Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Advent: When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present [the] ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming (CCC 524). By preparing to celebrate Christmas, we renew our desire for the Lord's second coming. Whenever we contemplate the coming of Christ into history, it makes us long for Christ to come again. You have heard it said that Christianity is a historical religion: the mysteries of salvation took place in the unfolding of history; but, it is not simply a religion of antiquity. Rather, we believe in the Christ who came, and who will come again. So as we spiritually prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas we should always be mindful to renew our desire of the coming of Christ. Our readings today show us the way to do this.
In the gospel Jesus tells us that we know neither the day nor the hour of his coming. This might frighten us. We have to be vigilant, always ready for the coming of our savior. However, Jesus gives us an insight into vigilance. He notes that at the time of the Great Flood people were going about their daily business: they were eating and drinking, being married and being given in marriage. It will be the same on the day of the second coming. Rather than seeing this as something frightening, we should not be afraid. Jesus is telling us that it is ok for us to be going about our daily tasks, he never tells us to stop living our lives. Vigilance does not mean that we run away from life. Rather, vigilance means that we are constantly prepared for the coming of Christ in the midst of our ordinary lives. Are you a mother or father? Go on taking care of your kids, but do it in the sight of Christ, confident that if he came back today he would approve of what you are doing. Are you a banker, teacher, secretary, priest, you name it? Whatever you do, do it as if Christ were coming back today. We do not know the day or the hour, but whenever Christ comes back we should be ready to great him.
St. Paul reiterates this, but puts it in the realm of moral action. The more we contemplate the fact that Jesus could come back any minute, the more we want to have our affairs in order: Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day. We usually think about this during Lent, but if there is something in your life, some sin you are not proud of, why not ask Christ to help you with it during this season of Advent? Ask Christ to come into your life, especially into your sinfulness, for this is what it means to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah tells us that all nations will come to Mount Zion, and from this holy mountain will go forth instruction. The word used by the prophet here is actually Torah. Remember that the Torah, which we usually translate as the Law, was God's precious gift to the Israelites. This was the special instruction that God gave to his people telling them precisely how they would be his people. This mystery only deepens at Christmas: the Word of God is sent into the world to teach, to give instruction, to build on the foundation of the Torah. So, another important way to prepare for Christmas is through instruction. We can never learn too much about our faith. Every year we give away hundreds of the little Advent books published by Magnificat: take one of them home and read it. This year we are going to put on an Advent series which will focus on Fr. Robert Barron's book on the Holy Eucharist (there are details in the bulletin), I invite you all to consider joining us so that you might learn more about your faith.
Our readings today give us two ways we can be vigilant even in the midst of our daily lives: conversion and instruction. These are two beautiful ways for the Lord to come into our lives, to touch our hearts and our minds and to renew our desire for the second coming of Christ.
It is certainly true that Christ has come and will come again, which is what Advent is all about. But, today as we celebrate this Holy Eucharist Christ comes in the here and now. There is no better way for us to prepare for the feast of Christmas and to renew our desire for the coming of Christ than by our faithful participation in the Mass. Here at this altar we remember the saving mystery of Christ come into the world, we pray for his Second Coming, and we receive him, here and now, in the Holy Eucharist.