Advent – the Reason for the Season

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year C) –   Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14; First Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36. This series for reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.


Photography © by Andy Coan

“Advent” is simply the Latin word for “coming.”  If we can manage to meditate on any “coming” in December besides the comings and goings of Christmas shopping, it would be Christ’s coming to Mary in a stable.

But the liturgy of the first three weeks of Advent speaks of another coming, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time. 

From the earliest days of the Church, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ promise to come back.  Many have claimed to recognize the signs of his imminent return and even have tried to predict the actual date.  They’ve had some explaining to do when he failed to show up as forecasted.

I have news for you.  I am absolutely certain that we, today, are truly living in the last days.  How do I know?  Because we’ve been living in the last days since Jesus has ascended into heaven (1 John 2:18, 1 Peter 4:7).

When is Jesus coming back?  That’s the wrong question.   The last trumpet, Jesus riding on the clouds–is all this to be taken symbolically or literally?  Wrong question again.

Have you heard the joke about the young priest who rushes into the pastor’s office and says “The Lord has been spotted walking up the aisle of the church.  What do we do?” The pastor looks up with alarm and says: “For God sake, Father, look busy!”

We should not be wasting our time fantasizing and theorizing about dates, or the nature of the rapture or the final tribulation.  This is a distraction.  Rather, we are not just to look busy but actually be busy preparing the way for his return.

That means being prepared and ready, not weighted down, neutralized, and utterly distracted by the cares of this world (Luke 21: 34-36).  It means, as Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 3, to work to make greater progress in the life of holiness, “putting on” the character of Christ.   It also means preparing the way by calling others to faith in Christ, since all baptized Catholics are called to be evangelizers.

The second coming of Christ, like the first, involves a birth.  Only this time, it will be the birth of a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Romans 8:19-23; CCC 1042).  Birth is always preceded by labor and travail.  In fact birth is a sort of crisis that puts everyone involved to the test.  The labor pains to bring one baby to birth are intense enough.  Imagine the labor pains prior to the birth of a whole new creation!

With all due respect to the Left Behind fantasies, faithful Christians won’t be spared the tribulation preceding His final coming any more than Mary and Joseph were spared the tribulations surrounding his first coming (CCC 672, 1 Cor 7:26).  The idea of a secret rapture snatching Christians away from what the Catechism calls “the final cosmic upheaval” (CCC 677) appears nowhere in the Bible or tradition.  It is an idea concocted by a sectarian Protestant teacher in the 19th century and was immediately rejected as dangerous by other Protestant pastors.

Why?  Because if we think we’ll be exempted from suffering, then why prepare for it?  And when crisis does in fact come, we may buckle under the pressure.

But doesn’t all this talk of tribulation put a damper on the festive holiday spirit?

Are parents any less excited about the birth of their first child because they may have to take a Lamaze class or talk to the doctor about pain meds and caesarian sections?  There is no birth without labor.  So as we rejoice in hope over the imminent new arrival, perhaps we ought to do everything possible to make sure that the labor goes successfully.  That way there’ll be something to rejoice about.

And we better not dilly-dally.  It could be any day now.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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