First Sunday of Advent Year B
Readings: Is 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk 1:1-8
An Advent people; watching, waiting, prepared to disarm the enemy! This Sunday we begin the new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent. Advent from the Latin root “advetus” means waiting. In Advent we wait for someone we love. We focus attention on waiting for the Lord, waiting for the coming of Jesus, who urges us to prepare ourselves because we do not know when he might come suddenly. Some years ago there was some breaking news on TV that to me seemed to be a wonderful example of being prepared. The news was about a man in Memphis, Tennessee who accidentally walked into a store during a robbery. The gunman pointed his pistol at him and ordered him to hand over his money. The man responded calmly, “Go ahead and shoot. I just had my daily Bible passage and said my prayers.” The robber was confused by that reaction, and the man walked away. I have to admit that I probably would have handed over my money, but I do admire that man’s courage – and above all his apparent readiness to meet the Lord. That is what Jesus tells us today. Be prepared. Be alert and watchful. The First Reading from Isaiah surprises us as it did to the Israelites by giving us a true diagnosis and leading us to the truth about ourselves: “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags.” (64:4-5). The prophet Isaiah therefore pleads with God to come back, but in actual fact it is the people who need to reform. This plea for help towards reform continues in the Responsorial Psalm. "Lord make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved". In the second reading, Paul thanks God for his blessings upon the Corinthians for their faith and hope in Christ.
In the Gospel from Mark, Jesus teaches us to be watchful; to be alert because we do not know when the time will come. In this passage, Jesus offers a brief parable to highlight the importance of being watchful, alert and vigilant for Christ's second coming. The parable is a brief story of a man who goes on a journey, after assigning tasks to his employees. He gives no indication on when he would come back. The point of the parable is that as followers of Christ we are called to be an Advent people; living in a state of readiness for the arrival of the Kingdom of God, for we do not know when the Lord will come. But it will be soon; soon in God’s time, not ours. Over the next four weeks towards Christmas, the readings will focus attention on spiritual preparation. Perhaps the best way to do that is to capture the sense of urgency in preparing for the Lord. One problem we have today is that we live in a culture whereby what matters is “feeling good about ourselves.” While there is nothing wrong with that, that approach is not adequate for us Christians. Rather, we need to be guided by Christ’s life and teaching. Jesus challenges us and leads us to examine our lives and to heed his call for watchfulness by making full use of this wonderful season of preparing and deepening our relationship with him through prayer and the sacrament of reconciliation. Like the story of the man in Memphis, we are called to stay ready to disarm the enemy, for we do not know when he might strike. Three points sum up the message of this Sunday. 1) During this season, we are challenged to enter more deeply into a journey of spiritual preparation. 2) As followers of Christ we are called to be an Advent people; living in a state of watchfulness and readiness for the arrival of the Kingdom of God. 3) As an Advent people, we continue getting ready spiritually to receive Christ in our hearts when he comes at Christmas. ©2011 John S. Mbinda