Sunday, November 29, 2015

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 readings

The first reading tells us of the 'just shoot' who will come from David.  "He shall do what is right and just in the land."  This 'shoot' of course is referring to Jesus who comes from the lineage of King David (Matthew 1).  Christ was promised to the people of Israel and in due time would be born (Isaiah 7:14).  He would come to bring justice to all. During this time of Advent, we must seek Christ and prepare our hearts to receive Him. We must lift up our souls to the Lord as we read in the Psalm for today.

"To you , O Lord, I lift my soul." We must work out our faith and not expect God to do everything for us (Philippians 2:12). The more we put into our salvation, the more we grow (2 Peter 3:18). God will teach us His ways and will guide us in truth (Psalm 32:8). God is our savior.  There is no one else who saves (Acts 4:12). This is why we wait on the Lord during this season of Advent. Not only do we wait for Him in regards to Christmas, but also in His second coming (John 14:3).  We must be prepared for this time. The readings at the onset of Advent always remind us of this final day when Christ returns. Now that we have time, we must ask the Lord to show us the way; to be merciful to us especially now that we are beginning the Year of Mercy on December 8th (Isaiah 55:6 ). "All paths of the Lord are kindness..." so we must take advantage and prepare our souls for when Christ returns.  All of this work must not be focused solely on us, but on others as well. We must abound in love as we read in the second reading today.

May God increase love in us, we are told in the second reading. This love is not for the self, but for "one another and for all" (John 15:12).  Pope Francis has been stressing this ever since he took on the ministry of Peter. He has reminded us that we have to meet people where they are at; not to judge them, but to be compassionate and merciful to them (Luke 10:25-37). From there we can help them get to Christ.  This work of love will show that our faith in God has value; that we are not just believing just to believe (James 2:14-26). We must be blameless before God, especially when He returns (Psalm 24:4).  This can only be done if we behave as God wants us to behave. We cannot live life like a mindless sheep. Instead, we must be aware of what we do and say and realize that these have consequences (Titus 2:7). It takes just one slip on our part for someone else to lose faith in the Church or in God because of us. This is why we are told in the second reading that how we conduct ourselves is important. Christ can come at any moment, so we must take advantage of the time we have in order to fix ourselves and help others fix themselves (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves."  He continues describing many things that sound scary but are meant to capture our attention.  The details of the signs are not that significant.  What matters is that Christ will return; the Son of man will come in a cloud to judge the living and the dead (Daniel 7:13, 2 Timothy 4:1).  This is what matters to us especially during Advent. Jesus makes it clear that we cannot dose off and think we are going to live life on earth and that He would not come to judge us all.  He tells us, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”  We must be vigilant.  We must not let our guard down otherwise Satan will jump in to attack and cause us to fall like he did with our first parents Adam and Eve (1 Peter 5:8).  Jesus will return one day, no one knows that day (Matthew 24:36).

Our task is to be ready for it. Advent reminds us that Jesus is coming and that we have to prepare for His second coming. We shout 'Maranatha' or 'come Lord!'  We do this because we prepared to receive our Lord and more importantly because we want to see Him as the Apostles saw Him.  We want to experience Him as Mary and Joseph did. For now, we experience Him via the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. These Sacraments are there to prepare us for the second coming of Christ. Again, we must be vigilant. Already we are seeing these 'signs' in the world. The world is changing dramatically.  What was good at one point is now bad and what was bad is now good (Isaiah 5:20). Christians are being killed left and right.  The Church is under attack from all angles even from within. In this we see Satan at work. Satan is a liar and murderer (John 8:44). That is all he knows and presents to the world: lies, violence and evil. It seems like he is winning now, but in reality he is not.

We may see marriage being dissolved merely into what man decides. We see the killing of unborn children presented as 'women's healthcare.' We see fanatics using Islam as a justification to kill others, especially Christians. We see Catholics attacking the Pope, some refusing to acknowledge him as the Pope by calling him simply Jorge Bergoglio.  The list goes on and on but we can see the seeds of the father of lies taking hold in the hearts of many in the Church and outside of the Church.  The smoke of Satan is no longer entering the Church; it has entered the lungs of many, clergy, religious and lay. Advent is a time of penance and preparation. Let us take this time to reflect on what is really going on in the world and what is behind it (Ephesians 6:12). Let us meditate on the first coming of Christ so that we can better prepare for the second one. We await the Son of Man and cry out to Him to come quickly.  O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive all the souls of the world.    

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