1st Sunday of Advent Year C – 15
Jer.33:14-16; 1Thess.3:12-4:2; Lk.21:25-28; 34-36
A mother was running furiously from store to store like a last-minute Christmas shoppers. Suddenly she became aware that the little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window.
He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”
Yes we have time for everything expect for Jesus our Lord. We spend enormous amounts of our resources, time, and energy on things that give us a sense of security. We buy expensive insurance policies to protect ourselves from any and every sort of disaster.
We have high-tech alarm systems in our businesses, homes, and automobiles. Some of us work and even live in buildings surrounded with security fences. And still we are not secure. Moreover, no amount of money, protection systems, medical effort, or bodyguards can protect us from the ultimate confrontation we each will individually face.
For each one of us, you along with me, will one day stand face to face before Christ at the end of our earthly existence. Yet we live our lives awash in distractions, busily engaged in a whole lot that’s seemingly very important to us now. Our eyes are torn away from what lies ahead down the road at the end of our time here on earth.
Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing him to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives.
Besides his first coming at his birth, Jesus comes to our lives through the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through the Word of God, through the worshipping community, at the moment of our death and, finally, in his Second Coming to judge the world.
There is a note of urgency and summons to alertness in both the second reading and the gospel today. These might provide one with a jumping-off point for some reflections on the start of the liturgical year.
The last sentence in the gospel says, “Stand (secure) before the Son of Man? How can we stand secure? We will be standing there before Him without our bank accounts, our 401-k retirement accounts, our statements of net worth, our alarm systems, and with no security fences.
And we will not be looking into the eyes of closed circuit television monitors. No. We will instead be looking into the eyes of the Son of God. His judgment of what we did with our lives will be upon us. What securities will we have? What securities should we have? All you and I will have at that moment when we face the Son of God will be our memories. It is from them that we will draw up our accounts; it is in them that we will find the records of our lives.
The season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is a season of reflection, a time of examination, a time when we look ahead with expectant hope for the Son of God’s coming to us. When we meet Him face to face at the end of our own personal lives, and when we all meet Him collectively at the end of the world, we will be filled with awe, that’s for sure.
But will we be filled with terror or will we be filled with love and the sense of security that undergirds love? The answer, of course, depends upon the fabric of our lives, the contents of our relating to others, and the memories that we bring with us to that event.
The judgment we receive at the end, will not so much be God’s judgment of us, but our own. It is we, not God, who are forging our image, our persona, our character, our personality, and our personhood. All that we take to God at the end of the lives we have fashioned here on earth.
The content depends not so much upon God as it does upon us. Allow me to repeat the last part of the gospel:
“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.”
Advent brings with it the theme of darkness and light. Darkness envelopes so many of us; the darkness of our physical world, but the even more deadly a spiritual darkness of souls living in narcosis.
For the addiction of being too busy can blind us, leaving us unwilling to be bothered with the effort of seeing, of paying attention, of gazing into the surrounding loveliness that is there for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Also, for many of us perhaps it is the narcosis of overwhelming resentments that darken our souls so that we can no longer see the light of love, of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance.
Finally there is the darkness of being blinded by the glitz of this world’s offerings, offerings that can blind us from paying attention to our souls and to the presence of God in our lives. Advent calls us to ask the question: What are we looking for?
Are we like that little boy who had his eyes fixed on Jesus on the hay or are we like that mother whose eyes are fixed on so many things except on Jesus and do we say as she said, “We don’t have time for that!”
God now calls us to see what He is offering us. That is what Christmas is all about. Come, let us join the wise men, journeying with them under the light of heaven’s mysterious star in their search… and joining them in the answer to their quest.
Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better.
Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Advent is the time for an improvement of our lives and for deepening the sincerity of our religious commitment.
It is a call to “look up” to see that Christ is still here. We must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again. Amen.