"Be Vigilant At All Times" | A Reflection on the First Sunday of Advent | Carl E. Olson | November 29, 2009"Be Vigilant At All Times" | A Reflection on the First Sunday of Advent | Carl E. Olson | November 29, 2009



Jer. 33:14-16
Psa. 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thess. 3:12—4:2
Lk. 21:25-28, 34-36

An advent is a coming; it literally means "to come to." Advent anticipates the coming—or comings—of the Son of Man: in his Incarnation two thousand years ago, in his future return in glory, and in the mystery of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming" (par. 524). This summarizes well the themes of today's readings.

The prophet Jeremiah lived during one of the most difficult and troubled times of the ancient Near East and of Judah, from c. 629-587 B.C. Facing numerous discouragements and trials, he continually proclaimed the true nature of God and warned Judah and her leaders of the defeats that would come as punishment for failing to obey and worship God. He also spoke of the restoration of Jerusalem, the holy city—a restoration that would come at the hand of "a just shoot" of King David. Jeremiah referred back to the great covenant made with David (2 Sam. 7), in which God promises the king, "I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name."

It was Jesus, of course, who perfectly fulfilled this promise to David and the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jesus established the Church, which is the "household of God" (1 Tim. 3:15) and the seed and beginning of His kingdom. And it was his death and resurrection that established the foundation for the New Jerusalem, "the city of my God" (Rev. 3:12). Baruch, likewise, foresaw a new Jerusalem and a restored Temple.

Just as Jeremiah exhorted the people of Judah to be holy, Psalm 25—a psalm of King David—acknowledges both the necessity of holiness and man's inability to achieve righteousness without the guidance and instruction of God, the Lord and Savior. David's prayer is filled with anticipation—"for you I wait all the day"—and worship—"To you, O Lord, I lift my soul"—echoing and reinforcing the meaning of Advent.

Likewise, Saint Paul, in what is probably the earliest book of the New Testament (c. A.D 51), urged the Christians at Thessalonica to grow in divine love for those in the Church and for all men. This love is shown in conduct pleasing to God, and it prepares those who are children of God for the coming of Jesus, which Paul had mentioned twice earlier (1:10; 2:19).

The Gospel reading makes a connection between the first coming of the Son and his second coming. On one hand a contrast is implied between the first coming, which was quiet and hidden, and the second coming, which will be "with power and great glory." But this contrast isn't meant to separate the two, since Jesus' return is a completion and fulfillment of his birth. Rather, the two events are part of the same Incarnational reality—that God became man in order to save and to judge, to die and to rise from the dead, to bring hope and to bring judgment (cf. CCC 1038-1041).

Luke 21 begins with the disciples asking Jesus about the fate of the temple in Jerusalem (v. 5-7). Jesus' prophetic discourse covers a number of interrelated topics, including the times prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the actual fall of the city, and the days of the Son of Man, from which today's readings are taken. Jesus draws upon prophetic language that would have been familiar to his listeners, referring to upheaval in the heavens, on earth, and in the sea as a way of depicting the fall of nations, rulers, and kings (cf. Isa. 13:9-11).

Those who are not part of the kingdom of God, established by Jesus, will be fear the coming of the Son of Man, while those who are redeemed will recognize that salvation is at hand. During Advent we also stand on earth before the Son of Man, receiving him with prayer and worship—especially in the Eucharist—renewing our ardent desire to dwell one day in the New Jerusalem.

(This "Opening the Word" column originally appeared in a slightly different form in the December 3, 2006, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

Related Articles, Interviews, and Links:

The Mystery Made Present To Us | Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J.
Remembering Father Alfred Delp, S.J., Priest and Martyr | A Conversation with Father Karl Adolf Kreuser, S.J.
"All of life is Advent": On the life and death of Alfred Delp, S.J. | Abtei St. Walburg
Remembering a Priest and Martyr: On the Ordination Anniversary of Alfred Delp, S.J. | Abtei St. Walburg
Faithful Even Unto Death: The Witness of Alfred Delp, S.J. | Fr. Albert Mnch
On Advent and Eternity | Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Two for Advent | Carl E. Olson

Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.

He is the co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? He has written for numerous Cathlic periodicals and is a regular contributor to National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor newspapers. He has a Masters in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas.

He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California with his wife, Heather, their two children, two cats, and far too many books and CDs. Visit his personal web site (still stuck in the middle of a major overhaul) at www.carl-olson.com.

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