First Sunday of Advent Gospel Lectio Divina - November 28, 2021
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 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.”
nations will be in dismay
Our faith and confidence in the protection we receive from our militaries and governments will prove to be misplaced. When Jesus comes in glory, no power on earth will be powerful enough to stop him. What can we do except despair? We can put our faith, confidence and trust in God instead, which is what Jesus has been calling us to do from the start anyway. For those who put their faith in worldly powers, the day of judgment will be dismal, a reason to be overtaken by fear. In those days, perhaps a new fear of the Lord will be the last hope for those who did not put their faith in him beforehand.
Am I putting my faith in him now? Am I preparing for the day when Jesus comes again? Or am I putting my faith in the wrong things? What is it that I turn to in order to sustain me? Is it the Lord? Let’s do all we can to prepare in this season of Advent. We don’t know when Jesus will come back. In fact, he said not even he or the angels in heaven know. Only the Father knows. All we can do is be ready. This is not meant to keep us on edge for our whole lives, or cause anxiety. On the contrary, those who love God look forward to the day their Lord and savior will return. Their preparation is one of hopeful anticipation as they fill their lives with the faith and hope God has been calling them to. Their acts of faith and love bring light to the lives of others. To wait for the Lord with this hopeful anticipation is to be holy.
your redemption is at hand.
In the midst of his message on the End Times, Jesus gives a reason to be hopeful. This is a message for life in general too, not just his Second Coming. At any point in our lives, in the midst of trials and tribulations we can still look forward to better times. When persecuted Christians endured their persecution, I imagine these words of Christ being a great comfort to them: “your redemption is at hand”. They had already experienced troubles. At certain times in history, Christians probably thought the end of the world was near due to the amount of suffering they had to experience. Jesus said they had to go through these hard times before he can come again, and that many will hate them because of him. He said blessed are the persecuted.
Through all of this hardship, Christians have hope because they know their redemption is at hand. While Jesus is truly talking about the End Times, he is also talking to every Christian who has ever suffered in his name. Their suffering was a microcosm of the Last Days, and they serve as witnesses to the hope Christ can provide during hard times. They are the role models we can look to when our time of tribulation comes--whether it’s the actual end of the world or some other kind of end.
the anxieties of daily life
There are two kinds of slothfulness; the kind where we do nothing and the kind where we don’t do what we’re supposed to be doing. The latter kind can be really tricky, because it means we can be very busy and still be slothful. Jesus is warning us about this kind of sloth. Carousing and getting drunk are understandably foolish things to be found doing when Jesus comes again, but getting caught up in the anxieties of daily life is probably the real snare for most of us. Will be be prepared? Will we be found being vigilant and praying?
Be vigilant at all times and pray ...
Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas shopping, family visits, and all the stuff we do during the holidays sure do keep us vigilant in a certain way. We can participate in these things anxiously, and lose sight of the season of Advent. Or we can use the holiday events to augment our spiritual reflection on the season. The Thanksgiving feast, the gift shopping, the traveling, and the interactions with family can all be opportunities for spiritual reflection, as we meditate on being thankful for all God has given us, and the love between family and friends. We can reflect in this way even as we busy ourselves with all the festivities. Let our gift of self to others be our prayer this holiday season. And let’s unite our vigilance to the hope of Christ coming to earth.
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36 (general reflection)
Every year at this time, we are reminded of the temporality of life on earth, and the earth itself. Jesus, the king of kings, invites all of humanity to a new heaven and a new earth. But we have to be willing to let our current world pass away. When the signs that Jesus speaks of come to pass, those who hold onto this world will be upset with Christians for saying the end is near. Christians will be persecuted probably more than ever. But Jesus will raise those who died in Christ, and save those who are living in Christ from the final judgment. In the midst of the commercialization of this Advent season, it’s very easy to lose sight of the truth that Christ is coming again. We celebrate not only his coming on Christmas day, but also the hope of his Second Coming. Let’s use the weeks leading up to Christmas to remind each other of Christ’s potent message in this Sunday’s Gospel: Be ready. Be vigilant and pray. For the Son of Man is coming.
Jesus, King of Kings,
Thank you for your mercy and your justice. Thank you for giving us the truth. We pray for all those who have not recognized you as the truth. We pray that they experience your love in a way they can understand, and come back to you before you come back to us. We pray that all will be saved, which is your hope as well. Only through your power can we have this hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Being vigilant and ready means praying constantly, and praying includes listening to God. We have to be paying attention if we are to recognize the signs when they come. We also must pay attention to the signs in our own lives, so that we notice when God is speaking to us. The readings about the End Times start the season of waiting, but they are also a training period for how we should be vigilant and pray all year.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.