Homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Year B 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 37 segundos
Abby is a staunch Catholic. She and her husband take seriously the teachings of the Church, especially on contraception and abortion. They have three children, and each of them was delivered through CS. Now, Abby is pregnant again, and her doctor is worried she may not survive another birth by CS. Abby is also afraid and so is her husband Greg. Obinna has just lost his job. His wife is a-stay-at home mother with two children. One of his kids is sick, and there is no money to pay the medical bills. And Obinna is tempted to try illegal drugs business.
All the characters in the above story, and in similar stories often than not ask one and the same question, ‘What should I do?’ There is no doubt they are in a kind of darkness, in a dilemma. Life has backed them into a corner. They are tempted to remove their gaze from God and focus only on themselves, on their own reality and suffering. That was Peter’s story in Matthew 14:29-31. Taking his eyes off the Lord, Peter became aware of the strong head wind, he took fright and began to sink. Do we not somehow sink when we are in situations like this?
I have sunk many times. I have sinned, and I have been in dark places where I have always wondered if there is ever going to be the light of a new day. The Advent Season captures these experiences. It tells a story of our struggles with the darkness of sin and evil, the darkness of ignorance and error, the darkness of sloth and complacency, the darkness of lust and addiction, the darkness of rigidity and libertarianism. It is amid these many and varied darkness (es) that we Christians speak of the hope, the expected return of the light of Christ into our darkness.
The Gospel reading today from Mark 13: 33-37 uses the Greek word (γρηγορεύω) gregoreo, which according to Mary Healy, the author of Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, means ‘Be on the watch’, stay awake, be on the lookout. For what? For the Second Coming of the Lord. His Second Coming would be just as His First Coming when He reoriented the world and set things right. It means to be in that state of being alert to what God is up to in any given circumstances. It is about being hopeful, being ready to spring like a lion crouching.
The imagery of the lion crouching, of the world getting ready for the return of the Lord says something very deep about the Advent Season. Firstly, it says Advent is not a time for us to be asleep. Sleep here means a kind of spiritual torpor, self-indulgence, or complacency. A state in which we do not care, we shut ourselves off in ourselves and we are not bothered about others. Advent is a time for us to stay awake, to keep our faith alive by caring about the good of God and others. We can only care about others and love them when we return our gaze towards God.
Secondly, Advent is not about optimism. There is no place for optimism in the Christian story. But there is hope. There is that belief as Rabbi Johnathan Sacks once said that together we can make things better, together we can go through our moments of darkness, together we can wait for the dawn of light. Advent speaks of the courage to hope, to step out of our situation and look further, to look for the light of Christ that has already come and is to come again. Advent gives us the audacity to hope, to be expectant like a pregnant woman waiting to give birth.
This image of a pregnant woman seems to capture the essence of Advent. It tells us the woman carrying the pregnancy knows there is a child just as Advent tells the Church there is Christ, the light of the world. Despite this truth, the child can only be sensed dimly and most times, the mother and even her gynaecologists may misread the signs of the child in the womb. Similarly, we, members of the Church do sometimes misread the signs of the presence of Christ in the world. Thus, Advent is a kind of gestation period. We must stay awake and keep watch as a mother does.
To avoid misreading the signs of the time, Advent not only speaks of hope, but it also summons us to be patient. As an anonymous author said somewhere patience is the ability to keep a good attitude while we are waiting. This attitude in biblical theology is the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). For Saint Thomas Aquinas it is simply the good of the enjoyment of God. In other words, there is no room for sloth, which Aquinas defines as an oppressive sorrow that makes us to neglect the good of God and neighbour. Advent calls us to be passionately involved in God’s saving work.
Fr Francis Afu