Make this Advent as holy as possible

Advent has begun. The color purple signifying royalty abounds on the altar linens and in the priest's vestments. We will be singing Advent hymns. The Advent wreathe will be lit for the first time at the conclusion of the Prayer of the Faithful. The manger scene is being prepared for celebrating the birth of our Savior on Christmas Day. Do you sense the excitement, the joy, and the urgency of preparation?

Advent represents a two-pronged waiting: waiting for the anniversary celebration of Jesus' birth, and waiting for the second coming of Christ in the Last Judgment.

Isaiah today speaks of the transcendence of God, and concomitantly our unworthiness/sinfulness in relationship with God. The prophet praises God: "You have wrought awesome deeds. No ear has heard, no eye has seen, what you have done for those who wait for you." Meanwhile, the prophet continues, "You have let us wander far from you. You are angry and we are sinful. All of us have become like unclean people." We need and desire what God can do for us, i.e., save us from our sins.

What can bridge this gap between God's transcendence and our sinfulness? Jesus is our hope. Jesus is truly God and truly Man. He has come to be the bridge, the mediator, the Savior. The Nicene Creed which we pray every Sunday professes that Jesus is: "God from God, Light from Light; true God from true God, and "by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." These words were chiseled from the discussions, debates, and writings that the early Church experienced in identifying Jesus as God and Man. Some famous teachers had propagated the belief that Jesus is divine but not human, i.e., God in the shape of man. Other famous preachers and teachers taught that Jesus is man but not God, i.e., a very good man but only especially gifted by God. The Church taught authoritatively in 325 at the Council of Nicea that Jesus is truly God and truly man. The Church Fathers explained that Jesus in his divinity has the power to save us from our sins, and that Jesus in his humanity identifies with us in all things except sin. Jesus is our Savior.

Thank you for believing that Jesus is "true God from true God, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." This is what we celebrate in Christmas. This is what guides us as we prepare for Advent and the Last Judgment.

The Psalmist today prays, "Lord, let us see your face." We all yearn to see, touch, and hear directly from God. The Psalmist was writing about 1,000 BC. Imagine the depth of yearning and hoping that the people felt. Imagine their passion and desire for the Messiah. And we Christians actively rejoice, "the Lord has come. We see his face and hear his words in Jesus Christ."

St. Paul assures us that it is Jesus who will keep us both firm in our faith, and "irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Note that Paul in this reading and Jesus in the gospel reading focus on the second coming of Christ.

Jesus in the gospel warns his listeners to "be alert" for when the Master returns. We want to use this Advent season to make ourselves ready for celebrating the first coming of our Savior, and preparing for the second coming of our Savior.

May I suggest a practical application? What do you need to do to prepare better spiritually for the coming of Our Lord? May I suggest that you choose one good thing to do more, and simultaneously one sinful thing to do less? I don't think it does much good if on the one hand you pray more, but if at the same time, you continue to gamble away the family's food money. Nor do I think it does much good if you try to watch less pornography, but at the same time, do not ask for the grace to be strong and pure in thought, word, and deed. We need to do good and avoid evil at the same time. I repeat my suggestion: choose one good thing to do more, and simultaneously one sinful thing to do less. Don't aim for perfection overnight. Some people might succeed in going "cold turkey" but most people make two steps forward and one step backwards; just keep moving forward. Rather than experience the depression of failure in your resolutions, I wish that you experience progress, and grow in confidence in being good and doing good.

Let's make this Advent as holy as possible. Let's "be alert, be watchful" as we await the celebration of Jesus' coming as the God-Made-Man, and as we await Jesus' second coming in the Last Judgment.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley