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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 30, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily in Ponca City, Okla. on Sunday, Nov. 30. 2014
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Mary is in her eighth month and will give birth in four weeks. Her people have been waiting for this birth for at least 500 years. At various points in Jewish history others claiming to be the Messiah had occasionally appeared and even attracted followers but all of these false messianic movements eventually miscarried, leaving heartbreaking disappointment in their wake.
But believers took comfort in knowing that God's promises eventually would be fulfilled, and so they continued to wait. The years leading up to Jesus' birth were very hard for the Jewish people. They were a conquered, occupied country, filled with unfriendly soldiers and ruled by a ruthless puppet king beholden to Rome. The economy was dominated by a small number of very wealthy people who had sold out to Rome.
Crushing taxes siphoned off the meager resources of the little people who couldn't defend themselves against the tax collectors and their thugs. People were very tired of their miserable circumstances but took comfort in knowing that conditions were ripe for the Messiah finally to appear. Their society was pregnant with hopeful expectation that God would finally send a Savior and they were eager for the birth pangs of the Messianic Age to begin.
We have an obligation in justice to work to improve the structures of society, but we know than none of these important worldly efforts can satisfy any of the deeper needs of the human heart.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Twenty centuries ago Jesus ascended into heaven and ever since then we have been waiting for his second coming in glory at the end of time. At various points in our history false prophets claiming to know the timing of Jesus' return have occasionally appeared and even attracted followers — some of these false prophets are on TV even today — but all these false "Adventist" or "Milennarian" movements (that prey on gullible, simple believers) have eventually miscarried, leaving scandal and confusion in their wake.
But despite these abuses, we believers do take comfort in knowing that Jesus' promises eventually will be fulfilled and so we continue to wait. Scripture tells us that the years leading up to Jesus' return will be hard and even though we live in the wealthiest country in the world, we should remember that most people in today's world do not live like us, do not enjoy the freedom and prosperity that you and I take for granted.
Some live in battle zones or in countries whose governments are every bit as ruthless as Herod or Pilate. Most live in economies where a small number of very wealthy people exploit and dominate the little people who live in fear and abject poverty. A billion of our fellow human beings live in miserable circumstances and are more than ready for a change. In the past 50 years more than three-fourths of the countries of the world have changed not merely their governments, but their form of government — many of them multiple times — sometimes due to war and other external threats, but more often due to popular discontent and revolution within the countries themselves: getting rid of colonial governments in Africa, shaking off Communism in Eastern Europe, getting rid of military juntas in South America and the breaking apart of empires like the Soviet Union.
But one thing that is gradually dawning on people throughout the world is that these external political improvements have not made people happier or delivered on their promise of a better life. We have an obligation in justice to work to improve the structures of society, but we know than none of these important worldly efforts can satisfy any of the deeper needs of the human heart.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and there are three Advents, three comings of the Lord, for which we are waiting. The first occurs on Christmas Day, the second will occur on the last day, and the third is Jesus' coming to each of us every day. But that third coming occurs only on that day when we welcome him into our hearts.
He is the only one who can satisfy our deepest needs and longings. Advent is not only a time of waiting for Christmas and for the end of the world. It is most especially a time for preparing a place for him in our hearts today.