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Saturday, 26 November 2011

1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR B): A REFLECTION ON THE READINGS (27. NOV. 2011)

For the readings of today's mass click here.  
 
Today, the Church is launched into a new liturgical year. The Sunday readings for this new liturgical year will be coming from Year B and the weekday readings from Week II. This new liturgical year brings something very unique and special for Anglophone countries. The New English translation of the Roman Missal takes effect today. To my readers in Nigeria, Russia, Great Britain, Russia, US, Germany, Italy, Philippines, India, Australia, etc, I wish you all a happy new liturgical year. Be assured of my prayers for you as we keep on sharing God’s word on this blog. I am confident that you will remain my good readers and that you will also help to publicize my little effort by recommending this blog to your friends through the social media and networks. May God bless you the more. 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent is a very important aspect of the Church’s liturgical life. It presents to us the eschatological nature of the Church. It is a period of expectancy and in it, we reflect on the arrival of Christ in three historical strands. First, that he came about 2000 years ago, born of a virgin. Secondly, that Christ is ever present among us in this age through diverse means especially in the Holy Eucharist. Thirdly, that he will come again, then not as a baby or as a mediator but as a king to judge the living and the dead. While this season concretely prepares us for the birth of Christ at Christmas, it points to the eschatological return of Christ and urges us to prepare for that great day.

Some years ago, I was posted to work in a parish where I lived alone with the priest. I was everything for him: the cook, the steward, the catechist, the sacristan and more remarkably, I was in charge of the gates. Often times, the priest traveled neither telling me where he was going nor when he would return. Every night, I would sit beside the central gate waiting for his return and when it was too late, I would retire but was also vigilant in my sleep. This was part of the formation I enjoyed. It was to make me vigilant, always prepared and responsible for I neither knew when my master was returning nor wanted to be caught doing the wrong thing but to get an excellent report at the end of the apostolic work.

This personal experience closely aligns with what Jesus is saying in the gospel reading of today, urging us to remain vigilant while awaiting his second coming. This time, not for an excellent report but for acceptance into the beatific vision. People can do anything to remain vigilant while waiting for a great political leader whose arrival will alleviate their problems. In the same way, Jesus wants us to wait for him in vigilance for he is coming to put an end to our troubles and worries encountered in this world filled with wickedness, hate, sin, evil, disappointments and other vices. 

In addition to this, the Israelites in the first reading encountered many difficulties after having sinned against God and faced the consequences of their sins. They beseeched God to intervene as their redeemer by “tearing the heavens open and coming down” (cf. Is. 64:1) to save them. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians to always pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit which will help us prepare ourselves as we wait on God to save us. These gifts will enable us to  be faithful to our calling, live righteous lives and always remain awake just as the gospel reading urges us.

Jesus was perhaps not speaking of remaining awake in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. He wants us to remain awake in our good deeds and practice of virtues in preparation for his return. There is this tendency to rest for a while from doing good when we think we have made a mark in doing good. Jesus wants us to eschew from our lives, those things that weaken our spiritual growth. The danger is that the Lord’s arrival may meet us unprepared if we rest from doing good. This world is not a place of rest, we must struggle here and then rest hereafter. To remain awake, we must listen to our spiritual leaders, and ask for God’s grace as we learnt from the second reading. Moreso, we must learn from Christ who remained vigilant on the night before his passion. Therefore, we must keep vigil with Christ “at least for an hour” (cf. Mt. 26:40) daily with the Holy Eucharist or in prayer to avoid falling into temptation.

How are we really preparing for the coming of Christ? Is our academic life weighing us down or are our businesses or social lives making us fall asleep to our duty? How do we value the Blessed Sacrament where we can remain awake with Christ? Perhaps this season of Advent, Christ wants us to wake up from our spiritual slumbers and await his arrival. His arrival for you may be now!




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