1st. Sunday of Advent (C)
Our Blessed Lord tells us in our Gospel reading for today that, at the end of time and just before the Son of Man returns with power and great glory, the heavens will be shaken on a day that will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.
And how will those alive at that time respond to what is happening around them? Wondering what will come next, they will be so terrified as to die of fright: dashing here, fleeing there, in frenzied attempts to find some bolt-hole, because all former familiar and safe places no longer offer refuge.
And what about the disciples of Jesus in such days?
Having learnt from His words and trusting in His Spirit they, on the contrary, will strive to remain both calm and confident, because they will understand what is happening: the old regime, under which they were derided and despised by sinful men, dismayed and oppressed by God-less social laws and structures, is coming to its end, and a new order is at hand: where love, justice, peace, and righteousness, will bear witness to God’s triumph and herald the advent of that salvation for which they have prayed so long and endured so much:
The Son of Man is coming in a cloud (signifying His divinity) with power and great glory!
And striving thus, those true disciples of Jesus will be enabled by His Spirit to stand erect and raise high their heads, looking heavenward with eyes alight with hope and grateful hearts beating apace.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, you who are true, and aspire to become ever-more worthy, disciples of Jesus, surely you hope to find yourselves among those disciples pictured by Our Lord? The words He uses are, therefore, most important for our guidance and protection, for they show what you and I should aspire to, what we should model ourselves on.
First and foremost, dear People of God, notice and hold close to your heart and firm in your mind, that those told to stand erect as the ultimate reality of cosmic destruction begins, should not now be found seeking to flee anywhere and everywhere to avoid, escape from, the sufferings and trials of life in our present-day world. Neither should we be deceived by those spiritually sick ones who embrace suicide -- self-murder -- as an instantaneous moment of peace or pseudo-glory before washing up on the shores of imaginary oblivion. Above all, we should not allow ourselves be provoked by the response to modern life of those despicable fanatics who cherish hatred as an easier and preferred option to that of authentic religious discipline and zeal for God
When the end comes, we Catholics and Christians will need to be found trusting God with a sure and steadfast spirit, and we will only be able to do that if we have gradually built up, over the years, a habit of calmly and confidently committing ourselves to His loving care in the many and various trials and troubles which life inevitably brings. It is our duty, but much more than that, it is indeed our truest blessing and surest strength, that we learn -- for love of Him -- to fear only one thing: evil, personal sin.
But how are we to attain such a sure and steadfast spirit? How can we to learn to rejoice in the Lord no matter what distress may rule the world? By prayer!
First of all, if we do not wish to give way to the world’s fears, we must not yield ourselves to the world’s pleasures, as Our Blessed Lord puts it most perfectly:
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of life.
We have to grow in the habit of communing with God our loving Father, with Jesus our self-sacrificing Saviour, and with the Holy Spirit, our strength, peace, and hope: a communing and communion to be developed and made ever more truly personal and intimate by prayer that no one around needs know anything about. Such prayer is a simple expression of our most intimate human feelings … gratitude, fear, joy, hope, wonder and desire … arising in the course of an ever-deepening spiritual relationship with our God, being-lived out as His children in Mother Church, and as disciples and protagonists of Jesus in our flesh-and-blood experience of daily life in the modern and antagonistic world around us.
Prayer is a communing with God, I say, not a talking to Him; neither is it a communication of information He might not otherwise know. Prayer is essentially an opening-up of self in ever greater trust to the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who loves us, lives with us, in us, and for us, and Who knows us most intimately because He is ever forming us, from within, into a true likeness of His beloved and only-begotten Son, Jesus the Christ. For such an opening-up-of-self, for such true soul-revealing prayer, words are not always necessary, but spiritual commitment is its very essence; and it is pre-eminently by such prayer and commitment to Him Who is our All that we will obtain:
The strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent, and to stand before the Son of Man.
And so, dear People of God, Advent – the season in which we prepare for the coming of the Son of Man anew into our lives – is a season during which we should endeavour to grow in calm steadfastness of spirit in the face of increasing worldly tribulations, social tensions, and perhaps, of personal trials too. Advent is above all, however, a season to nourish spiritual joy of heart on the basis of a firm assurance and unshakeable hope in God’s goodness and grace, by persevering prayer and personal commitment.
Ask our Blessed Lady to help you, for she is the one who knew supremely well how to prepare for Jesus’ coming, and who communed sublimely with God in her heart; she is now your mother, she will not ignore your cry for help. Oh! How our ‘televised’ world of today lavishes words of extravagant praise on ‘mums’ of whatever sort, but never turns to Mary with even a semblance of admiration, love, or trust!
We should, however, realise that although God always knows and appreciates our efforts and desires for good, He will never reward our pride and self-esteem with present and immediate success. He seeks, above all, to bless our dutiful self with a heavenly and eternal reward for all our humble efforts and endeavours, and for that we need first to become true children of Mary, able to say most gratefully with her:
The Lord has looked upon the lowliness of His servant.