Isaiah 2:1-5; Ps.122; Roman 13:11-14a; Matthew 24:37-44
There are three homilies here for the First Sunday of advent year may you be blessed as you reflect on God’s word.
Rev. Fr. Thomas Oyode
“Christ: the Dawn of Light and of Peace”
As a new cycle of the liturgical year begins, we reassume our responsibility of sharing the fruit of our reflection for common edification. Now, the first Sunday of Advent in all the liturgical cycles A, B, and C usually have Isaiah 2:1-5 as the passage for our reflection and for reasons which would be discovered in the course of our reflection, it serves as our point of departure this Sunday. Generally speaking, however, all three readings of today point to the coming of Christ the Messiah who reigns as king and the to the necessity of our preparation for his coming. This is indicated with words which signify coming, awake, awaiting, vigilance, preparation, transformation, change, conversion, new dawn, day, light and so on.
In addition, Catholic teaching has always helped us to understand that there is an intrinsic connection between the first coming and the second coming of the Lord (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 668-670, 672-674). This is why there is a clear link between the readings of the last few weeks and today’s. As a matter of fact, today’s gospel reading is in the context of Jesus’ discourse on his second coming. As the previous liturgical year drew to a close, we were invited to reflect on the Lord’s second coming when he shall judge all nations and subject all powers and authority under his reign. Yet in what seems like a thoughtful leap today, the Church invites to reflect yet on his coming as Messiah and Saviour, the first coming. In both coming Scriptures urges us with images that evoke uniqueness, specialty, domination proclamation, announcement and splendid arrival. In both coming, also God himself comes to establish his will, his salvation of all creation. Nevertheless, while the first coming dawns in meekness and call to repentance, the second would dawn glory, power with judgement. That is on the part of the one who comes.
What, then, is the expectation on the part of those to whom the Lord comes? In both coming, obviously what is required is preparation. The three readings are clear on this. The Lord himself is very clear in terms as we read in today’s gospel wherein he situates his coming within the memory of the Israelites’ historical experience; that is, as it were in Noah’s days people got carried away with mundane affairs, orgies, concupiscence and worldliness, and the deluge took them by surprise as they were unprepared for it’s coming. In today’s pericope, there’s repetion of the words “hour”, “time” and “watch” in a way that drives home the urgency of preparedness for the imminent coming of the Saviour.
Returning properly to our first reading, Isaiah tells us about what he SAW. He saw but didn’t hear yet he puts his vision into words as if he actaully heard them. This is the unique realism in prophet Isaiah. Are we to think that there’s something the Lord also wants us to see in this advent season? Perhaps, we have become blind by the dark clouds of our sinfulness, living in the dark when it is already daybreak. Would it be that if we move away from this very ambience of sinfulness we could be in light and out of darkness? Is this why St. Paul tells us in the second reading that the night is far gone and that we should not leave as those who are still in darkness? Here’s another laughable picture that St. Paul creates for us to see: imagine a man still thinking that it is midnight when other people are already taking lunch break from the day’s work. Isn’t it ridiculus? Imagine that our christian life is like that of this man?
We could try to open our eyes again by trying to view the world through the prism of scriptures so that as Isaiah says we can then see that there is a restoration by which God himself gives us clear doctrine and perfect purity of religion in Christ. Advent invites us to surrender all to the reign of God in Christ the Light who dispels darkness and restores order. Light and serenity are intrinsically connected. This is the very image of peace that advent carries: THEY SHALL BEAT THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES AND THEIR SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS. These words are also carved in the wall of the UN building even as they seek to create and maintain peace among nations of the world.
We can only attain integral peace when we open up to the light that dawns with Christ’s coming by casting aside all hatred, canal and worldly attachments and self-love and by embracing the reign of the King of peace. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh pray for us. Amen.
Rev Fr. Dan Evbotokhai
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. It is my prayer that this liturgical year will draw us closer to God. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus. Key themes of the Advent season are watchful waiting, preparation, and justice.
The first reading says: “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob” (Is.2:3). Our calling as Christians is to go up to the mountain of the Lord. Mountain stands for divine presence, power and might. There is something powerful and majestic about mountains. Those who want to climb it must prepare themselves, you must be in your kits to enable you climb with ease. Ps. 24:3 says who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his Holy place? Verse 4 answered, the man with clean hands and pure hearts who don’t desire worthless things and who has not sworn to as to deceive his neighbour. Therefore, during this advent season as we prepare to celebrate his first coming let us make effort to clean our hands and hearts in view of his second coming. The sacrament of confession offers us this opportunity, it makes us clean and pure in heart so that we can truly come to his presence.
In the second reading, Rom.13:11 Paul says “wake from sleep”. Any vice can be called a “sleep” anytime we are living in the habits of sins, living in addiction we are asleep and our soul we cannot perform any virtuous act. We can only dream of it, wish it and the likes. Just as in a sleep we are in a dream world. Therefore, we have to wake up from vice and live in virtue. Many Christians are sleeping in the faith. Some even sleep off not just spiritually but also physically, may be due to fatigue or a symptom of an ailment . However, some just come to the Church to sleep. Physical sleep in the Church during worship is an indication that the individual is sleeping spiritually. Active participation is a requirement for fruitful worship. And so, there will be no physical sleep when there is spiritual enthusiasm; but where there is dryness and disinterestedness in the things of God sleep comes.
St paul continues, he says in Rom.13:12 let us lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Works of darkness are violence, lust, drunkenness, jealousy, gossips, lies, fornication, immoralities, etc. We must lay these things aside so that we don’t fall aside. Paul says put on the armour of light. We must be clothed in virtue, we have to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desire(Rom.13:14). The flesh here does not only mean sexual sin, according to St. John it means all that is worldly. This advent season let us be awake and put on Christ.
The gospel continues with this theme. We must be awake; we must be vigilant. The cause of sins and disaster of the human race is lack of vigilance. An army with his riffle that is not vigilant will be defeated. If Christians carry the bible and are not vigilant their house will be broken into. Today, people are so vigilant about their health, wealth, and ambition and they preserve it, also we have around us the Vigilante group to assist us in security. We do these for earthly preservation and we lack eternal vigilance. In our race to eternity, be a vigilante.
To be vigilant is to be watchful, to be awake, to be alert, to be ready, Luke 12:39-40 says you also must be ready for the son of man is coming at an unexpected hour. Today’s gospel says watch therefore for you do not know on what day the Lord is coming.
Fours ways to be spiritually Vigilant:
1. Avoid reckless sleep: Is not as if sleeping is a bad thing . This simply means that we should avoid reckless sleeping, sleeping like the two women in 1 Kings3:16,17 who did not know that she has slept over her baby and the other did not know her baby has been taking away. Such recklessness in faith can lead to eternal damnation. Therefore we should be awake spiritually and guide our Christian vocation jealously.
2. Struggle against worldly passions: 1Pet.2:11 says guard against the desire of the flesh that waged war against our souls. Some persons are in the habit of lustful passions. 1Thess4:4-5 each of you must know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.
3. Active waiting. We can’t say we are waiting for the second coming of Christ and so we sit down and do nothing. Why should I labour when I know everything will be destroyed, why should I labour when I know life on earth is a journey. In Luke 19:13 The master said to the servant “do business with these until I come.” We are all to go about our business as witness until he comes, we are to invest our time and energy in building the kingdom through our words and actions.
4. Absolute Vigilance; this involves waiting in prayer and good works. To pray is a partial act of vigilance while good works makes it absolute. We cannot say we have prayed for security therefore we can now leave our gates open, when we pray for security we should also close our doors, when we pray for holiness we must also guard against vices. In many places in the scriptures we are called to watch and pray. Every time watching is used in the bible it is associated with praying. We too must adopt this pattern. Whenever we pray; let us watch. To watch is to be vigilant. Praying is like putting fuel in your car; while watching is ensuring that there is oil in your engine. If you don’t watch out on the oil level in your engine and you are always putting fuel driving up and down you will knock your engine. In the same vein if you are always praying without watching you will knock your faith. God bless his words in our heart through Christ our Lord.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke
Called to Anticipate the Lord
Today we commence a new liturgical year in the life of the Church. Every liturgical year opens with the Advent season and so today is the first Sunday of Advent year A. The advent season is one of expectation. We are called upon to joyfully anticipate the coming of Christ. This coming is both in terms of his second coming and his coming at Christmas. The common denomination of both comings is salvation. Christ comes to saves us. So, in advent, we joyfully anticipate our salvation. If Christ had not come in the flesh, we would not have been redeemed and if he does not coming the second time, our salvation will not be complete.
The readings of today invite us to turn our attention to the Lord. We will not be anticipating the Lord if the thought of him is not occupying our hearts. If our hearts are tuned towards the Lord, then our actions will fall in line. Usually when a woman is expecting a child, attention is drawn towards the child and preparations are made for his/her arrival. All that a new born child will need will be gotten prior to the birth. So, we must “make his path straight”.
Consequently, in the first reading of today, the Prophet Isaiah prophesied that a time will come when the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest mountain. This means that the Lord will reign supreme over his people. For this reason, all shall gather before him because away from him, life will not be possible. And so, Isaiah prepares the people for the coming of the Messiah. When he comes, all shall gather round him, listen to him and act according to his instruction. Only then can we reap the fruit of his coming.
In the gospel reading, Jesus invites us to watch in preparation for the coming of the Lord. To watch here means to be ever ready to receive the Lord whenever he comes. One who is watching is anticipating; when you anticipate something, it is because you have prepared for it. We must watch because the coming of the Lord will be characterized with judgment. When the Lord comes, he will require us to give account of our lives. We will tell him that we have done with the time, talents and treasures he has given us.
Therefore to anticipate the coming of the Lord means to live with the consciousness that we are mere stewards of the graces God has bestowed upon us. A proud man/woman is not anticipating the Lord because he/she thinks and acts as though all that he/she has and are, are products of personal efforts. Without humility, God would not have become man; and if God had not become man, we would have nothing to anticipate. So, advent calls us to be humble.
In the second reading, St. Paul continues this clarion call of focusing on the Lord. He asks us to wake from sleep. Sleep, here, means idleness, inactivity, laziness, irresponsibility, weariness and so on. To anticipate the Lord, we must be busy; busy doing good works. Now, let each person personally ask himself or herself: what good work will I do as I anticipate the coming of the Lord? This question is the direct opposite of what the world would ask itself.
Those who are of the world will ask themselves: what ways will I amass wealth for myself in preparation for Christmas? In response, they will devise means to cheat, rob and deceive others. These are the works of darkness that St. Paul says we must cast off in today’s second reading.
Beloved in Christ, advent is a special season of grace. It is a time of self-evaluation. Do not be carried away by the worldly euphoria of this period. Always remember that the one who is the reason for the season is Christ himself. Only that which pleases him is necessarily and good enough. God Bless You!