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Bishop's Homily for the First Sunday in Advent

We enter this season of Advent to focus on the lights that God provides us.

By Bishop Larry Silva
November 28, 2021

[Christ the King Church, Kahului; St. Joseph Church, Makawao (Confirmation & First Communion)]

The first people who came to these Hawaiian Islands came from other Pacific islands.  They navigated by the stars, paying close attention to their movements throughout the seasons of the year.  They also knew how to read the winds and the ocean currents, because they were very attuned to these natural phenomena.  Sometimes there were storms that threw them off course, but somehow they were able to correct and find their way by carefully observing the sun, the moon, and the stars.  And finally, perhaps when their hope for sighting an island was wearing thin, they spotted the beautiful chain of islands we now call home, Hawaii nei.

Of course, we also have to presume that there were some expeditions that never made it and were never heard from again.  But for those who did, the journey ended in the joy of settling into a new and beautiful home that many, to this day, call Paradise.

We are on a journey to the real Paradise, the heavenly Jerusalem that will last forever.  It is a journey no less dangerous than the journey our Hawaiian ancestors made, but, like them, God has given us signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and he wants us to pay attention to them, to be alert and awake so that he can direct us on our journey.  We enter this season of Advent, the darkest time of the year, so that we can focus better on the lights that God provides us.  We prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus in two stages.  From now until December 17, we focus on his second coming at the end of time and pray that we will be prepared to meet him when he comes, standing ready to recognize his presence and to celebrate it forever.  From December 17 until Christmas we focus more on the first coming of Jesus as a baby, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.  Everything we do during this double-phased season of Advent is meant to help us navigate on the journey so that we – and everyone with us – can safely reach the shores of heaven, where Christ is all in all.

Perhaps our ancient ancestors set out on their dangerous voyage because they were escaping war or famine, and they longed for a better life.  So it is that we are fleeing from sin and all that it does to bring us down into the depths of misery.  God gives us the star of the sacrament of Penance, so that we can admit we are going the wrong way and allow God turn us back on the proper course.  He shines on us the Word of God we find in the Scriptures, so that meditating more deeply on them, that Word can turn us onto the proper course.  God gives us the Eucharist, so that we may taste and see that Christ Jesus is with us (Emmanuel) so intimately that he allows us to take him into ourselves so that he can be the food that sustains us on our journey.  God gives us the shining lights of this beautiful season, with its songs and lights and cheer, so that we may be guided into each other’s lives, reminding us that we do not travel alone but with brothers and sisters in this community that actually becomes the Body of Christ on earth.

God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the wind in our sails, and the more attentive we are to this Spirit, the farther we can move along in our journey toward Paradise.  This Holy Spirit is not only the wind that moves us, but the compass that guides us along the right way, if we pay close attention to his presence in our lives.  He may lead us to places we would rather not go, that we think are taking us off course.  But if we are awake and attentive to him, we will find that when we notice the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the hungry among us, we are not being taken off course but are actually encountering Jesus himself, who said that when we serve the least among us we serve him.  The Spirit may put us with people who disagree with us or whom we do not like, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for no reason at all.  If we open our eyes and pay attention, we will see that they are not detours but opportunities to grow in the love of God, who loves all of us as his children.

And so today we begin this Advent journey so that we can stop and study the lights that the Lord shines upon us so that we may know the way.  He gives us this special time to become more attentive to the Holy Spirit guiding us on the proper course and helping us to trust him more than our own stubborn ways of going.  He blesses us with this journey that can be perilous, that can frighten the wits out of us.  But he urges us to keep our heads high, because if we stay the course that the Lord sets us upon, we will reach paradise, where we will encounter the love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not as some distant reality, but as the Paradise where we will live forever.