HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A.
THEME: STAY AWAKE!
BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, Ma.
This Sunday marks the beginning of the liturgical year A, which is the year we read from the Gospel of Matthew. It is also the First Sunday of the liturgical season of Advent. And if there are any concepts that assist in fully grasping what the Catholic Church intends by her liturgy, especially her liturgical celebrations such as the Eucharist and liturgical seasons such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Sacred Paschal Triduum, Easter, and Ordinary Time, they are anamnesis and epiclesis.
While “anamnesis” comes from the Jewish and Old Testament idea of a memorial, as described in Psalm 111:4, “The Lord has made a memorial for his wonders,” “epiclesis” refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in making the saving works of Christ present to us now and forever, as Paul said in I Corinthians 11:23-25, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The Lord commanded Israel to celebrate Passover as a memorial of their freedom from slavery in Egypt throughout their generations (Exodus 12:14). This command means that in celebrating Passover, Israel does not only “remember” and “make present” the liberation of their forebears from the land of Pharoah, but they also “extend” the same liberation to the celebrants.
The Passover meal is therefore more than an imaginary replication of the Exodus from Egypt; each participant is liberated from bondage. And they mean real liberation from slavery, as experienced by their ancestors.
It is within the Jewish concept of reenacting past events that the Catholic Church understands her liturgy, liturgical celebrations, and liturgical seasons. Through her liturgy, she “remembers,” “makes present,” and “extends” to her children the merits and satisfaction of the death of Christ on the cross.
Holy Mass, for example, not only remembers (anamnesis) and re-presents (makes present) the over 2,000-year-old sacrifice of the cross, but also applies (extends) to us by the power of the Holy Spirit the merit of that sacrifice (epiclesis). This happens when the priest pronounces the words of consecration, which are the words of Christ, and by the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (CCC, 1333, 1366). This is what theologians refer to when they use the terms “anamnesis” and “epiclesis.”
Each of the liturgical seasons—Advent (Jesus is coming), Christmas (Jesus is born), Lent (Jesus calls for conversion), the Sacred Paschal Triduum (Jesus suffers and dies), Easter (Jesus rises from the dead and ascends into heaven), and Ordinary Time (Jesus preaches the Good News of Salvation)—is a remembrance (anamnesis) of one of the past salvific actions of Jesus Christ that allows us to make it happen here and now as well as extend it through the power of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis).
What else can be said about the Advent season after the preceding context? What historical events in our salvation is the Catholic Church remembering, making present, and extending in Advent?
Advent is a four-week liturgical season preceding Christmas in which the Church commemorates ancient Israel’s longing and preparation for the first coming of the Messiah, as an infant born of the Virgin Mary. It is also a time to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ, when he will judge the living and the dead.
The scripture readings for today (Isaiah 2:1–5; Psalm 122: 1-2, 3–4, 4-5, 6-7, and 8-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44) already contain some of the themes of Advent. They include hope, arrival, repentance, joy, vigilance, judgment, and preparation for the moment of the great advent of God: the second coming of Christ.
Obviously, whether we want it or not, God will come to us. His advent is inevitable! It is up to us, however, to make the pilgrimage to him. How can we then make a fruitful, enriching, and spirit-filled journey to God during this holy season of Advent?
By staying awake in our moral conduct and through union with Christ, according to Saint Paul in our second reading (Romans 13:11–14), And in today’s gospel reading (Matthew 24:37–44), Jesus uses the story of Noah and his ark to demonstrate what happens when people lose sight of God and their moral lives.
They were so preoccupied with eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage that they didn’t notice Noah entering the ark, which was built to save their lives. However, when the flood came, they looked for Noah and his ark, but it was too late; the flood came and carried them all the way.
Staying awake means remaining attentive to how small choices build into robust lives of faith. It means cultivating awareness of God’s ongoing presence in the mundane realities of our lives. It means participating in the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. It means forgiving those who have wronged you and making at least one person smile. It means turning our attention toward the things that really matter and turning away from things that are distracting.
Advent is a time to cast off the works of darkness, such as drunkenness, unforgiveness, hatred, infidelity, lust, jealousy, envy, and other things that prevent us from living the full, vibrant lives that God desires for us. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
If you follow through on these spiritual exercises, you will have fulfilled the spiritual meaning of Advent. Also, if you do these things, you will stay awake and make the best spiritual journey to God, who will inevitably come to you. Have a blessed Advent season as well as a fantastic Sunday. Please be certain that I will pray for you.
Father Anthony O. Ezeaputa, Ma.
Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A
November 27, 2022
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