LUKE 21:25-28, 34-36
Amidst the bling, center on Christ by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Jesus said to his disciples: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you be surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... and it's not even yet Thanksgiving.  It has been looking like Christmas since before Halloween.  I saw a store window featuring a jack-o'-lantern alongside a Santa Claus.

We might lament that retailers are in such a hurry to celebrate the season, but they are simply doing what they need to do in order to survive.  They need us to spend our money so they can stay afloat.  But as every Catholic knows - or should know - it is not Christmas yet.  There is a time of preparation for the celebration of this glorious feast.

By preparation, I obviously mean more than simply decorating the house, buying presents and writing Christmas cards.  There are spiritual preparations to be made as well.

Because of our faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians may rightly be called an Easter people.  But, it is just as fitting to say we are an Advent people.  We are a people waiting for Christ to come again in glory, just as He assures us He will in today's Gospel reading: "People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory."

The season of Advent invites us to look backward, to the past.  Specifically, we recall the days of the Law and the prophets, when God established a covenant with the people of Israel.  During their long history together, God spoke to His chosen and beloved people through the prophets.  He spoke of a Suffering Servant who would take upon Himself the sins of the world.  During the Advent and Christmas seasons, we recall how that promise was fulfilled
when the Son of God took to Himself a human nature and dwelt among us.  In looking back at the moment of our redemption, we see one promise fulfilled and eagerly await the sure fulfillment of the promise to come again.

As an Advent people, we look to the present, living as a people redeemed by the blood of Christ.  We listen to the words of Our Lord in Sunday's Gospel: "Stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.  Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy... Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."  We can listen also to the words of Sts. Peter and Paul, whose writings constantly exhort us to make our call and election a permanent one, to avoid falling once more under slavery to sin and grieving the Holy Spirit with which we were sealed for the day of redemption.  This is no time to be lazy in the practice of every virtue and work of mercy.  This is no time for being lazy in doing penance for our sins.

Finally, as an Advent people, we look to the future.  it seems rather ironic that even as the stores go all glitzy and glamorous while promoting their wares, as we sing and speak of peace on earth, that we have a reading telling of dismay and fright, of signs in the moon and stars.  Our Lord is simply telling us that, while there is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts, we should not lose sight of the fact that things pass away.  In fact, all things will pass away.  There will one day be a new heavens and earth where God dwells in peace with His people.  Advent invites us to look ahead, to the end of the story of salvation history.  Advent invites us to reflect on the fact that history is going somewhere.

It is customary for us to make Lenten resolutions, but it might not be a bad idea to make some resolutions for Advent.  Amidst the tasks of decorating the house and writing cards, it would be a good idea to spend a little more time with the scriptures, the word of God.  The infant narratives along with the chapters of Isaiah speaking of the suffering servant give us sufficient material for our reflections.  It is also a good idea to go to confession.  How much better can we celebrate the birth of the Holy One of God than with hearts free from sin?  How much better will we be ready to stand before the Son of Man when He comes in glory?


 
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