Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians1:4-6,8-11; Psalm 126; Luke 3:1-6
For the last three weeks Rev. Sr. Susan, Taoiseach Ivan and I, in our homilies, have spoken of living in the kingdom now, the coming of Christ, the coming of the kingdom, the end of the world and our preparation for these events. But, what exactly is it we are preparing for? Some sort of disaster movie scenario, or a Spielberg-esque parting of the clouds? No. What we are preparing for is Homecoming. That is why we “trim the hearth and set the table”, Our Lord is Coming, and with his appearance comes also our true home, the new heavens and the new earth, where he has prepared a place for us, so we prepare a place for him in our hearts and homes. Our home with the Saints, Angels and the Triune God where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” We will no longer be strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land, at odds with and struggling against the culture, standards and morals of this world. We will be home, free from the shackles of sin, pain, death, sorrow and loss. Free to worship and love God and our neighbor without doubt, hindrance or danger. Free to be who we were created to be – the image and likeness of God.
So our preparation for this homecoming is to “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path…and all people shall see the salvation of God,” and “…that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ.” What are the things that really matter? Well, first of all, usually, they are not things at all as we understand them, not objects but virtues: Faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, mercy, compassion, kindness, self-control and people – people matter, more, really than anything else. Our preparation for our homecoming includes preparing as many other people as possible for theirs. As I said in my last homily, there is no US and THEM, we are all children of God, some, however, are lost and don’t know it, or have rejected it. The best way to do this, as I have said before, is to live in this Home now. To create in our homes and families, our communities and workplaces, to the best of our ability, a little corner of the heavenly kingdom. A place where Christ reigns, Love reigns, where mercy and forgiveness abound, where bodies, minds and hearts are warmed, fed and healed. Where everyone is nourished with the Word of God and where Truth abides. Is this hard? Yes. Is it, sadly, especially hard at this time of year when Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday urge us to BUY, BUY, BUY? When the new toys, or the new game have taken center stage in our children’s, and sometimes even our own, lives? Yes, it is. It is difficult at all times to hold the line against the encroachment of worldly things, ideas and illusions, to ground ourselves, our lives, homes and families, in the Gospel of Christ, to take a stand and say, “Here is the kingdom of God.” But we must do it, the very best that we can, whatever our circumstances, we may stumble and fall, we may be tripped up somehow, but every day we must keep building our corner of the kingdom.
The Season of Advent is a time to take a good look at how we are doing in this labor, and is rich with opportunities to incorporate islands of devotion into our lives. Lighting the Advent candles with prays and hymns, celebrating St. Nicholas, the children’s Saint, on his Feast Day, setting up a crèche and having the shepherds and wise men come closer and closer each week while reading the Nativity story from the Gospels, donating, as a family, to local shelters in the name of the Holy Family, who found no room at the inn. Cleaning and decorating our homes prayerfully, in preparation for the Holy Guest who is Coming. In fact, anything we do in anticipation of Christmas can be done in the true spirit of the Season, if that is how we choose to do it.
Home is where the heart is, our home, our heart is in Christ, let us prepare our hearts and homes for his Coming.
“People look east. The time is near of the crowning of the year. Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table. People look east and sing today: Love, the Guest, is on the way.”
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