BEING PREPARED, READY AND WATCHFUL
SUNDAY, FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT
Reading 1: Is 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8 This reading recalls God’s past goodness to his people, while freely admitting the people’s sinfulness. The dominant note, however, is one of confidence in God who alone can save his people.
Reading 2: 1 Cor 1:3-9 As we await the coming of Christ in glory, the Holy Spirit will keep us steadfast as we bear witness to him in our lives.
Gospel: Mk 13:33-37 This urges us to stay awake at our appointed tasks, because we simply do not know the day or the hour when the Master will return.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent – the beginning of a new liturgical year. The altar is draped in violet, the colour that expresses hope, expectation and anticipation, which is the dominant mood of Advent. The Advent season is four weeks long, and hence the four Advent candles in the Advent wreath. The word ‘Advent’ means a “coming” or “arrival.” The season is thus marked by themes of preparation and readiness for a coming or arrival. It is a season when we reflect upon our readiness or our lack thereof to welcome Jesus. It is a time to prepare, wait, anticipate and long for his coming, which we celebrate each year at Christmas.
There is a story about a tourist who once came upon a castle. A friendly old gardener saw him peering through the gates, and opening them, invited the tourist inside. There the tourist saw the most spectacular gardens he had seen in a long while, gardens that the old gardener kept in perfect order. The tourist asked the old gardener whether the owner of the castle was in residence. “No” he replied, “He hasn’t been here at all for the last ten years.” “Does he ever write to you?” the tourist asked. “No.” “From whom do you get your instructions?” asked the tourist. “From his agent” was the reply. The tourist pursued his questions: “Does his agent come here?” The answer was in the negative. “Who does come here then?” asked the tourist. “I’m almost always alone, apart from the occasional tourist like yourself” replied the old gardener. In amazement, the tourist exclaimed, “Yet you keep this garden looking beautiful and immaculate, just as though you expect the owner to arrive home tomorrow!” “No, not tomorrow – Today, sir, today!” replied the old gardener.
Jesus is coming again. Yet are we waiting for his coming only at the end of time or do we also sense his presence amidst us today? Advent is a time for ‘putting our spiritual house in order’. By examining our life’s priorities, what’s important to us and our loved-ones, through the spiritual discipline of prayer and reflection on Scripture, we can empty our house of the clutter that hinders our readiness to welcome Jesus, the Master, into our lives.
The Gospel of today tells us that the coming of the Jesus will happen unexpectedly and without warning. Jesus tells us, “Be careful! Watch! You do not know the exact time when I will return.” Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for the next few days i.e., his arrest and death on the cross. However, they were not listening. They were dreaming of the earthly kingdom they thought he came to establish. Their eyes were on this world. Jesus pointed them towards the end of the age when this world and its vanities would no longer matter.
As we begin the Advent season, we anticipate the return of Jesus. We are asked to think in terms of his final advent – when Jesus will show himself in the fullness of his glory. He exhorts the disciples and all of us: “Make sure that when I return, I do not find you asleep.” So how do we prepare? As Jesus says, “each with his own task”.
Therefore, as we wait, we work. Whatever the Lord has given us to do – our responsibilities at home and at church, in the community and the society – are opportunities from God to let his light shine before others. By being about our work as disciples, we help others to be prepared for his return. Moreover, as we work, we are to watch every day of every week, of every month and of every year. We are to be on guard so that we will not be found sleeping. This is a spiritual not a physical watchfulness. That means, living in the grace of our Baptism; proclaiming our Lord’s Cross and Resurrection; celebrating his Holy Supper; clinging to the mercy of God, knowing that we are always in his care. Response: O God, bring us back; let your face shine on us, and we shall be saved.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 80:2-3,15-16,18-19 O God, bring us back; let your face shine on us, and we shall be saved.
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