Homily (Reflection) for the First Sunday of Advent, (B) (29th November, 2020) on the Gospel
Ps 79:2-3.15-16.18-19 (R. v.4);
Today is both the New Year day and the first Sunday of the Year according to the Church’s calendar known as the Liturgical year or calendar. Liturgical year is divided into seasons. The seasons are Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary time of the year. They are set aside to celebrate various events in Jesus’ life.
The Liturgical year begins with the Evening prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent which is the evening prayer of the Saturday preceding the First Sunday of Advent and ends on Saturday of the 34th week of the Ordinary Time. The development of the Liturgical year was a complex one involving many traditions and cultures. The Liturgical year is all about the story of our salvation. It guides us as we journey from this valley of tears to the eternal Kingdom.
The word Advent is from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival, approach, or coming. Generally, the First Sunday of Advent falls between November 27 and December 3 whereas the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls between 18th and 24th December. The season of Advent consists of four (4) Sundays but not necessarily four weeks. During the season of Advent, the liturgical colour is violet or purple. However, rose or pink vestment can be used on the Third Sunday of Advent called Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. Gloria is not said during Mass. The season of Advent is divided into two – from the Evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent to 16th December and from 17th December to 24th December. Advent is sometimes called the little Lent because in most Eastern Orthodox and other Eastern Christian Churches, it is also a time of fasting known as the Nativity or Advent Fast which lasts for forty days.
Topic: Life of Advent.
There is a story in Gerard Fuller’s book, Stories for all seasons, about a discussion between a monk and an Abbot:
“A monk asked, ‘Abbot, what has God’s wisdom taught you? Did you become divine?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Did you become a saint?’
‘No, as you can clearly see.’
‘What then, O Abbot?’
‘I became awake!’
As we begin the season of Advent which is also the beginning of the liturgical year as already noted, the gospel charges us thus:
Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from his home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake (Mk 13:33-34).
Saint Paul admonishes us in these words: “... once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8). From the beginning of the world, there is a separation between light and darkness, cf. Gen 1:4, 18. And as Christians, we are children of Light. We are charged not to “... sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (1Thess 5:6). And the gospel also warns us of the consequences of not being awake: “So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep (Mk 13:35-36).
We need God who turns darkness into light, cf. 2Sam 22:29; Ps 18:28; Is 42:16 in our lives for us to be able to be awake. Hence the psalmist said: “... Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Ps 127:1). Only those who are awake can see seek the light, cf. Acts 26:18.
The period of Advent is a time of stocktaking. It is a time for each and every one of us to check how far he/she lives as a child of light we are called to be, a time to make amends. The book of Revelations urges us to be “Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death ...” (Rev 3:2). The season of Advent is a time for all who have strayed in any way to come back to God. Saint Paul admonishes us: “the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light” (Rom 13:12). In his first letter to the Thessalonians he also wrote: “But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness” (1Thess 5:5). In his first letter Saint Peter calls us: “... a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Pt 2:9). However, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth” (1Jn 1:6). We must walk as the children of light, cf. Eph 5:8. And “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5:11). For God “...has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13).
Finally, my dear beloved, the season of Advent is a time of preparation not just for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time to prepare ourselves most importantly for the coming of Jesus as the Judge of the living and the dead. We also prepare during Advent to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. We are to prepare for Christ who lives in our lives through His graces, cf. 1Cor 6:19, Rev 3:20. We are also called to prepare for the coming of our Lord in a spirit of waiting, conversion, hope and prayer. How well do we prepare for these or are we sleeping as we should not (cf. 1Thess 5:6)? Christians are called to live the life of advent which is the life of being awake for Christ also tells us all: “Stay awake!” (Mk 13:37).
Bible Reading: Ps 104:1-35; Lk 12:35-40; Matt 24:42-44; 2Cor 4:1-7; 1Thes 4:13-5:11.
Thought for today: Do you live the life of Advent?
Let us pray: God, as we begin this New Year which is new opportunity to live as your children, may we always be awake doing what you want of us. And may we never be found asleep – Amen.
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