Some of you may recall me sharing about a really challenging time in my life. My senior year of high school, three days after getting my drivers license I had a horrific car accident – which was completely my fault. I was driving to see a movie (Home Alone if you can believe it was just opening in theatres) with three friends and being an inexperienced driver, especially at night, I completely missed seeing a stop sign or even realized I was entering an intersection. A car coming from my side didn’t have enough time to even react, hit into me, causing the truck to spin and crash into the side of the road. My two friends and I didn’t have a scratch on us… But my one friend who was sitting right behind me, crashed through the side window and had to be helicoptered to University Hospital in Newark, NJ with life threatening injuries. Praise God, after a year of healing and rehabilitation, she more than recovered.

Hi everyone! This is my homily for December 1, 2019 – THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; particularly grateful for sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it! Have a great week – God Bless – Fr Jim. AUDIO [/soundcloud]. Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2

With the accident happening in November, it’s weird how times and seasons can trigger memories. And one particular memory from this whole bleak time that came up recently was when I first went back to school a few days after the accident. While most of that day I felt kind of numb to everything and I don’t remember a lot of details of interactions with people or anything — I was more focused on simply trying to get through that first day — there is one thing that I’ll never forget standing at my locker at the end of the day. One of my classmates who’s locker was right next to mine was on her way to cheerleading practice. She got to the locker with two of her friends opened it, and became furious that someone had not returned her pom poms as she slammed it shut and continued to complain that now she was going to get crap at practice from their coach. I’ll never forget standing there thinking “I wish that was the worst thing I had to worry about.”

Having a friend with life-threatening injuries that you’re at fault for, can shift your world-view as a 17 year old. It’s the kind of thing that adults tell you – you hear the self-help gurus and see motivational signs saying “don’t sweat the small stuff.” But perhaps it’s the kind of thing you can only really learn and appreciate with these bigger moments. The day to day, ordinary stuff that grabs our attention, that stresses us out, that distracts us – traffic, I can’t find a parking spot, I’m running late, someone not returning your pom poms… it all distracts us from what really matters.

This First Sunday of Advent, Jesus is trying to do something similar, remind us what really matters. We just heard one of his predictions about the end times – which, truth be told, most people don’t ever want to hear about or talk about… let alone on this Thanksgiving weekend, on December 1st as we enter the hysteria couched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday where we’re bombared with advertisements demanding our attention (and at least in my case, stressing me out on Christmas shopping). In the Gospel we heard, Jesus references the story from the Old Testament of Noah – another time when Humanity had lost sight of what really mattered… didn’t concern themselves with anything that the Lord had said or done for them. Completely oblivious to the fact that something larger was happening as they busied themselves with the things of their day – eating, drinking, marrying… all while the rains were starting to flood.

Jesus is sharing this – not to scare us – but to “wake” us believers up. To ask ourselves What really matters. Especially entering into this season of Advent. These four weeks prior to Christmas are meant to help us re-focus on how: JESUS CHRIST COMES TO US. He has come to humanity at the first Christmas; He will come to us at the end of time… Those are historic comings of importance to each of us and all humanity. But what really matters – is the third coming – that JESUS CHRIST COMES TO US here and now. Jesus is here proclaimed in this Word – and in a few moments, in his body and blood being made real and present under the appearances of bread and wine in the Eucharist we receive. He is already here among us. That is incredibly good news.

How are we attentive to His presence though in the day to day in the here and now? Especially in this pre-Christmas season which seems to grow more and more weird every year. That seems one of the devil’s greatest successes is somehow transforming the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in poverty, in the simplest of ways imaginable – has evolved into becoming one of the loudest, most commercial times of the year. This isn’t to launch into a “War on Christmas” rant. I love so many parts of this season – time with my family and friends – exchanging gifts – Mom’s cooking – the decorations – there are a lot of beautiful things. So how can we have a truce with this “war on Christmas” and in fact reclaim it in light of what really matters… how can we somehow be more intentional and mindful of all those things and center it on Jesus?

One practical way that I try to do is just to say a short little prayer as I’m buying those gifts, or sending cards out. It can be something as simple as “may this gift to my niece remind me and them of the gift of love we’ve received in Jesus.”   It’s amazing how just waiting on line at the store when I’m doing that how it’s able to ward off my default of getting stressed by the lines and everything else that needs to be done, by how tired I might be, by – a whole lot of things that really don’t matter – and re-focusing on what does.  It’s not an earth-shattering thing that will fix every aspect of what can be wrong this time of year.  But it’s an important shift of our minds and hearts that maybe can open those minds and hearts to be more attuned to other ways, other things we can do to make Advent more meaningful.

I’m embarrassed to say that – far too often – way too often – I forgot the lesson I learned that day standing in the hallway of Arthur L Johnson Regional High School listening to my classmate slam her locker door over her missing pom poms. But working on this homily this past week leading into Thanksgiving day and beyond – I was profoundly grateful to God that my friend did recover – that He helped me to recover from what was one of the lowest points of my life and learn to forgive myself. Which really helped make this Thanksgiving even more joyful to me as I remembered how many ways and things God has just been tremendously good to me.  So rather than hearing this Gospel and launching it into one of these doom and gloom “end times” things, I think the Lord is calling us to take a breath, to take a moment, to remember his history of goodness in our lives – how he has come to us… to think of all the ways we are blessed right here and now and to celebrate how he comes to us now… and with our hearts and minds fixed on that, to anticipate how he will continue to come to us. How are we prepared to receive and welcome Him? That’s the work of this Advent season… That’s what really matters.

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