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Homily of Bishop Denis from Mass on the First Sunday of Advent 2021

First Sunday of Advent – Year C:                                                       28.11.21

7.30pm: St. Andrew’s Church, Bagenalstown


A New Year has begun and yet there are still two days left in November! Advent offers us the coordinates for another new church / liturgical year. Timing in the church is much less about the temporal as it is about the eternal. But the clock still ticks – the Sunday’s of Advent prod us into a reality check.

The word ‘promise’ from our first reading from Jeremiah sets the tone for these early hours of the season. Broken promises have damaged our understanding of ‘promise’. We have been unreliable and undependable. But God always does what He says, carries out what He promises. Through God fulfilling the ultimate promise of sending us His Son, Advent allows us to restore hope in the broken promises of today’s world.

We begin today by blessing our Advent Wreath and lighting our first candle …

As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory, let us pray that God will make us witnesses of Christ, the Light of love, who has taken on our humanity to bring salvation to all people.

Lord God, our source of hope and fountain of love; you gather all peoples and nations to be one in your kingdom of light and peace. On this day that we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death, we look forward to his return when we will share the vision of your glory.

Bless your people who use this wreath as the evergreen sign of your faithful love. Dispel the darkness of sin; that the light and joy of Jesus may shine in this waiting world. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Advent is one of the shorter seasons in our Church calendar. It begins a new cycle of liturgy each year. I sometimes think the Church has struggled to convey the meaning of Advent – Lent is very much defined by fasting and abstinence, Eastertide by the empty tomb and the joy of resurrection and the Sacred Triduum by the different Passion narratives. Advent stands alone, ‘a waiting game’ in many respects, waiting to look upon Him who offers us hope, reassurance and joy.

Perhaps these pandemic times, with ever new variants and increasing COVID case numbers, it may seem we are still journeying through a very long Advent indeed. So often we have applauded our frontline workers, and all of us in many respects can lay some legitimate claim to serving on that frontline. Perhaps a certain fatigue or understandable tiredness has settled in around our need to take personal responsibility and play our part in protecting the most vulnerable and those we love from the effects of this virus. Journeys can tire us, can make us a little tetchy.

For people of faith, Advent is a journey firstly into a new Church Year. We will begin again to read the Gospel of St. Luke for Year C of the lectionary. I always like reading Luke. The one who was a medic, understood the pain and suffering that always preceded the healing and the miracle. Maybe Luke’s gospel will speak more to our time, to our lives as we continue our journey through the pandemic and all the other challenges that weigh heavy on our lives.  

For us our Advent also has a very clear end point as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Saviour at Bethlehem. He never leaves us. And throughout our pandemic journey He has always been by our side. Perhaps some of us had to use ‘Face Time’ more to keep in contact with our loved ones in recent times. Advent offers us a journey that leads to ‘Face Time’ with the Christ child lying in a manger. And we all know that is only the beginning of our many encounters in this new Church Year with the face of Christ.

This evening we have just a single candle lit on our Advent wreath. That candle represents the Old Testament people and their waiting for God. It speaks of all of us in this ‘waiting game’. Research reminds us we spend 98% of our lives waiting for something else to happen to us. So rarely we find contentment in the here and now. Maybe tonight we are waiting for this blessed pandemic to pass; waiting for news of a ‘meaningful Christmas’, waiting for the longer days the New Year brings. Luke’s text, despite its apocalyptic tone, offers a message of comfort and hope. We are not heading for some empty void, but an encounter with Him who created us, accepts us and loves us, more than we do ourselves.

I chose St. Andrews Church here in Bagenalstown tonight to launch Advent in Kildare & Leighlin Diocese. To offer a message of hope and reassurance in the company of Fr. Declan and Fr. Shem. To applaud so many local initiatives that offer similar hope and reassurance, for example that of Bagenalstown Area Steering Group decoration of Nolan’s Pharmacy window with many messages from children and the people of Bagenalstown. Messages in the shape of a square, circle or star. And mine is also there, thanks to the invitation of Tommy Cox in Queen of the Universe NS. May this Advent journey which offers us ‘Face Time’ with the Christ child; may we also see His face in one another’s.   

Photo from Twitter @btownparish