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Come, Lord Jesus! The Meaning of Advent | Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J. | A Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, 2007 | From the November 2007 issue of
Homiletic & Pastoral Review
1st Sunday of Advent—December 2 | "A" Readings: Isa. 2:1-5 | Rom. 13:11-14 | Matt. 24:37-44
Title: The Meaning of Advent
Purpose: (1) to explain Advent as referring to the three
comings of Christ (at Bethlehem, at the end of the world, into our hearts by
grace this Christmas); (2) to encourage the faithful to try harder to lead a
good Catholic life.
The word "Advent," of course, means "coming." So in Advent
we celebrate the various comings of Jesus, the Word incarnate and God on earth.
We commemorate his coming at Bethlehem two thousand years ago, his Second
Coming at the end of the world, and his coming to us in time in our baptism and
in the reception of his sacraments, such as the Holy Eucharist. The Church
urges us to open our hearts to receive him with faith, hope and love.
Coming results in a certain presence—a more intimate
presence, since he is already present in our hearts, or should be, by his
grace. Just as we prepare for guests who come for dinner, so also the Church
bids us prepare in a special way for the coming of Christ at Christmas time. By
doing this, we prepare ourselves for his final coming—first at our death
and then at his Second Coming at the end of the world.
The readings today urge us to "stay awake," to "be prepared"
because we do not know the day or hour the Lord is coming to get us. In a very
true sense we can say, "the Lord has come, the Lord is coming, and Lord will
come again." We need to thank him, to welcome him and to wait for him.
The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming of
the Messiah, the
Anointed of the Lord, the Great King. In today's first reading Isaiah sees a
bright future in the Messianic era. He says that truth and justice will go
forth from Jerusalem to all the world. This is an image of the Church today as
the source of salvation for all mankind.
Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will impose peace on many
peoples. There shall be no more war and preparing for war: "Come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!"; that is, we must obey the Lord, believe in him and
practice virtue. This applies first of all to the faithful who have the peace
of Christ in their hearts. It does not refer to any historical time, to any
earthly utopia. Because of original sin and man's inclination to evil, there
will always be wars and rumors of wars until the final coming of Jesus on the
According to St. Matthew in today's gospel, the coming of
Jesus requires of us a decision for him and watchfulness. Any day, any moment
could be the final coming of the Lord for you and for me.
The Second Coming of the Lord will be sudden and unexpected,
like the flood in the time of Noah. Many people ignored the warnings, ridiculed
Noah for building a big boat on dry land, far from the sea. How ridiculous! But
the flood came and destroyed them, while Noah survived with his family and
The same thing will happen to all who do not heed the words
of the Lord. But God's judgment is individual, not according to groups. "Two
men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left," that is,
one will be taken into the Church and saved, and the other will be lost. "Stay
awake, therefore! You cannot know the day your Lord is coming."
The future coming of the Lord will slip quietly into the
present, undetected—like a thief in the night. So we must always be ready
for him. This means following Christ and living the Christian life seriously,
according to the measure of God's grace given to each one of us. Everything
said in the Gospel about the Second Coming also applies to us. Any day we can
meet a sudden death on a highway—and that is the final coming of Jesus as
far as we personally are concerned. So, be prepared, be watchful!
Finally, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of
the Lord. How do we prepare ourselves? By fervent and daily prayer, by being
faithful to our commitments and state in life, by practicing acts of
self-denial, by carrying our cross daily, by kindness towards others (especially
members of our family), by avoiding all sarcasm and unjust criticism of others.
Like the early Christians, we should yearn for the coming of
Christ. They prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Now he will come to us in this Mass,
offering us his body and blood in the Eucharist. Let us receive him with open
hearts and dedicate ourselves to him anew. If we can do that much, we will have
accomplished in some part what the Church bids us accomplish during this
blessed Advent of 2007. "Be prepared. The Son of Man is coming at the time you
least expect. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic
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Archbishop Fulton Sheen on Advent | From Through the Year
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Mary's Gift of Self Points the Way | Carl E. Olson
Immaculate Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
The Mystery Made Present To Us | Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J.
Remembering Father Alfred Delp, S.J., Priest and Martyr |
A Conversation with Father Karl Adolf Kreuser, S.J.
Assumed Into Mother's Arms | Carl E. Olson
Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
The Incarnation | Frank Sheed
"Born of the Virgin Mary" | Paul Claudel
The Old Testament
and the Messianic Hope | Thomas Storck
of Contradiction, Season of Redemption | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The God in the
Cave | G.K. Chesterton
Kenneth Baker, S.J., is author of the best selling Fundamentals
of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to
the Scripture, Inside
He has been editor of Homiletic
& Pastoral Review for over thirty years.
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