The season of Advent officially began this past Sunday. The word “advent” basically means “coming” – as such Advent is typically a time when we prepare for the coming (or advent) of Christ. This involves preparing ourselves for Christmas (the celebration of Christ’s First Advent) as well as the Last Day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in His glorious Second Advent.
The readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year C) were a reminder to us of this preparation. We were reminded of the First Advent in Jeremiah 33:14-16, where the prophet foretells the promise of the Messiah who would come to restore God’s people.
In the Gospel reading (Lk 21:25-28, 34-36), we were reminded of the Second Advent. In its immediate context, the Gospel reading is the account of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD – but there is also an undertone of the Final Judgement at the end of time. In addition, Jesus also incorporates the particular judgement which will be faced by “every man” – the judgement which takes place upon our death and determines our eternal destiny i.e. Heaven or Hell.
Sandwiched between these two readings, we heard St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians encouraging them to make more and more progress in living lives of holiness (1 Thess 3:12-4:2). This reading from St. Paul really serves as an encouragement to each and every one of us to live worthy of the name “Christian” – especially as we prepare for Christmas; but also as we live our lives in continual preparation to oneday stand before the Son of Man.
These readings really hit home for me this week. I’ll explain why shortly, but first some background...
As part of “contemplating the fact of Christ” during this Year of Grace (for all dioceses around Australia), our parish priests decided that it would be a good idea to have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for a few minutes after Mass on the first Sunday of each month. It just so happened that this past Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, was also the first Sunday of the month. And so, we had time for reflection during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Concurrently, over the past week or so, I have been thinking about the beauty and importance of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament – and I was struck by a thought. Exposition refers to the Blessed Sacrament being “exposed” in a monstrance (as pictured above). Any Catholic who has spent time praying with the right dispositions before the Blessed Sacrament will tell you that it changes a person. I was reminded of someone who likened it to being exposed to the sun – when we are exposed to the sun, our skin is changed. And that’s when it hit me!!! I realised that Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is not so much about Jesus in the Sacrament being exposed to us (although this is true) – it is MORE about us being exposed to the Blessed Sacrament. And being exposed to the Son most certainly changes us.
As I contemplated this in light of the readings at Mass, I was reminded of 1 Jn 3:2 where St. John, speaking in the context of the Beatific Vision, reminds us:
“...what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we know is this: when He [Jesus] is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.”
What an awesome thought!!!
Now, read that verse in context of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus is no less present in the Blessed Sacrament than He will be when He comes again in glory. The only difference is that in the Blessed Sacrament, His glory is veiled. If we can expect that we will be gloriously changed when we behold Him in His Second Advent; we can also expect that He is already changing us now – especially when we are exposed to Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
So, in addition to receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace, what better way to prepare for Christmas, and to make progress in holiness, than to spend some time during this Advent season in Eucharistic Adoration. Jesus waits for us – and He waits for us so that He can change us and conform us more and more to His glorious image.
Wishing you and yours a blessed Advent as you progress more and more in holiness in preparation for the coming of the King of Kings!