Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, First Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:33-37
To be vigilant means to be watchful and alert. It connotes a careful observation to avoid a possible eventuality. Advent season reminds us of the coming of Jesus Christ. Hence, the only way to prepare for this coming is to be vigilant. We do this so that this glorious event will not take us unawares
In a lay man’s understanding, advent indicates the arrival or coming of someone or something. Therefore today marks the beginning of the liturgical season. It also begins the preparation of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. The season of advent thus has a threefold implication.
It symbolises the coming of Jesus Christ into the world at Christmas, the coming of Jesus into our hearts and the present situation of the church who awaits the glorious the second coming of Christ. So the church reminds us to stay vigilant so that we shall be part of the sharers of the graces of this time, that the day of the second coming will not take us by surprise and avoid the devastating nature of the time.
In the 4th century, the Church in France uses this period which then falls before epiphany to prepare for baptism. During this time, they would spend 40 days in prayer, fasting and penance. So the season of advent calls for our own preparation. We have to re-examine ourselves and know where we have not been doing well. We then try to make peace with the Lord, attend masses, receive the Eucharist etc.
The Longing for God
In the first reading, we can hear a voice praying and hungry that God returns to them. The first reading is characterised with lamentation, regrets and extreme hunger for God. The lamentation is a result of the aftermath of the Babylonian exile.
During their exilic experience, God raised Cyrus of Persia who ordered that the Israelites go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. At the return, they saw how everywhere was totally devastated, it was a painful experience to find the city and their cherished temple in ruins.
They faced great challenges from within and outside the neighbouring cities during the process of the rebuilding of the temple. It was as if God had abandoned them totally. So Isaiah recounts their ordeal before God and how He seems to have abandoned them for long and allowed them to appear like people that have no relationship with Him.
Isaiah prays for God’s return and to come and show His mighty power again. That even if Abraham refuses to own them, even if others refuse to accept them, He who is their Father will not abandon them. In this reading, we see the longing of someone who longs for God’s presence and mercy again for the people. We hence envisage a voice that is so regretful of the past.
To be vigilant hence is to continually long for total communion with God again. In Luke 21:34-35, Jesus reminds his hearers that the only way to survive the end and draw spiritual strength is to be close to Him at prayers. In the second reading, Paul prays for this spiritual strength to remain strong until the last day. This can only be made possible through the grace of God. Hence we must seek His face, again and again, to be able to remain resolute until the last day.
Therefore, we have to come back to God again. Like the Israelites we have deserted God much, we seem not to have time for Him. This has created a vacuum between us and God. Hence the church is calling us to regret our pasts and beg God for mercy.
Be Like the Doorkeeper
1.In the gospel, Jesus exhorts his disciples on the need to be on guard as the way to prepare for the parousia; the second coming of Jesus Christ.
From the gospel, the hour is like a man who is travelling and tells his servants to take charge, each with his own work to do. And hence he tells the doorkeeper to stay awake. Hence, Jesus asks His disciples to be like the doorkeeper because they do not know the hour the son of man is going to return.
2.To understand this fully, we have to know who these doorkeepers are and their roles in Jewish understanding. Doorkeepers which sometimes refer to as potters or gatekeepers are those who guard the door or gates of a house to notify the master of visitors and impending dangers.
They also stay in temple gates to guard the gates of the house of God ( 1 Chronicle 9:23). They are mainly Levites. Their function is to prevent anything unclean from entering the sacred of the sacred ( 2 Chronicles 23:19). To do this, they have to constantly be alert and not to be carried away by the things they see around them.
3.In the same vein Jesus wants His disciples to be like the doorkeepers. We have to be on the alert not to allow anything unclean into the temple of God in us so that He will dwell wholesomely inside our hearts and take control of whatever we do. It is a call not to be carried away by the things of this world so that the hour will not take us unawares.
4.So to be vigilant is to be like the doorkeeper, who keeps His eyes always open, knowing fully well that His master can come back at any time. He knows fully well that any sign of weakness may allow danger. He knows He is just a servant and not the owner of the house.
Hence Jesus reminds us to be like the doorkeeper because His coming will surely take us by surprise. So we have to be alert and be vigilant. We have to stay prepared all the time and not give the devil any single opportunity to win our souls.
This is what the advent season is reminding us all the time. Therefore to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ both at Christmas and His glorious coming, we have to be vigilant and alert. It is a call for us to make amends, confess our sins and return to God.
1. The advent season is a time we long for God to dwell in our midst like Isaiah does in the first reading. It is time to give God that single opportunity to possess our hearts and dwell among us. This is the only way to welcome Emmanuel who is coming to dwell among us. The question then is; What is occupying our heart? What is that thing that is so omnipotent that it can take the place of God in your heart? If there is none then the time has come to allow God to take His position. It is a call to quit whatever that is drawing us away from God and give God his rightful position.
2. The advent season is a time to fast, pray, confess our sins and do penance like it was in its original form. During the dedication of churches, we clean and decorate our churches. We make the building look so superb to be worthy of dedication to God. In the same vein, before we say that we have dedicated our lives to God, we have to purify our hearts. Hence we try to be like David who in Psalm 51:10, prays that God cleanses His heart and renews the right spirit within Him after falling from grace.
3. If you are hosting a governor, a president or any notable personality, we will go any extra length to work and prepare for the person’s coming. We will hire the best services and cook the best foods for our guests. We will provide the best microphone. At that time, every person will make sure to appear gorgeous, dressed in their wondrous attires etc. but when it comes to preparation of the coming messiah, the highest personality of all personalities, we hike the price of goods, the price of fuel etc, immorality becomes the order of the day, hence our bodies become avenues to make money, and some use the time to plan to decimate, kill, kidnap and eliminate their enemies and evil goes on the increase.
We seem to give Jesus a backhand preparation but give human beings wonderful preparation. So the question today is How are you going to prepare?
4. Jesus tells us that to prepare, we have to be like the doorkeeper. We have to be alert and not be carried away by the amount of money you make, by the type of friends that surround you every day, by drinking etc but to be like someone who awaits the coming of the Master. When did you attend confession last? When did you receive Holy communion last? How many times have you planned evil or jealous of someone? When was the last time you remembered to kneel and pray? How are you preparing for Jesus?
5. Thus advent is a season of hope. It is a season to remain faithful to God despite the temptations and difficulties at the times, knowing fully well that the times of tribulation are not forever. This is also a season of love when we show how much we truly love God and thus love our neighbour. It is a time we are also awaiting with joy knowing fully well the person that is coming. It is a time of peace. We create peace with God and with anyone. It is time to be vigilant and go back to God. When we do these, we fully prepare for His coming.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to prepare for Him. Happy Sunday
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Amen. This is so wonderful. Am really touched by this reflection