Are You Ready?

First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”

Isaiah 64:4a

“Are you ready for the end of the semester?” I asked a student recently. 

“I’m ready for the semester to end,” she said, “but I’m not ready for the end of the semester.”

If you identify at all with that feeling, you’ve already gotten an insight into this Sunday’s readings. That’s because the scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent are all about looking forward to the coming of the Messiah at the end of the age, and the mixed feelings we may have about that.

When Christ comes again in glory, it will be to usher in a kingdom of perfect justice and righteousness. These two words both mean  the same thing — to do what is right. 

We look around us and recognize that there is much not right in our present world — violence and war, racism and bigotry, corruption and criminality, economic crisis, diminished mental health, the breakdown of the family and a loss of respect for human life… the list goes on. So part of us longs for Christ, our merciful King and just Judge, to come and set things right. We pray like the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, “Return for the sake of your servants… O, that you would rend the heavens and come down…” (Is 63:17b, 19b). We desire an end to injustice and strife and look forward that future kingdom where peace and justice reign supreme.

And yet, at the same time, part of us fears the coming of that day. In a world of perfect peace and justice, we’re afraid that we may be tried and found wanting. Do we, with our imperfections, belong in a perfect world? Isaiah recognizes that “all of us have become like unclean people” (v. 65:5a) and asks God, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways?” (v. 63:17a). He prays, “Would that you might meet us doing right” (v. 64:4a).

Much of the injustice in the world comes from those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but a lot of injustice also comes from those who call themselves God’s friends. We in the Church are not immune from sin. In most parts of the world, Catholics live pretty much like everyone else in society. That’s a great scandal, because we are meant to be lights shining on a hill, beacons of charity, truth and goodness. All too often we hide our lamps under bushel baskets for the sake of getting along in a corrupt world.

There comes a point in every Christian’s life when we realize that even though we very much desire to be with God, we distance ourselves from God by our sins. We recognize then that we need help to overcome our sin — we need God’s grace, offered through the ministry of His Son. This is why before He comes as just Judge, God’s Son first came to us as merciful Savior. 

We have been called to fellowship with that Savior (cf. 1 Cor 1:9) and until He comes again, we are called to be faithful to His covenant of grace, leaning on His mercy, living in His love, always watchful and alert (cf. Mk 13:33) so that we may look forward to that coming day of perfect justice not with fear, but with joy.