Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
As we enter into December…we also enter into the new the new liturgical year, the season of advent. When the rest of the world is in a rush…the hurry… hurry of the holiday season, the Faithful are prompted to pause and reflect…to pause and repent….To pause and prepare the way for Christ. In the traditional readings, the Gospel stands in stark contrast to the merriment and glad tidings that the rest of the world is rushing into. In fact, the readings of today’s Mass are not what you might expect, since we are just a few short weeks until Christmas. Instead of focusing on beginning our celebration of the new year…they stop us in our tracks and force us to focus on the end times…the coming period when our world will cease to exist.
It will be a time of tribulation. There will be calamities and destruction, it will be a day of judgement for everyone. It is a message meant to help us put everything back into perspective, to help us regain our calm… our collect in the Will of the One Who sent us. The message of today’s gospel is one of ‘Christ is coming, and the day of reckoning is near‘ …. So, Be Prepared….Instead of it being a time to celebrate and rejoice, the Gospel reading reminds us that advent is a time of preparation and reparation as well, a time to make our hearts pure so that we may stand unafraid before the Lord. Our time for rejoicing will come soon enough.
Today’s gospel stands as a contradiction to the message of the world, which is one of excess and self-satisfaction. The Church’s message is one of turning our hearts, and our minds, to the reality of our impending eternal life…and the judgment that awaits us there. It is a time for us to do penance…especially for all the times we failed to do as God had wished for us to do….For all those times we failed to act upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit…Those times, when we felt our soul was moved, but failed to proceed with action….(You know what I am talking about)…we have all had those moments, when we felt that God wanted more from us. He wanted us to live...truly in Him. In those moments that He was speaking to our very souls, but like the spoiled children we are... we failed to do His Will, and instead chose to satisfy our wills…our desires instead.
As the secular world is filled with ‘Christmas’ parties and celebrations, and other self indulgent practices, the Church reminds us, as Faithful Catholics…as faithful Christians… that we all called to observe a period of repentance and conversion. We are to use these days to pray and fast and to give alms as a means of making reparation for our own shortcomings…our own offenses. We should be carefully preparing ourselves… preparing our hearts… for this coming.
As we light the first candle of the advent wreath, we are reminded that Christ came into a dark world to dispel the darkness that was ruling over man’s souls. We are also reminded of the prophets who came and foretold of the coming of Christ Child. It is a candle that represents our hope in Christ. When we gather with our family to offer our prayers, let us calm ourselves of that anxious excitement that is prevalent in the hustle and bustle of the secular world. We need to make sure that we are preparing our hearts…the hearts of our children…. for a season of waiting…a season of wanting….a season of doing without, as to properly prepare ourselves for the gifts that He will bring us. It should be for us a time of sacrifice and alms-giving, a mini Lent, if you will.
On this advent journey, let us renew our hope in the Lord and His promises to us. The Church teaches us that indeed we have a loving Father…a Father Who is full of Mercy and forgiveness, all we need to do is seek it. Advent is a perfect time for confession… also a perfect time for Eucharistic adoration…there is nothing like the quiet solitude of Christ in the Eucharist for our busy hectic world. Don’t waste this precious opportunity to make amends…to unite ourselves to God and spend some quiet time listening for Him to speak to us…again.
Finally, with today’s reading, we are drawn to the apocalyptic message of Jesus’ second coming, it is clearly a message which speaks to us of the end of times. It is quite sobering, especially for the secularists, who are living for the here and now. They have lost the reality of heaven…of hell…their focus is on this world. But for those of us who have Faith…who have hope…who are trying to prepare ourselves for the eternal … it is just the push we need to help us re-examine our priorities and make sure that in fact we are living our days for our Lord. Not only because it is pleasing to Him…. but because it will lead us also to our eternal reward in Heaven. So make it a good First Sunday of Advent…and make way…for the Kingdom of God is at hand.