Entrance Antiphon: Ps 25(24):1-3 — “To You, I lift up my soul, O my God In You, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in You be put to shame.”
First Reading: Is 2:1-5 — “The Lord will gather all the nations into the eternal peace of the Kingdom of God.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
Second Reading: Rom 13:11-14 — “Our salvation is nearer.”
Alleluia: Ps 85:8 — “Alleluia, alleluia. Show us, Lord, Your love; and grant us Your salvation. Alleluia, alleluia.”
Gospel: Mt 24:27-44 — “Stay awake, that you may be prepared.”
Communion Antiphon: Ps 85(84):13 — “The Lord will bestow His bounty, and our earth shall yield its increase.”
The cover of an invitation to an Eagle Scout Court of Honor I was invited to a few years ago displayed the motto of the Boy Scouts of America: “Be Prepared.” Inside the date, time, and place of the event were all printed upside down! Someone, apparently, forgot about the motto. Adventus in Latin means to await the arrival of someone or something of great importance. For Christians, this season is very much identified with preparations for the birth of Christ, so much so that the second meaning of Advent is often diminished, that of preparing for the Second Coming of Christ in Glory ... the Parousia. The readings this weekend that begin the Advent season, however, capture that second meaning more than the first.
As Advent begins, we are called to be prepared. And so, we can ask ourselves a couple of questions
What are we to prepare for? The prophet Isaiah tells us to look forward to a utopian age when all the peoples of the world will come to God’s temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. There they will receive just judgment from God and instruction in God’s Word. The verse “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” is inscribed on an impressive bronze statue outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The Prophet Isaiah’s dream still lives. For Catholic Christians, the fulfillment of this dream has begun with the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. Jesus calls us to be His temple, His Body, the Church. He offers us a kingdom not of this world but rather one where the justice and peace foreseen by Isaiah can be realized.
The second question we can ask: How do we prepare? Well, first, Saint Paul tells us to wake up: “The night is advanced; the day is at hand.” Advent reminds us to renew our hopes that the coming of God’s kingdom is still a possibility. This weekend’s Responsorial Psalm proclaims our joy at coming up to Jerusalem ... “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” We gather today to celebrate as God’s holy people. The risen Lord Jesus is already in our midst. In His glory He has already achieved the dream that lies ahead for us. We need to be more aware of this every day. To be prepared means to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Advent gives us an added incentive to rid ourselves and our society of the self-indulgence and strife that keep the Kingdom of God from coming. Take on acts of kindness and generosity that make God’s love real in the world! Arm ourselves with prayer, a good confession, active participation in the Mass, and reflection on God’s Word. Take civic action to influence our elected representatives regarding the many moral challenges facing our country. All the busy preparations for Christmas need not be a distraction from Advent. Selecting appropriate gifts, sending Christmas greetings, gathering for parties, visiting friends and family – all these activities can be opportunities for spreading the joy of God’s kingdom. Thoughtful donations to charities can promote the justice of God’s kingdom. But we have to fight off the spirit of agitation and competition that can spoil our intentions. It is very easy to get caught up in the whirl of activities and forget the real reason for the season.
Finally ... We need a sense of urgency. All we have to do is look around us. We are all too familiar with the natural disasters that can suddenly come upon us: floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, firestorms. More and more we are realizing the necessity of preparation for these occurrences. But what about war ... terrorism ... violence in its various forms all around us ... and to be mindful enough and to be prepared to defend against such things? Jesus warns us to have the same sense of urgency about His coming. Perhaps, for some of you, the end of the world may seem far off. But consider this ... one stray asteroid ... one stray atomic bomb ... one unexpected health issue could change all that. Jesus says He will come like a thief in the night. Our individual lives may end suddenly, long before the world ends. To assure that we are ready when Christ finally comes, we should practice being ready to meet Him as He comes daily in our lives. It is easy not to recognize Him in the routine, in the nuisances, and in the interruptions of our lives. But “Whatever you do for one of the least of my brothers (or sisters), you do it for Me.” Advent offers us an opportunity to sharpen our vision and alert our sensitivity, to be prepared for the many ways Jesus comes each day. These can be opportunities and graces in disguise.
Advent is a season of hope for the good things God has prepared for us. We have to be prepared to receive them – whether Christ comes on the last day of the world, the last day of our lives, the coming feast of Christmas, or in the opportunities of today. Every time we assemble for Mass, every Eucharist we celebrate is an Advent. Jesus speaks to us in the Word and nourishes us in the Sacrament. Every Eucharist then is an opportunity. Our salvation is near at hand – today. So let’s “Be prepared!”