The Advent Dispositions to Climb the Lord’s Mountain, First Monday of Advent, December 1, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Our Lady of the Nativity Chapel
Relevant Radio Studios, Green Bay, WI
Monday of the First Week of Advent
December 1, 2014
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: 

  • Advent involves a double dynamism. The word itself means “coming” and points first 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. 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.
  • Today’s readings help us to ponder six different ways we’re called to run out to meet the Lord during Advent and beyond.
  • In the Gospel, the Roman 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 goes 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.” We need to live each Advent not in a routine way but with faith. Advent isn’t just a yearly ritual of preparation for exchanging gifts at Christmas. It’s a season of faith, in which we await the Lord and go to meet him in new, more profound ways.
  • The second Advent disposition we see in the Centurion is that he goes out with humility. When Jesus, having encountered him, says that he will come to the Centurion’s 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. His faith and humility were, by God’s design, what made the miracle he was asking for possible. Advent is a season of humility in which we recognize that we’re not worthy of the Lord who is coming, 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.
  • The third disposition we see is the recognition of the need for healing. 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 the people cry out to the Lord that he might “instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.” It’s a recognition that we need the Lord to show us how to live, that we haven’t been living by his ways and walking in his paths. But we also see in this reading the dramatic effects of conversion, when Isaiah says, “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.” Our sins lead us to war with others, but once we really convert to God’s being present among us, once we begin to live in his kingdom, then we convert our weapons into farming and viniculture instruments; we cease warring and we begin collaborating.
  • The fourth disposition is exertion. “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,” we say with Isaiah, “to the house of the God of Jacob.” It requires work to hike up a mountain. The mountain of Jerusalem is 20 miles from Jericho to the summit. Advent always requires effort. We see the effort that the Centurion made, leaving Capernaum behind and going to meet Jesus in the mountains that stretched between the mountains of Galilee and the fishing city on the Galilean sea. Are we willing to make that effort? It’s an effort to make the time for prayer and to come, for example, to daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration. It’s an effort to make time prayerfully to read the Bible. It’s an effort to care for the poor, needy and lonely, especially among our family members and fellow parishioners. Advent is a time in which, pondering the Lord’s effort in coming into our world, we reciprocate with effort and persevere in climbing not a little hill but a mountain.
  • The fifth disposition is a willingness to make that climb with others. We prayed, “Come, let us,” not “let me,” “climb the mountain of the Lord,” so that he could “instruct us” in his ways. 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 other. 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.
  • 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 last year 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, humility, converted and healed hearts, with stamina, 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; with effort, seeking to conform ourselves to him whom we’re about to eat; together with others, made “one Body, one Spirit” in Christ; and with joy, because we’re about to receive within the “pearl of great price!,” the one before whom the Magi gave the most precious gifts they had, because they saw that those gifts were nothing in comparison to the Gift we’re now about to receive. 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.

 

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.”