Today we begin the 4-week season of Advent, which is, of course, preparation for the birth of Christ in a manger at Christmas. So, be honest, when you heard the Gospel today, how many of you thought that we made a mistake and read last week’s readings instead of today's? If you were expecting to begin hearing about Mary and Joseph and the nice peaceful first coming of the baby Jesus, instead of the terrifying signs of the end of time and the 2nd coming of Christ in great power and glory, that is understandable. But we need to reflect on the importance of both of the comings of Christ and ask ourselves: how are we approaching the second person of the Trinity who is both fully human and fully Divine?
Who do you say that Jesus is? Think about that question, what attributes come to your mind when you think of Jesus? Likewise, if we were to ask random people on the street who they say Jesus is, what do you think they’d say? For many people Jesus was a person born in a manger, his parents were Mary and Joseph, he did some great things, and said some inspiring words to live by. Perhaps some people would say that Jesus said that we should treat each other fairly, how we want to be treated. That he said we should love one another and forgive one another, and that those are good words to live by. And those are all true, and we should live by those words. But notice that many people on the street could say that, even if they were atheists or agnostics. But our view of Christ needs to be different, we need to know Him in His fullness. Too often we can focus on the human person of Jesus loving us and wanting to be in a relationship with us, and if you know me, I am all about fostering our relationship with him. We can and should think that no matter what we do, God is always with us and will never leave us. We should believe that God’s love for us is unconditional, that there is nothing we can do that will make him love us less. And we should remember that God wants to forgive us, and that there is nothing we can do that God won’t forgive. We should keep in mind that God did become human and calls us ‘friend’, and wants us to be that close with Him. And indeed, we should live in that freedom, live in that joy and peace which that relationship brings. However, sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, that truth can be so engrained in our hearts and minds that we become a little laxed in our Spiritual life. We can think, it’s ok, I can do this or that sin, because I know God will still love me and forgive me. We can so easily take God’s love and mercy for granted, that we don’t try as hard and become lazy in our spiritual life. However, our Gospel today says, “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of life…but be vigilant at all times”.
Indeed, we can become so comfortable with God who became human that sometimes we can become slack in how we see and approach God- as Divine. Today I challenge us to consider and keep in mind and heart Jesus as a Divine person. Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, transcendent God, through whom all things were made. Last week, we celebrated our faith proclaiming Christ, the King of the Universe. Do we really acclaim Jesus Christ to be King? And not just to be king and have authority over me and my life, which is difficult enough, but also King of the Universe. In the 2nd reading last week we heard from the beginning of the book of Revelation, the last book of the bible. It read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God, ‘the One who is who was and who is to come, the almighty”. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God holds all of history, all of time now, and all of the future in His hands. He knows all of it and is Lord over all of it. Do we really acclaim God to be Lord over our future?
And so, what still blows my mind, and hopefully yours too, is that this same all-knowing, all-powerful God and Creator of all that is and ever will be, is the same God who chose to become human as a little baby and have Mary and Joseph as his parents. The same transcendent God not only wants to be known by you and I, but makes Himself approachable and to abide in us, and we in Him. The all-good, all-loving and transcendent God wants us to love and to be in relationship with Him.
Therefore, I ask you to reflect on how you approach God, particularly in the Holy Mass. Have you become perhaps a little too comfortable, lazy, and casual in how you approach your King and God, or perhaps you are on the other side of the spectrum and view God as too impersonal and too distant? There should be a balance. After all, the same God who reveals and draws us close to Himself, also calls us to take off our shoes, so to speak, because we are on holy ground. So, let’s bring it to a practical level, for example, think about why you came to Mass today. Did you come here today because you feel obligated or because it might just be your routine? We should come because we love God and want to worship Him. Think about if giving our love to God is really the primary reason that we come to Mass. Or maybe the primary reason you came was because you want and need something from God? Yes, God is generous and wants to and always give us something, namely Himself. But also, He is King and Lord, and so deserves to be worshipped. Let’s delve even further into the practicality of how we worship. Most likely, though we are all invited, none of us would go to a wedding feast, of anyone, but especially not of a King, empty-handed, just to receive. But yet, that is what many people do, come, not giving anything. Likewise, look at what you are wearing, does your attire show the dignity of a wedding feast? I’m not saying that everyone should wear tuxedos and white dresses, but you get my point. Our dress should show the dignity of where we are and what we are doing. And before you might think that God doesn’t really care if I wear shorts and a t-shirt, but only what is on the inside- sorry but throughout the entire bible, God is concerned with both, because He knows the external affects the internal, and vice versa. Likewise, how do you approach sitting in the pews, what does your entrance speak about your attitude towards Christ? When you come in or out of the pew, do you reverently genuflect toward the Presence of Christ our King in the tabernacle? Or do you forget about genuflecting, or perhaps you do so quickly, with half-effort, and maybe no heart, not thinking about what you’re doing? Think about what it says to genuflect. Although we might bow to somebody, we don’t genuflect to anyone else but God, so let us do it with meaning and reverence, externally and in our hearts. Another aspect to reflect; how well do you really pray, respond, and sing with your voice, and heart, during Mass. Do you truly give yourself in worship, or are you passive in how you are present to God? If you don’t know, ask me and Fr. Rey, we will share with you what we see from our vantage point. Think about what shows God you love him more- being passive or active participation from your heart. I promise the more we put into how we participate in the Mass, the more we will get out of it, but also our love for God will grow. Perhaps more importantly, think about how you receive Holy Communion, is your heart conscious of what you are really doing? Let me share with you that I grew up receiving Holy Communion on my hand, and with hardly a concern if any particles might remain on my hand, drop to the ground, and be stomped upon. But one day after Mass in seminary I was eating a potato chip during lunch, and it dawned on me- I eat a potato chip the same way I receive the Body of Christ! I was appalled, so, besides wanting to prevent profanation- and let me tell you too that I’ve seen and heard of Sacred Hosts left in pews and song books after Mass, and much worse, in every parish I’ve been at, including this one. And so, I do strongly encourage you to receive directly on your tongue. When I did, it helped bring within myself a deeper reverence for what I was doing. And that is also why some of you choose to receive Holy Communion on your knees, because you want to bring about in yourself, but also in others, a deeper reverence for God. Good, God deserves all the reverence we can give. Finally, reflect on your actions after you receive Holy Communion, and even after Mass- are you so easily distracted thinking about the next thing you are going to, or are you truly recognizing you are one with the Transcendent and living God who makes Himself present within you? How much time do we spend, both after Communion and after Mass, in silence and prayer being with God, thanking, and telling God we love him?
If we are honest, we can all admit, that we are laxed in at least one of our approaches to our Divine Lord at Mass. If we were truly in awe of the miracle of our Lord becoming flesh, we would be paralyzed in love. The gift of Himself, our God who is fully Human and Divine is so amazing, so life changing, so unimaginable that we at times take Him for granted. We are so blessed that right now we are invited to show God how much we love Him. Here and now, let us ask God for the grace to have our hearts fully centered on giving our all in worshipping Him the rest of this Mass. May our old bad habits fall away and be replaced with new ones that show reverence and love from our hearts to our King.BACK TO LIST