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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homily 12-1-2013 Advent wk. 1 - Which Mountain are we on?


John Chrysostom gave a homily on Advent, describing how we await not one coming, but two during this season. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second.
Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.  Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.

The prophet Isaiah speaks today's words of comfort and peace in a time of great turmoil and war. He promises a future of peace – a peace founded on justice, a justice founded on truth, a truth founded on the instruction of the Lord God. It is in the “light of the Lord” that the nations will walk together in harmony to the Lord's mountain.
Advent gives us a chance to reflect on what mountain are we on? Mount Zion, where the city of Jerusalem is found, isn't much to behold. It is right on the edge of higher mountains, really what we might call bluffs or steep hills. The Mount of Olives to the East is over a hundred feet higher in elevation, and if you travel about 20 miles to the north or south of Jerusalem you will find even taller mountains than this. But none of these mountains have the Temple, the place where the Lord dwells with His people. It is to Jerusalem that they must come for that.  And one day, Isaiah says, all those mountains are coming down, and Mount Zion will be raised up forever.
In the eyes of our modern world, there are lots of other mountains taller than Christianity, taller than the Catholic faith. Some dwell on the mountain of family, other on the mountain of worldly success (in whatever way they choose to define what “success” is), and many on the mountain of entertainment and distraction from what we fear. So what mountain are we on? Do we find ourselves dwelling on The Lord's mountain that will one day be raised up forever, or are we dwelling on the peaks of the world's passing priorities?
Another image that represents this passing of things is the theme of light.  As we began Mass, the first candle of our Advent Wreath shone brightly in the darkness.  It is only when the lights of human design are destroyed and put out that we see the light that endures beyond our making.  In the winter we see the light of God's eternal truth dispel the darkness.
The Lord Jesus, the Light of the World, will come at a time we do not expect as he did in Bethlehem, and the mountains of the world will come crashing down, the false lights of the world will give way to His Truth.  Only if we build our lives on his first coming can we wait in confidence for his second coming.  
The only way to let that light shine, the only way to get to the Lord's mountain, is humility.  Let us put aside our false lights and focus on Jesus.  Let us spend this Advent shedding off deeds of darkness, waking up to the Light that is coming over the horizon, and start the challenging journey up to the mountain of the Lord's dwelling.  And as we begin this season of Advent, we find the Lord comes to us already, in a hidden way, from this altar.  May we be His Bethlehem this day and every day; may we enthrone Him as king, so that His coming brings us the peace for which our souls long.

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