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ADVENT, THE SEASON OF EAGER LONGING AND JOYFUL PEACE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015
Jer. 33:14-16, Ps. 24, 1 Thess. 3:12-4:2, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on 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. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:25-28).


Today we begin the long-awaited and much-loved season of Advent. It is a time of longing for the coming of the Lord. The antiphon of Lauds expresses the beauty of this season of waiting, preparation, and longing for God's kingdom to come in all its fullness. "On that day sweet wine will flow from the mountains, milk and honey from the hills." Days of joy and great beauty are coming upon the world, a kingdom of everlasting peace that will fill the whole earth, that is, the kingdom of God in all its fullness. This is the season when we turn our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and prayers to the final days, to the Parousia or second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven in great light to usher in the fullness of the kingdom of God, the creation of a new heavens and a new earth, and the descent of the New Jerusalem where the saints will dwell in glory and splendor in resurrected bodies and see the Lord face to face.


This is indeed the coming of the Lord that we are now awaiting, preparing for, and longing for as we wake up from sleep and see the nearness of our final salvation. Our joyful waiting is expressed in the antiphon of first Vespers. "Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia."


So, brethren, "you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Rom. 13:11-14).


A new day is now dawning, a time of salvation. The fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams is closer now than when we first began to believe. The time is running out. It is now time to wake from sleep. "The night is far gone, the day is at hand" (Rom. 13:12). The light of a new day of salvation is now dawning. Let us therefore begin to walk in this new day that is now breaking upon us. Times of hope and joy have today dawned upon the world as we turn to seek the Lord and live in eager expectation of his coming, a longing that colors our whole day and all that we do. We are preparing for the coming of the Lord.


As we focus on the Parousia during these days of Advent, we are at the same time preparing our hearts and our lives for a deeper coming of Christ within us, for the Lord that we await in his glory with all his saints in great light is the same Lord who is within us now, filling our hearts with heavenly peace and joy. So we rejoice now in his nearness and peaceful presence, giving joy to our hearts.


We are therefore to live in moderation and quiet joy, contemplating the presence of the Lord. At Vespers we hear: "Rejoice in the Lord always: I say it again. Rejoice! Everyone should see how unselfish you are. The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:4-5 Breviary). Let us live in quiet joy during these four weeks, silently and peacefully doing our work, joyfully awaiting the coming of the Lord.


During Advent we also prepare to celebrate Christ's first coming in Bethlehem, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins. He came in humility to attract us all to himself and to show us how to live in simplicity, focused not on earthly joys, but on God and his kingdom of heavenly peace. Those who live in simplicity, focused on God, not on distracting worldly pleasures, best know and experience this peace in their hearts, a peace that is so characteristic of this beloved season.


As we prepare to celebrate Christ's birth in Bethlehem, somehow the mystery of that blessed coming is actualized within our hearts during the Advent-Christmas season. We join the shepherds in spirit as they worship Christ the Lord, the new-born Savior of the world; and in our thoughts and prayers the beautiful scenes of this season touch our hearts with the same joy that the shepherds felt in worshiping the infant Savior lying in the manger. We prepare our hearts now to welcome Christ our new-born King, born to us on Christmas Day, a day of light, high energy, and heavenly peace. So this is a season of prayer and meditation in the silence of the night, listening to Christmas carols, reading Christmas sermons, celebrating Advent and Christmas liturgies, and reading the Advent and Christmas divine office.


As we long for the Lord's coming in glory with all his saints in great light, he comes to us now in a deeper way. And as we follow the shepherds in spirit to adore the new-born Savior of the world, lying in a manger in Bethlehem, the shining light of his new birth fills us with heavenly peace and joy. No wonder this is the most beloved time of the year for all people, even for nonbelievers who so often also enter into the joyful spirit of this beautiful season.


Today St. Paul says, "May the Lord ... establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thess. 3:12, 13 NKJV). Indeed, this is our prayer and hope, that we may be found "blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thess. 3:13 NKJV). Advent is the time of preparation so that this might truly happen, that God might indeed find us blameless in holiness at his coming. It is our Savior who justifies us, making us righteous and holy, and so we also seek to sanctify and purify ourselves, for he is pure (1 John 3:3).


So "take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare" (Luke 21:34). Rather, may we be ready to go out and meet Christ the Lord when he comes in great light to consummate all things and bring us into the fullness of his kingdom of joy and heavenly peace. May we be purified now to be able to run toward him with great joy when he comes. And may this longing and preparation for his glorious coming renew us during these weeks of Advent. To this end, "may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23). Let us, then, be prepared for that day of splendor and light when we "will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). "Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).

 

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