Although we are coming towards the end of the secular year, we are just beginning our new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent in preparation for the Christmas season. This year we are going to be reading the Gospel according to Mark, but we begin in a rather surprising place – chapter 13, where just before His Passion, JESUS speaks of the end of the world and of His Second Coming. This is because during Advent we are making two acts of preparation: 1) for the First Coming of Christ at Christmas, and 2) His Second Coming at the end of time. Advent means ‘coming’.
In today’s Gospel (Mark 13:33-37), Our Lord warns us to be vigilant and to keep watch, because no one knows when Christ will return. In contrast to many false prophets who are always predicting the end of the world, JESUS never gives a date or timeline. He constantly says, “You do not know the day or the hour.” But He will come, and of that we can be absolutely certain. So we need to stay awake and watch because, “He must not find you asleep.” This is a warning to us, but it need not frighten us. If we are truly living out our faith, we are prepared to meet Our Lord. Doing God’s Will is the primary component of being watchful. A good question to ask ourselves is, “If Christ were to come right now, would I be afraid, and if so, afraid of what? Would I be running over to the confessional?” If so, that’s what you need to change. It’s what you need to work on.
I would recommend to you all spiritual reading during this time of Advent. It is a time of penance and we should be seeking God with greater zeal. Fifteen minutes spiritual reading a day can change a person. You could read the Bible, The Imitation of Christ, the life of a saint, sermons of the saints and so on. The priests will be only too willing to give suggestions if people ask. Make this a priority and say, “I’m not going to watch TV or play a computer game until I’ve done my spiritual reading or until I’ve said my Rosary.” Try and perform one act of charity each day. Ensure you receive Holy Communion worthily by making a good Confession first. As St Paul says, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Our Lord is coming on a day and a time unknown to us. Our efforts to be prepared for this encounter will most certainly be the most important thing we have ever done.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC