November 30, 2014 – First Sunday of Advent
“Brothers and Sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the greeting used by St. Paul in today’s second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This salutation is used by Paul five times in the New Testament. Grace is always first followed by peace. That is most likely because without grace there can be no peace. Peace naturally follows grace. Grace is the blessings we receive from God, the gifts to which we respond with gratitude as stewards.
This is the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday in our liturgical Church year as a matter of fact. Advent means “arrival” or “beginning.” We are preparing for the arrival of the Christ child, but we are also initiating our Church year, and we are beckoned to evaluate our lives in Christ and to make an effort to deepen and expand that relationship.
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a prayer. In that prayer Isaiah calls out to God to “return” as if He has gone away. What the prayer says first, however, is “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” Advent is a time for us to try to refocus on God, to quit wandering, and to return to walk with the Lord as we prepare for His coming. “Our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Temptation and sin are powerful forces — typhoon winds — and without God’s assistance we can be carried away by that. Advent is the time to turn back to God, to prepare, to begin anew.
St. Paul, in the second reading, offers thanks to God. The last five verses of today’s reading are a prayer of thanksgiving. “I give thanks to my God always…” Stewardship summons us to live lives of thanksgiving and gratitude. Paul understood that. Viewing life from the perspective of our blessings is an excellent way to prepare for Christmas. Four times in this reading Paul refers to Jesus as the Lord Jesus Christ. In Greek and Hebrew translations the name “Lord” is interchangeable with the name “Yahweh.” This is truly the one and only God. Jesus is, of course, the given name of the Christ child. “Jesus” is the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew “Joshua,” and Joshua in Hebrew means “Yahweh is salvation.” And the name “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” meaning the “anointed one.” As we prepare for the arrival of the Christ child, Paul has it all included in that phrase Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we truly prepared for the Kingdom of God? Does our preparation include prayer often? Does it cause us to live God-centered lives that bring us ongoing renewal and conversion? These are all questions that are answered more easily if we pursue stewardship as a way of life. In the five verses of our Gospel from Mark today Jesus gives great emphasis to being watchful, being alert, and twice merely says “Watch!” This is not an admonition to just “be on the lookout,” but a reminder that we must be ever ready. The Lord reminds us often in Scripture that we cannot and do not know the time and place of His coming. In today’s Gospel He tells us, “You do not know when the time will come,” and “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” Advent is the perfect time to take time each day, more than once each day if possible, to pray as an individual and as families; to turn to God; and to be alert, eager, and ready.