1st Sunday of Advent
Year A

Let Us Cast Off Deeds Of Darkness

Nobody acquainted with the life of St. Augustine of Hippo can hear today's second reading without thinking of him. This was the passage that changed his life: "Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably…not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousies. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ."

Augustine, you will recall, was a Roman native of Northern Africa, the son of a pagan father and the devout Christian mother whom we venerate as St. Monica. To the grief of his mother, her brilliant son grew up more heathen than Christian. He became an expert in public speaking, teaching that subject both in Africa and in Italy. But he also fell into heretical ways of thinking and pagan ways of living. Monica found that her warnings were ineffectual, so she fell back on prayer. Her prayers were long unanswered, but she kept right on.

As a matter of fact, Augustine was more of a Christian than he himself realized. As he grew older, he found that his heretical friends did not have all the answers; and that his lust enslaved rather than liberated him. More and more he became convinced that the gospel was true. But the cravings of the flesh held him back from an act of faith. He prayed to God "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!"

Then one day in the year 386, as he sat weeping over the problem in his garden in Milan, he heard over the wall the singsong of a child. "Pick up and read, pick up and read". It was such a strange song that he took it as a hint. A copy lay there of St. Paul's letter to the Romans. He picked it up and his eyes fell on the passage quoted above. As he read it, God's grace flooded his soul. Suddenly he felt no more shackled by his sexual drives. To Monica's great joy he accepted baptism. As we know, he went on to become a priest, a bishop and one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time.

The words of the Scriptures are so familiar to us that too often we ignore their message. During this Advent, why not read them or listen to them with fuller attention? The Holy Spirit may have picked out a passage there that could change our lives.

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara

Q295: Today's gospel is scary (Mt 24:37-44). Is it hopeless and useless to be concerned about the "end," which absolutely no one can foresee or predict?

On the contrary, we must be very hopeful – Christ has given us a very clear, daily objective to work towards. The objective is to "be prepared" at all times – not in fear, but in the hope of being ready to receive our Savior, Jesus. We must also be very concerned that we are doing all we can to welcome Jesus now, so that he will welcome us later.

Keep in mind the context of these so-called "end time" passages in scripture. Just before our gospel today, Christ is weeping over Jerusalem for not recognizing him and accepting him. Then comes the warning to "be prepared," followed by two parables on preparedness. Finally comes the last judgment scene, when all people are judged by how they recognized and responded to Jesus in the needy they encountered daily.

This is one of those "Just as…So…" episodes. Just as the people in Noah's time had ample warning, still they did not heed the call to prepare their hearts; so they experienced the devastation of "the flood." Just as the people and leaders in Jerusalem ignored Jesus' appeal for covenant love and the removal of barriers between God and Others, so they experienced the devastation of the loss of "the temple" and "the land." In this First Sunday of Advent, we hear Jesus repeat his loving concern, his warning: "just as… so you had better prepare your heart, repent, and serve my needy people." This is a message of hope, not of despair.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! There is no way we will know precisely when that "final hour" will come about, and Jesus tells us that information will not be revealed to us (CCC #673). The present times are the "time of the Spirit and of witness" about the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ (CCC #672). In the meantime we walk the walk of faith and in the hope that inspires us to serve all of God's people (CCC #1818).