First Sunday of Advent
December 1, 2019 Cycle A
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s readings invite us to be vigilant and prepared to receive Jesus. In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “[I]t is the hour now for you to awake from sleep” (Rom 13:11). In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares: “[S]tay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come […] you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Mt 24:42,44).
During the Advent season, we are called to be both active and passive: active because we have to be awake and prepared for Jesus’ coming, and passive because we are waiting for him.
“To awake from sleep” means to overcome spiritual laziness, including a lack of decisiveness and a preference for entertainment over commitment. When we ride a bike we need to keep on pedaling, lest we fall off. King David chose to remain in his palace, instead of staying with his soldiers on the battlefield. His slothful attitude led him into temptation and the double sins of adultery and murder.
Since ancient times, vigils have been very important for conquering spiritual sleepiness. To stay awake late at night in prayer or wake up in the middle of the night to pray responds to Jesus’ admonition: “[S]tay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Mt 24:42).
We need to prepare ourselves: “[Y]ou also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Mt 24:44). We have to reject darkness and choose light: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12). The Book of Baruch contains the following exhortation: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on forever the splendor of glory from God.” (Bar 5:1). In today’s second reading, Saint Paul says: “[P]ut on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:14). We need to fill the void in our hearts with God’s grace and peace. Otherwise, our passions will dominate us. We must not only pray with our minds and lips; we must pray with our hearts. We need to fill our hearts with the prayer “Come, Lord Jesus.” As we pray for his coming, we glorify God and are filled with the desire to give ourselves to others. “Come, Lord Jesus” means “Show us, Lord, your love and grant us your salvation” (Alleluia verse). As we repeat this ejaculatory prayer, God’s light conquers the darkness of our hearts.
In the Gospel, Jesus says: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. (Mt 24:40). The one who will be taken will have been waiting for Jesus’ coming. While doing what he has to do, he places his hope in God alone. He lives in the moment before dawn, awaiting the morning star, like Mary before the Annunciation. As the collect prayer says, he will “possess the heavenly Kingdom.” The one who will be left will have placed his hope in what passes away.
As we begin the Advent season, let us stay awake and exercise self-control. Let us be prepared as we await Jesus. As the first reading says, “[c]ome, let us climb the Lord’s mountain […] let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Is 2:3,5) and the peace of God will be within us (cf. Ps 122:8). Amen.