My Dear People,
Today on this first Sunday of Advent we begin year C. And the Gospels on Sundays for this liturgical year are the Gospels of Luke. Jesus speaks to us of human history and his return in glory. Many of the natural signs that Jesus mentions as associated with the end of the world actually occurred and were provisionally fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70, which marked an irrevocable transition from one “world” (the Old Covenant era) to another “world” (the New Covenant era). Yet this seismic movement was also a sign and foretaste of the upheaval that will take place at the end of time, when we move from the New Covenant era, where the kingdom is manifested under mysteries perceived by faith, to the era of fulfillment, when all things will be perceived in their reality, and the kingdom will be manifested not by faith but by sight.
The great danger for disciples of Jesus is that we get sidetracked while waiting for the return of the Lord and fail either in temperance or fortitude. Failure of temperance is to give in to “carousing and drunkenness,” that is, to just start seeking physical pleasures and comforts in this temporary life. Failure of fortitude is to succumb to “anxieties of daily life.” The struggle of the Christian life is to capitulate neither to fear nor pleasure as we wait for our Lord to return for us.
Our Lord’s words here remind us of the parable of the sower and seed, in which there were four classes of people: those “on the path,” who never receive the seed/word; those who are shallow soil, who cannot withstand tribulation; those who are the thorny soil, who give in to “cares of the world” and “delight in riches” (Matt 13:22, RSVCE); and finally, those who are the good soil, who produce fruit. Notice the same twofold trap that snares those who are almost to the point of being fruitful: fear (cares) and pleasure (delight).
Jesus warns that tribulations will precede the coming of the Son of Man “in a cloud with power and great glory.” This is a reference to the vision of the end times in Daniel 7. The “Son of Man” is the one who receives the kingdom of the whole earth. Reading the Scriptures synthetically, we realize that the Son of David was promised a universal kingdom (see Ps. 2:6-12; 89:25-27). Jesus is both the Son of Man and “shoot of David” promised in our first Reading.
First World Christians perhaps do not quite take seriously the reality that the Christian life is a struggle that requires exertion and sacrifice. In some parts of the First World, Christianity has been part of a comfortable cultural phenomenon, and the attitude has been a sanguine one that pretty much everyone goes to heaven as long as you don’t do anything “really bad” like mass murder.
Jesus doesn’t describe the path to salvation in terms like this at all. He constantly says it is difficult and implies or states that many will try and fail to enter “the kingdom of heaven” (See Luke 13:24 and Matt. 7:14). We can choose to believe, either Jesus, or the contemporary prophets, or optimism concerning the nature of the path to heaven. I would recommend taking Jesus’s words with utmost seriousness since He probably has more personal experience of the realities under discussion than modern theologians and intellectuals.
Jesus’s words to us are “be vigilant at all times.” That is a lifestyle of attentiveness that we should live each day as if it could be our last, knowing that Jesus may come for all of us—or just for one of us personally—at an hour we do not expect. Vigilance means a lifestyle of prayer, temperance in physical pleasures (including acts of mortification), fortitude (courage in the face of persecution). And love (self-sacrificial giving). These are the “ways of the Lord” in which he instructs us. He gives us his Spirit to enable us to live inthis superhuman fashion.
[Reflections from John Bergsma, The Word of the Lord]
Note; some people will be making a consecration to Jesus through Mary on December the 8th. So, I chose to have the Mass at 5:30 PM on the day of the Immaculate Conception instead of the Vigil. Those who normally come to the vigil may come to the Mass on the Feast Day.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente