John helps the people to be ready to receive the Messiah by inviting them to be baptized in the river Jordan. It was across this river that they entered the Promised Land after years of wandering; it is now the place to enter into the era of the Messiah. It symbolized that the passage from wandering about in the desert to settling down now becomes the passage from sin and death to grace and new life in God. John administered the baptism to those who accepted their own sins and their need of God and wanted to be forgiven. John and the people believed that it was not a human being but God who was forgiving them their sins. Our Baptism is the external expression of dying to the old self of sin and the determination to rise and live a new risen life with Jesus who is victorious over sin and death. The season of Advent is to help us prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a meaningful way. The commercial world proposes Christmas preparation in terms of material gifts. But without the preparation at the deeper level of the heart and the desire to be reconciled with God and with each other, Christmas will remain just another occasion to have good parties and then to continue living as before. Advent might be a good occasion to celebrate the way in which our baptism reconciles us to God and to others in our daily lives.
Advent is the time when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. There are two major orientations in this liturgical season: our preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus and our preparation for the celebration of his First Coming. In this first week, the Gospel invites us to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus at the End-time. During the other three Sundays of Advent, we are introduced to different people who helped prepare the way. This Gospel is an Advent Gospel because the word "Advent" means "coming." Christ the Lord is "coming" to give birth to a new world, born out of the ruins of an old world filled with "sin, death, and the devil." If we examine these "end time" phrases ("roaring seas", "heavens shaken", "sun, moon, and stars") we recognize them from the book of Genesis, when God turned "disorder" into an orderly creation. Today's Gospel tells us that just when everything has turned into "chaos," Christ the Lord, the Son of the Creator, will "come" with great power, and out of chaos will refashion a "new heaven and a new earth." Until this happens, we are to do three things: 1.) Do not "lose heart.". 2.) Do not let your "hearts cling" to unhealthy pleasures. And, 3.) Be "vigilant" and "always pray." In our congregations, we share our different ministries so that all member of the "household" are meaningfully occupied as they await Christ's return. We must be faithful and watchful because we will have to give an account to the Master when he comes.
In today’s gospel we see Jesus before Pilate who questions him about his identity and the accusation that he is “King of the Jews.” Jesus explains his kingship. It is different from that of kings of this world. Jesus knows he is a King, but at the same time he enlarges on Pilate’s question. He is not a King who would be a threat to the Romans. His kingship is of a different kind. It concerns the Jews certainly but goes beyond them to include others. It works in a different way from what both Pilate and the Jews associate with kingship. It is not primarily of this world since it calls upon the people of this world to listen to the voice of truth. The kingship of Jesus is fundamentally a witness to the truth that can transform the lives of people if only they would listen and be guided by it. Jesus had spoken of himself as the Truth, the Way, and the Life (John 14:6). This Truth sets people free. The Kingdom of Jesus, therefore, is one opposed to falsehood and oppression. Such a kingdom cannot be set up by force. Each person is called to listen to the voice of truth and to decide freely on which side of it to stand.
Most probably still on the second full day of the Passion Week, as he was leaving the temple, the disciples drew Jesus’ attention to the massive stones of the temple. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, confirms that they has reason to be impressed. Herod Antipas was still finishing the temple his father, Herod the Great, had begun. It was famous as one of the architectural wonders of the Roman world. Even today visitor to the Temple Mount can see the remains of some of these massive stones. But Jesus was not impressed. He predicted that the stones would be thrown down in judgement. This foretold total destruction. The scene now moves to the Mount of Olives, from which there is a good view of the city and the temple. The two pairs of brothers –Peter and Andrew, James and John—came to Jesus privately and asked him to elaborate on his comment. They were interested in when the destruction would take place and what signs they should be looking out for. Responding to their questions, Jesus launched into a great discourse about events that would happen in both the near and distant future. He starts by describing the beginning signs, which fall into three categories: imposters or deceivers purporting to represent Jesus, calamities of human origins such as wars and rumors of wars, and natural calamities such as earthquakes…and famines. Jesus told the disciples not to be alarmed by these events, for they are just the beginning of birth-pains. Although these signs began in the first century, those living in the twenty-first century are no strangers to any of them. Imposters claiming to represent Christ are everywhere, deceiving the gullible. Alarming as these catastrophes are, children of the kingdom are enjoined “not to be alarmed” because these events do not signal the end of the age.