December 7, 2017
The following homily was originally delivered at all-school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis in 2013.
Advent is not a cram session. It is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus – the coming of Jesus at Christmas, as well as the second coming of Jesus on Judgment Day. While we recognize Advent as a time of preparation, we should not view it as the only time we prepare. Advent serves as a reminder to us to always be prepared.
I don’t want to stress you out, but allow me to compare Advent to preparing for final exams. These last few days heading into finals might be thought of as an advent season. Teachers, guidance counselors, and parents are telling you that the time is near and you must be prepared. But if you have done nothing else up to this point, this compressed time of preparation may not be enough. The students who have been preparing all semester are likely do better on the final exam. They may intensify their efforts during these next few days, this advent season, but a solid foundation for success has already been set by their earlier efforts.
Today’s Gospel speaks to that very point: “…the wise man built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”
The man who built his house on rock was prepared. He didn’t wait until the storm was in the area. He planned ahead so he was prepared when the time came.
During Advent, this intensified time of preparation, we are offered many ideas for how we can prepare for the coming of Jesus: spend more time in prayer, do works of charity, go to Reconciliation, and more. These are all great things and excellent ways to prepare. I endorse them all. But when Advent and Christmas have passed, then what?
Again, Advent is not a “cram session” for the final exam of Christmas or Judgment Day, but a time to form good habits and reflect upon how we can better prepare year-round. Preparation comes in the form of simple things we do every day.
What does your daily preparation look like? You prepare by the way you treat your family:
- Talk to your parents with love and respect, not like they work for you.
- Tell your family that you love them – every day or even several times a day. There is no limit on how many times you are allowed to say “I love you” to family.
- Show your family you love them. Respond to their needs. Help out around the house. Take a turn driving your little siblings to their practices. Spend a Friday or Saturday night at home occasionally – spend time with your family. Time with you now is a blessing to your parents. You will be off to college before you know it.
You prepare by the way you interact with people at school:
- Smile and greet people in the hallway, even if you don’t know them.
- Treat everyone equally. Let people know by your words and actions that you believe they have value.
- Expand your group of friends. Make cliques a thing of the past.
You prepare by holding yourself and your friends accountable:
- Do not make fun of anyone. Do not tease anyone. Do not bully anyone. Do not ostracize anyone. Jokes about race, or ethnicity, or gender, or faith are not funny – they are demeaning. If you see or hear anyone doing those things, put a stop to it.
- When you see friends going down the wrong path, do something about it. Talk to them. Let them know your concern comes from a place of love.
- When you find yourself in an unhealthy environment – whether it be alcohol, drugs, or behaviors – remove yourself. And take your friends with you.
You prepare by bringing a positive attitude and demeanor into each day:
- Take responsibility for your own happiness. Be joyful and carry that joy out into the world. No one is responsible for making you happy but you.
These are all simple daily behaviors that become part of our foundation. Our house of faith is best built upon a solid foundation that comes as a result of living a daily life of humility and love. So when next Advent rolls around, we are not cramming for finals, but enhancing the work that has already been done.