30 NOVEMBER 2008

       As we hear in all three of our readings today the theme is waiting and watching. As our two daughters were being raised I can remember their excitement prior to birthdays and Christmas and other joyous occasions and more times that not they would say I can’t wait for this that or the other occasions, and I would say calmly and teasingly that yes you can wait. You know they never missed one, they all came and went.

       In the first reading of the Prophet Isaiah we hear the pleas of the sinful Israelites, calling for God to answer their prayers and needs. There is an Advent message in this reading, when they proclaim who their God is and then ask the Lord to come and meet the sinful people again in hope of finding them changed from their old ways.

       Advent should be viewed as a period of waiting with “devout and joyful expectation”. Archbishop Daniel tells us this weekend in his letter to us in the Criterion that, “Advent is a time of new grace for spiritual renewal, and it is characterized by a spirit of joy and hope. Once more, we prepare to celebrate the great act of divine humility whereby God’s own son is born a human person like us in order to become our Redeemer”.

       One of the first steps in preparing for this celebration of Advent is to get right with God. How do we get right with God? Well quite simply we need to enter into a period of prayer and ask forgiveness for our sinful ways. Most certainly the best way to ask for and receive forgiveness is through the sacrament of Reconciliation. In preparation for the start of our new Liturgical year and the season of Advent, we here at St. Malachy will have the opportunity to reconcile with God at a Penance service this Thursday evening at 7:00pm. The joyful expectation we celebrate during the Advent season is different from the penitential character we participate in during Lent. Both seasons beg to have a period of reconciliation. So come join us this Thursday evening, there will be numerous priests here to participate.

       In Saint Paul’s letter he encourages us to keep ourselves firm in the faith until the day of the Lord. Paul affirms that God is always present and that he will be faithful to the end if we put our trust in God, we too shall be kept firm until the end. What is the end? We believe that that will be the second coming of our Lord. In the early time the faithful believed that the Lord would come any time. They were constantly be exhorted to be ready to be watchful for the Lord. We should all be living joyfully while preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ’s in glory at the end of time what is referred to in Holy Scripture as the Parousia.

       In Mark’s gospel today it is very short but unambiguous, you must be ready. Mark doesn’t tell us when the Lord is coming but he will come when you least expect it. The first two weeks of Advent focus on watching for the Lord’s coming at the end of time. The last two weeks focus on Jesus coming as the Messiah at a particular time and place in history. In most of Mark’s writings he is generally brief and to the point.

       You know there is difference between watching and waiting. A good example of waiting is when we are trying to leave church and try to turn left. We are waiting for a spot in traffic so we can pull out and go on our way. We know we will be able to turn sooner or later because as I told our daughters while teaching them to drive that I had never heard of someone stuck for life trying to turn left. I always urged them to wait patiently and the right time would come.

       To be watchful is more like being on the lookout for the moving deer population when we are driving the highways and by ways of wonderful highway system. On the route I take to work to Cincinnati, I take a two lane highway in southeast Indiana as a shortcut. It is a winding 14 mile stretch of highway that has a few curves that invariably there will a deer or two standing there as you come around the curve. Now I know there will be at least one sighting every time I travel that road in the early morning hours. I am still startled when I see them. I have had many times when nothing was there, but I know they are out there. So I am always watching with the expectation that we might have a collision.

       My point is we can still be watching and waiting for the second coming of our Lord but one never knows when or where it might happen. We expect the Lord to return again but we know not when He will appear. We should live our lives with the expectation that he will return and we will be ready go when the Lord calls us. Just as the deer might be there around the corner we should not be surprised at where the Lord might be in our lives. The people in Paul’s time and to us in present day have yet to see the second coming of our Lord, but we should be living with the expectation that it could happen anytime.

       About 10 or 12 years ago, before I had ever thought of being a deacon, I visited a man in the hospital. He was there because he had suffered a heart attack and he was awaiting surgery. He wanted me to know that if the surgery didn’t go well and he was not able to continue his life with us that he was indeed ready to go. He had made his peace with the Lord and he wanted everyone in his family to know how he felt.

       He was thankful for the life he had and he felt he had done the best he could with his life. I believed him then and he still shares those feelings periodically with me because that man was and still is my father. I am pleased to say the Lord did not call him home then and he still with us today. He has been and still is my inspiration to pursue this vocation; I am in, as a Permanent Deacon.

       As we continue with our Liturgy today let us keep in mind and prayer those people who have been called before us to share their just rewards with our Lord in heaven, and also those who are preparing for the end of their lives in the near future. We pray that everyone who has gone before us was watching and waiting in prayerful expectation, and was ready for the journey home to meet our maker, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in the parable “be watchful! Be alert”, for we know not when the time shall come again.

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