HOMILY: 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A.
THEME: THE COMING OF CHRIST.
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya.
First Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5
Second Reading: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel Reading: Matthew 24:36-44
Looking all round it could be seen and felt the spirit of December. And I’m sure many must have started their preparation for Christmas already.
Even as we begin the material preparations for the social celebration of Christmas, the liturgical celebrations of these weeks invite us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. But what does the coming of Christ Jesus mean?
The coming of Christ can be understood in three ways – so to say. Jesus came; Jesus comes; and Jesus will come again.
The first coming of Jesus is plain enough. It refers to the historical coming of Jesus 2000 years ago. We call this, the Mystery of Incarnation. We also hopefully await the coming of Christ in glory at the end of times. This is referred to as the Second Coming. This is one of the core beliefs of Christianity, and strongly alluded to in the New Testament. In the Creed we assert our faith in these two comings of Christ.
But there is still the third meaning. The coming of Jesus is not just a thing of the past, nor is it a mere imagination of the future. By the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord, the coming of Jesus continues to be enacted even today. Jesus comes in our midst as the Word is proclaimed, and as the Sacraments are celebrated. While this coming is visible in all the sacraments of the Church, it is more powerfully tangible in the Eucharist.
In our liturgy today, God is lamenting through prophet Isaiah over our waywardness when he says “Hear o Heavens and listen o earth, for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me…” (Isaiah 1:1a). It is against this backdrop that the First Reading of today is calling us to a return to God who is the way, the truth and the life (Cf. John 14:6). It is calling on all of us to return to God so that he will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his path.
In the First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah gives the Israelites and for that matter all of us a message of hope; a message of salvation. It reminds us that salvation is for all and Jesus is the fulfilment of the longing of humanity in which people of every race, language, culture and the like will be united in a common bond of love. “All the nations will stream to it; peoples without number will come to it…” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
Jesus’ teaching about the end time is straight forward: that he will certainly return, but we cannot possibly find out when. Therefore, we must be always ready for him. This is the message we hear in the Gospel reading of today. “As in the days of Noah, so will the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37). Men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away.
What men were doing in those days were not sinful but innocent daily occupations. Their fault was that they allowed themselves to become so engrossed in these otherwise occupations that they gave no thought to the coming judgment.
We too are therefore warned against our interest in and preoccupation with secular business that would make us forget the judgment ahead of us. Many men and women of our time are so occupied with their business and career life that they hardly give thought to their spiritual life.
During the Second World War a Protestant theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for criticizing Hitler. Even in prison he continued to urge fellow believers to resist Nazi oppression although this led to severe punishments. A group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the Antichrist, asked Bonhoeffer, “Why do you expose yourself to all this suffering? Jesus will return any day, and all your work and suffering would have been for nothing.” Bonhoeffer replied, “If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I will rest from my labor. But today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it is finished.” Bonhoefer knew and understood the Scriptures that it was not his duty to determine when the Lord would return. He understood that it was his duty to stay awake and be ready for the Lord’s return.
We must be true disciples of Jesus. We are called upon to be vigilant. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, from the second reading, that we need to wake from our sleep, that morning light is arriving, and we too need to cast off the night and put on the clothing of light, the armour of light. This is the preparation that we need to make according to Paul. This new clothing is Jesus Christ himself, and so we need to prepare to wear these clothes by living as honourably as we can.
We prepare by subduing the things in our life that get in the way of light – constant partying, drunkenness, inordinate sexual pleasures, promiscuity, fighting and jealousy, bribery and corruption. These things must be purged in order to dress in the clothing of light – the clothing which is Jesus Christ
In the Second Reading, Paul makes it clear what vigilance is all about. He says “It is now time to wake from sleep because our salvation is much closer than when we first accepted the Faith” (Romans 13:11). Paul calls all of us to appreciate the fact that since we have come out of night into day, each moment of our life must express the fact that we have entered into these last days. We live in the time between Christ’s first coming and his return; in the time between our baptism and our resurrection
This is the time of the Church and the Sacraments. This is the time reserved as a testing time for believers, a time for moral effort, a time of watching and waiting. St. Paul puts this moral effort metaphorically as stripping and re-clothing. We have to put on the new man, Christ himself.
RELATED: HOMILY: 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A
Advent is a time of rousing. We are shaken to the very depths, so that we may wake up to the truth about ourselves. The primary condition for a fruitful and rewarding Advent is renunciation and surrender. We are called upon to let go of all our mistaken dreams, our arrogant behaviours and all our pretenses with which we hope to deceive ourselves and others. If we fail to confront ourselves as regards our salvation, we will be taken over by events and anxiety and suffering may force us to deny Christ. Christ calls us to endurance because that is what will win us our salvation
We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us.
In conclusion, do we love Jesus? If we do, why should we be sad at his coming?
Nobody is sad when his beloved is visiting him or her especially if that beloved has been long in coming. We become so anxious to get the best for our loved ones. We Christians claim we love Jesus but we are not happy he is coming, rather we are sad. A faithful Christian should be happy that Jesus is coming because he is always prepared.
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