First Sunday of Advent (C)
brothers and sisters,
two days ago we saw people running frantically from store to store - and even
within stores - to buy up any number of things. As they ran from one deal to
another, they pushed their way passed other people, knocked over stacks and
displays, and even grabbed items - most notably a
vegetable steamer - out of the hands of young children.
Atlanta to Louisville, from El Paso to Saginaw - as one
media report put it - "shoppers decked the halls — and each other — as
they battled and brawled their way through stores across the country Friday."
As if this itself were not bad enough, "onlookers cheered" as two men
beat each other in one store, "even as a female shopper got knocked down
in the melee." Those who act in this way have strayed far from the ways of
the Lord and do not walk on his path (cf. Psalm 25:4).
bargain hunters where able to run to and fro with such lack of concern for
others because they had been watching for the material goods they wanted. They
knew where to go. They knew when to be there. They knew - at least in one sense
- the price they would pay. These shoppers were, in a word, prepared.
some of us were among their number, running, as it were, into a trap (cf. Luke 21:35), into a trap of
unrecognized sin of selfishness, of jealousy, anger, and greed. If we
recognize something of this temptation in our souls, we would do well to pray
with King David, "Guard me from the trap they have set for me, from the
snares of evil doers" (Psalm
their haste to satisfy their avarice, many Americans ran forth not to meet the
Christ of God, but to serve mammon and were well-prepared to do so (cf. Collect
and Matthew 6:24). They were
crafty and cunning and, at times, deceitful and violent. The Lord Jesus
commends something of these qualities even while rejecting others when he
instructs us, saying, "I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of
wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (Matthew 10:16). If these women and
men were so careful and desirous in running forth to get the physical things
they seemingly wanted at any cost, how much more careful and desirous should be
in running forth to meet Christ Jesus when he comes in his glory?
the beginning of this Mass, we asked Almighty God for “the resolve to run forth
to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.” Do we really want this
resolve? Certainly those shoppers were filled with resolve. Indeed, they put
all of their energies into acquiring what they wanted. What do we desire more,
the fleeting happiness of passing things or the coming of the One who alone can
satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts?
Mother Church gives us this season of Advent each year as a time to reflect
upon the joy of the Birth of the Savior at Bethlehem, yes, but in these early
days of Advent we are called to direct our thoughts to his Second Coming, of
which the Lord speaks today. “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud
with power and great glory,” he says (Luke 21:27). When he at least returns, it
will not be as it was at his first coming when the only sign of his birth was a
star in the heavens and an angelic greeting to a group of shepherds.
first coming came unnoticed by most people, but it will not so with his Second
Coming. Then “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” and it will be clear
that his Advent is nigh. For this reason, he says, “people will die of fright”
because they will know themselves not to “be blameless in holiness before our
God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” (Luke 21:26;
I Thessalonians 3:13). They will die of fright because, as pray every Sunday,
the Lord Jesus “will come to judge the living and the dead.” They will die of
fright because they do not know him, because they do not love him, and because they
do not serve him; to know him is to love him, and to love him is to serve him.
this reason, Jesus tells us “not [to] become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a
trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth”
who have welcomed the Christ Child into their hearts and who have sincerely said
to him, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,” will
have nothing to fear at his coming because they will have maintained their
friendship with him (Psalm 25:5). We have these next few weeks to prepare for
his coming, to ask him to teach us the truth, to show us sinners the way, to
guide us to justice (cf. Psalm 25:5, 8-9). If we seek to deepen our friendship
with Jesus in these holy days by speaking with him in prayer and in the
Scriptures, by confessing our sins and receiving absolution, and by serving the
needs of our brothers and sisters, then he will indeed make us “increase and
abound in love” and “strengthen [our] hearts to be blameless in holiness” so
that we might “stand before the Son of Man” when he comes (I Thessalonians 3:12-13;
us, then, use these days not to run to and fro in the pursuit of things, but to
run forth to meet the Christ, the only Savior of the world and the true desire
of our hearts. Amen.