FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, B
Today we begin a new Liturgical year, year B, with the first Sunday of Advent. The readings remind us that we are waiting for Jesus to come among us as an infant at Christmas. At the same time we are reminded that we are waiting for his second coming.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2b-7
This reading takes the form of a communal lament in which the people express their feelings about God’s abandoning them. The people have returned from exile. Their land has been pillaged and their buildings, including the Temple, have been destroyed. The reconstruction effort is coming along very slowly. The people are frustrated and stressed out. In this reading, they share their thoughts and feelings with God. First, they wonder if God allowed them to wander from his ways and hardened their hearts. (Of course, God never hardens our hearts. Our hearts harden when we stop following God’s ways.)They feel God has “hidden his face” from them (a good image for the experience of dryness in prayer). Then the people plead for a new manifestation of God’s presence and might: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down…” The prayer also acknowledges their sinfulness: “You are angry, but we have sinned. We have become like unclean people. So please God, come and help us. Heal us. You are the potter and we are the clay.” To be clay is to know we are vulnerable and breakable and entirely dependent on God to redeem us, heal us, and guide us. To be clay is to know we are a work in progress, willing to surrender ourselves to God’s creation of us. The prayer in this first reading is a beautiful example of a people praying from their hearts.
SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Commenting on our second reading, the writers of Foundations in the Faith tell us that this “reading is filled with confidence that God has and will continue to rescue us in Christ as the final judgment approaches. Paul reassures his readers that God “will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Corinthians – as all Christians thereafter – are reminded that in Christ we are “in every way enriched” and that we lack for nothing as we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The way in which a faithful Christian awaits the second coming is not fearfully and in dread, but rather, with joyful anticipation and boundless confidence.
GOSPEL: Mark 13:33-37
This gospel passage is the conclusion of a recitation of the tribulations that will occur in the final times.
A command to “watch” surrounds a parable that emphasizes our need to be ready at all times because we do not know when the Lord will return. The short parable in this gospel reminds believers that the time between the First and Second Coming of Christ is like the situation of servants who remain behind when the owner of the house leaves to travel abroad. Each servant is given a task to fulfill until the owner returns. One servant, the gatekeeper, is singled out to keep watch for the owner’s return. The four periods of time listed – evening, midnight, before dawn and dawn – were the four night watches of the Roman military. Like soldiers standing guard, Christians are exhorted to stand watch and not be caught asleep. Christians must be ready at all times for Jesus’ return.
We were not present at the first coming of Jesus and we have no idea when the Second Coming will take place. Our Annual Advent Season is not just about remembering the first coming and looking forward to the second coming. It also calls us to be alert and awake for present comings of Christ into our lives. We are like the servants in Jesus’ parable. Each of us has our work to do. As we go about our work, we are to be watchful for the many ways Jesus may break into our lives.
Name one thing that you can do this Advent to help you to be more alert to God’s visitations in our daily lives.