Let us Clean our Hearts: First Sunday of Advent
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – First Sunday Of Advent, Year C –
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Repent! The Majesty King is Coming let us clean our Hearts
Point of Reflection: Liturgically, today as the Church, we begin a new liturgical year called YEAR C. Today in the Catholic Church is like first January, the first new day of the year. This new liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent.
The word “Advent” comes from a Latin word which means “coming.” It is a joyful period of fervent expectance and careful preparation for the birth and coming of Jesus Christ.
The prophecy of Jeremiah (Cf. Jeremiah 33:14-16) is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ who comes with power (Cf. Luke 21:25-28).
An expectant mother prepares for the arrival of her baby; a spouse prepares for their husband’s or wife’s return from a journey; a student prepares for an impending exam. Every important event in our lives is preceded by a period of expectation and preparation. The coming of Christ in majesty is an especially important event in the life of Christians. Consequently, the Church sets aside the period of Advent to aid us in our preparation for his arrival on Christmas day.
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14–16
Psalm: Psalm 25:4–5, 8–10, 14
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2
Gospel: Luke 21:25–28, 34–36
Sermon (Reflection): Today’s liturgy which is the first Sunday of the four Sundays of advent emphasises the certainty of the coming of the Lord in majesty, at an unexpected time. It also provides valuable suggestions on how to prepare for this encounter.
At the start of the new Liturgical year, and of the Advent season, the liturgy lays the foundations for the journey ahead. First, all three readings look far into the future, anticipating the arrival of a new leader through whom God will act for the restoration and salvation of his people.
For Jeremiah, this person was to be a Davidic king, who would lead his people to righteousness. Paul wrote to his newly converted Thessalonians having the Parousia of Jesus firmly in view, and the prospect of being raised to a new life and united with the Risen Lord. Luke had the same perspective on life, telling his community that at the end of time Jesus will return as the Son of Man with redemption for his disciples.
This perspective of Jesus’ return led both Jesus and Paul to instruct believers on how to wait for the Son of Man’s coming. They are to be vigilant and to expect their Risen Lord, while living a life of moral integrity, mutual love and faithfulness to Christian teaching. This expectation ought to orient and direct every believer in their journey of faith.
This journey begins anew with the start of Advent, accompanied by the prayer of the Psalmist, “lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”
Today’s first Scriptural reading is full of hope. Jeremiah visualises the emergence of a “righteous branch” which will spring up from David. David was the founder of a royal dynasty whose members had ruled Judah for three centuries. Since their leadership ended in utter failure, the prophet anticipates that God will raise a new leader, a king with Davidic roots, who will restore the nation and rule his people in justice and righteousness. This future king is described as a “righteous branch”, bearing the name “the Lord is our Righteousness”.
The image of a “branch” was used by the prophets to describe a God-sent leader and saviour, the Messiah. This new leader’s focus will be righteousness. This implies that he will lead the people to a life of righteousness, so that they can be restored, and enjoy God’s favour and protection again. Thus, Jeremiah’s new ruler will be more than a leader and restorer of a destroyed community, he will be its saviour.
In today’s second Scriptural reading, Paul looks at the life of his Christians before the return of the Lord, called the Parousia. For Paul, the Parousia is central to faith because this will be the moment when, upon his return to earth, the Risen Lord will share the gift of eternal life with believers, regardless of whether they are alive at that time, or had died earlier.
Paul insists that believers must prepare for this momentous event by pursuing holiness and living blamelessly.
Holiness can be achieved by living in mutual love, and faithfully following his apostolic teaching, which he would continue to deliver in various forms. The apostle expects his Christians, very young in the faith, to keep the return of the Lord firmly in mind and allow this perspective to shape and direct them as they continue their journey of faith.
The Gospel reading also focuses on the Parousia, described as the coming of the Son of Man. In Luke’s Gospel, this text forms a part of the eschatological discourse of Jesus (21:5-38). “Eschatology” is the study and reflection on the end of time and history. However, this end will be, in fact, a new beginning, when God will transform the entire universe. This transformation will begin with the return of God’s Son to earth.
According to Luke, the arrival of Jesus, in the appearance of “the Son of Man,” will be preceded by cataclysmic events and “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars”. Understandably, people will be terrified and “faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”
However, Luke emphasises that the followers of Christ need not fear, because these terrifying events indicate that their redemption is at hand.
Jesus cautions his disciples to be on guard because they do not know the day or the time when the Son of Man will come. They must be vigilant, to avoid being taken by surprise by this great event. Vigilance means not allowing oneself to be so absorbed in the pleasures and worries of this life, as to lose sight of Jesus’ return.
Prayer is necessary to stay alert amid life’s concerns, and to have the strength required to face fears and challenges. Jesus, like Paul after him, urged his disciples to live with a clear awareness of his return, and to prepare for it by a life of watchful discipline.
Christian Act in Word of God “Let us prepare our hearts”
The season of Advent affords us the opportunity to prepare, to commemorate and to celebrate the birthday of Christ at his first coming. The taste of an approaching Christmas for many comes as the scent of wine, cake, and fried chicken. However, for us Christians, the period of Advent always comes with a fragrance of the approaching Saviour. We get ready to commemorate his coming into this world by conscious and careful preparation aimed at being ready to welcome him into our lives yet again.
There is also another dimension to our Advent vigil, we are reminded that our life is one great Advent as we wait to encounter Christ at his second coming, when he will return to judge the living and the dead.
In view of this perspective of Christ’s arrival, today’s readings issue a clear call to holiness in anticipation of the coming of Christ in majesty. In the context of this call, there are three considerations which should guide our preparations during this season.
- First: repentance. During this period, we are called to turn away from sin and be reconciled to the Lord. Paul encourages us to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13). Herein lies the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Second: prayer. Advent is a season of fervent prayer, both personal and communal. We are encouraged to pray that we may have the strength to persevere in our faith in the midst of the trials, challenges and temptations of life.
- Finally: vigilance. The coming of the Lord ought not to catch us like a trap (Cf. Luke 21:34-35). To be vigilant is to be constantly ready. The best way to achieve such a state of constant readiness is simply to practice holiness expressed through love every day of life. No great miracles or extraordinary deeds are required of us, only faith manifested through love.
Action: As I begin the first week of Advent, I will start cleaning my heart to receive the Lord with a clean and pure heart.
Prayer: Almighty Father, as we begin this advent season, send your Holy Spirit to guide us as we prepare our hearts to receive your Son Jesus Christ on Christmas day, our hearts are restless until they rest in you, may we clean our hearts to receive the Lord, Amen.