FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
1 Thessalonians 3,12-4,2
The season of Advent is a proper season to renew our hope in the closeness and in the gratitude of God’s salvation. This first Sunday’s biblical readings present a God undertaken in transforming and bring human history to fullness. The prophet Jeremiah announces the discreet shoot of a return of peace and of justice in the midst of the aridity of human life and Luke proclaims the return of the Son of man as the liberating event par excellence. Man and woman, for their part, are called to respond with vigilance and the duty of a personal ethic that goes ahead anticipating in daily life definitive salvation. Liberating action of God and hope filled and vigilant human response are the synthesis of the spirituality of Advent and of all of Christian existence.
The first reading (Jer 33,14-16) makes up a classical oracle of hope in which is announced the rising up of a new sovereign for the house of Judah. The text begins with the known prophetic phrase: “See the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks” (Jer 33,14), with which the people are invited to look to the future with trust in God. The days that are to come are in the hands of the Lord and form part of his plan of salvation. The new king is described by the prophet with the vegetal symbol of the “branch”: “In those days and at that time, I will make a virtuous Branch grow from David, who shall practice honesty and integrity in the land” (Jer 33,15). In the desolate desert of men and of women, in the arid and dry trunk of David’s dynasty, God will make spring up a little sign of life. God makes possible again the miracle of salvation’s hope. His love is never exhausted and goes on manifesting itself in the midst of sterility and the failure of human actions. The new king announced by the prophet will be an authentic representation of Yahweh, the God that “loves justice and right” (Ps 33,5; 37,28; 146,8). His very name will be “The Lord-our-integrity” (Jer 33,16). This is opposed to Zedekiah, the monarch of the time, unjust and incapable, and whose name ironically in Hebrew can be translated as “Yahweh is just.” The true “justice,” that in the Bible takes in social and personal dimensions and that is synonymous with the integral salvation of man and woman, will be the work of that other king announced by the prophet and whose name is all a plan of live in favor of the tired and suffering people. In spite of personal sins, the infidelities of the people and the corrupt and violent political manipulations, there are motives to keep hoping in justice and in peace.
The second reading (1 Th 3,12-4,2) is taken from the oldest writing of the New Testament, where the second coming of the Lord makes up a dominative motive. It is thought that at any moment Christ may appear with all the glory of his divinity, surrounded by the clouds of heaven, to take with himself his chosen ones and transform forever our history (1 Th 5,13-18). Nevertheless, to the same believers who are invited to hope with impatience the return of the Lord, Paul proposes to them some standards of behavior and a very concrete scale of values. Jesus is not waited for in just any way. The definitive meaning of history, that will be manifest in the end with the glorious return of Christ, is being made up and anticipated daily through a pleasing conduct to God. Paul exhorts the Christian to act to “please God” (1 Th 4,1). This is the fundamental norm of life for all Christian morality. In this way the believers wait for the coming of Jesus “holy and blameless in the sight of our God and Father” (1 Th 3,13). The concrete expression of this form of life is mutual love. Rightly, the moral exhortation of Paul can be resumed with these words: “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love on another and the whole human race as much as we love you” (1 Th 3,12).
The gospel (Lk 21,25-28.34-36) describes the coming of the Son of Man by means of metaphoric language of cosmic catastrophes (vv. 25-26). These images of calamities with universal proportions and surprising natural disasters form part of the habitual language of apocalyptic authors to describe the interventions of God. In no way should they be interpreted in a literal form. Luke uses this very symbolic language to communicate a more profound and radical truth: the saving closeness of God. That which is decisive in the text is the announcement of the coming of the Son of Man, “in a cloud with power and great glory” (v. 27). The expression “Son of man” is taken from the book of Daniel and designates the Messiah as the one that at the end of times will bring about the definitive salvation of God in favor of his chosen ones.
The Son of man is Jesus Christ and his coming is presented by Luke as the great happening of human liberation. The anticipation signs of his coming indicate the arrival of this liberation that happens in our very history: “When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand” (Lk 21,28). IT is now when we have to renew our hope and hold our heads high, in other words, to collaborate actively in the construction of the kingdom of God. That which will be definitive in the end, is coming to pass day by day by the work of the same Christ on the historical journey of humanity.
Luke offers also concrete lines of conduct to live evangelically in the hope of the Lord, and to present us confidently before him when he comes in his glory: “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap…Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man” (v. 36). Before the signs of the time that indicate salvation’s drawing near it is necessary to make a concrete and adequate moral option. For this reason, the Christian tries every day to liberate him or herself from “hardness of heart,” in other words, from indifference, from immorality, and superficiality that impeded them from contemplating God as Father and others as brothers and sisters. Likewise, pray “at all times” guided by the Sprit and in solidarity with all of creation that hopes to be redeemed from corruption to enjoy the liberty of the children of God (Rm 8,18-25).