Posted on 21 November 2023
Homily by Father Emmanuel Schwab
1er Advent Sunday – Year B
1st reading: Isaiah 63, 16b-17.19b; 64, 2b-7
Psalm: 79 (80), 2ac.3bc, 15-16a, 18-19
2th reading: 1 Corinthians 1, 3-9
Gospel: Mark 13,33-37
Liturgical times are like spiritual exercises where the Church invites us to train in an aspect of spiritual life. The time of Advent is devoted to vigilance, to awakening in us the expectation of the Day of God, of the Day of the Lord: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” we say in THE Credo. How does the coming of the Lord in glory mobilize our energies? How do the last words of the Book of Revelation “Maranatha. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus”, and how does the song of the anamnesis “We await your coming in glory”, how does all this illuminate our life?
One dimension of this vigilance consists of reviving our prayer life. Because the life of prayer, oration, and in particular silent prayer, is always an expectation of the coming of the Lord. When we are waiting for friends for lunch or dinner, when we are impatient for them to be there because we love them, because we appreciate them, we are attentive to the slightest noise that could signal that their car is arriving or that they knock at the door… How are we attentive to the coming of the Lord?
In the book of Isaiah we heard this hope of Israel: “Ah! If you tore the heavens apart, if you came down". Through the prophets that God sends and through the sacrifices of the Temple, Israel perceives that God already responds to this request and that God comes through his Word. But who could imagine the coming that we will celebrate at Christmas: the Word became flesh, God became a little child, an infant. Jesus was born some 2000 years ago—I don't know if you know! We are therefore not preparing for the birth of Jesus; it's done. We remember his first coming to Bethlehem, in the flesh, to make us attentive to his coming in glory. In a certain way, we relive Israel's expectation of the coming of the Messiah, to prepare ourselves for his coming in glory. What means do we have? Well, we heard in the second reading: “I never cease to give thanks to God for you, for the
grace which he has given you in Christ Jesus; in him you have received all the riches of the word and knowledge of God..
This gives us indications: We have received as wealth the Word of God ; You still have to take the time to read it, listen to it, meditate on it. This is a great exercise for the Advent season.
You have received the knowledge of God. Knowledge, which enlightens our intelligence, but the word “know” in the Bible; means both knowing and loving… As the book of Genesis will tell us that Adam knew Eve, his wife. It is a loving acquaintance. We can deploy our knowledge of the mystery of God by meditating on the Holy Scriptures, but perhaps also by meditating on the teaching of the Church - there is a catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1988: it is not obsolete and it is interesting to come back to it from time to time. And then in the magnificent exhortation “It is confidence” that the Pope gave us on Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus on October 15, we also have a teaching which helps us to know God better. It is therefore a question of reviving our vigilance. Our vigilance towards the coming in glory of Christ.
In fact, we are walking towards the Kingdom. We walk towards the fulfillment of our life, this fulfillment which is called holiness: it is our natural and at the same time supernatural vocation. We were created by God to share his life and therefore to be holy as God is holy. Our life thus becomes like an anticipation of Heaven. We must learn to live our lives as men with the morals of the Kingdom: this is the whole point of the Lord's teaching in the Gospels.
On this subject, I am referring to one of the aspects of the spiritual life of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus: it is this capacity that she has not to wait for things to happen, to experience them in an anticipated manner. You have two examples in particular, I will detail one: that of preparation for the first Communion. Thérèse is seven years old. Céline, who is a few years older, is prepared by Pauline for the first Communion. She is seven years old, she knows that she will not make her first Communion until four years later. (It was at the beginning of the 25th century that Saint Pius She doesn't say: I'll make my first communion later, I'm thinking of something else. No no ! She takes advantage of it. Four years of preparation with Céline. One evening, I heard you say that from the first Communion, it was necessary to start a new life, I immediately resolved not to wait for that day but to start one at the same time as Céline... (MsA XNUMXr °)
Gorgeous ! When I make my first communion, I will start a new life. Why wait ? I'm starting now! It is the same thing for her entry into Carmel where she wanted to return at Christmas 1887. She did not return until April 9, 1888. She was tempted to take advantage of these three
last months to enjoy life outside Carmel; she says to herself: no, it's a temptation. I'm going to start experiencing something of the Carmel life now.
We must, brothers and sisters, begin to experience something of the life of Heaven now, not tomorrow. Certainly, the good thief converts on the last day and it is better than not at all, but it is even better to do it before and to begin now to live the life of Heaven.
Finally in the Gospel we have a call from Jesus to vigilance. Two verbs in Greek are very interesting:
“Be careful, stay awake” Here we translate “stay awake”. The Greek verb is amusing, it is agrupnéô ἀγρυπνέω. “Hupnos”, it is sleep (which we find in French in hypnotic for example, quickly). “Agros”, it is the field, the countryside, which we find in French in agrarian. ἀγρυπνέω, it is sleep in the field, sleep outside, on the meadow. It is therefore in fact a way of staying awake because we sleep poorly there, undoubtedly because we are a shepherd in the middle of his flock and we sleep without quite sleeping because it is a question of watch over the sheep. So it’s about both being a little sleepy and at the same time being vigilant. These two dimensions are joint. And immediately you think of the Song of Songs (5,2), and you are right.
Fiance : — I entered my garden, my betrothed sister: I gathered my myrrh, with my spices, I ate my bread and my honey, I drank my wine and my milk. […]
The bride : — I sleep, but my heart is awake... It is the voice of my beloved! He hits !
Fiance : — Open to me, my sister, my friend, my dove, my all pure, for my head is wet with dew and my curls with drops of night.
“I sleep, but my heart is awake ". It is not a question of having a vigilance towards the Lord such that I think actively, constantly, about Jesus, about Jesus, about Jesus... I sleep, but my heart is awake. The Lord is there, present in my heart, somewhere. And I am attentive to his coming, especially when he manifests himself through the disguise of the poor, as some Fathers of the Church say. We heard it last Sunday: “I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink... — When, Lord?... — When you did it, you did it to me...".
The second verb to watch is the verb grêgoréô γρηγορέω - the first name Grégoire comes from there - which comes from another verb which means to stand, to get up, to stand up. And so that's what we do when we get out of bed, where we go from sleeping to being awake, standing. Watching is something active, active vigilance and attentive to what is happening. It is about being attentive to the coming of the Lord in glory. It's about preparing myself: “If he arrives unexpectedly, he shouldn't find you asleep. What I'm telling you here, I'm saying to all: Watch! »
This vigilance towards the presence of the Lord who comes must be expressed in vigilance towards our neighbor who also comes. We come across a lot of “next people” in a day. Our vigilance in waiting for the Lord, we must translate into a vigilance of charity towards our neighbor.
This vigilance in prayer, this vigilance in meditation on the Holy Scriptures, we will verify that it is authentic if our vigilance towards our neighbor increases, our attention to our neighbor, to serve him as if he were the Lord.
What a beautiful time of Advent!
Let us commit ourselves resolutely, voluntarily to following the Lord to prepare ourselves to receive him when he comes.