The whole aim of our existence here on earth is to meet Jesus Christ who is the very Source of life and who gives us eternal life. Prompted by love, he has taken the initiative to come to us that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). Today, we begin the holy and solemn liturgical season of looking forward in a special way to the One who has come and who is coming again. We dedicate ourselves to a renewed preparation to meet him worthily when he comes to us. It is for this reason that we pray in today’s Collect (opening prayer): “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.”
Today’s readings refer to the coming of our Lord Jesus and to the importance of being ready to welcome him. In the first reading from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, God announces his plan to raise up “a just shoot” (a “righteous branch”) from the line of King David who will provide security to the house of Judah. In the days of this promised leader, “Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” This is part of the prophecy of the New Covenant that has already been fulfilled by the historical first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the “just shoot” who brings salvation and security not only to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem but to the whole world. Through his sacrificial death on the Cross, he accomplished our salvation and made the blessings and graces of heaven available to us.
The same “just shoot” becomes present at every Eucharistic Sacrifice through the ministry of the priest. Christ really comes to us in the Eucharist. This was the strong conviction of St. Francis of Assisi that moved him to write with poetic wonder in his Letter to All the Friars: “O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the Universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under the form of bread…” The Eucharistic Jesus is the same Jesus, the “just shoot” born of the Virgin, who suffered, died on the Cross and rose from the dead. At every Holy Mass he makes his very self and his gift of salvation present to us.
During the season of Advent, we prepare to celebrate his coming in the flesh through the womb of Virgin Mary. This holy season also reminds us of our eventual meeting when he comes in glory to judge all people according to their deeds. Today’s Gospel uses some graphic descriptions of the upheaval that will accompany the coming in glory of Christ, the “Son of Man,” who will bring eternal salvation to all who have remained faithful to him. What should be of interest to us and worth pondering is not merely the frightening phenomena, but the certainty of his coming, our departure from this world and the need for us to be well prepared to meet him. It is to this last point that today’s Gospel draws our attention. Jesus tells us: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap…. Be vigilant at all times and pray….”
To be ready for the coming of our Savior (his “advent”), whether in celebrating his Nativity, or his coming in the Eucharist, at the end of our earthly lives, or at the end of the world – the time of which we do not know – we need a heart dedicated to a life of holiness. This comes from the constant effort to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one another. It is essentially about living according to the commandments of God, as faithfully taught by the Catholic Church. This life of love is what St. Paul prays will grow in us: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all… so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus….”
For us to truly love God and neighbor in ways that are pleasing to God, prayer is absolutely necessary. Prayer, which is communion with God, purifies our thoughts and makes us grow in the interior life – a necessary condition for the practice of fruitful love and the righteous deeds with which we strive to meet our Lord at his coming. Prayer indeed forms the heart and inspires right actions. Hence, it is the best way of being vigilant in preparing for the coming of our Savior.
How can I become ready to welcome Jesus? What are the anxieties of daily life that distract me from the presence of the Lord? Am I willing to pray so I may grow in the interior life this Advent?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.