Reflections for Advent are by Bishop Kenneth Richards, Bishop of St. John’s-Basseterre
First Sunday of Advent – 2014 – 30th November 2014
The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. The liturgical year is the worship structure, daily, weekly, and seasonally by which the Church provides the means by which the People of Faith celebrate, relive, and encounter Jesus Christ through the recorded events of His Life on earth.
During the four weeks of the Advent Season we acknowledge the first coming of Jesus Christ, dwelling among us, His creatures, over 2000 years ago, His second coming at the end of time, and the fact that in between the first and second coming, we must be alert to His Presence in our daily lives, an awareness that must be a means of our readiness for His second and final appearance at the end of time.
Today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah (63:16-17; 64:3-8), relates longing of the People of God for Their Lord, to re-enter their lives on their return to Jerusalem from the exile. The exile was a result of the People turning to false idols and neglecting the precepts of the Lord. Now, faced with the spiritual experience of barrenness, exemplified by the physical destruction of their City and Temple, the people appealed to the Lord to return to them. In sorrow and humility they acknowledged their personal guilt and irresponsibility that led to the exile and the destruction of their Temple and City:
You were angry when we were sinners; we had long been rebels against you. We were all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing. We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind. No one invoked your name or roused himself to catch hold of you. For you hid your face from us and gave us up to the power of our sins
The humility that caused the people then to admit their wrongdoing, was a necessary step to welcoming, again, the Presence of God in their lives. This action must be seen as a reminder to each of us, of the necessary condition for our entering the mystery of the Advent Season. For the Advent Season requires that each of us, inspired by faith, dispose ourselves through a practical preparation inspired by sorrow and repentance of sins, to encounter Our Lord now, and at the end of time!
Some may think it burdensome, and that they are ill-equipped, to sustain a readiness and alertness for Our Lord’s Holy presence now and at His second coming! But, let us be motivated by the reminder St Paul gave the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:3-9), …you have been enriched in so many ways….so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit, while you are waiting for Our Lord Jesus to be revealed; and He will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to His Son, Jesus Christ…
Therefore, there can be no reasonable explanation for any of us to be caught unprepared to welcome The Lord’s Presence. Readiness and alertness are required characteristics for persons of faith; for we await the coming of The Lord. The exhortation of Jesus in today’s Gospel from Mark (13:33-37) rejects any claim of personal inadequacy: Be on your guard, stay awake, because you know not when the time will come….when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!
Therefore, let every Catholic and Christian with renewed knowledge of God’s providence see in this Season of Advent the opportunity to seek The Lord who is near, accepting that our faith requires a perpetual alertness in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ!
Let us pray:
Make us know your ways, O Lord, teach us your paths,
make us walk in your truth, for you are God our Saviour.
Give us renewed life, that we will no more withdraw from you,
But, with a heart humble and contrite,
may we seek you and always be ready to receive you.
May our attitude be sustained by Your Grace;
enable us to inspire our neighbour to also have an attitude of
awareness of your presence and second coming.
We ask this through Christ Jesus Our Lord. Amen!