“Watch yourselves ... stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (Luke 21: 36)
This Sunday marks the beginning of a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. The Advent season is the period when we Catholics, nay Christians, begin preparations for the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at Christmas. It is a season of hope, expectancy and joyful anxiety. It is also a season of penitence and reconciliation with God through Christ. The season of advent is practically a season of preparations.
The One we are preparing for as Jeremiah tells us in the First Reading (Jeremiah 33: 14-26) is “the fulfilled promise” made by God to the House of Israel through the prophets: He is the “Virtuous Branch”, Who shall practise “honesty and integrity.” He will bring justice not only for the House Israel and Judah, but for humanity as a whole. He is our Liberator.
So how are we to prepare for Him? St. Paul in the Second Reading (1 Thessalonians 3: 12-4: 2) draws our attention to love of one another, holiness of heart and constancy in Godly life. Love, for St. Paul, is one that is unconditional, sacrificial, selfless and altruistic (1 Corinthians 13: 1-13). It is loving in imitation of The One Who first loved us, when we were still sinners, undeserving of His love, yet he loved us still. Holiness of heart is nurturing a heart that is devoid of impure thoughts and wickedness; a heart that is docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and humble before Him; it is a heart that is merciful, compassionate and forgiving one another easily, just as God has forgiven us in Christ (Ephesians 4: 32). Constantly living a Godly life is a call to a life of consciously making efforts to live out the demands of the Gospel. It is a life that only the grace of God can make possible for no one can be like God except the one who depends on God for guidance.
The coming of the Son of God at Christmas for which we prepare at Advent could be a metaphor for the Parousia, when the Son of Man will come in glory in a cloud with great power, signs and wonders. In the Gospel (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36), Jesus instructs His disciples to “stand erect, to watch, to stay awake, praying at all times.” These are synonyms for spiritual alertness. A Christian is like a soldier at war, who must be constantly awake and alert in order not to be trapped, captured or killed by the enemy. Our spiritual enemy is the devil, who works tirelessly for the fall of the children of God, who though redeemed by Christ, are susceptible to weakness. For us to be able to overcome the subtleness and craftiness of the ancient one, we must be watchful in prayer, return to God, Who is merciful and love and always ready to welcome us back from our prodigal journeys. Since it is true that all have sinned and have fallen short of the grace of God (Romans 3: 23), it is only necessary that only through reconciliation can our hope and expectation be met, and our joy be fulfilled when the Lord comes.
May the grace of God guide us as we prepare for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.