Sunday Sermon for November 27, 2022, the First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Readings: Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44

The beginning of a new Church year, places us, spiritually speaking, on the summit of a mountain.  From our perch on this height we look one direction and we see what is behind us, we look the other direction and we see what is ahead of us.  On one hand, the readings deal with a new beginning while, on the other hand, they deal with the end of the world.  It may seem to be a strange place to be, but in reality, it is a very blessed place to be.  I say this because this dual perspective brought about by our position at the top of the hill allows us the opportunity to set things right before we move forward.

In the Gospel reading we have a great example of how this works.  Our Lord speaks about the day of His coming and uses the example of a thief coming in the night.  If the master of the house knew the hour when the thief was coming, our Lord says, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  There are several places in Scripture where we are told that our Lord will come like a thief in the night.

If our Lord was a thief we would want to make sure everything was secure so our house could not be violated.  However, what would happen if the person coming was not a thief, but a welcome guest who, because we do not know the day or the hour of his arrival will come unexpectedly like a thief?  This helps us to see that we have two different options put before us.

The first, if we do not want Jesus, is to see Him as a thief Who wants to despoil us of what is most important to us.  This would be the case for people who are unrepentant for their sins.  These people do not want the “thief” to break into their lives.  Instead, they want their sinful folly to continue on unabated.  The tragedy for these people is that if they do not repent, they will be not be despoiled of anything.  Their sins are all pure and simple selfishness.  When they stand before the Lord for Judgment, He will not take anything away from them; He is not a thief.  Rather, He will allow them to remain for eternity with their decision to protect their “house” and to be entirely self-focused forever.

From this blessed spot on the top of the mountain where we find ourselves, we can also consider our sinfulness as we look toward the Day of Judgment and, moving forward, we can choose to repent and to amend our lives.  Isaiah, in the first reading, calls us to come to God’s mountain to receive instruction, then he tells us to walk in the light of the Lord.  St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us to throw off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light. 

In other words, we have the opportunity to despoil ourselves.  We can bring our sins to the Lord in confession, and we can bring our weaknesses to Him in prayer seeking His grace to overcome our sins.  This will allow us to “conduct ourselves properly as in the day,” as St. Paul tells us.  In other words, there would be nothing shameful that we would be trying to keep hidden. 

If we approach things this way, or if you are already striving for holiness, the we have the second option.  That is, that if we are preparing for the thief Who, in this case, is actually a welcome guest, we can gather everything we are and everything we possess, and have them ready so that when He comes we can give them all to Him.  There is nothing we would want more than to be with Him, to belong entirely to Him.   With our sins forgiven, we have nothing to be ashamed of and we would have nothing to hide. 

We know not the day or the hour, so we need to be prepared always.   Jesus tells us that life will be going on normally, as it was in the days of Noah, so many people will be unprepared.  It is easy for us to lose our focus when daily life becomes very chaotic.  Maybe we were prepared at one time, but the Lord did not arrive on our schedule and now we have become less zealous or even despondent.  Hopefully, the mountain on which we are standing is the Lord’s mountain, as Isaiah calls it, and the grace of being on that sacred height with this chance to look in both directions, will result in getting our lives in the order we desire so we will welcome the “Thief” when He comes.

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 www.thewandererpress.com.

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