1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
November 29, 2015
Through Jeremiah the prophet, the Lord reminds the people that He “will fulfill the promise” He had made a promise to Israel and Judah of an heir to David. The Lord reminds the people of his promise while they are in exile to assure them that He has not abandoned them.
The promise of an heir to King David was first made around 1000 B.C. The Lord reminds the people in exile of his promise about the year 600 B.C. That means they had already been waiting for 400 years. There were many kings that came and went but none like David.
Ultimately, the Lord’s promise is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. That means the Israelites to whom the Lord was speaking had to wait another 600 years. It is amazing that they had not given up. The gospels make it clear that the Israelites still believed the messiah would come.
This was their hope. This was their faith.
Turning to what Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he also speaks of the coming of the Lord. Paul writes after the birth, life, and death of Jesus. So, the coming of which he speaks is not the same coming we hear about in Jeremiah. Paul speaks of the second coming.
The first coming of Jesus was anticipated with great expectation. It was seen as the source of all hope. Even now, 2,000 years later we will celebrate with great joy Jesus’ birth at the first coming.
It is a time of great joy for us. It is a time when many people who don’t come the rest of the year will join us for Mass on Christmas.
Certainly, people get excited about the presents and the parties for Christmas but I believe it also kindles the fire of flame within people. We live in a world with terrorism, wars, large scale shootings, hunger, and homelessness. We need hope. People may focus on the gifts and the parties but their hearts are stirred to seek the hope that Jesus gives us.
The first coming is celebrated with great joy. The second coming of which Paul speaks, not so much.
Jesus speaks of the second coming as a time where nations will be in dismay and people will die in fright. The second coming can be seen as a scary time. Why? Because we know we are not ready. Our redemption is at hand but we fear we will not be judged worthy.
The prophecies of the Second Coming are not meant to scare us to death. These prophecies are meant to get us to think, reflect, and pray about our own readiness.
What do we need to do to be ready for the Second Coming?
We can make a good examination of conscience of our lives to find what we need to change. We will find things we need to work on, sins we want to stop. Yet we struggle to do so.
It seems so hard. What must we do to change?
In a world that often says you have to do it for yourself, you can’t count on others, I think the most difficult step that each of us needs to take is to realize that we can’t fix ourselves. We need Jesus.
As Paul writes, we need Jesus to make us “increase and abound in love”. We need Jesus to strengthen our hearts and make us holy.
The most important step we can take is to turn it all over to Jesus.
Today we start our new church year with Advent. The secular world rushes to Christmas and the earthly preparations for the celebration. We need to prepare ourselves for Christmas but the most important preparation is not buying gifts, decorating, or preparing food. The most important preparation is in our souls.
We need to ask ourselves what we have done wrong and seek God’s forgiveness. That’s why in addition to our regularly Saturday afternoon confessions, the next three Saturdays will have a penance service followed by individual confessions at one of our area churches. For those who can’t make it on Saturdays, you will find two dates in the bulletin when I will offering individual confessions during the week.
When we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins, God’s forgiveness is showered upon us but it doesn’t end there. God’s mercy doesn’t end there.
God’s mercy includes his love and help for us going forward. Whatever struggles we face in our lives, God grants us mercy.
Pope Francis has called a Year of Mercy to begin on December 8th. A large part of the year will focus on our need for forgiveness (mercy) and our call to show mercy to others but Pope Francis goes beyond forgiveness and calls us to do corporal works of mercy to help those in need, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and spiritual works of mercy to offer prayer and comfort to others.
This is what we need to embrace to prepare for the coming of Jesus.