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Jesus is coming: Is that 'good news' for you?

Archbishop Wenski's homily for first Sunday of Advent 2020

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily Nov. 29, 2020, the first Sunday of Advent, while celebrating a Mass and confirmation at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Deerfield Beach.

This first Sunday of Advent reminds us that Jesus is coming again. Now whether that’s “good news” to you or not, depends on whether his first coming was “good news” to you.

Fifty years ago, the bishops at the Second Vatican Council said it like this: “(T)he Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.’ By the power of the risen Lord she is given strength that she might, in patience and in love, overcome her sorrows and her challenges, both within herself and from without, and that she might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of her Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.” (Lumen Gentium)

And we do have sorrows and challenges. We did before COVID, and we will after COVID recedes into a distant memory, hopefully very soon. Everybody has sorrows and challenges, for such is the nature of our exile in this valley of tears. Yet, like a stranger in a foreign land, the Church (and remember, Church, that’s you), the Church presses forward “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

But we walk as disciples of Jesus Christ as we make our earthly journey. A disciple is like a student. He is the teacher, the master; we are the students, the disciples. But as his disciple, if we walk with him, he will lead us to glory. But he is honest with us. The road to glory passes along the way of the Cross.

This isn’t easy – it's never been easy to be a disciple of Christ. Which is why Jesus gives us his Spirit and his seven-fold gifts in the sacrament of Confirmation. To guide us, and to strengthen us to be credible witnesses to Christ’s death and resurrection. And so today two of your number will receive the gifts of the Spirit. We pray that in cooperating with these gifts, they would produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit so that as they make their pilgrim way, they will not be afraid of the demands of discipleship, nor be ashamed of the cross they may have to carry.

Advent calls us to some introspection. It poses to us the question, “What are we looking for?” “Where do we put our priorities?” “What is the good news we want to hear?” And is it really good news for us? Advent reminds us: “The Lord is coming” and thus calls us to renew our hope, faith and courage; Advent calls us to a continued struggle for justice; it calls us to find in the Word who becomes our own flesh healing and wholeness.

Advent is not about a judgmental God trying to scare us into heaven; rather it is about a merciful God inviting us to see what he is offering us.

Let’s remember one thing: the Bible was written by people who were oppressed. Of course, the Bible is God’s word, but that word was communicated to us through human authors who in spite of their being oppressed, in spite of their being persecuted, communicated to us that in this world of sin, of division, of war, God will have the final say. Now, doesn’t that sound like “good news” to you?

Well, like I said at the beginning of my homily — that depends. But we won’t have any need to fear the Lord when he comes again in glory, if we didn’t hesitate to accept him when he came the first time, in humility, as a little child in the poverty of Bethlehem.

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