As we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, the Lord tells us through Jeremiah: “I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. 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.”
This “just shoot” is no less than Jesus Christ who has done and continues to do what is right and just in the land.
I can’t imagine what this past year would have been like without the presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Think of the many times you have reached out to others in love. Think of the many times when you have been surprised at others reaching out to you. Think of the many times when you were discouraged because of your own sins and then along came the grace of God to repent and confess.
Think of the many times when you were hurting spiritually and crying out for help and then at Mass, the reception of Holy Communion or in prayer, you received relief! What surprising moments of consolation these are. They are gifts from God because He has gifted you with faith and placed in your heart a hunger for holiness.
Everything we are is received from above. How do we thank Jesus at the beginning of this new liturgical year for the incredible blessings of the last year? The more we thank Him, the more He will place in our hearts the expectations for even greater things this coming year.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, and us, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, 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.”
Paul views God as a very resourceful and loving God, wanting to pour out His love on His people if only they are willing to receive it and share it with others. He pours out His love to “strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness.”
When we receive this goodness from God, we want to share it with others. Every time we share it with others, we participate in the Father’s love for His people. The more we are caught up in what the Father does, the more we are caught up in God Himself.
This is where we want to be “at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.”
In the Gospel, Jesus admonishes us to be awake when He comes. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that the day catch you by surprise like a trap.”
There are many forms of drowsiness in our lives. Alcohol is one. We also become drowsy when we succumb to pornography and to the indiscriminate watching of television. We become drowsy when we hold on to un-forgiveness and resentment.
Even the indiscriminate watching of horror movies can lead us to drowsiness. When we use the excitement of horror movies to escape from facing every day issues in our family relationships, we become drowsy in those relationships. We avoid them. In horror movies, we also open ourselves to a lot of evil and sometimes the Evil One. We also open ourselves up to evil suggestions.
We become drowsy when we begin or end the day without prayer.
Why is drowsiness so attractive? Simply, if we live with the mistaken notion that we are alone in trying to live a virtuous life, we become discouraged because we haven’t succeeded.
Christ wants to participate in our efforts to live the Gospel. He wants to live the Gospel through us. He wants to rejoice in our hearts by helping us live virtuous lives and by loving us into repentance when we fail. There is no condemnation for anyone in Christ Jesus.
If you have been trying to get along with your spouse or your children, depending solely upon your will power, you have every reason to be discouraged by now. But Christ wants to accompany us through this life and to look forward to His return when He takes us to Himself.
He tells us in the Gospel, He will return at the end of the world. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.”
I am reminded of the tragic events in northern California where so many people died in the raging fires. We hope and pray that in those last moments they had the grace to turn to God in repentance and hope for salvation.
Hopefully, we learn from these events that we can’t depend upon tomorrow to repent and make our peace with God. Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “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.”
If we have drifted into any form of drowsiness, it behooves us to not depend upon tomorrow to wake up. If our Savior comes today, am I prepared to meet Him? Even a sincere act of contrition brings so much relief. Today Jesus Himself tells us: “Be vigilant at all times and pray…”