Throw off the Works of Darkness
It usually surprises people to hear the readings at the beginning of Advent; they expect readings that will prepare them for Christ’s coming at Christmas. However, the beginning of the Advent season focuses on another coming of Christ—at the end of time. Certainly, our Gospel reading today has this as its focus. Jesus talks about the unexpected nature of the end and about how we need to prepare each day since we do not know on which day the Lord will come. Paul, thinking about the end, which he initially thought would be in his lifetime, urges his readers in Rome to “throw off the works of darkness” and to “put on the armor of light.” Our opening prayer for the liturgy suggests a similar strategy of preparation by urging us to meet the Christ who comes with “righteous deeds.”
Our first reading provides us with a perspective of what might be a particular way to prepare to meet Christ with “righteous deeds.” The prophet Isaiah wrote during the 8th Century B.C. when Israel was being invaded by foreign armies, giving the people of Israel a vision of a future filled with hope. Isaiah sees all the weapons of war turned into instruments of peaceful production. He sees a future where one nation is no longer at war with another, but instead, a world of universal peace. This is a vision that we still find attractive today. But, it can come about only if we are “peaceable people” trying to bring peace and reconciliation where there is hatred and division. One particular path to realize this vision is in our own families. At this time of year, we are often reminded of past hurts and slights, and allow these to dictate our thoughts and actions. Perhaps these are the “works of darkness” that need to be “thrown off.” Perhaps forgiveness and reconciliation with family members are the “armor of light” in which we need to be clothed. Certainly, “righteous deeds” such as these will prepare us for the end, but also for Christmas when, after all, we welcome the Prince of Peace.