Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent 2015
by Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro
We should ask ourselves why the in the First Sunday of Advent we should return to the last judgment when the main reason of this liturgical season is to celebrate the coming of Christ for the first time in the flesh. We start this season with the meditation of the second coming of Christ in glory because we always have to think first in our last end, which is our final cause. The absolute end of our life and our primary objective should be to enter into Heaven to live forever in happiness adoring God in the company of the Angels and Saints. For that reason we were created by God, for that reason we exist, for that reason we have children so that we can lead them into Heaven. Eternal life is the main gift of God; all His other gifts are instruments to achieve it.
The earthly happiness that we might experience here on earth is limited and ephemeral. Even these moments of human happiness that we enjoy are decreased by the knowledge that the happiness we are experiencing will always pass away. The only earthly happiness that will not pass away is the joy that we receive when we encounter the Lord in either public or private prayer, because those encounters are a foretaste of the happiness that we will find in Heaven. That is why our liturgies have to give us a foretaste of the heavenly liturgies. In the earthly liturgy we should receive a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the New Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God the Father. There we will sing hymns to the Lord’s glory in union with all the warriors of the heavenly army. Seeking the intercession and venerating the memory of the saints, we hope to achieve fellowship with them. We eagerly await the Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, who is our only hope, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory. We have to remember also what Cardinal Sarah says: “Through prayer, man is recreated in the immensity of God; it is a small anticipation of eternity.”
We can reflect on Heaven on the basis of what the Lord has revealed to us and what many great doctors of the Church of the Church have explained to us, but we have always to keep in mind that what words can describe is only a pallid reflection of the magnificent reality of Heaven. St. Paul tells us that, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him,”( I Cor. 2:9)
In Heaven first and foremost we will experience the brightness of the Lord. It was a light of which the Apostles had a glimpse at Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration of the Lord. But we will receive it without fear because it will attract us by its kindly warmth. It is the light that is prophetically depicted in the Book of Revelation and that constantly illuminates the New Jerusalem that descends from Heaven. This magnificent city will be our everlasting residence. It will descend from Heaven after the old creation passes away and we are vested again with resurrected bodies. According to Saint Thomas, the vision of God in heaven will be immediate. Even if this contemplation will be possible by a great supernatural grace, it will be limited by our created nature. A limited creature can only have a partial vision of the unlimited God. Most likely we will have vision of the resurrected Christ in His heavenly glory. As the same time it is possible to say that this partial vision will grow.
In Paradise we will be totally liberated from the anger and the anguish that we suffer in this land. Many times we are consumed by just and sometimes unjust anger. Sometimes rightful anger grows beyond what is just and spins beyond our control. This could inspire feelings of hatred that are clearly not willed by the Lord. Here on earth we have many reasons to be shaken by anger. We experience terrible injustices in society and even the problems in the Church. We live in the midst of a society that slowly but certainly seems to be sliding into Gomorrah. At the same time that society has abandoned God, it has cut its mooring from Natural Law. The Church that we should love and respect as our mother seems not to be responding with the prophetic voices that we would expect, as many of her members seem ready to enter into unacceptable compromises with the world. We should never be dominated by anger against the leaders of political society that leads her into a growing decay or against members of the Church that distort her constant teaching, or persons that offend us in different ways. Instead we should pray for all those persons for their conversion as we reaffirm in all possible ways those unchanging saving truths. So what the Lord is telling us is to fight the good fight but without anger that can be transformed in hatred. We have to keep in mind that, “The tumults that are most difficult to contain are still our own interior storms.” In the measure that more members of the Church become faithful followers of Christ, we would be able to convert the world again.
In Heaven we would be liberated of this anger not because we would have passed through the river of oblivion as Dante states at the end of Purgatory but because we will know that God is firmly in control and He will bring solutions to the different evils we experienced. We will be at peace. It is a peace of which we can have some glimpses here on Earth but which is never possible to experience it in a total way in this valley of tears. But it is a peace that we can and should start experiencing here on Earth as our faith in Christ’s infinite love grows and we become more confident that the Lord will solve the problems that we have here on Earth. It should be also evident that Lord asks us to become secondary causes or instruments of that peace being transformed into proper agents of the Lord when we are still here on Earth. In Heaven we will pray for our brethren that are still struggling on Earth, but in a mysterious way we will not suffer as we learn of their combats. This is not lack of charity, but remember that without suffering, even vicarious suffering, for the pain of some one that is dear to us, one cannot enter into Heaven. At the same time we have to remember that, as some mystics say, in a mysterious way Christ will be suffering until the end of times to achieve the salvation of all that are struggling on Earth. In the presence of the Lord, our sufferings of the battle are over and we will contemplate him for ever and ever, in a constant growth of knowledge and love that it is difficult to transmit, because here on Earth we experience only limited realities and the experience of God in Heaven is without any boundaries.
In Heaven the virtues of Faith and Hope will disappear because we will now see eye to eye what we believed in Faith, and we will be receiving what we expected in Hope. But Charity will remain and increase. In the same way that the constant contemplation of God will increase our knowledge of Him, our love for Him will always increase. At the same time our love for all the other ones that are with us in Heaven will increase, because we will share in an increased way the knowledge and love of God. We will also love the ones that are still struggling on this earth.
The new heavens are depicted as a city due to the social nature of man. This nature will not change after the resurrection but it will be perfected. We will meet again in Paradise all the ones that we loved here on earth, but they will be transformed and purified of all their human imperfections in the same way that we will be purified of all our human limitations.
Last but not least in Heaven we will not suffer the absence of the ones that did not accept God’s love. We will understand and love God’s justice and forget them as part of the final purification that allows us to enter into Heaven.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth let us ask for the grace of having a growing desire to adore with Her Son in Heaven for ever and ever.
May the Lord Bless you and Keep you.
The image of Christ, painted by Ken Woo, is in the Church of Our Savior, Manhattan