First Sunday of Advent:
Today we begin the new Liturgical Year and the Season of Advent in preparation for the great feast of Christmas. Advent is a penitential time, though not so severe as Lent, and this is why there are no flowers in the Church and our music is a little more sober. We also refrain from using the Gloria during the mass as another way of distinguishing the season. Often people undertake some fasting in Advent and in some Christian countries people try to avoid meat at this time. Christians often observe a ‘fast before the feast’ which makes the feasting all the more welcome when it finally arrives.
We mark the passing of time by celebrating special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Some days are more special for us than other days. Wedding days are special days and wedding anniversaries are special days. In one sense those special days are the same as every other day because the sun rises and sets in the same way and everybody else goes about their business in the normal way, but for the happy couple such a day is a special day, a day to be celebrated, a day for which to be thankful and grateful.
Today is a special day, and not just a day, but the beginning of a special season, Advent. During Advent we focus on waiting, waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus, and during the week before Christmas our waiting changes to waiting for our celebration of the birth of Jesus. Anytime we wait we do so because we expect something to happen; we wait for a bus or train because we expect it to arrive. When we wait for a bus or train we cannot see it coming but hope it will come. During Advent we are waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus because the Second Coming of Jesus will bring all God’s plans for the world to completion. As we wait in hope for the Second Coming of Jesus we know he is with us in so many ways especially in the sacraments. So during Advent we are conscious of the fact that God is present with us while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s plans. Because the scripture says, God is faithful.
There are some countries in the world where the electric supply is not at all reliable. In those situations, when you use it any electrical appliance you know that the power could be cut off at any time and you don’t count on it working all the time. Our electrical supply is very faithful, and if it ever goes out because of an electrical storm or a blizzard, we are surprised, annoyed and inconvenienced because our whole lives are lived in dependence on it, precisely because we can mostly count on it. Even people are not nearly as reliable. Electricity isn’t 100% reliable, people aren’t, but what about God? Do we believe that He is faithful or have we been disappointed enough times that we would want to say, “Never expect anything from God…?”
The Bible tells us over and again that God is faithful. When God revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6 we read, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” Psalm 100:5 adds, “…his faithfulness continues through all generations.” and Psalm 117:2, “…the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.”
God does not decide to be faithful on a whim or because it seems like the right thing to do today. The first thing we need to understand in thinking about His faithfulness is that God is faithful to His name, His character and His Word. The faithfulness of God is deeply rooted and is an integral part of who He is.
Let us faithfully stay awake and be alert to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
Fr. A. Francis HGN