Saturday, November 26, 2011

Run forth to meet the Lord (in new translation!)

1st Sunday of Advent 2011 Year B:

    Here we are in Advent, the word, in Latin, means coming or arrival. The arrival for which we are preparing, of course is the Baby Jesus at Christmas time. However, we live in very interesting times. In terms of history we live in that interval between the first coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. For several weeks now we have been hearing readings about the end of the world, our Gospel today picks up on that same theme: Watch! Be Alert! Truly the day is coming. And while we normally associate Advent with the season where we prepare to celebrate the feast of Christmas, the prayers from our Mass today remind us that these first few weeks of Advent get us ready to welcome Christ when he comes at the end of time.

I know that today's Mass is a bit difficult for all of us. I heard a few "And also with you's" during the Mass. These are new words and they will take us some time to get used to them. But, because these words are so new the make us go a bit slower and perhaps think a bit more about what we are saying. This can be a very good thing.

As I was getting ready for Mass this week I wanted to practice the prayers a few times to be sure I wouldn't stumble when I read them. I was amazed at how beautiful the opening prayer from today's Mass really is. But, not only is it beautiful it teaches us something very important about Jesus and his second coming:

 

Grant your faithful, we pray,

almighty God,

the resolve to run forth to meet

your Christ

with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,

they may be worthy to possess the

heavenly kingdom.


 

Here is the old prayer:

All-powerful God,

increase our strength of will for

doing good

that Christ may find an eager

welcome at his coming

and call us to his side in the kingdom

of heaven.


 

 

There is a big difference between these two prayers. In the older prayer it makes it sound like we are sitting back waiting for Christ to come so we can give him an eager welcome, which, of course we should do. However, in the new translation it tells us exactly what this eager welcome looks like: the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds. There is an amazing difference in these two prayers: in the older prayer there is no activity, in the new prayer we are running forth to meet Christ.

I think this is exactly what Advent is all about! It reminds us that we are expecting Christ's return. Every year, therefore, we get a bit of a reminder that we cannot simply be sitting on our laurels waiting for Jesus to come back. Rather, we run forth to meet him with righteous deeds. Can each of us say we are really running forth with righteous deeds to meet Christ? If not, this is a great time of year to take a look at our lives, our actions, our thoughts, to purify them, weed out sin, and replace sin with righteous deeds. And the stakes are high: the prayer says that only those who meet Christ this way may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom. What of those who are not only not running forth to meet Christ, but those who are sitting in the stagnancy of their sins? Watch, be alert! To them this sounds like a threat, but to those who are running to meet Christ this sounds like a promise: I will be with you soon.

Now all of this sounds great, but it might be a bit discouraging. It's hard to live lives of holiness, to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds. Listen again to the second reading: He will keep you firm to the end! It is Christ who does the good within us, Christ who gives us strength. It is Christ who tells us to watch, but it is also Christ who opens our eyes. The opening prayer begins: grant your faithful we pray! In other words, it is all a gift of Grace. We run forth to meet Christ through the power of Christ. As I mentioned at the beginning we live in an interesting period of time. We live between the two comings of Jesus. We await the second coming with hope because of the first coming. We run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds only through the power of that first coming, the power that Christ brought into the world. So with hearts desiring God's grace and power so as to change our lives so we can be ready to meet Christ when he comes again we pray this opening prayer again!

Grant your faithful, we pray,

almighty God,

the resolve to run forth to meet

your Christ

with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,

they may be worthy to possess the

heavenly kingdom.

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