Happy New Year everyone. Although the world celebrates the new year in January, we as Church celebrate the start of Advent as a new year. We begin a new cycle of readings, in this year of ‘A’, the Gospel of Matthew. However, we don’t start this 1st Sun of Advent, as one might expect, with the beginning of the Gospel, instead the Church wants us to begin towards the end of Matthew’s Gospel, with the preparation of the 2nd coming. The word ‘Advent’ means ‘coming’. So indeed, the Season of Advent is about preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, but especially in the 1st couple of weeks, we focus not on preparing ourselves for the 1st coming but for the 2nd coming. Listen to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 524: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present an ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation of the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming”. We, in this age, remember the 1st advent, but are to focus our hearts and our desires for the 2nd advent, for the final coming of Christ.
To prepare ourselves for the 2nd coming, our Gospel today reminds us of the time of Noah before the Flood. “As was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. In other words, we are to read them as doing whatever they wanted to do. They were living for themselves, without any concern for anything or anyone else, especially not God. In fact, if you read from Gen. 6, right before the flood: “The Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire of his heart was anything but evil”. God’s heart grieved with the wickedness on the earth and how no desire in man’s heart was anything but evil; and so God wanted to give man and the earth a fresh start, he was going to start over. However, of all the people on the earth, one person was prepared and not caught off guard. Noah found favor with God.
Our Gospel continues, they did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Therefore, stay awake! Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come”. This season of Advent, and indeed, our entire lives, should be us preparing for the 2nd and final coming of Christ. Are you ready? Let’s reflect on our other readings to make ourselves ready.
Our 1st reading from Isaiah begins, “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills”. Obviously, Isaiah is talking about Mt. Zion, where Jerusalem and the Temple- the house of the Lord sits. However, today, I ask you to reflect on this mountain of the Lord symbolically, is the mountain of the Lord’s house really the highest mountain in your life? Is the praise and worship of God more important than anything else? Is it more important than your job, your friendships, even your own family? We all have mountains in our lives, a lot of things that take up space in our hearts. Is the Lord’s mountain the highest? If not, then something is off kilter. There is a simple way to understand this point. If the love of God is not on top, then another love is. If you have a good family, a good job, if you have wealth, security, etc, but you don’t have the love of God, if God isn’t first, then things are out of order. If the love of God is not most important in our lives, then we won’t know what to do with our other loves. But if the love of God is first, if he is the highest mountain, then we will know how to handle properly all the other goods in our lives.
Isaiah goes on to say, “All the nations shall stream toward this highest mountain”. For our reflection today, let’s consider- are all the nations in you, in me, are all the nations in us streaming toward this highest mountain? Is your professional life, family life, attuned to the Lord first and foremost? Is everything in your life directed toward the Lord? Are your family and friends streaming toward God, are they helping you keep your heart seeking God above all else? Our minds are preoccupied by many different things in the course of a day, but is our mind above all preoccupied with the things of God? Is your mind searching for the ways of God? What about your will, your passions? Are your passions and desires directed toward God? In the end, we will attain what we are truly desiring. Everything in you and I should be streaming toward Jerusalem, the highest mountain.
Our 1st reading continues, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths”. People in the ancient world went to the temple to be instructed in the law, for answers to the deepest questions of their hearts, and their lives were orientated around this instruction. Where do people today get their instructions from, particularly young people? From the media, from the internet, from music, movies. Again, these things aren’t bad in themselves, but if they hold the highest value, if they are where we find our instructions for life, then we will not be fulfilled. 75% of Catholics stay away from Church on a regular basis. Reflect on where you go to find the deepest meaning of your life? There is a commercial - 2 young men are walking through the ancient ruins of a Church. One friend says to the other, ‘people used to come to Church for answers, but now no one goes to Church’. His friend replies, ‘yea, now they go to Google, he is the god who has answers’. Such a sad commentary. Going to Church is our going to Jerusalem, it is here, the highest mountain, do we find the answers to the most important questions in life and instruction to walk in His path. Is the Church where you find your instruction to walk in the ways of God?
Finally, listen to our 2nd reading again. St Paul says, “You know the time, it is the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies or drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh”. Indeed my brothers and sisters, let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ, let Him be all around us, let Him cover our entire being.
This season of Advent is about preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. So on this journey towards the highest mountain, let us put off the works of darkness. Let us, as our opening prayer said, resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that gathered at his right hand, we may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.BACK TO LIST