Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, November 27th/28th 2021
I have a young nephew who has been really getting into the solar system. Last week he asked my Dad “Grandpa, how hot is the core of the sun?” and was surprised that my Dad knew the answer – 27 million degrees!
Jesus says in today’s Gospel “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Sometimes and maybe, indeed, most of the time, we think we can hide from God – what Adam and Eve tried to do in the Garden when they had committed their first sin. Mostly we believe we can hide from God because when we pray, we usually only experience darkness.
But St. John of the Cross described that darkness as being not a lack of God, but an inability on the part of humanity to comprehend the overwhelming nature of God’s presence – in a sense God is so bright that because the eyes of our souls are so weak, we are not able to perceive His presence – so most of the time prayer is akin to our groping in a dark cave for God.
But nonetheless, what we perceive as darkness and blindness is actually a reminder that God is everywhere and that God is existence itself, and we so often need to be content in the blindness and darkness of our prayers because prayer, although so often ineffectual from our vantage point in the moment, when we look back on our prayer, we realize that God was working beneath the surface, drawing us closer to himself, and we realize that although we perceived it as darkness, we were and are actually standing in the metaphorical center of the sun – like Gold tested in fire as Saint Peter and some of the old testament prophets put it so eloquently.
As our Nicene
Creed puts the relationship of Father and Son, “I believe in one Lord Jesus
Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light” So an all-consuming fire and a blinding light
are two of the best ways for our human intellect to understand the Father and
the Son’s relationship both to each other and to each of us.
Advent is a special season of preparation and prayer. Let us trust that our prayer is never without effect, may we in fact “Be vigilant at all times and pray that we have the strength to stand, at our particular judgment, before the Son of Man.”