Ok, so it is literally only a couple of hours before my first Christmas Mass as a priest, but here is my 4th Sunday homily... in case any of you are waiting until tomorrow to begin celebrating Christmas :)
Homily: 4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle C
“Haste makes waste…” or so they say. And what does that mean? Well, this saying—or ‘proverb’, if you will—is simply stating that, for most people, most of the time, when one moves too quickly from thought into action it often times results in something being left undone or forgotten, and that one then must waste time and energy either to redo what wasn’t done or to return to retrieve whatever was forgotten. Now I know that I’m not alone when I say that I can speak to the truth of this, for I often find myself making haste to leave the office or the house because I’ve tried to do one too many things before leaving and then realize that I’ve either left something undone or forgotten something that I needed. And so I waste time (and make myself late) because I left in haste instead of taking some extra minutes to think about what I needed to do or retrieve before I left.
Yet, in spite of the truth that rings out from this saying, over these past four weeks or so, we’ve all been bombarded with messages telling us to make haste. All the way from the buildup to Black Friday to the days and weeks that followed, every outlet of media has been filled with messages urging us to make haste: “Sale ends…” “Three days only…” “Hurry before they’re gone…” In contrast to the age-old proverb, retail businesses seem to be saying to us “Make haste so that you don’t waste a perfectly good opportunity to get what you want.” Yet all the while the Church has been telling us to watch, wait, and listen.
In our Gospel reading, the Virgin Mother makes haste to the hill country, to a town of Judah so small and insignificant that the Gospel writer didn’t even bother to name it, in order to visit her cousin Elizabeth: the barren one who was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Her hasty departure (the Gospel tells us that she left soon after she heard the announcement from the angel) probably meant that she left many things undone. It is believed that she was about 15 years old when she conceived Our Savior by the Holy Spirit, and so it was likely that she was responsible for many things around the house. Thus, it is very likely that the Virgin Mother’s haste made waste for others who needed to do what she left undone. And would that be ok? I mean, even though she is the Virgin Mother of God, does that mean that she could impose on her parents and their household so she, in her exuberance, could visit her cousin? Perhaps, however, the blessing that the Virgin Mother was to bring to her cousin was more important than the cost of the journey and of what was left undone? I guess, however, that since this is how the Scriptures have recorded it we just have to believe this to be so.
But what if it really wasn’t waste at all? You know for years, Mary waited, watched, and listened for the coming of the Messiah, God’s chosen one who would redeem his people. Then, at the announcement of the angel, she was ready to move. And so what looked like haste was probably not waste because she had already prepared herself to respond to whatever God’s call might be, and whenever (and however unexpectedly) that call would come.
And so the question, then, comes to us: This Advent, have we been so hasty to get to Christmas that we’ve wasted our chance to prepare for his coming? Have we been so focused on wrapping presents, sending cards, baking cookies, and decorating yards, trees, windows and (in some cases) cars that we’ve forgotten to wait, watch, and listen? In other words, have we been so focused on getting to the red and green that we’ve failed to notice the violet? …We’ve failed to notice the violet, haven’t we? We’ve done it again, haven’t we? We’ve wasted another Advent.
My brothers and sisters, there is still time. There are only a few hours of Advent remaining, but there is still time. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the supposed end of time never materialized, the time that remains to prepare is short. And so, my brothers and sisters, now is the time to make haste to wait, watch, and listen. Now is the time to turn off the Christmas songs, to take off the red and green (and the jingle bells that inevitably go with it) and to welcome silence. Now is the time to make haste to slow down your heart: to wait and listen for the sound of Mary’s greeting to hit your ears, announcing the arrival of her Son. Now, my brothers and sisters, is the time to accept that everything that has ever needed to be done has been done: for Jesus has come, he is with us now, and he is coming again. Let us, therefore, make haste to waste these next days in prayer, to look with anticipation to what is yet to come, and so be ready, when he comes, to leap for joy.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 22nd & 23rd, 2012