This Advent for my family is extremely special — because my family is expecting literally any second now the birth of my little niece. And I’m so excited to finally meet her! My whole family is ANTICIPATING her arrival.
And we are vigilantly watching for the signs.
Over Thanksgiving, my sister started to have contractions — and we were like — Wow! This is the moment! This is the time! We gotta go! And so we rushed up to Northern Virginia…. And then nothing.
It was a false alarm.
But we were vigilant! We were ready for that baby!
It wasn’t quite the time, but we were ready. And we were vigilant.
That’s pretty much what the Church is doing right now, liturgically, as an entire Body of believers as we enter into Advent. We are re-encountering the Mystery that Christ is on His way. We don’t know when. We might look around and see some signs here and there.
But until it finally happens, we need to be vigilant, so that we can stand erect, with our heads held high when Jesus finally does come.
Vigilance. It’s so important to stay vigilant as Christians.
Joseph and Mary also were vigilantly watching and waiting for God to act in this world. They were waiting their entire lives — They were waiting with all the faithful of Israel. They were vigilant for the arrival of the Messiah. Because Joseph and Mary heard the same words we just heard from the Prophet Isaiah:
“The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” The days are coming. God’s Messiah IS on the way to (at last!) visit the House of Israel.
Little did Joseph and Mary know that it would be their LITERAL house in which all of this would take place! Think about that! God made a promise to the HOUSE of Israel. To the family of Judah.
Joseph and Mary WERE that house!
They WERE that little family.
“In those days, in that time. I will raise up for David a just shoot.” A brand new growth! Hope will spring up!
Here we catch a glimpse at the reality of the Incarnation. In those particular days… in that particular time — in the FULLNESS of time — God sent His son, born of a woman — a particular virgin, betrothed to a particular most chaste spouse.
Vigilance — Joyful vigilance prepared Joseph and Mary to welcome within their family, within the four walls of their humble little home — the Word-made-flesh.
“Be vigilant at all times,” Jesus tells us in the gospel today, “and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and [then] to stand before the Son of Man.”
Do you hear that? Jesus exhorts us to be vigilant — Why?
So that we can receive him into OUR homes! Just as Joseph and Mary watched and waited, and had the grace and overwhelming gift to receive Christ as a newborn infant, now we should wait and watch.
So my question to all of you this morning — and especially for the families of Saint Andrews — Are your homes places of expectation and joyful vigilance? Are they places of vigilance?
Because God means to act in your families too — He wants to come in these days, and in this time, in YOUR homes. Christ wants to take flesh in your own hearts, in the hearts of your children.
Are you ready for that?
It is your task to be vigilant and prepared for the grace of God to invade YOUR homes. To land in full force within the walls of YOUR house.
This is what the Catechism means when it speaks about the family as the “domestic church.”
It’s only an illusion of our secular world that seems to separate church from real life — Sunday mass, from the rest of our week — Religion from all the other activities we like to do.
No… God is calling you to be a joyfully vigilant family at ALL times — a family modeled after the Holy Family itself. A family unconditionally ready to say YES to God’s Presence and NO to the slightest trace of evil.
Ok, so what does it mean to be vigilant like the Holy Family?
Well, it seems to me that we need to be vigilant in three different ways. Three different ways that we are called to be vigilant like the Holy Family:
So first, we do need to be vigilant about our external enemy. The real enemies out there in the world coming for us and our families.
It is the simple fact that there are spiritual and cultural forces currently hard at work, right now, bent on tearing your family apart, your soul apart, and your faith apart. There are ideas and philosophies out there that simply do not belong in your family, in our parish, and not in the Catholic Church!
So I urge you all — Be on high alert. Be vigilant to those dangers!
The Holy Family was vigilant to the dangers that were outside of their home. Saint Joseph, while he slept, learned that King Herod meant to kill Jesus. He was vigilant to the dangers that were really out there.
And today, we have bad theology, bad logic, and bad motives that are subtly — and sometimes (unfortunately) not so subtly — trying to smuggle themselves into the Church. Very likely, some of these ideas and attitudes are already sneaking into our homes.
And I think it is high time we all take this more seriously, and only invite Jesus into our homes. Nobody else, nothing else is welcome. And we need to take a firm stand on that.
For too long, we’ve been carelessly unaware and indifferent to the inescapable fact: Our enemy, the Devil, is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
And guess what? That enemy is smarter than you. That enemy is more powerful and more cunning than you are. You cannot outsmart or overpower a demon!
But the good news is… that you can remain vigilant! You can be aware and wise to his tactics.
And you can run to safety — the safety of Christ’s wounds the moment you feel tempted, at the very first sign of trouble or weakness! Because in Him, in Jesus, you can and will be victorious.
So I encourage you — Be vigilant. For the sake of your souls and souls of your kids, be on guard.
Fathers — make sure that you frequently bless your children. Make the sign of the Cross over them each night, knowing there is an enemy of that child’s soul working to keep them from God. Pray prayers of spiritual protection over them. This is your God-given privilege and authority as head and father of the domestic church! That is part of your basic job, and so often men don’t know that’s what we are supposed to be doing — vigilantly defending and fighting for the sanctity of your home and everyone in it.
Mothers — nourish your children with the pure truth of the Gospel! Cultivate an environment where prayer is normal — not rare or weird. Kids need to see BOTH their parents praying fervently, or else they will not pray themselves. Educate and form your family to know right from wrong, so when those enemies do come, your children might be equipped and vigilant. Be vigilant and aware of what messaging your kids are consuming at home, in the classroom, and even at their friends houses.
The second way we need to be vigilant, is to be vigilant as to what’s going inside our own hearts.
There are external enemies out there, yes — but there’s also the Old Man still living in us. Our fallen nature. Our concupiscence!
It’s fundamental Christian teaching that due to the Fall, we ordinary humans tend to choose things that are not best for us. We are prone to sin. And unless we come to grips with that fact, and be vigilant to the real desires of our hearts — both the good and the disordered ones — then we’ll be sitting ducks to our own ideas and whims. We’ll try really hard to justify ourselves and end up making terrible choices that impact our own souls and our families.
We are all messes. We all have wounds. We all need to be attentive and watchful of those inner movements of our soul so that we can bring all of that to Jesus. And let Him love us there…Invite Him in there. He’s not embarrassed or grossed out by your heart. He made it. He loves you. And He wants to heal you.
So be very vigilant to what you are feeling. Be honest about your emotions. Your anger. Your fear. Your anxiety. Your shame. All of that stuff — that inner turmoil of your heart. Take a look at it. Bring your sins to the Confessional. And be vigilant to what is actually happening in your life.
Mary shows us the way in this, when we hear over and over in the gospel — “And Mary pondered all these things in her heart.” Free from original sin, Mary still honestly assessed and was well aware of what was going on in her heart. She knew herself very well. And so must we.
Third, we need to be vigilant to the Lord! To the Good! Right?
- We need to be vigilant to the enemy that’s external
- We need to be vigilant to what we are feeling and experiencing interiorly…
- But we also have to be vigilant to the Lord who is HERE with us.
And we need to be watching and waiting for Him to act in our lives.
I invite each of you to stay vigilantly fixed on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! The Mystery of the Eucharist is not only the center of our lives, but also the center of all history, the center of all meaning itself. God gives Himself to us from the Tabernacle. He dwells us there.
Words cannot begin to reach how huge and how important that is.
I think that it’s VERY encouraging that the US bishops are about to undertake a country-wide effort to renew devotion to the Holy Eucharist. It’s so desperately needed now. Because when we are vigilant to the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, we are transformed. Our families are renewed and rooted in Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
I was just reading in the Consecration to St. Joseph book that Joseph and Mary, in their home at Nazareth, had the first perpetual adoration chapel. Jesus was with them, and they contemplated him constantly.
Don’t be so easily fooled by the stillness and the silence of the Tabernacle — it is the most active, most life-filled place on the planet!
So try going to Adoration… Stay still long enough to find out for yourself that Jesus is alive and speaking there. Bring your kids. Point and say: “That’s Jesus. That’s Him. That’s who you desire in the deepest”
I often wonder — Why is this church more often than not… empty? Why is Jesus so often left alone in the Tabernacle? Why don’t we feel more inclined to pop in and say hello, empty ourselves of all those anxieties…all that drowsiness that Jesus speaks of… to pour it out in His Presence, even just for a few minutes? All the Saints down through the centuries know full well that “the most powerful moments of a lifetime happen in front of the Eucharist.”
So families — be joyfully vigilant. Stay awake. Watch. There’s a lot against you right now.
But as Pope St. John Paul II once put it so bluntly: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
We need vigilant families.
Ask Joseph and Mary to protect and renew your family. To make you all more vigilant — to the enemies outside, to what’s going on in your heart, and to the Lord, who comes to save our souls.