Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Sunday Homilies: Sunday, November 27, 2011 (First Sunday of Advent)

Advent: the whole
time is wait; be
ready; be alert.
Transcript of homily recorded on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011

By Father Perry D. Leiker

How many of you love Disneyland?

How many only like Disneyland?

How many hate Disneyland?

I call it stand-in-line-dia. That's all you do, you go and pay an enormous amount of money — now $50, $60, $70, I don't even know how much it is — and then you stand in line for hours. They are the capital of line standing. In fact, they camouflage it. You come to some rides and it only looks like two little rows out there and you say, "Oh, my God this is great!" You stand in line in the two rows and you go inside the doorway and there's 40 more, and you just say, "Oh, it's an hour wait!" Is it not? It's awful. I have no patience for it. I go with some people and then I regret that I went. Thank you, God, for Ralph's market, because now Ralph's market puts a little TV screen in front of my line and I can watch news or chisme or whatever. It's wonderful. I can watch this as I'm standing in line. It seems forever, but I hate standing in line. I hate it. Hate it. And yet I love Advent. And Advent is four weeks of waiting. The whole time is wait; be ready; be alert. It's the scripture today.

Now, it's an interesting season because we think we're waiting for one thing but we're really waiting for something else. Really, the season is guiding us toward — at least the scriptural part — the second coming of Jesus Christ. All of the scriptures talk about the second coming, not about the birthday of Christ, only after the fourth week. So the season tells us, through the scriptures, Jesus Christ is coming again. This has always been a part of the Christian tradition. And Jesus is using the eschatological language of the day: Be ready for when the master comes, because he will come.

But most people think of it as just waiting for Christmas, for Jesus' coming at Christmas — and it is that, but that's a historical event that passed. The other is the event that's coming: the second coming of the Lord, and that's the one we really need to be ready for and not just some day or on Christmas Day, but every day, every moment.

So Jesus uses eschatological language which is a fancy word to talk about the end times. The whole Book of Daniel is eschatological, talking about the wars that will happen, and monsters will come and eat nations and all kinds of whoa! imagery, because in this language, we look at what will come and say, "Are you ready? Are we preparing?"

But Jesus uses it even more interestingly, because he's not interested in the end times, he's interested in the present time. Every word that Jesus preaches is "The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is here; it among you; it is within you; it is now. Open up. See it; receive it." And not a day should pass that we are not Kingdom people, open to God's presence and his coming within us and among us. If we're missing it, we've missed the coming of the Lord today for each of us. So he looks at the end that says be ready right now.

When I was in college, we used to have to put on a play every year (the senior class did), and [in] my freshman year, the senior class put on the play, "Waiting for Godot." It's a modern play — well, it was then. The whole play is about waiting for this character, Godot, to appear. So two or three people are there under a bridge, like hobos there, waiting and waiting, and they keep talking about him; he's coming any time. And then somebody comes by, "I think it's Godot! I think it's Godot!" They go, and it's not Godot. Well, this was good for about a half hour. But two hours of this? I was bored to tears waiting for Godot. And you know what? He never comes! He never shows up! And you finish the play — at least I said, "Oh my God, I waited and waited for Godot and he never came!" But that was the point of the play: What do you do with waiting? What do you do with waiting? When I go to Disneyland and wait in line, I complain — a lot. I am not fun to go to Disneyland with. I complain. But that's not what kids do. Every step they go, "I'm closer! I'm closer! Oh, my God, we're almost there!" And every step of the way they get more excited. They can't wait to get on it. But they're waiting with joy.

And I'm with a long face.

So we come into the season of waiting. And the church ... ah, the church is always dramatic. The church is dramatic in its rites and in its celebrations. I pity the people who don't get it, who are bored with these things. This is just, like, wow, exciting! This wreath, does anybody know why we have a pink one on here? Is it because we're cheap, we ran out of purple? You think? No. What's it mean? It's joy. It's for the Third Sunday of Advent. We do a similar thing in one of the last Sundays in Lent, preparing for Easter. They're called Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. They mean "rejoice," because the church says the first week of Advent we're waiting for the Lord. The second one, like the kids at Disneyland, we're getting closer. The third one, we say, "Rejoice! It's almost here!" And then the fourth one we begin to talk about the coming of the birth of Jesus Christ. And then we celebrate Christmas. I see a candle here (I don't know if they do it here), but sometimes they have the big, white candle here. And now, Christ the light has come.

Do you know why Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25? Do you think that was the birthday of Jesus? It is not the birthday — it might be, but we don't know; we don't know. (March. That's what I always say: on my birthday. I'm sure it's my birthday.) But do you know why Dec. 25? Toward the shortest day which means the longest night, the most darkness. That's another thing I don't like. You're getting my list today. I cannot stand these long nights and short days. I want summer when it's from 6 [a.m.] to 8:30 [p.m.], bright and light and fun. This is boring, all this darkness. And right in the middle of the winter solstice — I think the 21st, 22nd — right around the longest nights, the shortest day, the shortest light, and the longest dark, Jesus Christ is born, because the early Christians — and they loved to do this, when they would go into a place and find the culture and the religious stuff — they would take it and Christianize it. So the Pagans celebrated the feast of lights, they were celebrating light in the darkness. So this was perfect Christian language. Well, who is the light? It's Christ. Christ the light is born in the middle of darkness and in our own darkness. Nothing could delight Jesus more than to come into our sin, to come into our ignorance and our hatefulness and our pride and our unwillingness to forgive. He says, let me be your light. Let me come into that part of you and enlighten you to give you life, to fill you.

So the church says, that's worth waiting for. Be alert; be ready; open up, because Christ the light is coming in this Christmas. But if you're ready today and every day of this Advent season, ready like the kids say, "We're one step closer! Oh, my God! One step closer! Oh, my God!" that's what Advent's about — opening, waiting, being alert, being ready, being excited about being the people of God, about being able to come here to celebrate.

You know, when I think about places in the world that still exist today, and I'm not saying anything bad about Muslims, but in some fundamentalist, radical Islam countries, Christians are persecuted and not easily able to go to church and celebrate nothing public on the streets. We are so blessed to live in a land that separates religion and politics, religion and the law. Now, as much as people fuss that you can't put a cross on a hill, I say fine with me. We'll put it all we want in here, and government you stay out of this, this is our place. And we can do anything we want on our property, but can't do it on the top of some hill that's public. That's alright, because we don't put anything religious up there. But on your own property, you can do all the religious things you want, and we have the right to do it. We are so blessed. So what are we doing with that right? Do we come here joyfully? And in this season of joyful waiting, do we come like the children in line, "Wow! Wow!"? If we come here bored, get over it. That's our fault. There's nothing boring about what we're doing. What we're doing is opening up to God, and particularly, if we're real and if we come here with some humility of spirit and dare to stand naked before God — here I am, God; I'm a sinner. Here I am with my prejudices and my ugliness and my impatience and my unwillingness to do a lot. I need you, God. I want your light. Flood me with your light. Take away the ugliness. Feed me. Give me the drink that is Christ himself that will fill those parts of me that hunger and thirst.

I think the responsorial psalm says it so tremendously today: "Lord, make us turn to you. Let us see your face." It's an interesting thing. What happened in the Old Testament if you ever saw the face of God? You would die. That's what the Jews believed. So for us to say God, Lord, make us see your face. Make us see it. Lord, make us turn to you — of course that means we would see your face and die — but we say, Lord, make us turn to you and let us see your face. Permit us to see your face, and we shall be saved.

Well, we come in here to see the face of God in so many ways, but most of all, in the person of Jesus Christ. We listen to him speak to us in the Gospel. We eat and drink his body and blood. We celebrate Christ. We are the body of Christ. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face, and we shall be saved.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Benard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

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