Shirt over the wings: Grandma Martha was scolding her little grandson on his failure to go to church on a Sunday. “You will never get into heaven the way you are going today,” she told him.
“Well, Granny, the reason that I don’t go is I got a problem. I can’t for the life of me figure how I’m gonna get my shirt on over those wings I’ll have on my way to heaven.” “Never mind about shirts,” said the grandma. “The question in your case is how are you gonna get your hat on over those horns which the bad boys get when they are taken to hell.”
This is the first Sunday of the new liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent. This year we return to the A cycle of readings, with the gospel focus mostly on the Gospel of Matthew. For those who read the daily readings, they are now from Year 1. The first Sunday of Advent, the ‘Sunday of Hope’ in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem His people. Today we begin our yearly pilgrimage through the scenes and events of our history of salvation. Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to his Second Coming, as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all areas of our lives during the Advent season.
St. Augustine had heard what sounded like a child’s voice chanting, “Pick it up, read it.” This was no children’s game, and he understood the words to be addressed to him. He picked up the book that lay on a nearby table, which contained Paul’s letters.
At this moment in his life, Augustine was at the tipping point in his conversion. Opening the book at random, he read the words quoted above from Paul’s Letter to the Romans—today’s second reading—and his transformation was complete! Those words are part of an exhortation which begins: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
In the first reading Isaiah reports his vision of all nations gathering on Mount Zion as described also by Micah (4: 1-3) using the image of a pilgrimage. In the vision of Isaiah, Judah is shown as the place to which all nations will come for “instructions in righteous living.” The result will be universal peace.
Jesus teaches us in St. Matthew’s Gospel that his coming for us will be without much or any warning at all. Jesus will come, besides business as usual for our family life, and our usual daily activity. But he will come– and he will take us!
God comes again and again in special ways throughout our lives. One of these is His annual coming at Christmas with the birth of His Son in human form. Let us prepare for it.
Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy, and forgiveness.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, "Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus." Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?” The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful we’ll be getting an extra gift: Christ himself. There is a saying which goes s back to St. Thomas Aquinas: "Without God, I can't. Without me, he won't."
In the first reading we have this beautiful invitation:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”
In this advent, let us focus on this invitation.