First Sunday of Advent, Year A. Nov. 27, 2022

 

First Sunday of Advent, Year A. Nov. 27, 2022

Is 2: 1-5; Rom 13: 11-14; Mt 24: 37-44

Theme: Stay Awake and Repent for the Coming of our Lord

Happy New Year to all! Last Sunday, the celebration of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe marked the end of the Liturgical Year C. So, today we start a new liturgical year A with this first Sunday of Advent. From its Latin origin Adventus, the word “Advent”, means “coming.” The liturgy of this four week-season of Advent prepares us, not only for the coming of Jesus into history over 2000 years ago whose anniversary we celebrate on Christmas, but it also prepares us for Jesus’ second coming in glory at the end of time as well as for the coming of Jesus in our daily lives. A good celebration of Christmas will depend on how we prepare ourselves during this Advent. The celebration in heaven will be certain if we prepare ourselves seriously for Jesus’s second coming. And Jesus’s real presence amid the happenings of our daily lives depends on how we prepare ourselves to welcome him. Although Christmas gives us the image of a holiday with decorations, and shopping, let us keep in mind that Advent is a special time of repentance and a change of attitude, if necessary. The purple color of the Advent liturgy reminds us of this repentance. And the four candles of the Advent Wreath teach us that our repentance and waiting for Jesus’ coming should be with hope (first Sunday), peace (second Sunday), joy (third Sunday), and love (fourth Sunday). The first Sunday’s Gospel focuses on Jesus’ second coming and invites us to stay awake. In the second and third Sunday’s Gospels, we will hear John the Baptist who will call us to repentance as he prepares the way for the coming of Jesus. And the story of how the birth of Jesus came about that we will hear in the last Sunday’s Gospel will prepare us for the celebration of his birth on Christmas.  

Let us now talk about the liturgy of today, the first Sunday of Advent. The hope candle is lit on our Advent wreath.  All scripture readings that we just heard call us to stay awake and repent for the coming of our Lord. For the first reading, to stay awake means to climb the holy mountain, the house of the Lord, which is the Church. Jesus, in the Gospel, and Saint Paul, in our second reading, let us know that the time to start staying awake and repenting must be now because nobody knows the day of the end of time.

The first reading is the vision of Isaiah about the “Mountain of the Lord’s house” (this is Mount Zion) which alludes to the Church that Jesus established at the Last Supper. He says that in days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. (Isaiah 2: 2). This vision was fulfilled with Jesus when he celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist (Mass) in the Upper Room which is in the same Mount Zion that Isaiah talks about. Jesus established his Church and raised it higher. All nations including you and I shall stream toward it as we do now here. Our Local Church (Saint Augustine/Saint Bartholomew) is this “mountain of the Lord’s house”. Every time we come to Church and attend Mass, sacramentally we are taken into the Upper Room on this Mount Zion and renew our covenant with him. Coming to Church means “climbing the house of the Lord as Isaiah encourages and invites us: “Come and climb the Lord’s Mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2: 3). Through the scripture readings and homily that we hear at each Mass, God instructs us, not in the way we want, but in his ways. He makes us walk, not in the direction that we want, but in his direction. Isaiah ends this passage by inviting us to walk in the Lord’s light.

Walking in the light of the Lord is what Evangelist Matthew calls his readers and all of us to do in our Gospel passage when he exhorts us to stay awake. Matthew starts this Gospel with Jesus referring his listeners to the time of Noah when people ignored the call to repentance and continued with their immoral ways. These people followed the “fake happiness” that a sinful life gives. “[T]hey were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.” (Matthew 24: 38-39). Jesus says it will be the same at his second coming. This is a warning for us too. We need to take it seriously. Jesus’ second coming will be at an unexpected time. The condition that he gives us here to survive is just to stay awake like the master of the house who stays awake the whole night to not let the thief break into his house. Here Matthew wants us to make a significant decision. It is a decision of conversion to Jesus right now as we are preparing for his coming at Christmas, his coming at the end of time, and his everyday coming into our lives. Let us not become so engrossed in the daily routine of life that we forget that the day of the coming of Jesus may come at any time. Stay awake!

In our second reading, Saint Paul gives his Christians in Rome and all of us the same exhortation: stay awake and watchful. He calls us to make “watchfulness” a foundational attitude of our Christian life. The time to start staying awake is not tomorrow or another day but now. “You know the time; It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13: 11). For Saint Paul, to stay awake means to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. This results in conducting ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. (Romans 13: 12-13). We will be capable to do all this if only we are united with Christ. That is why he invites us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13: 14).

All scripture readings of this Sunday’s liturgy exhort us to stay awake for Jesus’ coming. Isaiah invites us to climb the house of the Lord, which is to attend Mass regularly. It is at Mass that we renew our covenant with God; at Mass, we hear his Word which instructs us and enables us to walk in his paths. Jesus invites you and me to stay awake all the time for his coming. And Saint Paul reminds us that the time to start this process of conversion is now.  Let us not ignore this Advent call. Prayer life, especially staying in unity and communion with Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist (the Mass), keeps us always awake until our Lord comes. Amen.

Fr. Leon Ngandu, SVD

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