Sunday Sermon for November 27, 2016, First Sunday of Advent, Year A

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

In the second reading today St. Paul tells the Romans that it is time for them to wake from their sleep. He tells them that the night is advanced and that the day is at hand. For this reason they are to put aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. By this he means that they are to put aside the immorality and live in a good and holy manner.

As we begin this new Church year, we are called to this same kind of conversion. Not only has the world gone far away from the Lord, but there are some within the Church who are clamoring for the Church to water down or even set aside certain teachings of our Lord. The push is for the Church to become more worldly rather than to be a leaven in the world. Moreover, each of us has been affected by the ways of the world in differing ways and to varying degrees.

Our nations has recently chosen to reject the trajectory on which is was proceeding. There are many reasons put forth for this change: economy, jobs, immigration, foreign policy, etc. However, while these things could all use some serious correction, the truth of the matter is that if we do not make some radical changes spiritually and morally as a nation, the policy changes will prove worthless. We are a nation that has gone away from God. We cannot return to what we were founded to be unless we return to God.

People are in desperate need of the truth. They cannot reject the Godless ways unless they have something with which to replace them. The materialism needs to be replaced with spirituality. The hedonism needs to be replaced with self control. The selfishness needs to be replaced with charity. But these things cannot happen unless people can come to recognize their own dignity and the dignity of others. We have been living a lie, not only telling people that things that are completely wrong are now somehow acceptable, but deeper than that, giving people the idea that they can use others for their own selfish reasons.

Until we can embrace the truth about human dignity, marriage and family, sexual morality, and even something so basic as the truth that there are only two genders, all the fiscal and foreign policies will be nothing but cosmetic. It will be like putting paint on a rusted out car without first removing the rust. It would ultimately prove useless. Perhaps the people of this nation realized that there was a problem that needed to be fixed, but there are deeper problems that reside in the souls of the people of our nation that need to be fixed.

There is only one way that this can happen. As the old saying goes, you cannot legislate morality. People may do the right thing just because they do not want to get into trouble with the law, but they would prefer to be doing the wrong thing. What is needed is a conversion of mind and heart so that we will do the right things for the right reasons. In the first reading today Isaiah speaks about the people coming to the Lord’s mountain for instruction. This mountain is Jesus Who is the Truth. He alone is what people need so they can learn the truth and act accordingly.

Because our Lord is not only the Truth, but also the way and the life, it is going to be necessary to these lost souls to have someone to point them in the right direction. In this case, it is not just a matter of knowing which direction is correct; rather, it is a matter that we are on this way ourselves so that we can show it to others by the way we live our lives. This means that we have to be praying daily, that we have to be treating people with dignity and respect, that we have to be finding our fulfillment in the Lord. If we are wandering or looking elsewhere, we cannot be a competent and trustworthy compass for others.

We could look at the Gospel today and say that we have to be doing these things in case the Lord returns. But it is a far greater thing to do the right things because we love our Lord. If we are doing them out of fear we will give up when things don’t happen in our preconceived time frame. If we are doing things out of love, then it does not matter what the time fame may be, we will keep doing the right things because our motive is not one of self interest. So, St. Paul’s call reverberates to us today: Wake up and live as Christians!

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