Mal 3, 19-20; Ps 98; 2 Thes 3, 7-12; Lk 21.5 -19
Is 51: 4-8; Ps 49; 2 Thes 2.1 to 14; Mt 24.1 – 31
First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
The coming of the Lord
1) To think about the end of the world to know the purpose of the world.
In this last Sunday of the liturgical year that marks our lives, the Church makes us meditate on the end of all things in order to begin the Whole Thing that is eternal Life.
The Word of God invites us to meditate on the ultimate realities to know and understand the signs of time with the eyes of faith on the world and our lives. It also invites us to prepare ourselves with confidence to the final meeting with the love of God. Those who have a loving confidence in God, are able to persevere and deserve life forever.
In today’s Gospel passage the Messiah teaches us to live with persevering faith and testimony, maturing in the awareness that “what we could not get because of our weakness, we can receive through our perseverance” (see St. Ephraim the Syrian (306-373), Diatessaron, IV century).
Speaking of wars, revolutions, famines, persecution and other sad events, Christ does not intend to frighten the disciples, but to teach that the difficulties of life, be they large or small, are opportunities to become stronger in faith and firm in hope.
On the one hand, a firm perseverance while waiting for Christ who is our End, is the mode in which the Expected One is welcomed and puts his dwelling among us. He is the Emmanuel, the God with us – always. On the other hand, the time that separates us from the end when we will be forever with the End, is the time of the testimony in which we experience the closeness of God and his love. He does not abandon his disciples, but is always nearby suggesting to them the words to confront their persecutors (see Lk 21:15).
Jesus encourages us to remain faithful to him until the end. Let’s persevere firmly in the waiting. Then, the meeting with Him will transform our difficulties, fears and anxieties, even those of death, in a glorious resurrection.
2) Two witnesses of perseverance and testimony.
Among the numerous saints, who are an example of perseverance and testimony of the true waiting, I choose two, St. John the Precursor, and the Virgin Mary, because they are the two pillars that stand next to the portal that Christ crossed to get into our history.
They both did not expect something, but Someone. They did not seek to discern more or less apocalyptic events in order to decide what to do in the immediate future. They expected nothing less than God. They were not waiting for better times, nor for a vague utopia or a hero, but they really were expecting God.
St. John the Baptist was just waiting for God, the God who was coming to bring order, to judge and to save. The Precursor was a man determined to the last. He did not had scruples calling the leaders of the people “brood of vipers” and accusing king Herod of all the crimes he had committed. He had no fear of prison and beheading. He persevered in being “just” a voice echoing in the wilderness and through everything, even through plugged ears. He was a true, persevering witness who pointed to the presence of the Lamb of God and fortified this indication with the gift of his own life. He shows how we should be witnesses, that is, martyrs. He is a model for all Christians (laity, religious man and women, priests and bishops) of how to be missionaries of Christ. No one should announce himself, nor replace the Word with little talk. We all have to be only the voice of the One who is growing among us, who is always greater than us.
Even the Virgin Mary was awaiting for God. She knew that the angel had told her: “The Holy One whom you carry in the womb shall be called the Son of God, Son of the Most High, and his kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1, 31 and following). However, she did not expect Somebody like the Unimaginable One awaited by the Baptist, one who would come forward with fire, the hatchet and the winnowing-fan. She was expecting a baby. But for a mother a child who is God is it not even more unimaginable? Is that child not coming to “cast fire on the earth”? And will not a sword pass her mother’s heart? However the Virgin Mary persevered in the waiting and welcomed in her and gave to humanity (to each of us) the One who is “meek and humble of heart” and that “cries out in the streets or quenches a smoldering wick “(Mt 11: , 29, 12, 19 ). Mary persevered even in the walk with Christ, from Nazareth, where she conceived through the Holy Spirit, to Jerusalem where Christ gave up his Spirit and recreated the world.
Our heavenly Mother is an eminent model of how we can and must be witnesses.
The final times and the tremendous signs that indicate them, terrify us not only because they are terrifying, but because they indicate that the end that is inexorably coming.
What to do? “Be converted, and do penance” says John the Baptist. “Bring Christ in you for the others,” says the Mother of God. We must move from “I” to “you”, to God. From the sterile and selfish being for themselves, to the fruitful and loving being for the others, following Christ, the Emmanuel with us and for all.
3) The example of the consecrated virgins in the world.
Now a brief reflection on how the consecrated virgins in the world can be for us an example on how to follow St. John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary.
At the school of the Baptist these consecrated women learn not to speak of Christ, but to indicate him by daily putting in practice the phrase: “It is necessary that I must decrease so that He may grow.” The consecrated virgins show that the Precursor not only calls for a sober lifestyle, but also to an inner change, through which we receive the light of the One who is “the Greatest” and became small, “the Strongest “and became weak.
At the school of Mary they learn to live consecrated virginity as intensity of desire and fruitful life. Thanks to their consecration, the miracle of the virginal motherhood of the Mother of God happens again.
From the incarnation of God and the grace of Baptism flourishes that holy progeny of which, during the consecration of virgins according to the Roman Pontifical, the Church says: “Whilst maintaining the nuptial blessing that descends on marital status, there must be more noble souls who sacrifice the physical community of man and woman and tend to the mystery that marriage contains. Giving all their love to the mystery indicated by marriage, they are consecrated to the One who is husband and son of the eternal virginity. “
This is the great mystery of the Church: the union between divinity and humanity in the Virgin’s womb. For this reason the Church blesses the virgins in the consecration prayer with these words: “Bless the Maker of heaven and earth, who has deigned to choose you for communion with Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Her life is just a prototype. “May the life of Mary from whom, as from a mirror, the beauty of chastity and the rule of all virtue are reflected, be the image of virginity” (Saint Ambrose De Virginibus, II, 2, 6, PL 16, 108) . If the Church wants to remain what it is, “Virgin is and Virgin must be” (Saint. Augustine, Sermon 1.8). It is necessary to have these “noble souls”, who in their own body mimic what happened in Mary and anticipate what the saved Church will receive in glory.
On Lk 21:5-9
EUSEB. How beautiful was everything relating to the structure of the temple, history informs us, and there are yet preserved remains of it, enough to instruct us in what was once the character of the buildings. But our Lord proclaimed to those that were wondering at the building of the temple, that there should not be left in it one stone upon another. For it was meet that that place, because of the presumption of its worshippers, should suffer every kind of desolation.
BEDE; For it was ordained by the dispensation of God that the city itself and the temple should be overthrown, lest perhaps someone yet a child in the faith, while rapt in astonishment at the rites of the sacrifices, should be carried away by the mere sight of the various beauties.
AMBROSE; It was spoken then of the temple made with hands, that it should be overthrown. For there is nothing made with hands which age does not impair, or violence throw down, or fire burn. Yet there is also another temple, that is, the synagogue, whose ancient building falls to pieces as the Church rises. There is also a temple in every one, which falls when faith is lacking, and above all when any one falsely shields himself under the name of Christ, that so he may rebel against his inward inclinations.
CYRIL; Now His disciples did not at all perceive the force of His words, but supposed they were spoken of the end of the world. Therefore asked they Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign, &c.
AMBROSE; Matthew adds a third question, that both the time of the destruction of the temple, and the sign of His coming, and the end of the world, might be inquired into by the disciples. But our Lord being asked when the destruction of the temple should be, and what the sign of His coming, instructs them as to the signs, but does not mind to inform them as to the time. It follows, Take heed that you be not deceived.
ATHAN. For since we have received, delivered to us by God, graces and doctrines which ere above man, (as, for example, the rule of a heavenly life, power against evil spirits, the adoption and the knowledge of the Father and the Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit,) our adversary the devil goes about seeking to steal from us the seed of the word which has been sown. But the Lord, shutting up in us His teaching as His own precious gift, warns us, lest we be deceived. And one very great gift He gives us, the word of God, that not only we be not led away by what appears, but even if there is ought lying concealed, by the grace of God we may discern it. For seeing that the devil is the hateful inventor of evil, what he himself is he conceals, but craftily assumes a name desirable to all; just as if a man wishing to get into his power some children not His own, should in the absence of the parents counterfeit their looks, and lead away the children who were longing for them. In every heresy then the devil says in disguise, “I am Christ, and with me there is truth.” And so it follows, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near.
CYRIL; For before His descent from heaven, there shall come some to whom we must not give place. For the Only-begotten Son of God, when He came to save the world, wished to be in secret, that He might bear the cross for us. But His second coming shall not be in secret, but terrible and open. For He shall descend in the glory of God the Father, with the Angels attending Him, to judge the world in righteousness. Therefore He concludes, Go you not therefore after them.
TIT BOST. Or perhaps He does not speak of false Christs coming before the end of the world, but of those who existed in the Apostles’ time.
BEDE; For there were many leaders when the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand, who declared themselves to be Christ, and that the time of deliverance was drawing nigh. Many heresiarchs also in the Church have preached that the day of the Lord is at hand, whom the Apostles condemn. Many Antichrists also came in Christ’s name, of whom the first was Simon Magus, who said, This man is the great power of God.
11109 Lc 21,9-11
GREG. God denounces the woes that shall forerun the destruction of the world, that so they may the less disturb when they come, as having been foreknown. For darts strike the less which are foreseen. And so He says, But when you shall hear of wars and commotions, &c. Wars refer to the enemy, commotions to citizens. To show us then that we shall be troubled from within and without, He asserts that the one we suffer from the enemy, the other from our own brethren.
AMBROSE; But of the heavenly words none are greater witnesses than we, upon whom the ends of the world have come. What wars and what rumors of wars have we received!
GREG. But that the end will not immediately follow these evils which come first, it is added, These things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet, &c. For the last tribulation is preceded by many tribulations, because many evils must come first, that they may await that evil which has no end.
It follows, Then said he to them, Nation shall rise against nation, &c. For it must needs be that we should suffer some things from heaven, some from earth, some from the elements, and some from men. Here then are signified the confusions of men.
It follows, And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places. This relates to the wrath from above.
CHRYS. For an earthquake is at one time a sign of wrath, as when our Lord was crucified the earth shook; but at another time it is a token of God’s providence, as when the Apostles were praying, the place was moved where they were assembled. It follows, and pestilence.
GREG. Look at the vicissitudes of bodies. And famine. Observe the barrenness of the ground. And fearful sights and great signs there shall be from heaven. Behold the variableness of the climate, which must be ascribed to those storms which by no means regard the order of the seasons. For the things which come in fixed order are not signs. For every thing that we receive for the use of life we pervert to the service of sin, but all those things which we have bent to a wicked use, are turned to the instruments of our punishment.
AMBROSE; The ruin of the world then is preceded by certain of the world’s calamities, such as famine, pestilence, and persecution.
THEOPHYL. Now some have wished to place the fulfillment of these things not only at the future consummation of all things, but at the time also of the taking of Jerusalem. For when the Author of peace was killed, then justly arose among the Jews wars and sedition. But from wars proceed pestilence and famine, the former indeed produced by the air infected with dead bodies, the latter through the lands remaining uncultivated. Josephus also relates the most intolerable distresses to have occurred from famine; and at the time of Claudius Caesar there was a severe famine, as we read in the Acts, and many terrible events happened, A forboding, as Josephus says, the destruction of Jerusalem.
CHRYS. But He says, that the end of the city shall not come immediately, that is, the taking of Jerusalem, but there shall be many battles first.
BEDE; The Apostles are also exhorted not to be alarmed by these forerunners, nor to desert Jerusalem and Judea. But the kingdom against kingdom, and the pestilence of those whose word creeps as a cancer, and the famine of hearing the word of God, and the shaking of the whole earth, and the separation from the true faith, may be explained also in the heretics, who contending one with another bring victory to the Church.
AMBROSE; There are also other wars which the Christian wages, the struggles of different lusts, and the conflicts of the will; and domestic foes are far more dangerous than all foreign.