Happy New Year, everybody!
No, the deacon isn’t delusional. I didn’t bump my head this morning and I haven’t lost my marbles. Today is the First Sunday of Advent. It is the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Calendar and it runs until Saturday of the 34th week in Ordinary Time next year.
Advent comes from the latin word advenire, which means “to come to.” While the rest of the world prepares for Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, by decorating, sending cards and buying presents, the Church prepares for the celebration of Christ’s birth but it is also preparing for His return at the end of time.
Our first and second readings point to that time in a way that is slightly different from the report in the Gospel. They have a more optimistic tone in looking forward to the coming of Christ. St. Paul even gives us some suggestions on how we should prepare ourselves. On the other hand, Jesus’ description is more somber and foreboding. There is an air of uncertainty. People disappearing seems very disconcerting to me. But Christ is simply warning us to be ready for the time when He returns. We may not be around for the end of time, but at the end of our time on earth, He will return for us and we need to be ready for that.
How are we supposed to to get ready? St. Paul uses the image of throwing off the works of darkness and putting on the clothing of light. We do that by getting rid of those things in our life that separate us from Christ, or that make it harder for us to recognize Him. I don’t think anyone would disagree that we are surrounded by a culture that is opposed to the Christian life. We are constantly tempted to take shortcuts in the way we live and how we treat others. How often do we hear, “Everybody does it!” when we are tempted.
During this season of Advent we can pray more for others, go to confession, read the Bible and reflect on its influence in our lives. We can also speak up for what we believe. Perhaps we can be more generous in our support of charities. Love others as though this is the last chance we have to love.
A little boy put two cupcakes and two juice boxes in a lunch bag, “Where are you going?”asked his mother. “I’m going to find God.” he answered. She smiled and said, “Be good and don’t be late for supper.”
The boy walked to the park and saw an elderly woman sitting alone on a bench. She was looking down at the ground when he sat next to her. She looked up at him and managed a little smile. He opened his bag and gave her one of his cupcakes and juice box. She took them and gave him a big smile. They ate together and talked for a little while then he said. “I have to go home.” She nodded and reached out to him. He hugged her goodbye.
When he got home his mother asked him how his day was. He answered, “I had lunch with God and she has the nicest smile.”
When the woman went home, her husband asked, “Did you have a nice day?” She smiled and said, “I had lunch with God. I didn’t realize he was so young?”
The message today is: none of us knows when we will meet Christ, so we should be ready. Be the best person we can be. Make a difference wherever we go. Do the right thing, even if no one is watching. Before we act, ask ourself, “What would Jesus do?” Before we speak, think “What would Jesus say?”
“Stay awake! You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
We have four weeks of Advent to practice being our best. Let’s pretend that we are children, trying to be good because Santa Claus is watching and we don’t want to be on his naughty list.
Someone IS watching. And we really do want to be on His list of those who are His faithful followers.