The First Sunday of Advent
December 1, 2016
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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Today, we begin the powerful liturgical season of Advent. I do not know if I should say this but Advent is my favorite season. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said: “Advent invites us to pause in silence to understand a Presence” (Homily in Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Vatican Basilica, November 28, 2009).

Advent is a time of profound hope and discreet joy. Advent is a season when a miracle is about to happen. It is like the time before a wedding.

The Advent season is a time of hope and anticipation, as we prepare to welcome Jesus’ coming. In this season, we are invited to wait and enter a state of anticipation.

In today’s readings, we are repeatedly invited to be vigilant. In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep” (Rom 13:11). In the Gospel, Jesus declares: “Stay awake!” (Mt 24:42). During Advent, we are invited to conquer whatever distracts us from the essential. There is a kind of sleepiness that prevents us from encountering Jesus Christ. It is a sort of distraction, motivated by our impatience.

We live in a technological culture, in an “I want it now” world. People cannot wait; they want to satisfy their desires immediately.

Without anticipation, we cannot savor things. If we skip the time of anticipation, we cannot value things. Without anticipation, there is no joyous fulfillment.

It seems that we started the Christmas season right after Thanksgiving. Everything around us is only about Christmas. However, we actually have not started the Christmas season yet. We are starting Advent. We cannot skip the precious season of Advent that prepares us for Christmas.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be vigilant as we await the coming of the Son of Man. Since the Ascension, the Church has been waiting for the final coming that will happen at the end of history. At every Mass, we say: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again” and “[...] “that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” For more than 2,000 years, the Church has desired the coming of her divine spouse. The last words of the Bible are: “‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ ‘Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!’” (Rev 22: 20).

The liturgy during Advent repeats this refrain many times.

We live between the first coming, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the last coming, at the end of times, when He will come in glory and majesty. We live in the time of faith. Now Jesus comes in an invisible way. He is hidden in the sacraments, in the life of the community and in the charity of the saints. We cannot see him but we can find the signs of his activity. Reality is like a veil that hides his face from us. However, even hidden, His presence can be felt.

Faith is to recognize that He is with us, that He is coming now. We pray for His coming because we need His presence among us, we need His light that conquers our darkness. We need His coming. The world misses His presence!

During Advent, we need to take the time to stop. We need to find silence in order to pray. Prayer is what allows us to expect the One who will come. Let us accept the first reading’s invitation: “Let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Is 2:5).

Mary is our model for the meaning of anticipation. She waited with ineffable love for the coming of the Emmanuel. In her heart were all the expectations of the people of Israel.

In Mary’s example, let us find the best way to experience a fruitful Advent season. May she help us prepare to celebrate Christmas with renewed hearts.  Amen.

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