YOU BUSY?

Hi everyone! HAPPY NEW YEAR! In the Church with the start of Advent we start a new liturgical year. The readings for today¡¯s Mass can be found at https://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/112909.shtml – Thanks as always for reading and your feedback. Fr Jim

HOMILY:

Have you ever been hit with a “zing” of a comment?¡¡You know, when someone takes something you¡¯ve said and somehow turns it¡¡against you, making you feel or look stupid?¡¡ Surprisingly, this happens to me a¡¡lot – draw your own conclusions as to why.¡¡I have to admit, the last time it happened to me it was so unexpected, so unwarranted it really was like a punch in the stomach.¡¡ I was aggravated that this guy – who happens to be a fellow priest – an older retired guy (and you¡¯d think¡¡retired priests wouldn¡¯t do these kinds of things anymore¡¡- aren’t they supposed to be more worried about approaching death or something?) – like I was saying, I was aggravated he was still able to get me.

“Hey Jim – how¡¯ve you been? Haven¡¯t seen or talked to you for a long time.¡¡What are you up to?”¡¡he asked.¡¡ So I said, “Well I¡¯ve been the campus minister and director of the Newman Center at Montclair State for over two years now.”¡¡ “I never had an assignment like that Jim, how is that work?”¡¡ So I told him, “It really is terrific – I really love this ministry, I love the students I work with.¡¡I just find it hard to keep up with everything, though.¡¡ The weeks seem to fly by and I can¡¯t believe that another semester is finishing up. It seems like yesterday we were having our welcome back barbeque and I blinked and we¡¯re at the end of the semester. Then once we get to Winter Break, we have this conference that we¡¯re taking about 40 students to over break for five days four nights. It¡¯s really great and there¡¯s just a lot going on.”¡¡

“Wow, Jim, I have to tell you – you sound like you’re the second busiest priest in the Archdiocese.”¡¡

¡¡Taken in by this old man¡¯s gentle, meek demeanor, imagining some higher spiritual insight or wisdom he was about to share, I foolishly asked, “Who¡¯s the first?” And he said, “EVERY OTHER PRIEST IN THE ARCHDIOCESE.”

Ouch.

Yeah, my two older brothers slamming me verbally like this, or one of the students at Newman, well, I¡¯ve come to accept as a part of my life, but¡¡this threw me because it¡¡really was so very unexpected.¡¡

But when I thought about it – he is kind of right.¡¡Most priests are busy – really busy.¡¡One of my best friends is a campus minister AND a Pastor – he¡¯s busy.¡¡ And the more I think about it – everyone seems pretty busy.¡¡ We seem to rush from one thing to the next, and simply try to get through whatever it is that¡¯s currently in front of us, knowing there¡¯s plenty of other things just on the horizon.¡¡College students barely start¡¡one semester¡¡before mid-terms seem to sneak up, followed by papers and projects and finals and yet another semester is quickly over. A friend of mine who works on Wall Street never seems to break out of the vicious cycle of daily updates,¡¡weekly summaries,¡¡quarterly reports, annual evaluations . . .¡¡and is always stressed about what¡¯s next.¡¡Parents (somehow) have to deal with their own lives – conflicts from work,¡¡sacrifices that are essential to keep their marriage going – not to mention meeting the needs of their own kids, where they are in their lives – yes¡¡parents are busy.¡¡Even my parents¡¡both of whom are retired, still seem incredibly busy – whether it¡¯s babysitting, taking someone to a doctor¡¯s appointment or fulfilling someone else¡¯s request (because people assume they can do it¡¡now that they’re retired) – yes, we all seem to be living complex¡¡lives with¡¡packed schedules, struggling to meet the never-ending demands of life.

With all this busy- ness, some come to Mass simply to clear their minds of all their demands; some come here as a break from all that ‘white noise.’¡¡ Especially at this time of year, we know Christmas is coming ¨C we¡¯ve seen wreaths, trees, we’ve heard Christmas music since Columbus day ¨C the demands of the season start to weigh on people.¡¡And so some of us are here¡¡just for a break, or¡¡because we know that Christmas is about Jesus Christ¡¯s Birth, and we hope to gain some distance from the chaos out there and some perspective, some realization that Jesus really is the reason for the season.

Because I think that¡¯s where a lot of people are coming from, it¡¯s understandable that today¡¯s readings can, on first¡¡reading,¡¡seem less than helpful.¡¡Far from hearing about shepherds and Joseph and Mary awaiting the birth of the baby Jesus, we hear Jesus himself talking about the “end of the world.”¡¡¡¡And what does Jesus do?¡¡He gives us even more work – “Be vigilant” He says, telling us not to let the last day catch¡¡us by surprise like a trap.¡¡ (Oh great – something else to do!)

Yet, in reality, if¡¡a¡¡shift in our perspective is truly what we¡¯re looking for, if making “Jesus the reason for the season” is¡¡really our¡¡goal, if freedom from the business and stress of our daily life is something we long and hope for ¨C and if we can listen again to what Jesus is asking us to do – we¡¡should welcome these words.

Because in reminding us that there will be an end¡¡to this world – there will be a day when Jesus comes back, a day which will mark the end of the history of earth; whether we live to see that or not, there will be an end to our own part of this earthly¡¡drama, there will be a day when our own, busy lives will end, and so much of what occupies our daily existence- so much of what contributes to our daily stress level¡¡- so much of what makes our busy-ness¡¡so busy on that day really¡¡won’t matter any more.

Either at the end of our lives or at the end of all time, we¡¯re going to (finally) find ourselves face to face with Jesus.¡¡If we¡¯ve been seeking Him every day of our lives, if we¡¯ve been desiring this union, if we¡¯ve been trying to follow His call in our workaday lives, if we¡¯ve gratefully received His grace and His love and tried to respond to it in how we¡¯ve related to Him and to others – then that¡¯s a day of great joy that we are looking forward to.

If, however,¡¡we¡¯ve been¡¡preoccupied, if our vision¡¡has been¡¡obscured, if we (kind of) know Jesus¡¯ voice is¡¡out there, somewhere, amidst the ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’ which is all around us -¡¡if we have treated¡¡His call as only one possible call among equals – then we live in fear of¡¡that day – it¡¯s the deadline we know is coming, although we do not know when.

Advent calls us to “prepare for the Lord” – not simply to study or make a historical remembrance of Jesus¡¯¡¡entrance into our chronology; nor to live under the gloomy cloud of end-time worry, living in fear of that day when human history will end.¡¡We are to prepare for the Lord – with fear and joy – today and always.¡¡ We are to be focused on the things of the Lord, to make sure He is our greatest priority, our one ‘ever fixed mark’; to make certain that, when He¡¡does returns, He¡¡will find¡¡we have been ever seeking Him, that we have been truly and deliberately ‘busy’ doing His work on earth, and are, at last, overjoyed to be reunited with Him, finally, in heaven.

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