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First Sunday – Year B – Advent
Readings: Isa 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37.
Reading 1 (Isa 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7):
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Reading 2 (1 Cor 1:3-9):
Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gospel (Mk 13:33-37):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
I. THEME: We hope that God will look upon us.
Advent is the season of looking for and expecting; but what are we looking for? Looking for Christ? He was already come to the world 2021 years ago! Why does the Church keep celebrating Advent season every year? The most important reason is that she wants us to look deep into ourselves to see if Christ has come and controlled our life yet? To recognize this, an examination of our conscience is necessary so that we can sincerely answer this question to Him.
All the readings of the first Advent Sunday provide us many things to meditate. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah helped us to recognize the necessary presence of God in our life. If God isn’t present in our life, we will be controlled by devils and our sins will be multiplied. In the second reading, St. Paul reminded his faithful about the necessary presence of Christ in their life. When they had him in their life, they would not lack of anything, because he is the origin of all graces and peace, wisdom and strength of God the Father. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus warned people since no one knows the time of the Son of Man’s second coming, all must be prepared and ready.
1/ Reading I: The necessary presence of God in our life
1.1/ The recognition of one’s sinful life: The Book of the prophet Isaiah was written in a very difficult period of the Jewish history, their nation was wiped out and people were on exile everywhere. The exile was the necessary time for them to look back to the past and to identify the reason why they were suppressed and exiled.
The first thing they realized was God’s absence in their life, they had no place to worship, no priests nor prophets to remind them of God. They cried out to God: “Thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name. O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart, so that we fear thee not?”
1.2/ The necessary of God’s presence in life: The exiles recognized the importance of God in their life so they prayed to Him: “Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage. We have become like those over whom thou hast never ruled, like those who are not called by thy name. O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at thy presence — as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil — to make thy name known to thy adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains quaked at thy presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him. Thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways.” The event that Isaiah reminded people in this passage was the Sinai event when God descended and gave to them the Ten Commandments through Moses.
1.3/ The petition for God’s forgiveness: When people recognized their sinful condition, they asked for forgiveness: “Behold, thou wast angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one that calls upon thy name, that bestirs himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast delivered us into the hand of our iniquities.” When people repented for their sins and asked for forgiveness, God, out of His compassion, will forgive them and bring them back to their nation.
2/ Reading II: The necessary of Christ’s presence in our life
The history of salvation was turned to the new page after the exile. God sent His Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to incarnate in order to save the sinful world. If in the Old Testament, people can’t live without God’s presence, then in the New Testament, people can’t live without Christ’s presence due to the three following reasons:
2.1/ Christ is the origin of grace and peace: St. Paul prayed for the Corinthian faithful: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” Through Christ’s Passion and Death, he brought peace and many graces for human beings. People have peace because through Christ, people are reconciled with God and others. Christ is also the origin of grace for men, especially through the seven sacraments.
2.2/ Christ has revealed God’s wisdom to his people: “that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If Christ didn’t reveal, people couldn’t understand God’s mystery of Incarnation and many other mysteries in the Church.
2.3/ Christ helps people to be loyal to the end: “He who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” By clearly understanding of God’s plan of salvation through the Gospel and were supported by Christ’s grace, people can overcome all sufferings and difficulties in life to be loyal to God. Beside, people also know how to prepare all necessary things to present themselves before God’s judgment court.
3/ Gospel: Must be alert to look for Christ’s second coming.
3.1/ No one knows the time of his coming: In Mk 13:32, Jesus clearly declared that: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Since no one knows the time, all must always be prepared.
3.2/ Be sober and alert: “Watch therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning — lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.” Today passage has 5 sentences, the word “watch” was repeated 4 times. The only verse who didn’t have the word “watch” is verse 36; but Mark used the opposite word “asleep” with adverb “no.” Therefore, we can firmly say that Mark paid a special attention to the “watchfulness” by repeated them five times in five sentences.
3.3/ How one always be prepared? The best preparation is to always have in ourselves what are necessary to come to God. “Be prepared” is the motto of all scouts. A review of scouting method to help scouts to prepare will help us how to do it. All scouts are requiring to learn all things which are necessary for surviving, such as: road signs, knots, cooking, first aids, swimming, morse codes… They must learn all these to prepare for the future moments when they will need them. To prepare for our coming to God, the faithful need to pay attention to the followings:
(1) Keep our body swift and fitting: Our ancestors advised us to have, “a swift mind in a healthy body.” Gluttony and inebriety make our body heavy. A heavy body leads us too sleepy, lazy, and feeble-minded. They also advised us, “eating in order to live, not living in order to eat.” Therefore, delicious food is not guaranteed a better health, sometimes it can destroy one’s life. In addition, we should often exercise or play some sports. These exercises will help our body light, quick to move, and have power to rise up.
(2) Not too concerned with material life: When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, he forcefully declared to the devil and set an exemplar for us to follow: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Many modern people are simplifying human life to the material dimension (both communism and capitalism, materialism, individualism). They forget about all other dimensions of a human being, such as: spiritual, intellectual, psychological. If a human life is simplified to one material dimension, what is the difference between a man and an animal? If there is no difference, a man is more miserable than an animal, because an animal isn’t worked hard as man, and it still has food to eat.
(3) Must pay a special attention to our spiritual life: Since human beings are predestined to live an eternal and happy life with God, they must spend more time for their spiritual dimension. People must pay a dearly price if they spend their time for their spiritual life for their material life. How can people advance in their spiritual life? Jesus emphasized two main things many times:
– Meditate God’s words day and light: The author of the Psalm declared: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa 119:105). If people don’t know God’s words, how can they live according to God’s way? When they don’t know God’s way, they will live according to their way or the worldly way and must endure the corresponding results.
– Closely unite with Christ through a prayer life: If a man always let Christ to lead and to guide his life, he won’t concern or surprised about the day of his coming. People unite with Christ by attending Mass, receiving grace through sacraments, meditating the Rosary, and constantly praying.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The most important answer that we must find out in this Advent is the answer for the question: “Who is leading our life, God or devils or worldly temptations?”
– If Christ is controlling our life, we won’t lack of anything: grace, peace, wisdom, strength and loyalty.
– We know with certainty that Christ’s second coming will come, but we don’t know the time; therefore, we must always be ready. We should keep our body swift and fitting, spend more time for our spiritual life, let God’s words permeate our whole life, and unite with Him in our prayer life.