Sunday, 27 November 2016

1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Mt 24:37-44; Isa 2:1-5; Ps 121; Rom 13:11-14
Every year, we start Advent, start preparing for His coming at Christmas, start by focusing on His final coming in glory at the End of Time.
Let me ask you to consider, today, what your response would be if you heard that Jesus was coming, that His Second Coming in glory was going to be today, before Sunday lunch.
Because we have have presented to us, in our Scripture readings, two rather contrasting approaches.
The first, is to run out and meet Him with joy (Isa 2:1-5; Ps 121);
The second, is the fear of judgment, which the Lord Jesus puts before us in our Gospel text (Mt 24:37-44), with the warning that we need to "stay awake" because we do not know when He is coming, and St Paul amplifies the point with a list of sins we need to put aside to "live decently as people do in the daytime"(Rom 13:13)

On one level, it might seem odd that our Christian Scriptures give us such contrasting ways of responding to Jesus' coming.
Are we to fear Him, or ,to rejoice that He is is coming?
In fact, we should do both, and both are an appropriate and necessary ways to respond to Him if we grasp the FULLNESS of Who and what He is.

Our first reading and psalm both give is the beautiful image of the people "going up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob”(Isa 2:3).
Many people today, as we all know, think that there is no god, no purpose to life. Or, if there is some god then He is isn't really knowable, and thus isn't really loveable
We, however, have the gladness of knowing Him because He has made Himself known.

And, WHAT has He made known about Himself?
Many things, of course, but principally, as Scripture says, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16), and it is as “love” that He has made Himself known.
And when we meet the God who is love, this produces joy.
Pope Francis notes this in the context of the New Evangelisation, he says that the source of ‘joy’ in the believer is twofold: ‘encountering’ Christ (Evangelii Gaudium n.1) and knowing in this encounter that we are loved (n.2, 6, 7 etc).
He notes too that this encounter, if it is genuine, and if the joy is not just some complacency, this joyful encounter sends us forth (n.20). It send us forth to tell of Him to others, but also, as our focus today at the start of Advent recalls, it sends us forth to go out and meet Him when He comes. And, we might note, that if this going to meet the Lord is authentic then, as the image in our first reading from Isaiah indicates, we should want to draw others to go up and meet and worship Him with us.

But, back to that other response, other way we might and should feel about the Lord coming in glory: fear, fear of judgement, concern that if “of two… one will be taken, the other one left”(Mt 24:41), then which ‘one’ will I be?
Well, if we have authentically grasped Who He is, then awe and “fear of the Lord” are fully appropriate -He is my friend, but He is also my lord and judge. And my awareness of this is part of what moves me to change, to repentance, to getting myself ready, to “staying awake”.
So, our collect (opening prayer) at Mass today both asked that we might be granted “the resolve to run forth to meet …Christ” and also asked we might be “worthy” through having “righteous deeds” to bring to Him.
If I have honestly faced what gives me cause for fear, then I can be ready to meet Him with joy.
And, as Pope Francis also reminds us, the mercy of God is what “restores our joy”(n.3).

To conclude, if Christ came before lunch today, would I have fear or joy?
Both are possible responses,
but the more I have grasped Who He is NOW, the more I will be ready with joy both then and now, ready for His coming.

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