First Sunday of Advent – Year A

Stephen J. Baker, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Is 2: 1-5
Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Rom 13: 11-14
Mt 24:37-44

St. Augustine recounts in Book VIII of his Confessions the pivotal point in his conversion

Stung into action, I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting, for on leaving it I had put down there the book of the Apostle’s letters. I snatched it up, opened it and read in silence the passage on which my eyes first lighted: Not in dissipation and drunkenness, nor in debauchery and lewdness, nor in arguing and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh or the gratification of our desires.  I had no wish to read further, nor was there need.  No sooner had I reached the end of the verse than the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away.

It was this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 13:13-14, this Sunday’s second reading, which served for Augustine as the final wakeup call that God provided him to turn his mind, will and heart toward Jesus Christ.  I try to place myself in this scene and wonder what it would be like to experience this certainty and the flight of the shades of doubt that Augustine recounts he experienced in that garden.  To be honest, I have had little glimpses of this experience, but nothing of the magnitude that Augustine reveals.  Upon further thought, I am kind of envious of Augustine that he is able to proclaim with such conviction and certainty his faith in Christ.  So many times, I feel like I fall short in my own faith and that uncertainties and doubts creep in and get in the way of my faith in Jesus Christ.  Will I ever experience this depth of faith?  I guess the answer is yes…over time.

Time.  Here we are again at the beginning of the season of Advent, the beginning of another liturgical year.  This new season is a gift of time that God gives to us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ. We know in faith that Christ will come again at the end of time and usher in the finale of the fullness of God’s kingdom – a new heaven and a new earth.  We also know by faith that Jesus has already come as the fulfillment of God’s desire that we can become close to God.  This is Christmas Day that is only weeks away.  This season of Advent is a time for us to pay closer attention to the coming of the Lord that occurs in our present moments, in every single day of our lives.  These are times to experience his closeness to us, to experience deepened faith and trust in his promise to walk with us on our pilgrimage of faith.  His closeness comes to us in a scripture passage, an extended hand, a conversation, the sacrament of forgiveness, the sacrifice of a family member or friend, the Eucharist, the setting of the sun.  Maybe Augustine’s garden experience can be mine after all.  All I need do is watch, listen, and wait.