1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
“TO BE ALERT! BE WATCHFUL!
My brothers & sisters in Christ,
The central theme of today’s liturgy of word is warning to us to be alert, watchful and prepared because Christ’s Second Coming, coinciding with the end of the world, can occur at any time. The word “Advent,” of course, means “coming.” So in Advent we celebrate the various comings of Jesus, the Word incarnate and God on earth. We commemorate his coming at Bethlehem two thousand years ago, his Second Coming at the end of the world, and his coming to us in time in our baptism and in the reception of his sacraments, such as the Holy Eucharist. The Church urges us to open our hearts to receive him with faith, hope & love. Coming results in a certain presence—a more intimate presence, since he is already present in our hearts, or should be, by his grace. Just as we prepare for guests who come for dinner, so also the Church bids us prepare in a special way for the coming of Christ at Christmas time.
The Prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading that there is no God like our God. Sometimes we think that there are no competing gods today. Instead, we can open our eyes and see so many realities competing to be god, so many people who play at being god, and so many values that seem godlike to the present age. It is important that we realize that only faithfulness to the One, True God will bring us peace and a wonderful human life. Faith never promises to make us wealthy or powerful—it actually promises the opposite. What faith does promise is that our life will be filled with joy in knowing the Lord and living His divine life.
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. In this letter we can focus on these words: “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is faithful. We are not faithful, but God remains faithful. God calls us to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. We are called to share the life of Jesus Christ. Again we can reflect that living the life of Jesus Christ means to embrace poverty, to accept suffering, to serve all others and especially those who reject us. Sharing in this life brings incredible joy, even when it does not bring immediate happiness—which is what our world wants us to seek.
The Gospel from Saint Mark reminds us once again: keep alert and keep watching for the Lord! It is so easy today to accept the values of the world. At times those values seem even more compassionate than Gospel values. We have to recognize that doing right is not the same as feeling good about ourselves or about others. One of the great gods of our time is the demand that we always feel good, that we seek momentary happiness, above the values of the Gospel and the Scriptures.
Finally, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. How do we prepare ourselves? By fervent and daily prayer, by being faithful to our commitments and state in life, by practicing acts of self-denial, by carrying our cross daily, by kindness towards others (especially members of our family), by avoiding all sarcasm and unjust criticism of others. Like the early Christians, we should yearn for the coming of Christ. They prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Now he will come to us in this Mass, offering us his body and blood in the Eucharist. Let us receive him with open hearts and dedicate ourselves to him anew. If we can do that much, we will have accomplished in some part what the Church bids us accomplish during this blessed Advent of 2017. “Be prepared. The Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect. Come, Lord Jesus!”
May this Advent deepen our faith and help us understand and live what the Scriptures reveal to us. May we find ourselves drawn deeper into the heart of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. It is not easy to stand against the false gods of our time, but we have receive the invitation to walk with the Lord Jesus. Let us walk into His light.
May God Bless us.