November 27, 2009

First Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend begins the Church’s liturgical year. Advent is here. Once again, the Church begins its proclamation of eternal life in Jesus.

Usually, Advent simply is seen as a time to prepare for Christmas. In the current American culture, a tempered, penitential season seems strange to many people.

Actually, the season calls us to welcome Jesus into our own hearts. Then it calls us to prepare ourselves for the final coming of Jesus at the end of time.

Christmas symbolizes these additional occasions of the Lord’s arrival into our hearts—if we are willing to receive the Lord. This is where the penitential season enters the picture. We must prepare ourselves for Jesus.

Jeremiah provides the first reading.

This ancient Hebrew prophet was forceful and even urgent in his writing. His theme, as was the theme of all the prophets, was that God’s people could expect no peace or joy in their lives until they wholeheartedly returned to God.

In this reading, the prophet notes the sad state of affairs for God’s people. They have been humbled. Misery is their lot. Sin has produced this unhappy situation.

However, always merciful, always good and always protective, God will send into their midst a Savior, a descendant of King David, and all will be fine.

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians supplies the second reading.

It is an appeal to the Christians of Thessalonica—which is now the Greek city of Saloniki—to love each other. This love will be the sign of inwardly following the Lord. The message ends by “begging” the Christian Thessalonians to live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the third reading.

It is forthright, even stark, as is typical of St. Luke’s Gospel. Quoting Jesus, it states that signs suddenly and overwhelmingly will come in the sky. Nations will be in anguish. The seas will roar. People will die of fright.

Amid all this great drama, Jesus will come in might and glory. Instead of being a dreadful event, the Lord’s arrival will be an occasion to rejoice. He will bring final redemption.

All must actively anticipate the Lord’s coming, however, by focusing on prayer and sacrifice.

This Gospel was written when the world was becoming a difficult place to be for Christians. Jesus, however, would prevail. His truly devoted followers also will prevail.


Christmas, in every culture, is lovely, befitting the commemoration of the birth of the loving and forgiving Redeemer, universally celebrated among Christians. It is the acclamation of life itself and of redemption.

Still, the forthcoming feast of Christmas has profoundly personal, individual considerations, and in some respects it is a warning.

As St. Luke’s Gospel so bluntly says and as Advent reminds us, Christ one day will confront us all. It may be a personal meeting, as many Christians already have experienced. It may be at the end of time, in some manner yet unknown, but about which the Scriptures offer such colorful hints.

In any case, we all shall meet Christ. It may be a victorious reunion for us. It will be such a day if we have followed the Lord in our own lives. Jeremiah looks to such a day of salvation and victory.

However, it will be final and intense. Good will stand starkly opposite evil. We must choose the side toward which we will go. If we choose the side of right, and of God, we will need strength. Evil is powerful, and it lures us to death.

God will strengthen us. We must ask for the strength, and our request must be sincere. It must be honest and uncompromised.

Thus, in Advent, by prayer and sacrifice, we strengthen our own resolve to turn to God, to meet Christ as our Lord and Savior. †

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