1. Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man”(Lk21:25-28, 34-36). Taken from today’s gospel for the first Sunday of Advent.
2. Today we begin our spiritual journey to Bethlehem where on Christmas day we shall encounter the new born child Jesus and sing our feliz navidad. The advent is a four week period of waiting for the coming of Jesus. The readings of the season are designed to convey three messages: the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, the coming of Jesus into individual souls and the eschatological coming of Jesus to judge the world. A casual reading of today’s gospel would seem to give the idea that the gospel reading for beginning this season of advent presents horrible vision of the end of all things instead of the new thing that God will do for humanity through the incarnation of his only son. This, however is not the true picture. The gospel has two parts.
3. The first part of the gospel paints a dismal picture of the hopeless situation in which men would find themselves before the coming of Jesus. The situation would be such that people will be dying of fear and the order of the world will be shaken. This should be read as a warning to the godless that their way of life is going to be punished severely. It is therefore a call to repentance rather than a ploy to terrorize people. This becomes clear when the gospel says that it was in the midst of the terrifying events that the son of man will come in glory. This coming will be the occasion to execute judgement on the world.
4. The second part of the gospel is filled with encouraging statements, telling the disciples to look forward to their deliverance. Instead of being afraid they should stand erect and raise their heads because their deliverance is close at hand. He then gave them practical orientations to make sure that they persevere till the end. In the first place he advised them to be vigilant and not to be entangled by the worries and the pleasures of the present life. This is vital for even the best of Christians can easily lose focus because of the pleasures and desires of the moment. Secondly and most importantly, Jesus invites his disciples to be ardent in prayer in order to be able to withstand the temptations of the moment and be able to stand firm till the end.
5. In both parts of this gospel we see the essential elements of advent: conversion, vigilance and prayer. It is a time of repentance from sin, a time of letting go, a time we make effort to drop the things that have become useless for our desire to meet the new born king. If we are preparing to receive an important visitor we make effort to present ourselves well. We dress elegantly and keep the environment beautiful. Advent invites to do these things not only physically but also spiritually. Advent is also a time of vigilance. Sin and temptation do not go on holiday. They are always active. We must therefore be on our guard against them. It is also a time of prayers. Jesus was explicit about this. We must pray more than we used to do so that we have the right disposition to welcome the Lord who is coming.
6. You have started today your preparation for Christmas. The social and financial challenges are certainly clear to you and you already have plans on how to tackle them. Are the spiritual challenges clear too? If they are not this is the time to identify them and map out the strategy to confront them. You have to be sincere about this, keeping in mind the fact that Jesus calls you to repentance before his coming which will go with judgement, punishment or reward. This should be a special advent for you because you are not sure that you will have another one. If your redemption is close at hand as Jesus said in the gospel it means that your eternity is also close at hand. ©Vita, 28/11/21.