Today we begin the season of Advent. The word “Advent,” means “coming,” and during Advent, we celebrate the coming of the Lord. So in Advent we celebrate the various comings of Jesus, the Word Incarnate and God on earth. We commemorate His coming at Bethlehem two thousand years ago, his Second Coming at the end of the world, and His coming to us at the time of our baptism and when we receive His sacraments, such as the Holy Eucharist. The Church urges us to open our hearts to receive Him with faith, hope and love. By doing this, we prepare ourselves for his final coming—first at our death and then at his Second Coming at the end of the world.
The common theme of today’s readings is that vigilant service prepares us for the coming of Christ as our Savior during Christmas and as our Judge and Lord at the end of the world. The reason why the liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme is clear: if we have already embraced Jesus in his first coming, we will have no fear of his second coming. Advent is the season of special preparation for and expectation of the coming of Christ. It encourages us to examine our lives, to reflect on our need for God to enter our lives, and to prepare earnestly for, and eagerly await the coming of Christ.
Preparation and a vigilant awaiting for the return of the Lord is a common topic in the readings. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah prays for God’s active presence so that the Jewish community, returned from Babylonian exile, may remain faithful to God. In the second reading, St. Paul prays for the reconversion of the Christians in Corinth who have misused their gifts and charisms and remain ill-prepared for Christ’s Second Coming. In today’s Gospel, using the short parable of the servants and gate-keeper of an absentee master who could return at any time, Jesus instructs his followers to be alert and watchful while doing their Christian duties with sincerity. The gate-keeper and the household servants were expected to be ever-vigilant because their master was sure to return. The time of his return was uncertain, as is Christ’s return, but the reward or punishment is sure and certain.
During this Advent season, I invite you to make concrete plans to grow spiritually. Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy and forgiveness.” Saint Theresa of Calcutta once said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.” This is because goodness or kind acts begin at home, wherever we are. Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?” The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful we will receive an extra gift: Christ himself. Let us remember the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Without God, I can’t. Without me, He won’t.”
We are all future oriented; we worry and plan for the future. We save for a rainy day, to get married, to buy a home, to send the children to college, to retire in comfort and to protect ourselves against future misfortunes. In the same way, we also need to prepare for eternal life because we don’t know when that day will come. Jesus says in Mathew 24:43, “Behold I can come like a thief.” That is to say He can come on an unexpected day or time, and so we need to prepare for his coming. Therefore, let this Advent season be the time of such preparation for us. Starting today, we have four weeks, and so the question is: how do we prepare for the coming of the Lord? During this upcoming Advent season I invite you to make a personal effort to attend weekday Masses, pray the rosary, read a chapter daily from the Gospel of St. Mark—with this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, which focuses our attention on the Gospel of Mark—spend more time in personal prayer, go to confession and perform kind and charitable works. In order to assist you and make this season more meaningful, we have several programs planned in the parish. There are a few mentioned in the flyer that we just mailed to you, but for more information please read the bulletin or call the parish office.