Advent gives us God’s judgment and it’s clear: We are worth saving…
(CUSA) – A ship without a destination is always lost. Watching for the Lord in Advent gives us the goal and reminds us that we are the ones being watched not for condemnation but for eternal happiness.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass Nov. 29, 2014 marking the 75th anniversary of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Miami. —Ed.
ARCHBISHOP THOMAS WENSKI—
I am happy to join you and your pastor, Padre Lopito, in celebrating the 75th anniversary of Sts. Peter and Paul parish. Today we also observe the First Sunday of the Advent Season.
This is a happy coincidence since both this anniversary as well as the Advent Season invite us all to remember the past with gratitude, to celebrate the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence.
When we sit down to watch a movie, we don’t usually fast forward to watch the final scenes. Rather we start the film at the beginning. Well, Advent proceeds differently: It begins with the end. Advent tells us to “watch” – but this is not like watching a movie where we just can just sit there.
We watch a movie and later will be give our review, our judgment on whether it was a good movie or not. Advent tells us to “watch,” to be vigilant – because we will be the ones reviewed, our lives will be judged – and vigilant we must be since we do not know the day or the hour.
A ship that does not know its destination will just drift aimlessly across the seas. And if we do not know our end we can drift aimlessly through life.
That’s why Advent starts with the end – because it’s important for us to understand that our lives are going someplace and that someplace will be sorted out on the Day of Judgment when Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. Like Isaiah in the first reading, we do well to pray to God saying: “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways.”
We will be judged – but that should concern us but not paralyze us with fear, because even as the Advent season begins with the end, it ends with the beginning: the beginning of God’s kingdom on earth when the Son of God takes on our flesh and is born of the Virgin Mary.
That beginning which the Advent season prepares us to celebrate reveals that God’s judgment is that we – all of us – are worth saving. Jesus is God’s judgment of the world – but Jesus comes in mercy and grace. For God sent his only begotten Son into the World not to condemn the world but to save it.
Speaking to God in today’s first reading, Isaiah seems tobe describing our world as much as he was describing his world: “There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you…”
The ascendant secularism of our times has pushed God to the margins of life – and a world without God is like a desert – a dry, arid, hostile place, a place without life, without hope.
Parishes exist to reintroduce the world to God – they should be communities of love, schools of prayer where people can experience something of God’s forgiveness and love of them.In fact, the word, parish, is derived from the ancient Greek – pa-roi-ki-a -; the Spanish, parroquia, is much closer to the original Greek than its English equivalent.
It meant a sojourn in a foreign land, or a community of sojourners. And so, when the Hebrew Scriptures were first translated into Greek, pa-roi-ki-a was used to describe the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Parishes then are like oases in the desert – that refresh us and strengthen us for the journey of life.
This parish is an oasis for God’s people. This is what Sts. Peter and Paul Parish has meant to its parishioners for 75 years. Of course, the history of this parish, like any history forged by fallen human beings, is full of shadows as well as lights.
We should not be surprised to learn that the Church that Jesus founded to save sinners is, well, full of sinners. But the Church is holy – not because of us but because of the Holy Spirit that dwells within her helping us to grow in grace. And who could say that these past 75 years have not been years of grace.
As parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul you are members of God’s people called to fellowship with his Son (cf St. Paul in today’s second reading). We might travel on rough seas –but we are not adrift. Thanks to our faith in Jesus Christ, we know the end and the beginning of our existence. We know where we are going – and so we go forward in hope.