THEME: THE COMING OF THE LORD
READINGS: Jer. 33:14-16 / 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2/ Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
1st Sunday of Advent
The prophet Jeremiah announced that God’s promise of salvation would be fulfilled through a descendant of David (Jer. 33:14-16). Jesus Christ is the descendant of David through whom God’s promise is fulfilled.
Whereas many in Israel knew that God’s promise of salvation would be fulfilled through a descendant of David and that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem, they failed to recognize Him when He first came.
Therefore, in the Season of Advent while the Church reminds us that Jesus will come again, she cautions us against the mistakes of those who failed to recognize Him at His first coming. She, then, encourages us to be ever prepared so that we can joyfully welcome our Lord at His second coming.
Yes, as recorded in today’s gospel reading, Jesus did say that there would be signs preceding His second coming (Luke 21:25). However, the mention of conflicts and wars as part of these signs (Luke 21:9-11) has led many to mistakenly see certain wars (e.g. First World War, Second World War, etc.) as indications that Jesus was coming soon. It is already a century since the end of the First World War and over seven decades since the end of the Second World War and yet the Lord has not arrived.
Now, let us fast-forward to recent times. About a year ago, many thought that a nuclear war was imminent as they heard the rhetoric of the President of the USA and the President of the Republic of North Korea. As a result, some thought that was a sign of the end of the world and the coming of Christ. However, they were soon surprisingly proved wrong as the two Presidents held a diplomatic summit.
While the anxiety of a possible nuclear war still tarried, the President of the USA announced the relocation of their Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This gave the occasion to some pastors to falsely prophesy that the end of the world and the coming of Jesus would soon happen.
The above highlights of some events of the past hundred years are more than adequate to inform us that many people have not understood Jesus’ message about the signs preceding His coming and the actual day of His coming. In the first place, Jesus says that the end of the world and His coming do not immediately follow the signs: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately” (Luke 21:9, NRSV). Secondly, He says that no one, not even the angels or Himself, knows the day or hour of His coming (Mark 13:32).
Now, if we consider the second coming of the Lord as the day for an examination whose date is not known, we could learn about what we should not do as well as what we should do to pass the examination of our salvation. On the one hand, we should not be like students who do not prepare for their examinations because they think they can have access to leaked examination papers. Many of such students end up being tricked to buy fake papers believing that they are leaked papers. Similarly, we should not be anxious or obsessed about signs of the Lord’s coming.
Furthermore, we should not run after those who parade themselves as the authentic interpreters of the signs – those who portray themselves as if they have received a direct message of prophecy from the Lord, while they are merely selling “fake leaked examination papers” of salvation. Neither should we allow ourselves to be confused by such fake pastors or spiritual forecasters. Jesus has forewarned us against such fake personalities. He said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am He!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them” (Luke 21:8).
On the other hand, we should be like students who, being very well prepared for their examinations, desire no leaked papers, but rather confidently await the examination day. Therefore, instead of anxiety and obsession about the signs of the Lord’s coming, let us, first and foremost, always remember and confidently trust in the Lord’s statement that no one, not even Himself, knows the day or hour of His second coming.
Secondly, let us employ God’s grace to prepare daily for the coming of Jesus. Here we can take an inspiration from today’s second reading: “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all …. And may He so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thess. 3:12-13). It should be clear here that a good preparation for the Lord’s coming begins with and is accomplished with God’s grace; for it is the Lord who grants the increase. Hence, St. Paul prayed for the Thessalonians saying, “may the Lord make you increase”. Secondly, the above text reveals two of the key indicators for a good preparation – namely, to love others and to be holy.
Beloved, if we consider the grace of God as the tuition we receive from our Divine Teacher, then love and holiness are the two core subjects in which we shall be examined. Finally, therefore, it is my prayer that we shall be like good students who are in no way interested in leaked examination papers but who seriously receive the tuition of God’s grace and apply ourselves to the study and exercises of the subjects of love and holiness. May the Lord find us well prepared for His coming. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis