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Jesus is coming: Look busy!

Archbishop Wenski's homily on the first Sunday of Advent 2023

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily on the vigil Mass for the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, 2023, at St. Mary Cathedral. 

There’s a story about how one day at a busy chancery, a man looking a bit disheveled arrived and demanded to see the bishop. When the secretary asked him his name, he said he was Jesus. The secretary went to the bishop and said, “There’s a man outside demanding to see you who claims that he is Jesus, what do I do?” The bishop replied: “Look busy.”

This first Sunday of Advent reminds us that Jesus is coming again and so, look busy! At least, stay awake! Now, whether Jesus’ coming is “good news” to you or not, depends on whether his first coming was “good news” to you. There’s a bumper sticker I saw once: Jesus is coming again ... and, boy, he is mad.

But 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. God keeps his word – he keeps his word by giving the Word to us. This Word was addressed to us in various ways by various prophets, and in the fulness of time, this Word came and dwelt among us, taking on our very flesh, becoming like us in everything but sin.

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.

Almost sixty 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. 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. As his disciples, 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.

Advent prepares us for Christmas, the birth of the Christ child in the poverty of a stable. God becomes a man like us, so that he can one die for us, and in dying destroy our death and restore us to life.

During Advent, the Scriptures will speak to us of how God acts in our history to save a fallen humanity lost in a world of fragile peace and broken promises. God comes to save us: to save us from ourselves, really.

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 despite their being oppressed, despite 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 and if we welcome him into our hearts and our lives through his Word and sacraments today.