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First Sunday of Advent: The church invites us into a season of grace

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Sunday Scripture readings, Nov. 27, 2022: First Sunday of Advent

1) Is 2:1-5  Psalm 122:1-9
2) Rom 13:11-14  Gospel: Mt 24:37-44

The church invites us into a season of grace

Media coverage of the war in Ukraine has shown unimaginable scenes of destruction and human suffering. We’ve seen schools and hospitals bombed, frightened women, children and elderly fleeing their beloved homeland, and highways and cities destroyed to rubble by indiscriminate weapons of war.

It is difficult to believe these are real events unfolding today. We’re used to seeing scenes of war in Hollywood movies. But now once again, in our own time, war with its aggressive violence and senseless destruction of innocent life is a stark reality in our world.

How do we make sense of the endless cycle of division and aggression among peoples?

On this first Sunday of Advent, the church invites us into a season of grace that prepares us to celebrate God’s definitive answer to our sinful human condition. Jesus, Son of God, is sent as the light of the world to dispel the darkness of sin and its cruel consequences.

In the midst of the world’s turmoil, the Advent readings invite us to prepare our hearts and minds to recognize the divine plan to restore humanity to friendship with God and peace among peoples.

As St. Paul exhorts the Christians of Rome, “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Jem Sullivan writes for Catholic News Service (CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

Advent is a season of waiting in hope for God’s powerful response to every form of human infidelity, division and war. So, Isaiah invites the people of Israel, and us, to “come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

The paths of the world lead to rivalry and jealousy, drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, as St. Paul writes.

Yet God has done something radically new by sending Jesus, his only son, to heal, teach, suffer, die and rise from the dead to free us from sin and its ugly effects. This is the cause of our Advent hope and joy.

Once God took human flesh in Jesus it is truly possible to imagine a world where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again,” as Isaiah promises.

Jesus echoes this vision of peace and reconciliation he comes to inaugurate in his person, life and mission. This inbreaking of God into our fallen world requires that we “stay awake” and “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The first Christians expected Jesus to return soon. His first coming in the flesh would be a foretaste of his glorious return at the end of time.

In this time of waiting in Advent hope, we welcome the promise of peace as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”

Question:

How will you prepare this Advent to celebrate the greatest gift of the incarnation of God in Jesus?

Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.