This is my homily for Sunday 28 November 2010, for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
[__01__] Sometimes, we do our best work under time limits. These time limits also lead to better performance on the playing field or the court. For example, don’t some players and teams really come to life in the …
• 2nd half
• 9th inning
• 4th quarter
• OT - overtime
We, sometimes, do the same in our tight spaces [not just the dorm room tight space] …but the tight space of syllabus, of a final exam, of the semester.
And, sometimes, in addition, tight spaces are also dark spaces. At this time of year, we feel the pressure of the end of the semester, the deadline …and I, daresay, the darkness.
After the game, the lights go out in the stadium as well.
[__02__] Today is the first Sunday of Advent. On the one hand, this is a beginning, a starting point. This is the beginning of the Church year, the beginning of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
However, Advent is also a time to meditate on the ending, the Second Coming to which Jesus refers in the Gospel and to which Paul alludes in the letter to the Romans.
Advent is a season of “overtime”, to meditate on the final stages of our lives.
And, what happens during “regular time” will influence what happens in “overtime.” What is true for a player who is in shape and able to play the whole game and also overtime … also can be true for us.
So, when we hear about Christ’s birth at Bethlehem, we are not reminded of the start of the “game” …. We are also being reminded that Christ will come again, be born again. And, even now, he wants to shine his light into our lives.
However, he is not going to impose this light in the way a detective turns a bare light bulb on a suspect during an interrogation or the way the doctor knocks you unconscious then turns up the light really bright … light that you cannot even see.
Jesus wants us to see the light which he is shining. He wants us to see it – willingly – during both regular time and overtime.
[__03__] Advent, while it is a beginning, also reminds us that we are already works-in-progress and that we are getting closer and closer to the end.
There is a time limit. And, there is darkness associated with the limits of the time, the end of the year, or semester.
Right now, we see the time limits quite clearly. It is dark outside, practically the middle of the night at 7:45 p.m. here in Eastern Standard Time.
And, we have grown accustomed to this darkness, turning on our vehicle headlights at 4:30 in the afternoon.
We are accustomed to the darkness. However, as John Henry Newman writes, we find it hard to be satisfied by the darkness. We really have to meditate on the end of life … on what it means to be … near death. So, if you – in your prayer – wonder about eternal life, about the mystery of death … well this is also Advent – it reminds us that life [even when there is plenty of daylight] does not satisfy us.
And, when we are in the dark days of winter, we are reminded of this all the more:
“Does the [soul] rejoice solemnly that "the night is far spent, the day is at hand," that there are "new heavens and a new earth" to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will "soon see the King in His beauty," and "behold the land which is very far off." These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ.”
So, as we approach Advent, we might remember not that we are re-born as children … but that we will be reborn …in death as grown ups too. So, if we feel a bit older in the winter weather … that is in fitting with the season. It is getting closer and closer to our overtime. And to the darkness.
[__04__] Being un-satisfied with the darkness, we seek for light. And, we might choose artificial lights or real lights. The real lights are the ones which
Christ wants to give us, to bless us with.
For example, the artificial are the entertainments or media we select. Sure, these might be diversions, recreations. But, we are also called to be discerning about the messages we absorb from them.
• Does Facebook teach me anything about Friendship?
• Does a Hollywood love story teach me anything about true love… an action hero …about real heroism? Or about the love and everyday heroic sacrifices to which we are all called? Marriage, for example, is about both love and heroism for both spouses.
These diversions are not inherently bad. But, diversions need discernment.
Francis de Sales writes about recreations – if too much time be given to such things, they cease to be a recreation and they become an occupation and so far from relaxing the mind, they produce tension.
Actually, Francis de Sales was thinking of this in terms of the danger of spending 5 or 6 hours playing too much tennis … or chess …. Maybe that it is not the seduction we fall into … but I think we get the picture.
[__05__] What are the true lights?
• Time with our families
• Time visiting someone who needs us, visiting someone who is sick
• These might seem to be a confinement to a dark room. However, we might remember the words of Psalm 139, “darkness is not dark for you and night shines as clear as the day.”
• Jesus comes to us in our darkness.
• Quiet time
These times of study might also seem to be real darkness. However, this is a light that no one else can turn off, unlike entertainment or movie.
These are the real lights we are called to pursue, the lights which will shine through us, the lights which will guide us into overtime and beyond. [__end__]