“So that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
This is, in a nutshell, not only the reason for having the Advent Season every year but also the purpose of our life on earth. The day of Christ is erroneously or, at least, unclearly referred to as the “coming of Christ”.
On the First Sunday of Advent, I told you that Christ, God made man, is not coming for the simple reason that He has never left us, nor that He will ever leave us.
The coming of Christ, or the day of the Lord is the final day of time.
It is the day in which all members of the Body of Christ will be pure and blameless, and will share forever in the victory of Christ over all evils (death included) and share in His glory for all eternity. In the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians it would be called the day in which the Body reaches the full stature and maturity and perfection of its Head, of Jesus Himself. Now, the big question: How do we become pure and blameless for the day of the Lord? Or, how do we refrain from keeping the ONE who began the good working in us to continue it until the day of Christ? Or even, how may our love increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value?
Every year, without fail, the Church offers a template for us to imitate, to live by. It is the template of what took place at the first and direct coming of God in our midst, in human flesh. This template that is designed to help us become pure and blameless and filled with a spirit of loving service of each other has been presented to every member of the Body of Christ since the time of the Ascension. Because, at the time of the Ascension, i.e., the time in which Christ, as the Head of the Body received the fullness of His victory and glory, His presence among us remained quite challenging but in a strikingly different way.
His presence in this world was physical from the first Christmas to the Ascension. It was a presence so challenging that only 11 disciples, the Virgin Mary and a few others could accept it and live by. From the Ascension until the day of the Lord, the challenge is different because He is present in equally incredible and puzzling ways. His flesh is now the flesh of His disciples and especially the flesh of the most needy of them (whatever you did to the least of these little ones, you did it to me). He is present in His ministers; He is present in His Community gathered in His Name; He is present in His Word, in His Sacraments and, in a very special way, in the Eucharistic species of Bread and Wine. Invariably, though, the most challenging presence is in His Word because it is His Word that confronts us with the template designed to help us become pure and blameless for the day of the Lord.
And such template faces us at specific, well-defined moments of our lifespan. Notice the detailed placement in time and space done by the Evangelist in the Gospel of Luke (3:1-6). If we accept that this template is meant for us, we could then paraphrase the gospel thus: Today at _________, in the Church of _________, the Word of God came to Fr. Dino Vanin, in the following way.
The starting point of the template is always the same: a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is self-evident, yet easily overlooked. Truth be told, really big sinners who are touched by God’s Grace are spontaneously sorry, almost devastated by the sudden awareness of their sinfulness. The problems is with us if we think that we are already OK, on the right path, with most, if not all, the answers that count. Chances are that our contrition may not be truly sincere and we might be almost amused by this call to repentance. If we fool ourselves by paying just lip service to this call to repentance, without any delay, we should look at the condition of the path that we deem being the right path and on which we are walking.
Make straight his paths: well, since He is talking directly and personally to each one of us here, that means that each one of us here is guilty of some form of crookedness, of deception in dealing with each other. It could be presumption of righteousness, tendency to make-belief or of fooling others, of telling half-truths, etc.
Every valley shall be filled: it could be simply referring to the times in which we saw a need and we shrugged it off saying that it was not our job, our turn or we found a rationalization that appeased our conscience. It could also be lack of genuine dedication, lack of sincere caring for others.
Every mountain and hill shall be made low: it could be our ill-concealed hubris, our drive to be always number one, our conviction that we are more important than others: we know that there are plenty of hills in our heart and in our attitude.
And the rough ways made smooth: if we truly believed that Christ is present in the least of our brothers and sisters, our ways of dealing with them would be so much smoother, gentler, kinder, humbler and unassuming.
So, there we have it. Now, aware of our real condition, should we get discouraged? No way! We have Jesus as Word lovingly challenging us at every turn and we have a powerful weapon suggested by St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians (1:4-6, 8-11).
“I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership in the Gospel.”
It is a commitment to pray for each other around the clock; and of doing it with joy so that we may all work together to make the whole Body of Christ pure and blameless and filled with love for the Day of Christ.