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Be Vigilant!

Scriptural Reflection – 1st Sunday of Advent – 2018 – Cycle C

                In the first reading today, through the prophet Jeremiah, we hear God reminding Israel of his promise, a promise of “a just king who can protect his people.” But we know from the history of the world that no mere man can ever be this king; no mere man can protect the people of God and be the fulfillment of this heavenly promise. Quite simply, this is something only God can do. That is why, when this promise is fulfilled, Israel, the chosen people, will call their nation,“The LORD our justice.” Now, this Just King who can protect God’s people is Our Lord, Jesus Christ; who is no mere man, but God-made-man, the Incarnate Word.Each liturgical year, beginning today, we gather as one body to recall his Incarnation and anticipate his Second Coming.

                Our task, then, is to be vigilant. To be ready for the coming of the Lord; not just for his birthday on the 25th of December, but also for his Second Coming. Now, the key to keeping vigilant is found in our Psalm today: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. To you, O Lord, we lift up our hearts. We raise our hearts to the Lord, which he helps us to raise. We learn his teachings, which he helps us to learn. And we live these teachings, which he helps us to live. We do this with all patience, waiting according to God’s time.

                From the Second Reading we hear what is at the essence of Christian conduct: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. And just what is the result of such conduct? Simply, the blameless holiness that is pleasing to Our Lord. For when we are vigilant and follow his commands, we begin to grow in union with God by the help of his grace. And this is important, because Our Lord, with all his holy ones, will come in judgment. And we must be ready, we must be vigilant.

                In the Gospel, Our Lord contrasts how people in general will respond to the end of the world and how we, his disciples, should respond. The people of the world will be dismayed, perplexed, and even die of fright. But, we, the people of the Gospel, must “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.” The end of the world, the Second Coming, can come at any time, at any moment; thus, we must be vigilant at all times, we must be ready for our judgment.

                While we must be vigilant, most of the time we are not thinking of our death or judgment. Day in and day out, we become the opposite of vigilant, we become what Christ calls ‘drowsy.’ Carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life are the cause of this drowsiness. So, then, how do we overcome this disease of the soul? Day by day, we must pursue the opposites of these sleep-inducing dangers. Orderly work is the antidote to carousing. Everyone loves a party, but the norm should be useful work, assisted by virtue, offered to God. Moderation of the desires for pleasure, which help to overcome drunkenness. The virtue of temperance regulates all our various desires for pleasure, giving some desires a red light, and others a green light at the appropriate times. Abandonment to the providence of God is the cure for the anxieties of daily life. In Matthew we read, “Do not be anxious saying, ‘what shall we eat or drink?’ For your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be yours.”

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