First Sunday of Advent
The Church always begins its preparation for Christmas when Our Lord is born by looking forward to the end of time when he will come again.
It is as if the Church is saying “look what seems like a huge gap, the great panorama of history, of our present lives, and of all the ages to come, between Our Lord’s first coming at Bethlehem and his second coming at the end of time is in fact simply the time given by God’s generosity, for us to make up our minds.
For the second coming of Christ is a time of judgement. The one born at Bethlehem is God’s final word. Revealed and passed on in sacred scripture and the traditions of the Church, guaranteed by the authority of Peter and the Apostles, there is no more to come. God has spoken, Christ is his final word. All that remains now is to see if each person will hear this word and accept it and live by it.
That choice is the single most important choice we ever make. Many say yes, but many clearly say no, sometimes it seems the ‘no’s are on the increase. But judgement is coming – the words of our Lord are “it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth”. Every one of us must die and must face the judgement of God.
Thus St. Paul in the second reading makes it clear that a good Christian life can only be lived in constant expectation of the coming of our Lord, be it at the end of the world or at the moment of our deaths. And it isn’t just a case of being nice, not hurting anyone and looking after the environment. The way to live is clearly set out, in the scriptures and teachings of the Church. As Paul puts it “the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus”.
The first reading proclaims the coming of Jesus as the one who shall practise integrity and honesty. Our judgement too will be in honesty and integrity. We are free, we have free will, we make our choices, and our judgement will respect that freedom and decide in honesty according to what we have done.
“Watch yourselves” say Jesus, who warns us because he loves us. Part of watching ourselves has to be turning from sin. The longer we postpone facing our sins the more likely we will die with them on us or the Lord will come. Each time we turn away to sin we back away from Our Lord, in consequence we grow weaker, the devil is closer, our sins don’t seem so bad, we end up saying I have no sins. I never go to confession. Jesus, I don’t need that sacrament thank you. Again because he loves us Jesus warns “Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness, but also very simply by the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap”. At the beginning of Advent the Church is always asking each one of us ‘when did you last go to confession?’.