ADVENT SEASON: A CALL FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION.
1st Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Gospel: Luke 21:25-28; 34-36.
Challenges, misfortunes, turbulence and difficulties are the most unavoidable parts of life journey. Some of these catastrophes, though terrific, tend to test our courage, strengths, weaknesses, and faith. However, most times, we may stumble upon obstacles that will come between the paths that we are destined to take.
Moreover, some of these obstacles can be blessings in disguise, only that we do not realize that at the time due to fear of unprecedented tribulations, or that we may not be able to actualize our dreams before we die. Since no one knows when he or she will die or when our world will come to an end, but the scripture makes us to realise that it will definitely come one day. Even while some people are still alive, and the disturbances in the universe and perhaps more still, the realisation of their unpreparedness for the judgement will cause some of them to die out of fear.
Meanwhile, today, being the First Sunday of Advent is the ecclesiastical new year day in the Catholic Church. It is the beginning of the Church’s annual liturgical cycle of feasts with a period of four weeks preparation for Christmas. It is also a period of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and His return at the Parousia.
In the FIRST READING, through Prophet Jeremiah, God promised to restore the Israelites who were suffering terribly under Babylonian captivity due to their obstinacy. He promised to send a “righteous branch” from Davidic dynasty, who will establish peace and justice in the world. This promise of divine restoration also extends to all those who are currently suffering from diverse challenges. That their predicaments will soon come to an end by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
In the GOSPEL, we see Jesus Christ as that righteous branch, the Son of David and the Prince of Peace, who out of love came into the world to bring salvation to humanity. He is the fulfilment of the aforementioned prophecy in the first reading. Through His disciples, He presents us with the imminent terrific revelations that will precede the end of the world, which are very phenomenal. These may come in form of wars, tumult, international conflicts and natural disasters with cosmic terrors.
However, in order not to live in fear, Jesus Christ assures us of divine restoration in spite of the catastrophes or tempestuous situations of our contemporary society. He further gives us words of encouragement, that we should not be afraid, because those impending cataclysms are indications that our divine restoration is close at hand.
But, the question is, can we be able to face these calamities confidently and courageously? The answer is Yes!; only when we have genuine love for God and our fellow human beings, just as St. Paul enunciated in the SECOND READING, then we shall remain unperturbed amidst any unprecedented tribulation, and thus be ready for the Parousia – the great day of judgment. For the scripture says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 John 4:18)”, and also, “love covers multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).”
Therefore, in order to be worthy to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for humanity in this yuletide, the Church enjoins us through the readings of today and that of the three coming Sundays, to prepare ourselves spiritually so as to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts and share in His divinity. Also, that we may be found worthy and acceptable in His Kingdom when our earthly life expires, and confidently stand before His throne on the last day.
Finally, through the incarnation, God has made available to all humanity an eternal home of peace and happiness, there we shall be free from sin, catastrophes, troubles, earthly limitations, etc. But, we need to prepare ourselves spiritually (loving God & our fellow human beings in sincerity, doing charity to the needy, going to Sacramental Confessions regularly, forgiving our offenders and even our enemies), which is the prerequisite for entering our eternal home on the last day.
I pray that the Holy Spirit may increase your faith, hope and love, and grant you spiritual strength and power, so that without fear of any imminent tribulation, you may love God and your fellow human beings sincerely; that when Christ finally comes at the Parousia, you will be accepted by Him, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.