First Sunday of Advent November 30, 2008

Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1.3-8   1 Corinthians 1:3-9   Mark 13:33-37

Today we begin the season of Advent. Advent means waiting and we wait for some one we love. During this season we focus on waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of Jesus.  We have the three fold waiting. We know that Jesus has already come in history and we remember that during the week before Christmas our waiting changes to waiting for our celebration of the birth of Jesus. We also wait for his final coming at the end times when he will take all to himself.  We also experience his daily coming into our life through the Eucharist, word of God and also in the various persons and events of life. Waiting is something very important in the life of the human person. Anytime we wait we do so because we expect something to happen or some one to come.  We wait for a bus or train because some one important has promised to come and we are ready to spend our time and wait for him.  There is the eagerness within us and we look forward to the new event that will take place.  During Advent we look forward to Jesus who will come in a total gesture of love:  God becomes man.  Again he is the God who will bring the world to completion.  So during Advent we are conscious of the fact that God is present with us while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s plans. The church in the liturgy reminds of the mysteries of the Parusia, nativity, and baptism.   . 

The Advent readings for the Sunday commence with a messianic message from prophet Isaiah emphasizing fidelity and restoration of the covenant symbolized in the rule of the Davidic dynasty.  The prophet speaking on behalf of his community, places his hope in the Lord. There is the call by the prophet, “Return, for the sake of your servants….Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down, at your presence the mountains would melt.”  However, the theme of today’s Mass is that of ‘coming’. The prophet refers to the future messianic era where the fulfillment of the promises of God will take place. The messianic period is a time of hope where God restores all to himself.

Today’s readings are more concerned with the ultimate purpose why Jesus, the Son of God, “became a human being and lived among us” and we wait for him to come.  First of all, we want to be pure and clean as we wait to receive him. Secondly, it reminds us of the purpose of his coming, namely our salvation. Again, we are reminded that He will come again and wants us to be ready.  The daily coming of Jesus into our lives is the process by which we deepen our understanding of who Jesus was and is and become more and more identified with his vision of God and of the meaning of life. With this identification we are not only ready but eager to meet and be one with our God. “As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, my God” says Psalm 42; “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the Lord’s house.  In the second reading Paul reminds his listeners of the many gifts they have received from God which will support them until the Second Coming of Jesus, “you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”

Today’s Gospel, then, is speaking of the future and present comings of Jesus. The key word is, to be ready and to be awake.. “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come,” says the Gospel. Jesus also gives a parable about a man travelling abroad. Before he sets out, he gives various responsibilities to his servants to be carried out while he is away; and he warns the doorkeeper to be vigilant and watchful. “Stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn. If he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep… Stay awake!” it is a gentle and straight warning for us to be ready to meet our Lord at any time without the slightest warning. We see it happening every day around us. According to Jesus, it seems that to fall asleep, to be numbed unconscious, unaware, inattentive is the worst thing we can do in the world. Our response has to be one of preparedness, awareness of being awake. He told his disciples in Gethsemane keep awake and pray and invited them to pray with him. He tells them that he is awake and he is watching. When in the boat he was sleeping they woke him up. He gets up to stop the storm but he really wakes up their faith. We have Karl Marx who says religion is the opium of people and opium puts people to sleep. But Jesus tells us today, keep awake.

But that should not be any problem for those who live permanently in a state of awareness of their closeness of God in their lives. It is not really difficult for us to develop the habit of living our day with a sense of his closeness to us, although it is a habit that can only come with practice. It can make such a difference to the quality of our life, apart altogether from being ready for the end, to spend each day seeking and finding God in the people around us, loving and serving him in them and being loved and served by him in them.

Instead of trying to struggle against reality, trying to manipulate life and people to fit in with our dreams and preconceived ambitions, we need to hear the words of Isaiah today, “Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand.” Paul had to learn that lesson. He had decided that his mission in life was to destroy these new Christians. It was on one of these search-and-destroy missions that he was struck to the ground and heard Jesus say to him, “Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?  He is now ready to serve the master Readiness is not only for the end but also for the daily stream of experiences that make up our ordinary day. Jesus is there. Do not fight him. Let him mould you into his likeness, into the likeness of God, to become a person of integrity and truth, of love and compassion, of freedom and peace.  Finally, with Paul, we never stop thanking God for all the graces we have received through Jesus Christ. “I thank him,”  Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus

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