Get ready the Lord is coming! First Sunday of Advent
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni – First Sunday of Advent – Year B
Sermon and Christian Act in The Word
Theme: Get ready the Lord is coming! Prepare for the Encounter with the Lord! Keep alert the Lord is coming!
Point of Reflection: Today as the Church, we begin a new liturgical year called YEAR B. For the Catholic Church, today is like the first of January as the first new day of the year. As always, the liturgical year opens with the Advent season and its four Sundays. The word “Advent” comes from a Latin word which means “coming.”Advent focuses on the preparation for the arrival of the Lord and the readings of this season carry a number of insights and instructions on how to prepare for the Lord’s coming, and on how to receive him. The first Sunday of Advent provides the first set of such instructions. It is a joyful period of fervent expectance and careful preparation for the birth and coming of Jesus Christ.
The Scriptural readings of today the first Sunday of Advent identify clearly basic elements of adequate preparation for Jesus’ arrival.
First Reading: Isaiah 63:16–17, 19, 64:2–7
Psalm: Psalm 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Gospel: Mark 13:33–37
Sermon (Reflection): The Gospel of today’s reading reports the words of Jesus pronounced shortly before he was betrayed, tried, and crucified; they are a kind of Jesus’ “testament”. In it, Jesus fervently reminds the disciples to “beware, keep alert, keep awake”. These are appeals to live with keen awareness of the second coming of the Lord which will take place at an unknown moment – “you do not know when the time will come when the master of the house will come”. This is our advent message for all of us. As Christians, we must be alert and keep awake as we do not know the hour nor the day the Lord will call us to eternity.
As Christians, we must be watchful and be ready for the Lord by cleaning our hearts in doing acts of mercy.
Jesus Christ in the gospel today emphasises the necessity for living in full readiness for his return. Jesus speaks about a man who embarked on a long journey. He commanded his servants to keep busy, “each with his work”, and the doorkeeper “to be on the watch”. These examples show that Jesus knew fully well that, in his absence, the disciples and the subsequent generations of Christians, might succumb to weariness and apathy; they might “fall asleep.” For this reason, Jesus admonishes the disciples to “keep awake.” He will repeat the same admonition later during his prayer in Gethsemane, where he called his disciples to “keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial” (Cf. Mark 14:38).
These words indicate that prayer is necessary to remain in an attitude of watchful vigilance and to ensure that the disciple will be at all times ready to welcome the returning Master at the time of his unexpected and unannounced arrival.
The first reading of today comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah. This passage is known as a community lament and is found in the final part of the prophet’s book. Isaiah speaks in the name of the whole nation which addresses God as its “Father”. In today’s passage, the prophet emphasises that the true father of the nation is God himself. He does so by stating that Abraham and Jacob (whose other name is Israel) were not the nation’s true parents – “Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us”. Instead, the nation’s true founder and creator was God – “You are our Father; we are the clay… we are all the work of your hand”.
This emphasis on God’s fatherhood expresses the desire for closeness with God which Israel seemed to have lost. This awareness of having broken the covenant with God leads the prophet to make an intense plea for renewal of the broken relationship as he pleads, “Turn back for the sake of your servants, for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage… O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence”. This cry for the restoration of God’s presence is our preparation in this advent season to receive the Lord with open and clean hearts on Christmas day.
In the second reading of today, we read from the opening lines of his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul thanks God for forming the community in Corinth so that it is “not lacking in any spiritual gift”. The entire letter is devoted to dealing with the community’s divisions and tensions. Still, at its beginning, Paul focuses on the presence of God’s grace as the firm foundation for the life of the Corinthians stating, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus”. God’s grace came in the form of the gift of faith which transformed the Corinthians, bringing them to a new life in Christ which, even though not free from difficulties and failures, has tremendous potential for growth. God’s grace came to the Corinthians as a seed that needs to take root and be allowed to flourish. According to Paul, we must flourish by bearing testimony of Christ which has been strengthened among the Corinthians.
God will always strengthen us as when we open our hearts to Him. In this advent season, we need to open our hearts so that the Lord can strengthen us.
Christian Act in Word of God “Prepare the encounter, keep alert the Lord is coming!”
Today, Jesus Christ is reminding us of the need to be vigilant, for we do not know the hour of his return. This reminder is not limited to the time of his second coming at the end of times. It is also a call to be always on the watch for a new encounter with the Lord in our daily lives as the liturgical year unfolds. As time goes by, there are moments in which we may feel the absence of God in our lives. Due to various trials that come our way, we may succumb to temptations which are inevitable, and which might lead us into sin. Yet, being ever ready for the Lord’s return entails keeping watch over ourselves, our feelings, desires, motivation, and actions.
It means living out the Gospel values so that the ever-growing trends of consumerism and individualism in our society do not distract us.
We all experience our sinfulness which leads us to a range of immoral behaviours that harm us and destroy our relationship with other. This is a good time to reflect on what in my life destroys or distorts my humanity which was created in the image of my heavenly Father. As we begin this advent season let us look into our lives personally and examine our faults and sins, then, we clean our hearts to prepare for the Lord.
As Christians, let us avoid the “spiritual sleep” of apathy and neglect, of which we are often in it. As believers, we are called to a faithful watchfulness, reflected in living responsible and conscientious lives sustained by prayer. A model of such ardent prayer is found in the words the Psalmist who pleads, “Give us life, and we will call on your name”.
In the context of today’s Scriptural readings, there are three considerations which should guide our preparations during this season.
- First: repentance. During this period, we are called to turn away from sin and be reconciled to the Lord. Paul encourages us to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13). Herein lies the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Second: prayer. Advent is a season of fervent prayer, both personal and communal. We are encouraged to pray that we may have the strength to persevere in our faith in the midst of the trials, challenges and temptations of life.
- Finally: vigilance. The coming of the Lord ought not to catch us like a trap (Cf. Luke 21:34-35). To be vigilant is to be constantly ready. The best way to achieve such a state of constant readiness is simply to practice holiness expressed through love every day of life. No great miracles or extraordinary deeds are required of us, only faith manifested through love.
Action: I will be vigilant and awake as I begin the first week of Advent, I will start cleaning my heart to receive the Lord with a clean and pure heart.
Prayer: Almighty God, as we begin this advent season, help us to be vigilant and always awake for we do not know the hour or the day the Lord will take us out of this World. O Lord, send your Holy Spirit to guide us as we clean our hearts to receive your Son Jesus Christ on Christmas day. We ask you Lord to transform us each and every day to be agents of love to every person we encounter in this Advent and Christmas season, we ask this through Christ, Amen.