21 December 2012

An apocalypse to remember!

3rd Week of Advent (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

If you are among those who spend the last few days of Advent scrambling to buy last minute gifts, decorating the house, shopping for the Christmas menu, and fortifying yourself for an onslaught of visiting relatives, you might be disappointed that the Mayan Apocalypse failed to occur today. Did you find yourself peeking out the window hoping for an asteroid or two to fall? Or maybe just a little earthquake to shake things up? Not seriously wishing for a real apocalypse, of course, but perhaps an event significant enough to smack the holiday hurries out of your life? Something big enough to remind everyone that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”? Something to “Put Christ Back into Christmas”? How about “Put Mass Back into Christmas”? That's all the Christmas-related clichés I can remember. But you get the idea. Had the Mayan Apocalypse actually happened, we wouldn't be worrying about what to get crazy Aunt Tilly, or whether to buy that canned jello cranberry sauce or just make our own. We'd have much larger things to worry about. Like not catching on fire, and dodging hunks of falling space junk, and leaping over huge cracks in the earth. Apocalypses have a tendency to wonderfully focus the mind. We have four days until the birth of the Christ Child. Where are your heart and mind focused? 

Before you get worried: this isn't one of those “Stop Being So Busy That You Forget to Enjoy the Holiday” homilies. Nor am I going to wag my finger at you for being focused on the commercialism of Christmas, or nag you about the true nature of gift-giving. What I want to tell you is this: there will be an apocalypse. In four days time, we will witness a true apocalypse, the birth of the Savior of all creation. You see, the English word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek word apocálypsis, which literally means an “uncovering.” In the older English translation of the Bible, the last book of the Bible is called, The Book of the Apocalypse. Nowadays, we call it The Book of Revelation. Apocalypse and revelation mean the same thing: an uncovering, or unveiling of something hidden. It's b/c John's revelation at the end of the Bible involves the destruction of the world as we know it that we've come to think of an apocalypse as The End. The Apocalypse of the Nativity of the Lord is not just an end; it's an end and a beginning. The end of the Old Covenant in its fulfillment in the New Covenant, and the beginning of the Kingdom of God. If you were peeking out the window today, hoping for this sort of apocalypse, then you were celebrating Advent in high Catholic fashion! 

Now that you know that the Apocalypse of the Nativity of the Lord is really all about the unveiling of the Christ Child to the world, and not about a giant Baby Jesus rampaging through the French Quarter, let's ask our question again: where are your heart and mind focused right now? This question arises b/c most of our gospel readings this week have told the stories of Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah and their reactions to a visit from the angel, Gabriel. In varying degrees, these three reacted with confusion, fear, anxiety, and doubt. Gabriel reveals to them that they will all play a significant role in bringing the long-awaited Messiah into the world. That's quiet an apocalypse! They had no idea that Gabriel was coming much less that the Messiah was on his way in about nine months. Surprise! Confusion, fear, worry, doubt, all seem perfectly normal. What about us? We've had our whole lives to ponder and wait for the coming of the Lord. We know that we will welcome his birth in just four days. Where's our focus? On what or whom are we lavishing our attention? If it's true that we become what we love most, then it would be in our best interest to bring the full attention of both heart and mind to bear on the birth of the living revelation of the Word made flesh. This will be not only an apocalypse to remember but one we live day in and day out. 

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  1. My first read-through didn't result in an entirely positive review - so I re-read it, more carefully. And I am now laughing at myself, for my assumption is that if I don't like your homily I should re-investigate and see what MY problem is (you've got me well-trained, don't you?). So my conclusion: I think it was the image of the Giant Baby Jesus rampaging through the French Quarter which threw me off on my initial read.

    This homily doesn't quite measure up to the quite excellent ones of recent past, but it is good in its own right. Middle paragraph was my favorite: being a logophile throwing in some etymology will always get my vote. And reminding us where to focus, why, and when -- great way to end. Simple, yet effective.

    Thank you.

    1. Glad you liked it. I had another one finished and ready to go before deciding that I didn't like it. Trash. So, this one was a little rushed. A Mass regular told me recently that my homilies have been getting very serious. . .not gloomy but heavy. So, a little levity seemed OK.