1st Sunday of Advent. November 29, 2019.
Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3:12-4:12; Lk 21:25-28; 34-36
The true waiting of Advent
We all know for certain that the Advent Season is a time of waiting. But how do we wait? What does this waiting of Advent look like?
A few weeks ago, a man invited me to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick on his wife who had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer and the doctors gave her a very little chance of surviving the coming medical procedure. He also asked me to witness the renewal of their marital vows after she had received the Sacrament of Anointing. It is was a touching ceremony right in the hallway of the hospital, with the woman in pains in her wheelchair and their children around them. She received the Sacrament of Holy Anointing and they proceeded to renew their marriage promises to each other and to exchange wedding rings as if it was the very first day of their married life. I was particularly touched at the words of the vows, “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
What were the waiting for? For sure, they were hoping, praying and expecting a miracle and they were ready for the worst if they did not get their miracle. But how did they wait? They waited for whatever may come by renewing their marriage promises to God and to each other in this very difficult and trying moments.
The waiting of Advent is more than just waiting for Christ’s return in glory. We wait for Christ’s glorious return by making use of the graces of the redemption, graces that He gained for us in His first coming in flesh to this world, to renew and to fulfill the promises that we made to Him on the day of our Baptism. Advent is a time of thinking and reflection on how faithful God has been to us, faithfully renewing and fulfilling His promises to us in good or in bad times, and to reflect on how faithful we too have been to the promises that we made to Him on the day of our baptism. Are we too faithful to Him in good and bad times? That is the question that waiting of Advent places before us all.
The Second Reading from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah shows the tragedy of the Israelites in exile, when all seemed lost. Despite their infidelity to God, the Prophet reminds them that, even in these dark and painful moments, God is renewing and fulfilling the promise that He made to their ancestors. “The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah…I will raise up for David a just shoot.” God renews and fulfills His promise to His unfaithful people in difficult times.
This promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him and that is why we utter the Amen through Him, to the glory of God.”(2 Cor 1:20) God’s faithfulness to us in Christ gives us that hope to be faithful to our own promises to Him. In shedding His blood for us on the Cross, rising from the dead and bestowing on us the Holy Spirit, God has fulfilled His promise to be with us throughout this life and to bring us to the fullness of life through our participation in His own victory over the grave. We wait for the fulfillment of Christ’s glorious coming because we know that God is always faithful to His promises to us and that He will surely complete the good that He has begun in us in Jesus Christ.
The Second Reading is St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian Christians reminding them how the promise of Christ’s return in glory should shape their entire lives more than anything else. St. Paul prays that they “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.., so as to strengthen their hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father,” and all this because of the “coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” Genuine mutual love in good and bad times prepares them for the joy of Christ’s glorious return.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in Baptism, God made a solemn promise to us and we too made a promise to Him. Because of the blood of Jesus that cleansed us of our sins at that very moment and the gift of the Holy Spirit that filled our souls at that very moment, we truly became His beloved children and He promised that He would never forsake us no matter the sins of the past or the failures and pains of the present. We too promised to reject the mastery of sin in our lives, we promised to reject the works of darkness and to look to God alone as our only hope, we promised to put all our faith in Him and to belong to the Holy Catholic Church and to join in the perfect worship of God in the Eucharist, we promised to labor and to serve in the Church for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls. Advent asks us to remember the mutual promises that we made, how God fulfills and renews His own promises to us in good and bad times and how we fail in our own part. Advent reminds us that though our past Christian life may have been all but a success, we can make use of the faith that God renews His promises to us at every moment and this gives us a new chance to make up for our weaknesses.
What happens to us when we do not strive to be faithful to the promises that we made to Him? We are easily overcome by fear. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that in His glorious return there will so much terrifying signs that “people will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” The mere anticipation of what is coming will lead people to die of fear. But for His disciples, for those who believed in His promises, who let His promises shape their actions and attitudes in this life more than anything else, those who believed that God is ever faithful to His promises, to those who strived to fulfill their own promises to Him in good and in bad times, hope and strength will fill their hearts in this time of frightening things because nothing will quench their conviction that Jesus is coming to perfect the redemption that He already wrought on the Cross for us. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
If we are living in fear this Advent Season, we need to ask how faithful we are to the promises that we made to God. Are we striving to renew and to fulfill them in good and in bad times? In this age and time of religious indifferentism, are we making excuses in our baptismal obligation to worship, love and serve God and others in the Church? It is only the perfect love of Jesus Christ and from living in the certainty of His promise to us that will banish all fears from our hearts because we will be waiting joyfully for the coming of, not a vengeful God, but a loving Savior who has already redeemed us and only comes to perfect our redemption.
In every Eucharist, we Catholics are privileged to enter once again into the divine promise that Jesus renews and fulfills to us on the altar. The blood that floods our souls in the Eucharist is the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, a covenant that is renewed and fulfilled in good and bad times. We shall overcome all fear in this world if we choose to wait for His second coming as Advent demands by believing in this promises to us, letting this promise shape our lives, and making use of the graces of the redemption to strive to fulfill and renew our own promises to Him in good and bad times.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!