JER. 33:14-16, PS.25 1THESS 3:12-4, LUKE 21:25-28;34-36
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
The Season of Advent: Watch and Pray
Today is the first Sunday of the New Liturgical Year (Year C). Happy New Year to you all! May this new liturgical year enrich our faith with every grace and blessing Amen! Today the Church enters into the season of advent. The word advent is from the Latin word “Adventus” which means “coming”. It reminds us of the First Coming of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas and his Second Coming at the end of time. Therefore, while recalling his first coming, we must bear in mind his second coming. As we prepare for Christmas let us also prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Precisely because of this; Today’s readings present us with the following inspirations:
Advent is a time to stand up and raise our heads. The Gospel of today tells us “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk.21:28). Jesus says stand up and raise your heads. We are in a season when we have to rise to our feet and raise our heads in order to look at the higher things, the things that pertain to righteousness as the first reading rightly shows. We have to become heavenly conscious and live above the distractions of this world. Anybody raising his/her head must have had his/her head bent down. Many of us have been bent down by sins and vices, many are bent down by drug addiction or other gods; and like the crippled woman in Luke 13:10-13, many have been bent down for 18 years or more. But Jesus the Redeemer says to you raise your heads for your redemption is at hand. Beloved, raise your heads; rise up to your feet; rise from immoralities and flee from its concomitant anxieties.
It is a time to wait: In advent we joyfully wait for the second coming of the Lord. To wait is to be patient. Advent is a season of patience. One thing we lack in our world today is patience. Nobody wants to wait for the other; everybody does things ‘sharp sharp’ like a writer once noted. Driving has become ‘sharp sharp’ – Automatic mobile; cooking has become ‘sharp sharp’, birds in poultry have become ‘sharp sharp’, youth want to make money ‘sharp sharp’, youths want to marry ‘sharp sharp’, market women ‘sharp sharp’ and because we want everything ‘sharp sharp’, we also die ‘sharp sharp’. Some persons commit suicide because they are tired of waiting; many give up because they don’t understand the divine principle of ‘appointed time’. Beloved in Christ the prophets and fathers of old were patients. They received the prophecies of the birth of the saviour yet they waited for the fulfillment of his promise. This advent season calls us to be patient and wait upon the Lord to fulfill his promise. The first reading says God is true to his promise. Lam.3:26 says “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
It is a time to watch and pray: The Gospel also calls us 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 yet you have all the fuel you will knock your engine. In the same vein if you are always praying without watching you will knock your faith. Again, many persons have fallen because they were always watching without praying. Many have fallen because they were always praying without watching. A mature Christian has a balanced spirituality of praying and watching. While you pray; guard against vices.
It is a time to build our spiritual life: Advent offers us the chance to strengthen our spiritual life. As the Gospel says “do not allow your hearts to be consumed by drunkenness and concern for the cares of this life.” Many of us are troubled by the worries of this life; we are so engrossed with what we shall eat and drink; shelter, life partner, money, fame, positions and the likes. In advent Jesus says do not be consumed. You may be burning sexually, financially and materially Jesus says do not be consumed. Do not allow the cares of this world to distract you from your original goal. Build your spiritual life as you journey towards Christ.
LET US PRAY
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen!
A TIME OF COMING TOGETHER
Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
Dear friends, we have come a full cycle. The liturgical year B which we started with the first week of Advent last year has ended and we are beginning today another liturgical year, cycle C. Therefore, it is a new season of Advent. The word “Advent” (Lat. “Adventus”) simply means “coming”, which translates the Greek, “Parousía” which means “arrival”, literally “being around” (from the Greek preposition, “para” = “around”, and the noun, “ousía”= “being”).
In the 1st Reading, we hear of the “coming” of days when the Lord will fulfill his promises to Israel and Judah. The 2nd Reading speaks of the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. In the Gospel, we hear of men fainting with fear and foreboding of what “is coming” on the world, but also of the “coming” of the Son of man in a cloud with power and glory. Clearly, therefore, Advent is characterized by the coming together of time (coming days), events (coming things) and persons (coming Son of Man and coming of the Lord), hence, the theme, A TIME OF COMING TOGETHER.
In the 1st Reading (Jer 33:14-16), the prophet Jeremiah announces the “coming days” (Heb, “yāmîm bā’îm”) when the Lord will fulfill the good words he spoke to the house of Israel and the good words he spoke concerning the house of Judah. The content of those good words is a promise to make grow an upright growth or Descendant of David, who will bring about justice and righteousness (mišpāth and ṣedāqâ) in the land. Also, that Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will stabilize in terms of security. This figure the Lord will raise will call Jerusalem, “the Lord is our righteousness” (‘Ādōnāy Ṣidqēnȗ).
Decadence and division had befallen Israel after Solomon, becoming two fragile kingdoms, in place of the strong united, secure and prosperous kingdom David founded and Solomon consolidated. The passage shows that the Lord considers the solution to the continuous decline of this kingdom to consist in raising up a descendant of David, the founder of the united kingdom.
While it was the Lord who would raise David’s descendant to the throne, it was to be the duty of such a Davidic king to bring about justice and righteousness in the land, a situation that will, in turn, bring about the salvation or restoration of the united kingdom of Israel and the security of Jerusalem, its capital.
In these times when the peoples of the world and nations of the world are divided both internally and between one another, the season of Advent and the readings today in particular, invite us to realize that when we are divided, our nations and our world are doomed to be destroyed and as a result, our towns or cities and people lack security and peace.
Therefore, the season offers us the solution to the destruction of the human kingdom and the insecurity in our families, cities, and countries as consisting in our coming together and understanding that we share a common origin, often also common essential aspirations, and certainly also a common destiny. Remembering and celebrating these commonalities is the way to restoring the unity of a divided kingdom. We must promote the consciousness that above all else, we are “all brothers” (Fratelli tutti), as Pope Francis puts it.
We pray, therefore, that God may raise from among us, leaders of the stock of David, that is, leaders who represent the vision of our common origin, aspirations and destiny; not leaders who think that there is something that makes us fundamentally irreconcilable but people who genuinely believe that we are fundamentally interconnected, that I am because we are, that united we stand and divided we fall.
The 2nd Reading (1 Thes 3:12-4:2) is a prayer that concludes the first part of Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians (1:1-3:13), a letter which is considered the oldest New Testament writing. In this prayer, Paul asks the Lord to make love increase and become abundant among the Thessalonians, so that at his coming with all his saints, the Lord will confirm their hearts as blameless in holiness before our God and Father (3:12-13).
In other words, love, plenty of love was all that the Thessalonians needed to be confirmed holy, even as they looked forward to the Lord’s coming. As we too look forward to the Lord’s coming, we need to pray for more and more of love in our world which is living through a moment of unimaginable hate, knowing that the only antidote to radical hate is radical love.
In the Gospel (Lk 21:25-36), we read of the coming of the Son of man in a cloud, with power and glory. As we are by now used to, this apocalyptic language of the Son of man refers to one in human form. His coming with glory and power in a cloud indicates his heavenly or divine origin and nature. Son of Man is, therefore, a designation for a messianic figure which the New Testament identifies with Christ, explicitly referred to as the “Son of Man” in several passages and whose second coming was being awaited by early Christians.
The Gospel emphasizes the fact of the coming of the Son of Man, as the end of the era of tribulation which believers will experience in the world, rather than the reason for the tribulation. It is the new creation which brings order again into a world that has relapsed into primordial chaos, disorder and formlessness. Therefore, the Gospel encourages believers to remain strong as these terrifying events take place, being guided by the certainty that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel; that the Son of Man, the Messiah, redeemer, liberator, recreator will surely come and restore order which is synonymous with peace.
A life of prayerful watchfulness is recommended to stay strong and to survive the chaotic times of tribulation. Other pseudo-coping mechanisms in the face of fear and tribulation, such as dissipation (sensual pleasures), drunkenness and worries, we are told, can only weigh our hearts down. In other words, we cannot drink our way through tribulations; we cannot dissipate our way through suffering; we cannot worry our way out of distress but we can pray our way through it. In prayer, we ask for that grace to persevere in the face of tribulation and we invite the Son of Man to make haste to help us.
Let us pray: “Christ come quickly, there is danger at the door. Poverty a plenty, hearts gone wild with war. There is hunger in the city and famine on the plain. Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying, the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus!” (Advent Song: Catholic Hymn Book 156).