Another interesting note is that the traditional readings for the Last Sunday of the year are very close to the First Sunday of the year - also reminding us of the Second Coming of Christ as we begin the season celebrating His First Coming - Advent.
It's time for my annual campaign too! This is NOT the Christmas season! Christmas begins with the First Mass of Christmas - the Midnight Mass - and lasts through Epiphany (more modern tradition) or through Candlemas (the more ancient tradition). Either way, the Christmas season begins ON Christmas Day. Advent, the season we enter this Sunday, is a time of penance and anticipation - and it is a similar season to Lent.
A video/slideshow with the above information (and a year in quotes from Pope Francis)...
And a sermon from "Fisheaters:"
Today we've almost completed the liturgical cycle, which starts over again with Advent next Sunday. Our focus now is on the Second Coming of Christ (the "Parousia"), the Last Judgment, and the Heavenly Jerusalem. Today's Mass readings will include the frightening "Olivet Discourse" (Matthew 24:15-35).
What does the Church teach about the Parousia? That Jesus will come in glory and unexpectedly and that no man knows when this will be. That when He comes, the bodies of the dead -- who've already been judged in what is called the "particular judgment" that takes place just after death -- will be raised and united with their souls. That all who have ever lived will be judged in what is called the "Last Judgment" which will happen in such a manner that everyone will know Who Christ is and that His judgments are just.
This world will be destroyed, and a new world will take its place. Christ will reign forever and ever with His saints.
Apocalypse 21:1-5, 22:1-5
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more. And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them. And they shall be His people; and God Himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true...
...And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see His Face: and His Name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more: and they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign for ever and ever.
It is interesting that the readings from Matthew for today's Mass are almost duplicated in next week's Mass's readings from Luke 21:25-33. On the first Sunday of Advent, we hear again of the destruction of Jerusalem, but this time with an eye toward His Second Coming -- even as we ready ourselves to remember His First Coming at the Feast of the Nativity. The first and last Sundays of the year meet and together remind us to prepare.