1st Sunday of Advent: Stay Awake to encounter the Messiah
Today we begin another year – a liturgical new year – with the songs of Isaiah heralding the season of Advent. We begin a cycle that carries us right through our Christian story – from Advent to Christmas – on to Jesus’ Public life – into Lent and the drama of Holy Week culminating in the celebration of Easter and the Easter season till the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. On it goes till Advent time comes round again and the cycle begins for another year. What a gift to have this rhythm and pattern in our Catholic lives! It provides a general framework for all the bits and pieces of prayers, readings and intercessions during the different seasons. More to it, we are called to insert this cycle into the cycle of our lives and rhythms of our family, community and country! And so our lives go on.
The presence of God among us is not what we expect, not where we expect. That’s how we miss it. As we begin the season of Advent we are warned not to miss it. Be alert. Be ready. Be awake and look in the most unlikely places. Look in the doorway where the homeless sleep. Look in the refugee camps. Look in the hospitals and the nursing homes. Not the most comfortable places and spaces! Look at the new born babies. Look at the wrinkled senior citizens. So wonderful to be alive wide-eyed like a child at the beginning of our new year of grace!
Paul tells us in Romans 13, our second reading, that we must wake from our sleep because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Jesus tells us in apocalyptical terms in Matthew 24 that we do not know exactly when the Lord is coming; we just need to be ready for Him.
This is Advent, the season of hope. Our hope is that Jesus Christ will come a second time. Our hope is that the Lord’s Second Coming will bring lasting peace. Our hope is that we will all experience this peace, either in this world or, if our lives end before the Second Coming, in the next world.
Because we believe, because we have hope, our view of life must be positive, not negative. We are Christian. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that He has begun the wonderful victory of love over hate. We believe that the world as we know it is passing away is being transformed into the eternal kingdom of God.
We cannot allow ourselves to be negative people. It is easy to be negative. It is easy to focus on the immoral aspects of our society and cry out, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” The media delights in giving us daily reminders of all that is wrong in the world. But the media doesn’t shoulder all the blame for our negativity. Many people are negative about everything, whether that is the nation, the world, the future, or even the Church.
When we see everything in a negative light, then we are implicitly denying Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Victor. He has won. He is winning. He will win. He has eliminated eternal death through his own death on the cross. He has defeated the power of hate through the power of His love. He is winning. We believe with every fiber of our being that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Victor. The dark elements of the world will fade away. Evil will no longer attack us. Jesus Christ will return the world to its original state, the world as God always intended the world to be, a place of loving God and loving neighbor.
There is no reason for us to be negative with our world, with others or even with ourselves. We believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. We are people of faith. We are people of hope.
The Teacher will plan His own arrival and set up His own schedule. If you are looking for an Advent program, you might consider the following. These admonitions by an unknown author were sent by a friend. Perhaps she was telling me something. “Smile often. Pray. Tell those that you love that you do. Rediscover old friends. Make new ones. Hope. Grow. Give. Give in. Buy some flowers. Share them. Keep a promise. Laugh often. Reach out. Hug a child. Slow down. See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Trust life. Have faith. Enjoy. Make some mistakes. Learn from them. Explore the unknown. Celebrate your own life. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.” Perhaps the same author has written the prayer we should recite daily this Advent. “Help us this day, O Lord, to serve thee devoutly and the world busily. May we do our work wisely, give help secretly, go to our meal with appetite and dine moderately. May we please our friends duly, go to bed merrily and sleep soundly. Thus my dear bothers and sisters, Stay awake that you may encounter Christ, the Messiah in every day events! Amen.
Fr. Francis, HGN