The Jitters of the Last Day

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 63:16B-17, 19B; 642-7

You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. The Church continues to prepare for the coming of the Lord, in terms of both his first coming as our Savior and his return in glory as our Judge. Those of us who have been paying attention cannot but notice the strong flavor of eschatological imminence that has characterized the scriptural readings of the recent weeks:

• Prepare well for the Lord, who will bring those who have fallen asleep with him upon his return; don’t make the mistake of the foolish ones in the parable of the ten virgins (2nd reading and Gospel, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time).
• Stay alert! The Lord will “come like a thief at night” (1 Thes 5:2); in his final judgement, He will hold us accountable for all the gifts that we have received from Him (2nd reading and Gospel, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time).
• On the Last Day, Jesus will judge us according to our works of charity. The righteous ones will go to his right and receive eternal life; the evil ones will go to his left and suffer eternal punishment (Gospel, Christ the King).

On this First Sunday of Advent, the imminence of the Lord’s Day takes on a new urgency. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come,” Jesus tells his disciples (Mk 13:33). St. Paul also implores God to keep the Corinthian church “firm to the end” so that they will be “irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8).

The metaphors used in the Scriptures to explain Christ’s second coming are many and varied. In addition to those mentioned above, the more popular ones are: stone hewn from a mountain that broke up the statue of iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold (Daniel 2); “One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13); natural disasters, wars, persecutions of Christians (Lk 21:10-28); the two beasts from the sea and the earth (Rev 13), the new Jerusalem (Rev 21), etc.

Of all the amazing images that the Scriptures use to disclose the concluding chapter of all human history – a chapter so irresistible and yet so unfathomable to the human mind – the most intriguing one is that of the Lamb being united with his bride in a joyous heavenly feast (cf. Rev 19). The bride, wearing “a bright, clean linen garment” (Rev 19:8), is ready. The Lamb, with eyes “like a fiery flame”, “many diadems” on his head, and a cloak soaked with blood on his body (Rev 19:12-13), is somehow depicted as glorious and victorious. This somewhat bizarre image, of course, is the Book of Revelation’s rendition of the sweet bridal union of the Church with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the end.

The Lamb, slain but standing (cf. Rev 5:6), has been enthroned to receive honor and glory (cf. Rev 5:6, 12; 3:21). The bride, married to the Lamb and one in unity with Him, is already a heavenly reality even if she continues to traverse in this world order as the Church and the Mystical Body of Christ. As we celebrate the beginning of another Advent season, we must, on the one hand, follow St. Paul’s advice to “stay alert and sober”, knowing that the final curtain of this long human drama is about to come down at any moment (1 Thes 5:6). On the other hand, we also must remember our one-flesh union with Christ and stay hopeful every time we receive the Eucharist. Fear not! For wherever the Head goes, his Body follows. It is the whole Christ – the Mystical Body together with the Head – that is taken into heaven. “[A]s the Head cannot be separated from the members, so the members cannot be separated from the Head,” explained Pope Leo the Great. The fact of the matter is: heaven already belongs to us! Stay in communion with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, and we will receive “the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:8)!

Posted: December 3, 2017

Edmond Lo

As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog:

Other Sunday Reflections

When the Word of God Is Proclaimed
Can we feel the awesome power of the Word that is enough to crush our pride and literally wrestle our bodies down to prostrate to the ground? Continue Reading >
Being Healed of Passivity
The point of today’s homily is that the Father wants us to become more active as persons, because we tend towards passivity. We want a better life, but we want… Continue Reading >
“Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5)
Mary is our advocate who will intercede for us, even without our asking. So, we too, must be steadfast and faithful in doing whatever Jesus tells us to do all… Continue Reading >