1st Sunday of Advent 2011

27 November 2011

Isaiah 63:16 – 17 &19, 64:2 – 7
1 Cor 1:3 – 9
Mark 13:33 – 37

adventOne night Jesus appeared in a dream to a devout widow and told her that the next day he would come and visit her. Immediately the widow started to clean and polish the whole house. She had just finished when the doorbell rang and she ran and opened the door expectantly. But it was her daughter who lived nearby who asked her to look after her 3 year old son while she went shopping but the widow refused telling her she was too busy as she was expecting an important visitor. An hour later, the bell went again.  She ran to the door and was annoyed to find a beggar there and said she couldn’t give him anything then as she was expecting an important visitor. In the afternoon the local priest came to ask her help but again she told him to come back tomorrow due to the important visitor expected. Bedtime came and she was very disappointed, as Jesus hadn’t come to her as promised. That night Jesus appeared to her again. “Three times today I tried to visit you but you never had time for me”. When the favorable time came you let it pass”

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is a word meaning “coming”. It is a conscious setting apart of time by the Church to prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas to celebrate his birth. The quality of our vigilance and preparations will determine the quality of our meeting with Jesus our Lord. For Mary and Joseph the first Christmas, there was no room for them at the Inn. Will we have a place free for Jesus when he comes to us? Obviously there will be Exterior and Interior preparations.

Exterior – The Advent wreath, decorations in the church, the change in the colour of vestments at Mass. If we are able we may give gifts or get new clothes.

Interior preparations for us Christians are far more important. We may try and give a bit more time to prayer. But as we try to give gifts if it is possible, what Christmas gift will we give to Jesus? If we were to give a Christmas gift to Jesus what would he appreciate? Maybe the best gift we can give is the gift of AWARENESS. To pay more attention to hear what God wants of us now in our lives. The gospel reading tells us quite clearly that we may need to STAY AWAKE. In just 5 verses this phrase is used four times.

The gospel tells us: “Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come”. 

There are in fact three comings of Jesus into our lives. The initial one was at the First Christmas in Bethlehem, the third is at the end of time when Christ comes again. The second is right now. It really doesn’t matter when his third coming takes place as long as we don’t make the same mistake as the widow in the story at the beginning.  

So Advent is WAKE- UP time. We can sleep without knowing it. The most common way to fall asleep is to involve ourselves with many things and distractions. Our senses are being continually bombarded by noise, the media, TV, computers, cellphones, advertisements etc.  It is not easy to hear the voice of God or be aware of his daily visitations in all these unless we can take some time apart to listen and reflect.

In the gospel the man who travelled abroad left each person with his own task to do until he returned. He told the gatekeeper to keep watch. God gives each of us special tasks also to do until he returns. If I am a father, mother, a husband or wife, layperson, priest or religious I too have my work to do to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth. How are we doing these?  Are we content or falling short?

One thing is certain about today’s gospel.  It is not told to frighten us or make us fearful. One of the first words of the angel to Mary was “Do not be afraid”.  In the bible, appearances from God to humans start with ‘do not fear’. So when God is giving us this wake up call it is for our own happiness and good. If we don’t wake-up to what we are doing to the environment and ecology we may have no world to hand on to our children. If we don’t wake up to the many attacks on family life, we will equally suffer. If we don’t fight for life and oppose abortion legislation we will suffer the consequences.

We are called to be people of HOPE.

Advent places before us the real call for hope. God is faithful and in spite of so many signs to the contrary today, at Advent we celebrate the fact that God is making sense out of history whether we notice it or not.  Our God will be victorious and already there are many signs of this.  In times of famine, earthquakes, terrorist attacks there are very many good people aiding their less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Our faith tells us that God is faithful. Let us too be faithful people – people full of faith. Let us be Advent people, people of hope, people awake to what is needed in our world and doing our best to contribute according to our capacity and talents.

A good prayer to pray often to prepare for Christmas is ‘MARANATHA, COME LORD JESUS’.

Lord Jesus, may we be always conscious of your great love for us and help us be aware of the many ways you visit us daily through very ordinary human events and people. Amen.”

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA