1st Sunday Of Advent Year C
Is my life more holy now compare to the last year? Let us assess ourselves and strive for holy living.
My brothers and sisters, Christmas is but four weeks away. As is normal this time of the year, we enter into a frantic preparation period for the festival ahead – shopping, decorations, gifts, parties, food, restaurant bookings, holidays, etc. As is most things in our secular life, we give a lot of attention to our physical well-being during the upcoming festive period. But what about our spiritual preparation? After all, what is the reason for the season but the birth of our saviour Jesus to the world. This week, on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, we enter the Season of Advent, a four-week preparation period for Christmas. Dear brothers and sisters, in addition to our usual secular preparations, let us commit ourselves in the next four weeks to reflect on the Scripture, to prepare ourselves well spiritually.
In the First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah said, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (verse 14) What is this promise? The Prophet continued, “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (verse 15) This is but one of the many promises God made regarding the coming of Jesus Christ our Saviour, descended from the family line of King David. Many of us are familiar with God’s many promises of a saviour prevalent through all of the Old Testament. Beginning with the Book of Genesis, after our first parents succumbed to sin, God speaking to the serpent, promised, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15) In the allegorical sense, the “woman” God was referring to here is Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. Then during the time of the divided Jewish kingdoms, God promised King Ahaz of Judah, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14) It is significant that the Greek term for “young woman” used here also means virgin. Later, with the kingdoms united under King David, God promised the king, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” (2 Sam 7:12-13) Many Christians know these prophesies well. These prophesies were made through history spanning thousands of years. For people of ancient times, they create a great sense of anticipation. However, in these modern days, in a case of familiarity breeds contempt, we are so familiar with them that we often do not pay much attention to them, not even while we are frantically preparing for the Christmas!
While The First Reading reminded us of the ancient prophecies on the First Coming of Jesus, the Second Reading and Gospel focus on the Second Coming of Jesus. This is when human race’s time on earth will come to an end. In many ways, our preparing for Christmas, the First Coming of Jesus, is a microcosm for our preparation for end time, the Second Coming of Jesus. Hence, the Church has wisely provided Scripture Readings during the Advent Season to help us prepare for both. Speaking to the people of Thessalonica, St Paul said in the Second Reading, “And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (verse 3:13) What did St Paul mean by strengthening our heart in holiness? To live in holiness means to live our life as Jesus has shown us. Jesus was always close to God – through his frequent prayers and doing of God’s will – even if it comes at great personal cost to Him. Even though He is the Son of God, He never portrayed Himself to be superior to others. Quite the opposite, He reached out to sinners and befriended them, calling them back to God. And most of all, He is the personification of love. Unreservingly, Jesus loves everyone – his family, His friends, those who come to Him for help and even those who persecuted Him. To His disciples and followers, He teaches them His ways, just as He is teaching us today. My brother and sisters, let us be honest and ask ourselves: Am I living my life in holiness as Jesus has shown me? Am I close to God? Do I pray often? Do I do God’s will even if it comes at a great cost to me? Do I assume a superior complex to those I deem less holy than me? Or do I reach out to them, call them to holiness while remaining humble at all time? Do I love as Jesus does – even loving those I find hardest to love? Is my life a good example of Christian living to others, especially the younger members of my family and church community? In fact, this is exactly what the Saints have shown us through the ages – they encouraged us by presenting their lives as examples of holy living to us. As St Paul urged us in the Second Reading, “learned from us how you ought to live and to please God” (verse 4:1).
On His Second Coming, Jesus spoke of the Last Day in the Gospel this week. In an age where the celestial bodies were used tell time, Jesus’ mention of “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars” (verse 25) indicates the end of time. He continued, “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” (verse 26-27) On that day, many will be frightened by the signs. But not those who have been living in holiness. Jesus encouraged the holy ones, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (verse 28)
There is a deep connection between the First Coming and Second Coming of Jesus. If we continue to strive closer to holy living day or day, year after year, then Advent and Christmas become an opportunity time for us to assess and reflect on our life. We ask ourselves at this time: What advances have I made in the last year? Is my life closer in holiness to those of the Saints and that of our Lord Jesus? If I do, I may look forward to the Second Coming, when Jesus would say to us, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt 25:23) Whereas, for those of us who have taken our life and Jesus’s teaching for granted, then we would have nothing to show for the year. Especially for those of us who window-dress our life, constantly putting on a show for others to see, I might be saying to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” (Mt 7:22) Then, to my dismay, Jesus would say to me, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” (Mt 7:23) This is why Jesus warned us in the Gospel this week, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.” (verse 34-35)
It will be a great tragedy indeed, that we are so caught up with worldly pursuits that we are not ready when Jesus comes. If this is me, it is never too late. This Advent, let me wake up from dissipation and drunkenness and put on love, in preparation for the Coming of Jesus – at Christmas and at the end of time. Peace be with you, my brothers and sisters.