FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
This Sunday we begin the new Liturgical Year and the Season of Advent in preparation for the great feast of Christmas. Advent is a penitential time, though not so severe as Lent. The colour of the priest’s vestments this time is purple, reminding us of the purple worn in Lent.
It is customary in the school of discipleship that the Guru (the Master) prior to his death or departure gives instructions to his beloved disciples. He warns them, exhorts them and encourages them on how to remain faithful. In the Old Testament tradition Jacob did it to his children before he died (Gen 49:1-27), Moses did it to the Children of Israel (Deut. 33), Joshua did it as well (Josh. 23) and Samuel also did it (1Sam. 12).
Against this background Jesus towards the end of his earthly salvific ministry predicts his death and the end of the world and warns his disciples for his second coming ‘the parousia’. In the gospel reading of this first Sunday of Advent Jesus challenges his present and future disciples to live up to the ideals of the kingdom in view of his second coming, even at the risk of persecution and martyrdom. He challenges us -his followers to STAY AWAKE like the faithful and responsible servants who are waiting for the return of their master who had travelled so as to open the door for him whenever he comes. By this Jesus as a loving Master wants us to be his faithful and vigilant witnesses during the time between his resurrection and his second coming.
The Advent season therefore, reminds us that we are living in the end times, which culminates in the Lord’s second coming on the Day of Judgment. The Advent season calls us to be AWAKE in prayer and preparation for the Lord’s return. While the second coming of the Lord is quite certain, the time is not disclosed. It will come swiftly and unexpectedly. However, Jesus only warns us to not be caught off guard when that day arrives. We should rather STAY AWAKE. He wants us not to panic or to grow weary by the challenges of persecutions and Christian tribulations. Instead that we should be watchful to discern the signs of the times, putting on the Christian attitude like those who are really expecting the return of their Master.
The prophet Isaiah in the first reading tells us that God will surely reward those who wait for his visitation (Isaiah 64:4). How should we be awake and Pvigilant for his return? Someone may ask, by being strong in Christian attitude and prayer life.
Many of us are sleepy and weary Christians. Of course, no sleepy Christian would ever make progress in his/her call to Christian discipleship. We are weary to pray, we are weary to read our bible, we are weary to go for confession. Hence we find it difficult to overcome challenges, to endure insults, to forgive offences, to tolerate, to make sacrifices, to show mercy and compassion and to make peace. St Peter warns that the devil, the enemy of our eternal life, roars like a lion seeking for someone to devour, and he enjoins that we should stand up to him strong in faith (1Pet. 5:8). In other words we have to be spiritually AWAKE if we are to overcome and counter the negative plans of this eternal enemy of our soul who would not want us to meet the Lord as Awake and vigilant disciples whenever he comes.
Let us therefore, make the effort this time to defy the devil’s intent, by being on our guard and to stay awake’ with the proper Christian attitude as the Lord commands us to. That is the Advent call.
(Reflections by: Damian Ikemefuna Ozokwere cssp)