From A Catholic Moment;
Last week Sunday the Holy Mother the Church
celebrated the Solemn Feast of Christ the King which concluded the
liturgical year C. And today being the first Sunday of Advent, the
Church begins another new liturgical year A. That is to say, the Advent
season begins the whole of the church’s celebration of the redemptive
mystery of Christ othewise known as the Pascal mystery.
Advent is translated from the latin “Adventus“ which itself was
translated from the Greek “Parousia” meaning – showing forth, appearing
or coming forth.
As a season of the Church, Advent has a double
meaning. First it is a period when the Church re-lives the promise made
by God to the people of the Old through the prophet Isaiah (Is 7:14;
9:7) Micah (Mic 5:2) and Malachi (Mal 3:1) about the coming of the
Messiah in the flesh (the mystery of the incarnation) which was
confirmed by the synoptic Gospels (Matthew Mark and Luke) who narrated
the story of his birth. The second meaning of Advent is that it is a
period when the Church expects the final and definitive revelation of
Christ in glory; known as the mystery of the Parousia or second coming
of Christ. In all these, the underlying message is “Preparation.”
However, Advent can be likened to a desert experience. In the desert,
the atmosphere is invariably dry and the soil evaporates water more than
it receives thereby impeding productivity. The life of man remains
absolutely dry without the presence of God. He undergoes a spiritual
longing for the Lord in order to survive the aride experience and to
musturize his dying soul. Hence, it requires a deep seated spiritual
journey and preparation. This Lord we are expecting will not come into
our lives if we have a “half done” preparation. We have to leave the
door of our heart open because our heart has only one handle located
inside. Jesus cannot possibly open it. He will do the knocking while we
do the opening. For the scripture says, “Behold I am standing at the
door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I
will come in to share a meal at his side” (Revelation 3:20).
FIRST READING: Isaiah 2:1-5
In this first Sunday of Advent the prophecy of Isaiah is a call to
return to the Lord. The ministry of Isaiah took place around Eight
Century BC when Israel was no longer in unity. The kingdom was split
into Northern and Southern kingdoms after the death of King Solomon.
Isaiah perceived this division as a deviation from the will of the Lord.
And today he announces the message of Hope which characterizes the
first sunday of advent. The Lord is concerned about the division of his
people into many nations. For this, he will come very soon to establish
his presence among them (symbolized in the image of mountain of Zion) so
that he will bring the nations scattered over the earth into the one
family of God. He will establish peace among them. For they shall cease
from wars: “a time when swords shall be put into ploughshares and spears
into pruning hooks; a time when no nation shall raise sword against the
other nor train again for war.” These days of darkness will be over.
Divisions, hatred and crisis will be over, and the people will walk in
the light which is the Lord himself.
The message of Isaiah
underlines a fundamental fact that when the Lord is absent from our
lives, then we are prone to evil (divisions, hatred, Crisis, wars and
all other deeds of darkness). But the prophet did not stop at pointing
out the problems that characterize our lives. He equally calls us to
rise and make our way towards the Lord. This simply means that if you
and I would truly approach the Lord who “enters his Temple”, then we
will come out to truly love and appreciate the other as members of the
one single family with a common Father. Often we think that some of us
are from a different planet while the rest are from another planet. We
forget that where we come from is just an accident which does not in any
way define our essence as human beings. The Advent call of Isaiah is
that the Lord will gather all nations to himself and not some nations.
Let us prepare our hearts to meet the Lord by loving one another.
SECOND READING: Romans 13:11-14
Paul observed that some Christians in Rome were still living a double
life; Christians in the day and pagans in the night. Today he reminds
them of the obligation to abandon those sins that include “orgies and
drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy” that
characterized their past lives as pagans before being converted to the
Lord. He insists that their present state of life is contradictory to
the works of darkness because Christ whom they have accepted is all
Light. Hence they must put on the armour of light.
This message of
Paul was an urgent call to the Romans and to all that there is no more
time to waste. It is a message that is meant to wake those who are
sleeping in sin. We need to say “No” to hide and seek type of
Christianity. Whatever we do is known to the Lord. Let us not think that
we are safe with what we do in the dark because at his appearing our
deeds of darkness will be laid open.
GOSPEL: Matthew 24:37-44
The Gospel of Matthew today was addressed to the Christian converts
from Judaism who were experiencing ill treatments from their Jewish
counterparts. They were most often caricatured and ostracized from the
place of worship. Matthew tries to reinforce their faith with this
beautiful message of Jesus to his disciples. He assures them that the
righteous will be vindicated on the day of the Lord. As one who was very
much schooled in the knowledge of the Old Testament, Matthew employs
the story of the deluge to demonstrate how God saved their ancestor
Noah-the righteous and destroyed the evil doers (Gen. chaps. 6-9). He
speaks of the uselessness of looking for signs; for there will be none.
As a thief sneaks in during the night, so will the Lord’s coming in
glory be. He therefore invites his audience to always be steadfast even
in the minutest things they do. He warns them to be careful because the
end might appear to be very peaceful when people will be eating and
drinking, marrying and having fun. This will be very deceptive and will
breed the tendency of relaxation.
THE END WILL BE SELECTIVE
The Gospel says that one will be taken out of two people. Thus, it is
obvious that the two cannot be taken at the same time. Who will be taken
and who will be left? We cannot understand the seriousness of this
message until we begin to ask the question, “what if I am the one to be
left behind?” Let the thought of this lead each one of us to be
vigilant; the type of vigilance that respects no time and no place. We
must be vigilant at our work places, in the fields and even when asleep.
The Lord comes to us in our daily activities.
THE END WILL BE UNANNOUNCED
Jesus says we do not know the time or the day when the Son of man will
come. It simply means there will not be any formal arrangement. The news
will neither be published on any social media nor will there be any
pre-warning. He gives us the appointment to meet him everyday. But how
many of us truly answer the call? We often postpone our meeting with
him. We keep rescheduling it for the last minute because of
self-indulgence into the latest beauty that the world presents to us. We
act as if we have the timetable with us where the last minute is
indicated. I once heard someone speak of a writeup he saw around a
hospital that reads; “MANY WHO PLAN TO SETTLE WITH GOD AT THE 11th HOUR
OFTEN DIE AT 10:30.”
THE END IS HERE AND NOW
Advent calls us to think of our relationship with God here and now. It calls for a diagnosis of our spiritual life.
How many of us do go to Mass and remain attentive and watchful for
complete One hour without being distracted? We often don’t remember
where the readings are taken from or even pay attention to Jesus who
speaks to us in the readings or even concentrate during the homily
without thinking about one thing or the other. If we cannot pay
attention to Christ who comes to us in his Word and in the Eucharist at
an hour we know, how then can we possibly keep watch at an hour we do
not even know when it will be?
PRAYER: Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to
run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so
that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the
heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and
reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and