Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent Year B
Theme: STAY AWAKE AND BE PREPARED ALWAYS
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday November 29 2020
R1 – Is. 63:16b-17
RESP. PS. – PS. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
R2 – 1Cor 1:3-9
GOSP. – Mk 13:33-37
A story was narrated from an ancient Eastern mysticism about a monk who asked his veteran Abbot in the vocation, “Abbot, what is the greatest lesson you have learnt from God’s wisdom all these years of your service in the Lord’s vineyard? I guess you learnt to be divine (being like God)?” “Not at all, I am still human and a mortal being. Every efforts to be divine keeps eluding me!” He guesses more, “Did you become a saint at the process?” “No, as you can clearly see, I’m still struggling with human frailties and shortcomings.” “What then, O Abbot?” “God’s wisdom all these years of service in His vineyard, (the Abbot replied), has taught me how to stay awake and be prepared always to meet the Lord in His Second Coming, without being taken unawares!”
Beloved in Christ, today is the first Sunday of Advent. At the heart of the readings of today’s liturgy is Jesus’ warning to us to stay awake, watchful and prepared always, awaiting His Glorious Second Coming, which will come unannounced.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah prays for the active presence of God on the Jewish community, who just returned from Babylonian exile; reminding Him of His redemptive work in their lives.
In the second reading, St. Paul prays for the reconversion of Christians in Corinth who have misused their gifts and charisms and remained ill-prepared for Christ’s Second Coming.
Whereas, in the Gospel, Jesus still emphasizes on the need to stay watchful and prepared always till He comes again. He said, “Stay awake!….You do not know when the appointed time will come.” In other words, be prepared always and stay awake while waiting for His coming at an unknown time.
Furthermore, there are five fundamental and quintessential questions that would help us understand the reality and high-spiritedness that accompany this season of Advent:
(1) WHAT IS ADVENT?
(2) WHO IS COMING?
(3) WHAT IS HE COMING TO DO?
(4) WHEN IS HE COMING?
(5) WHAT IS THE BEST POSSIBLE MEANS OF WAITING FOR THIS COMING?
*(1) WHAT IS ADVENT?*
*(2) WHO IS COMING?*
Advent simply means “coming”
(adventum) in Latin. Advent is the season of special preparation for and expectation of the coming of Christ. It encourages us to examine our lives, the Messiah; to reflect on our need for God to enter our lives, and to prepare earnestly for, and eagerly await the coming of Christ.
It is a season the entire Catholic world awaits and reenacts the threefold comings of Jesus Christ, viz:
(a) His coming in History
(b) His coming in Mystery
(c) His coming in Majesty
Summarily put, a season that reminds us that Jesus came (Christmas), He comes (Word & Sacraments), and He is coming again (as Savior or Judge).
*(3) WHAT IS HE COMING TO DO?*
The mission of Jesus is aptly captured in the first reading from the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah used the Hebrew word “גֹּאֲלֵ֥נוּ”(go·’a·le·nu), meaning, “Our Redeemer” in his prayer to God for the redemption of the post exilic generation of Israel; whereby, giving designation to the mission of Jesus as a redeemer. He is coming as a redeemer to save and emancipate mankind from wickedness and sin.
For this is how God loved
the world: he gave his only
Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish
but may have eternal life.
Traditionally, the Hebrew “Go’el” that means “Redeemer” is used in three ways. It is a word that is also translated “kinsman” (a near relative).
(i) A kinsman was responsible to “redeem” family property or a kin from slavery.
(ii) It was also the kinsman’s duty to be the “avenger of blood” when a kin was murdered.
(iii) It was the price required to buy freedom for a slave.
So, Jesus is coming to act as our kinsman, a brother (Gal. 4:6) who will buy us back again from slavery and dominion of darkness (Col. 1:13).
The first reading comes from the Trito-Isaiah (third Isaiah). It was set in a troubled period when Judah was trying to put itself back together after returning from Babylonian Exile.
Around 600 BC, the Babylonians took the Jews out of the Promised Land and kept them in exile (the Babylonian Captivity) for about 60 years. When Cyrus, the Persian emperor, took over Babylon, he sent the Jews home.
Just like the troubled Israel in the time of Isaiah, there is never a time we need a redeemer than now in the history of humanity, and Nigeria, most significantly, as we plunge into the second economic recession, which is the worst since 1987, in a space of 5 years and a time when only the dividends of democracy we enjoy are brutality and lies with license from our leaders. Only Jesus, the redeemer, can save our situation from tyrannical leaders in this generation.
*(4) WHEN IS HE COMING?*
In A.D. 204, Hippolytus, a Christian writer in Rome, recorded that a Bishop was convinced that the Lord was going to return immediately. He urged his diocesans and followers to sell all of their land and possessions and to follow him into the wilderness to await the Lord’s coming and till today, the world has not yet ended. At the end of the first millennium, anticipation of the Second Coming ran high. On the last day of 999, the Basilica of St. Peter at Rome was filled with people who were weeping and trembling waiting for the world to end. More still at the end of the second millennium, anticipations of the 3 days darkness of the year 2000 ran the world amok with preparations and alertness for the second coming, yet the world still endures.
So, the question of “quando” i.e when the second coming of Jesus Christ is going to take place, becomes a great problematic for humanity at different ages and epochs. This is exactly what Jesus seeks to clarify in the parable of the servants and gatekeeper of an absentee master who could return at any time in today’s Gospel. He is coming at anytime we do not expect. The scripture strongly affirms:
But as for that day and hour,
nobody knows it, neither the
angels of heaven, nor the Son,
no one but the Father alone.
(5) *WHAT IS THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY OF AWAITING HIS COMING?*
The only way to promote and accomplish our Advent obligations is by adopting the famous Boys Scout slogan, “BE PREPARED” and “BE AWAKE” ALWAYS (di njikere, murukwa anya mgbe nile).
However, the peak of this preparation is attained by exploiting the efficacious manifestations of Christ’s coming in Mystery (the present) via, the WORD and SACRAMENTS in order to intensify our wakefulness.
(1) *EXPERIENCING HIM EVERYDAY IN THE WORD.*
On the 30th of September, 2019, Pope Francis published and issued an Apostolic Letter, motu proprio (of his own initiative), Aperuit illis, where he establishes that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God”, and proclaimed the year of the Word of God.
The scripture says that, “the word of God is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Ps. 119:105).
In the word of God, we experience Christ’s presence, who is the light that shines in the darkest spots our lives (Jn.8:12; 1:5).
Ask yourself these basic questions:
~Do I have a bible?
~Do I give time to the study of the word of God as I do to my phone?
~Do I encourage bible sharing in my home?
~Do my children, husband, wife, siblings have access to the word of God?
If the answer to any of these questions is “NO”, wake up today, get a bible for yourself, read even a verse everyday and let your Christmas gift to your children, grandchildren, husband, wife and siblings be a bible. When you spread the bible, you spread and expand the kingdom of God.
(2) *EXPERIENCING JESUS IN THE SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH*
The best of our Advent preparations is achieved in Christ’s coming in Mystery, via the Seven Sacraments which the Church celebrates and perpetuates everyday in the name of Jesus Christ who instituted them, viz:
(1) BAPTISM = (Mk. 1:8-11; Jn. 3:5)
(2) CONFIRMATION = (Acts 1:8; Jn.20:22)
(3) HOLY EUCHARIST = (Mtt. 26:26-28Jn. 6:53)
(4) PENANCE = (Lk. 7:48; Jn. 20:23; Mtt. 18:18)
(5) ANOINTING OF THE SICK = (Mk.1:21 -29; James 5:14-18).
(6) HOLY ORDERS = ( Lk. 22:19).
(7) MATRIMONY = (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:6).
If the experience of Jesus in your daily life is yet to be fulfilled in any of these sacraments at any given stage you are ripe and mature enough to receive them, take it up today as your Advent preparations.
~When was the last time you received Holy Communion?
~Are you an adult, yet you have not received First Holy Communion?
~When was the last time you went to confession
~Has your marriage received sacramental and nuptial blessings?
~Are you born again?
~Are you consumed in pursuing happiness and endless riches in this transient and impermanent world?
Rise up today and make hays while the sun shines.
Finally, the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater (Live Cinema show like night of a thousand laugh), where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his clients to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience thinks this is the most amusing turn of the evening and cheered thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building and he was again applauded vigorously. At last he could do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience was with it and all died.
Kierkegaard concluded: “And so, will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators.”
MAY GOD GRANT US THE GRACE OF A CONSCIENTIOUS ADVENT PREPARATIONS. MAY WE NEVER GET CONSUMED BY THE FANTASIES OF THIS PASSING WORLD, RELEGATING OUR HEAVENLY GOALS OF BEATIFIC VISION. AMEN.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
FR GERALD MUOKA