FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
(Isaiah 63: 16-17,19,64: 2-7; I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37)
Can't it be said that the world is now waiting for its savior? Today everyone yearns for salvation in the form of a vaccine for Covid. We are tired of covering our faces, confining ourselves to the house, and suspecting every stranger as a carrier of the virus. However, the vaccine will be a false messiah. Even if it saves us from Covid, it will only return us to the same selfishness and greed that have prevailed in our time.
First, let us recognize how the pandemic has revealed some flaws in our lifestyles. With confinement, families have spent more time together with the result that adolescents feel less anxiety. The many activities of each member of the family had produced a sense of facing the challenges of life alone. Also, by taking classes with Zoom, children have not had to get up early in the morning. More sleep has reduced stress. This is not to say that the pandemic is a good thing and that the vaccine will not be helpful. But we must recognize that the vaccine will not deliver us from our most serious problems.
The first reading today is from the third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah. It was penned 2,500 years ago, but it sounds like it could have been typed last year. People have turned away from God's commandments. Where God has said, "You shall not kill," abortion is increasingly acceptable. Where He has said, "You will keep he Lord's day holy," mass attendance continues to decline. It is not necessary to comment on the violations against the sixth and ninth commandments in our time. The reading has its finger on the pulse of our time when it asks the Lord: "Why ... do you let our hearts harden to the point of not being afraid of you?" For this reason, it asks God to come down from heaven though it means tearing open the skies and shaking the mountains.
We believe that God heeded the prophet's cry. In the second reading, Saint Paul tells how Jesus Christ died and rose again to give his followers a “spiritual gift.” We have the grace of the Holy Spirit to live for God even more than for ourselves.
Before his death Jesus said that he was going to return to lead his disciples to eternal life. In anticipation of this event, he tells us in the gospel today to “watch” and “be alert.” This does not mean that we leave our jobs to watch like a sailor in a crow's nest. Rather, Jesus wants us to watch for him as students awaiting the visit of the school principal. That is, he wants us to spend our time advancing in truth, love, and goodness.
There is a story that helps us understand the purpose of Jesus here. Once a legislature was in session when a storm arosein the heavens. The clouds were so dark and the wind so strong that some legislators said the end of the world had come. A group moved that they end the session to return to their homes. But the president of the legislature spoke up. He said, “If it is not the end, we are going to appear ridiculous leaving our work unfinished. And if it is the end, it would be better if the Lord sees us accomplishing our tasks. I say: 'bring in the candles.'" Thus we want to prepare for the coming of the Lord by doing his will.
Advent always has two goals. At the beginning of the season we want to remember the promise of Jesus to come again. He came once in the flesh to save us from sin. At the end of time he will come in glory to lead his disciples to eternal life. The second objective is to prepare for Christmas. The mystery of the Incarnation overwhelms our imagination. God, the Creator and Sovereign, wanted to humble himself to show us the extent of his love! It is worth a month of lockdown to prepare ourselves for this great event.