The Scriptures on this First Sunday of Advent offer wise advice for our season of waiting. We need to remember God’s promises, ask the Lord for strength, and be vigilant concerning what is to come.
Jeremiah’s prophetic word assures us that God is about to fulfill His promise by raising up for David a just shoot. The shoot is an heir, and the heir, of course, is Jesus, the Just One, or as today’s reading from Jeremiah concludes, “The Lord our justice.” We often think of Jesus during this season as the promised Prince of Peace, but we remember Pope St Paul VI’s words, “If you want peace, work for justice.” There will be no peace in the world until justice has been established. Jesus’ mission to bring justice and peace is now the mission of the Church, of each of us, and we have to commit ourselves to both praying for and working for justice and peace.
It is good to remember as well the other promises that Jesus has given us: He will be with us until the end of the age; the gates of hell will not prevail against us; anything we ask in His name will be given to us; the Holy Spirit will be our Advocate and Guide and will give us the words we need and will empower us to do the works that Jesus did. God is faithful to His promises and it is good that we keep this close in our minds and hearts during these days of waiting upon the Lord.
In the second reading, Paul writes to the Thessalonians and prays that the Lord will strengthen their hearts. This strength will make them holy and will enable them to conduct themselves in ways that are pleasing to God. In the gospel, Jesus with His words to the disciples tells us of the need for strength in order to endure what will come upon the world. We need strength, He says, to resist carousing and drunkenness and being overwhelmed by the anxieties of daily life. The gospel passage finishes with Jesus exhorting the disciples, “Pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man. Are we doing this or do we give in to fear in the face of what is happening?
Jesus also tells the disciples, “Be vigilant at all times.” The followers of Jesus need to watch what is happening, to read the signs that appear, to realize what needs to be done. If they are not vigilant, Jesus says, they may not escape the tribulations that are coming and more importantly they may not be able to “stand before the Son of Man.” If we had to stand before Jesus this day, would we be able to do so confidently?
Jesus was born on the first Christmas and as He ascended into heaven, He promised that He would come again in glory. We remember the first coming as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord and we profess our faith in the second coming each time we gather for the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day. But we know too that Jesus comes to us often in our daily lives, in our prayer, in those who are in need, and in many other ways. We pledge again during this season of waiting to be vigilant and to be on the lookout for the many ways Jesus comes to us each day. Do we expect Jesus? Do we see Jesus?
Advent is the time when we remember God’s promises and ask for the strength to be faithful and persevering. We need to watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord. All that has been spoken will come to pass. Do we believe that? Do we ask for what we need each and every day? Or are our anxieties or our carousing crowding out God’s place in our minds and hearts?
This holy season of Advent reminds us that now is the time to put our hope and trust in the Lord so that we will not be put to shame at the hour of His coming. We cannot delay, for we know not the day, nor the hour, when He will come.