Did you miss me? It’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted something on this web blog. If you’ve been waiting for something new to be posted, I apologize. Most of October I was sick. What ever I had affected my energy level and I basically just accomplished what was essential in the parish. Thankfully, the cause of the illness was found and an appropriate drug was given and I was back on my feet in time for our “Parish Mission” preached by a Redemptorist priest, Fr. Peter Schavitz, C.S.S.R. It was a grace filled week for my parish but didn’t leave much time for writing. November slipped away from me. I thought of writing about some things, but my personal demon, procrastination, kept me from the blog-a-sphere. So thanks for waiting and checking back to see if I’ve posted a new article.
Speaking of waiting as I write this, today is the first day of Advent, the liturgical season that turns waiting into a sacramental, a reminder we are always waiting for the appearance of the Lord Jesus to reveal himself in history, the present and at the end of time. The first Sunday of Advent’s readings focus on the future coming of Jesus. What follows is a reflection I’ve put together from my homily notes for the day.
The readings of the day, First Sunday of Advent, cycle B of the Roman Catholic Lectionary will be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/120113.cfm
A reflection for the First Sunday of Advent
Most people plan for the future. People set up IRA’s (Individual Retirement Accounts) making plans for an income that will support them in their retirement. Planning for the future, many people write up a health care power of attorney so that family will know what to do at some future time if they are seriously sick and unable to state for themselves their wishes concerning medical care. Young married couples think about the day when they will be able to afford a house and have children and so set aside part of their income in savings to ensure they can have the future they plan for.
But, what about that future moment when Jesus comes back? That’s a future we don’t think too much about. Yet, that’s the future the scriptures given us by the church to reflect upon, today, are inviting us to contemplate. It’s true, as the Gospel of Matthew says, we don’t know when that will be, so we tend to dismiss the thought. Most likely we think, “Well that won’t happen in my life time” so we don’t contemplate the future return that Jesus promised he would make.
In a way, humans need to go on living unaware of the future, because we can get paralyzed with fear worrying about what could happen. But, think about it. I Could have a heart attack later this day. Now, I can take precautions, though, to help me survive if I do have a heart attack. I can eat healthier food. I can exercise to strengthen my heart muscle. I might even take a drug to lower my cloresteral. All these precautions are taken to prepare for a potential future event so that I might live if a heart attack ever does happen.
What precautions should a disciple of Jesus be taking to be ready for His return at some future time? There is a joke I remember. One day Jesus shows up at the Vatican and knocks on the door. The Monsignor assigned to welcome guests opens the door and says “Oh my God!” (No pun intended). Jesus says, “I’m back.” The flustered Monsignor ushers Jesus into a small reception room and is told someone will be right with him. The Monsignor runs to a bishop and asks what should we do? The Bishop isn’t sure, so he goes to a cardinal to find out what to do. The Cardinal says we better ask the Pope, so he who goes to the pope and says, “Jesus is here! What should we do?” The Pope replies “Look busy!”
I’m not saying we church folk should be doing busy work for appearance’s sake. But there is something we should be busy about as we live in this in-between time bookended by the advent of Jesus in the incarnation and his return to establish the fullness of the Kingdom of God for eternity. We sing what we are to be busy about every Mass in the Memorial Acclamation during the Eucharistic Prayer. “We proclaim your death and resurrection until you come in glory.” We are to be busy witnessing to how death in ourselves and in the world can bring about a new life, a new order to life.
Here are two things we should be doing to witness to the Paschal Mystery (United to Jesus, death leads to life):
- Pray often to discern how best I can be ready to welcome Jesus. Pray to be shown what I need to change in my life, where must I still put to death selfishness in myself and to have the grace to be converted more and more into the image of Christ I was baptized into.
- Be actively involved in changing the world or at least my immediate sphere of influence to be less a place of suffering and death and more what the Kingdom of God is like. Christians must be about building a better world, in the here and now. As Pope Francis has been saying we need to be more and more a church that takes care of the poor, working for a change in the social order so that more people are given their human dignity. As Isaiah said in the first reading (i’m paraphrasing) we must work to turn a humanity addicted to violence and destruction into a human community where basic human needs are meet. We are to lead people to an existence where people are feed and the gift of creation and human technology is used to preserve life.
This gift of busy-ness is what we pray for in the opening collect of the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent.
Grant your faithful, O Lord,
the resolve to run forth to meet you Christ with
righteous deeds at his coming,
so that they may be worthy to possess
the heavenly kingdom.
Then, if we do our part in answer to this prayer, having lived a life imitating Jesus, when he does show up, we won’t need to fear him like a thief stealing our life on earth. We will be able to rejoice that we’re being taken to “the mountain of the Lord” where life is perfect, forever.