First Sunday of Advent

The first two readings for this Sunday, from the prophet Jeremiah and from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, are very different from the Gospel, I mean of the apocalyptical section of the Gospel of Luke. Jeremiah ends his book speaking about a time of God’s abundant love for his people, St. Paul also speaks to the Thessalonians about love, but the Gospel is full of gloom and doom. How to put these together in this first Sunday of Advent Season?[1]

Advent, my brother, my sister, it is a season of silence, of preparation, of reparation, what are we looking for this Christmas? What are our hopes? Maybe the kids want a WII; maybe we the adults want a new Car. Even less chance. Maybe you want to see the happy look on your pastor’s face when you buy him a new Car. Right. Truthfully, you have already given me and continually give me much more and infinitely greater gifts than a luxury car. You continually share your love with me, and you let me experience your love for God. That really means infinitely more to me than anything anyone could buy.

So, what are we shopping for this Christmas? We can’t settle for shopping for stuff. We need to find new and even more wonderful ways to express our love for our family, our friends, for those throughout our parish in need, and, ultimately, for our God. That is really what Advent is about, searching for gifts of love for our God, being Santas for each other.

St. Paul wrote that our love must continually grow so we can stand blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord. That brings us to the quite frightening gospel with its warnings about being prepared for the end of time or at least, the end of our own personal time.

That is what the Gospel for today is about. Every day of our lives is an Advent of hope, expectation and preparation. This is not a time to tempt fate. It is a time to seek the ways of God in all things.

A day will come, sooner than we expect, when we must stand before the Son of Man. There will be no turning back. No second chances. When our lives are over, they will be over. Done. Finished. We will simply find ourselves standing before Jesus, face to face. It will be the Jesus whom we received so many times in the Eucharist. It will be the One to whom we profess our belief every Sunday.

So, the Gospel reading, instead of frightening us, encourages us to focus on that second reading and live in the Love of God.

My brother, my sister, Advent is a time to prepare. Maybe we should look at the things that busy us in December as an analogy. The frantic shopping and card writing, and cooking, are just an analogy of the firm effort we must have to prepare for the Lord. But the finish line is not December 25th. The finish line is the end of our lives or the end of the world, whichever comes first. We must be ready to stand before the Lord.

So, again, what is it that you, that I am looking for this Christmas? Do I spend time in silence, in adoration, in recollection? What we are looking for is ways to express our love of Jesus to others, ways to graciously experience and accept His Love from others, and, ultimately, ways to grow in the presence of the Lord.

[And please, don’t forget:] The greatest Christmas gift that we can give and receive is the gift of the Presence of Christ. After all that is why we celebrate Christmas ■

[1] First Sunday of Advent, Readings: Jer. 33:14-6; 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2; Lk. 21:25-8, 34-6.
Ilustration: Adolph von Menzel, Sister Emily Sleeping (c. 1848), Oil on paper and canvas, 47 x 60 cm, Kunsthalle (Hamburg).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris