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Homily For the First Sunday of Advent, 27 Nov 2022, Mt 24:37-44

In today’s Office of the Readings for the first Sunday of Advent in the Liturgy of the Hours, St Cyril of Jerusalem speaks about the twofold “coming” of Christ, from the Latin word ADVENTUS. First, his coming in the past, and his coming again in the future. I will add a third one. But first, let’s talk about the first two.

Advent is about a coming that we look back to, and a coming that we look forward to. It is the penitential season that prepares us to look back to the Lord’s first coming, which is what we commemorate when we celebrate Christmas. Hence the color purple. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, we hardly feel this season of penance because we celebrate Christmas too soon. (Hindi pa nga nag-uundas pasko na sa mga malls. And even Catholics tend to be influenced by this blatant commercialism of Christmas.) Advent is what Lent is to Easter. How can we know the joy of Easter without going through the penance of Lent?

Here is the time to look back to the past and remind ourselves that our God has at one point in time consecrated time and space by entering into it, by becoming part of it, by being born in this world and assuming our mortal flesh.

But Advent is also about looking forward to the Lord’s second coming, which we associate with the end of time and with final judgment. In fact, we profess it whenever we recite the Creed. We say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” When will that be? The Gospel says, “stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” One thing is sure though, our own end will come before the end of the world.

Between yesterday and tomorrow is today; between the past and the future is the present. There is not even any hope for a future without a present. Only the present can serve as bridge between past and future. This is the third and most important coming that Advent reminds us to be ready for: the NOW.

Advent is the time when we are called upon to imagine the future happening already now. This is what we’ve heard from St. Paul today in our second reading. He said, “It is the hour NOW for you to be awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer NOW than when we first believed…”

You see, the common temptation when we are young is to take the present for granted because you think you still have a lot of it anyway. The tendency with such an attitude is to postpone for tomorrow what we can do today. And then we find ourselves panicking when suddenly we realize we have very little time left. We’re like students who have slept on a test and are suddenly awakened by the teacher who says, “Time is up; finished or not finished, pass your paper.”

I wonder if some of you who are more or less my age would remember a Kodak commercial that was accompanied by a nostalgic song that said, “Good morning yesterday, you wake up and time has slipped away…” The video shows an elderly person looking at old photographs and reminiscing the past and the many possibilities that were available back then but have already slipped away.

The last part of the song says, “So gather moments while ye may, collect the dreams you dream today, remember, do you remember the times of your life?” You see, the secret to the future is to remember how quickly it can slip into the past if we do not live it now. And so St. Paul is merely reminding the Romans to make no room for complacency, in short, not to waste our time, never to say we still have a lot of it.

That is the whole reason for the season of Advent. It is the season when we are supposed to ask ourselves, “If you have known that that was the last time that you were going to be with your friends, or with your family, what would you have done? If you were told that you had six months to live, how would you live your remaining time? If you had known that the world was going to be hit by an asteroid within one week, how would you live your last seven days?” You see, Advent is the time to light up our imagination so that we will know how to live, not in the past, not in the future, but in the now.

Next year I will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood already. I remember celebrating my first Mass 39 years ago and, while getting vested in the sacristy, chanced upon a quotation which had been printed and framed by the old parish priest. It says, “Priest of God say this Mass, as if it were your FIRST Mass, as if it were your LAST Mass, as if it were your ONLY Mass.” It got stuck in my memory and has never been erased.

It goes well with another saying that you are probably more familiar with, “I shall pass this world but once and if there is anything good that I can do, let me do it now. Let me not postpone it for another day for I may never pass this way again.”

This saying makes me understand why the Jewish people call God YAHWEH. It is supposed to mean I AM. Not I WAS, not I WILL BE, but I AM. He is the God of the eternal now because he has no beginning and no end. Meaning, we cannot share in God’s eternity if we do not learn to live as we should the short time that is given to us.

I usually say to people that funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living. They are for us who may have a little more time left, and who have a choice to live the now with quality, to take full advantage of the opportunities given to us now, to correct the mistakes of the past in the present, to let go of regrets and resentments, to choose to be happy by making others happy, to spend every day meaningfully, to savor each moment like it’s the last. As for our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, we do not say they now live in the past. No, our faith makes us hope that they now live in the eternal now of the Divine, in the infinite realm of the God whose name is I AM.

 

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