THE 1ST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (Cycle C)

Readings:
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

Today is the First Sunday in Advent: There are five seasons in the Liturgical year. The other seasons are Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Ordinary time marks the time between the seasons of the Liturgical year. The season of Advent begins the eve of the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Season then begins with the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord. The season of Advent is like awaiting the birth of a child. It is an odd mixture of happiness and contentment that is accompanied by nervousness and even anxiety of that for which we are waiting. In fact, Advent can be described as a season of waiting. And for what are we waiting? The entire community of the Church is waiting for what the prophet Isaiah wrote about in the 25th chapter of the Book of Isaiah. We are waiting for the day when God will remove the veil that separates people and nations from one another and from God (Is. 25:7). When that day comes, God will "wipe away the tears from every cheek," and we shall see things as they really are (Is 25:8; Rev 7:17; 21:4). At this season of the Liturgical year, we not only prepare to look back in time to Jesus' First Advent, when He came to earth as God enfleshed, but we are also looking forward in time to His promised Second Advent, at the end of time as we know it, when Jesus returns as King and divine Judge to gather all of His Church.

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: By Perseverance You will Secure Your Lives
The theme of the readings for this Sunday comes from Luke 21:19, a verse that precedes our Gospel Reading when Jesus said:  "By your perseverance you will secure your lives."  At this point in salvation history, we are between Christ's two comings: His first Advent when God the Son came to man enfleshed to experience all that humanity experiences and to preach the Gospel of salvation, and also the promised Second Advent of His return, as the angels told the Apostles and disciples at Jesus' Ascension: They said, "Men of Galilees, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11).  

Promises have been made to us.  Death and evil will be destroyed when He returns, but when?  We pray and wait, but is God listening?  The Advent readings address these questions.  Waiting on the timing of the Lord requires patience and the perseverance of faith.  We must accept God's will in the "not yet" with the hope and trust in "the better that is to come."  As to why He is taking so long to return, St. Peter wrote:  But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out (2 Pt 3:8-10).

In the First Reading, the people of God are given the promise of a Davidic Messiah whose coming will reestablish justice in the land and a rejuvenated covenant people who worship Yahweh in peace and justice.  In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes about the necessity of persevering in holiness until Christ returns, and in the Gospel Reading Jesus describes the cataclysmic events that will be the sign of His return and the importance of remaining vigilant and in pray as we wait for Christ coming in glory.  The Psalm reading reminds us that God is merciful to sinners and gracious to the humble. When you are depressed by injustice in the world, are weighed down by personal suffering, and are tempted to lose patience in waiting for the Lord's return, make verse 4b of the Responsorial Psalm your prayer: "You are God my Savior and for you I wait all the day!"

The First Reading Jeremiah 33:14-16 ~ The Promised Messiah and the New Jerusalem
14 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.  15 In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.  16 In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: "The LORD our justice."

In the days of the 6th century BC prophet Jeremiah, the citizens of Judea were about witness the Babylonian army destroying Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple by fire, after which they were going to be forced into exiled to Babylonian lands in the east.  In chapter 31, Jeremiah gave them hope if only they persevered in faith.  God promised through His prophet a return from exile, a new covenant and a deeper, more intimate understanding of God based on a personal relationship when they would truly "know" God (31:31-34).  Then in chapter 33, Jeremiah promised that this new era will be ushered in by the righteous Davidic Messiah, a promise previously made by the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah (Is 9:4/5-6/7; 11:1-12). 

St. Matthew proclaims, in the introduction to his Gospel, that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of that promise (Mt 1:1), and the angel Gabriel revealed this mystery to the virgin Mary of Nazareth at the Incarnation of the Christ (Lk 1:31-33) in His first Advent.  Jesus is the Davidic King who will fulfill God's covenant promise to David that his throne will endure forever (2 Sam 7:16; 23:5), and He is the one who will bring the promise of salvation not only to His people but to all peoples and everlasting peace and justice when He returns to establish a New Jerusalem and to defeat death forever (Rev 7:17; 21:1-4).

Responsorial Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14 ~ For You, O Lord, I Wait
Response: "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul."
 
4 Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.
Response:
8 Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way.  9 He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way.
Response:
10 All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.  [..].  14 The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him, and his covenant, for their instruction.
Response:

The psalmist asks to be instructed by God's laws so that he can walk the path that leads to God's salvation (verses 4-5).  God's instruction is for both sinners and the humble (verses 8-9).  The humble person is the one who confesses his sins to the Lord and seeks His forgiveness.  To that person, who is faithful to his covenant relationship with the Almighty, God extends his covenant love and rewards that person with the constancy of His protection (verse 10, 14).

These verses are fulfilled and will continue to be fulfilled in the two Advents of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He came showing His mercy to sinners, pardoning their sins, and rewarding the humble with the revelation of His truth (Jn 14:6).  This is the way of God the Son—the way of mercy (First Advent) and the way of justice in judging their merits (Second Advent; Mt 25:31-46). 
And yet concerning the merits of the righteous and the gift of salvation, St. Augustine wrote: "The one who follows the Lord's paths and sees that he has been set free through no merit of his own, and takes no pride in his own efforts, will draw nearer to the Lord.  In times to come, he will avoid the severe judgment that will be handed down to those who question all these things, for he has experienced the mercy of the one who came to his aid" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 24.10).

The one who fears offending the Lord is the one who loves the Lord and keeps His commandments (1 Jn 2:3-6).  His reward will be a special friendship with the Lord and a share in His divine life based on the family bond of covenant unity (verse 14; Lk 22:19-20).

The Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ~ Persevere in Holiness
Brothers and sisters: 12 May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, 13 so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.  Amen.  4:1 Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God—and as you are conducting yourselves—you do so even more.  2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

The people of the Christian community at Thessalonica were waiting for Christ's return.  However, some had lost patience and did not continue to lead blameless Christian lives.  St. Paul prays for this community he founded; he prays that God will strengthen their hearts so that they might be holy at the time of Christ's coming and ready to receive Him and the "holy ones" who will come with Him.  These "holy ones" can refer to the sanctified elect who have already been saved, or to the angels or to both. 

In verses 4:1-2, Paul speaks in the "name of Christ" and refers to Jesus' doctrine on righteous moral behavior which is based love of God and love of neighbor and has the seal of Christ on it.  We need to pray for this kind of persistence in holiness for each other so, in answer to Jesus' question in Luke 17:8b, "But when the Son of man comes, will he find any faith on earth?" our answer will be a resounding "Yes!"

The Gospel of Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 ~ Be Prepared for the Coming of the Son of Man
25 "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.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and rise your heads because your redemptions is at hand. [...].  34 Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 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."

Jesus, speaking in the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament prophets, describes the cataclysmic event of the return of the "Son of Man" whose coming will have an impact on all creation.  Verse 27 repeats the vision the prophet Daniel had of the "Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven" and being presented before the heavenly throne of God the Father.  There He receives sovereignty over all the nations and peoples of the earth (Dan 7:13-14).  It is a vision Jesus will claim for Himself in His trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, for which the Jewish high priest will condemn Jesus to death for blasphemy in claiming to be the divine Messiah (Mt 26:64-66).  This warning of the return of Christ the King in judgment is for Jesus' generation and all generations in what is the Final Age of man. Jesus warns:

  1. We must be ready to recognize the signs that His coming is imminent.
  2. We must be ready for Christ's return, keeping our souls in a state of grace.
  3. We must remain vigilant so that His return does not catch us unprepared.

The age of the Kingdom of the Church of Jesus Christ is the Final Age of mankind when Christ will return to judge the righteous and the wicked—condemning the wicked to everlasting punishment and welcoming the righteous to everlasting bliss (Mt 25:31-46)!  Advent should be a time for self-evaluation and humble repentance.  We are waiting for Christ's renewed coming at Christmas in one perspective and for His Second coming which will determine our eternal future at the moment we hear His call.  We must persevere in holiness so we are in a state of grace and ready to greet our King and Savior!

Catechism References:
Luke 21:27 (CCC 671, 697); 21:34-36 (CCC 2612)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013