Saturday, January 8, 2011

Homily: First Sunday of Advent - Year A

First Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-9; Rom 13:11-14; Matt 24:37-44

Reliving our Hope and Expectation with Joy and Peace:
Dear friends in Christ,

Few days ago I walked into a friend’s office at Molloy College at Rockville Center. On the office wall was boldly and impressively printed- HOPE. It attracted my attention and I said to my friend, wa...o! I like that.  And my friend said, Yes, Mike “Hope” is so important for me. You and I we have also seen people on the street wearing a shirt with the inscription – Hope on it. Parents have also named their children “Hope”. I am sure nobody would want his or her child name “Despair”.  In 2007 Pope Benedict the XVI titled his Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi- in hope we were saved, words drawn from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans  8:24. Paul, like Israel prophets, spent a great deal of his missionary efforts on the themes of Faith, Hope and Love. President Barack Obama began his political journeys with the publication of his The Audacity of Hope. He reflected on the hard work and accomplishment of our founding fathers, the past and the present, and ended up recommending optimism in the face of the challenges ahead.  Like today’s Bible Readings, all these suggest or affirm the importance of hope, joy and peace in our daily lives, particularly as Christians.  So be it a friend who sits in the office in Molloy College, or young man or woman who walks on the street, or the parents who give name to a child, or the  Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, St. Paul or the prophets of Israel or politicians who run for public office today, the virtue of Hope is indispensible- which is a supernatural gift  of God by which we firmly trust that God will empower us to success, God will give us eternal life if we do what He  requires of us, if we vigilantly wait for him in prayers and endurance.

 Each year we set out on a journey of reliving the mysteries of the Advent (coming) of Christ Jesus with joy, reading the Scriptures. Today ushers in Advent, a season of hope; a season of joyful and spiritual expectation of the coming Christ at Christmas and at the Parousia. Christ is the Light of the world and his presence among us is everlasting as symbolize by our Advent wreath.   During this season Christians are encouraged to recall and reflect on the history of their salvation, and read through Matthew’s gospel.  Israel’s prophets, John the Baptist and Mary who waited for Christ with love are our models and witnesses to his expectation preparedness to welcome the Lord. Israel’s prophets were the conscience of the people of their times. They encouraged believers in times of despair to hope; in times of temptation to trust in God alone. They pronounced judgment as well God’s love, peace and salvation for the poor remnant.

In the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah we hear that God is coming with salvation for the poor displaced by wars and man’s instinct to dominate another. We hear from Isaiah that all nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord and that God will re-establish Jerusalem (Zion) as the center of His worldwide kingdom and reconcile hostile nations to Himself. Moreover, nations shall not raise sword against another, nor shall they train for war anymore (Isa 2:3-4; Mic 4:2ff).

Prophet Isaiah, whom we shall hear often from this Advent, was addressing a nation that had experienced wars, and threats upon threats of war and annihilation. He was addressing Ahaz, Hezekiah and a nation of Judah whose pilgrimage of faith and hope were shaken. He was addressing a nation that had witnessed concrete threats of Assyrian and Babylonian military arsenal. He was addressing a people who were afraid of losing the promise that God had promised David, that a shoot, shall come from the house of David or that Mary will be the mother of Christ at Christmas ( Isa 7:4). He was addressing a nation left with the choice to worship God or not to worship God; to rely on God or on human military power.  Isaiah did what was prophetically possible to give them hope and signs of optimism that God is always with us. God will never abandon Jerusalem.

Isaiah’s message of hope is also reflected in today’s Psalm 122, a pilgrimage song “I will rejoice when I heard them say “we will go to the Lord’s House… pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may those who love you prosper.” This song reflects not only the pilgrimage of Israel but what went on in their lives journeys; the sufferings and the fatigue they endured; the dust  the swallowed on the way; the hunger they experienced, the threats of foreign military might watching them, the thirstiness and homelessness they lived through. Yet, we hear this song of hope- “I will go (nahalak) to the Lord’s House. I will wait for the Lord with joyful praise.

Our Christian life is a pilgrimage from baptism to meeting Christ at the parousia. On this journey, which is usually very long, often there are mistakes, bumps, doubts, temptations, frustrations, hesitations, uncertainties, and some spiritual casualties on the way.  While travelling this road of life many of may have lost our jobs or our loved ones before. Some of us may have experienced what unemployment after years of college is like or some other unpleasant experiences that would make us less hopeful that God is still with us. Think of the unending wars and threat of terrorism and acts of violence. Like the contemporaries of Isaiah we still share today in the hope, peace, joy, prosperity and salvation that await us in the future coming of Christ.
The Early Christian communities were also a hopeful community. They were always expecting and looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ. For Paul in Roman 13:11-14 just as in today’s Gospel of Matthew 24:37-44 waiting for Christ should not be in idleness or wastefulness in works of darkness and sins of rivalry, unhealthy competition, jealousy, drunkenness and lust, but we should all remain clothed with an amore of light, watchful through prayers, mortification, detachment, examination of our consciences, works of charity, peace cultivation, community and nation building. Opposite of these would have distracted us from this watchfulness.

After all if the coming of Christ to us at Christmas and at the Parousia is meaningful, Jesus’ concrete and daily coming to our lives is as also important. Christ comes to us in our children and in our neighbor’s children. Christ comes to us in our husbands and in our neighbor’s husbands. Christ comes to us in our wives and in our neighbor’s wives. Christ comes to us in our priests and pastors.. Christ comes to us in our brothers and sisters, in our neighbors. He comes to us in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist of which we avail ourselves of at this Year’s Advent. He comes to us in our friends, in the poor, in the sick, in the needy, in the less fanciful.  He comes to us in those that are less friendly to us. He comes to us in every event of our lives and in the Sacraments. Can we wait with hope, can we offer hope to others and recognize Christ advent and his presence in our midst?
 And may the advent of Christ find us at peace, reliving our hope, vigilant in prayer, rejoicing in His abiding presence and welcoming Him in the Light of His truth and love. Amen.