WATCH AND PRAY!!!
First Reading: (Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7): Second Reading: (1Corinthians 1: 3-9): Gospel: (Mark 13: 33-37)
Today we begin our yearly re-enactment of the drama of our salvation, starting with the mystery of the Incarnation (Christmas) and culminating in the celebration of Christ’s ultimate victory (Christ the King). It is our yearly pilgrimage through the scenes and events of our history of salvation. Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to his Second Coming, as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all areas of our lives during the Advent season.
Advent is from the Latin word “Adventus” which means coming. During the season of advent we are invited to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Advent reminds us of the 3 comings of Jesus. The first is His first coming at Christmas. But has he been born yet in my life? Have I made room for him or what fills up my life that prevents this? The Second Coming is right now as each day he comes to us. He knocks on our doors through others; through the events of our lives etc. He comes to us in ways that are so ordinary that often we miss these. Like a visit we receive from someone when we feel a bit low or a compliment from another when I do something good. He comes to us in the Eucharist, as a Sacramental sign of God’s love. He comes to us in the poor and the needy, the sick, the lonely and unloved. Will I allow him more and more into my life? The Third coming will be his coming at the end of time. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
More than 2000 years ago, Jesus told us that He will come back, and He gave us the warning to be on guard at all times. But His warning goes unheeded. In the Gospel today, Jesus repeats this warning: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come!” (Mk 13:33). We may not be able to see the Last Day in our lifetime. But one thing is certain: we will all die and face God in judgment.
What is our present condition? The prophet Isaiah in the first reading helps us find the right words: “We have all become like something unclean, all our just deeds are like polluted rags; We have all withered like leaves, and our crimes carry us away like the wind.” (Is 64:5) Ours is a broken world, and in need of healing. Our nature is everyday been debased and very unimaginable things continue to take place in our world, occasioned by man’s inhumanity to man. The Prophet Isaiah tells us: “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
The Prophet Isaiah further reminds us that there is no God like our God. Sometimes we think that there are no competing gods today. Instead, we can open our eyes and see so many realities competing to be god, so many people who play at being god, and so many values that seem godlike to the present age. It is important that we realize that only faithfulness to the One, True God will bring us peace and a wonderful human life. Faith never promises to make us wealthy or powerful—it actually promises the opposite. What faith does promise is that our life will be filled with joy in knowing the Lord and living His divine life.
This is the theme of Advent and we can deepen our awareness of God’s love for us by living this awareness of God throughout Advent this year. “Watch and Pray” We want God to find us always doing what is right, always mindful of Him in our ways. We can only do that if we take time to be with Him each day.
It is said that, “Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow is but a dream. Now is the only time on which eternity depends.” Our future eternal destiny depends totally on the now, on how we make use of the opportunities of the present time. The faithful servants, who were doing their job when the master returns, will surely receive a reward. But the servants who were found asleep and not doing their duties will be punished.
To be watchful for the Lord, we must be obedient to His Divine will, which means that our actions must serve the community. The question we might ask is: Am I taking heed, watchful and prayerful while waiting for Christ's return?" The command to keep watch is not a passive act. It is not like finding a comfortable place where we can seat in waiting and watch for the Lord until He comes. Watching, in this sense, involves some things to do, some things to achieve.
We turn to God and ask for divine assistance in our struggle to remain with Him all the time. Herein lies the importance of spending a little more time in prayer: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And in other for us to be able to watch and be awake we must include the following –
Prayer and the reception of the Sacraments – Matt 14:23 tells us that after having dismissed the multitude, Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. We cannot remain vigilant without a concerted effort at prayer. In Chapter 26 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says quite emphatically, “Be vigilant and pray that you may not enter into temptation. Indeed the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (41). The disciples also asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and the Lord taught them the Our Father. Our day must be purpled with prayer. A life of prayer will definitely unlock doors for us and keep us in good stead with God, and alert to the promptings of the Spirit. A Proper use of the sacraments is also vital towards being vigilant. In the sacraments we encounter Christ in a more intimate manner.
Beloved we must also study the scriptures daily. The Lord Jesus calls us to be alert and watchful for his coming. He comes to us each and every day and he knocks on the door of our heart and home. Do you listen for his voice and welcome him into your life? Let his word in the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you draw you to a deeper faith, hope, and yearning for his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Those who wait upon the Lord today and listen to his word will not be disappointed. The Lord will come and bring you to his banquet table to feast with him.
Practice of the virtues – we must lay aside the works of darkness and live the life of virtue (Romans 13:11-14). A habitual disposition towards the good is essential for living a life of vigilance. Brotherly love, meekness, humility, chastity, due diligence, temperance and charity are core virtues we must strive to inculcate in our lives. St Paul’s letter to the Ephesian 5:14b ff says, “Wake up, sleeper and rise from death, and Christ will shine on you”.
We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer, penance, and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us remember the words of Alexander Pope: ‘What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness.
Like the parents who trust their teenagers to look after the house while they are away, or like the teacher who leaves the classroom after giving her students plenty of work to do, Jesus trusts us to carry out his work until he returns. There is the work of witnessing to Jesus in our daily lives. There is the work to be done in our families, our schools, our local churches and our community. There is the work of caring for those who are hurting and have needs. There is the work of guiding and leading others, pointing people to the comforting message of the Gospel. There is the work of living "lives holy and dedicated to God,” “doing our best to be pure and faultless in God's sight and to be at peace with him". There is still work to be done. And as Jesus says, “what I say to you, I say to all”.
Let us make this year’s Advent season truly fruitful. Let us prepare for Christmas. But let us have sincere and serious preparation for that inevitable moment when we will come to face God at the end of time or at the end of our life in this world. May He find us awake, alert and ready to meet Him with joy now and for always. Amen!!!