1st Sunday of Advent ~ 28 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Responsorial: Psalm 25; II: I Thessalonians 3: 12-4:2; Gospel: Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day.” Thus would the Holy Spirit lead us to pray as we begin this season of Advent. This first verse from our responsorial psalm can bring us to understand that as we begin the new year of our faith that this is much more than a season of special candles and holiday preparations. It is a time to awaken within our lives and the church the promise of Christ’s return and our shared call to stand in courageous love and the grace of His holiness.
Scripture teaches that as Christ’s return draws near great will be the chastisements, the testings, and tribulations in the world. The heavens and the earth, all of creation will cry out in suffering anticipation for the return of the Christ, and the vanquishment of sin, death, and evil. The Word of God shrouds the time and details of our Lord’s return in mystery to better enable His faithful to grow in faith and hope. While the details may be veiled the will and the desire of Christ for all who seek Him is clear.
And we are reminded that whether we speak of Christ’s return in the fullness of time or whether we cross eternity’s threshold at our death we are called to be ready for Hime.
Jesus in our Gospel reading tells us that as we see the signs of His coming we are to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” He makes clear that times of great testing will be at hand. He also warns that we are not to become drowsy and unaware with the cares, celebrations, and bothers of this world. He reminds us that the worries and fears of worldly life will assault. But He also gives His hope for those who are seeking Him.
It is in our reading from St. Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica we are given powerful help to be ready for our Lord. This church on the Greek peninsula was a growing young community of faith. They longed for their Lord’s return. And they, like Christians for millennia struggled to understand the when, and the how of the promise of our Savior’s return. The Holy Spirit in gentle, holy power admonishes them and us it isn’t about when or how. It is about simply seeking God and being ready. Speaking through the apostle He proclaims: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”.
Is our love increasing and abounding for one another… AND FOR ALL? In our hearts, our homes, our church is the Love of God in abundance? For our neighbors, regardless of their faith or lives…is our love increasing… abounding? Or do we embrace the divisive strife, politics, and judgments the powers of darkness seek to inflame? But wait, does not this call to love bring about the weakness of faith, sin, and worldly ways of sin? Again, the Spirit of God gives us clear direction.
When Christ returns it will be in the clouds with indescribable glory and majesty as His exquisite holiness is made manifest. It is to that same holiness we are called along with His infinite love to be growing strong and courageous for His coming. The holiness of God can never be confined or regulated as types of clothing, religious habits, and actions, or pious practices. Each of these finite dimensions might well express a temporal vision of some holiness. But no earthly example or practice will ever express the infinite beauty and power of Him before the angels and saints bow in joyful adoration and love. It is like saying a drop of water from some tidepool expresses the power and majesty of the ocean.
All who seek the return of Christ our Lord, our savior share this call from the Holy Spirit. It is in the power of His redeeming love we find the courage to stand, to lift our heads, and in holy, joyful anticipation to seek His coming.
Our opening collect prays…“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet Christ”. It is in the liberty of His holiness we are freed to love, seek, and run forward to our Savior. In the power of His love we grow in the freedom to be and become the men and women Christ has created and redeemed. It is in that same love we grow in the courage to allow His true holiness to grow in the distinct graces of His mercy. We grow in the freedom to be, to become who God made us to be, for Him and His love.