First Sunday of Advent – Vigilance


Pieter Bruegel “Drunkard Pushed into a Pigsty” (1568)

Central idea: Vigilance. Doctrine: The final tribulation and Christ’s Last Judgment. Practical application: Alertness.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

To view Lectionary 3, click here.

Central idea: Vigilance

Reading 1 Jer 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”

  • Through Jeremiah, God reminds Israel of his promise: A just king who can protect his people.
  • The history of the world proves that no mere man can ever be this king. Only God can. That is why, when this promise is fulfilled, the Chosen People will call their nation, “The LORD [is] our justice.”
  • This just king who can protect his people is the Lord Jesus Christ, no mere man, but God-made-man.
  • Each Advent, we recall his Incarnation and anticipate his Second Coming.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.

  • The key to keeping vigilant, which Our Lord recommends to us in our Gospel reading, is present in this Psalm.
  • This key to vigilance is to raise one’s heart to God (who helps us raise it), to learn his teachings (he helps us learn them), and to live them (he helps us live them, too).
  • We do this patiently, waiting according to God’s time.
  • The consequence of vigilance is not just salvation but friendship with God.

Reading 2 1 Thes 3:12—4:2

Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God
and as you are conducting yourselves
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

  • What is the essence of Christian conduct? It is to love God, one another, and everyone else, more and more.
  • What is the result of such conduct? It is blameless holiness that is pleasing to God.
    • What is holiness? It is “is union with God by doing God’s will in your life with the help of his grace.”
  • What is the urgency in such conduct? “Our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” are coming in judgment.

Alleluia Ps 85:8

Show us, Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.

  • We will be judged by our conduct but we know we don’t earn our salvation.
  • Salvation is a gift we ask for: “grant us your salvation.”
  • It is even a gift that we want salvation: we want it because we have experienced Christ love and want more of that love.

Gospel Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

  • Our Lord contrasts how people in general will respond to the end of the world and how we, his disciples, should respond.
    • People will be dismayed, perplexed, and even die of fright.
    • We, however, should “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.”
  • However, the end of the world or our own end can come when we least expect it, and so, as a surprise. This is why we must be vigilant, that is, ready at all times.

Doctrine: The final tribulation and Christ’s Last Judgment

  • Christ’s Ascension began the last days of earth. In this age, the Church militant, of which we are currently members, “progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations” (CCC 769).
    • This is why we pray, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.”
  • The difficulties—and even greater ones to come—are necessary. “The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will ‘all the just from the time of Adam, “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,”. . . be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.’” (CCC 769)
  • The final and greatest trial.Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.” (CCC 675)
  • Antichrists abound. Already we can see many deceptive antichrists around us. These are promises of happiness that are not based on truth. Human history is a catalogue of false messiahs, whether residing in a person, or an ideology, or in riches, or sensuality. We can even vainly attempt to be our own messiah.
  • In the end, the origin of all these malicious lies will be unveiled. “The kingdom will be fulfilled . . . by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.” (CCC 677)

Practical application: Alertness

  • When we are faced with dangers and dread, Our Lord tells us we should “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
  • But most of the time, we are not expecting to die at any moment or for a cataclysm to strike the earth. This is why we must be vigilant, that is, ready. The opposite of vigilance, Our Lord says, is a drowsy heart.
  • What can make our hearts sleepy? Our Lord says, carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life.
  • Day by day, we can pursue the opposites of these sleep-inducing dangers. What are they?
    • Orderly work is the antidote to carousing. Everyone loves a party but the norm should be useful work, assisted by virtues, offered to God, which serves others.
    • Moderation of the desires for pleasure can overcome drunkenness. Temperance regulates all our various desires for pleasure, giving these desires the red light when the time or circumstances are not right or the green light when they are.
    • Abandonment to the providence of God is the cure for the anxieties of daily life.
      • “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:31-33)

The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the First Sunday of Advent:

  • CCC 668-677, 769: the final tribulation and Christ’s return in glory
  • CCC 451, 671, 1130, 1403, 2817: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
  • CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
  • CCC 207, 210-214, 270, 1062-1063: God is faithful and merciful






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *