First Sunday of Advent

Yesterday, the Church’s liturgical year came to a close.  Last Sunday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King; the daily Masses of last week had readings that focused on the end of time and the second coming of Christ in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Yesterday evening marked the beginning of a new liturgical year and the beginning of the Season of Advent.

This Sunday’s readings pick up and continue in the theme of preparing our hearts and waiting for Christ’s second coming.  It might seem strange that our liturgical year begins and ends with having us focus on the Second Coming.  Yet the fact that Christ will come again is a central point of our Faith.  God became man, died and rose from the dead to save us from sin; ascended into Heaven and will come again in glory.

Advent is a season of expectation.  The theme of Advent is twofold: it is a time of preparation and it is a time for watchfulness.  During Advent, the Church has us look back in history and forward to the end of time itself.  We look back to the time before the first coming of Christ: to the time when the whole world awaited its Redeemer.  Since the Fall of our First Parents, God has promised us a Savior, and in the season of Advent we remember and we wait with expectant hope for the celebration of Our Savior’s Birth.  We also look forward: we know that Christ will come again and we watch and wait in joyful hope for His glorious return.  Advent is a season that is set aside for us to call to mind and meditate upon the fact that we profess every week in the Creed: Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.  At His first coming, Christ came in the silence of night; He was born into poverty: He was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn.  When He comes again He will come in glory and at that time every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

During Advent we pray for that second coming; the prayers of the Mass speak of our watching, our waiting and our hoping for Christ to come again.  In order for us to pray those prayers sincerely, we need to have hearts that are prepared to meet Christ.  If our hearts are attached to this world and to sin, we will fear the time when Christ comes as Judge.  In order for us to pray as the early Christians did: “Come Lord Jesus,” we have to make sure that our hearts are prepared and worthy to encounter Him when He comes.

To say that we are to be detached is not to say that we do not care about this world.  It is to say that we are to use the things of this world in proper way, in a way that keeps eternity in view.  We can live very comfortably in this world.  It can be difficult, at times, to remember that this is not our homeland: we were not made for this world but for the next.  We are on pilgrimage in this life; the short time that we are in this world is a preparation for the life of the world to come.  So many people in our society live for this world alone, and by doing so, they miss the very point of our existence as human beings.  We were not made for this world; we were made for God.  This world was made for us, and we can enjoy the good things in this world but we should always remember from Whom we have received every good thing.  And we need to keep watch over our hearts in order to make sure that we don’t begin to love God’s creation more that we love Him.  God alone can satisfy our hearts.

In Advent, we are to focus on preparing our hearts to meet Christ at the end of time; remembering that our deeds have eternal consequences is a helpful motivation for turning away from sin and living the way that we know that we are called to: loving God above all things and others as ourselves.  If we live lives that put true love ahead of selfish pursuits, we will have nothing to fear when we meet Christ our Just Judge.  Let us use this season of Advent to prepare our hearts in order that we might be enabled to truly wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.