"Christmas is coming!" Are you filled with JOYFUL anticipation or anxiety? Sometimes the most important events in our life fill us with both of these feelings. When Jesus pointed to His second coming, He realized there would be anxiety. But He wanted anticipation. He wanted His people to stand tall and raise their heads. He wanted them to have hope and to be ready.
Anxiety and anticipation go hand in hand. They are two reactions to a life under pressure. But one sees only darkness and despair. The other sees light and hope. With the beginning of Advent, our focus shifts to anticipation. Luke’s Gospel injects a note of hope in his view of the end times. Hope that can only come from faith.
So, what are you doing to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man?
First Sunday of Advent
November , 2021
The prophet Jeremiah, while jailed, wrote today’s verses of hope. God would restore the royal line, the king would rule justly, and the nation would be renewed. This, however, would happen in God's time and in God's way.
St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians answered the question, how should Christians live as we await God’s timing? Paul's answer and prayer of encouragement was simple: actively love the way you have been shown to love and grow in devotion to God.
In the Gospel, Jesus described the beginning of God's final initiative. He would give signs of warning across the sky, cause anxiety on earth with violent sea storms, and shake up the heavens. What we would explain scientifically as eclipses, meteor showers, and the result of storm systems on earth, the ancients attributed to God's intervention in the order of the cosmos. God would shake things up. People would grow anxious because their false faith systems and rituals failed.
But Christians were to rejoice! Their Savior was at hand! Now, their world view and lifestyle would be vindicated. For, Christians saw the world and lived in the world differently. Luke recognized the division between the believers and nonbelievers. Christians had something to be delivered from: persecution. It was to be a time of hope for believers. Through great power and glory, the Son of Man would come and free His followers. Unlike the anxious people of the world, the Christians were to anticipate the end in great hope.
And who is this Son of Man? We find answers to this question in the Old Testament and in the words of Jesus. Jesus possesses a human body and has the capacity for human activities like resting (Mt 8:20), eating and drinking (Lk7:34), suffering (Mk 8:31) and even lying in a grave (Mt 12:40). However, the Son of Man also claims divine powers. He has the power to forgive sins (Mk 2:10), suspend the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), judge men for their deeds (Jn 5:27), and claims to be sent from heaven (Jn 3:31).
The prophet Daniel describes a vision (Dan 7:1-28) of the things to come. In this vision, where a celestial courtroom is in session and the Lord is upon His royal throne, a glorious figure enters. The court judges that this “Son of Man” is a worthy figure and gives Him a kingdom unmatched in size and prestige by any other in history. He is enthroned in heaven, given authority over all nations, and his royal appointment signals the dramatic defeat of God’s enemies.
It is Jesus Christ, who conquered evil and now sits enthroned in heaven, exercising His universal kingship over the world through the Church. This is the Son of Man, whom we follow, whom we serve and whose second coming we anticipate with hope and joy.
The church year begins again today. Happy New Year! Today, is the first day of a new church (liturgical) year. Our Gospel readings for this new year will primarily be from the Gospel of Luke. This is the season of Advent. The Latin word adventus means “coming.” We are preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus. There are two parts to this season of Advent. From now until December 16, we prepare for the second coming of the Lord Jesus at the end of time. From December 17 to December 24, we focus on preparing for the celebration of the first coming of Jesus when He was born of Mary in a stable in Bethlehem. It is fitting for Christians to prepare and celebrate both of the comings of Jesus.
Psalm 25, our psalm for today, is a prayer for defense, guidance, and pardon. If we live by the words of this psalm, we will be prepared to meet Jesus when He comes again. The Responsorial is the prayer of a person who completely trusts in the LORD. Although it is also said with expectation of the coming of GOD, it is spoken with the confidence that GOD will keep the promise of restoring those who follow the pathways of the LORD. “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalm 25:1-2)
Enemies are those who oppose not only us, but also God’s way of living. We can view temptations like money, success, prestige, lust…as our enemies. And our greatest enemy is Satan. King David (the author of this psalm) asks God to keep his enemies from overcoming him because they opposed what God stood for. David did not want his sins to create an obstacle of faith for others. Do I recognize that my falling into temptation can lead others to do the same? So how can we overcome temptation? Ask for God’s guidance. We have to submit our will to God and seek His truth. And the truth of God is found in His Living Word, the Sacraments, prayer and serving others.
If life’s problems always seem to go from bad to worse, it’s time for a change. God is the only one who can reverse this downward spiral. He can take our problems and turn them into glorious victories. We must simply cry out, as David did, “Turn to me and be gracious to me.” (Psalm 25:16) We must live with integrity and uprightness. Uprightness makes us learn God’s ways and strive to fulfill them. Integrity, being who we say we are, keeps us from claiming to be upright while living as if we do not know God. This Advent, let us ask for awareness of the enemies who ensnare us and God’s guidance to overcome our temptations.
Theme in our Life Today
St. Luke’s Gospel reading is not intending to terrify us with such cataclysmic words. He is just stating the truth and reality of our earthly existence: everything in this world is passing. Nothing is permanent. This world and everything in it are passing away. Our life, our body is passing. Rather than frighten us, these are words of hope. In the face of the fragility of life and of the whole world, Jesus, the Son of Man will come “in a cloud with power and great glory.” “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Lk 21:28).
The message is quite clear. Placing our hopes on anything in this world will leave us disappointed. What is truly frightening is to face all these tribulations without God, and to place everything entirely in the hands of man. Therefore, we must keep our focus on Jesus. In the midst of all these passing realities, He is our only assurance and hope for eternity and fullness of life. Jesus advises us: “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” (Lk 21:36-38).
So, let’s make this Advent a time of adventure. A time to spend time and energy on being religiously adventurous. We were challenged to step out of our normal, hum-drum activities and do something more positive, more faithful, more Christ-like during this time of preparation. We cannot call ourselves Christians, while our hearts belong to the world, its deceptive delights, and its anxieties. During this special season of prayer, let us ask God to lead us in integrity and uprightness so we will witness our love for Him in the world.
We can never fully predict disastrous events, but we can prepare for them. We can live a high moral life, as if tomorrow does matter. And we can pray for the strength to live through the darker days. Ultimately, we can live as if Jesus is fully present. We can live with hope fully present.
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
Choose one area in your life that makes you anxious. How can faith turn your anxiety in this area into anticipation? How can God give you hope?
What are the enemies you are battling right now? Ask God for guidance. Trust God. Seek His instruction in His Word, the Sacraments, prayer and service.
How am I going to make this Advent adventurous? What am I going to do to show that I am vigilant for the Lord Jesus’ return? How can I manifest my readiness to please GOD?