AS ADVENT COMES
Advent is a time of joyful anticipation and preparation for the nativity of our Lord. It is also a time to reflect on the end of time when Jesus returns in glory. Last week we celebrated the Feast of Christ the Universal King, and in Advent we celebrate him as the Lord of history. Jesus is the perfect model of what it means to be human, and he is the author of human history: he has watched over it and guided it right from the beginning. The biggest proof of this is the Incarnation, the first Christmas. When God became man, miraculously fulfilling the words of the prophets, he proved to us the depth of his love. He showed that he cares about our story, that he is always part of our story(Emmanuel-God with Us), that he is powerful enough to guide our story without taking away our role in it.
The Advent Liturgies are designed to focus our minds on Jesus’ glorious return as the Ultimate Judge, while at the same time celebrating his first coming as the Redeemer. Today’s readings bring out the two dimensions. The First Reading reminds the people of the Lord’s promise to send the Messiah, “who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land”. And in the Gospel, Jesus spells out the signs that would herald his final coming, “in a cloud with power and great glory.” In the fullness of time, the human history of sin and salvation will come to an end. Then, all things will be radically transformed. This sin-infected universe in which we make history, symbolized by the sun, moon, stars, and sea, will be uprooted. History will reach its “terminus ad quem”- conclusion and Christ’s Lordship will be definitively established. Advent, therefore, is a time to prepare for that most wonderful, defining moment. It is a time to reflect on the coming of Christ as light into the world. As the Lord himself says in Scripture: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Christ is our light, his life teaches us the way to live, and his inexpressible love embodied most profoundly in the Eucharist nourishes us, as the fire of his Holy Spirit fills us with supernatural warmth.
How then are we to live through the season of Advent? We need to be constantly aware of the reason for the season, that we are getting ready to commemorate the first coming of our Saviour in history as a rehearsal for his return in glory. The more we are conscious of this the greater our mindfulness of the shortcomings that impede our spiritual journey – mainly our sinful habits and inordinate attachments. This is made manifest when we devote time to encounter Christ in the most precious moments we spent contemplating him in the Blessed Sacrament.
When we lose sight of the reason for the season, it becomes easy to give in to indifference or spiritual apathy. That, in turn, could make us prone to a secular view of Advent. Without a sound spiritual basis, the season of Advent becomes an end in itself – a season of shopping for fashion accessories, and a time of buying presents, most of which never get used. Without a healthy spiritual angle, Advent becomes one big exercise in commercialism and consumerism.
This is the reason Jesus warns us to, “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will spring on you suddenly, like a trap” (Luke 21:24-35a). Approaching the season of Advent with a materialistic mentality means we fail to understand, and so miss out on the benefits of such a wonderful period of grace. Accordingly, St Paul wants us, in the Second Reading, to strive hard to live the “the life that God wants”. Thus, this should be a time of renewal for everyone. God’s love is out there, like the shining sun of summer, waiting for us to tap into its warmth. ( I know it’s winter now).
If we do not gain the full benefits of the grace of Advent, it would not be because God has not made enough provisions; rather it would be due to our failure to open our hearts and minds to encounter his transforming love. The story is told of an expedition undertaken by a team of Russians and Americans during the Cold War period. One of the food items they had on board was Russian black bread, very tasty but hard to chew. Once during a meal an American took a bite into the bread and broke a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and shouted: “Lousy Communist bread.” Quickly the Russian responded: “Not lousy Communist bread, but rotten Capitalist tooth.” So, if we do not experience the transforming power of Advent, it will not be due to a lousy provision by the Lord but probably due to our rotten faith and sinfulness.
That is why it is such a great idea to start the holy season of Advent with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to obtain pardon and peace from the Father of mercies. That way all the strongholds in our hearts – those implanted sinful habits and attachments that seem too hard to overcome – will tumble and melt away as we stand in the light of God’s healing love. There’s hardly a better way to start our journey towards Christmas than with the grace of Confession.
Dear friends, as we approach this season of Advent with a renewed faith in the love of God and his power to save us, we are rest assured of Jesus saying to us: “I know the thoughts that I think towards you… thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Let this be our song today and may the blessings of Advent be ours in full measure. Amen!
Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14; First Thessalonians 3:12--4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Fr Victor Dakwan
2018 Christmas Fayre