Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year. So, Happy New Year! The word Advent comes from a Latin term that means “coming or arrival.” Catholics associate Advent with the days leading up to Christmas. This is the season when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. We celebrate how Jesus comes to us in three ways. We rejoice in the first coming of his birth over 2000 years ago (1st reading). We celebrate his coming among us here and now, every day, in our hearts, minds and spirits (2nd reading). And, we prepare for Jesus’ Second coming, when he will come again to judge creation and us according to his Word (Gospel).
How can we as committed Catholics prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ? Advent invites us to stop, to ponder and to look beyond the frenzied activity that surrounds us during this season. It invites us to view our world through a different lens. This year the first reading for today’s liturgy struck me in a new way. Jeremiah reminds the people of Israel, Judah and us that God’s promises will be fulfilled. God, speaking through Jeremiah, assures the people that when the Messiah comes, “In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure…”. But we know that neither Judah nor Jerusalem were safe and secure when Jeremiah wrote these words. They were not safe and secure when Jesus was born and they are not safe and secure today. If we plan to wait for safety and security in our world, we will be waiting a very long time. This is where the different lens becomes important. Rather than look at the world through our limited, time constrained vision, why not try to imagine the world as God sees it? Impossible? Maybe. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Yet in spite of this reality, God asks us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near” (Is 55:6).
As faithful disciples we recognize that our lives are moving towards the fulfillment of God’s reign when “the Son of Man” comes with “power and great glory” and our “redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:27-28). If we don’t want to be caught unaware and unprepared, then we must live our lives in a state of continual Advent and our lives must be built on love, justice and holiness.
The second reading today from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, gives us a guide to prepare ourselves, “Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” Our Advent adventure is just the beginning.
God our Savior,
you utter a word of promise and hope
and hasten the day of justice and freedom;
yet we live in a world forgetful of your word,
our watchfulness dulled by the cares of life.
Keep us alert.
Make us attentive to your word,
ready to meet your Son
when he comes with power and great glory.
Make us holy and blameless,
ready to stand erect
when the day of his coming
unveils a New Heaven and a New Earth.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.