―There will be signs in the sun, the moon… People will die of fright in anticipation…Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations… and to stand before the Son of Man. See today’s Gospel, Luke 21:25-28-34-36.
Advent is a time of adventure. When in the middle of an adventure you are not sure what you will discover, and so fear is a natural feeling that keeps you vigilant and alert. This is what the today’s Gospel is describing with regard to Jesus’ coming in glory. Advent, then, is a time of preparation for Christmas – Jesus Christ’s coming into the world as a vulnerable infant – but also a time of preparation for him coming in his glory to judge everyone at once – the final judgment of the na-tions.
Even Mary had the natural feeling of fear when heav-enly signs proclaimed the coming of the Christ child. Imagine praying and then having an angel show up saying, ―Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you…Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.‖ That is how the Archangel Gabriel greeted Mary as found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
Although frightened, Mary did not die of fright, because she was a prayerful young woman who entrusted her-self to God’s love and protection. Her head was bowed in prayer, and she stood her ground and welcomed the call to be at the service of God and others as the Mother of Jesus Christ. Mary said, ―Yes‖ to true love, and that love took on flesh within her to conquer all of our fears, even the fear of death.
This is God’s initial work, and this is Mary’s cooperating work. They worked together to bring Jesus into the world. Even today, here and now, Mary and the angels are surrounding us as we cooperate with God to bring Jesus into the world through our hearts, hands and voices – preeminently through the Holy Mass, the Di-vine Liturgy.
The word ―liturgy‖ comes from the Greek word that means the ―work of the people‖, and we say ―Divine Liturgy‖ when God and man work together to bring about Jesus Christ in the word and sacraments, especially in the Holy Eucharist.
The word ―Eucharist‖ comes from the Greek word meaning ―Thanksgiving‖. For we Catholic Christians, the Holy Mass is the highest form of thanksgiving be-cause Jesus is present to us Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in order to cleanse us of our sins and make our imperfect works and thanksgivings throughout the week a sacred offering to God the Father.
When Jesus Christ comes again in his glory there will be many awesome signs in the sky. And although some degree of fear is natural like Mary’s fear when the Archangel greeted her, those of us who, like Mary, practice entrusting ourselves daily in prayer to God and
his love in the morning and at night, and before our meals, are always ready for the second coming of Jesus in his glory.
Loving God by living in his sanctifying grace and following Jesus Christ conquers all of our fears, even the fear of sacrificing ourselves for God and others. That is why we work at preparing ourselves for Jesus coming at every Holy Mass, by calling to mind our sins and saying: ―Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.‖ Or sometimes in the Greek language ―Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.‖ We should not worry about the awesome signs so much as how we can continue to grow in our spiritual life of prayer and service, forgiveness, faith, hope and love.
God loves each and every one of us, and the Father and Holy Mother Church want to feed us with Jesus’ divine life in the Holy Eucharist. By weekly cooperating in God’s Divine Liturgy with Mary, our Advent will truly be an ―adventure‖ of discovering how we can stand ready before Jesus Christ—the Son of God and the son of Mary.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe