Homily, Advent Sunday 1C
For the past 100 years, one disease has afflicted more young people than perhaps any other, but there continues to be very little research into the causes and treatment options available to those who suffer from this disease. And even though many people around me were unaware, I myself have also had to learn to cope with this disease for many years. Its formal name in medicine is senioritis, and its characteristic symptoms are a more or less severe lack of motivation and a constant questioning of “What’s the point?” Senioritis, as its name suggests, most often afflicts seniors in high school or seniors in college, but what most doctors won’t tell you is that its onset may be much earlier than the senior year, and since it is a chronic disease, in its most severe cases, the almost complete lack of motivation has been known to last for almost the entire duration of college and into many years of graduate school or even into one’s occupation. With almost 21 years as a student in formal education, I have explored different treatment options, but I very quickly settled upon the art of procrastination.
Now I call procrastination an art because it is best learned through experience, and it has to be able to respond freely and creatively to the natural ebb and flow of motivation, even when motivation appears in the almost indiscernible levels of one who suffers from chronic senioritis. Even someone advanced in his skills of procrastination needs to take advantage of those opportunities to work ahead when he is suddenly taken up by a fever of motivation. Now, by working ahead, I mostly mean just thinking about the actual work that will eventually need to be done, so if it is a paper you need to write, you might think about the topic and different ways you might approach it while you continue to focus most of your attention on other things. You could even discuss the paper topic with others, or do some reading or actual research ahead of time, but these actions tend to be more difficult because they come dangerously close to resembling actual work. In working ahead, the goal is to have at least a minimum of groundwork done so that as the deadline approaches, you will be able to take full advantage of your motivation as it reaches its peak.
The deadline played a very important role for me as I tried to cope with senioritis through my skills of procrastination. In the few days or hours before the time when an assignment was due, I would be able to work quite efficiently because of a slight elevation in my motivation. I could keep vigil and work on the assignment even through the night, but I did learn to take a nap for two or three hours when my brain would stop working sometime after midnight. This method of procrastination managed to get me through many papers and many years of school, but it was stressful at times. And procrastination is actually not a very good treatment for senioritis because of its reliance on clear due dates. The approach of a deadline is actually no guarantee of an elevation in motivation.
As we begin this Advent season, the deadline of our lives is unknown to us, but here we are, on the first Sunday of a new liturgical year, each one of us one year closer to our final examination, whether that will be at the end of the world or at the end of our life. But are we closer than we were last year to being ready, as we hear in today’s Gospel, ready “to stand before the Son of Man,” when we will be judged in truth on our love, on whether we allowed God to make us “increase and abound in love for one another and for all” as we hear in the second reading? Is there still any reason for us to fear “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones”? Have we contracted senioritis when it comes to our lives of faith? Have our hearts “become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life”? Do we need, perhaps, to spend more time in prayer, in Mass, and in Confession, and less time on the computer, on our phones, and in front of our TVs? More time in genuine love and goodwill towards those around us, in acts of kindness and consideration, and less time in judgment and condemnation of others or their motives?
The deadline is fast approaching for each one of us, whether we know it or not, and procrastination may not be an option for any of us. Please do what you need to do to find the motivation, to pray for the motivation, to desire with all your heart the coming of God’s kingdom. Let’s not wait another year to get our lives in order, to make the changes that need to be made in order to welcome Christ with all our hearts this Christmas. Today is the day. Now is the time of salvation. This is the year and the time for mercy. Jesus waits for each of us with open arms.