1st Sunday of Advent-Cycle C—2018

FIRST READING                               Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.  In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.  In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her:  “The Lord our justice.”

SECOND READING                           1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2

Brothers and sisters:  May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.  Amen.  Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God—and as you are conducting yourselves—you do so even more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

GOSPEL                                             Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.  “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.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  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.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today’s readings exhort us to be vigilant for Advent.  This is not a time for passivity, for God is at work, fulfilling his promises and crafting signs and wonders attesting to His glory.  “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” William Butler Yeats’ poem begins, “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”  We Christians may not be going to Innisfree, but we must arise and go to Our Lord for He comes to us.

And, thematically similar to the three quatrains of this famous poem, with their specific needs for food and shelter, peace, and reconciliation with the inner life and the physical world; Christ, early Christian writers remind us, comes thrice:  He comes into our hearts, He comes into the world in the flesh, and He comes at the end of time.

In the first reading the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God would fulfill his promises to his chosen people.  Centuries later do we believe that God is faithful to His promises in our lives, in our situations, in our times?  Some of our ancestors believe and accepted God’s faithfulness; others did not.  We Christians believe that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Jesus Christ redeems the world and our belief in Jesus redeems us.  This Advent, this coming of Christ, requires our active participation, too.

The 1st Letter to the Thessalonians pinpoints the strengthening of hearts in holiness as important.  We want to be ready to receive Our Lord in love, to live well and to please God.  Ultimately, this means for us to learn to love as Christ loved us.  We must prepare for and during this time on earth and in the life to come.

The Gospel of Luke wants us to be prepared for our personal death and the end of the world.  We can only be prepared when we recognize that we need God above all else in our lives.  Leo Tolstoy once remarked about the knowledge of a person’s imminent death in a half hour that the time would in all likelihood not be spent engaging in trivial or stupid things.  If one had foreknowledge a half century before one’s death, would that make one’s actions any different from a half hour?

We are invited to begin again in this time of Advent.  We prepare our hearts and minds to receive the perennial divine presence.  Let us spend time during this Advent Season listening with “the ears of our hearts.”  May the transformation of our lives begin.  Come, Lord Jesus!