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(Part 45)


First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2011

Today’s readings:
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

This is the first day of the new liturgical year of the Church. As we start a new year, we look at what God says to us, to guide us in our way forward in Christ. Entering into the season of Advent, we look forward to Jesus’ coming into the world. At the same time, as always, we look forward to his coming once again at the end of time in glory. Thus we watch and wait.

Jesus teaches us the need for watchfulness. “Watch, therefore; 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.” (Mk 13:35-36). Interesting. He may come anytime during the day, so when do we sleep?

In the same way, Paul also gives some demanding instructions. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5:17). “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phil 4:4a). David joins in. “I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth.” (Ps 34:2). Again, when do we sleep?

Jesus tells us about a proper posture, a lifestyle if you will. Prayer, worship, rejoicing -- these are all to become an intimate part of us. Even if we are not actually saying a prayer, not giving a word of praise, not exhibiting a particular moment of joy, our very life ought to be soaked in prayer, constantly offering our lives as a sacrifice of praise, manifesting joy that is a fruit of the Spirit. Yes, even when we are asleep.

In the same way, we are always and in every way to be watchful. We are a people who await with joyful hope the second coming of our Lord Jesus. This is especially so because we are already living in the end times. Read the signs of the times -- fake messiahs, wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, extent of sin, false prophets, increase of evildoing, love grown cold (Mt 24:5-12). The end is near.[1]

So Jesus warns us. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33). What then does it mean to be watchful? How do we watch and remain alert?

First, we must be faithful to our calling. “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9). We are to have Jesus at the center of our lives, we are to be faithful to our covenant in community, we are to continue to bring God’s good news of salvation in Jesus to as many others as we can.

Second, we are to continually grow in the Spirit, “so that (we) are not lacking in any spiritual gift as (we) wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:7). We are not just passively awaiting the return of the Lord. Each day that is available to us is to be used to move forward along the path of holiness and discipleship. We prepare ourselves as a people to be the worthy bride of the bridegroom when he returns.

Third, we must be “firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 1:8). The world, the flesh and the devil will continue to conspire to bring us down and away from Christ. We must resist and remain blameless.

Finally, we must have a grateful heart for all the blessings bestowed on us in this life, with the attendant promise of the blessing of eternal life with God. We “give thanks to (our) God always .... for the grace of God bestowed on (us) in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 1:4). Such a grateful heart helps us to trust God, to endure trials and suffering, to persevere to the end, to be faithful, to be at peace, to rejoice always.

As we start this new liturgical year, let us resolve to be watchful. As we will soon enough welcome baby Jesus, let us also look to finally welcoming Jesus the King at the end of time.
“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:37).

* * *

[1] “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Pt 3:8).


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