(Based on the Catholic Lectionary Readings for the First Sunday of Advent: Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes. 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)
For Advent Luke’s gospel prepares us for the trials that we will face. While Luke describes the worst that can happen, there is hope that our redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of everyday life” (Lk 21:34). The drunkenness and carousing are obvious and churches have been complaining about these vices for centuries.
The key is preparing our hearts for the anxieties of life. In Mark’s gospel Jesus does and says things that harden people’s hearts. He did this to the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the scribes who wanted to put him to death. But he also had to deal with the hardening of the hearts of the Apostles and others who were astounded by his deeds, but recoiled at the consequences of his teachings.
Jesus called his followers to reach outside themselves to people that they did not want to meet or deal with like the Gentiles, the lepers, the prostitutes and the tax collectors. They wanted to share in Jesus’ glory, but not carry the cross. It was beyond their comprehension to believe that Jesus would be crucified at the height of his power. They wanted Jesus to create a world that mirrored their own hopes and desires. But the key would be for his followers to soften their hearts.
Today Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, tells us how prepare our hearts. We must increase and abound our love for each other and for all (3:12). First, we must love one another in a way that does not concern all the needs of ourselves as the utmost importance. We love those we are expected to love and we accept the love that they give us in return. Without appearing too idealistic, we must forgive the church and those close to us when they hurt and lets us down.
The second is to love all. We Christians are to spread the gospel to all people and the way we do that is through love. I believe the holiness that Paul is describing comes from the ability to love those who do not expect it from us. Jesus showed us how to do this in his actions toward the people’s lives he entered. If we can treat people in the same way, the grace of God will flow between us. By doing this we will be pleasing to God. While at the same remembering that the world will not react in the way we wish.
The promise that comes from Jeremiah, Paul, and the Gospels is that God is preparing us for the restoration of the Kingdom that was promised to David, the Jews, and the followers of Jesus. God is preparing the world for this restoration.
For this Advent season, will God find in our hearts the fertile soil for the seeds of God’s Kingdom that are planted in the world? Will these seeds produce much fruit?
–Brother Jim Fogarty, BSL
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