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Sunday, first week of Advent

November 30, 2008

Blessed New Year! (liturgically speaking…)

All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at His coming
and call us to His side in the Kingdom of Heaven,
where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Opening prayer from Mass)

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7 (we are sinful, but we still belong to You)
Psalm 80:2, 3, 15-16, 18-20 “Lord, make us turn to You, let us see Your face and we shall be saved”
I Corinthians 1:3-9 (God will strengthen us so that we will be blameless)
+ Mark 13:33-37 (Be on the watch–you do not know when the Lord will come)

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” It’s usually an embarrassing question–and how we envy the person who already has presents all wrapped, cards ready to drop in the mailbox, and decorations at her fingertips for a spotless “magazine-cover” house! But is she really ready for Christmas?

Today’s readings are talking about a very different kind of readiness…and the lack of it. One can have every secular detail picture-perfect without being at all ready for Christ’s Mass. Isaiah and David (in the Psalm) both lament that their nation has turned from God (this is sounding all too familiar…)–and that He let them go. That is God’s wrath…that He let them go. The disasters that followed–the natural consequences of life without God–were actually God’s mercy.
It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish sinners promptly instead of letting them go for long. Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before He punishes them; but with us He has decided to deal differently, in order that He may not have to punish us more severely later, when our sins have reached their fullness. -2 Maccabees 6:13, 14
Both Isaiah and David plead with God to return, to set things right again, and St. Paul describes what happens when God answers that prayer. He strengthens us so that we lack no spiritual gift, so that we will be blameless (not just “a good person”) on the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He strengthens us to fulfill the vocation to which He has personally called us. His Presence with us is our only hope to fulfill Jesus’ warning to be ready at any and every moment for His return. Whether we live to see His glorious Second Coming or not, each of us will meet Him at our own “end of time”, which could be any moment. We were forcibly reminded of that last weekend by a plane crash that took the lives of a father and two sons from the school where my husband teaches. We do not know the day nor the hour of our last breath. Today could be my last.

We each have a job to do, a mission to fulfill. If we have steadily served God, then it will be finished–by God’s standards–when He comes. If we have kept our accounts with Him short and apologized regularly in prayer and in the Sacrament of Confession, then we will be at our best when He comes for us for the last time. If we have been careless, or even hostile, toward Him without repentance, then His coming will take us by surprise. It will not go well with us!

Advent is our wake-up call–He’s coming! It’s holy mother Church’s way of shaking us from our spiritual slumber so that we call upon the Master before He returns, restoring our relationship with Him and serving Him whole-heartedly so that His final coming will not catch us off-guard. “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2)

May we always be ready for our final Christmas.

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