1 Sunday of Advent, Cycle C
Jer 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 24:25-28, 34-36
The first Sunday of Advent, which, we are celebrating today, is the New Year day of the Church, or better termed, the New Liturgical Year, and we know Christmas is not far away. According to Jeremiah’s prophecy, it was written: In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David, a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land (Jer 33:15).
The prophecy might not have been clear to the people of the Old Testament, but certainly, it would have given them some kind of hope. The four weeks of Advent symbolize the time when the people of the Old Testament waited for the coming of the Messiah. In Advent, we see in the church sanctuary an advent wreath with four candles. The circle of the wreath symbolizes God’s eternity. The green color of the wreath symbolizes God’s immortality. The purple color of the candles stands for repentance for the coming of the Lord.
The rose color candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent symbolizes joy because the Lord is coming. A white candle in the middle of the wreath may be lit on Christmas to symbolize the Redeemer. The bible of the Old Testament is a story of waiting. The Advent season reminds the faithful of preparing for the first coming of the Lord into our human history.
Yet the gospel for the first Sunday of Advent shows something of concern in our mind. According to Jewish tradition, when God intervenes in our human history on the last day, the prophets often used an apocalyptic language, kind of symbolic language, speaking of signs in the sky and the earth such as ‘the roaring of the sea and the waves’, the shake of the moon and the stars.
Jesus was born and grown up in the Hebrew society also followed that tradition. That is why today’s Gospel described movements in nature, fear and anxiety of people making us think of death, the last day and last judgment. The gospel also reminds the faithful that Jesus will return in glory on the last day to sum up the human history. These signs in the sky and the roaring of the earth might have taken place somewhere in the past already, but the end has not yet come.
In order to prepare for the return of the Lord, the Gospel warns us against selfish interest, making us forget the last day. The last day may be understood as the last day of each individual on earth or the last day of the world. Jesus warns his disciples, and through them warns us: Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy, from carousing and drunkenness and the anxiety of daily lives and that day catch you by surprise like a trap (Lk 21:34). In addition, Jesus instructed them: Be vigilant at all times and pray that you will have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man (Lk 21:36). Saint Paul also prayed for the Thessalonians that they would strengthen their hearts (1Thes 3:13) in waiting for the coming of the Lord.
Advent is a time when the Church calls us to prepare ourselves spiritually to commemorate the coming of Christ. It is the time between Jesus’s first coming into our human history and his second coming when he promised he would come again on the last day to sum up the human history. His first coming already took place when he took our human nature and was born at Bethlehem. His last coming will take place on the last day when he will come to judge ‘the living and the dead’.
Between these two big comings, Jesus often comes to our individual life with his grace through the sacraments we receive, through prayer, sacrifices and works of charity we do. Jesus also comes on the last day of each individual person. This will take place when his angel comes to call each person from this life. However, nobody knows when he will come on the last day of each individual person on earth. When Jesus comes to end each individual life on earth or to end the world at large is a secret.
Only God who holds our destiny knows. One thing we know for sure is that day will come. Therefore, the faithful must prepare for his coming at the end of his/her individual life on earth as well as the last day of the world. It is more realistic and practical to wait for his personal coming and prepare for his coming into our lives in a more personal and more profound way.
That day will be a day of blessings for all those who prepare themselves to welcome the Lord into their lives. That day will be a day of blessings for those who know how to use their time wisely and responsibly. In an apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II with a title in Italian: Tertio Millennio Adveniente, meaning the third millennium is coming, he wrote: Time has a very important meaning. The world was created in time, the saving grace was shown in time, and the Church is waiting for Jesus’ coming at the end of time. In a summary, time belongs to God. We cannot go ahead of time and we cannot prolong time. Therefore, we have duty to sanctify our time by offering our day, month and year to God, and to use our time to bear good fruits for his kingdom.
Prayer asking Jesus to come into our lives.
Oh Son of God, Word of the eternal Father!
All humankind is preparing to celebrate your birthday.
Teach me how to prepare my heart,
patient to wait for the day of your coming.
Come and stay in my heart with your grace
and travel with me on every path of my life. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong