Happy New Year! Our liturgical year of 2018 starts today, with the beginning of the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation for 1. the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the Last Judgement and 2. the commemoration of his first coming in history at Bethlehem. The focus really shifts to preparing for Christmas only from December 17th on. Until then, the Church calls us to prepare for the Lord’s return. Several phrases from today’s Scriptures speak of this.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah, speaking on our behalf prays
“Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
I love the longing implicit in that prayer. But sometimes it seems like a tall order, since it seems so much easier not to be mindful of the Lord, and not to be always doing what is right. Murphy’s Law says that’s when the Lord will come, will meet us, so what hope do we have?
Responding to the first reading, we sing with the psalmist “Lord, make us turn to you, show us your face, and we shall be saved.” Make us? What happened to free will? Our friends who work 12-step programs may have something useful here. They advocate praying for willingness when it seems beyond our capacity to do right, to be mindful of the Lord in our ways. And honoring the sometimes incremental nature of surrender to God’s will, one can even pray for the willingness to be willing, or to become willing. While he will never force us, God can work with the tiniest crack in our defenses!
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts us
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.”
Just last week, we heard the Gospel story of the Last Judgement where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats – those who cared for him (by caring for one another) from those who did not. It is as clear a declaration as any that what we do matters – that God cares how we treat one another. So when we choose generosity over grasping, compassion over violence, we are in fact becoming Jesus’ disciples, and truly preparing to be met doing right, and mindful of the Lord in our ways.
In the second reading, St. Paul assures the community at Corinth (and us)
“…you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, it seems, anxiety is not needed – just faith in God’s grace to help us be ready when Jesus comes again, when we can say, and mean: “Maranatha! Lord Jesus come!”
Worship and Music Minister