Homily for Advent 1
November 30, 2014
New Year, New Spirit
So, happy new year! Yes, you heard me right. Happy new year! As we begin Advent, we begin a new church year, a year in which God is going to do something new in our parish and in your life, if we are open to Him.
But I’d like to start this new year off with a story about a boy named Michael Magone. He was a student at a Catholic boarding school for poor boys in Turin, Italy in the 1800s. Although he enjoyed living at the school, getting an education, and certainly enjoyed all the sports they played, he had no use for the religion classes or the mandatory time of prayer. He found it all to be rather boring.
He hadn’t been at the school long, though, before all of the spiritual talks and prayers started to make an impression on him, and he began for the first time to think about where he was headed in life – and he realized that he had been wasting his life. He wasn’t a bad person, just one who got up, ate, went to school, had fun, and did it all over again the next day – without a single thought of God or seeking holiness.
This realization hit him like a ton of bricks, and he began to become withdrawn and his conscience was troubled. Thankfully the head of the school was a priest named St. John Bosco – a saint who spent his entire life working with youth – and the priest urged Michael to make a good confession. Then once he was right with God, he would be filled with the joy that he lacked.
So Michael heeded the saint’s advice and made the first honest, sincere confession of his life. All of a sudden, it was as if a light had dawned in his life – he realized what he was put on earth to do – to become a saint. He wrote of that night after his first truly honest confession, “If [only everyone could] experience for even a single minute the great joy that being in the state of grace brings, they would all go to confession to experience peace of heart!” He had made a definitive turn in his life at age 14 – and although he died a mere few months later, the rest of his life was so filled with the joy of pursuing Christ that he is now being considered for canonization (becoming a saint).
Most of us don’t think of Advent as a time to repent. We think of Christmas trees and gifts and good cheer. But our readings today offer us a sober warning – that this is a time also of repentance, of turning away from our sin to the mercy of God.
The true joy of Christmas means coming before Christ with a pure heart, a heart that repents of our sin. Of course it is always a custom to bring someone a gift on their birthday. Well, Jesus doesn’t need a new sweater or a new toy. There is only one gift that He desires – He desires your life, cleansed of sin. You don’t want to appear before the throne of God empty-handed.
Jesus instructs us in the Gospel that we must be awake and alert, because many of us have been living life half-asleep. We get up, go to our jobs or school, come home, lounge around, watch TV or play video games, eat, and go to sleep, without any thought of God. We were made for so much more than just the routine of daily life! We were made to become a saint, which means pursuing a relationship with God and turning away from our sins!
So this is my challenge for you. Since it IS a new year, and it’s customary to make New Years’ Resolutions, let’s make a resolution to give up one of our sins for Advent. Maybe it’s giving up greed and being more generous. Maybe it’s giving up gossiping or complaining. Maybe it’s finally breaking the addiction to alcohol or pornography. Maybe it’s remaining pure and chaste with our girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe it’s forgiving that family member who we hold a grudge against. Maybe it’s laziness. Whatever it is, pick one sin to work on overcoming this Advent. Then, we can give a gift to Jesus at Christmas – the gift of a pure conscience.
It’s a new year, and God wants to do something new in you!