WAITING FOR HIS COMING – 26 November 2017 – 1ST Sunday of Advent

Is 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37
Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

The masters of Israel taught that, in the history of the world, there were four great nights. The first at the time of creation: The sun and the moon did not exist and it was night when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). There was a second night, one in which God made the covenant with Abraham (Gen 15). Then a third, the mother of all nights, the liberation of Israel from Egypt; it was “this is the watch for the Lord—all Israel are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time” (Ex 12:42).

The fourth night is the one Israel waits: God will intervene in it to create the new world and to begin his reign. When, in the New Testament, the coming of the Lord during the night is spoken, it refers us to this fourth night. This is our night; it’s the time we live in, the time that is dark, the time in which the proposals of life that shake the major consensus are hedonistic, not the beatitudes of Jesus.

Mark reminds, not to doze off by fatigue even at the last part of the night, before dawn. The one who is vigilant is ready to welcome the Lord in those who seek peace, dialogue, and reconciliation and above all in the poor. Darkness scares and, at some point, it becomes so dense that even the Christian gifted with the sight of fine faith can lose sight of his Lord and be overcome by fatigue, boredom, despair.

There is a secret to keep oneself awake: prayer, understood as a constant dialogue with the Lord. The one who does not pray dozes off. He will eventually end up resigned and will adapt, like everyone else, to the dark of the night that envelops the world (Mk 14:37-40).

The servants, represent the disciples engaged in the execution of their Lord’s projects. To each is given a task, a mission to be carried out in accordance with his own capabilities. The doorkeepers are those responsible for the proclamation of the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and for the support of the disciples who are wavering in their faith. These doorkeepers have to be more vigilant than others and keep awake their weaker brothers and sisters, who are in danger of being deceived by the dominant mentality of this world.

To be alert and watchful of what?

May Tam

It is all too often that we are more reminded of the coming of Christmas by commercial decorations and shopping sprees than by the start of the Church’s new liturgical year. No wonder then the season of Advent always begins with the message of wakefulness. The “staying awake” motif is also found in both the Gospels of Matthew (24:36-51; 25:1-13) and Luke (12:35-48; 21:34-35). It reminds us of the necessity to be alert and watchful but, to be alert and watchful of what?

For the early Christians, they would have understood these sayings of Jesus. Living in adversities and hardships, they were in eager anticipation of the return of the risen Christ who will bring them peace and justice (cf 1 & 2 Thessalonians). How about us? Except when there is a worldwide crisis or calamity and perhaps for some doomsayers, most of us certainly do not feel the tension of our Lord’s coming like the early Christians. “Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead” becomes our lip service as we profess our faith on every Sunday.

This is exactly why Jesus repeatedly urges us to be vigilant and stay awake. The kind of wakefulness that Jesus warns us and what we need is not from without but from within. It is a constant effort to be prepared at all times but not to be instilled with fear nor unhealthily preoccupied with it. It is a habit, a practice that we should cultivate in order that we are always united with Christ. It is a way of living, to love Him through deeds, prayers and supplications. It is a state of being to be mindful of what is unfolding around us at present and hence be able to reflect upon its meaning. Without this space ready in our consciousness, we are all too easy to elapse into “religious laziness.” Our everyday “busyness” and mundane activities may soon consume us, like those people in the days of Noah (Matthew 24: 37-39) and eventually we may lose sight of our spiritual realities, our ultimate goal and finally our faith.

If the first generation of Christians were urged to be on guard, all the more urgent for us now! So let us respond to the call of Advent by keeping vigil and be patient in waiting, but at the same time, look forward to our Lord’s coming either in flesh (Christmas) or in His glory (Parousia). “And what I say to you [people in Jesus’ time] I say to all [future generations—including us now]: Keep awake.” (Mark 13:37)

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