First Sunday of Advent
. . . at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Mt. 24: 44)
At every Eucharistic celebration, after the consecration, the priest proclaims, “The Mystery of Faith.” The people respond: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.”
Awaiting Christ’s coming again is part of the Christian faith. In fact, this is part of the twofold purpose of Advent, as the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar no. 39 states: “Advent has twofold character, for it is the time of preparation of the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.”
The Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent during the Year of Matthew/Year A reinforces the message of Advent is not just about Jesus’ coming as a Holy Infant Child in Bethlehem, but about preparation for Jesus as the Son of Man in his Second Coming. There is an urgent tone at the end of the Gospel today: “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Mt. 24: 44).
A little background might help us understand this teaching of Jesus; at the beginning of Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew: “Jesus left the temple area and was going away, when his disciples approached him to point out the temple buildings. He said to them in reply ‘You see all these things, do you not? Amen I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down’” (Mt 24: 1-2). The conversation continued with the description of the “end time.” And “That day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt 24:36). Then, the Gospel on this First Sunday of Advent with Jesus warned us to not be like the people during the time of Noah, living with no sense of preparation. Instead, we must repent and wait for the “coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24: 39). Jesus pointed out that our preparation for the coming of the Son of Man is like our individual meeting with death: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake” (Mt. 24: 39-40).
The season of Advent, as the instruction in the Roman Missal says, “is a period of devout and expectant delight.” But listening to the Gospel today, are we still looking for joy or dreading the coming of the Son of Man? The key word to understand to live a joyful advent is redemption.
The first coming of the Lord, the incarnation, was the beginning of our redemption. The Son of God took on human flesh to die on the Cross to redeem us. In the Second Coming of the Lord, we all fully realize the reality of being redeemed by the Lord. The beginning leads to the fullness of comprehension. That is why the twofold purpose of this season must be kept together! For the believers in Christ, those who “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12), as the Second Readings describes, Advent then is in the words of the Psalm 122 which echoes the First Reading: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Amen.