(Isa 63:16-17. 64:1,3-8, ICor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37)

Today we begin the advent season, the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The word “advent” is from the Latin word “adventus”, meaning “coming”. Advent is a season of expectation, anticipation and a season of waiting in hope. It is 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.

The readings for the First Sunday of Advent this year begin with a passage from the final part of the Book of Isaiah (63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8). The passage expresses strongly a longing for salvation yet to be achieved. The return of Israel from Exile in Babylon had been far from the expectations aroused by prophecies found earlier in the Book (chapters 40-55).

The prophet reminds us that we have strayed from the way of the Lord and hardened our hearts against fearing him. Isaiah expressed this fact when the ancient Israel returned from their land of exile, they became empty, their temple destroyed and they were so far away from God. That is what happens when we stray from the ways of God, we become spiritually empty and vulnerable to every form of intimidation. The ancient Israel strayed from the ways of God and were intimidated by the Babylonians, but their memories of what God had done and what he can do kept them spiritually alive. Even in their emptiness, they remembered the name of the Lord and say; Our Redeemer is your ancient name. They wished God would tear the heavens open and returned to them. They waited in hope; they prepared to be received back into God’s presence. Today, we are all called to be part of that preparation, to wait in hope and wish God would tear the heavens open and come to us. 

St Paul in the Second Reading gives perfect expression to Christian hope for the second coming of the Lord. He encourages us to be faithful as we wait for the coming of Christ. Though, Paul was referring to the parousia, yet, this reading is very ad rem to this season of Advent. Paul reminds us that we have received the gifts of the Spirit. It is these gifts of the Spirit that will strengthen us as we wait in joyful hope for Christ. Our life is a long vigil, waiting for the Lord to be revealed in all his glory. So, we wait with expectation and joyful hope because His Spirit is with us. If we walk with him this season, God will not fail us because: “our expectation shall not be cut short” (Pro 23: 18).

The Gospel reading Mark 13:33-37, features a brief parable – really simply an extended image – from the end of the long discourse on the future that Jesus gives to his disciples just before his Passion. The householder who goes on his travels gives instructions to all his servants, but the focus of the parable lies on the one charged to watch the door. Everyone else may sleep, but this servant must stay awake at night, always on the lookout for the master’s coming. Believers are like that servant: ‘gatekeepers’ for the coming of the Lord. The rest of the world may ‘sleep’, but we are ‘children of light and of the day (1 Thess 5:5), our lives bathed in the dawning light of the risen Lord and enriched by the hope of his final coming. 

Every liturgical New Year we hear one of the evangelists tell us to stay awake, watch and be prepared for the day that Jesus will come again. A joke is said about someone asking Pope John XXIII what we should be doing when Jesus comes again, and he responded, “Look busy”. Jesus is telling us to be alert and watchful because we do not know when He is coming. And what are we going to watch?

Let us watch our WATCH. W – Word: Are our words life-giving or discouraging? Let us look at the many times we speak ill of other people, when we gossip about them; we criticize them, or curse them with bad words. A – Action: Are our actions charitable or abominable? Do we work hard for the good of others or only for our own benefit? T – Thoughts: How are we with regards to judging other people? Do you confirm the truth before you pass judgment? Do you know how to give the benefit of the doubt? C – Character: do you have a pleasing character or is it annoying to others? H – Heart: What is inside your heart, love or anger? Peace or violence?

As we begin this season of advent, a time to celebrate Christ’s coming. St Bernard will say: “There are three distinct coming of the lord of which I know; his coming to us, his coming into us and his coming against us”. As we eagerly anticipate the coming of the Lord this season, our hope and expectation should prompt us to always watch our words and actions. It should make us prepare adequately in order to avail ourselves of Jesus’ mercy.

Wish you a fruitful Advent season.

Peace be with you!

Fr Dumlesi Tor