2nd Sunday of Advent, 2018
Holiness First (Fr. Bill)
In today’s first reading we heard “…for God is leading Israel [His people, His Church] in joy by the light of His glory, with His mercy and justice for company.” (Baruch 5:9) If you savor those words for a few moments you start to have a sense of something wonderful, something too much to be contained or conveyed in human words. It is the kind of thing that makes me feel really inept as a preacher a but I do know it is all about Jesus.
Yesterday, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in the Office of Readings I read this from St. Anselm, “Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.” The eternally begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is the Word which God spoke in the act of creating all that is. This pure spirit became Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, in the womb of Mary. As Mary’s Son, Jesus redeemed fallen mankind from the dis-communion of original sin. It is all about Jesus.
In my homily notes for the Immaculate Conception I found this maxim which Cardinal John Henry Newman took as his guide for life: “Holiness before peace.” Holiness, which is communion with God or union with God’s will, is our natural condition, our default position. This communion with God was the foundation and source of the perfect peace of the Garden of Eden. The secular world tells us that we can have peace apart from communion with God. This is a lie. The truth is that holiness comes first; only then can anything else fall in place.
Original sin is the doctrine that we are all (and each) born into a dysfunctional family – i.e. the human race. The dysfunction of the human family came about as a direct consequence of Adam and Eve’s choice for dis-communion with God through an act of direct disobedience to God. Mary was born into this family but preserved from the dysfunction of original sin from the moment of her conception. She was conceived in communion with God having been protected by grace from the dis-communion of sin. This prepared her to be the ‘place’ of the new and everlasting communion between God and man Which is Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Oh yes, it is all about Jesus.
In the womb of Mary, the Perfect-Communion-Between-God-and-Man took flesh, grew and was born into the family made dysfunctional by original sin. In Advent the Church bids us to open ourselves to the call to holiness from Jesus in our daily lives so that He can overcome the dysfunction of sin and restore us to communion with God, which is the foundation and source of our peace, joy, success, meaning, love etc. Advent is all about Jesus.
Advent reminds us that our holiness, our communion with God, begins today, as it did in the beginning, with God. So, “What is God doing for your holiness?” This is all about Jesus and can be answered in so many ways. For the moment a brief sketch of what Jesus does for us through, with and in the Church, which is His body and His Bride, will have to do.
In the Church, Jesus gives us:
- the liturgical year, the Year of Grace, which is the basic spiritual exercise program that makes sure we are plugged into the fundamentals of holiness in our daily lives.
- the Mass at which we are present at the entire Pascal Mystery by which Jesus makes us holy, in the Upper Room at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane at the hour of watching and prayer, at the crucifixion and death, and at the glorious/victorious resurrection of Jesus.
- the sacraments starting with the Eucharist, the Body of Christ given for us on the cross and given to us in the Bread of Life; and leading to the “holy” sacraments of orders and matrimony in which we are called to make each other holy, to bring each other to communion with God, by the power of God’s love released in the Blood of Christ.
The apparent next question is, “What are we doing about our own holiness?” It is the work of God so pray as if everything depends on God. But we must cooperate with the will of God through our own efforts so work as if everything depends on you. Doing the bare minimum to slide under the gates of Heaven as they are closing is not enough. Going to Mass on Sundays does not make you a good Catholic – although you cannot be a good Catholic without going to Mass on Sundays. Advent is a really good place to start (which is why the Church starts each Year of Grace with Advent) as we remember the historical coming of Christ while looking to His second coming in power and glory for the purpose of embracing the present/daily coming of Christ in Word, in Sacrament and in others i.e. the poor.
What can we do? A small sampling of the innumerable opportunities for your growth in holiness are:
- daily mass – particularly if you are retired you now have the opportunity to do things you couldn’t do while raising a family and holding down a job.
- morning/evening prayer – give the beginning and end of each day to Jesus.
- the rosary – sit down with Mary and let her go through her family album with you.
- Bible reading – God really does talk to you but you have to approach it asking yourself, “What is God saying to me right here, right now?”
- various adult classes about our Catholic faith – you will be amazed at what there is to learn about God’s efforts to reestablish communion with you through His Son, Who is also the Son of Mary.
- ADORATION during which you can do any of the others mentioned above.
- ADORATION which is available in our new chapel 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
- ADORATION because: It’s All About Jesus.
In today’s second reading St Paul tells us: “I am confident of this, that the One Who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” In other words: God never stops working on your holiness! The only question is: What are you doing for your holiness today!