Sunday Sermon for December 2, 2012, the First Sunday of Advent, Year C

Readings: Jer 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

In the second reading today St. Paul exhorts us that as we have learned to conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God, so we are to do even more. This sounds like we can never be good enough for God. Of course, by ourselves we cannot make ourselves good enough, but that is not the point that St. Paul is making. Instead, he says that he wants us to increase and abound in love so that we will be blameless and holy at the coming of Jesus.

St. Paul is asking us to focus on our love for God and our love for neighbor. Because he is speaking of love, then we can say it is never enough. Love, by its nature, either grows or diminishes; it never just remains the same. For this reason, we have to keep pushing ourselves forward, trying to love more and more. As you can see, it is not a matter that we are not loving enough, but when you truly love someone, you naturally want to love that person more. The other person is completely satisfied with your love, but you will never be satisfied that you are loving enough; you will always want to love more.

As we strive for perfect love we will become blameless and holy because love never wrongs the neighbor. In other words, if we are acting in real love, we would never sin because we would not want to offend the person we love. This is certainly true on the human level, but it is even more so when it comes to loving God. In fact, while we want to love others just for who they are, our love for them should flow from our love for God Who made them in His image and likeness.

If we fail to love, then we act in selfishness. Any time we act out of selfishness we sin because we use people rather than love them. Jesus warns us not to become drowsy because of carousing or drunkenness. While we may not be out drinking or carousing, per se, we can use this as an analogy to remind ourselves not to become complacent in our quest for holiness.

Our Lord tells us that we are to be vigilant and to pray. When our Lord appeared the first time people were all caught up in the anxieties of daily life and they missed the Lord when He was born. How often do we miss the Lord’s working in our midst because we are too concerned about other things that do not really matter?

Our Lord tells us that when we see things happening that will cause other people to die of fright, we are to stand up and hold our heads high because our redemption is at hand. The only way this can happen is if we develop love for God to the degree St. John speaks of when he says that perfect love casts out all fear. We recall that when Herod and the people of Jerusalem heard about the birth of the Messiah they shook like leaves. We can understand Herod’s fear, but why would the people if Jerusalem be afraid? The only reason is because they we more intent on the things of the world than on the things of God.

The Lord promised through the Prophets that He would raise up a righteous shoot for David. This was the hope of Israel, but for us it is the foundation of our faith. Israel had to look forward without knowledge of who this person would be and what he would do. Because of this it might be understandable that they would get distracted. We, on the other hand, know Who the Shoot is that was foretold by both Jeremiah and Isaiah, and if we take the eyes of our hearts off of Him we have no excuse.

With all of this in mind, perhaps for this Advent season we can all commit ourselves to making greater progress in holiness. We can all consider our Blessed Lady and the interior preparations she made for the birth of her Son. She did not become drowsy from the anxieties of life because she trusted in God and kept her heart focused on Him.

As we saw earlier, all of us can grow in love, no matter what degree of love we have achieved. All of us can work at the prayer life, penances, acts of charity and the like. This is what St. Paul calls us to, but it is also what should flow naturally from our love for the Lord. Hopefully we can all say that we are conducting ourselves in a way that is pleasing to the Lord; spend Advent striving to become blameless, holy, and abounding in love.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit