Advent - A time of reflection and expectation

As we begin our journey of Advent, we embark on a journey of waiting, a season of anticipation, and a call to keep ourselves alert and prepared for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dec 01, 2023

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Philip Tay, OCD

1st Sunday of Advent (B)
Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:1, 3-8
1 Corinthian 1:3-9
Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

As we begin our journey of Advent, we embark on a journey of waiting, a season of anticipation, and a call to keep ourselves alert and prepared for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The liturgical year begins anew, and we find ourselves standing at the threshold of a sacred time of reflection and expectation.

The reality of waiting and preparing in anticipation is something that is all too familiar for all of us. From young, we wait in anticipation for many things and events - like going to school, passing our examinations, getting a good job, starting a family for some and the list goes on. In a way, our whole life is a series of waiting. While we wait for something to happen, naturally we will prepare ourselves adequately so that when the day comes upon us, we will be ready to face it.

This is true especially if we are waiting for someone. There will be times when we invite guests or relatives to our homes and when that happens, we would want to be as presentable as possible. Before our guests arrive, we will do a lot of spring cleaning, ensuring that our houses are clean and comfortable and there is adequate food and beverages in the house. In a sense, we try to make our homes as perfect as possible so that when our guests or relatives come, they will feel at home. However, the reality of spring cleaning is not limited to physical preparation but inner preparation as well, and this theme applies very much to our spiritual lives too.

The Scriptures for today resound with the theme of waiting, keeping alert, and preparing oneself. In the Gospel of Mark, (Mark 13:33-37), Jesus speaks to us about the importance of being vigilant, of staying awake and watchful. He tells a parable about a master who goes on a journey, leaving his servants in charge and commanding the doorkeeper to be watchful. The master’s return is uncertain, and the doorkeeper must be ready at all times.

The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:3-9), reassures the Christian community of God's faithfulness. He reminds us that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we eagerly wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our waiting, God sustains us and enriches us, so that we may be blameless on the day of Christ’s coming.

Many people will ask, “When will this happen? When will Christ come? We have been waiting for a long time and still He is not here.” The question that we need to ask ourselves is not “when” or “how” but rather, how are we going to prepare ourselves in the meantime. The question of “how” and “when” are beyond our control since Jesus Himself said that only God the Father knows the exact hour and day. How, then, do we live out this season of Advent with its call to waiting, alertness, and preparation? In other words, what kind of spring cleaning are we required to carry out so that, when Christ comes, He will find a clean room within us?

Firstly, let us cultivate a spirit of watchfulness in our daily lives. This means being attentive to the presence of God in the ordinary moments, recognising His hand at work in our joys and challenges. Instead of always searching for the miraculous, let us continually ask God for the grace to sense His guiding hands in our day to day living.

Secondly, let us be intentional about preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. Just as we prepare our homes for special guests, let us prepare the dwelling place of our souls. This may involve a recommitment to prayer, repentance, and acts of kindness that reflect the love of Christ. If we can spend hours and days preparing our homes for the coming of our guests, all the more reason we should double our efforts in making our souls, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, a home that is fit for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Lastly, let us engage in acts of hopeful expectation. Our waiting is not passive; it is an active anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s promises. As we light the first candle of the Advent wreath, let it symbolise the growing light of Christ dispelling the darkness, reminding us that our waiting is not in vain.

May this Advent season be a time of profound spiritual renewal and awakening. As we wait, keep alert, and prepare ourselves, may we be filled with the hope that Christ’s coming brings, a hope that transcends the challenges of the present and directs our gaze to the glorious future when He will come again in triumph.

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