(Some of my thoughts for yesterday's homily.)
The beginning of the Church Year with the First Sunday of Advent is, I think, rather jarring. Based on the increasing volume of Christmas music from the secular culture and the fact that the Christmas shopping season is in full bloom, we Catholic likely expect to begin hearing about the impending birth of Jesus during Advent: those familiar stories of Mary visiting Elizabeth, Joseph and the dreams of the Angels, etc.
Rather, we get a rather grim story of Jesus describing the end of time, yikes! Instead of looking back to where we have come from, we look towards where we are going. As with any good term paper, we begin with the end in mind.
By doing so, the Church gently (or not so gently, really) asks each of us: 'Where are you going?' If you were to give an account of your life today, would there be enough evidence to 'convict' you of being a follower of Christ? We often think of it in other terms: is there evidence to send us to Hell? I think the other view-point is much more striking and more urgent.
So what are we to make of such a striking beginning to the year? What is the 'end' that we begin with? Simply: salvation. The Code of Canon Law makes this very clear: the highest law in the Church is the salvation of souls. That is why the Church exists.
She does not exist to be a social justice organization. She does not exist to provide education for our children. She does not exist to be a pro-life messanger. She exists to save souls. All these other things are guided by this principal. All the rules and regulations in the Church, all that she teaches and proclaims is guided by this maxim, all that she does should be viewed through this lens: Salvation of Souls.
As we journey through Advent, where does your pilgramige of life lead you?