First Sunday of Advent

By Deacon John Hackett

Our gospel theme today has a lot to say about the calamity of what is called the last day or the “end times”; technically termed the Apocalypse. And it’s a gloomy picture. But I think it is important to explore this last day, this end of time in terms of your time and my time as Christians. I think we need to get a little bit better focus on the whole process. And it doesn’t involve the end of the world, the Apocalypse per se, although I don’t doubt that that will come about one day….the last day, the end time.

Now, for some background that may be helpful. You see, when a big change happens in our lives, it takes some time for us to get used to whatever the “new normal” might be. A newly married man adjusts to the new normal of being a husband. When a woman gives birth to her first child, she gets used to being a mother. Marriages and divorces, births and deaths, graduations and relocations: these are all major moments in our lives when we leave behind the old day by day, week by week, and settle in to our new situation.

Notice that in all these new normals, we adjust our present circumstances based on a past event…we get used to what happened yesterday and then a new definition of experience arrives. Makes sense, doesn’t it .But things are a little different for the followers of Jesus. Today (as for us) we get used to what happened tomorrow. Now, let me explain that.

You see, the last day has already happened. Although we’re still buying new calendars every year, moving from 2018 to 2019 to 2020 and so forth, the last calendar of the last year of the world has already been printed and all its little squares have been X-ed out. The last hour of the last day of the last year has already happened—a long time ago.

When God entered our world as a human being, died and rose again, he brought the first day of creation and the last day of creation with him. Jesus holds everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 in his hands.

Now we confess that he’s the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, but what does that mean? It means He’s everything from start to finish: all history, all God’s doings, all God’s saving, all God’s resurrection. Jesus is God’s timetable in the flesh.

Although, in our time, he was crucified around 30 AD, in God’s time he is (as recorded in the book of Revelation) “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,”. Although, in our time, our bodies will be resurrected on the last day, in God’s time he has already “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:5-6).

In God’s eyes, the last day has already happened in Jesus. We’ve already been made alive in Jesus, raised with him, and seated with him at the Father’s right hand. Our lives as Christians, therefore, are a constant adjustment to what happened tomorrow. The resurrection is our new normal. We don’t see it or feel it; we believe it. And that faith in what happened tomorrow is what gets us through today.

For instance, my good friend Jim (one of my best and longtime friends in this life) had been battling a serious lung condition off and on for several years. (BTW, he had never smoked a single cigarette in his entire life – so go figure!) But what got Jim through the pain, the weakness, the shortness of breath, the effects of the treatment drugs, and the fear, is what happened tomorrow. You see, Jim had already died with Christ and been raised with Christ, and seated with him in the heavenly places. The tomorrow in Jesus, which had already happened, infused him each day of his sufferings with hope, comfort, and peace. Even his large and lovely family (and me and my wife) could feel it too, even though there was a feeling of sadness about the whole thing. BTW, me and my wife prayed the Divine Mercy for Jim at his bedside the day before he died and Jim even joined in with us when he was able to come up with enough machine-fed oxygen to respond.

You know, when we are sick, when our children are suffering, when our lives seem to be on a downward spiral, and even when things are going just fine, what keeps us going? What fills our todays with strength and hope….What Happened Tomorrow! The creating, saving, and raising that the Father did for us in Jesus.

Our life in the resurrected and reigning Son of God is our new normal. The whole of the Christian life is getting used to sitting at God’s right hand in Jesus.

One day it will get easier because we’ll see it with our own eyes, experience it with our own bodies, but for now we live by faith—which, by definition, according to Hebrews, is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Not seen, not felt, but very…much real and true.

So, in ending, until then, our new normal as followers of Jesus is adjusting to our life in Him. From the beginning of the world, he has atoned for our sins. And from the end of the world, he has resurrected us. It’s all present in Him. And us too…because as you know, we are in Him.

By Deacon Don Griffith

Advent is a time of expectant hope. When I hear that word expectant I think of expecting -of a woman who is pregnant. So this Advent we remember the Blessed Virgin Mary, pregnant with our savior, with this expected hope this hope that we hear through all the prophets and today in Jeremiah when the Lord speaks of the just shoot he will raise up for David.

 Also we hear on this first day of the liturgical year, a passage from near the end of the Gospel of St. Luke. Because our Lord gives us something else to look forward to and to hope for-that of His second coming.  These two comings of our Lord cannot be separated. We prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, Who comes to prepare us for His second coming as Judge. Now is the time for mercy and then at His second coming the time for justice.

 The catechism reminds us that before Christ’s Second Coming the church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers (CCC 675). The Savior himself tells us to be vigilant at all times and pray that we have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.  Our Lord gives us everything we need to live a life pleasing to him. Along with St. Paul, I urge all of us to conduct ourselves to please God even more. Our Lord says Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy; some translations have take heed to yourselves meaning we should make use of the gifts of God- cooperate with God’s grace- to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because he repays each according to our deeds. That day will come upon us, the day of Christ’s return. But this should not be a day of fear for the one who is responding to God’s grace. Christ is with us all along. We come before him and beg bless me for I have sinned. We stand before him and say Christ have mercy.  Our Lord is able to see a humble and contrite heart. And we come to stand before him and take him into our mouth so that he may enter our hearts and we can go out and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently. It is a day we pray for, a day we really love- the Creed says we look forward to that day. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in spirit of the liturgy that standing is the posture of the victor. Jesus has trodden death and the Evil One underfoot. We have heard that if we have died with him we shall also live with him and if we persevere we shall also reign with him. We persevere by spending this life being vigilant and in prayer and taking particular care of our soul, not only when we don’t sin but when we do we turn back to the Lord and in this way run to meet Christ with righteous deeds.

 

Jesus is the Way to Meaning in Life
By Deacon Mike Jacobs

We must be on guard for the day which is to come when all will be fulfilled.  As we await the coming of Christ, let us love one another, observing His convenience and decrees.

What is so terrifying about the second coming of Jesus?  There should be no fear or anxiety because this Gospel tells us to “hold our heads high” when He comes, because our deliverance is at hand.”  For those who believe in Him and love Him, Jesus comes as the Bridegroom to the bride; as the fulfillment of all our human hopes and expectations.  The Gospel says “people will die of fright in anticipation”: not of what is coming to the earth (Jesus), but of what is coming upon the earth; that is, “there will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars,” signs that the heavens and the earth are passing away.

This is what is frightening to us: the prospect of everything we are used to, everything we take for granted — the very ground we walk on and the air we breathe – just ceasing to exist.  It seems to take the security of our life.  It isn’t just that our own lives are going to end.  The end of the world has something about it that is more frightening than even our own, individual death.   When we die, our time on earth is over.  But when the end of the world comes, everything we lived and worked for, everything that gave meaning and value to our lives on earth, is over, just as if it had never began.  Then, not only has our time on earth come to an end, but everything we have accomplished just drops into nothingness.  The very prospect of this seems to pull the rug out from under us before we even get out of bed in the morning.  Unless…

Unless the coming of Jesus brings everything we have lived and worked for to fulfillment.  The key question is, “What are we working for?  What is it that gives meaning and value to our lives?  What are we hoping to accomplish during our time on earth?”  If we are shortsighted on our goals – that is, if we look at nothing beyond what we do to enhance human life on this planet, then the end of the world really is a canceling out of all we have accomplished.  But if our goal has been to bring all people and events under the reign of God, to prepare the world to receive him as Lover and Lord, then His coming brings all our work to completion.

This Gospel presents Jesus to us, not just as the Savior of our souls, but also as the Savior of all we do on earth.  He saves the meaning and value of our efforts during life by giving them significance for all eternity – provided that in everything we do we labor as true stewards of the kingship of Christ.  This is why the Gospel warns us not to let our “spirits become bloated.”  Our spirits are bloated when our minds and hearts (not just bodies) are stuffed with concern for the things of this world.  If we just live for ourselves (“indulgence”), or if life is so empty for us that we basically live for detractions (“drunkenness,” including any escapist addiction — for example, television); or if we are so shortsighted that we actually are excited about “worldly cares” – success, status and having sway over people and events – then the end of the world really will “close in on us like a trap.”  We will realize that all our life long we had been lured by the bait of immediacy into the trap of the sin of pride, wanting it our way and all revolves around me.    Jesus came to save us from this, he came into the world as a humble servant.  When we recognize him as the goal of all human history, it gives us something to focus on when we seek direction in our lives and guidance in our choices.  If we understand that life itself is supposed to lead to, we can make each step we take count for something.  Then the end of the world will be for us a joy, the completion of our journey.

Woe to the souls where Christ does not dwell!”  Is the title of a sermon by St Macarius Bishop of Jerusalem in 340AD.  St Macarius help Helen the mother of Emperor Constantine verify the cross of Jesus.  One of the three had curried a sick woman instantly when the wood touched her.

When God was displeased with the Jews, he delivered Jerusalem to the enemy, and they were conquered by those who hated them; there were no more sacrifices or feasts. Likewise angered at a soul who had broken his commands, God handed it over to its enemies, who corrupted and totally dishonored it. When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.

“Woe to the path that is not walked on, or along which the voices of men are not heard, for then it becomes the haunt of wild animals. Woe to the soul if the Lord does not walk within it to banish with his voice the spiritual beasts of sin. Woe to the house where no master dwells, to the field where no farmer works, to the pilotless ship, storm-tossed and sinking. Woe to the soul without Christ as its true pilot; drifting in the darkness, buffeted by the waves of passion, storm-tossed at the mercy of evil spirits, its end is destruction. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ to cultivate it with care to produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit. Left to itself, it is choked with thorns and thistles; instead of fruit it produces only what is fit for burning. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ dwelling in it; deserted and foul with the filth of the passions, it becomes a haven for all the vices. When a farmer prepares to till the soil he must put on clothing and use tools that are suitable. So Christ, our heavenly king, came to till the soil of mankind devastated by sin. He assumed a body and, using the cross as his ploughshare, cultivated the barren soul of man. He removed the thorns and thistles which are the evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin. Into the fire he cast the straw of wickedness. And when he had ploughed the soul with the wood of the cross, he planted in it a most lovely garden of the Spirit that could produce for its Lord and God the sweetest and most pleasant fruit of every kind.”

Let us pray (that we take Christ coming seriously).  All powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good, that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of Heaven where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever AMEN

 

 

 

 

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