Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: BE WATCHFUL AND BE ALERT

Mk 13: 33-37

 

THE FIRST SUNDAY of Advent marks the start of a new Church or liturgical year.  It reminds us that we have to make preparations for Christmas so as to find its meaning.  God’s presence among his people and his coming on Christmas Day bring us hope and encouragement amidst life’s struggles and troubles. But let us be reminded that that the coming of God does not only refer to his First Coming, but also to his Second Coming. While we prepare for the coming of God at Christmas, let us also be forward-looking by considering the eschatological event, that is, his Second Coming.

Thus, Advent prepares us for the coming of Christ as our Savior during Christmas and as our judge and Lord at the end of the world.  The liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme. This shows that just as we have embraced Jesus in his first coming, then we shall do the same, without fear, in his second coming.  Advent is the season of special preparation for and expectation of the coming of Christ.  It encourages us to examine our lives, to let God enter into our lives, and to prepare for and await the Christ’s coming.

In our gospel today, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be watchful and to be alert. He is about to leave his disciples, and he compares his departure to “a man traveling abroad”. Absentee land-owners were not uncommon during the time of Jesus. The owners of large properties often lived elsewhere, leaving servants in charge of carrying on business as if the owners were still present. This would be a test for the servants left in charge. The problem was that often they didn’t know when the land-owner would return. Jesus describes his second coming in the same way. The exhortation of Jesus has something to do with his future return which is certain. Let us reflect on the instruction of Jesus as well as to the master in the gospel parable.

Firstly, Jesus instructs his disciples the need for watchfulness. He says, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Jesus gives us the reason of the need for watchfulness. It is so because “we do not know when the lord of the house is coming”. It may be in the morning, evening, midnight or dawn. One has reflected that the moment of our death is also an experience of the coming of God into our lives. And death fits to the description above. Death comes at a time which we do not expect. Some people die in the “morning” of their life, while some during the “evening” of their life. Thus, watchfulness is necessary.

It has been said that more and more people nowadays have less time of sleep. They have more time being awake. What contributes to this is the emergence of jobs which require employees to work at night, like call centers or hospitals. But does this mean that more and more people are “watchful” because of the fact that they are “awake”? Well, watchfulness or alertness is an attitude that one should develop in one’s life. Certainly, there are people who are awake, but not watchful.

Secondly, Jesus tells about the importance of being “in charge” of something. The gospel tells us that the master “places his servants in charge, each with his own work”.  To be “in charge” carries a number of meanings: to be in command, to be in control, and to be responsible. This is actually the meaning of watchfulness. This situation can be compared to people who leave their country and work abroad. If the father of the family leaves, then the mother is in charge of the children. She is responsible for the children, in other words.

As Christians, we know our responsibilities. To accept Christ, through baptism, entails duties and responsibilities. These include going to Mass on Sundays regularly, receiving other sacraments with frequency, constancy in prayer, educating children in the faith etc. But not all of us take these responsibilities more seriously. Therefore, our spiritual watchfulness suffers, and our following of Christ is being compromised.

So, the words of Jesus toward the end of the gospel are worth reflecting: “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” People of today may have become so future-oriented. Some have planned well for their future: marriage, would-be children, and pension. But they should also include a spiritual preparation. They and we should have the readiness to face Christ on his second coming. AMEN.


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