First Sunday Advent A
Dear friends in Christ, we have come to a new season, a season of preparation for the coming of the Lord. The season of Advent marks the beginning of another year of the Church’s Calendar. What then is ‘Advent’? From the Latin word ‘adventus’ it could mean the ‘arrival’ or ‘coming,’ of a notable person or event. What is the implication of the season for our spiritual growth?
Before Christians took the word over to describe the first of the liturgical seasons, pagans used the word ‘Advent’ to refer to the coming of their gods. In the imperial or political realm, the word ‘advent’ was used also to mean the visit of a king or an emperor to a city or the coronation day of a sovereign. When Christians became free to worship openly in the Roman Empire, the early Christians applied all these various meanings to the coming of the one true God through the birth of his son Jesus Christ. The term ‘advent’ was used to identify specifically the period of time set aside to prepare this visit.
The readings during this period of advent remind us that there are various comings of Christ for which we prepare. These 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. The season of Advent is divided into two parts, the first part from the First Sunday of Advent to the 16th of December looks to the second coming of Christ while the second part which is from 17th to 24th of December, celebrates the first coming of Christ. It is not designed to be a time to get ready our shopping lists for Christmas and New Year, but a time of sober reflection on our readiness for the coming of Christ.
First Reading (Isaiah 2:1-4)
The time in which Isaiah lived was characterised by war and violence. Nations trying to expand their territories, taking others captive and conquering other nations and cities to take the spoils of war. Jerusalem was in the midst of that struggle and its people also lived in that fear, Isaiah however brought a message of hope to the people promising a number of things:
A. That, “It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall tower above all other mountains and be raised higher than the hills.” In this vision Isaiah does not in anyway refer to a physical expansion or towering of the mountain but to the spiritual.
B. The house of the Lord shall then become a place of worship for all, from there shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord. People will feel secured, and the sense of finding God and having their prayers and requests answered on this mountain, will give the people hope.
C. Isaiah also made a promise of universal peace. The people will now turn from war to peace. Their implements of war will be changed into implements for production.
The situation described here by the prophet Isaiah is better imagined. Will it ever come to pass, that people will no longer learn about war? Will it ever be possible that nations will stop spending huge sums to develop war equipments, when will our government stop spending the largest allocation of our budget on defence, and use the money instead for physical and social welfare of the people?
The prophesy of Isaiah goes beyond just the immediate to the future, a future that may transcend this present world. We however, must see ourselves as the fulfilment of that prophesy; but are we in any way working for peace or supporting peace initiatives in the world?
Second Reading (Romans 13:11-14)
Paul in this letter to the Romans reminds us of the fact that we must not return to a life of darkness— the life before the knowledge of Christ; and the power of his resurrection. Paul admits that the darkness even among the Christians is not completely over. The night still wraps the world: there are still wars, vendettas, envies, jealousies...but this does not discourage him at all, he sees it as a passing phase, and so he says that the night is almost over the day is at hand, a new humanity, is about to be born.
Gospel (Matthew 24:37-44)
The Gospel reading today is about vigilance. We are invited to stay awake so as not to miss the action— the salvation of the world. Jesus is quite sure that a lot of people pay very little attention to things concerning their salvation. They are more interested in the things of the world. What they can achieve and see immediately rather than that which is promised, even when the promise has been made by God. He uses the example of the disaster during the period of Noah as a lesson. Before the flood came, people saw Noah building the ark, and went about their daily routine and preoccupations. “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the Ark…so will be the coming of the Son of man.” They were more interested in the things of this world and did not pay attention to the warnings. There is the need for us to stay awake, and to interpret correctly the signs of our time. It is true we have our earthly concerns to deal with, we must in the same vein not forget the heavenly matters. Jesus warns that his second coming will be like the visit of a thief in the night. What is needed is for a disciple to be very watchful and ever ready.
The season of advent therefore issues a spiritual wake-up call to us, and has an awakening power. Unless we are spiritually awake, we are not alive to our responsibility in Christ, to be awake spiritually means to be open to God’s word and receptive to the message of salvation.
Spirituality is about being ready for the Lord. It is about understanding things the way God wants us to understand them; it is about seeing things rightly, and being able to put each one in its proper place in relationship with God and salvation. To be spiritually awake then is to be attentive to God and to others. It means to live in love. It is much more rewarding spiritually to be awake, to be alert, to be concerned, to be active, to be interested, to care. We need to examine our consciences very well as we begin a new liturgical year. To see if we are awake or asleep. Should Christ meet us the way we are now?
Let us pray: Lord, prepare us for your coming, make us eager to do your will in all things, keep us in love for you and our neighbour, and make us always aware of your loving presence in our lives. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen