Posted November 25, 2015
Okay, so it might be trite but here it goes: Happy New Year! Yes, today is the First Sunday of Advent, the Church’s new liturgical year. This season is marked with strong contrast and changes from just a week ago. There is no triumphal music, the decorations are simpler, and this year (also known as Cycle C) we read from the Gospel of Luke instead of Mark.
The word “Advent” means beginnings, so we look to the beginnings of our salvation. We begin our year with the stories that herald the birth of Jesus. No one in human history has even had an entire four-week season devoted to the anticipation of their birthday memorial. Advent invites us into that commemoration and to contemplate the mystery and meaning of the Incarnation—the becoming human flesh of God’s Son.
But Advent also invites us to look backward and recall that God’s plan of salvation for us began with this simple, yet miraculous event. The Incarnation has so much to offer us for reflection in our daily prayers. The nativity narrative of Jesus is the most beloved of all stories and we are thankful to the evangelist Luke for telling so great a story.
But there is another invitation extended in this season of Advent. It is the invitation to look forward to the second coming of Christ in the fullness of time. Just what is this fullness? Thousands of manuscripts have been written to try to explain it, when it will be, and what it will be like. Our Scriptures also give us accounts or prophets, apostles, and evangelists who were trying to figure it out. The answer is in today’s Gospel from Luke: be vigilant at all times for we do not know the day nor the hour. This vigilance should not cause us fear. Instead it should comfort us and excite us. It is a call to be the best we can be in God’s eyes because we desire the embrace of God. Listen closely to the image in the Opening Prayer said by the priest at the start of today’s Mass: “Grant us the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.” What deeds would you bring?
Are you ready for the final judgment? Being human, who among us could really say we are perfect enough to be judged ready for the Kingdom if we knew for sure that next Tuesday would be the fullness of time? No, God comforts our human anxieties by not allowing us to know—and so we trust in His mercy.
Next week, on December 8th, begins the Extra-ordinary Year of Mercy, proclaimed by Pope Francis. It will be a wonderful time for the church to reflect on God’s mercy, to experience God’s mercy, and to look forward to God’s mercy in the fullness of time. Happy Advent! Deacon Tim Crooker