Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent

What is Advent?
We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences and a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Today's readingshttp://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/113014.cfm

In the first reading from Isaiah, we read about humanity calling out to God.  We call out, "return for the sake of your servants."  Moreover, we complain, "why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Many atheists today often say that as technology has evolved, miracles have decreased. In other words, they claim that we do not see miracles like those from the Old Testament and New Testament in today's post modern world because there are ways to document it and study them. With this they imply that the miracles that Sacred Scripture and Tradition inform us about were nothing more that fantasy; hyperbole meant to capture the mind of Bronze age people. Atheists do not understand that these miracles were meant to authenticate those men who God chose to speak for Him on Earth. Without these miracles, no one would have paid any mind to Moses etc (2 Kings 1:10, Luke 4:36–37, Acts 5:12). These miracles were a "head-start" or "push" for faith to take hold in the world.  This does not mean God does not perform miracles today or in recent times. Take the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima or rewind back into the distant past to the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Both of these apparitions served to bring about conversion or reversion. Had the Blessed Virgin Mary not appeared to Blessed Juan Diego, Mexico would not be a Catholic nation today. Moreover, had the apparitions of Fatima not taken place, then Fascism and Communism would have taken over Portugal and Europe as a whole.

The first reading reminds us that God has literally let us "wander" to the point that we "harden our hearts so that we fear [Him] not."  This tells us how God respects our free will.  He will not impose Himself on us.  If we want no part of Him, then He will not force Himself on us. We must call upon God to "return." We must ask Him to "show His face" and rescue us because we are in ruin.  This reading ties in to Advent because this season is a season of waiting in darkness, so to speak.  We await the coming of our Lord.  Our world is in darkness still and will only become truly perfect when Christ returns.  We cry out to God as we wander around asking Him to return to us.  Like the Prodigal son, we have abandoned the father believing we can do it on our own and have failed (Luke 15:11-32). That arrogance of having the illusion that we can take on life by ourselves comes to an end when life "beats us up."  We lose ourselves, believe and do all kinds of crazy things (Romans 1:24-25). When we wander from God, we begin to mock Him.  How many times have atheists mocked God?  All over the internet we see memes or photos mocking Christ, the Blessed Trinity and what not.  Their hearts are harden to the point that they do not fear God or have respect for God.  This all changes when they wander too far.  God allows their venting.  It is a process that allows them to realize that without God they are nothing. They turn into arrogant creatures who live off of mockery and diatribe, instead of love and hope.  This in reality is a sign of their existential frustration.

This is where the responsorial Psalm comes in which responds to the first reading where we say, "Lord, make us TURN to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved."  The first reading tells the story of humanity wandering off and disrespecting God.  It loses hope, hits "rock bottom," so to speak and them realizes it needs God. So we then cry out to God to get us to return to Him and to show us His face so we can be saved.

St. Paul in the second reading from Corinthians reminds us that we are in God's grace. We know of Christ and have confirmed His works, history and person via testimony; not only of others but of ourselves as well. He reminds us that we are not "lacking in any spiritual gift."  Despite living in this crazy world, we still have God with us and He continues to pour out His gifts of the Holy Spirit on us in order to weather the storm that is life on Earth as we await Christ at the end.  We are reassured by St. Paul that God is faithful and that we will be in fellowship with His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally in the Gospel we are reminded that we must be on alert.  The end of time will come when we least expect it.  Christ will come like a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 16:15).  We must not sit idle believing that we are "saved" just because we have accepted Christ as our personal Lord an Savior (Matthew 7:21).  This is not what Christianity is about.  We must put our faith into work (James 2:14-26). Part of that work is to spread the Gospel around to others and especially within ourselves.  This is why we have the Sacraments.  They prepare us with the "robe" for that day when Christ will come (Matthew 22:11-13). Christ can come at any moment.  No one knows the day, hour or minute (Matthew 24:36). Now this day is often painted as a "gloom and doom" thing.  The end of time should not be a scare tactic.   We should see it as what it really is: God returning.  God is coming back to us and showing us Himself. No more will the atheist say, "show me the evidence."  No more will the doubtful Christian say, "what if there is no God and I am wasting me life on this?"  No more will some philosophers and nihilists say, "God is dead, we have killed Him!"  We will all say, "Lord have mercy!"  This will not be a scary time, but an awesome time.  We will know who God truly is.  We will know who we are, why we are, where we are.  No longer will science, theology, or philosophy be needed because we will see the personification of truth and wisdom.  Until this day happens, we gather now in the season of Advent and cry out "maranatha" - "come O Lord!"    

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