Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Must Be Ready

Reflections on the Readings

First Sunday of Advent - November 28, 2010, Year A 

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

We Must Be Ready

"Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." - Jesus

It's beginning to look a lot like...  Well, not really. In Advent, we do anticipate celebrating the first coming of Jesus. And we will do that with great joy when Christmas day arrives.  But now, during Advent, it's time to think on the blessed hope, the Second Coming of Christ and the priority of seeking first the Kingdom of God.  It's in Advent the Church enters into a short penitential time leading up to Christmas.  Making room in our hearts for the coming King is important whether we are talking about Christmas or the Second Coming of Christ.  Either way, we want to be ready!

The Christian life is about setting priorities; letting first things have first place in our heart.  This requires vigilance; something that many did not possess during the building of the Ark.  Noah, a preacher of righteousness, invited his generation to salvation, by entering into the Ark.  It was the only way to be saved from the flood.

Only Noah, and his immediate family, along with the animals that entered the Ark with them were saved from the flood.  Those who were left, to begin history again, were in the Ark.  Many perished in the flood.  They perished because they went about life without any concern for the things that really matter.  

It is not necessary to know when or how the world will end.  There is an end that will come for each of us.  And of that day and hour we have not a clue.  But when it comes, it will be the end of time for us. We want to be ready when that time comes.  

Such reality is an encouragement to be vigilant, to set our hearts on eternal things, the things we learn from the Church about Jesus.  Some Christians arrive at the house of prayer on Easter and Christmas.  That is better than nothing at all; but is it enough?  Is this an example of right priorities?  I assume that we will all agree that it is not.  It certainly is not the vision Isaiah saw concerning the house of the Lord.  

The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord's house established on the highest mountain; a place where people from every tribe, country, language and color under heaven came.  In the Church is where a kingdom that is not of this world is taught.  Instruction about that kingdom is learned here and true justice described.  And a different type of resistance is advocated as well; the Church is not an arsenal of swords and spears, but a place where the armor of light is given to us. Maybe that's why the Psalmist exults so when he says, "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord."

Now is the time, during this holy season of Advent, to make a clean break from the things of darkness.  Is there a way to partake of the desires of the flesh, and not be captured by the sin that lures us?  How close can anyone live to the fire, and yet not get burned by its flames?  We all know the answer to these questions.  Advent is a time that urges us to think about what it takes to be ready for the coming of the Lord.  

Paul describes the Christian life as a life of awareness, of recognizing that our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ," Paul says.  It is an invitation to make room for God, for God is light and in him is no darkness.  We must let the strength of God's light and love pour into our life, so that in our face Jesus is seen.  With God's strength, we can push back the darkness in our home and in our community.  

Be the light in someone's life; let your light shine into the brokenness and heartache of your sons and daughters.  Defeat the power of darkness; put on the armor of light.

It is vital that we have the strength of God's presence in our lives.  We stay strong in the Lord when we remain faithful in coming to Mass.  At the Lord's Table, we are nourished and partake more of the divine.  When I was a kid, growing up in the Pentecostal church, attendance was first nature for me and my family.  It never was a question about where we would be on Wednesday night, or Sunday morning and then again Sunday night.  And Friday night, I was at the youth service. Today, it still is not a question of where I will be on Sunday morning:  "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord."

Advent give us another way to grow in our love of the Savior.  The more we examine our hearts the more we may need the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  And confession is good for the soul; it helps us to more faithfully walk as a son and daughter of the light.  This is what we all desire.  We want to live the way that is pleasing to him who loves us with a love that can never end. It is that love we meet when we enter the confessional.  It is that love that fits us with the armor of light as we go back into the world.

Advent begins this year right after Thanksgiving.  Traditionally, this is a time for family and friends to get to together.  It also is a time to reflect on the needs of others.  We will be able to let our light shine by helping the poor and the hungry among us.  To be in solidarity with these our brothers and sisters is to set our hearts on things that are near and dear to God's heart.  Its a good way to stay strong in the armor of light.

Let us live our lives in the glorious light of the Second Coming of Christ.  Because ready or not, Christ is coming again.


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