1st Sunday of Advent (Fr. Francis)
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and of a new liturgical calendar, year B. Remarkably, as we begin a new liturgical year today, we move from the gospel according to Matthew’s to the gospel according to Mark, the shortest of the four canonical Gospels.
Advent is a season of hope and a period during which as Christians we await the fulfillment of the promise of God through his prophets. In addition to being a season of hope, it is equally, a season of patience and prayer. During these four weeks, what are we expected to do? We are expected to prepare for the birth of the messiah. It suffices to note that while we prepare physically, the most important must be the spiritual preparation.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah prays for God’s active presence so that the Jewish community, returned from Babylonian exile, may remain faithful to their God. In the second reading, St. Paul prays for the reconversion of Christians in Corinth who have misused their gifts and charisms and remain ill-prepared for Christ’s Second Coming.
In today’s Gospel, using the short parable of the servants and gatekeeper of an absentee master who could return at any time, Jesus instructs his followers to be alert and watchful while doing their Christian duties with sincerity. The gatekeeper and the household servants are expected to be ever vigilant because their master is sure to return. Although the time of his return is uncertain, but the reward or punishment is sure and certain.
The Gospel calls to be awake and alert. Only the Spirit of God can help us do this faithfully. Therefore, rather than obey the spirit of this world this season, we must obey the Spirit of God, who sustains us. So, let us to have our minds fixed on him. It suffices to note that if we light up our houses and streets, without lightening up our lives spiritually for Christ to walk into it; if we prepare all things and places without preparing a manger for baby Jesus in our lives then, our preparation would not be complete.
Advent is a time – a grace-filled, precious time – for us to try and recover our childhood sense of wonder at the ordinary miracles of life that surround us – basic elemental things, like the smile of a child, the most natural and spontaneous sacrament of God that I know, or the warmth of the Sun as it kisses a new day into being, or the changing colors an autumnal landscape. Let us, then, turn to the simple things, the things we take for-granted, the things that, as the poet E.E. Cummings says, ‘I cannot touch because they are too near.’ We can experience Christ’s living presence in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible, in our worshiping community in our parish, in our family, in our own souls and in everyone around us.
Finally, as we eagerly anticipate the coming of the Lord this season, our hope and expectation should prompt us to be always awake and vigilant. It should make us prepare adequately to avail ourselves of Jesus’ mercy.
The Gospel also reminds us of our responsibilities and works which has to be completed, Like the parents who trust their teenagers to look after the house while they are away, or like the teacher who leaves the classroom after giving her students plenty of work to do, Jesus trusts us to carry out his work until he returns. There is the work of witnessing to Jesus in our daily lives. There is the work to be done in our families, our schools, our local churches, and our community. There is the work of caring for those who are hurting and have needs. There is the work of guiding and leading others, pointing people to the comforting message of the Gospel. There is the work of living “lives holy and dedicated to God,” “doing our best to be pure and faultless in God’s sight and to be at peace with him’.
Spend some time today preparing for this new liturgical year. Hang a new liturgical year calendar and create your family Advent wreath. Light the first candle and talk about how you will celebrate the season of Advent. Talk about what you as a family can do to stay awake for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. As we begin this wonderful season today, we pray the Lord to help us stay awake to see him when he comes. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN