First Sunday of Advent
Bishop of Lake Charles
Homily for the First Sunday of Advent
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
“I give thanks to my God always on your account.” I Corinthians 1:4
The word St. Paul uses in the original Greek, “ευχαριοτω”, is the word from which we get “Eucharist” in English, and it means “thanks.” The entire verse reads, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:4). For the early Christians what they did in the Eucharist, when they recalled what Our Lord Jesus did the night before He died in giving us His Body and Blood, was a “thanksgiving.” When Jesus offered up bread and wine, He was giving thanks to His Father who was willing the salvation of the world. When the early Christians offered bread and wine, they were giving thanks. They participated in the Body and Blood of the Lord through their thanksgiving. Through their thanksgiving they were entering into the mystery of Jesus’ life-giving passion, death and resurrection. As St. Paul will eloquently say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (I Corinthians 11:26).
I think this idea of thanksgiving fits beautifully into the season we have entered. Advent is time of preparation. As a time of preparing for the Lord’s coming, it is a season of faith. We believe in the promises of the Lord, that He came and that He will come again. Advent as a season should prepare us for a great profession of faith in the mystery of the Incarnation. That God became flesh in the womb of a virgin should fill us with awe and wonder. For this extraordinary epiphany of God in the flesh of man, we should be prepared, and thanksgiving assists in being prepared.
When as a child I waited for the visit of a favorite aunt, I did so because I remembered how kind she was to her nephews and nieces. I was grateful for the many times she had showered gifts on me. She was a symbol of the love that bound the family together, parents, children, grandparents, their tradition, their customs, and their presence. Through my return of affection, I displayed my thanksgiving for all she had done. This simple human experience is raised to a higher level in the experience of Advent and Christmas.
I think this is why St. Paul is thrilled with the marvels he sees being worked in the Corinthians. He is thankful because the Corinthians “are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (I Corinthians 1:7). They “wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:8). They “were called to fellowship with … Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:9). In them St. Paul sees God working, and it is good and he is grateful.
Advent fills us with hope because we have seen the marvelous works of God. We are thankful that through Jesus Christ peace and the hope of peace have entered the world. This is a hope, however, that world cannot give. There is much more because this hope is a promise rooted in a world that is yet to come. For us, as Catholics, the Eucharist, our “thanksgiving sacrifice”, is the epitome, “the source and summit”, of our worship. The Eucharist, our thanksgiving, thrusts us into a world that is full of grace and hope. It is our true “fellowship”, because through our participation in it we are made one with Christ. The Eucharist is a sign of redemption in as much as it is a rejoicing in our redemption. For this we are profoundly thankful. “Eucharist.”
The admonition in the Gospel today, “Be watchful” (Mark 13:33), is the admonition to those who know the marvelous works of God. The gatekeeper who watches for the return of his boss is the gatekeeper who knows what his master expects. He knows that he depends on his master, that the master has provided him with livelihood, and he is grateful. The gatekeeper cannot sleep.
In this Advent we cannot sleep. We must be ever aware of what God has done for us. This realization moves us to thanksgiving, and this thanksgiving joins us to the consummate act of thanksgiving, that is the Eucharist of the Lord.