Everyone knows that waiting is just a part of life, but none of us like having to do it. We hate to wait, whether it’s in traffic, in the checkout line, or waiting for Father to finish his homily so we can continue with Mass and get on with the rest of our day. We especially don’t like to wait on someone else – someone who is running late, taking their time, forcing us to wait.
It seems though that Jesus is just such a person. The season of Advent is all about waiting for the arrival of Christ, and preparing accordingly. We are certainly waiting for Christmas, and we know the kinds of preparations that we will make in these coming weeks to celebrate that coming. Advent also provides us the chance to prepare for a new coming of Christ in our own hearts. In these weeks, we should look to our own lives to see how we can seek a renewed faith in order to encounter the Lord in a renewed way.
But on this first Sunday of Advent, our readings don’t speak at all about Christmas or the Christ Child. Rather, they focus our attention on the most important sense that we await the coming of Christ, the way that Christians have been awaiting him since he ascended to heaven – the Lord’s return to earth in glory and power at the end of time. The idea of the Second Coming may seem like a distant thought, a far off idea; after all, it’s been two thousand years. But as Saint Paul writes to the Romans, the Lord’s return should be something we await eagerly and expectantly, whether it comes tomorrow or another two thousand years from now. We await the Lord’s return like the coming of morning after a long night, a dawn so brilliant that all things will be illuminated by it.
"Noah sent out a dove and it returned with an olive branch", Mosaic, Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily
In the Gospel today, Jesus warns his followers not to be like the people of Noah’s era – those who ignored prophecies of the coming flood because it sounded unrealistic, or because they were too caught up in their present concerns. Jesus says that in just the same way, many will be unprepared for his Second Coming, perhaps even many who claim to be his disciples. Because we can’t know the day when the Lord will return, there is an ever-present risk of becoming too caught up in the day to day concerns of the world, so much so that we fail to prepare for the dawning of the Lord’s return.
The season of Advent affords us a wonderful chance to reset – to focus again on what we are hoping for and to make sure we are not caught off guard by the Lord’s coming. We can use these weeks not just as a preparation for Christmas but as a chance for spiritual renewal, an opportunity to really deepen our relationship with the Lord. One easy way to do that is to read and pray with the readings for Mass for each day, whether you try to make it to daily Mass or not. You might have seen that we have several copies of “The Word Among Us” available each month at the table in the back of church which has the readings for each day. Encountering the word of God and reflecting upon it is a wonderful way to prepare the way of the Lord in our own hearts.
This season is also a wonderful chance to practice charity. Many people make monetary contributions to organizations they support this time of year, and certainly for us as Christians this should be seen as part of our spiritual responsibility to support the Church – our parish first and foremost, but also the diocese, worthy organizations, and even families and persons who may need our help. But we can also practice charity in ways that don’t involve money at all. We can visit those who are homebound, or take a meal to someone who is recovering from an illness. We can make a phone call or write a letter to someone whom we know would love to hear from us. We can make an extra effort to detach from social media, or to watch less TV, or perhaps disconnect from technology altogether in order to spend more time in contemplative prayer or spiritual reading. Not only will your Christmas be better for it, you’ll be closer to Christ and more ready for his final coming.
Friends, we await the return of the Lord eagerly and expectantly, like the daybreak after the night. Whenever it may come in time, Jesus's return at the end of time is something that we can prepare for now, making ready for it with firmness of purpose. In this Advent season, let’s strive to arouse ourselves from spiritual slumber for the dawn is coming sooner than we might believe. May Jesus, the Light of the world, find us ready to welcome his coming and to rejoice at the salvation which he brings.