1st Sunday of Advent

“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.”

Today we are entering into the new liturgical year and at the beginning itself, the holy mother the church gives a clear vision of the end to which we are travelling; the second coming of Christ and what we ought to do in order to achieve the final victory of our life here on earth. Advent is a season of expectation and waiting for the coming of the Lord. We have the historical birth of Jesus in space and time. He continues to be with us and accompanies us on our journey to the New Jerusalem, the city of God. Then there is the second coming of the Lord in glory and majesty to reward us at the end of our life.

Our lives are often stressed up with too many preoccupations, constant worries and anxieties about how to manage situations and events. In the process we often forget our priorities and end up achieving very little at the end of the day. We are distracted and often get disappointed when things do not turn up the way we want them to be. The gospel gives a reorientation to our priorities that we should be focused on the goal of our lives. He warns his disciples that they will not know in advance when that dreadful day will be. Although there will be signs in the sky and on the earth, actually that day will be sprung on us suddenly, as Jesus says, like a trap. Our task is to live our lives in readiness, prepared always for that final day of days. We are advised by Christ to stay awake, to be alert so that we may stand in confidence before the Son of Man when he comes in glory. Those who live sinful lives will have reason to fear when that day comes. Those who are caught up in selfishness, licentiousness, deceit and such things will be shaking in their shoes when that final day arrives. However, for a serious Christian the proper attitudes to adopt in preparation for that day are alertness and readiness and a spirit of repentance for our sins. The whole of our Christian lives ought to be one of preparedness, getting ourselves fit for that Last Day.

The Gospel passage of the day is in the background of the curiosity of people to know the details regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ. There had been always useless arguments and baseless speculations about this great event. The answer of Jesus is clear that he wants to teach the followers what is their duty in view of the second coming. All knowledge is desirable as far as it will help us to put into practice. “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.” Jesus is warning us that this world is passing away. Our lives are short, and we have much less time than we think. He wants us to keep things in perspective. It is the eternal life that God is preparing for us, which is really important and the goal of our life.

It is the desire of all of us to enjoy peace, joy and happiness in our lives, but our everyday experience is contrary to our best hopes, so much so that we are often tempted to despair. Who will restore our enthusiasm in the faith? How do we maintain hope in this life? How do we keep our lamp burning bright in spite of the challenges that we encounter daily? We are called to read the signs of the times and be ready to face any eventualities at any time of the day or hour.

Gospel speaks of the certainty that Christ will come. It is true that his discourse seems strange to us. Signs in the sun and moon and stars, the clamor of the ocean, heavenly powers that fall to earth – these are images that we find hard to understand. We find it easier to understand when he speaks about the suffering of the nations, and about men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world.

Living in hope is the only fitting way to celebrate the coming of Christ, and the only way worthy of trust. Christians who believe in hope create situations of hope, and give reasons for others to hope. We pray that when God comes he will find us at work, spreading hope in our world, which is so much in need of it. May he find us vigilant, standing erect, working for a better world of the kind we all hope for. Only in this way can we celebrate Advent and the coming of our Lord into our lives. Then when he comes, he will recognize us as his servants, because when he was absent we did what he told us to do. We made his promises come true as we were waiting for him.

We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. 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. Let us remember the words of Pope Alexander: “What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then only will we be able to give people his hope by caring for those in need, give them God’s peace by turning the other cheek when we are provoked, give them His love by encouraging those who are feeling sad or tired, and give them His joy by encouraging and helping those who feel at the end of their strength, showing them that we care and that God cares as well. When, with His grace, we do these kinds of things we will receive hope, peace, love, and joy in return. Then we will know that when the King, our Lord Jesus, returns on the clouds of glory, we will be ready for Him.