1st. Sunday of Advent (C)
(Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 â€“ 4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)
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 and the earth -- the whole cosmos -- will be shaken, will begin to experience the throes of dissolution and breaking-up into chaos, before dissolving into nothingness.
What about those who are on earth at that time? They will be terrified, dying of fright, wondering what will come next, fleeing here, dashing there, in frenzied attempts to find some secure haven as the whole world disintegrates, as all former familiar and safe places crumble into dust and ashes.
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 be both calm and confident because they will understand what is happening: the old regime, the old set-up, under which they were mocked at, pitied and despised by men, oppressed with trials and bowed down under injustice, is coming to its end, and the new order where love, justice, peace and righteousness, bearing witness to God's triumph and the salvation for which they have prayed so long and endured so much is assured, indeed, is at hand for them:
The Son of Man is coming in a cloud (signifying His divinity) with power and great glory!
While all whose hopes and hearts were wrapped up in the world which is about to disappear are filled with apprehension, horror and despair, the disciples of Jesus -- ignoring the crumbling ruins of a sinful world -- will stand erect and raise high their heads, looking heavenward with hope lighting up their expectant eyes and swelling their grateful hearts.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, you who are truly, and who aspire to become ever more and more truly, disciples of Jesus, have you recognized, can you imagine, do you hope to find, yourselves in that picture painted by Our Lord? His words are supremely important for our guidance and salvation, for they show what you and I should aspire to, model ourselves on.
Therefore, we who are not to tremble at the reality of ultimate destruction, should not now seek to flee in fear from the sufferings and trials of this world; we should not allow ourselves to be alarmed by those who mistake deep-rooted and long-cherished hatred for religious zeal, and who regard self-destructive murder as a pathway leading to eternal fulfilment. We Catholics and Christians have to be found trusting God with a calm and steadfast spirit when the end comes;¦ we will, however, only be able to do that if we have gradually built up, over the years, a habit of calmly committing ourselves to Him in the many and various trials and troubles which life inevitably brings. It is our duty, that is, it is for our truest blessing and God's greater glory, that we learn to fear only one evil: personal sin.
But how are we to come by such a calm and steadfast spirit? How are 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, or as Our Blessed Lord puts it:
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.
We have to grow in the habit of communing with God our loving Father, Jesus our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit, our strength, peace, and hope; a communion to be developed and made personal and intimate by prayer that none around knows anything about, being intensely private and simple expressions of our most intimate human responses:¦ gratitude, fear, joy, hope, wonder, to our spiritual relationship with Him in Mother Church and our being-lived-out flesh and blood experience of the world around.
Be vigilant at all times and pray
in such a way that prayer becomes for us as natural as converse with our closest friend (not however, conversation with friends). Prayer is a communing with God, not an instinctive, irresistible-because-habitual, talking to Him; nor is it a communication of what He might otherwise not 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 and for us, and knows us most intimately because He is ever forming us from within in the likeness of Jesus. For such an opening-up-of-self, for mind and heart communing, for soul-revealing prayer, words are not always necessary, might even be burdensome, and most certainly are not essential; and it is pre-eminently by such prayer 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 at Christmas -- is a season during which we should endeavour to grow in calm steadfastness of spirit in the face of tribulation, joy of heart springing from firm hope in God's goodness and grace, and in the spirit of continual prayer and personal commitment. Ask our Blessed Lady to help you, for she is the one who knows supremely well how to prepare for Jesus' coming and who ever communed lovingly with God in her heart; she is your mother, she will not ignore your cry for help; she is His mother, and powerful enough with Him to win us all graces.
We should, however, know that appreciable success in such endeavours -- though so very desirable -- is in no way necessary. Though God always knows and appreciates our efforts and desires for good, He does not always reward us with present success; but He does always eternally reward our efforts.