This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. It marks the beginning of the church’s year. It is foremost a liturgical year, when we celebrate Liturgy and at every Sunday Mass we walk with Jesus as we encounter his words and ministry. Every celebration of the Eucharist puts us in contact with the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of Jesus that marks the high point of his life of love for human kind.
In Advent our focus of attention is very much the birth of Jesus and his Incarnation. God came to us in human shape so that we might more easily understand his remarkable love for us and bring us into relationship with himself. As we move through Advent we dispose ourselves and make ourselves ready for a new and important moment of grace as we recall and celebrate the birth and first coming of Jesus to our world. He comes to make contact with us. During Advent we spiritually prepare ourselves to meet him on this very special occasion as we celebrate his birth.
The first reading of today’s mass focuses our attention on the coming of the Messiah. For Jeremiah he will be a descendant of David, “who will practice honesty and integrity in the land”. The influence of this king will be felt in the city of Jerusalem. As a result, It will receive a new name ”The Lord our integrity”. The fine qualities of the new king will bring the city to justice and integrity.
The Gospel predicts the second coming of the glorified Christ, The Son of Man, at the end of time. In the early days of the church his return was thought to be imminent. It would be a dramatic and fearful occasion. Jesus in St. Luke’s Gospel calls for confidence and courage in those final days. “When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.” Still, he calls for vigilance to ensure that behaviour does not get out of hand. “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap.”
As Christians of the twenty first century we have to be sensible about the last days, the end of the world, and the final coming of the Son of Man. What matters is our own final call. What is truly important is that we are constantly alive and awake to our basic responsibilities in life so as to be ready for the Lord’s call to us whenever it comes. We could do worse than make our own St. Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians in the second reading of today’s liturgy. “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as we love you.” St Paul offers himself as an example of love to the communities he knew. He says to the Corinthians, “Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine.” (I Cor.11.1) St. Paul advocates in today’s reading that we be holy and blameless as we await the coming of the Lord and that “we make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants.”
That is our daily challenge in life. If we stay on this path we can have no worries when our personal call comes. We continue to stand between the first coming and the final coming of Christ. But, he comes to us all the time if we allow ourselves to be touched by his love, to “confirm our hearts in holiness” and to become “blameless in the sight of our God and Father” right through our lifetime. If we stay awake we will encounter the Lord more often than we expect and we will be ever ready for our final meeting with him.