MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER.
The Challenge of Advent
"Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” St. Matthew xxi. 9.
Advent, as a season, didn’t develop until around the year AD 490 in the country of Gaul, now known as France. Like Lent, a time of spiritual preparation for Easter, Advent, too, is a time of spiritual preparation – to prepare for the birth of the Christ Child. Advent was first called St. Martin’s Lent and began on November 11th, the feast-day of St. Martin of Tours. But unlike Lent’s notes of penance and sadness at the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord, Advent has an underlying current of joyful anticipation and expectation; it reminds us why Jesus was born in the first place! The season of Advent reveals to us that it is not just one Coming that we await, but three! It is a historical reminder of the birth of Jesus – God breaking into our human history and existence; taking on our mortal flesh and becoming God with us – a past event that we are called to commemorate. Advent also calls us to the present; how Jesus comes into our heart and is truly present with us when we hear God’s Word and when we receive His Sacred Body and Blood in the Eucharist. And finally, Advent also points to the future – the Second Coming of Our Lord called the Parousia, when the fullness of God’s reign on earth will be established at the end of time as we know it and we will be gathered into His nearer Presence forever. It is through these three realities of past, present, and future that the fullness of the Advent message is found; joy, in the redemption that has come to us in the Incarnation of God in our human past; nourishment, growth, and salvation in Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Saviour in the present time; and awe before the Judgment that awaits. All three of these dimensions combine and become for us eternally present realities made manifest during Advent. It is precisely because of this message that Advent calls us to slow down, think, and to look for God in all the places that we might have ignored before in the year just past – in the deepest recesses of our soul, in the faces of our families, friends, neighbors, business associates, and, yes, even the beggar on the corner. As someone once said, “the function of Advent is to remind us who we are waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that don’t matter to remember the things that do.”
In Matthew’s gospel he recounts Jesus glorious entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people spread their garments in his path, others cut down branches and the multitude cried saying Hosanna to the son of David. This symbolizes for us the coming of the Lord as King and Messiah into the midst of His own people and into Sion the holy city. He comes not in a lordly state but in humility, meek, and sitting upon a donkey. We must be careful to see the real meaning of this dramatic act by Jesus. In western lands, the donkey is a despised animal; but in the Middle East the donkey could be a noble animal. Often a king came riding upon a donkey; but when he did, it was a sign that he came in peace. The horse was the mount of war; the donkey was the mount of peace. So when Jesus claimed to be king, he claimed to be the king of peace. He showed that he came not to destroy but to love; not to condemn but to help; not in the might of arms but in the strength of love.
This same dramatic entry into Jerusalem also shows us Jesus courage. He knew full well that he was entering a hostile city. However enthusiastic the crowd might have been, the authorities hated him. Lastly His entry into the city shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One; very probably it shows us his claim to be the cleanser of the Temple. If Jesus had been content to claim to be a prophet, the probability is that he need never have died.
As we enter the season of advent, the preparation for the coming of our Lord on Christmas Day we see the courage of Christ, the claim of Christ and the appeal of Christ. His coming to Jerusalem was a last invitation to men and women to open not their palaces but their hearts to him. And so it is that we are challenged to open our hearts to those in need, to slow down, think, and to look for God in our lives. To show the courage that Jesus showed by demonstrating our Christian values in a dramatic way for all to see. With Jesus it was all or nothing. People had to acknowledge him as king, or not receive him at all. For us today that means living our lives the way he lived his, with love and compassion for others.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN