READINGS: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21: 25-28; 34-36.
Today we begin Advent, a sacred time granted to us for preparation of the Solemnity of Christmas. As most of us will spend frantic hours and days in preparation for family celebrations during this season so we need to prepare our heart, mind, and will to receive the graces of this time.
Today’s readings- meant to further our preparation by causing reflection on topics which often we would prefer to ignore- offers us two themes for consideration: first, from First Thessalonians, we are reminded of the need to love others, and secondly Luke tells us to always be prepared spiritually.
Love, or at least the word, is frequently used today though often its referent is not sacrifice and self-giving but fleeting emotions. St. Paul reminds us to love as Christ does. In other words, we are called to suffer for and with others. How do we do this? There are a variety of practical ways in which we can do this in daily life: through compassion for a suffering friend; by demonstrating patience with someone whom we find tedious; with a generous spirit to the poor, and praying for others. In other words, allowing the Holy Spirit to mold us daily ever more into the likeness of Christ (which makes us a clearer ‘image of God’).
The preparation which Luke speaks about may seem quite scary as it is peppered with warnings about the confusion and violence of the End of Days. Many today think they see apocalyptic signs in the chaos of our world but we are counseled by Scripture that ‘no one knows the hour’. With the violence, fearfulness, and uncertainly of our time (whether a result of human mistakes or planned by the oligarchs) it is easy to feel depressed and abandoned by God but Luke reminds us of the need to hold on to Christ and the Church. Hold on to faith and never give up living with love or abandon hope. But our preparation is not just for some distant End of Days but a reminder that each of us will die. We need to prepare for our end not with wailing and moaning but in how we live each day- trying to love and follow the teachings of Christ rather than becoming absorbed in fear, money, status, sex, or power.
Self-emptying love and preparation are two themes to ponder today. How do I love? And am I prepared for my own death to meet the Lord? Questions worth considering as part of our preparation for Christmas.
Mission Doctors love by emptying themselves of comfort and past life in order to serve and heal God’s poor so please support them through prayer and donations. Happy First Sunday of Advent!
Br. John Kiesler, OFM