Today is the first of the four Advent Sundays and the beginning of a new liturgical cycle (Year A for Sunday Mass readings). They focus on waiting in hope for the Lord’s coming, an act symbolised by a purple candle traditionally placed in the evergreen wreath.

In the First Reading (Is 2: 1-5), the Prophet Isaiah glorifies Zion, the mountain on which stands God’s temple. He envisions peoples from across the world streaming to adore God and learn his law. A proper understanding of the Word of God will unite the peoples and inaugurate a period of peace, in which hatred will turn into esteem and armaments into instruments of work and welfare. In short, it will be the ‘City of God’ that St Augustine of Hippo speaks of in his De Civitate Dei, expounding a Christian view of society and history.

The spread of Christianity across the world was a step in that direction. As Pope Leo XIII points out in Aeterni Patris (1879), “the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who came on earth to bring salvation and the light of divine wisdom to men […] commanded the Apostles to go and teach all nations, and left the Church which He had founded to be the common and supreme teacher of the peoples. For men whom the truth had set free were to be preserved by the truth; nor would the fruits of heavenly doctrines by which salvation comes to men have long remained had not the Lord Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to train the minds to faith.” Only a Church faithful to the Lord’s commands can “teach religion and contend forever against errors”,[1] thereby showing us the way to the new and eternal Jerusalem.

Christ’s Incarnation was a watershed in the history of humankind. From then on, we Christians have had the opportunity to learn the true law and work towards our salvation. Urging Christians to achieve this true liberation, by overcoming the darkness of sin, St Paul puts it very vividly to the Romans (13: 11-14): “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.” Then, he issues us a clarion call to “cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light […] to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” Which is a caution against falling head over heels for the evanescent world we live in.

How many of us respond positively to the Lord’s standing invitation? Isn’t much of what is going on in the world today an affront to the Creator? God gives His people enough rope, and some hang themselves! Few realise that it is no use gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul; similarly, they fail to see that life is terribly uncertain, and so is the time when the Lord will come again. The covid-19 pandemic was no doubt an eye-opener, but the world is back to its waywardness. To quote a nineteenth-century advocate of the Irish Catholics, “the condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”[2]

Isn’t servitude to sin rampant? How long do we wish to continue in the depths of the pit! We must, therefore, work hard to not let sin gain ascendancy in our individual and societal life; we must not only make a collective effort towards living a life pleasing to God but also not hesitate to swim against the tide of opinion when our spiritual good so requires. Finally, we must heed St Matthew’s counsel (24: 37-44) to “be ready: for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Of course, if we remain watchful, there is nothing to fear; on the contrary, eternal happiness will be the reward that we will receive.



[2] John Philpot Curran (1750-1817)