Our job is to 'have time for God' Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Dec. 04, 2008 -- 1:00 AM

Editor’s note: The following column is taken from bishop’s homily of the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, 2008.

under the gospel book

We say to the Lord, at the beginning of this Advent, “Come Lord Jesus; do not delay! Stir up your power Lord and come to save us. Do not delay!” And when we pray that powerful prayer, we believe that it will be answered. And yet, we know that the coming of Jesus at the end of history, at the end of this world as we know it, may not be next week or next month. That return of the Lord is probably going to be delayed . . . at least we think so . . .

So, when we pray, “Come Lord and do not delay,” we must mean more than simply the final coming of Jesus at the end of the world. And of course we do. Jesus already came in history, and that is what we celebrate at Christmas. Without that first coming, we would be left in our sins and in our guilt, as it says in the first reading from the First Sunday of Advent.

The first reading really captures the first point which Advent is all about — our need for God. It says, “Lord you were angry with us because of our sins and because of our guilt.” The reading reminds us and acknowledges that we really needed the Lord’s coming in history. Were the Lord not to come, the only prospect would be damnation because of our sins and our guilt. We really needed that coming in history, but we also need the Lord’s coming today, in mystery, through the Church, the Body of Christ, and especially through this Eucharist and through the Sacrament of Penance, where the Lord personally forgives our sins and takes away our guilt.

A season for expressing need, hope

We need the Lord’s coming in His providential care for us, each day. That’s why the Gospel ends with the one-word command, “Watch!” That one word says to us: Don’t miss it when God’s providence takes care of you! Don’t miss it when the Lord speaks to you through the events of your everyday life! You need that coming of the Lord, so that your guilt and sins are removed, and so that you have hope! We are reminded of that other beautiful line from the first reading, “Yet you are still the potter and we are still the clay. We are still the work of your hands.” With all of our guilt and all of our sins, God’s providential care watches over us every day and we have to watch. God is the patient potter, re-forming the clay — re-forming each of us who remain the work of his hands, so that we remain always hopeful. And this gets to the second key theme of Advent; Advent is a season of expressing need for the coming of Christ into our lives and it is a season for expressing hope.

And the twin meanings of this season are of particular importance for those brothers and sisters of ours who are in the RCIA program and who now begin the journey toward Baptism or full reception into the Catholic Church. You are beginning a liturgical journey with this lead-up to Christmas, a journey which continues though Lent, to the celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter, then to the Feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. You are about to enter into, for the first time in your lives, as Catechumens and Candidates, the mystery that even though so many of us think we don’t have time for God, God (as our Holy Father said so beautifully this week) still has time for us.

God has continually had time for us. It started when Jesus took flesh in the Blessed Mother’s womb and it continues, even through this day. God’s presence to us continued through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, through Easter Sunday, through the Ascension and Pentecost, through the life of the Church to this day. The Body of Christ, ensouled by the Holy Spirit, embodies that presence today.

Set aside enough time for God

As you continue in the RCIA program, make it your “job” to have time for God, because he has already had time for you. The difference is that we need to have time for God; He doesn’t need to have time for us — He does it out of love. So, we give Him time. We should not say or think or act as if we have no time for Him. He is the one who took time for us, and we desperately needed Him to do that, because otherwise there would be no salvation. So, Advent is a season of need in the first place, and a season of hope in the second place.

And who embodies that hope, better that any other human being? It is our Blessed Mother, who is the sign and the embodiment of Advent. She is the one who gave her whole life to fulfilling the need of the world for our salvation — that was her whole life. She was the one who lived in hope, even as she stood at the foot of the Cross. She is the one who knows that we are guilty and yet are called to be hopeful.

We pray a beautiful hymn at Advent which reminds us of this reality: “Loving Mother of the Redeemer, assist your people who have fallen, yet strive to rise again.” Note the themes of sin and guilt, but also hope. The Holy Spirit would not have given us that beautiful hymn to the Blessed Mother, if the thought were that we would never fall. If the thought were that we would never fall, there would be no point to praying, “assist your people who have fallen.” But we do pray it. We recognize our need, and then we pray, “yet strive to rise again,” recognizing our hope.

As you begin this journey towards baptism or full communion, and as all of us begin a new Church year, when we realize that even if we don’t set aside enough time for God, He has given us more generously of His time, let us begin this Church year, this Advent season, this celebration of the time that God gave us in Christ and in the Holy Spirit, let us begin it with that prayer: “Assist your people who have fallen, acknowledging our need, yet strive to rise again, acknowledging our hope . . .”

Thank you for taking the time to read this. God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!