November 27, 2016 — First Sunday of Advent
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. As Catholics we know why that is important. Advent is rooted in the Latin word for “coming.” Jesus is coming, and Advent is intended to be a season of preparation for His arrival. This season was once known as “little Lent,” because although it is a festive and cheerful season, it is also a time of prayer, penance, and fasting, just like Lent.
Of course, our readings for today are all germane to the imminent coming of the Messiah, the Lord, and they speak of what we need to do now and in the coming weeks to prepare for that eventuality, not just the birth of Jesus but His Second Coming as well. In the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah the prophet has a vision of what he calls the “mountain of the Lord.” In Isaiah’s time Jerusalem and Israel were on the verge of collapse, in particular moral collapse. The ruling class was taking advantage of the poor.
Isaiah speaks of the hope of the Messiah and of salvation, but he maintains that it cannot occur until the people look to God. What Isaiah is really addressing is the need for an inner journey on the part of each person, a journey that would take them from despair to joyful expectation. That is exactly where we are in terms of Advent. This is the beginning of our journey. “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, that He may instruct us in His ways.”
Advent calls each of us to a change of attitude. It is time for us to rise above the sinful world in which we live. Just as swords were “hammered into plowshares,” God can transform us from selfishness to generosity, into being His disciples and stewards. In the days ahead let God become the light in our darkness.
St. Paul in our Second Reading from his letter to the Romans, calls us to change, to conversion. He says, “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” Like Isaiah, Paul, too reminds us that we need to change. He says in this reading, “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Like the First Reading we are called to seek the Light of the Lord. Darkness is our sin; darkness is our weaknesses. At this Advent time reconciliation and confession are important for us. It is as if we are changing clothes. We must remove the clothes of the past and put on the clothes of the future, of what we are preparing for.
For us Christ is the “armor of light.” However, it is more than just “putting Him on.” It involves allowing Christ to become a part of our lives, letting Him be at the center of all we do. He provides us with the “armor,” the strength to persevere. St. Augustine referred to this scriptural passage for his own strength to continue the battle of life. His conclusion was not involving the difficulties of doing it, he concluded not only that he could do it, but that he just had to do it. That should be our Advent approach to the conversion we need to undergo.
Jesus confirms the initial readings in the Gospel from St. Matthew. The Lord, too, reminds us that it is time to “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Yes, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. It is a time when we need to go through the process of change and conversion for that arrival. However, there is also a sense of urgency for this. We cannot just assume that all will be fine once Christmas arrives, once the Lord becomes a part of our lives. That is something that needs to happen now, immediately, today, and not tomorrow. This moment is the time to seek the Light of the Lord, to bask in it, and to make it a part of our very being.