After two months of Gospel readings about the day of judgment at the end of time we are given in the readings today a picture of who it is that will judge us in the General Judgment. We had story after of story of a day of reckoning, and there was Gehenna and locked doors and wailing and grinding of teeth. Those readings did not seem to suggest that the Day of Judgment is going to be a good day. Yet this is the day we Christians look forward to expectantly. Why is that? That day will be great because we know who will judge us on that day.
Our judge is a loving judge, one who tells the prophet Isaiah to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” to tell her that “her guilt is expiated.” Jesus Christ, who will sit in judgment is Jesus Christ who died on the Cross to expiate our sins, our guilt. Our judge that day is also our Redeemer.
The day of judgment will be a day, as the Psalm sings today, when “kindness and truth shall meet” and where “justice and peace shall kiss.” Our God of Justice will acknowledge on that day the times we were kind and gentle with others. He will recognize on that day the times we stood firm for the unchanging Truth, which is God. He will commend us on that day for our willingness to stand for justice against the great and small tyrannies in our lives, and when we were the peace that stilled the stormy seas, the peace that surpasses our understanding.
Advent is the season of preparation for the Lord’s coming. On one level, we are preparing for that day that marks the end of time when, as St. Peter writes, “the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire.” On another level, we are preparing for the way of the Lord, like John the Baptist a voice crying out in the desert. The reading from Isaiah describes this Lord for whom we wait: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom.”
That sounds like a Lord worth waiting for. Even an impatient fellow like me can wait for a Lord who “leads his sheep with care.” St. Peter reminds us that we cannot time the Lord’s arrival, for “the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” In his letter, St. Peter gives us a plan of action for this period of preparation before the Lord arrives.
According to the Apostle, we should be the kind of people who are “conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion.” The season of Advent is a time when we can recommit to that kind of life. That kind of life is hard to choose when all around us the world is getting and spending in the Christmas Shopping Season. It takes work to avoid the many mall criers calling us to consume things that will ultimately not satisfy us, but here in this place God is calling us to consume Him, and in so doing be consumed by Him and swept up into his embrace of love and peace where kindness and truth shall meet.
Here at the parish, we have many opportunities for prayerful preparation for the Incarnation, that enfleshment of God we are waiting for in this season of Advent. You may have noticed our Mass is more subdued, as we do not sing the Gloria during Advent, and we don’t use incense as much, or maybe just don’t use as much incense.
Next week we will have a great sequence of beautiful liturgies and services to support our community in its preparation for the coming of our Lord. I invite you to come next Sunday evening and let our choirs sing praise to God along with Bible readings that foretell of the Messiah in our annual Lessons and Carols service.
Next Monday, we will have many priests here for our Advent night of Confession and Reconciliation. Talk to these gentle priests and be reconciled with God, washed clean of your sins and become as pure as the lambs that wait in the manger for Jesus.
And then we will have two days to absorb the wisdom and devotion of a great priest, our very own Monsignor Lopez, as he leads our Advent parish mission.
All of these events are opportunities for us to receive great gifts of peace and wisdom. Perhaps we should use this coming week to take action and prepare ourselves for those events next week.
To prepare for Lessons and Carols this week, try to listen to something other than the secular Christmas tunes that are on every radio station and Spotify playlist.
To prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation, perhaps we should spend time in prayerful reflection of the choices we made that pulled us away from God. If you’re like me and your mind sometimes goes blank when you walk into the confessional, maybe you can write your stuff on a small scrap of paper and then afterward tear it into tiny pieces and throw it in the trashcan as a sign of accepting God’s absolution.
To prepare for Monsignor Lopez, try to be a bit more like him. When you say your prayers, don’t rush through them. Remain in silence for a minute after you’ve said your prayers. Simply share a warm smile and a kind word with the next person you meet.
Advent is a time of prayerful preparation for the coming of our God. We await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Let’s use the days ahead so we can be with him at the Incarnation, found without spot or blemish, and at peace.