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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

Watch
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

1st Sunday of Advent B

 

STAY AWAKE FOR THE LORD’S COMING

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have come to the season of Advent. The season marks the beginning of another year of the Church’s Calendar. “Advent” from the latin ‘Adventus’ has been used in different ways. Before Christianity became a free religion in the Roman Empire, the pagans used ‘Adventus’ to mean the coming of their gods— On a fixed day of the year, they exposed its statue, hoping that in this way the gods would make their presence felt among its faithful, ready to hand out blessings and favours. Politically, the word ‘adventus’ was used also to mean the visit of the king or of a royal to a city or the coronation day of a sovereign.

With the coming of Christ, the early Christians applied all these various meanings to the coming into the world of the Son God in the birth of Jesus Christ.  The term ‘advent’ was used to identify specifically the period of time set aside to prepare this visit.

 

Advent is a time of Joyful expectation. The celebration in Rome began in the 6th century.

Elsewhere a period of ascetical practices had been in existence. Advent retains alleluia—a song of joy but takes the violet/purple vestment—a sign of penance. Gloria is omitted not because of sadness, but that  it might resound at Christmas.

 

The season prepares the faithful for the celebration of the birth of the Savior in the flesh but soon takes on an eschatological sense of the waiting for the second coming at the end of time. The Advent season is in two parts: First Sunday of Advent till December 16 has its emphasis on the second coming often seen as remote preparation. While 17—24 December has its emphasis on the first coming of Christ, his birth in Bethlehem. 

The Two prefaces of Advent reflects these themes.

 

The readings during this period of advent remind us that there are various  comings of Christ for which we prepare. This will include his coming at Christmas, his coming at the end of time and his coming to us daily in holy communion and in our daily living.

 

First Reading (Isaiah 63: 16-17; 64: 1. 3-8)

This reading is a prayer in exile. Full of remorse, the people call on God as their Father, redeemer, Lord and appealed for forgiveness from the one they have come to honour as the potter who moulded them.

 

They referred to God as their Father. Unlike the pagans around them, they’ve always known and addressed God as the I AM— YAHWEH.  Apart from this they already had a father in Abraham. But now they look up to God as the only Father who is capable of restoring them to their homeland. The coming of Jesus will reveal even more of this relationship as he taught his disciples to see God as their Father in heaven and address him as such.

 

They also in this prayer refer to God as their redeemer. This is a title for someone who undertakes the task of ransoming a prisoner or a slave. The redeemer is expected to pay the price or ransom. Jesus came into the world to redeem us.

 

To end this part of the prayer, after a whole litany of many good things that God has done for the people, it is repeated, “Yet Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” At the beginning of Advent, just like that of Lent, we are reminded that we are dust. Anything made of dust will definitely return to dust someday. We will better listen to that message at a funeral.  But it is the same message today as we begin a new season. We are the work of his hand, he came to live among us, he taught us how to live, now he returns for his visitation, are we ready and prepared for him?

 

Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1: 3-9)

Paul’s striking devotion to the person of Jesus Christ is seen in this passage. In these opening verses of the letter to the Corinthians, the apostle expresses his joy about the people who have remained faithful to the teachings. He also wants them to continue in their steadfastness just as he continues to thank God and the Lord Jesus for enriching them in so many ways especially in their teachers and preachers. Just like the Corinthians, we are also waiting for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time.  We need to remain faithful and steadfast. 

 

Gospel (Mark 13: 33-37)

The central theme of the Gospel passage today is ‘vigilance.’ Severally Jesus says—Watch— “Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come.” This comes from the farewell discourse of Jesus. Jesus wants the community to be ready at all times. This may not be unconnected with the fact that the disciples wanted to know when the end will come not to be caught unprepared. To drive home the point, Jesus uses the parable of the “man going on a journey, and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” The master of this story did not inform the servants on the time of his return, which means that they all have to be on the watch not to be caught asleep if he comes suddenly.

 

This parable presents Jesus as the householder, who will definitely return at the time of his own choosing. In families there is the sense of holy fear among the children when their parents are away, to make sure that they do not do anything that might injure the love that their parents have for them. Jesus says this must be the constant state in which his followers live. Always expecting his return, but actively waiting by being at their duties. The doorkeeper therefore represents the waiting community for the coming of the Lord. The jobs given to the individuals could be seen in the light of the teachings of Jesus, particularly the beatitudes and the works of charity. At his coming the master will take account of what his disciples have done. What can we do this week, how can we be on the watch?

 

We must begin from our homes and there we can experience advent preparation in the husbands and wives who wait on each other in developing their mutual love; we can do it in the unmarried who look to the needs of the people in their world; we can do so in the employers who provide adequately for the welfare of those in their care; we can practice this in the leaders who promote the common good and not just look to their own good and gains; in short, we can do so by doing our daily duties as if we are doing them unto the Lord since he has said, “Whatsoever you do, to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.”

 

The staying awake that Advent demands is the readiness we must have to respond to God’s presence. God provides us with many opportunities to grow in his love and presence during Advent. We have to stay awake so we don’t miss any of these. It is very easy to get busy about preparing for Christmas and forget about preparing for eternal life. Let us be awake and on the watch.

 

Advent is the season of hope.  The promise of the prophets will be fulfilled.

 

So we wait. We watch.  We prepare.

 

 

Let us pray: May the Lord bless your waiting and fulfil your hopes and dreams. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!  

 

Have a blessed week!

 

 

 

 
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