Homily for I (1) Sunday of Advent Year B. 29-11-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-8
Psalm: Psalm 79(80):2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
Gospel: Mark 13:33-37
Having celebrated Christ the King last Sunday, today we enter the all-important season of Advent that sets our minds on preparation to welcome our Lord and Messiah who is to come. In this holy season we do not only contemplate Christ’s first coming at Christmas but also, we anticipate His second coming at the end of our lives. This is from where we draw the concept of ‘the end times’ which begin from the first coming of Christ when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and culminates in His second coming on the Day of judgement and vindication for His people. Living in constant awareness of this fact would make us always conscious of our temporality and mortality and thus the need to be in a perpetual advent prepared and ready always for Christ’s second coming. It is to help us achieve this that the Church in her wisdom prepares us for Advent by choosing every year a reading from the prophet Isaiah for the first Sunday of Advent. Because Isaiah is the great prophet of the Messiah who is always wont to prepare us to welcome our Messiah in our lives. He does same today recalling the post-Babylonian exilic experience of Israel as they were actively and passionately awaiting the coming of the Messiah. They acknowledged their sins and failings before God with regrets, while longing for Him to come and liberate them from the dominion of the foreign powers. Of course, this was because they knew that the kingship of Christ would bring them new life, love, joy, justice and peace. We are much the same like them because we have also been subjected to the unjust dominion and the kingship of the world. Hence like them, today we also have need to sing “maranatha” – Come Lord Jesus.
Like the captives in Babylon, today Christians in many parts of the world do not enjoy the freedom of worship. Every now and then a Christian faithful - clergy, consecrated person or laity, is kidnapped and tortured and sometimes killed for being Christian. In some places, they do not want you to publicly identify as Christian. As a priest sometimes you are denied access to your sick parishioners in hospitals who have legitimately requested for the last sacraments even though it is their right. There is a growing spate of attacks on Christian worship centres and the clergy today even in European nations like France where it has become a frequent phenomenon, yet nothing significant has happened to forestall it till now. Today even in politics, when you identify as Christian, you are chided, abused, persecuted and your rights denied by others who champion their rights to your own detriment. And when you speak up in defense of the basic truths that characterize your views and rights, you are accused of hate speech and tagged a bigot, a conservatist or a chauvinist. On the other hand, despite regulations and restrictions on hate speech in nations and by the Big-Techs of the social media ecosystem, just last Tuesday there was a trending hashtag on twitter with the invitation “fuegoAlClero” in Spain, which was a call for Catholic priests to be burned alive. And as expected, but sadly, twitter did not remove this hashtag for violating rules against posting calls for violence. So unfortunate! That is why we cry come Lord Jesus.
Again, only last Sunday a brother priest Fr. Matthew Aungwa Dajo was abducted from the parish rectory by gunmen in Abuja, the capital city and the seat of the federal government of Nigeria and he has not been found till now, yet nothing has happened. (Let us kindly pray for his safe release). All these ill treatments have continued to go on because tacitly the world of today has normalized any form of violence and injustice against Christians. And as we know, when abnormality takes the place of normality, it becomes normal. With all these unfortunate developments, it becomes even clearer the need and why we long ardently for the coming of our Messiah in this advent, to liberate us from the injustices, sufferings and pains that we are passing through. Surely, He will come, nevertheless before He comes to liberate us, we must be qualified to be liberated. What then must we do to be qualified? Christ gives us the response in the gospel reading.
In addressing His disciples and us today, Christ says “Be on your guard, stay awake.” To stay awake simply means to be prepared and ready at all times. It means we must not take a holiday from being Christian, because that is when the enemy will infiltrate us and Christ might also come at that time. Amidst the many threats that besiege us today, is the culture of indifferentism to secularism that has dulled our consciences and killed our spirits. This is because secularism comes in a veiled form in the name of modernity and puts us to sleep, without we realizing that we are actually asleep. With the tides turning against us today, many Christians are aiding and abating their own persecution without realizing it. For secularism comes to deceive us, promising us that yes religion is a good thing, however that it has to be taken out of the public forum and placed only in the private forum. Unconsciously then, many of us are sleeping and have accepted this new culture without realising its danger that what controls the world is the spiritual sphere and not the temporal. The temporal sphere is only a manifestation of what happens in the spiritual. Hence, if we do not stay awake, we will be overtaken by the world even without realizing it. Ask yourself today if you are awake or still sleeping.
Today also secularism has made some Christians ashamed of talking and preaching about God in public. We do this in the name of trying to avoid offending nonbelievers. We remove crucifixes from our schools and other Christian symbols from public display because “they make others uncomfortable.” We instead prefer to offend ourselves and God rather than offending the world. We quickly forget that when we remove Godly symbols from our public life, directly or indirectly other symbols quickly come in to replace them. We preach tolerance and live it only on the giving side and never on the receiving side, accepting and tolerating others whereas we are never accepted and tolerated by them. Now it is high time we started teaching those whose lives matter that indeed all lives matter and so Christian lives also matter, if not Christ wouldn’t have shed His blood for us. Keeping quiet in the face of injustice makes us all guilty. And we cannot overemphasise the harmful effects of such complicity, since by so doing we are gradually removing God from our lives, from our families, from our communities, from our world, and from the future of our children even yet unborn. The necessary end result of this trend is we living Godless lives in a Godless society which ultimately leads to the wanton devaluation and destruction of life and community living that characterize our modern-day human culture. Removing ourselves from the authority of Christ, necessarily puts us under the authority of the world. And as long as this continues, proclaiming Him our King with our lips is at best hypocrisy and at worst mockery, since we do not live under His authority. So, every moment counts and every decision we make in our lives has serious consequences in the sight of God because every choice is either for or against Jesus. Are you for or against Jesus? Look at your choices and you will know. Therefore, staying awake also means we must never waste our time on frivolities but every day live fully and always under His authority, doing His will in our lives and not the will of the world. This is when He is truly our King and Messiah. Ask yourself today then, under whose authority are you living? Is Christ your King?
Let us pray in union with St. Paul asking God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to send us the grace and peace to stay awake as we wait for His coming, so that when He comes, He will find us ready to receive Him into our lives so that we may be sharers of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen