First Sunday of Advent November 29, 2009

Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Today we begin with the season of Advent.  On this day the church introduces the new liturgical year. The beginning of a new year calls us to anticipate what is coming, but with a different emphasis.  In our worship during this time we anticipate and await the coming of our Lord Jesus.  There are three aspects of Jesus’ coming during this Advent Season.  One looks to the past, as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus in History that took place 2000 years ago.  Secondly, we look to the present as we prepare ourselves to receive him in our daily lives.  We accept him in the Word and in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  Finally we look into the future and await his coming at the end of times in Majesty and glory to redeem the world.  Today’s readings emphasize the coming of the Lord to be among the people.  Prophet Jeremiah predicts the coming of the branch, a reference to the messiah who would save Israel. In the Gospel Jesus speaks of his own return with signs and wonders. But it is not the signs that are important but its consequence, namely the redemption that Jesus brings. The second reading tells us how we have to prepare ourselves to receive the Lord. However, as we begin the season of Advent we are called upon to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus at Christmas.

The season of Advent is understood to be a time of preparation for Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus.  This is a time of great anticipation.  We all wait for something unique and special. The name Advent comes from the Latin words, ad venire meaning to come to & adventus meaning an arrival of a person of importance, a king or a prince or a warrior leader, and in this context it refers to Christ’s coming into this world. During this time of Advent, the Church requires the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the birth and coming of Jesus Christ. The focus of Advent is by no means limited to just Christ’s first coming. An equal, if not more important theme found in the Advent Liturgy is the Second Coming of Christ when He comes again to judge and reunite the world.

Today three readings from the Holy Bible prepare us to be spiritually uplifted according to these three goals of the Season of Advent. In the First Reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we heard that during the days of the Old Testament, the Lord God repeated the promises that He had made to Abraham and to His descendants. To Abraham and his offspring, God had promised to bless them that they would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And they shall conquer their enemies and through their God shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing.  Over and above this, God was now promising that a righteous Branch would spring up from the descendants of King David, the righteous one executing justice and righteousness in the land. “I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David who shall practice honesty and integrity in the land.”  The prophet tells the people that they will have a just king and his policies will bring security to the kingdom and bring them to the right relationship with God.  God was speaking of the spiritual Kingdom that was promised to Abraham, he who was to become the spiritual father of all those who live by faith.

Today’s Second Reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians gives us sound advice as to how we should prepare ourselves. Paul looks forward to the final coming of Jesus. It will be a grand entrance into the world together with all his holy ones. Paul invites all to welcome Jesus into our lives in the here and now which should take place every day. By it we both acknowledge the First Coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and prepare for the Second Coming at an unknown future date. This reading reminds us that as the Lord comes to us in this world we should abound in love for one another. Our love should not be limited to our friends, but also should be for our enemies. This is because they too are the children of God formed in his image and likeness. Again the reading asks us to be fully prepared with our hearts so placed holy and blameless before our God and Father. To achieve this goal, we must walk with the sanctifying Holy Spirit who disciplines us to increase our holiness. We are called upon to do all what is humanly possible to continually remain in communion with God and become more like Christ. This is possible only if we are filled with our living faith and   Faith is our bond with Jesus and hence is perceived with the spirit of Advent.

The Gospel of today speaks in special terms of the end of the world and what we refer to as the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. The entire chapter focuses on the events that will accompany the final ends of the world.  These signs will be cosmic in nature. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  This reminds us that our life in this world is a kind of journey or pilgrimage.  It is within this context of this final end that the Gospel proclaims the final coming of the son of man.  Some happenings which have already taken place and there is nothing we can do to change them now. However, they have their influence in shaping our present situation. The Gospel of today tells us that there will be time for mission before the end, but in this interim period will also involve intense persecution and the fall of Jerusalem. Only then does Jesus relate the cosmic signs that precede the Son of Man’s return, when he comes on the clouds in the splendor. Jesus says that awareness of these signs will allow one to know when these key moments of divine history are near. Thus, they are to watch and be prepared. They are to live soberly and pray for strength to endure, so as to be able to stand before the Son of Man. After the discourse, Luke notes that the people listened to Jesus’ daily teaching at the temple.

Jesus further explains to the listeners that day of the Lord will come on them suddenly like a trap; for this day will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth.  But he asks them to keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that they may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and to stand before the Son of Man. He wants them to be people of knowledge and understanding about the things of the last days. He wants them to know his word and what the Spirit is doing. And he wants them to bring hope, confidence, and the love of Christ to others.  These words of Jesus are applicable to us even today.

The Gospel teaches that beyond the end of times stands the Lord who has come among us in the person of Jesus who will come as a judge. Since this will be the time of judgment, the Gospel calls for repentance and service.  Thus is a time of urgency and hence there is little time for complacency.  Those whose lives are under the Lordship of Jesus can live with expectantly, awaiting the Lord’s coming. Luke argues against the attitude of slowing down because there is plenty of time before the Lord comes.  He tells them that they have to be prepared at all times since we don’t know when the Lord will be with us again. Then the end times will hold no terror for those who know what God’s live is and they know how to live in his love.

Luke places before us the warning of Jesus to be ready and not to be bloated with pleasure of this world.  Living during the Roman times meant corruption, immorality, hedonism, gluttony and cruelty.  It was the time of degradation of civilization.  What Jesus tells us today is that we have to watch and wait for him.  There will be some anxiety surely, and there will be eagerness to wait for some one we love.  There will be the expectancy and hope as the saviour will surely come to us. And yet, the Gospel says the reaction of the Christian disciple should not be one of fear. “When these things namely the signs begin to take place, we have to stand erect, hold our heads high, because our liberation is near at hand.” It all depends on one’s priorities and attachments.

Jesus stated that all the signs mentioned during today’s Gospel Reading were to be fulfilled before the passing away of the generation that lived in His days.  All the tasks we humans embrace have an ending.  Jesus calls  us all to be on our guard so our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, so the day of the Lord will not catch us unexpectedly, unprepared. No one knows when the end will come.  We should be prepared at all times.   Therefore during the coming days let us embrace a spiritual attitude so the Season of Advent may become something special for us. May Advent be a true moment of preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, at death, or at the last coming of the Lord, which ever may come first.  Our prayers are that each and every one of us as we personally strive to achieve this holy objective for the glory of God.

Fr Eugene Lobo SJ Rome

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