Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church year. We begin a period of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Lord. ‘The word Advent comes from the Latin ‘adventus’, meaning ‘coming’. There is a sense of movement and anticipation. The tradition of the Advent calendar is one way to bring this movement to life. The Lord is coming. We are moving towards Christmas. We are lifting our souls towards God. And we are moving always towards the end times and the Second Coming of Christ, the Day of Judgement as the Gospel reminds us.
The ‘coming of the Son of Man’ can be applied to the end of the world, to the moment of death or to any moment of grace. We are not given advance notice as to when any of these will happen, so the message is to be alert and ready. It is true that Christ warns us to be alert and awake to the signs around us, but we mustn’t think of the Second Coming as God trying to ‘catch us napping’. Nor is it a remote event that has nothing to do with the present time. The vision of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading tells us that it’s about God’s plan coming to fruition with his justice and peace being established permanently. If we are a people who long for justice, peace and the will of God, then we are a people who long for the Second Coming and who should be alert in the present moment that by our actions, we make things ready for the Coming of the King. Meanwhile in the Second Reading Saint Paul reminds us to be fully awake and cast off the works of darkness for the time of our salvation is near.
A couple of questions we could reflect on today: Why do we need this ‘lead-in’ time to Christmas? What are my hopes and goals for Advent? Where do I want to be in my faith journey, come Christmas day? If we decide we want to get somewhere, we have to take steps to get there – for example, when we decide on a particular career path we have to undertake the right training and experience. Perhaps this Advent we would like to spend more time in prayer, to be more patient, or to get involved in our local community. What is the point of Advent, if we don’t end up somewhere different from where we started?
(Adapted from Intercom, December 2013)