By Kay Temple
Advent is a time of preparation. Most of us in our daily lives spend time preparing — what to make for supper, attending baptismal classes to prepare for the baptism of a baby and so on. During this past year or so, we have been preparing for the implementation of the new Roman Missal.
The meaning of the word “Advent” in Latin is “coming.” During the liturgical season of Advent we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the second coming of Christ. During the four weeks before Christmas, the readings will remind us of our ancestors and their history with God. We learn about their struggles and celebrations. We are shown that despite their shortcomings and failures, God is full of love and ready to forgive those who ask.
Each of the readings for the First Sunday of Advent is about communities and their interactions with God. The first reading from Isaiah was written after the Babylonian exile. Many of the Israelites had been worshipping false gods and idols. They acknowledge that they know there is only one true God who has communicated with his chosen people. “No one has ever heard, no eye has ever seen, any God but you.” They know they have sinned and want to reestablish a relationship with God. They will no longer turn their backs on God so that he will care for them once again. The people do blame God for allowing them to stray from the path of righteousness. They feel abandoned and seek God’s intervention. With a spirit of humility, they turn to God knowing he can help them. It is with his assistance that they will succeed and move forward. “We are the clay and you are the potter. We are all work of your hands.”
The psalm is one of the community laments — poetry written about God’s relationship with the Israelites. The psalmist refers to God as their shepherd and a keeper of the vines. God is described as having patience and dedication as do shepherds and those cultivating vines. Shepherds must watch that each sheep remains with the herd; vines must be constantly watched so that they grow to maturity. The people are asking God to once again look favorably on them, his chosen people, to intervene and change their situation.
The reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians was to remind the people that they need to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Corinthians knew the message of Jesus through his life and death and that he had promised to come again. In St. Paul’s greeting, he reminds them of the spiritual gifts they have been given and to continue leading their lives remembering what they have been taught. “So that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” All members, as part of the community, must continue to work together with the talents given to them to continue the message of Jesus as they await the parousia, the second coming of Christ.
In the Gospel reading, Mark warns that everyone needs to be prepared for the second coming of Christ since only the Father knows when this will be. Followers of Jesus are not to be misled by speculation as to when the end is at hand. They are to continue their work, committed to living as Jesus taught, by helping each other and remaining faithful to God so that they will share in the heavenly kingdom.
The message from these readings continues to be relevant for us today. As baptized followers of Christ, we are all called to continue the message of Jesus. If we are leading lives as Jesus asks of us, we are continuing to prepare ourselves daily for the second coming of Jesus Christ. By sin we distance ourselves from God. By asking for forgiveness and a change in our lives, God will be there for us. Advent is a time to prepare ourselves, to remember that at Christmas God shows us just how much he truly loves his people.
(Kay Temple is a member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and a master of ceremony for Bishop Martin Amos. She is working on a Master of Arts Degree in theology at Loras College in Dubuque.)