December 1, 2016
The following is the homily I delivered at the Bishop Chatard school Mass yesterday. We used the Gospel reading for the day – the feast of St. Andrew (Matthew 4:18-22). For the first reading, we used a passage from Proverbs, chosen by the sophomore class. Sophomore class rings were blessed and distributed after Mass, so this was a special Mass for the Class of 2019.
There are two images from my childhood that pop into my head every year when Advent begins.
First, when I was young, there were certain times when the house got a special cleaning. Someone special was coming to the house – such as a relative we hadn’t seen for awhile, the parish priest, or dad’s boss.
We did the basic cleaning on a regular basis, but these events required us to take it up a notch. So each of the kids got a list of jobs we needed to complete. The house got the full treatment – wiping down baseboards, taking everything off the shelves for a thorough dusting, removing the drip pans from the stove and scrubbing them, and so on.
I remember asking Mom what the big deal was. Why spend so much time preparing for these guests?
Her answer: “It will show them that their visit is important to us.”
I think of her words every year as we begin Advent.
The second image is a picture I remember from my 3rd or 4th grade religion book. It was a picture of a giant heart, with a cleaning crew giving the heart a good scrubbing. Under the picture, it said: Advent – Prepare Your Heart.
I no longer have my religion book from 3rd or 4th grade, so I asked Mrs. Wagner to draw the picture as I remember it. (This drawing was projected on the screen):
The heart is getting a special cleaning. Every part of the heart is getting some attention. Like our thorough house cleaning, the intent was to show Jesus that His visit was important to us.
How do we show Jesus that His coming is important to us?
- Yesterday was a good start. We had our Advent penance service and many of you went to confession. You wiped the slate clean and unburdened your heart. You began the process of preparation.
- You can spend more time in prayer. If you don’t pray at all on your own, this is a great time to start. Or maybe you pray, but feel like you’re just going through the motions. Turn it into a conversation. Open your heart to Him; pour out your heart to Him.
- Involve yourself in service to others. When you turn our attention away from yourself and direct it toward God and others, your heart is re-purposed.
- You can also reflect on God’s role in your life. You can acknowledge His presence and show your gratitude. However, to do this requires giving up control. After all, if you are acknowledging God’s role in your life, you are also acknowledging that you are nothing without Him. You’re saying that you need Him in your life. This type of acknowledgment requires complete trust. It can be scary, but it can also soften your heart.
The sophomores chose a passage from Proverbs that speaks to giving up control. We heard in the first reading: Trust in the Lord with all your heart…In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.
In the gospel on this feast of St. Andrew, we heard Jesus call His disciples. We got another glimpse of what it means to give up control. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, we are told they dropped their nets at once and followed Him. When He called James and John, they immediately left their boat and followed Him.
Complete trust. They were preparing their hearts for the coming of Jesus.
It is time to prepare your heart for the coming of Jesus.
You prepare your house and buy gifts for family and friends that come to your house for Christmas.
For Advent, prepare your heart and give Jesus the gift of yourself – make sure He knows His visit is important to you.