First Sunday of Advent – 2021

In these days after Thanksgiving, our thoughts may naturally focus on our Christmas preparations. Certainly in our secular world we have the aggressive promotion of sales. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. It is famous for its discounts.

In all of this Christmas preparation, which can be exciting and fun and full of enthusiasm, it might be easy for us to overlook what begins today. Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

This is a special liturgical season. That means it is a special time of the year designated for us to focus our prayer and worship on a particular aspect of our relationship with God. We focus on the Coming of the Lord in Advent.

Quite naturally we think of the First Coming of the Lord, as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity (a.k.a. Christmas). This is an event that profoundly changed all of human history. This is when our God became man. This is when our God fulfilled all the promises of the Old Testament. This is when our God revealed Himself fully as one of us so that we could understand as best as possible that we belong to God our Father.

However during Advent, we also celebrate the Second Coming of Christ. In fact as Advent is four weeks long, the first three weeks focus our attention on the Second Coming of Christ. This is what we are currently waiting for as Christians.

We are waiting for the return in glory of Christ Our Lord. It will not be like the First Coming. Our Lord will return in glory accompanied by the angels. These are the very words of Jesus as He quotes the prophecy of the Old Testament from Daniel and Jeremiah. We heard Jesus refer to His coming in glory in today’s Gospel.

This Second Coming is the promise of Christ. To use the fancy theological term, it is the Parousia. It does beg the question that if Jesus has not returned in 2000 years, when will it occur?

We hear in today’s Gospel Jesus telling us to be alert and fully awake. This does not mean one’s state of physical consciousness. Rather it goes deeper in its meaning. To be awake in the Bible means to be alert and attentive to one’s relationship with God. To be awake means to be fully active, fully participating in God‘s invitation to live as His children.

Throughout the ages so many have called out with the sentiment, “Lord where are you?“ “Lord – we need you to return in glory so that all may believe.”

One may be tempted to despair and dismissal of the promise of the Second Coming. One may be tempted to think that if it has not happened by now it will not happen ever.

And yet if one pays close attention to the words of Jesus in the Gospels, it is easy to see the message that He delivers more than any other. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” This means that the transformation of earth into heaven is happening. It certainly was happening by the very birth, ministry, and message of Jesus. It was certainly happening by His life and death, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

After the Resurrection, Jesus stayed teaching and preaching in glorified form for 40 days. Then He ascended to heaven. Soon thereafter He sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. This is the feast of Pentecost.

If we look at the course of these events we see God‘s plan unfolding. God came as one of us in the person of Jesus and showed us what we are to do. He then handed on His ministry and mission to those who follow Him. In today’s Gospel, Jesus provides the image of the master who leaves home and places the servants in charge.

It is the work of Christians to continue the work of Christ. That means we are to continue to transform earth into heaven. We are to continue to make the kingdom of God at hand. To say it more plainly, we are to make heaven a reality on earth by how we speak and how we act.

In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs us, ” Do not let your hearts become drowsy with drunkenness, carousing, or the anxieties of daily living.” That last one certainly applies to many of us. Do the anxieties of daily living cause us to have drowsy hearts? This means we are overwhelmed by stress and that very stress keeps us from having an active relationship with the Lord. Are we too busy or too tired to pray – to go to Confession – to go to Mass? Daily anxieties can overwhelm our connection to God. Let us recommit ourselves to an active prayer life, an active sacramental life this Advent.

To answer the question of when Christ will return, let us contemplate on how much more work we need to do in order to transform earth into heaven. If Christ has handed His mission and work on to those who follow Him, how much have we done since the Ascension 2000 years ago? Look at the state of our world.

Could it be that Christ is waiting for us? Could it be that He is waiting for us to bring about a profound transformation of our earthly reality? We are called to live as citizens of heaven here and now

How can we make heaven on earth? How do we transform our daily experience? It seems a very tall order for any one person. And yet such activity begins with each individual. Each act of kindness, each act of care, each act of patience, each act of gratitude all usher in the kingdom of God.

Today on the first Sunday of Advent, we are called to usher in the Second Coming. We are called to transform earth into heaven. We are called to live each day as citizens of heaven. We are called to make the kingdom of God at hand.

What will you do today for someone else? What will you do today to care for another? How will you express love and consideration for those in your life today?

How we answer these questions determines how we bring about the kingdom of God. Together let us celebrate Advent. Let us celebrate that we belong to the Lord. Let us celebrate that we are called to transform earth into heaven – and if we do these things, we will make ourselves ready for His return. Our spirits will be awake and alive in the Lord.

First Reading
Jer 33:14-16

I will raise up for David a just shoot.

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah

The days are coming, says the LORD,
   when I will fulfill the promise
   I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
   I will raise up for David a just shoot;
   he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
   and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
   this is what they shall call her:
   “The LORD our justice.”


Responsorial Psalm
Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R. :

℟. (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
   teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.

℟. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD;
   thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
   and teaches the humble his way.

℟. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
   toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
   and his covenant, for their instruction.

℟. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.


Second Reading
1 Thes 3:12-4:2

May the Lord strengthen your hearts at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians

Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
   for one another and for all,
   just as we have for you,
   so as to strengthen your hearts,
   to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
   at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.
      Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
   we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
   as you received from us
   how you should conduct yourselves to please God
   —and as you are conducting yourselves—
   you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.


Acclamation before the Gospel
Ps 85:8

℟. Alleluia, alleluia.

Show us, Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.

℟. Alleluia, alleluia.


Gospel
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Your redemption is at hand.

✠ A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
   and on earth nations will be in dismay,
   perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
   in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
   for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
   coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
   stand erect and raise your heads
   because your redemption is at hand.

“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.
For that day will assault everyone
   who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
   and pray that you have the strength
   to escape the tribulations that are imminent
   and to stand before the Son of Man.”

At the end of the Gospel, the Deacon, or the Priest, acclaims:

The Gospel of the Lord.

All reply:

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

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