1st Sunday of Advent
Reading 1. Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Reading II. 1 Thessalonians 3: 12—4:2
Gospel. Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36 (Be vigilant).
A few years ago three films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic story, "The Lord of the Rings," enjoyed enormous critical and popular success. Issued in three successive years around Christmas time, they were a box office smash. The third in the series, entitled, "The Return of the King," won the Academy arard for "Best Picture." Most of us know by now that both the three volume book and the films tell the story of a great journey or adventure undertaken by a group of men, elves, dwarves, and the now famous hobbits.
The adventure begins however in a smaller book of Tolkien's called "The Hobbit." In that book this particular hobbit is woken out of a quiet peaceful afternoon nap by a violent knocking on his door. To his amazement he is told that he must rouse himself out of his comfort and complacency and embark on a dangerous adventure whose end is far from certain. In the course of the adventure he will find that there is more to life than he ever dreamed, and that there is more to himself than he ever dreamed.
Isn't it odd that the word "advent" is contained in the word, "adventure"? Advent is not just a time of preparation for Christmas, it is a time for all of us to consider how far we have progressed on the great adventure of life. Let's consider the first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah:
The days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
The prophet is speaking about a new age when everything will be different. .
This is the reason why Advent, the season which marks the beginning of the Church year, has traditionally begun with readings reminding us of the end of the world. In today's gospel from St. Luke, Jesus refers to the calamities that will occur at the passing of the old world. Nevertheless, he tells us not to fear but to stand erect and raise our heads for our redemption is at hand. Our Lord's advice whether it be the end of the whole world or just the end of our own little world is the same. "Be vigilant at all times." When the time comes, we should be ready to face it. In particular, we should
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy,
From corousing and drunkenness
And the anxieties of daily life...
Advent has always been regarded as a season of preparation. Why is it that we prepare for everything in life but often fail to prepare for the most important thing in life? What football team would go into the weekend's big game without practicing all week? What will they practice? Why, the very same formations and plays that they expect to use when they are put to the test. During the week they will also be in the weight room preparing their bodies for the blows to come. On game day they will put on their protective gear or armor. Only a fool would go into such combat improperly equipped.
In business it's much the same thing. Salesmen practice their presentations before facing their customers. They learn how to anticipate and overcome every objection. In politics look how even the presidential candidates go through rigorous prepping and role play before debating their opponents.
How should we prepare for life's great adventure? Let's see if we can come up with a list of things to do this Advent season they will help us on our way. First, let's take St. Paul's advice.
Increase and abound in love,
For one another and for all…,
So as to strengthen your hearts,
To be blameless in holiness….
Isn’t it sad to read in the papers about the arrests for drunkenness and other forms of lewd conduct at our local Catholic universities? It was even sadder to read the article about a young woman at a midwestern university who drank herself to death while at a frat party. The paper reported that she was just one of many who would die a similar death that year. I know that television glamorizes this type of drinking but what is so glamorous about falling into an alcohol induced coma in a frat house or an office party?
We can all think of ways to "throw off the works of darkness," but St. Paul also urges us to "put on the armor of light." There is no better way to do so this season than by increasing our attendance at Mass. Certainly, in this season when we should all be looking forward to the coming of Christ, he comes to us in each and every Mass. Besides Sunday Mass we will celebrate the great feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, a true Holy Day of Opportunity.
Finally, I can think of no better way to counter the stress and anxiety of this mad shopping season than to attend daily Mass during Advent. We will find a half hour of peace and tranquillity every day and encounter some of the most beautiful readings in the Missal. We will get an opportunity to reconcile ourselves with God and our neighbor when we recite the Kyrie Eleison, the Confiteor, the Our Father and the Agnus Dei. We can offer the kiss of peace to our friends and family. We can offer thanks to God for all the good things that have been given us, and then we can approach the altar to receive the true gift of Christmas, the gift of God's only Son.