Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. It is a time to joyfully prepare for the second com- ing of our Lord Jesus. The readings centre on the theme of returning to God and restoring our relationship with Him. It is not meant to scare us into finding God, instead it is to remind us that we have a loving Father who is waiting for us to return to Him. He does not want us to miss out on the life we can have with Him. Therefore, He is calling us to come back to Him.
In the First Reading the people are crying out to God for His mercy to forgive their sins. They have strayed away from the Lord and now they want to come back to Him. They want to re-centre their lives on God. Verse 19 says, “For a long time we have been those you do not rule, those who are not called by your name.” This may be the cry of our hearts as well. We may have lived without God in our lives. We may have trusted in ourselves and in the people around us without looking to God. We may have gone astray and learned to live without God. God is calling us to come back to Him. To allow Him to rule our lives once again by giving Him the first place. The Psalmist also says, “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (Ps. 80:19).
In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us how faithful God is to His people. “God is faithful, he has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 9). Our God is faithful to us. We may stray from Him, but He will never stray from us. He is the Father of the prodigal child. He is waiting for us to turn back to Him. When we do, He comes running to greet us and welcomes us back into His family.
In the Gospel Proclamation, the Lord Jesus paints an alarming picture for us. He is pleading with us to be ready for the day of judgement. He is not trying to scare us of death. Instead He wants to focus our lives on him. We will not live forever. James 4:14 says, “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” The Lord Jesus is reminding us that our eyes should not be on this life, but on eternity.
That is why He says in Mark 13:36-37, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” We can keep watch by cultivating a relationship with God and focussing our lives on Him. For He is eternity. When we do this, our lives and the lives of those around us will be transformed and blessed.
How can a relationship with God transform our lives? John 15:4 says, “Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch can- not bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
When a branch is cut from the vine, immediately a signal is sent through the branch to the vine and then the signal is sent to the root. Once this signal is sent sap is sent through the vine to the branch and it heals the broken part. This is how the branch and the tree work.
The vine is the Lord Jesus; the root is the Father and we are the branches. If we are connected to the Lord Jesus, we do not have to keep anything inside ourselves. If we are wounded or rejected and keep this pain in our hearts it will fester and rob us of our happiness. Instead we can send our pain and struggles through the vine to the root. Instead of keeping things in our heart we can give them to the Lord Jesus. When we give the vine (The Lord Jesus) the struggles of our lives, the root (The Father) will return to us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. What we have to do is give the Lord our struggles. When we give Him the disturbances of our hearts, He will give us peace. If we are feeling rejected, sad and lonely and we give Him these feelings, He will fill us with His love. We will be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the midst of our struggles. The problems may not change but we will experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit through each struggle.
As we enter the season of Advent, let us deepen our relationship with God through prayer and be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We can use the 4 Steps to connect to Him. We can come to Him as we are, without any pretence. We can give Him the truth of our hearts and be cleansed by His precious blood. We can surrender our prob- lems to Him and give Him control of our lives. When we take these 3 steps, the Lord will fill us with His Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Abba Father, may we draw closer to You and witness our struggles turn into the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Amen.