Homily for First Sunday of Advent 2006
With this Advent we begin preparing for World Youth Day. Kaylene Langford, who will be joining the National Evangelisation Team in January, is looking for people to make up a team to organise things for the Parish. Kaylene thinks it would be good if we could get up to 50 young people and adults to Sydney in 2008. Kaylene is offering a BBQ tonight and tomorrow after Mass to help raise funds for her year in NET.
I don't think it is by accident that in many of the great religious spiritual traditions there is emphasis on becoming aware of one's body. As a first step to prayer and meditation people are invited to find a relaxed posture and listen and feel the movement of the breath of life in and out of the lungs. Why is this? It is not only to focus the mind and still our racing imaginations. It is also to bring us into the present moment. Listening to one's breathing and being aware of the bodily sensations our breathing creates is only possible in the present. You try it.
Many of us spend our lives either in the past or the future. How many hours do we spend remembering past happy memories or regretting past mistakes? We lie in bed at night thinking about them. Or how much time do we spend thinking about some future event. It may be an eager anticipation or with fearful dread! Such thoughts keep us awake at night.
Our God is not a God of the past or future. In God there is no past or future. God is the eternal now. So God can only be encountered now, in the present moment. We can spend much energy and time preparing to pray to God promising ourselves that we will do it soon. But so often that time never quite comes. So in most great spiritual traditions that initial exercise of attending to one's own bodily sensations helps bring the person into the present. Because that is all there is. That is where God is. A Zen writer has said: "Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment." Thich_Nhat_Hanh.
Much of our religion seems to be about preparing for some future happiness in heaven. This life is so often thought of as just a "trial" for that future when we will be with God. That was not quite Jesus' spirituality. Jesus lived every moment aware of the loving presence and embrace of Abba, Father. How he embraced his life was very important to him because he was doing the Father's will. That was all that mattered. What was to be in the future did not determine his decisions.
We have become aware in recent years of extreme Islamic terrorists saying that they become suicide bombers because that will ensure them "paradise" (We would say similar things like that about martyrs who are killed for their faith but not for suicide). That attitude is the opposite of living in the present. For them, this life is totally unimportant. Their own lives or the lives of their victims do not matter at all. They live for some future happiness.
Many people try to avoid their past and present failures and sin hoping that God will not look under the carpet where they have swept them. The effort to do that blinds them to God's presence.
Others try to pretend those things never existed and get on with life. They live in the future where they do not encounter God. Yet other people become so obsessed with trying to do the right and correct things that for them a saviour is quite unnecessary. We need to confront our weakness and failure in the present when God can heal us.
Advent is a salutary reminder that the Saviour has come. The Saviour is coming. So there is no need to be afraid. There is every reason to wait in great expectation. So we need to avoid all kinds of distracting behaviour so we will not miss it as Jesus warns us in the Gospel. The Saviour is coming. And the Saviour will always come. Be on your guard. Stay alert. Do not be caught by surprise. You have an appointment with life. You have an appointment with God. Don't miss is.