In these days where people are said to be more divided and polarized on more issues than we can imagine, it can be hard to predict what will be the next thing to create a reaction (or overreaction).  For example, a couple of weeks ago we went through the twice-a-year changing of the clocks from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time – where we “fall back” and change our clocks an hour early before going to bed on Saturday Night.  As someone who struggles to get the proper amount of recommended sleep per night, I’m already a fan of “get an extra hour.” In fact, I’d love that every Saturday into Sunday.    Of course, we don’t really gain an hour back, it’s just returning our collective clocks to where we had “sprung ahead” and “lost” an hour back in March.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT- November 27, 2022, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim

About a year or two ago, legislation was passed to abolish this twice-a-year changing of the clocks.  The argument is that not only does the springing ahead and falling back seem to annoy a large number of people, but the change has been scientifically linked to all kinds of physical and mental health problems for people and has also been shown to cause an increase in car accidents.  Originally the proposal in the US Senate was to keep Americans permanently on Daylight Savings Time.  But then a lot of medical associations and scientists started pushing back saying that if we’re going to “lock the clock” – standard time is better for a whole host of reasons.  Which made a lot of sense to me personally.  In any event, I think I liked a tweet from the “Save Standard Time” folks only to get a bunch of messages and memes back at me that revealed how controversial a stance this was.  Wasn’t prepared to be asked if I was secretly a vampire.  Most of them went along the snarky lines of saying:  “You gotta love standard time – there’s nothing like eating lunch and watching the sunset.”

The illusion of daylight savings time is that “the days are longer.”  In reality, all we’ve done is manipulated time to fool ourselves that we have more daylight.  The number of minutes the sun is “up” really doesn’t change because of the time we set our clocks.  By late June we’re at a peak of almost 15 hours of sunlight per day.  And by the end of December, we’ll hit just under 6 hours.  The changing of the clocks doesn’t change that fact.

If anything the clock changes just call attention to this natural phenomenon that in winter, there’s less “daylight” than there is during summer.  But one of the things that all of the messages and memes that I got from the pro-daylight savings time crew highlighted was how much people disliked darkness.   Which is an interesting thing to reflect on.  How there’s something built into our nature that craves light.  That isn’t just a biological reality.  It is truly a mind-body-soul thing.   Providentially as the hours of daylight have reduced in recent weeks and we were jolted by changing our clocks to recognize that reality, at the same time we’ve been encountering spiritual realities that only added to the gloomy feeling:   November started with the celebrations of All Saints and All Souls Day.  Those liturgical commemorations can’t help but force us to remember those who’ve died.  Then the scriptures at Sunday Mass over the last few weeks all kept bringing up the themes of the reality of death, and end times.

Now, here we are at the start of the “new Church Year” where we begin spending a bulk of our Sunday Mass readings for the next year hearing from the Gospel of Matthew.  On this first Sunday of Advent, which is the liturgical season preceding Christmas there’s an impulse to want to just catch up with the marketing and programming executives who’ve been promoting Christmas since October.

Yet we don’t hear about stars, angels, or Mary and Joseph… not yet.  We begin Advent with our scriptures talking about Jesus’ coming, but not His first time at Bethlehem, but His final coming.  Whether that means the end of the world or the end of our time in this world – whichever comes first. We begin Advent focusing on every human beings “end” that will bring us face to face with Jesus Christ.

Those realities, the end of the world, our end, have been characterized as dark themes:  Apocalyptic images, and passing cemeteries are all things we don’t want to consider and don’t want to face.  Like changing the clocks – we try to distract ourselves from considering them or deceive ourselves into believing we’re in control by ignoring them.

Yet, the gift of the season of Advent is meant to gently turn our gaze to accept those realities – yes, there will be an end – to the world, to us. But that shouldn’t be something that instills fear in those of us who are believers.  God calls us to use the darkness.  To recognize this season of Advent as a season of Hope.  Hope isn’t optimistic or pessimistic.  It’s realistic.  This means we are to reflect on what is not of Him in our world, in ourselves.  To acknowledge all that is not right, all that is broken and continues to break.  To see how often we’ve fallen for the lies that someone, something other than God himself is in control.  And recognize that desire for things to be made right.  For healing.  For restoration.  For an end to darkness once and for all.  And to hear anew God’s calling us out of darkness into the light that comes from His promises to us.

That’s what the prophet Isaiah was speaking to our Jewish Ancestors close to 3,000 years ago in that first reading.  Here God’s chosen people had witnessed the loss of the promised land, their kingdom had been left in shambles.  It seemed all these forces of darkness conspiring against God and His people were succeeding because of the lack of faithfulness on God’s people’s part.  All that remained of this once vast kingdom was a remnant of the 12 tribes with Judah, a small minority in the city of Jerusalem.  If they had newspapers and television sets- it would be all but bad news that seemed to grow worse by the day.

In the face of such bleakness, the prophet Isaiah sees a bright vision.  In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain…all nations will stream towards it… swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.  The imagery sounds too good to be true, but Isaiah tells them it will come about if the remnant will just remain faithful, and “walk in the light of the Lord!”  The prophet Isaiah’s words greet us some 3,000 years later and are just as true.  God’s promises are irrevocable, so we who are troubled by the bleakness of 2022 are meant to have our hopes raised by those promises made to our ancestors and listen to that call to “walk in the light of the Lord.”

          We do that by listening to St. Paul’s words in the Second reading to the Romans where he calls us to focus on the only thing we have power and control over – and that is our choices, our decisions.  He calls us to cast off the works of darkness where we’ve turned aside from God in favor of pleasure in this present life.

When we do that, we feel the tension of living in this space of God’s promises having been fully revealed but not fully realized.  We recognize that longing for God’s final coming to make all things right – yet, we are told that this “mountain of the Lord” that Isaiah prophesied is here – at Mass.  Every time we walk up this aisle to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are having a true, real encounter with the Lord.  What better preparation could we have for that final and eternal encounter with Him?  Because of “end time” and “rapture” preachers who have distorted this Gospel into something of fear and dread, they give life to the mistaken notion that being left behind is a bad thing.  If we carefully read it, it is those who are oblivious to the life of faith who find themselves like those who were mocking Noah as he was building the ark, ignoring the raindrops and the dark clouds.  It is those of us here who are “left behind” preparing who can withstand the floods and eventually emerge in the light of a new day.

This first Sunday of Advent, we enter into this season confidently, and courageously knowing the light of Christ’s presence guides us through whatever darkness we’re experiencing.  He will give us the eternal daylight our hearts and souls long for when we remember Jesus comes not to condemn us but to save us if we will let Him.