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RCIA for the First Sunday of Advent – the Readings

November 29, 2009

Today’s liturgy invites us to become a church of expectancy and hope. We are looking to the future; we are anticipating the coming of the Lord at the end of time.

The Catholic Church has a three year cycle that takes us through most of the Bible in the readings at Mass. Today we begin the third year, or Year C as it is called. This year the majority of the Gospel readings will be taken from the Gospel of St. Luke. And so the Church liturgical year begins today, the First Sunday of Advent. We are awaiting the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The season of Advent, which begins today, is a time of joyful anticipation of Christ’s coming. We see it as the four weeks before Christmas, but it is so much more than that. We are awaiting the glorious return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, at the end of time.

Each of the three years in the liturgical calendar has a different portrayal of the second coming of Christ. Year A, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 24:36-44, Jesus tells us that no one knows when the coming of the Lord will be and so we must always be prepared, just like the householder must be on guard for a thief in the night. Year B, in the Gospel of St. Mark, chapter 13:24-37, similarly tells us to be watchful and aware of the signs for that day when we will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’, just as servants must be ever ready for their master’s return home. And this year, Year C, in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 21:25-36, there isn’t a human portrayal of the end times, but rather it shows us that the cosmos will be wracked with upheaval; calamity and wrathful judgment will come upon the earth and the people. But for those who are prepared, they will see the signs, have a confidence to endure the disasters and see their salvation revealed. The end times then are a mix of emotions. There is tension, and possible fear, but the fear gives way to joy because the Lord has come. All of the calamity will test our faith, how will we know that it is the end time? Again we must be on the watch and pray constantly and stand secure before the Son of Man.

So where do the Christians get their confidence to endure the disasters? In today’s first reading in Jeremiah, chapter 33:14-16, we see that God made a promise to His people. In the first part of chapter 33, the Lord, God, is speaking to Jeremiah while he is in prison and Jerusalem is being destroyed around him. God says, He will rebuild His city and forgive His people’s sins. God fulfills His promise by raising up a ‘just shoot’ from the house of David. This ‘just shoot’ is Jesus Christ, and He will rule His people and ‘do what is right and just in the land.’  Jesus Christ is a descendant of David, one of the first kings of Israel. David was the young man who killed the giant, Goliath, if you are familiar with that Bible story from the Old Testament. (1 Samuel, Chapter 17)

As Christians, we understand that the prophet Jeremiah is speaking about Jesus of Nazareth and the first coming of Christ, but at the same time, we believe that God’s promise wasn’t completely fulfilled when Christ came to earth 2000 years ago. ‘Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure’ only after Jesus’ second coming, when He returns to us ‘coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’

Further, the Christian confidence for the end times is in our living lives that are ‘pleasing to God.’ What is a life that is pleasing to God?

What is pleasing to God is to not allow ourselves to become ‘bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares,’ but rather, as St. Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians, to become more loving, ‘blameless and holy before our God.’  We must be watchful of our own personal behavior, that we are good and loving, and to pray constantly. We don’t know the exact time of the second coming, it could be tomorrow or in 2000 years, so we must always be pleasing to God in our thoughts and our actions. The one thing we do know is that we won’t live forever and so we need to be prepared as well for our own end times, when we die. Hopefully we’ll all live to a nice ripe old age and so we have lots of time before that day, but that doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we please in the mean time and only be good after we turn 70 years old. Be good always.

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