Wake from Sleep and be Clothed in Christ

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

“Wake from sleep.” (Rom 13:11) These are the words of Paul to the Romans in our second reading today (Rom 13:11-14). These words are also good for all of us to hear as we begin Advent. From what sleep are we to awake? Paul encourages the Romans to wake from being asleep in sin, in other words to take a look at their lives and see how they are doing. To make sure that those listening to Paul’s letter would take a look at their lives, and to make sure that they would not remain asleep in sin, like a loud alarm clock, Paul lists a host of sins to be overcome; drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry and jealousy (Rom 13:13). That was quite an alarm clock urging them to wake up.

Jesus in the Gospel is also sounding the alarm (Matt 24:37-44). He tells his listeners that before the Great Flood people were completely unaware of what awaited them. They carried on with their daily business and knew nothing was amiss until the flood came. Those people needed to hear the alarm-clock call of Paul to the Romans, “Wake from sleep” but only Noah and his family were wide awake and living holy and honest lives. It will be just the same, says Jesus, at the time of his Second Coming. Two men will be out working in the field and one will be righteous and holy like Noah and ready for Jesus’ Second Coming but not the other one (who will not enter God’s kingdom). Likewise two women; one will be righteous and holy and ready for Jesus when he comes as Noah was ready for the flood but not the other. “Therefore, stay awake!” says Jesus. At the time of Noah, everyone with the exception of Noah and his family were asleep in sin. Paul is telling the Romans to wake up from sin and Jesus says to stay awake and be ready because we do not know when the Son of Man will come. At the Second Coming of Jesus at the End of time there will be the Final Judgment (Catechism 678-689; 1038-1041; 1059) but we will each meet Jesus in what we call the particular judgment at the moment of our death (Catechism 1021-1022). We do not know when our lives will end so be ready, says Jesus. Be always in a state of grace, awake, says Jesus because we do not know when he will call us from this life. You do not want to be like that man or that woman, says Jesus, who was not ready at the time of Noah when the flood came. At this time we have the impression that many are asleep. If Paul were writing now, his alarm clock call to wake up would be very loud indeed and would mention many more sins to wake from such as abortion and murder, to name just two. There is much to wake from now and Advent is a time to wake from sin. Advent is a time to prepare not only for Santa Claus coming to town but to prepare for Jesus coming to town and what better way to prepare than to do as Paul says, to wake from sin, in other words to prepare our hearts for Jesus. And what better way to wake from sin and prepare our hearts for Jesus than to make a good, sincere and honest Confession this Advent. God is always waiting to pour out his love and forgiveness and mercy on us. Sin need never be the last word in our lives, Jesus can forgive sin and his forgiveness and love and mercy can be the last word in our lives.

Paul then says to the Romans, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 13:4) When the ancient Romans got up in the morning they put on their tunic. Over that, men put on the toga and women put on the stola. Now Paul is saying they are to put on something else, in fact put on someone else, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” They are to clothe themselves in Christ. Your clothes are closer to you anything or anybody else. So Paul is saying Jesus should be closer to us in our life than anything or anybody else. Paul is saying we should be all wrapped up in Jesus. He is saying we should have Jesus wrapped all around us. It reminds me of the prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, part of which goes,

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

How can we be all wrapped up in Christ and have Christ behind us, before us, beside us, beneath us, above us? Make time for Jesus in your life every day. Turn off the TV, get away from the phone, the internet, have some silence in your life so Jesus can speak to you. Pray together as a family and pray alone. Pray, pray, pray. Receive Jesus in the sacraments, read Sacred Scripture, read good spiritual books, as Paul says “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Think as Christ does. Is Christ in your mind? Make room for Jesus in your mind so that you think as Jesus does. How do you make room for Jesus in your mind? Turn off the TV, get away from the phone, the internet, have some silence in your life for Jesus. Pray, pray, pray. Do as Christ would do. Do you stop to ask yourself what Jesus would do or would want you to do? How would you know what Jesus would want you to do if you don’t stop to give him room in your life, if you don’t allow yourself to be wrapped up in Jesus, or have him behind you, before you, beside you, beneath you, above you? Advent is a time to prepare not only for Santa Claus coming to town but to prepare for Jesus coming to town and what better way to prepare than to do as Paul says, to wake from sin and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2016

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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Second Reading: St. Augustine converted reading this text of Romans