Advent: A Season Of Great Expectation And Joyful Hope
Readings: (1st: Ish 63, 16-17. 64, 1-8: Ps 79, 2-119; 2nd: I Cor 1, 3-9; Gos: Mtt 13, 33-37)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
“…Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good…”(Ish 17, 14). Today is both the first Sunday of Advent and of the Church’s liturgical calendar year B. Remarkably, as we begin a new liturgical year today, we move from Matthew’s to Mark’s Gospel, the shortest of the four canonical Gospels.
Advent is a season of hope and a period during which as Christians we await the fulfillment of the promise of God through his prophets. In addition to being a season of hope, it is equally, a season of great patience and prayer. It suffices to note that why we prepare physically, the most important preparation is that of the spirit. Therefore, during these four weeks what are we expected to do? What will you do if you are informed that very soon your president will visit you right in your home in a couple of week time? Surely, you are not going to rest until you have turned your home around so that every nook and corner of it will be comfortable for your August visitor. If we could do this just for the sake of Mr. President’s proposed visit, what should we do to welcome the new born king of the world? This season is all about getting set for the birth and coming of the messiah.
Our first reading from Isaiah is both a prophetic message as well as a prayer of hope. Isaiah begins by first acknowledging the greatness of God: “O Lord you are our Father, Our Redeemer is your ancient name…” and progresses to lamentation or complain to God: “Why leave us to stray from your ways”. Finally, he expressed the hope he has in God: “Return, for the sake of your servants…Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down…?” This is a prayer of hope because, as Isaiah rightly demanded, God will not keep silent until we are saved. That salvation is what the hope we have in the coming of Christ will accomplish for us when he is finally born. This hope that the prophet expresses today is what will see us through this season until Christmas when our Redeemer will be born. Therefore, when Isaiah says, “Oh that you would tear the heavens open and come down…”, he is expecting God to come in power and might. He is like saying as we pray, “Our Father, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven? This is also the hope that Paul constantly expressed whenever he says “Maranatha” (come quickly Lord Jesus). That power and its manifestation is what we await and hope to see at the end of this season of Advent when God’s word finally would be made flesh. However, until then our major duty and preoccupation should be how to prepare well.
In our second reading, Paul thanks God for the graces he received through Christ. He equally encourages us to be faithful as we wait for the coming of Christ. Even though in this letter, Paul was referring to the second coming of Christ (Parousia), yet this reading is very ad rem to this season of Advent. Of Importance here is the fact that Paul reminds us that we have received the gifts of the Spirit. It is these gifts that will strengthen us as we wait for Christ to come. Of course, what this means is that we need to implore theses gifts in order to prepare well. The Holy Spirit will certainly teach us how best to prepare, and he will show us the items necessary for welcoming the infant Jesus. If we walk with him this season of Advent our hope will not fail us, because, “the expectation of the righteous shall not be cut short” (Pr 23, 18). Therefore, we must be ready to prepare for the Lord’s coming prayerfully, and by employing the help of the Sacraments that the Church has left at our disposal for the edification and sanctification of our souls. This is with special regard to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We must not be carried away by the physical preparation during this season at the detriment of the spiritual. We must not prepare for the coming of Christ as pagans do. It is not a time to get rich quick or to disenfranchise others in order to celebrate Christmas “lavishly and worldly”. Instead it is a time for deep reflection upon the loving kindness of God who came to dwell among humanity by taking flesh in a mortal being. It is a time to be good to others, a time to love, respect and to reach out to the poor, weak and the sick.
The gospel of today is a clarion call to be awake and alert, and only the Spirit of God can help us do this faithfully. Therefore, rather than hearken to the spirit of this world this season, we must tenaciously hold on to the Spirit of God, who consequently is the Spirit of the Good News of salvation, because he alone can keep us awake until the Lord comes. This is what the season of Advent calls for. For our hope not to disappoint us this season we must be alert and get ourselves ready at all times. This season, the Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on him and his word. He wants us to be ready for his coming and grace in our lives, and of course, in our world. If we wait patiently for, and on him this season, we shall not be disappointed and we will surely receive his grace and saving help. This season, if we do all things without lightening up our lives spiritually for Christ to walk into and through it, if we prepare all things and places without preparing a manger for baby Jesus in our lives then, our preparation might definitely be in vain. God forbid! During these four weeks of grace we must constantly ask ourselves, how best can I prepare to welcome the infant Jesus-King, have I prepared a manger in my heart for him so that he could be born anew within me, and, am I watching and waiting for the Lord’s action in my life with expectant faith and joyful hope this season?
Finally brethren, this season, as we eagerly anticipate and desire the coming of the Lord, our hope and expectation should prompt us to be always awake and vigilant, it should make us prepare adequately in order to avail ourselves of Jesus’ mercy. Therefore, our constant and confident prayer during this season of Advent must be as Isaiah prayed today: “Oh Lord that you would tear the heaven and come down,” and also, as Paul constantly prayed and concluded most of his letters: “Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” However, for this to bear fruit, we must also, humble ourselves this season and pray along with the psalmist: “God of Hosts bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved”.
Peace be with you all!