Mark 13; 33-37. First Sunday in Advent. December 3rd, 2017
Today with this First Sunday in Advent, we celebrate New Year’s Day in the Church’s Liturgical Calendar. A New Year is a time of Renewed Hope and Advent is at its heart a season of Hope. It is a season for Joyful Preparation for the reason of our Hope, the Coming of the Lord.
And so, Advent culminates in the Feast of the Coming of the Lord which is Christmas. At Christmas, we celebrate the historical Fact that Jesus the Lord God, has come in the flesh already some 2,000 years ago. But Advent reminds us that He desires to come again spiritually anew into our hearts, and through our hearts anew into our families and out into our world.
And so, in order to help to ring in the New Year right, let us look closer at our Advent Preparation for Christmas. Christmas is so important that we are giving four full Weeks to prepare for it. And since our most important preparation for Christmas, is not a material preparation but a spiritual preparation, I thought it would be helpful to mention ahead of time the four main themes of each of the Four Weeks of Advent.
The theme for this first Sunday in Advent is, “Be Watchful! Be Alert! Watch for the Lord. Don’t slumber, skipping your preparation and so as to miss the Lord’s coming as so many did that first Christmas.
And so, the Next Week, the Second Sunday in Advent’s theme is, “Prepare the Way for the Lord…While it seems He is delayed, He is not…He will come as a “thief” in the night…God promises us mercy but not necessarily tomorrow, so now is the time to accept Him into our hearts by accepting His Mercy by truly confessing our sins; that is, confessing truthfully and fully those things we have done and those things we have not done which have displeased the Lord and so have prevented His deeper coming into our lives.
The theme for the Third week of Advent is, “Pray without ceasing.” Pray without ceasing to Jesus who is the One who has come, who is coming and who will come again. Pray always so has to grow in our intimacy and friendship with Jesus so as to desire Him above all things and become one with Him in love.
And so, the theme for the fourth and final week of Advent is Jesus desires to be born again, not in a crib in Bethlehem but in us, through the “Obedience of Faith!” That is, born in us through not just believing in Jesus, but believing in everything He has revealed to us about God and Man which is contained in its fullness in the Teachings of the Catholic Church, and then living out those teachings with the Grace that comes to us primarily through that Same Church in Her Sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist and Confession.
Those are the four main themes of the season of Advent. They are the main themes of the Advent of our entire life. Now let’s quickly look closer at the Theme for this First Week in Advent. Be watchful…Be Awake. Don’t Slumber. How do we fall into slumber and avoid being prepared? We can do so as St. John tells us, through the “Lust of the flesh,” and the “Lust of the eyes,” and the “Pride of life.”
Lust has to do with so much more than just desiring something of a bodily nature that we shouldn’t… Lust of the flesh has to do with an inordinate love of comfort, to not even want to stir ourselves in order to be Watchful. It is the tendency within all of us to take the easy way out, to not even want to make the effort to do the necessary and many times difficult things to Love God first and foremost by putting Him and His holy will first in our life. It is in a nut shell to want Christianity without the cross.
And, “Lust of the eyes,” is a greed that desires to possess only the beautiful things of this world. Then enamored by our possessions, our desire and great need for God becomes more and more dulled. In our blindness, we become more and more self-sufficient no longer seeing our need for the grace of the Sacraments in order to live our life pleasing to God. We begin more and more to reject with our intellect the Truth of the Gospel which is given to us in its fullness in the teachings of the Catholic Church. We ourselves then become the determiners of what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil (which was the original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden—you shall be as God). As a result, the teachings of the Church, which come from Jesus, become burdensome and out dated; we see them and all of the Commandments of God as oppressive and as threats to our freedom instead of protections to our freedom and the way to Life.
With our heart set only on this present world, and in our self-sufficiency we fall into the third and worst way that we are tempted to slumber and so fail to be awake and prepared for the coming of the Lord, and that is by “Pride of the life.” We then become the center of the universe and our self-love overtakes Love of God and love of neighbor; we desire to be serve instead of to serve. Instead of “Thy Will be done,” it becomes only, “My will be done.”
Again, Next week our theme is, “Prepare the way for the Lord…we best do this by making a good Sacramental Confession. Perhaps we could us this week to prepare ourselves to do so by making an in-depth examination of conscience. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an examination of conscience is a “prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God” There are so many guides available on the internet to help us examine our conscience. I recommend the one available on E.W.T.N.—The “Eternal Word Television Network,”…the website is ewtn.com. and in the search box type in “Examination of Conscience.”
Let us turn to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to help us in our advent preparation. She was the one who was fully ready for the coming of the Lord, He Who was Born of Her in the Crib at Bethlehem that first Christmas. She is then the Mother of our Hope. She will help us keep our eyes open, fixed on her divine Son alone. With her we can overcome the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and pride of life. Through her we can be fully awake, and so fully prepared for the coming of her Son, who comes to us as Merciful redeemer in Confession, to us spiritually as the divine child through the liturgy this Christmas, to us physically as our Savior at this Holy Mass in the Holy Eucharist, and finally who will come to us as our Divine Judge, at the end of our advent time in this world.
Our Lady Mother of the New Advent, Mother of Our Hope, Pray for us! Amen!