daily biblical sermons

We must be ready at all times for the coming of the Lord lest he catch us unawares and unprepared
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, 64:2-7, Psalm 79, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:33-37


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch” (Mark 13:33-37).



We have many temptations to face in our lives in this world as today as we begin the beautiful season of Advent, a season which everyone longs for and looks forward to for the beauty of its songs, decorations, music, and nativity scenes, and for the happiness of people returning to their families to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.



What are we expected to do during Advent, which is a season of preparation for the celebration of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of the world? How do we prepare? Above all, we prepare our spirits. It is easy to be distracted by all the attractions, distractions, and temptations of the world in which we live so that we become scattered and divided in our interests and affections. During Advent – and all year long really, but especially during Advent – we should seek to be prepared for the coming of the Lord.



The Lord, as we know, comes in three ways.



He came in history as a child born in a manger in Bethlehem amid choirs of angels singing in the night sky, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14 KJV).



But we also celebrate during Advent the second coming of Christ at the end of the world, when we will “see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). So, during Advent we also prepare ourselves for the Parousia or the second coming of Christ, as the second antiphon at first Vespers says, “Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.”



And finally, we celebrate Christ’s coming to us in our hearts, especially during this beautiful time, with such beautiful prayers and Masses, songs, music, and heavenly decorations that turn our minds to God. As Christ came as an infant in Bethlehem and as he will come again in glory on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead and consummate all things, so he also comes to us in our prayer and especially during the Mass, when bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood. At that moment he is truly sacramentally present in our midst. And in receiving him in Holy Communion, he enters into our body and spirit to fill our humanity with his divinity to illuminate us from within and unite us to himself.



We all know how distracted we can be with the events of our life, so the antiphons of Advent give us pause, when we hear them say, “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness, may he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, reading at first Vespers, American breviary translation). What do we need to do to be irreproachable and blameless at the coming of the Lord, when he suddenly appears? To be prepared in this way we need to watch, pray, and work.



We need to be vigilant and watchful over ourselves and fully devoted to the Lord. St. Paul prays that God “may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).



St. Paul also tells us, “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For your salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).



To cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light requires much prayer, meditation, and contemplation, especially mulling over the beautiful texts that the liturgy pulls out of the Bible for us during Advent, when we are looking forward to a beautiful time of salvation and heavenly peace on earth, for “in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord” (Joel 3:18).



This is indeed a time of richness and sweetness, a time of new wine flowing from the mountains, and milk from the hills, a time of grace in abundance if we are careful and watch. What are we to watch? We are to watch ourselves and our ways to keep them focused on the Lord with love, seeking his heavenly peace and redeeming grace, and then spreading this love to all we meet, together with the gospel that unlocks for them the mystery so that they too may be bathed with the blood of Christ that washes their sins away and makes them shine with the righteousness of God himself through their faith in Christ.



But when we are caught up in worldly desires, we can forget all this and become dull and worldly ourselves. So, we must fight against these thoughts and focus ourselves on the Lord to be ready to receive him, to be ready to enter into the fullness of the joy of the kingdom with him when he comes. Therefore, we need to be watchful now, and Advent is a time of watchfulness and vigilance, when we guard ourselves against the distractions, temptations, and attractions of the world, for they can divide our hearts away from an undivided love of the Lord with all the love of our heart.



Today’s gospel is, therefore, about watching and waiting for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. We are told that he could come at any time. So “take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).



Christ is like a man who went on a long journey and put his servants in charge of his household and told them to be ready for his return, but he didn’t tell them when he would return or whether it would be during the day or in the middle of the night. They were to be always ready.



This is what Jesus has done to us. We are his servants to whom he gave these instructions, and he will return when we least expect him. He could return this very minute, as I am writing this sermon or as you are reading it.



Would you be ready if he would return right now? What would we have to do to be ready? Jesus tells, “Watch therefore – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch” (Mark 13:35-37).



To be ready we must watch and pray. But there is still something else that we must do. We must work. Each of us has his own job, his or her own expertise. We must work hard at it as for the Lord, for we are performing useful services for other people, and we should do them for the Lord as a way of expressing our love for him. We cannot see the Lord and we cannot help him directly, but we can see and help him in the people that we serve with our daily work.



If you are a waitress, you are helping the people dining in your restaurant or cafeteria or dining room. Do it for the love of God, serving the Lord in the people you serve. If you are writing sermons, as I am, do it for the people who will read them that your work may be helpful to them. In this way you are serving the Lord by serving them.



So, we should watch, pray, and work. During Advent we appreciate more the beauty that Jesus has brought into the world. By his birth in Bethlehem, he brought joy to the world, for he brought atonement for our sins, salvation, and a kingdom that will last forever, a kingdom of reconciliation and peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.



Let us, therefore, sing with joy this Advent in grateful thanksgiving for the salvation that God has given us in the birth of his Son on earth as a man to redeem us from our sins by his death on the cross. Through our faith in Christ, God has given us a new life filled with the righteousness of God himself that the Father reckons to us (Romans 4:5).



So, Advent is a time of song and rejoicing in the words of the second antiphon at Lauds, “The mountains and hills will sing praise to God; all the trees of the forest will clap their hands, for he is coming, the Lord of a kingdom that lasts forever, alleluia.”




This beautiful antiphon greatly resembles Psalm 95 (96), a most appropriate Psalm for Advent: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth” (Psalm 95 (96): 11-13).


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