Adopting Advent Virtues, 1st Monday of Advent, December 4, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the First Week of Advent
November 28, 2016
Is 2:1-5, Ps 122, Mt 8:5-11

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in this homily: 

  • In Advent, we focus fundamentally on the Lord’s coming. The word Advent itself means “coming” and points to the fact that during this season we renew our awareness that Christ is coming to us in history, mystery and majesty: history in Bethlehem; mystery in the Sacraments, prayer and in those made in his image and likeness; and in majesty at the end of time and the end of our lives. But we don’t wait passively. Christ’s coming is not the only action in this season. As we prayed yesterday in the collect to begin the Mass, we beg the Father for the grace of “resolve to run forth to meet” his Son “with righteous deeds at his coming.” Like the wise bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable (Mt 25), we head on out to meet him not merely at times that are convenient but in the middle of the night with lighted lamps. The Advent wreath is meant to symbolize by the lit candles that we are burning in expectation of him and that that expectation grows week by week as we run forth to meet him who is coming to us.
  • But we know that our “running” to meet Christ who is coming is not principally something external, but interior. Today’s readings, especially the figure of the Roman Centurion in the Gospel, models for us those interior virtues we need this Advent and beyond to run out to encounter the Lord.
  • In the Gospel, the centurion hears that Jesus is on his way to Capernaum, but he’s not content just to wait for him to show up. He goes out to meet him along the way and meets him at the edge of the city. He went out to meet him with faith. Jesus is amazed that he, a non-Jew, has so much faith and exclaims, “In no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Unlike Mary of Nazareth, the Centurion wasn’t raised on the Scriptures and his total trust resembled hers. He had a confident assurance that God could give him the miracle that he sought, even if he didn’t see it done, just like she believed all that the Lord said to her would be fulfilled. At the beginning of Advent, we can assess whether we go out to meet the Lord in history, mystery and majesty with this type of faith.
  • The second Advent disposition we see in the Centurion is what is at the root of that faith, a sense of obedience that makes him trust in the Lord’s authority. “I too am a man subject to authority,” he said, “with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The Lord Jesus was amazed at that confident faith, something that came from regular obedience of those in authority and grasping what authority Christ himself must be acting with. Similarly, our obedience — in religious life, in the priesthood, as disciples — helps us to grow in faith, because we know that the Lord acts with the authority of the one who created the heavens and the earth. In today’s first reading, through Isaiah, the Jews were taught to look forward to coming to the Lord’s temple so that “he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” We should long for the Lord to reveal his ways so that we may do what he commands. When we pray, “Thy will be done!,” we need to be attentive to the Lord’s will in ordinary daily activities, to the way the Lord Jesus tells us to come, go and do this. Advent is a time to run forth in obedience to God and his commands.
  • The third Advent virtue also strengthens our faith. It’s humility. When Jesus, having encountered the Centurion, says that he will come to the his home to heal his servant, the Centurion replies that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter his home. Even though he was a powerful leader in the Roman army with many men subject to his beck and call, he was still humble and recognized before Jesus that he did not merit that grace. But he also knew that Jews couldn’t enter pagan homes without becoming ritually impure, and so he wouldn’t even have dreamed of asking for it. Advent is a season of humility in which we recognize that we’re not worthy of the Lord who is coming, that our houses sometimes are unfit for the Lord, but that he wishes to say words of absolution and make us fit. This is a reality that is meant to fill us with gratitude at the awesome privilege we have of encountering the Lord. There’s a reason why we use the Centurion’s very words every time we prepare to meet Christ at his coming in mystery during Mass. Advent is a time to advance in the humble awe toward the Lord’s action.
  • The fourth Advent disposition is to live it with others. In the first reading we prayed, “Come, let us,” not “let me,” “climb the mountain of the Lord,” and finished with the words, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” In the Responsorial Psalm, we likewise prayed repeatedly, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” There’s a communal dimension to our faith that is essential to understanding what Advent is about. Jesus didn’t come into the world to save us as a whole bunch of isolated lost sheep. He came to form us into a sheepfold, into a family, into a communion. Advent is therefore a time of particularly focused spiritual and material solidarity. It’s a time that we make a pilgrimage not solo, but with others. Jesus pointed to that communion at the end of today’s Gospel scene when he promises, “I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” It’s a pilgrimage not merely with some friends, but a pilgrimage that he wants to be made by people of every nation, and so it’s a pilgrimage to which we intentionally are supposed to be inviting even those we don’t know at all or know well. To make this pilgrimage well, it means that we’re not just doing it along with others, but united with others. We prayed in the Psalm about how the Jerusalem to which the Jews were ascending, and we ascend together spiritually, has “compact unity.” This points to the type of tight bonds of unifying love we’re called to have toward each other. The Lord wants us to make this pilgrimage together with each other, up close, you and me and all those that the Lord places together with us. Let us help each other. And one of the greatest ways we help each other is through our prayer, which is another key aspect of today’s reading and our overall Advent dispositions. We all need healing and we need to pray for each other to receive the healing and salvation Christ brings. The Centurion went out to beg for healing for his servant, knowing that Jesus, even at a great distance, had the power to work a tremendous miracle, bringing someone at the point of death back to life. In Advent, we likewise pray for healing, for our healing and the healing of others, and most importantly the healing of the soul. The Lord wants to do in us something far greater than he did in the Centurion’s servant, not just raising us physically from the point of death but raising us spiritually from the death of the soul through sin. Advent is a season in which we hear St. John the Baptist’s persistent call to make straight the paths of that encounter with the Lord, to level the mountains of pride, to fill up the valleys of a shallow prayer life and to allow the Divine Physician surgically to excise from us in the operating room of the confessional whatever sins in us are killing us. The healing that comes from the grace of conversion and forgiveness is pointed to in today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, when God tells us he will “wash away” the “filth” of the daughters of Zion and fill her with himself. In Advent we go together to bathe in the Lord’s cleansing waters so that we might embrace him in life.
  • The firth virtue is a the habit of conversion. There’s a famous passage at the end of today’s first reading that is used even secularists at the United Nations. It’s inscribed in granite across from the UN and many of the protests of various groups take place before it. Isaiah prophesies, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In other words, they shall use what they used to employ to destroy in order to build, to uproot and annihilate in order to plant and raise up. It’s an occasion for us to ask how we’re spending our energies, our passions, and to convert them into means by which we’re building up God’s kingdom, anabolically enhancing our relationship with God and others’.
  • The sixth disposition is joy. We prayed six times in the Psalm, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” Our joint pilgrimage is one meant to be done with great happiness and enthusiasm. We’re supposed to say, “I rejoiced when they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord!” Jesus came into our world so that his joy might be in us and our joy might be complete (Jn 15:11). The Christian life, as Pope Francis wrote in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, is one great “stream of joy,” flowing from Jesus’ “brimming heart.” The Archangel Gabriel’s first words to Mary were “Rejoice!” On Christmas morning, the angels announced to the shepherds “good news of great joy” for all the people. The Lord wants us making the exertion to go up not out of dry duty but out of passionate, enthusiastic joy, a joy that flows from faith, a joy that comes from humility, a joy that can’t restrain itself because of the healing we’ve experienced, as we enter into God’s own joy that rejoices most of all over one repentant and reconciled sinner.
  • So as the Lord comes to us this Advent, we run out to meet him with faith, obedience, humility, converted and healed hearts, together with others, and joyfully. And the best way we grow in these dispositions is here at Mass as we prepare now to meet Jesus with faith acknowledging him as our Lord and God; with humility recognizing we’re not worthy to receive him; with conversion, begging him to say the word so that our souls will be healed; together with others, made “one Body, one Spirit” in Christ; with joy, because we’re about to receive within the “pearl of great price!,” and open to allowing his glory to flow through us as sap from vine to branches. Our response to the Mass is to say, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” so that he may “instruct us in his ways” in the Liturgy of the Word and so that he might strengthen us to “walk in his paths” by entering into us in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is where our Advent begins.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Alleluia SEE PS 80:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”