now if any of us are too busy to pray, we really are too busy. As the Gospel tells us, if we are too busy—or too lazy—to keep watch for the Lord’s return, we risk our entire eternity. Nothing else in this short life is of greater importance.
So what is the quality of our prayer, and how many hours of practice have we really devoted to it? Is prayer a skill we’ve actually worked at to develop? Is it enough just to be present for maybe an hour each week, as prayer is going on around us? Or do we speak to God personally? Do we surrender ourselves into God’s hands, each day and in each moment, not just paying lip service, but really striving to open our hearts and minds to God, to give Him our full attention and our sincere concerns? God is not a thing, but we often seem to treat Him more like something rather than treating Him like Someone. He isn’t just some force that we rely on or perform a certain set of tasks or say certain words to get Him to do what we want Him to. God is a Trinity of Persons. Do we talk to God, to the Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, as we would talk to the person next to us, someone that we can see and hear? Or do we more often relate to God as if He’s not really real?
Many of us have things that we do or give up during the season of Lent, but how many of us make a similar commitment for Advent? Disciplines that would be appropriate for Advent would include things like a media fast, shutting off the TV and social media, or really limiting ourselves to just a short amount of time each day for these activities, looking at a screens, and leave ourselves more time to pray, to “be watchful,” to “be alert” for the Lord, to read Scripture and the Catechism, to spend time listening to all that God has said to us, to what God continues to say to His people. God doesn’t want this to be just another December for us, another missed opportunity. How is God calling you to grow in prayer and vigilance this Advent season? What spiritual exercises have we neglected for a while, as we’ve made ourselves too busy? Advent is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the daily Rosary, daily meditation, the morning offering, night prayer.
Don’t let this Advent be another missed opportunity, that we could end up regretting for the rest of eternity. We do not know the day or the hour when the Lord will call us from this life. “Be watchful! Be alert!” Be ready at all times for your Lord’s return.