Be receptive to God’s call
At the beginning of Advent we understand our preparations for the coming of Christ as, above all, our making ready for the second coming of the Lord at the end of time. Praying with Jesus at this Mass we look forward to his second coming and offer…in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. The loving judge will return to bring us into the presence of God. We resolve to run forth to meet Him with righteous deeds at his coming, so that gathered at his right hand we may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
We are told that the final coming of Christ will be preceded by tremendous destruction. The scriptures for today, even as they warn us about what could befall us, nevertheless strike a wonderful optimism. When he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope. The Jesus who will come again has himself prepared us (and prepared us well) for his return and for happiness with God forever. We can look forward to his coming with confidence and even equanimity. The Prince of Peace has fought some terrible battles on our behalf but now we can look forward to the hard-won tranquillity. The Lord will steer us through whatever we have to endure of the time of trouble and then will guide us to the throne of grace. Yes, Christ will be our judge, but, through the Spirit, he is already our advocate and counsellor. Jesus is the fount of mercy.
May the Lord be generous in increasing your love
Not the least reason for looking forward to the second coming of Jesus, is that God has done so many other good things for us up until now. We can be optimistic because of God’s faithful goodness. This optimism is not a foolish whistling in the wind, or a blinkered refusal to face unpleasantness. We begin Advent cheerfully with an acknowledgement that despite all the fears about the state of the world, despite all that has gone wrong in our life, despite all the difficulties we have had, that God has been looking after us. This ‘looking after’ has been leading up to something. God's care for us extends to coming in to our world and life to put right what is wrong and troubled. Today we begin four weeks of spiritual preparation. And we start off grateful. St Paul captures our hope: May the Lord be generous in increasing your love.
There is much to lose if we don't keep watch
An ingredient of this spiritual preparation is vigilance. We have to be on the watch. It is as if we might miss the good thing that is about to happen. That day will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap. But how could we miss the day of judgement, how could be we caught napping when the world comes to an end, how could we overlook the arrival in our life of a Saviour eager to rescue us from whatever troubles us? Why is a component of Advent a vigilance and watchfulness which are surely unnecessary? No one will be unaware when that day comes. The one who comes on the clouds will surely allow us to notice him?
We know very well, however, that we can easily miss the divine presence in our life. We have to be just as vigilant and alert as the Gospel recommends. As foretold, the end of the world will be dramatic, but perhaps we are too practised in being impervious to the spiritual drama which takes place all the time and all around us. Some of our activities can deflect our attention from what is most important. We are being summoned today to be on the look out for the Advent of a saviour. Something is going to happen which it is hard to see and understand, and which we might readily overlook, if we do not do the preparation contained in the holy season of Advent. There is much to lose if we don't keep watch, as our Lord Jesus Christ tells us to do.
Attentiveness cultivated by prayer
This is not to suggest that the second coming will be particularly complicated or abstruse. God comes to us wherever we are, be that a place ever so unpromising. The day of liberation is near at hand. So why should we make special preparation for a God who loves us just as we are, and indeed longs to come to us simply and generously into whatever mess we have got into? We need this time of preparation so as to be receptive to what is being prepared for us. What do we have to do? What is this vigilance which is called from us? It is surely a kind of focusing, a kind of attentiveness which is cultivated by prayer and by prayerfulness. We must listen to God and listen to what God is saying to us in other people. Some other noises no doubt have to be shut out. The main thing is appreciation. We have received much, and we are about to receive more.
Peter Gallagher SJ