You may have heard me say that Advent is mainly about eternity;
it is about Christmas only because Christmas
is a down-payment on eternity.
This helps us understand the readings.
They are looking ahead to eternity, and that may be confusing.
But, see, Christmas, too, is really looking ahead – not back.
This is easy to misunderstand,
especially because of how our society approaches Christmas.
Notice what happens every year.
We start seeing ads and TV specials hinting at Christmas
back in September, even August.
Once Hallowe’en is over, it’s all Christmas, all the time, for two months.
It’s relentless; everywhere; till we arrive at December 25, FINALLY!
See what we’ve done? We’ve turned Christmas into the climax.
But what if that’s all wrong?
Christmas isn’t the END; it’s the BEGINNING.
It is the down payment on the complete redemption of humanity;
on the New Creation, on what lies ahead for each of us.
When Christmas happened, 2,024 or 2,027 years ago,
was the first, concrete beginning of salvation –
of a relationship with God being possible, of heaven being opened.
That explains the angels in the sky over Bethlehem.
If someone asks, why be a Christian, the short answer is,
because of the eternity Jesus invites us to.
Jesus came to fix what went wrong with humanity.
That’s why he was born; that’s why he died and rose.
That’s what our Catholic way of living is all about.
You and I join our lives to his, living in him, watching for him,
Till he comes again, if you will, to finish the job;
Not only for each of us, but for all Creation.
Our life is to be what Advent models for us:
Keeping our gaze on the far horizon of eternal life.
This is a good time to explain the ancient Christian practice
of giving up marriage for the sake of the Kingdom,
which lives on in priests and religious, of course.
Why should anyone give up marriage for the sake of the Kingdom?
So many people, especially in our time, simply do not understand it.
Nor do they get why anyone would take vows in religious life,
and enter a convent or monastery.
Is it because we think marriage is something bad?
Hardly: we call it a sacrament. Marriage is something very, very good.
And that is precisely the point.
There’s nothing noteworthy about giving up a bad thing.
But when someone gives up something extraordinarily good,
the natural question is, why?
And the answer is, they are awaiting something even better.
Eternity. Religious brothers and sisters, and priests,
embrace celibacy in order to be a sign of contradiction –
a sign of that “more” that lies ahead.
In addition, those in religious orders take a vow of poverty as well;
And the point is that by living their consecration,
Their lives are lit by an other-worldly light.
It’s not that all Christians can’t do this.
Actually, what those who choose religious life do for each of us
Is to be an amped-up, intensified example for the rest of us,
Showing us in a hyper-vivid way what our lives are meant for.
To be in religious life is to be a mirror of eternity,
so that people see in your life, not the ordinary things of this world,
but the New Creation that we hope for.
That explains the celibacy, the attire, and living in a community.
How do you know if you are called to the religious life?
Well, if you find yourself longing for more: for more prayer;
for more Mass; for more than this world can offer; for more Christ:
Then this calling may be for you.
I want to remind you we have a second collection today
to benefit those retired brothers and sisters
who gave up so much of this world,
precisely to be a shining witness of what lies ahead.
You are always generous, thank you in advance.
All the same, it is not only priests and religious
who are called to be a witness to hope.
Every single Christian – every one of us –
is asked by Christ to be such a mirror of eternity.
Those in religious life aren’t living as they do
merely to get themselves to heaven.
They do as they do to get all of us to heaven.