Something that would only make sense in 2020: On Friday morning an online headline told of how someone had planned a “Turkey funeral to bypass state restrictions on gatherings.” The story explained how in Colorado, the government had made “Thanksgiving Dinners limited to 10 people but that funerals the maximum capacity is 30…” so this individual explained that instead of Thanksgiving Dinner, she and 29 others were gathering for a funeral for her dead turkey.   I was laughing at the creativity and just the absurdity of what life has become and was just about to share the story myself when I saw the comments that were exploding below the headline.  They ranged from people who were furious that someone wasn’t taking COVID more serious to others screaming back about Government over-reach.  Truth be told, both sides made some valid points.  But as is often the case on social media, as you read down the list of comments – there is no nuance, there is no way to pick up on people’s subtleties or emotions… and those reactions and responses grew more and more divisive and personal.  To the point that I said to myself, “Self – you got a lot of work to do today, refereeing the comments section of a somewhat goofy story you found comical is probably not a good use of time or energy.”  (See I do have a filter)

Hi everyone here’s my homily for the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT November 29, 2020.   Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

One sad realization (well there’s a bunch of them, but, one is) who would’ve thought that there would be a discussion or a debate over how many people we could have at Thanksgiving Dinner a year ago?  That crystalizes a lot of what we’re going through right now — it’s more than Thanksgiving dinner.  People seem on the edge — ready to pop, or snap, or however you want to describe it.  After the last nine months of uncertainty and sickness and mixed messages – people feel frayed, stressed, exhausted, and anxious.  I venture to say that, at least in modern history, there’s rarely been a time people have looked forward to celebrating “New Years” than this year.

If you’re in that position, luckily for you being here at Mass today, God answers that desire.  With the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins it’s “New Year.”  But unlike what normally happens on January 1st where we bemoan all that was wrong in the year prior and enter the new year with unreal expectations that we think are going to occur and change our lives(like New Year’s resolutions that often fail withing a few weeks), the Church invites us with the season of Advent to get back to basics.  More than just a Pre-Christmas season where we get lost in holiday preparations – it’s a season of anticipation… a season where we focus on the core of humanity’s longing for God, looking for Him, waiting on Him. How that’s been a story throughout the History of humanity which continues today.

Just think back to what we just heard in those scripture readings.  How many of us could relate to Isaiah the prophet’s words saying OH THAT YOU WOULD REND THE HEAVENS AND COME DOWN WITH THE MOUNTAINS QUAKING BEFORE YOU WHILE YOU WROUGHT AWESOME DEEDS WE COULD NOT HOPE FOR SUCH AS THEY HAD NOT HEARD OF FROM OF OLDThey seemed to jump off the page when I first turned to them the other day.  The depth of emotion and passion from the prophet calling out to God to show up, to show out His wonders is very timely.  Why was Isaiah praying that?  His fellow Jews had just suffered a terrible fate.  A group of people called “the Babylonians” had kicked them out of the promised land, had exiled them for generations and they were finally returning home.  What had been a long held hope, a dream of returning quickly became a nightmare.  They found everything from their past had been decimated.  They realized that their economy, their legal system, their community, the city itself and worst of all – the holiest place on earth to the Jews, the Temple was ruined.  This is what they were returning from exile too?  They start asking aloud – Where is the God who parted the Red Sea for us?  The Father who provided manna (the bread) to fall from the sky to nourish us?  The Lord who gave us the commandments and entered into covenant with us?  God, you who have done so many wondrous things… where are you??? We need you…

Isaiah can appreciate and understand those spoken frustrations on the part of his fellow countrymen.  He reminds them that the devastation, the exile they experienced was a direct result of their sinfulness, their breaking the covenant with God:  we are sinful, all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags… we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.  But Isaiah’s not without hope.  He’s not defeatist. He remembers that God is the potter and we are the clay… God is our father, our redeemer.  And so Isaiah’s calling out isn’t in anger, or rage in wanting God to show Himself as if he doubts God’s existence or presence… He calls out with faith, and hope – Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down… with the mountains quaking before you…

So Advent begins with this memory of our ancestors who felt this distance, this separation form God and longing for that to be overcome.  Advent is all about the answer to that lonigng with the reminder that “God Comes.” God comes and enters into Human history with the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas… He comes at the end of time to judge all humanity… and most importantly and urgently, God comes to us here and now…   Those three comings are the heart of the season of Advent.   So as Christians, as we hear Isaiah with those hopes and dreams, we realize they have been realized – that those heavens have been rend-ed in Jesus…

And that’s why Jesus in the Gospel responds to that desire for God to show himself with the word WATCH…  He’s saying pay attention… Look at the world around you with the eyes of God.  Watch for the hand of God – Pay attention to His voice…  His love in every joy and sorrow, in every pain and trauma, in every victory and set back before us.

Whether it’s seeing the babe in the nativity scenes that are starting to pop up in decorations which reminds us of His first entry into human history, or it’s His voice in these scriptures, or  His body and blood given to us to eat and drink – this season of Advent is meant to reawaken the belief that God’s coming has transformed all human history…  And He has given you and I a place in this history.  We have a role, we have a responsibility to prepare for His coming not just on December 25th  – not just at the end of time – but here and now.   How are we going to do that in this most wonderful time of the year?  Will we take steps to help the poor, the suffering and find ways to attend to their needs?  Can we make choices that will sow words of Faith rather than retweeting, reposting and spreading words of Fear or division?  Will we maybe give up 20-30 minutes of our facebook or netflix or instagram wasting of time for some prayer, reflection – (….  ) Will we instead of simply reading up on the latest celebrity/political/famous person’s grotesque transgressions and think how much better we look in comparison, take some time to do a thorough examination of conscience to see how my sins have made me unclean – but not wallowing in that – and instead go to Jesus and make a Good confession this Advent to be made clean.    These are some ways we “Watch” for his coming.  These are some ways that we prepare for Him.  These are some ways we welcome Him into our fears, our doubts so that He can bring the completeness and wholeness, the healing and freedom we long for.