REFLECTION FOR 30/11 First Sunday of Advent (B)

Reflections for November are by Archbishop Donald Reece, Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston



Waiting can be an exasperating or “nail-biting” experience.  We wait anxiously for the arrival of a new, healthy baby; we wait with much exasperation for improvement in political conditions and governance that will enhance the quality of life in terms of education, healthcare, and adequate housing.  Furthermore, we wait for the coming of a new, global social order when justice will flow like a river and people of all cultures, creeds and races will see one another as brothers and sisters enjoying a common humanity. 

This season of Advent is no exception, for liturgically we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into our world; it is he who can satisfy every quest of our being. We consider three aspects of Christ’s coming: when he will come again to judge the living and the dead; when he will come liturgically to enable us to re-live his First Coming as a Babe in Bethlehem; and when he comes as a moment of grace through Prayer, Word and Sacrament.

The Second coming.  In the Gospel, Jesus advises us that we must be on our guard and to stay awake at all times, for we know neither the day nor the hour. Even though he says that not even the son of man knows the exact time (he speaks only of his human nature), nevertheless, not a few Christians stress themselves out with the useless preoccupation of the exact dates of the Parousia.  Such useless preoccupation—which is certainly not the Catholic position—could be an excuse to avoid getting involved with the here and now of Christian living. Jesus likens his present absence and his return to a man going abroad leaving his servants to be vigilant and to be proper stewards of his household.  How do we wait, we who are his disciples entrusted with caring for his household—be it in a family setting, or in the parochial or diocesan family, the Church?  Do we wait anxiously as servants, forgetting what Jesus says elsewhere in scripture: “I no longer call you servants, but friends”[John 15:15]?

Therefore, the secret of awaiting the second coming without anxiety or fear, is to discern and wanting to do the will of God. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we can deduce that doing God’s will of God is the essence of our sanctification.  Hence, Advent is the time when we take inventory of our doing God’s will.  For this Isaiah is spot on: God is the Potter and we are the clay.  However, given the prevailing mentality in the world of mere “self-realization”—which is catching, if we are not careful—we unconsciously reverse these roles to our spiritual detriment.  We would want to make God in our own image and likeness!

The First Coming at Bethlehem.  We do well to observe and celebrate the first coming, more than 2,000 years ago.  Why is it that important?  We are reminded of the beginning of the Greatest Love Story ever told: the Incarnation of the Son of God.  Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of Blessed Mary, assumed our humble human nature and identified with us in all things, save sin.  One Church Father put it this way: “God became man, so that man might become (like unto) God.”

We marvel at the immensity of God’s infinite love for sinful humanity, for notwithstanding our waywardness, God our Father “so loved the world that he sent his only Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” [John 3: 16]. Truly, this First Coming is entitled “The Greatest Love Story” that ultimately culminates in the Paschal Mystery—the death, resurrection and ascension of the God-Man!

The “In-between Coming of Grace.”  Straddling the First and Second Coming of Jesus is what could be called the “in-between coming of grace.”  In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks about this grace and peace from Christ Jesus who will keep us who are waiting until the last days.  We who are waiting for the visitation of God in our lives ought to consider ourselves like clay still being moulded in the hand of the Potter. This is indeed a graced moment, and a veritable encounter of the “I” and “Thou,” which leads to a conversion of life and a deepening of relationship with God.

Prayer. “Lord, this consoling understanding of your visitation at anytime, demands that we ought to stay awake, for you, Lord, impart your grace and loving Presence in and through all circumstances of life. Let us remember the words of scripture: ‘For those who love God, all things work together unto good’ [Rom 8:28].Amen.