Advent – reminder of our dignity and destiny as children of God

      On Sunday, we begin a new Church year with the hope-filled and joyous season of Advent. This season encourages us to look to the future with confidence because our good, loving, and merciful God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him. God loved us into being and continues to watch over us with His loving Providence. God did not abandon us in our sinfulness, but in His merciful love sent His eternally begotten Son Jesus who, in turn, gave Himself in love for us unto death so that we might live in God’s love and look forward to life everlasting.

      The last two weeks of Advent are meant to help us prepare for the celebration of Christmas, the greatest manifestation of God’s love when He sent His Son to be our Savior and our Way to everlasting happiness.

      During the first two weeks of Advent, we prepare for Jesus’ definitive coming at the end of time in glory to judge the living and the dead.

      While each person will come before God after death and be rewarded in accordance with his or her works and faith, the Last Judgment will occur when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour. At that time, Christ, who is Truth itself, will reveal the truth of each person’s relationship with God.

      Jesus will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall come to know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation, redemption, and the marvelous ways by which God led everything toward its final end. After that universal judgment, the righteous will reign forever with Christ, glorified in body and soul.

      In Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah, Chapter 63, the prophet prays:  “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Isaiah pleads for God’s saving love:  “Oh Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter:  we are the work of your hands.”

      We turn to God with hope and trust. Just as we grow and change physically, so we beg God to help shape us spiritually into someone truly beautiful, reflecting God’s own image and likeness.

      Wonderful things can happen to us, even in very trying circumstances, when we surrender ourselves to our merciful and loving God. We need not approach life with fear or anxiety. With Isaiah, we pray that God will give us the grace to smooth over our rough edges and help us correct what needs correcting in our lives. God has blessed us very richly, especially with the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. But we are still far from perfect. With serenity, we ask God to intervene in our lives and to mold us more deeply in His love, to help us conform our minds, hearts, and wills in accordance with His.

      Our Responsorial Psalm expresses again our hope in our loving God:  “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” In the verses, we invoke God again:  “Rouse your power, and come to save us…give us new life, and we will call upon your name.”

      Sunday’s Gospel passage is taken from St. Mark. Jesus has just left the temple in Jerusalem and will soon begin His passion for us and for our salvation. He has foretold this to His disciples. Jesus now tells a story about the coming of God as judge at the end of human history. Jesus urges us to be ready for God’s coming and not waste our precious time trying to figure out just when it will occur.

      The important thing for us is to “Be watchful! Be alert!” Three times in the brief Gospel passage, Jesus admonishes “Watch!” We can become spiritually lazy, morally lax, and absorbed in the lures and cares of the world. Jesus reminds us that we are God’s children and stewards of His gifts. Our primary vocation is to live in response to God’s love and to share His love with our neighbor.

      Advent calls us back to fundamentals. Why did our loving God create us? Advent reminds us of our dignity and destiny as children of God. We have every reason to be optimistic and hope-filled people. We have every reason to be people of joy. We base our joy, optimism, and hope on God’s faithfulness and love, on the assurance that He remains with us in all that we do every day of our lives.

      The Father sent His beloved Son to save us and to show us the way to true joy, sharing in His life and love. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to abide within us and to empower us to meet the challenges of life. Jesus also holds out to us the promise of everlasting happiness:  “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). Thus, we celebrate these Advent weeks with great hope and much joy!


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