Sunday Sermon for December 3, 2017, the First Sunday of Advent, Year B

Readings: Is 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

As we begin a new Church year we kick off with a question that burns in the hearts of many people: You are our Father, our Redeemer; why do You let us wander from Your ways and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?  Of course, the answer is that God made us with free will and allows us to exercise our freedom, even if that means using it against Him.  It certainly demonstrates the love He has for us, but it also demonstrates the lack of love we have for Him.

Still, these same people would press on, but people have not been taught.  The catechetics have been so bad for the past fifty years, the media have filled the minds of so many with lies, the temptations against any points of morality are everywhere.  How can we blame the mess we are in on the people rather than on God?  After all, He is all-powerful, but He has allowed the evil one to cause tremendous destruction.

To this I can only say that God has written His Law in our hearts and on our minds, so even though there are many temptations and lies all around us, the truth is still within every one of us.  There are countless people today who claim to believe in God, but they will go no further.  In other words, they are saying they believe in the existence of God, but they interested neither in God Himself nor in what He has revealed.

They fail to recognize they are created in His image and likeness, they are made for truth and for love, they are made to spend eternity with the very God Whose existence they acknowledge.  It is true that most people have been taught very little about God, but the real question is whether or not they even want to learn about God.  If we admit there is Someone infinitely greater than ourselves, one would think that even out of a sense of curiosity one would want to find out about Him.

In the second reading, St. Paul told the Corinthians that they were enriched in every way and lacked no spiritual gift.  We like to think of our country as being very advanced so that we are lacking in nothing.  God has greatly blessed our land, but He has also blessed each of us with an abundance of spiritual gifts.  We have to be honest: many people have ignored these spiritual gifts in favor of technology.

Going back to where we started, St. Paul tells the Corinthians that God will keep them firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He then adds that God is faithful.  So, the pessimistic types among us would say that God has not been faithful because He has not kept us firm.  God is faithful; He has given each of us the grace necessary to remain firm, but He will not force Himself on us.

We have not been faithful; we have gone astray.  It is high time that we admit our sinfulness and quit blaming God.  The Lord is merciful; if someone does not know the truth because they were never taught or through no fault of their own, God will not hold them responsible.  Most of us reading this article cannot make such a claim.  We know the truth or we at least know where we can find it if we have questions.  So, to us the Lord says, as we read in the Gospel: “Be watchful, be alert!”

This is a time of testing.  God is allowing the devil a great deal of latitude so that each of us can make a decision to remain faithful to the Lord or to abandon Him.   Like the masses, we can claim to still believe in Him while failing to follow His ways.  In the Gospel today Jesus said the Master had given to each of His servants their own work and He expects they will be doing that work when He returns.

In the 2000 years since our Lord promised to return, we have grown disobedient and unfaithful.  We are not doing the work He gave us to do because there are so many other things that appear more attractive and exciting.  After all, what could be more exciting than smart phones, Twitter, and Facebook?  Following the movie stars is apparently more exciting than following Jesus.

The truth is staring us in the face.  The glitz and excitement, as always, is a momentary high that leaves us empty.  The truth is quiet and hidden, but it leaves us fulfilled.  God is our Father Who wants us home doing the work we have been given.  The choice is ours: God or glitz, truth or technology.

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