Guided reflection: by Angela Jendro
1st Sunday in Advent
Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 NAB
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, a word which means “coming” and therefore a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. The nativity scene of Jesus as a baby in a manger may be quaint, but it has nevertheless had world-changing and life-changing effects. The incarnation of Christ stands as the axis of history. When the Son of God became man, He raised the dignity of human nature higher than that of the angels. No other creature shares such intimacy with God! In consequence, life after the coming of Christ looks radically different than before – both in terms of history and in terms of our personal encounter with Him.
The early Christians expressed the significance of this by affirming the intrinsic dignity of every human person from the moment of conception. In the Didache, one of the first “catechisms” or statements of faith possibly dating before A.D. 100, it is written: “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” Contrary to the Roman practice of infanticide, Christians believed that every stage of human life was sacred, including that of the child in the womb, because it experienced union with Christ who took up our humanity at the moment of His conception in Mary’s womb. Consequently, human value is not subject to one’s usefulness, accomplishments, or convenience. Rather, every human has inherent value because he or she enjoys the dignity of union with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the Christian belief in this way:
|The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only–begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”81 CCC par 460|
Despite secular attempts to downplay the impact of Christ, our calendar retains the mark of His coming. Modern attempts to replace B.C. (before Christ) with B.C.E. (before the common era) and A.D. (Anno Domini – in the year of our Lord) with C.E. (common era) still doesn’t change the fact that the “common era” is counted from before and after the coming of Christ. In fact, the coming of Christ has changed history universally to an extent unmatched by any other person, empire, or movement.
Jesus tells us to “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” During Advent we take a step back to readjust our perspective. Unfortunately, the craze leading up to Christmas tempts us to step backward rather than forward. We can too easily become either stressed by the anxieties of Christmas celebrations or distracted by feasting and consumerism that we forget the impact and gift of Christ in our lives. God became man, that we might become God. Advent is a time to reflect on this mystery and invite Christ to bring to perfection this good work that He has begun in us.
|I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NAB|
- Reflect on the inestimable dignity you have in Christ. How might you align your view of yourself with God’s view of you?
- Consider the gift of God becoming man. How does this deepen your feeling of confidence and security knowing that God has united Himself with our very nature?
- God’s intimacy through Christ is startling and should have a startling effect on your life. Thank God for how He has transformed your heart and your life. Invite Him to transform it even more.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Each day this week, thank Christ for His closeness to you. Keep it present to your mind by wearing a cross or carrying a scripture verse in your pocket.
- Pray for the unborn and for greater appreciation for the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.
- Identify one way that you don’t live up to the dignity Christ has given you. Resolve to act or be treated in the way you ought to be, as a son or daughter of God.
|“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” [St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.] CCC 1691|
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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