1st Sunday in Advent
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’"
Introductory Prayer:As Advent approaches and I prepare my soul for your coming, I renew my faith in you. You are the Son of the one, true God, and you became man to redeem us from our sins and to open for us the gates of heaven. I struggle so often, trying to live up to this new life you have placed in me, but I trust in the power of your grace to enable me to be faithful and in some way worthy of it. I renew my love, and I ask you to increase it so I will love you in the way you deserve, and not let other false or lesser loves get in the way of “the one thing that is necessary.”
Petition: Lord, you speak of your coming. You show me how time and history acquire a new meaning, with you at their beginning and at their end. Help me to orient my whole life towards you. In these weeks of Advent help me to prepare for your arrival by growing in my love for you.
1. Who Is Coming? The scriptures speak with rich meaning of Emmanuel, God-with-us, the one who is coming. He is a descendant of David's family, a sapling and an upright branch, who will practice law and justice (the virtues of a good king). He comes in three ways: He came at a particular time in history as one of us, God made man, Jesus Christ, being born into the world silently and humbly at Bethlehem, to live our life and ultimately give his life for us. The gospel passage today tells of a future coming, at a time we do not know, but nevertheless he expects to find us awake and busy about his work, doing what he gave us to do. He expects his disciples to be awake, to be alert, not to drift along or be lulled into inaction. And then, there are the repeated comings of Christ to our soul as he accompanies us in our journey through life: we were incorporated into him by Baptism, he comes to us as the Good Shepherd seeking what is lost in the sacrament of reconciliation, he comes to us as the food or our soul in Communion, in the Blessed Sacrament he awaits us as we to come to him to find support and worship the Father…, and he comes to us also in the form of our neighbor and those who are poorest and most in need, giving us the opportunity to love him and serve him in them.
2. The Meaning of Time and Life. Every thinking person has to ask himself why he is here, what is the meaning of life, what comes after it, or else he forfeits his dignity and reduces his horizons to animal survival and short-sighted ambition. Without God’s word the truth of the future life is very hazy, the window our reason opens up on it is fogged up with our limitations. Jesus clears the view somewhat. He tells us for sure that a new life comes after death, he tells us for sure that our actions now determine what that new life will be for us, he compares it toa reward, a banquet, joy…, but we cannot grasp its fullness. The end of life is not darkness, it is a meeting with a Person, with Christ.
There are some who think of life as an endless cycle. And others as a chance event, without any special meaning beyond the opportunity to enjoy it while we have it. But as Christians we know life is going somewhere and has a purpose. One day we will meet Christ face to face. In Christ we discover that God has a plan for us beyond the confines of this life, a plan that has to do with another life that exists beyond this one we see. Even the difficulties we experience in this life, whatever sufferings we go through have a meaning, and fill our life with hope. The meaning of time includes the meaning of my time on earth.
3. The Warning to be on the Watch. For a Christian, as long as we live on this earth things are never set and settled for good. We cannot settle back and become passive, unconcerned. We have to find what Jesus wants us to do, what he wants to find us doing when he comes again, and then set about doing it, without wasting time, without tiring, with our eyes fixed on him who will return full of expectation to see what we have done. We can get a sense of Christ’s expectation if we read Mk 6:30,31. There we see what happened after the disciples returned from their first mission, how interested Jesus was to hear all about it, his excitement that made him look for a place where they could be on their own, where the disciples could rest up and tell him everything. That is the Christ who awaits us after this life, the one who has given us something to do and is flush with excitement to hear all about it, if we are to speak in a human way. It is the hope of seeing him that sustains us when the going is tough and when temptation is a reality, and this hope is his gift too. Our love is what moves us to want to see the pleasure in his eyes when he sees how we have lived, and this love is also his gift. It is all about using the gifts he has given us to do his work.
St. John of the Cross concluded one of his poems saying: “Love is my only destiny”. The first coming of Christ at Christmas is a coming of love, and so is his return at the end of the centuries, his Parousia. Between the love of Christ who comes and who will come lies human life in which we have to make love our own, living it and spreading it.
Conversation: Lord Jesus, my life on earth is a fleeting moment between the instant you created me and your coming at its end. That “fleeting moment”, however, is full of your presence, overflowing with your providence and your love. I thank you for wanting to walk this journey with me, for the gift of Baptism, for being so close. I thank you for giving me a specific mission in my life, great or small, but something I and I alone can contribute to your Kingdom. I pray that you will find me awake and busy, in your company and doing your work, when you come to call me at the end of my life.
1) How deep is my faith in the reality of Christ, God and Man?
2) What meaning do I give my life?
3) Do I really believe there is something God wants me to do in and with my life?