[This weekend, I am not preaching at the regular Church Masses. We are having a special appeal, and the priest associated with that ministry is ginving the homily. But I do have two youth Masses that day: one at a retreat, and the other a Mass for one of our High School Religious Education groups. You’ll notice the homily is quite similar to my homily for Friday’s School Mass (which didn’t happen due to snow) below. Here, I want to use the catechetical opportunity to teach the youth about Advent and to give the season a good introduction for them.]
Today, we begin the season of Advent, which is the time that we as a Church prepare for the coming of Jesus. In the readings every Sunday of this season, we’ll be hearing all about God’s promises. I wanted to take a moment to talk about the promises we’ll be hearing, and to associate them with the candles of the Advent wreath.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we will light this first purple candle. Purple is the color of repentance, the color that reminds us to pray for help in overcoming our sins. The readings that we hear tell us all about God’s promise to save us. Jesus, who has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven, will come again in glory and will usher in a kingdom of peace and justice. He tells us to watch for his coming every day and to pray for the strength to hang in there until he comes back for us.
Next week, the second Sunday of Advent, we will light the first two purple candles. The readings that we will hear that day will tell us about God’s promise to forgive us. We all have moments when we sin against God, when we break our friendship with him. Whether we don’t go to Mass on Sunday, or disobey our parents, or cheat on our school work, or cut down our brothers and sisters and classmates, all of these things break our friendship with God. But the good news is that God still wants to be friends with us, and he promises to forgive us of our sins. When we confess our sins and repair our broken relationships, we are preparing the way of the Lord in our hearts.
On the third Sunday of Advent, we will light the first two purple candles, and then light the pink candle. The pink candle reminds us that even in a time when we are working hard on repentance of our sins and reforming our lives, we can still be joyful because Jesus is coming with his power to help us to change. The readings we will hear that day will tell us about God’s promise to make everything new. Even when everything seems hopeless, and the days are dreary; even when we hear about wars and crime and all kinds of sadness, we can hope in God. God never meant for all this sadness to be part of our lives, and he promises to send the Holy Spirit to recreate the world and to recreate our hearts so that we can all share in God’s love.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we will light all the candles, including this final purple candle. On that day, with all the candles lit, we will know that the birth of Jesus is very near. On that day, our church will be brighter with all four candles lit, and our hearts will be brighter because Jesus will enter our lives once again. On that day, the readings will tell us about the promise that we can be God’s holy people. Even though we have sinned and have made the world darker, Jesus comes to brighten our darkness and claim us as his own people. We are made holy because Jesus, who is holiness itself, is in our lives.
I am going to give you all a little prayer to memorize this Advent. I want you to pray it every morning when you get up, and every night before you go to bed. I want you to pray it whenever you think of it during the day. Whenever you see me at Church, I’d love it if you prayed it with me right then and there. It’s a simple prayer, and there are just three words: Come, Lord Jesus. If someone comes up to you and prays that, you should respond “Amen!” It’s a prayer of the early Church, when they were waiting for the Lord to come again. For us, it’s a prayer that we will be truly open to God’s presence. Come, Lord Jesus!