“You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not”? (Is 63: 16-17)
Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we start a new Year—a Catholic liturgical year. We will go deeper and deeper during this year to understand who Our God is and who we are. His first message to us is that He is our Father and our Redeemer. And this is His name forever. How different our lives will be when we do not “harden our hearts” to believe in this?
“Show us Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” (Gospel Acclamation)
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21: 36)
We have our complicated ideas and “know how” strategies to find time for prayer. From Our Lord’s perspective this should be very simple: “be vigilant at all times and pray.” It means there is never a bad time or even a lack of time for prayer. It needs only our being “vigilant”: free, creative and joyful.
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” (Gospel Acclamation)
“… in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.,, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Lk 21: 31.33)
Our Lord reminds us that in every situation, in every circumstance, before anything happens, His loving presence is there with us; secondarily only are “these things happening”. His loving presence comes through His words which “will not pass away.” When “things” happen, we can always take His words into our hands and our hearts and trust His power more then the “power” of “these things.”
“The designs of his Heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death and to keep them alive in famine.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21: 28)
“These signs” are not important in this story but the presence of Our Lord—“the Son of Man,” who is coming, and our “redemption [which] is at hand.” The Gospel invites us to “stand erect and raise” our heads and focus on Him, not on signs. He brings us redemption and shows us the way to God.
“Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts, always thanking God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” (Lk 21: 14-15)
Our Lord defends us and supports us with His wisdom all the time, especially when we are sent to be His witnesses and to give testimony. The same happens when we are our own persecutors in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation—He comes as a Defender and Comforter, not as a judge or persecutor. When we are defenders like He Himself, we can bring new hope and new opportunities to our brothers and sisters.
“The Lord speaks of peace to his people and his holy ones and to those who turn to him.” (Entrance Antiphon)
“All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Lk 21: 6)
We have a tendency to build our safety on “solid” constructions: my profession, my job, my bank account, my savings, my home and property. Jesus reminds us to build on Him, on His word and on His love. St. Faustina’s message to us for these and the final days is the same: “Jesus, I trust in You!”
“Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Gospel Acclamation)
“I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” (Lk 21: 3-4)
It is very good if we have more than others and we can “put in” to support them, but sometimes “more” doesn’t mean only more money: “this poor widow put in more than all the rest.” Sometimes “more” means the ability to be an unconditional gift of self–when we are focused on another person not on ourselves, or when we can offer 5 minutes of our precious time, one phone call or a nice complement just to make her/him (even “more”) happy.
“Stay awake! For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.” (Gospel Acclamation)
“Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep…. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.” (Ez 34: 11-12.15-16)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, is my Shepherd—He Himself. He gives us rest, and when we are lost, He seeks us out; when we stray, He brings us back; when we are injured, He binds us up; when we are sick, He heals us, and He shepherds us rightly. This is the real meaning of being the King of the Universe. We are His Universe; being with us and for us is His Kingdom, and when we have a special need, all His attention is focused on us.
“The Lord sits as King for ever. The Lord will bless his people with peace.” (Communion Antiphon)
“…he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20: 38)
Again Good News for every person, for you and for me: “to him all are alive.” Even if we feel entirely lifeless – with no hope, no future and no forgiveness for us. This is not true; we are His children, and no one is forgotten. Our ancestors who died are with Him. After death there is still life, though in a different place – with the final fullness of life.
“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel.” (Gospel Acclamation)
“The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.” (Lk 19: 47-48)
Some of the people “were hanging on his words” and some “were seeking to put him death”—this situation reflects the complicated nature of human beings. On one side stand “the leaders of the people” and on the other side stand “all the people.” When we forget to hang on Our Lord’s words, we are in danger.
“My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.” (Gospel Acclamation)