The spiritual struggle for the soul of our nation: First Sunday of Advent (C)

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The spiritual struggle for the soul of our nation: First Sunday of Advent (C)

To hear the Archbishop's homily, or download it to listen later, click here!

We begin a new liturgical year, the year of our Lord 2016. For the Catholic World this year will be marked by the Jubilee called for by Pope Francis. It is the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In Rome the Year will be marked by a number of events. Also here in Tasmania we will be marking this Jubilee Year with a number of initiatives. One of particular note will be pilgrimages to the Cathedral to enter via a Door of Mercy. This Door of Mercy will be solemnly opened on the third Sunday of Advent, December 13.

The theme of mercy will flow through the Church in a wide variety of ways. Pope Francis said, “We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”.

The Pope wants Catholics to come to know more personally the nature of the mercy of God and then, inwardly transformed by this awareness, be more effective instruments of mercy to the world. With this theme before us we listen to the Gospel read to us today.

There is a seriousness and urgency of Christ in his words. Now is no time to be complacent; to be comfortable and settled with things; to just be concerned with what the Lord calls the “cares of life”. Our faith calls upon us to look to the greater picture of what is happening around us. The Gospel speaks of people being coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life. These words resonate within us. We know that we can coarsened by a singular focus on the circumstances of the world around us. We can become self-indulgent. We can seek solace in material things and dull our aching souls by seeking relief in having a good time or indulging in excessive alcohol. Today’s gospel challenges us to open our eyes to cosmic realities. It invites us to see what is happening the way God views things. There is an immense battle raging around us. It is not just a political struggle that engulfs the world, but at heart there is a spiritual battle. The forces of darkness have a spiritual dimension. The Lord has no hesitation in speaking in apocalyptic terms about what occurs in human history. Man himself in not the single and only protagonist in events that shape history. There are powers at work.

We have entered a phase in our history whereby forces are at work that have effectively diminished the sense of God and indeed the sense of sin in our society. People are now living their lives as though God does not exist. It is as though faith is being drained out of people’s lives. It is important to note that a vacuum is created in the human heart when God no longer has a place. If God is not the orientation and meaning to our existence we need to find another source of meaning and purpose. This tends to lead to filling one’s life with material pursuits or some form of self-satisfaction.

It also leads to a loss of a sense of the nature and dignity of human existence. Pope St John Paul II captured this in a telling phrase: “the eclipse of God is the eclipse of man”. Once God is no longer a reference point for human life, human life itself becomes lost. It ushers in all manner of things that actually demean and diminish the quality of human life.

Sadly we are witnessing this in our society. Powerful forces are seeking to recreate human society devoid of God. This is a false humanism. In the pursuit of a final freedom from relating human life to its transcendent source and destiny, it actually cuts human life adrift from its reference point.

As Christians we cannot simply stand by while our society around us loses its way. We know personally that faith in Jesus Christ, confidence in the love of God, and trust in God’s abiding mercy have provided a sure foundation to our lives. We will engage in whatever way we can to promote the Catholic faith. We will not be silent as we see movements in our society damaging the quality of human life.

The Lord urges us today in the Gospel – “Stay awake”! And adds, “praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen”. He warns us that life can be very difficult and dark. He does not promise an easy and comfortable life. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to live in a safe cocoon.

In the Gospel today and in other places, the Lord uses bold and disturbing images about evils that can be unleashed in the world. Much as we would all prefer to lead quiet lives, we need to be alert to the reality of the world around us. We need to be conscious in our spirit of what is happening.
The life of a Christian involves a struggle between the forces of darkness and light. We do need to see life as a warfare. The powers of darkness are real. The devil, as the Scriptures says, prowls around like a lion looking for someone to eat. Let us have no illusions of the spiritual struggle that is going on around us.

With God’s grace we will be instruments to rebuild our society on its Christian foundations. Let us be willing to engage in this struggle. Let us understand it as a spiritual struggle. We Catholics cannot just go on living quietly. We have to be alert to what is happening around us in our society. We need to have hearts attuned to God in prayer. We need to pray for the courage and zeal to be active Catholics in our society.

This first Sunday of Advent introduces a new liturgical year for Christians. This year will be characterised by the focus of the Catholic world on the theme of the mercy of God. This year will be a Jubilee Year of Mercy. It will be a spiritual opportunity to enter more deeply into the great mercy God has for each of us. This year can be time for each of us to be inspired to be agents of mercy in our society. It can be a year in which we pray more earnestly for the mercy of God to be poured out on our beloved country, Australia.

As we begin a new year we can make a simple resolve: I will seek God more earnestly this year. I will participate in the grace of this Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 29 November 2015