First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill
the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah” (Jer 33:14).
Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. Recent studies have shown that “waiting” is one of our most frustrating experiences. Americans spend about 37 billion hours each year waiting in line and generally complain bitterly about every minute of this waiting. We complain about waiting in line at the deli counter in the supermarket, waiting for buses and trains, waiting in traffic, and waiting in the doctor’s office. In order to circumvent this “waiting,” we download all kinds of apps – apps to do online shopping, curbside pick-ups, Amazon prime time, etc. As we wait, we often lose our patience and become bored, anxious, and angry.
Waiting was a way of life for the ancient Hebrew people. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of David who will bring security, peace, and justice to the Hebrew people. When the prophet Jeremiah wrote this passage, he was living in a desperate, chaotic world. The Babylonians had waged war on Jerusalem and, after many months of fighting, finally captured, burned, and destroyed the city. Despite this disheartening situation, Jeremiah proclaims to his fellow Jews that God will fulfill His promise that He “will raise up for David a just shoot, he will do what is right and just in the land” (Jer 33:15). Jeremiah assures the ancient Hebrew people and us that God will fulfill His promise, and we should not fear despite the moral degradation and frightening events all around us. Jeremiah saw that the answer to the chaos of his time would be the promised Messiah.
In the second reading from his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells us how we should “conduct” ourselves as we await Jesus’ second coming when he says: “…abound in love for one another and for all” (1Thess 3:12). Paul and the early Christians initially thought that Jesus second coming would occur in the near future, and as they eagerly awaited Jesus’ second coming, many became careless in their duties. No matter when Jesus comes, Paul wants the Thessalonians to be found “blameless and holy” on that day. Paul’s prayer for increased love is a reminder that such love and holiness will remain far from perfect until Christ returns. The season of Advent is a time of waiting and provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the reason for waiting. Advent can be a time of transformation as we await the arrival of Jesus. It is a time of new beginnings, a time to look into our hearts and ponder if we are truly preparing for the coming of our God. The psalmist reminds us, “You are the God of my salvation, for you, I wait all day long” (Ps 25:5).
In today’s gospel, Jesus describes the signs and events that will herald His second coming and cautions us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant, and prepared. Jesus’ dramatic description of a cosmic upheaval is not to be taken literally as cosmic disturbances were traditional ways of describing God’s judgment of Israel in ancient times. Today’s gospel reading reminds us of the importance of prayer in our Christian journey and calls us to be awake and watchful and to intensify and strengthen our prayer life.
Advent is a time to celebrate God’s coming into our lives and the world today. This calls for us to read the signs of the times and respond with gospel values. Jesus gives us the assurance that no matter what uncertainty the future holds, He will be present with us, and His grace will be enough for us.
Sr. Mary T. Flood, OP