First Sunday of Advent
By: Jean Francky Guerrier, SJ
Brothers and sisters, today first Sunday of Advent, we enter a new liturgical year which will lead us to Christmas. The Advent season invites us to remember not only that God came into the world through the birth of Jesus, but also that he is alive and present in our midst. He knows our joy and suffering.
In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 13:33-37), “Jesus said to his disciples: beware, keep alert.” They must be vigilant because they do not know when the time of His second coming will come. Today, Jesus is telling us the same thing: “beware, keep alert.” We used to run so much that we no longer took the time to stop and see how God comes to manifest Himself simply through our daily activities.
In the first reading (Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8) the prophet Isaiah came up with two extremely strong images to describe the sinful condition of the people: “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth and we all fade like a leaf.” God is the only one who knows the secret of our hearts, who is able to bring us back to life. He gives us His Spirit so that we can be transformed and strengthened for the coming of His Son. If we open ourselves to His Spirit, as Church, we will always remain united, therefore, we will remain strong in faith for the coming of Christ although everything seems dark and there is no hope.
This year, we begin Advent in a time of crisis, of uncertainty, confusion, depression, illness, physical death, lockdown. Some of us know for sure that they will not be able to visit the love ones to celebrate Christmas with them. There is an intermingling between light and darkness, hope and uncertainty, death and life. However, we are invited to wait for the Lord in a joyful attitude. Do not let the darkness defined us. We have to decorate our inner tree, to pray differently, to experience the presence of Christ in a different way. How does this time of crisis will change us so that we can become true light for those around us? Advent should be a period of profound transformation. A time of conversion and a time of solidarity. We should ask ourselves, what do we need to do in this time of Covid-19 to change ourselves?
In the second reading (1 Corinthians 1:3-9), Saint Paul tells us that the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among us so that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is all we need in this time of crisis. Open ourselves to God’s spiritual gifts so that we can overcome this difficult time. The day will come; God has promised it, and he is faithful, he who has called us to live in communion with his Son. That day will come, but we know neither the day nor the hour, and it will come for those who are awake, all awake in hope. What keeps us awake is fidelity even in time of crisis, love that lasts, that resists time, and that can be earned in the space of a lifetime.
Brothers and sisters, beware, keep alert! Being vigilant helps us not to fall into temptation (Mt 26:41). Today first Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to hope against hope. Advent is a special time of hope. The time that prepares us to become a little better and perhaps a little happier. In the midst of all the difficulties of the year 2020, we have the certainty that the seed of light continues to grow, until one day good will triumph definitively and everything will be subject to it.
Brothers and sisters, it is normal to have concerns about the closure of churches which prevent the physical gathering of the people of God during this time of Advent to pray and worship together. Nevertheless, it is also important to know that as the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church in this tough time continues to exist and we are called to unbroken unity. How do we prepare ourselves to stand together and remain united as one Church, called to be vigilant for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ?