Homily for the First Sunday of Advent
Preached on November 26-27, 2016 at Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church, Morehead KY and St. Julie Catholic Church, Owingsville KY
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
In 1995, Tim La Haye and Jerry Jenkins published a novel so sensational that it spawned a series of 16 books and four action thriller movies, the first three starring former teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron. Its title was Left Behind and it singlehandedly spread the anticipation, if not the fear, of a so-called ‘rapture.’
The novel’s title sums up what everyone fears about the end of days: no one really wants to be left out from that celestial roll call and be “left behind” with all of Heaven’s rejects. We all want to be remembered; none of us wants to be forgotten. We all want to be favored; none of us wants to be forsaken. We all want to be included; none of us wants to be excluded.
Yet, it seems that this fear of being “left behind” is more about missing out on something and less about missing someone.
Everyone seems to think that with the rapture the righteous will just suddenly and randomly disappear and those who are not good enough will be left to pick up the pieces. But, that is not the point that our Lord is trying to make when He recounts in the Gospel the scenes of the two men out in the field and the two women grinding at the mill (cf. Mt. 24:40-41). He tells us that the first of each pair responds at a moment’s notice; the second goes back to business as usual. The first is ready to receive the Redeemer; the second could not have cared less. The Lord reveals through these scenes the true tragedy of His Second Coming: not that anyone will be left behind, but that someone will not want to leave this world behind to be with Him.
That is why the Lord likens His coming to the days of Noah (cf. Mt. 24:37). The people “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark” (Mt. 24:38). None of them realized that there was a great flood until they were drowning in it (cf. Mt. 24:39). They were too busy with so many other things that they literally missed the boat. But, they were not left behind; they stayed behind.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it is in our own day: we too find ourselves swamped by the business of life and we are filled with fear that we will be left behind, not by the rapture but in the rat race. But, the Lord reminds us today through this Gospel that, in our obsession not to miss out on everything, we have often dismissed Him. We prepare for a holiday that bears His name but neglect to make it a holy day in His name. We get so wrapped up with buying gifts that we forget to make a gift of our lives. Our homes are not going to be empty this Christmas; they are going to be crowded with so much stuff that, chances are, there will be no room left for the Christ-Child when He comes. It is probably going to be Bethlehem all over again for the Holy Family: there will be “no room for them in the inn” (cf. Lk. 2:7).
This Gospel then is our wake-up call and this season of Advent is our dress rehearsal for the Lord’s coming. This is the time when we are called to remember not what else we are missing but whom we should be missing. This is the season when we make as much room for the Lord in our hearts and in our hearth, so that, when He comes on Christmas Day or even on the end of days, He will find us ready to leave everything behind to bid Him welcome.