1st. Sunday of Advent (A)
(Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our Gospel reading is indeed suited to an Advent time of anticipation and expectation, but it is apparently in anticipation of something much more serious and solemn than our traditional celebration of Christmas for which normal preparations are usually choosing gifts, arranging festive gatherings of family and friends, and planning meals of more ample and diverse character than those for normal daily sustenance and modest pleasure.
During Advent, Catholics preparing to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus in Bethlehem, commonly try to put their minds back nearly 2000 years while rejoicing whole-heartedly in their present awareness and experience of the joys and blessings those 2000 years of Christian faith and fulfilment have brought to the world throughout that history and in their own personal and family lives. But today’s Gospel, given for our appropriate blessing by Mother Church in her traditional wisdom, does not centre of the past Nativity of the Infant Jesus but rather on another and second coming of Jesus, ultimately as the Son of Man.
Modern disciples of Jesus -- up to date indeed but not up to standard with the fullness of wisdom and beauty embraced by Mother Church’s Liturgy for the right expression of authentic Christian worship of and love for God – rightly want to teach their children about Jesus, and give God thanks for the original coming of the Son of God as the Divine Infant born of the Virgin Mary for our salvation, but they tend to overdo the going back to what they have always loved.
It is a common fault to be found most frequently with indulgent grand-parents: they love their grandchildren and want to make and to see them happy, and so they often lower themselves down to a childish level of behaviour for immediate companionship and joy, but rarely indeed do they want to raise the children up -- even very gently -- towards more adult appreciations. To try to lift up the mind of a child is a risk they prefer not to take; it is so much easier to behave as a child with the children, winning immediate and joyful laughter all round and, as a very acceptable bonus, they themselves get praise from all who are watching and admiring their easy rapport with their grandchildren!
Now that is what happens not only the home but also and too often, with Catholic and Christian use of the Advent preparation for the Coming of Christ: ‘just delight in the Infant Child, don’t spoil it by trying to somehow think about and prepare for a Second Coming, especially one with judgement somewhere to be involved. After all, Advent is not Lent!
That of course is very true, Advent is not Lent. Nevertheless, Advent does bear a marked likeness to Lent in so far as both are times of preparation for a more intimate sharing with Jesus in our appreciation of and co-operation with His work of salvation. And in Advent that involves adults teaching and encouraging their children how rightly to express joy in, and learn gratitude for, the first coming of Jesus as a child of Mary, even as they are also preparing themselves for another coming of Jesus, personal and private in our time, but ultimately one with, and leading to, a Second most public and universal Coming at the end of time for the fulfilment and joy beyond all imagining of God’s faithful ones, or one of reckoning and retribution for those who willingly rejected Him and the Saviour He sent.
As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore stay awake for you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: you must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect the Son of Man will come.
Jesus used ‘Son of Man’ when speaking of Himself as endowed with a most solemn and sublime mission, whereas ‘your Lord’ is much more personal and intimate, and I think we can legitimately see there the motive for Catholic adults’ adult celebration of Christmas harmonizing so well with the celebrations they share with their children. The children’s joyful welcoming of Jesus is, as it were, the first flowering of their family’s Catholic faith; the parents’ peaceful awareness and humble yet hopeful anticipation of their Lord’s coming into their own loving hearts and watchful minds are more mature and more beautiful blossoms of true faith; the Second and universally public Coming of the Son of Man, however, will herald the ultimate fulfilment of all their hopes and aspirations arising from Jesus’ saving Death, Resurrection and Ascension and evoke the utmost love and glory for His Most Holy Name that saved mankind can offer.
Our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is most apposite for adults in their con-celebration -- along with their children -- of Christmas:
Brothers and Sisters, our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed, the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then put on the armour of light, and conduct ourselves properly as in the day; let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
And that teaching is expressed far more beautifully when the words of Isaiah from our first reading are understood in line with it:
Come, let us climb to the Lord’s mountain (lift up our hearts to Jesus), that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths. Come let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Advent comes to help us prepare more fully (parents and children, not just children) for truly Christian and Catholic Christmas joy! Advent calls us to become more truly children of God (both parents and children); let us, therefore, close our present considerations by recalling today’s Alleluia antiphon:
Show us Lord Your love; and grant us Your salvation!