Sunday, November 22, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent - November 29, 2015

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First Reading Commentary
By God's grace the Church in her liturgy gives us the opportunity to visit over and over again the events in the life of our Savior as well as be reminded of the promises we await. 

As the First Sunday of Advent launches a new Church year, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of a "just shoot" that will rise from the house of David to do what is right and just.  This prophecy has always been understood to mean the Messiah. 

In the verse, "This is what they shall call her," the word "her" used here is translated from the Hebrew and is understood prophetically to mean the Church and literally Jerusalem.  The Church, then, is foreseen as "The Lord our justice" meaning it is the Church that is founded by Jesus Christ, the Just One; and she shall dwell secure under His protection.

Second Reading Commentary
You can't help but be impressed by Saint Paul's letters.  In this Second Reading which is from the first of two letters from Paul to the Thessalonians, he instructs the faithful to increase in love for one another, to be blameless in holiness and conduct themselves in a way that is pleasing to God.  Paul not only instructs in these matters but was also a living example of these words.  This is very prodigious when you consider that this was a man who was beaten, imprisoned and suffered many hardships, more than most will ever be asked to endure or even imagine.  Paul's experience in Thessalonica was one of persecution and when he left there and went to Berea, another city in Greece, he still experienced trouble from those who were from Thessalonica. 

Paul is quick to point out that his instructions are given through the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is the secret to Paul's endurance and apparent love for his enemies. 

Advent evokes thoughts of the expected birth of a Child Who is Jesus Christ our Lord, Who has ascended into heaven and now we await His glorious return.  But Paul shows us that Jesus Christ can still be very active in our lives now; and the choice to remain close to Him produces endurance for whatever trials may come and demonstrates the power of His grace and Presence while enabling us to be living witnesses of His love.

Gospel Commentary
During Advent the natural tendency is to focus on the expectation of a Child Who is destined to be the Savior of the world; but the season of Advent is actually designed for both the First and Second Coming of Christ.  Saint Cyril of Jerusalem confirms this with these words: "We preach not one coming only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the first.  The first revealed the meaning of His patient endurance; the second brings with it the crown of the Divine Kingdom." 

Today's Gospel focuses on the Second Advent or the Second Coming of Christ.  The opening verses sound frightening.  This type of language, however, was often used by the prophets when describing a troubled world, or the fall of nations and their rulers.  By using that interpretation one can certainly relate to what it's like to live in a troubled world; a world plagued by wars, terrorism, murder, dishonesty and immorality. 

The promised Second Coming of Christ relieves troubled hearts much like the ancient world had expectations of relief when the long-awaited Messiah would finally come. 

In this Gospel Jesus assures us that our redemption is at hand; however, He also warns us not to lose hope by being reeled in and surrendering to the anxieties of daily life, rendering dismay and feelings of being caught in a trap upon His return.  Jesus also offers a solution on how to avoid these temptations: Be vigilant at all times and pray. 

When Christ returns, He will make right all that is wrong.  In the meantime, prayer is the way to escape the temptations of this life because prayer in a sense is a fleeing to a safe haven Who is Jesus. 

The Second Coming will occur someday but faithful souls need not wait for that day to find comfort because constant prayer maintains a mysterious closeness to Jesus Who is our refuge now and forever.