(Audio recorded live, 28 November 2021)
Jer. 33:14-16; Ps. 25; 1 Thes. 3:12-4:2; Lk. 21:25-28, 34-36
This first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. And since the definition of advent is the coming or arrival of someone important, it is important that we spend some time preparing for that arrival. I speak, of course, of the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord, that glorious feast that sends the whole of mankind on a new trajectory. This glorious event was cause for the reordering of our calendars, the Christianization of entire nations and peoples, the beginning of a new era of life in the Spirit, blessed by Sacraments, and filled with God’s grace. Indeed, such an amazing event as the nativity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, warrants this special time of reflection.
The prophet Jeremiah says, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” This promise was that an heir of the House of David would lead the people into all justice. And their holy city, the city of Jerusalem, Zion, would inspire peoples all over to say, “The Lord our justice.” Indeed, the prophet Micah says, “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:2).
The nativity of Jesus Christ, is the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophecies, for the word of the Lord came down from heaven and became flesh. He took upon himself the clothing of a slave so that he could show us the way to all truth by teaching us with his holy word. In response to this amazing reality, our psalmist says, “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.”
St. Paul prays that the Thessalonians may be strengthened in heart so they may be blameless in holiness before God. He instructs them to conduct themselves so as to please God in every way. This message was sent to one of the first communities St. Paul formed. They were undergoing persecution for their faith, but rather than give up on the truth, they held fast to the teachings of Christ.
Perhaps St. Paul’s message is one to continue reflecting upon over the next week. Can we say that we are blameless before God? Are we in a state of grace, or is our holiness waning? The season of Advent is a penitential season, and a good time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. By spending the time praying and reflecting on our own lives, the Lord will reveal things to us we might not ordinarily see. If we are truly preparing for the coming of the Lord, we will do this on a regular basis.
Jesus describes the signs that will accompany his return. There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and nations will be in dismay. That doesn’t sound too far from what we have witnessed over the last couple years. Do you remember the celestial event last year? When the planets Jupiter and Saturn aligned. That was the first time it was visible with the naked eye in centuries. And we all know how the coronavirus has impacted countless lives the world over. But, rather than tell his disciples that they are doomed, Jesus encourages them to be prepared. He says, “when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” The redemption Jesus speaks of is for those who held fast to the truth of his teaching, who remained upright and blameless. Jesus says, “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,” to stand before the great Judge.
Well, we saw the celestial events, we dealt with the corona, and here we all stand, before this holy altar, where the Son of Man will soon become manifest to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. May we continue to hold fast to the faith, to walk blamelessly before the Lord, to sacrifice for the good of others, and to give without counting the cost. This is our time. God has blessed us and will continue to do so provided we remain steadfast in his love and the love of his Only Son. Amen.