Today is the first day of the liturgical season of Advent during which the Church prepares, by prayer, fasting, almsgiving, in the Mass and other forms of expression, for the return of our Savior at His second coming in which the first coming in His incarnation reminds us.
St Charles Borromeo, bishop, once said that “In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if He were still to come into this world.”
Indeed, one of the ways the Church prepares us is through the readings in the
Each Sunday of Advent has a theme to help us
in our journey towards salvation. Today,
the first Sunday of Advent, the Church chose Scriptural passages to accentuate
the fact that many of us slumber through life and that we need to wake up. Jesus said that we must “be watchful! Be alert!” because no one knows the day or
time of His return, His Second-Coming.
And so He councils us to “Wake up!” Mass.
This coming Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent the Church chose Scriptures that accentuate our need to be instructed so that we are prepared for this unexpected return. As was prophesied, Jesus His coming, and as we see in the New Testament Readings He will return. And so we are instructed by our past through our traditions and Scripture in passages that speak of the voice crying out in the desert proclaiming “Prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his path” (Mark 1:3) as John the Baptist did.
But in the third Sunday of Advent the Church changes gears so-to-speak. Instead of looking at our lack of perfection, or our failures the Church points to the fact that the battle is already won so as to re-invigorate our hope of salvation. Jesus defeated death and therefore we are to “Be strong and fear not!” (Is 35:4) as the first reading says. The Gospel reading of that day tells us to rejoice because we are clothed with the garments of salvation as procured by Jesus and proclaimed by John who came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through Him.”
In the last Sunday before Christmas, the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Church show us that we are to be assured of the imminent coming of our Lord by giving us a sign, that a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel (which means ‘God with us’). This coming of the Son of God is found in the incarnation narrative, where He was conceived in her womb and bore a son that she was to name Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:31-32). God is indeed ‘with us’. The Lord God has come, and the Lord God will come again.
So let us begin our preparation of His second coming as we celebrate His first. For the first week of Advent the Church reminds us to wake up and be alert. And so we are to work out our salvation by becoming spotless, by being perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. This goal is extremely difficult to attain and yet we know that the longest journey begins with a single step. And so I challenge you to persevere and to do what is good and right. As a first step of this journey, will you take responsibility for the freedom God gives you? Will you make a space within each day of Advent to go off with Jesus, listening in the silence for the Word?