Father Donald Senior, CP

Dec. 3: First Sunday of Advent

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Is 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7; Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37

For reasons lost in history, Cincinnati, Ohio, considers itself the chili capital of the world, with over 180 chili parlors within its city limits. The basic, most authentic form of Cincinnati chili is when it is served “three way,” that is, chili with spaghetti and cheese (one can go on to get it five-way but that is another story). 

This may be a terrible way to segue into a reflection on Advent but there is a connection. Advent celebrates the coming of Christ three ways. 

First of all, during Advent we prepare for Christmas, the incredible conviction that in the conception and birth of Jesus God so loved the world that the divine has become one with us. Beneath the tinsel and shopping frenzy, those who believe understand we do have a reason for Christmas joy: God has embraced us. 

As human beings we have become sacred, even in our frailty. Paul in this Sunday’s reading from 1 Corinthians reminds his fellow Christians of “the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way.”

But there is another dimension to Advent and it is also apparent in the readings for this Sunday. We reflect on the final destiny of our human family — the end of the long future when the God of love and mercy will bring the world to its completion. We Christians speak of this as the “second coming of Christ.” We believe that history has a purpose and meaning. The ultimate future is not one of defeat and destruction but of renewal and completion. 

We are urged to live lives of hope and integrity, lives worthy of the future to which God is calling us. Paradoxically for us as Christians, in the midst of a season when the secular world around us tries to pump up joy (and spending), we are also called to repentance, to resolve to change our lives in the direction that God calls us. Isaiah prays that God will mold us into new human beings, worthy of God’s love: “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.” The psalm response from Psalm 80 earnestly prays, “Lord make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

And there is a third dimension to Advent that celebrates the coming of Christ neither in the distant past or the unknown future, but in our everyday lives. We believe the promise of the Risen Christ in the final words of Matthew’s Gospel: “I will be with you always, until the end of time.” Christ will never abandon us and comes to us often in mysterious and unanticipated ways in the midst of our ordinary experience. 

Finding courage and strength when we are facing serious illness; receiving Christ’s wisdom and comfort in the understanding words of a spouse or friend; being able to summon up patience and forgiving love when exasperated by a wayward child; allowing ourselves to be moved by someone’s desperate need for our help; finding the strength to turn away from degrading others by indulging in pornography or coarse ways of speaking about other human beings.  

The Gospel reading is from Jesus’ final discourse to his disciples in the Gospel of Mark. We will be hearing selections from this Gospel throughout the Sundays of the coming year. Mark’s Gospel was most likely written for the Christian community in Rome, at a time when it was still reeling from the persecution it had suffered under Nero. 

There is a no-nonsense atmosphere in this Gospel, as in today’s reading. Jesus tells his disciples to “stay awake,” be “alert.” Be ready to respond with courage and faith when we face the challenges of everyday life. We should be alert and ready, for the “Lord of the house is coming.” This Advent we are urged not to be morally “asleep” but awake and poised to be authentic followers of Jesus and to respond with love and justice to whatever challenge life may bring to us.