1st Sunday of Advent ~ 27 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 2:1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 122; II: Romans 13:11-14; Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

Advent in the Year of our Lord 2022 has arrived! A very happy and blessed new year! We begin this year, this holy season as always in anticipation of and preparation for the return of Christ our Savior and King! Yet for many, it may seem but another Advent. The call to anticipate, and prepare for the coming of Christ may seem but a repetition of many Advents passed. It is easy to succumb to the temptation to think it is just another Advent. But is it?

Jesus, in our Gospel reading we share, tells us that as it was in the days of Noah so it will be when He returns. Life will be going on as always. In the context of the Gospel, our Lord speaks of the ever presence of war, famine, natural calamities, and simply, sadly of sin. But Jesus also makes plain that for many the time of His coming will be days and times as usual. People will marry, families will grow, and people will work and build their lives. But amongst all this will be the clear message: Our Lord is returning! As Noah, filled with faith and courage built the ark so we too are to be making strong our faith in the ark of God’s mercy and love. As it was in the days of Noah so it is for us. It is a time of preparation. It is a journey. Noah built the ark that would take him, his loved ones, and creation on a journey of faith that would ultimately end on an holy mountain.

This Advent we too are on a journey of faith and courage. We live in a world where everyday life, thankfully does go on. But we also live in a world where violence, crime, hate, and strife grow. And as Noah was called to do his part to save creation so we too are called to diligently work to save our common home from the flood of greed and abuse afflicted upon life in countless deadly ways. We share the trek on God’s path of faith, courage, and love that leads to His holy mountain upon which the ark of our faith is to come.

As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “Come let us climb the LORD’S mountain… that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” The path up the Lord’s mountain is not easy. It will, in times and places cause us to seek God for the strength and wisdom to proceed. It will take us far beyond our understanding and abilities. But it will lead us to Christ who is coming. This trek up the Lord’s mountain is a path of faith, holy discipline, and love.

Our Trek of Faith: In our Gospel, we are reminded of Noah as he built the ark. We know the story. We take it at face value. But we need to remember Noah had never seen an ark or a boat of any kind. There is no account that at this point in creation travel upon masses of water was heard of or necessary. Whether one takes the story as literal truth or spiritual truth the message is powerful and clear. God was having Noah live by faith. So it is with us. In diverse ways, Jesus calls us to prepare and anticipate His return by leading us up, in faith His holy mountain. Out of our comfort zones, perhaps well past our present understanding of how, what, and where God may lead or do we are called to seek His return. This Advent is a trek of faith upon a path that may be unknown and with dangers seen, and unseen.

We share our Advent trek of holy discipline. For anyone who has enjoyed hiking or backpacking, there is an understanding that there will be places and stretches of the journey that take real discipline to stay the course. Simple fatigue, blisters, thirst, hunger, and even fear or uncertainty can challenge the slow and steady steps we must take. St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy reminded him that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a disciplined mind. All of us, as disciples of Christ, are called to live lives of holy discipline. There may be many false images that could come to mind as to what this might mean. But what the Holy Spirit seeks is to bring us to faithfully exercise our trust in God as we plod on with God. It is about recognizing we are not called to the indulgences of this world but to the building up of our shared trust in God as we discipline our thoughts, desires, and appetites for our King. One example that anyone who has hailed will understand is to discipline our words. When the path is cool, flat, and easy well might there be a steady flow of words and chatting. But when the trail is steep, the drop-off far and unforgiving and the hand-holds few the words quickly cease. All effort is on the trek, except for words of warning or encouragement as may be needed. Among Christians many are the words that flow without ceasing. These words often cause strife, confusion and sorrow. We are called, together to climb God’s mountain. May we remember and respect that as the prophet said, very clearly the ways, the paths are in the plural. Might it be for the best if we focus on our Lord and the steps he class each of us instead of fretting about others on paths, in ways that may differ from us? This Advent quest then is better realized to be a way of faith, of holy discipline and also of love.

The Advent path of Love: Jesus warns us in our Gospel that we must stay awake, to be ready when He comes. The fatigue of the journey is very real. The need to prepare and be ready is pressing. Noah must have faced great exhaustion as he prepared for his holy trek. The preparation for the journey defies comprehension. Indeed it is yet another year. This Advent we may well be tempted to doze, to nod off. It must be understood God knows our limitations. He has made us to need to rest. It is in the Gospel Canticle from Night Prayer (Compline) we pray: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in his peace.” The simple, faithful discipline of this prayer is rooted deep in Christ, in an awareness of walking (and resting) in the Presence of the Crucified King. There is a way, without fail, of awakening our anticipation and seeking Christ’s return. It is love. Whether we are in a place of loss or struggle or a time of blessing and peace with God’s love our hearts will truly hunger for our King who calls us to be ready for Him.

Climbing the Lord’s mountain is truly a trek needing genuine faith, holy discipline, and growing love. It is a path of real struggle and at times, suffering. But it is a trail upon which others have gone. Preceding us they have lovingly placed hand-holds and carved out of the hard stone the steps we must take. They have shown us the way, the way of the saints in the paths of God. It is perhaps with some holy irony that we are led up God’s holy mountain as we prepare for Advent upon the path that would transcend all eternity, the way of the Cross.