1st Sunday of Advent
Be Watchful and Alert!
The title of a best-seller published in 1988 was 101 Reasons Why Christ Returns in 1988. An extremely popular film released in 1999 about Christ’s Second Coming was Omega Code, and another film released in 2005 was Left Behind. Excessive fear of the tribulations accompanying the end of the world led the followers of a religious cult led by Jim Jones in 1978, and followers of another cult called Heaven’s Gate in 1997, to commit mass suicide.
On the first Sunday of Advent in Year B, Mark the evangelist greets us with the words, “Be watchful and alert,” and his Gospel ends with the same words, “Be watchful and alert.” But today’s Gospel assures us that we do not need to be afraid or panicked about the end of the world, or Christ’s second coming, or the Last Judgment, provided we remain watchful and alert. The Church invites us on this first Sunday of Advent to prepare for Christ’s second coming.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah pleads to God for His active presence in the Jewish community so that those who returned from Babylonian exile may remain faithful to their God. In the second reading, St. Paul prays for the Christians in Corinth who have misused their gifts and charisms and remain unprepared for Christ’s second coming. Today’s Gospel uses a short parable of the servant and gatekeeper of an absentee master who could return at any time.
By this parable, Jesus instructs his followers to be watchful and alert while doing their Christian duties and responsibilities with sincerity of heart. The gatekeepers and the household servants are expected to be ever watchful and vigilant because their master is sure to return. However, the time of return is uncertain, but the reward or punishment is sure and certain.
The Gospel of Mark, the shortest and most likely the oldest Gospel, was written in A.D 60s. It was probably written when the Romans had swept through upper Galilee to suppress a Galilean revolution. This region was where Mark’s Judeo-Christian community lived. This community was besieged by three hostile forces, all of which demanded loyalty from the followers of Jesus as former Jews. So, there was a political need to be watchful and alert as well.
It was a common practice among the wealthy during the time of Jesus that they would entrust their properties to their servants and go on tours. This kind of situation was a test on the servants to prove the types of servants they are. Would they be faithful day by day, or would they wait until they hear about their master’s return and quickly get things in order? This parable is used here to prepare the Christians for the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, let us be watchful and ready to welcome Him any time when He comes by practicing the following paths.
First and foremost, by being ready for the four-fold coming of Jesus into our lives, by the celebration of His incarnation during this Christmas time; by acknowledging His involvements in our daily events and experiences; by being aware of His presence at the time of our death; and by being watchful for His final coming in glory at the end of the world.
Secondly, as Christians, we are called to build bridges that bring human hearts and lives together irrespective of minor divisions and differences as Christ came to save and bring all of us together.
Thirdly, we need to look for the lost sheep in our own families, communities, and our world today. The world we live in today provides ample of opportunities to be confused and lost. We need to be merciful and watchful of the lost and provide them the necessary help and rehabilitation to bring them back to the fold of Christ. After all, Jesus came for the lost. Let these acts of preparations to welcome Jesus be our expression of love for Baby Jesus. Let us prepare a spiritual bouquet for Baby Jesus with our acts of love, service, and sacrifice that he may find us blameless when he returns in glory. May God bless us, and have a Happy Advent!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS (T. J. Puliyan, MSFS)