Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)

Homily – 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)
“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.” These are the words of the Lutheran Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and they speak to an attitude that was growing during his time during WWII and that is even more prevalent in our time. That attitude is that God is there for us and we need to do little other than believe he exists to get to heaven.
This belief is in direct contradiction to our readings today. Our responsorial psalm clearly indicates that we were created for God. All the earth, everything in it, the world, and all who dwell in it belong to the Lord. God isn’t there for us. We are there for God and our response to our creation should be to seek him with all of our heart, mind and strength. Who goes to heaven? Who stands in his holy place? The one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean and who does not desire what is in vain. These are how we should prepare for the coming of the Lord.
At the beginning of Advent I asked you the question “How are you preparing for Christmas?” I showed you in the scriptures that we need to prepare for the Lord by repenting of our sins and going to confession at the very least. We should do other things as well to reflect on the great gift we have been given and to draw closer to the Lord in our spiritual lives. The questions I ask you on this last Sunday of Advent is: “What have you done to prepare for Christmas?” Have you at least gone to confession? If not then why not? Is it because you have no sins you need to repent of? If you believe that then you are in dire trouble because scripture says we all are in need of repentance. John the Baptist has been calling for it throughout our entire Advent season. Is it because you believe that you can confess your sins directly to God and you don’t need to go to a priest? Well then you stand in opposition to the Sacred Scriptures and you reject the infallible teaching of the scriptures and Christ’s Catholic Church. If you reject that authority then you shouldn’t be coming to communion because you are not a Catholic if you reject what the Church teaches. Is it because you haven’t had an opportunity or other things have taken priority? Well I know the opportunity has been there. Even I have been to confession in Advent and I know I go again before Christmas. It is a priority for me. Not because I am holy, because I am a sinner and I know my need to repent to prepare for the Lord.
The Lord is tired of our excuses. We see that in the first reading. Ahaz is commanded by God to ask for a sign. Ahaz refuses out of a false piety. This is actually a form of immense pride. He says he will not tempt the Lord. Yet the Lord just commanded him to do it yet he thinks he is to holy or to righteous to do as the Lord commanded. God ordered him to ask for a sign and the sky literally was the limit. Ahaz refused. Contrast that with Joseph. Who was faced with a situation that would bring about much embarrassment and pain if he was to marry a woman with child. Yet when God’s messenger appears and tells him to do it he did as the angel commanded him and took his wife into his home.
This is what Paul called in the second reading the Obedience of faith. God’s word is enough. Joseph is obedient. Why because his heart is clean and he does not desire what is vain. He seeks the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He received a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God his savior. He received the savior himself. He was ready for the first Christmas.
To meet the Lord our hands must be sinless, our hearts clean, and our desire must be for him alone. The good news is there are six days of Advent left. A lot can be done in six days. Entire universes can be created by an all powerful God. Surely he can recreate a single human heart. The only thing he needs is for the heart to repent and to ask. Then we need not fear being the person that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was talking about. The one who takes what is agreeable and pleasant aspects of the Lord’s coming and forgets the serious aspect. God’s drawing near to man is a very serious thing. And for those who have a well formed conscience it is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news. They understand what John has been crying though all of Advent: Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. I pray to God that we all might be a little more like Joseph and a little less like Ahaz. Christmas will truly then be a time of great joy.

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