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Overpowering Mystery

The great thing about each First Sunday of Advent is that we are given another chance to immerse ourselves in the greatest Mystery of all. The Mystery told in the good book evokes some instruction from a classic Christian Manhood course tome: The Little Prince.

The First Sunday of Advent

First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14

Second Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Gospel: According to St. Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

In the middle of Chapter 2 of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince the narrator is awakened by the “odd little voice” of the title character.  Until this moment the narrator was all alone in the Sahara Desert, and his world was filled with silence when the Little Prince said, “If you please – draw me a sheep.”  Taken aback by this odd greeting, the narrator tells his readers:
“When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey.”

This is classic fairy tale advice.  Imagine the absurdity of Cinderella questioning her Fairy Godmother by asking, “Midnight? Really? No one else has a curfew but me.  I’ll be so embarrassed.  Can’t I stay out until two or three like everyone else?”

On this, the First Sunday of Advent, we are called to obey, and to obey because of a Mystery that is too overpowering. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that “redemption is at hand” in reference to His Second Coming.  The Church uses this reading because it fits just as well as we anticipate His ‘first coming,’ the Incarnation.

Jesus also tells us, “That day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.”  Certainly the Second Coming will be that sort of event, but so was the first coming.  With the moment of the Annunciation when Mary said “Yes” to the Angel Gabriel thus began the march of time that would pass through the Nativity on the way to Calvary and ultimately to the Parousia (Greek for “arrival” and often the word used for the Second Coming).  The “assault” on everyone began in that hidden moment in the life of the Blessed Mother, and was first made manifest at the Nativity in Bethlehem.

We seldom, if ever, think of Christmas as a commemoration of an assault, but that is what it is.

Do you worship a baby in a stable?  Do you worship omnipotence wrapped in weakness?  Is that not an assault upon the way the world understands power?

Do you guard against your hearts not becoming “drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life?”  Is that not an assault upon the work-hard-play-hard vision of ‘the good life?’

Do you “pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent?”  Doesn’t that assault society’s ‘don’t worry, be happy’ mentality?

All of these warnings of Jesus seem a bit over the top and go against the fun-loving spirit of our pre-Christmas festivities, but they do point to the seriousness of the event anticipated.  The Incarnation, God-becoming-Human, is certainly worthy of rejoicing, but it carries with it a reverence and awe-filled seriousness that often gets ignored.

The great thing about each First Sunday of Advent is that we are given another chance to immerse ourselves in the greatest Mystery of all.  And if we obey that Mystery, then we certainly need not fear any assault – for Who better to protect us than a baby lying in a manger?

A.M.D.G.